Get the Closet of Your Dream

Perhaps inspired by the closets seen on popular home design television shows and websites, homeowners are beginning to look at their closets in a new light. Whether your closets are the size of a small bedroom or the size of a locker, here are a few tips to help you get the storage spaces you’ve always wanted.

  1. Clear everything out of the closet, and organize it into three piles: keep, donate or toss. By clearing the clutter and getting rid of items that are broken or underused, you’ll have more room for items that you use and love.
  2. Assess the space you have, and decide how you want to organize and store your items. Discount department stores and specialty shops have a variety of baskets, shelves, hanging rods, drawer units, etc. to store your stuff.
  3. Install lighting. Great lighting will help you see everything that you have, from clothing to craft supplies. However, it’s important to have a licensed electrician install your lighting so that you can be sure that it’s up to code.
  4. Don’t be afraid to experiment with bold colour and patterns. Since your items will fill most of the space, pops of bright colour or bold patterns will give the space some character. If your closet has a door, spruce it up with paint or change the hardware.
  5. Take off the doors, and put up curtains. Closets in older homes tend to be smaller than ones in newer homes. However, you can create the illusion of space by removing the door and putting up a curtain. Tie back the curtain when you want to see your items at once or close it when you don’t. This idea is perfect for bedrooms, hobby rooms and playrooms.
  6. Install built-in custom cabinets. Cabinets aren’t just for kitchens anymore. In homes with small closets, floor-to-ceiling cabinets may give you the space you need, and they come in sizes that are perfect for the items you intend to store.
  7. Turn a wall into a closet. Who says a closet has to be built into a room? Line up a dresser, hutch, cabinet, shelving, bookcase, etc. along a wall of the room. Mix and match the furniture to fit your needs. Paint it all the same colour to create the look of uniformity.
  8. Look for furniture with storage space, such as an ottoman or bedframe with drawers under the bed, to keep the closet clutter in check

*image is California Closet

Freshen Up Your Bathroom— No Demolition Required!

If you want to make over your bathroom, but don’t want to undertake a full renovation, here are five things to do to make it look almost like new.

1. Paint. Go classic with white, create a spa retreat with soothing blues or energize your space with orange or yellow tones. Look online or through décor magazines for a surge of inspiration.

2. Lighting. See yourself in the most flattering light with new light fixtures. New lighting is an easy way to update and modernize a space without gutting it. Just be sure to hire a professional if your plans involve any rewiring.

3. Fixtures. As with lighting, new faucets add style to your space with minimal effort. Although silver-toned faucets are the finish of choice among homeowners, brushed nickel and polished chrome are also popular choices.*

4. Window treatments. Tie the look of the room together with blinds, shades or curtains—or a combination of these options. Choose bold shades to add a pop of colour to the room or keep it neutral. Whatever you choose, make sure that it complements the overall theme or style of the room.

5. Accessories. Add style and function with new accessories. If you’d like more storage, add a wall cabinet or storage tower, or repurpose an unused storage unit from around the home. Install a new mirror or towel rack to enhance the look of the room. Buy new rugs to complement the new colour scheme, and add colour or texture with vases, wall décor or similar items.

 

Top Trends in Bathroom Renovations

The bathroom is the second most popular room in the house to remodel, after kitchens.

The master bath takes center stage. 60% of homeowners who are renovating their bathrooms are renovating their master bathrooms, with 61% choosing to start from scratch after gutting the existing room.

Who needs a bathtub?

The older the homeowner, the more likely they are to skip a bathtub in master and other full bathrooms.

• 59% of homeowners aged 65+ plan to skip a tub in the master or other full bath.
• 36% of 25 to 34 year olds plan to skip it in the master.
• 39% of 25 to 34 year olds plan to skip it in another full bathroom.

Top 3 types of tubs for bath lovers:

1. Freestanding tub
2. Drop-in tub
3. Spa or jetted tub

 One sink or two?

  • 91% of homeowners are replacing their master bathroom sink.
  •  45% of homeowners aged 25 to 44 are installing two sinks
  • 58% of homeowners aged 45+ are installing two sinks.

Glass rules the master bath.

• 79% of homeowners prefer glass shower doors over a shower curtain.

Greener flushing.

• 91% of homeowners are installing high-efficiency toilets.

White cabinets are the top choice for renovations. However, dark and medium wood tones are also popular.

The top 3 wood choices:

1. Cherry
2. Maple
3. Oak

Ways to Make Your Kitchen Greener

According to the Houzz Kitchen Trends Study, 49% of homeowners say that using eco-friendly appliances and materials in their kitchen is important. If you want to make your kitchen renovation project more eco-friendly, follow these tips:

For greener cabinets:

  • Choose adhesives or glues that have no- or low-Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) and formaldehyde-free.
  • Refinish cabinets with no- or low-VOC, water-based paints and stains.
  • If you use reclaimed wood, find out where the wood came from. Old wood may contain toxic chemicals.

For greener countertops:

  • Look for countertops that are made from recycled or sustainable materials.
  • Avoid using formaldehyde-based glues and adhesives during installation.
  • Seal stone with water-based, low-odor sealant.

For greener flooring:

  • Traditional linoleum is durable and easy to maintain.
  • Cork is another green option, but make sure that you use cork that was manufactured in Spain and Portugal, where environmental and health regulations are stricter than in other foreign countries.
  • Bamboo is a great choice. Just make sure it wasn’t made with formaldehyde-based binders.

Look for the Energy Star® certification on the appliances you buy. These appliances are energy efficient, which may mean more money in your pocket!

 

What’s trending in kitchen renovations? 

  • 77% of kitchen renovations involve opening the space to other rooms
  • 65% of people plan to incorprate stainless steel appliances into their kitchen
  • 50% choose granite countertops and 36% choose quartz
  • 35% choose hardwood floors, followed closely by 32% who choose tile
  • 75% choose a decor that is soft and neutral

Love is in the Air!

Sigh…. I love this time or year.  Romance, pink and red hearts on everything and candy what could be better?

By no means am I a culinary connoisseur or even a real foodie but I do like to eat! I thought this week I would suggest my fave romantic restaurants in Calgary.  

Alloy Fine Dining

Don’t think you have made a wrong turn as you approach Alloy – keep going and inside you will find a modern restaurant with sleek finishes and a very creative menu.  I always feel like a bit like an uneducated diner as I am the one, in any dinner party, to ask a million questions about the menu.  In the case of Alloy, it is because everything sounds delicious and because I’m sure it would be uncouth to order one of everything.

Chef’s Table

Nestled in the boutique Kensington Riverside Inn property, this restaurant caters to those with a sophisticated palate.  For Valentine’s Day Chef de Cuisine Michel Nop and Executive Chef Duncan Ly have developed a special seven course menu.  You will need a reservation, but I know for sure that any set menu that starts with a Lobster Bisque is sure to blow you away.

Sky360 Restaurant and Lounge

With stunning and ever changing views of our beautiful city there isn’t really much that compares. It says “the Sky 360 menu takes culinary inspiration from international cultures while maintaining a fresh & local ingredient base. Prepared through contemporary French techniques, this menu takes international cuisine to the next level” and I must say that I agree! Remember if you have a reservation you will not have to pay the elevation pass to go up the Calgary Tower.

CHARCUT Roast House

Any list would be amiss without this restaurant, ranked the #5 Best Restaurant in Canada and winner of the Best Female Chef in Canada it serves local, chef-driven, urban-rustic cuisine. My suggestion is to start with the Charcut Board and then anything else that suits your fancy – you really can’t go wrong here!

Rouge

Making a stop in my Calgary neighborhood – Inglewood – is a must. At Rouge expect a warm European like atmosphere and a gourmet menu with incredible local ingredients (some even from the backyard garden). If you are new to fine dining do not hesitate to go to Rouge when you get a chance, you will not be disappointed.

 

Making your sweetie’s Valentine’s Day doesn’t mean taking them to any of my favourite restaurants (although that is a nice gesture) it means taking some time to let them know they are special to you.  For other great date ideas this weekend in Calgary visit The Valentine’s Day Guide.

 

To all my friends and family – love ya xoxo

Homes of the Future: Kevo Deadbolt

No more digging for keys?? Yes please!

I am a big fan of my new Ford Focus with keyless entry and push start.  My hands are always filled with a huge Samsung phone, my bottomless purse and tons of paperwork, all of which makes finding my keys a daunting task to say the least 😉 So this new technology for home security seems awesome for me!

The Kevo turns any Bluetooth 4.0-enabled device into a key that recognizes you are in proximity and unlocks your deadbolt at the touch of your finger. Another cool feature is you can send temporary or permanent eKeys to family, friends and neighbors.

You can buy them at many retailers… one example is Home Depot for $249.99.  Here is what they say:

With Kevo, your Smartphone is now your key. No more fumbling for your keys. Keep your phone in your pocket or purse and just touch the lock to open. No Smartphone? No Problem. Enjoy the same touch to open convenience with the fob. You can send an electronic key (eKey) to family, friends, or visitors who have a compatible Smartphone so they can use their phone as a key too. Receive notifications of lock activity and manage the lock and eKeys with the Kevo Mobile App. In addition to the convenience, Kevo is incredibly secure. You can add, delete or disable eKeys from the mobile app or utilize the Lost Phone Reset should the unthinkable happen. The SmartKey® deadbolt cylinder provides peace of mind for a backup traditional key and offers superior security against lock picking and bumping.

Your Smartphone is now your key!

– Touch to open convenience

– Share eKeys via your Smartphone

– Kevo fob included for touch to open convenience without a SmartPhone

– Receive notifications and manage lock & eKeys through Kevo Mobile App

– Easy to install, no power or internet required

Bank of Canada interest rate cut: 5 ways consumers may be affected

Today news hit that the The Bank of Canada surprised financial markets by cutting its key interest rate by 0.25 per cent on Wednesday.  Here is what CBC said about how it may affect us… the consumer 🙂

1. Cheaper mortgages for some, but not all

“This is good news if you’re a variable-rate mortgage holder,” said Penelope Graham, editor at RateSupermarket.ca.

Variable-rate mortgages are determined by the prime interest rate, which is in turn linked to the overnight interest rate the Bank of Canada just lowered. “It remains to be seen just how much [the banks] are going to cut the prime rate, but it will be cut,” said Graham.

However, in a surprise move Wednesday evening, TD Bank said it will not cut its prime interest rate. “Today’s announcement by the Bank of Canada was unexpected,” said Mohammed Nakhooda, a spokesman for TD Bank. “Our decision regarding our prime rate is impacted by factors beyond just the Bank of Canada’s overnight rate. Not only do we operate in a competitive environment, but our prime rate is influenced by the broader economic environment, and its impact on credit.”

Holders of fixed-rate mortgages, of course, won’t enjoy an immediate cut in monthly payments. Canadians taking out a new fixed-rate mortgage or renewing their old one right now could see rates edge down. Fixed mortgage rates are linked to long-term government bond yields. Those bond yields have already begun to fall in light of the Bank of Canada’s interest rate cut.​

Graham warned Canadian home buyers that what goes down, must come up.

“When rates do eventually go up, when the economy recovers, [mortgage holders] are going to see their monthly debt servicing costs go up,” said Graham. “If they can’t handle that, they could see themselves underwater on their mortgages.”

2. Borrowing on lines of credit, credit cards

Like variable-rate mortgages, interest rates for lines of credit are generally tied to a bank’s prime interest rate, which is usually tied to the Bank of Canada’s overnight rate. That means Canadians borrowing money through a line of credit may see their borrowing costs to come down, depending on whether their bank cuts its prime interest rate.

Canadians hoping for a break on their credit card bills, though, are out of luck.

“Your credit card interest [rate] is actually a stated amount,” explained Craig Alexander, chief economist at TD Bank. “So when the Bank of Canada cuts rates or raises rates it doesn’t have an influence on them.”

As with mortgages, Canadians shouldn’t necessarily take further advantage of cheaper borrowing costs just because they can.

CIBC deputy chief economist Benjamin Tal sees a potential risk to the Canadian economy if Canadians start racking up even more debt. A credit-fuelled spending spree is “something that the Bank of Canada would like to avoid,” said Tal.

“Our debt-to-income ratio, at 165 per cent, is relatively high,” said Tal. “That’s a risk that the Bank of Canada is taking.”

3. The loonie flies south

The Canadian dollar fell dramatically against a variety of major currencies as soon as the Bank of Canada made its announcement, and that means Canadians immediately have less purchasing power abroad. That’s bad news for snowbirds with homes in the U.S., or any Canadian planning an international trip.

If Canadians are wondering when to transfer money to a foreign bank account, they can try to take advantage of short-term volatility in exchange rates, according to Karl Schamotta, director of foreign exchange research at Cambridge Mercantile Group.

“Typically exchange rates do not follow a nice linear trend,” said Schamotta. “There’s certainly potential to harness any gains that might occur over the coming months, but at the same time it’s very important to look at that overall backdrop and understand that the Canadian dollar is likely to remain depressed for a long period of time.”

How long could the loonie fly so low? Schamotta sees a clue in the Bank of Canada’s own outlook, which says lower oil prices will have an “unambiguously negative” effect on the Canadian economy for 2015 and beyond.

“What we’re looking at here is a relatively bearish outlook for interest rates and for growth in Canada for at least a one- to two-year period here, and that is likely to keep the Canadian dollar contained,” said Schamotta.

That negative outlook could turn more positive, added Schamotta, if some kind of geopolitical shock causes oil prices to surge once again.

4. No immediate effect on auto loans

Auto loans tend to be fixed-rate, not variable-rate. That means the Bank of Canada’s interest rate cut won’t have an immediate effect on auto financing, according to Canadian Auto Dealers Association chief economist Michael Hatch.

“I don’t think that tomorrow automotive consumers are going to wake up necessarily to easier or harder financing conditions,” said Hatch. “It’s going to remain par for the course.”

Still, Hatch didn’t rule out cheaper auto financing in the near future. “It’s a very competitive [interest rate] environment out there. It could well happen in the next few months, going into the spring selling season.”

5. A bad time for savers

If you enjoy interest generated from a traditional savings account, the Bank of Canada’s move is bad news for those returns.

“We saw when the Bank of Canada cut interest rates during the last recession that interest rates on savings accounts went down almost linearly with the decline in the Bank of Canada overnight rate,” said Randall Bartlett, senior economist at TD Economics.

“There’s not going to be a massive change, but at the same time … ifyou’re not earning much interest before, you’re going to be earning less interest now,” added Bartlett.

This could be a good time for savers to think about changing their strategy, said Bartlett.

“As interest on things like savings accounts and government debt … comes down, at the same time it does provide incentives for people to invest in other types of assets that have higher returns,” said Bartlett. “Things like stocks, ETFs, mutual funds … tend to benefit from rate cuts” as businesses take advantage of cheaper credit to make investments that could improve their share prices down the line.

CREB® forecasts price stability amid easing demand

Here is an overview from the 2015 Economic Outlook & Regional Housing Outlook from CREB®

 

Housing sales are forecasted to ease by four per cent this year, due to market uncertainty and changes in economic climate, while prices are expected to remain relatively stable with a modest increase of 1.58 per cent on an annual basis, CREB® said today in its annual forecast.

Although sales levels are expected to ease, previously tight conditions throughout 2014 indicate that rising supply would push the market into more balanced conditions, supporting price stability in 2015. However, CREB® warns there are multiple risk factors attached to this forecast, which estimates a total of 24,503 homes will be sold in the city this year.

“The housing risks lie mainly with employment levels and net migration, both of which can be more severely impacted by a prolonged period of weakness in the energy sector,” said CREB® chief economist Ann-Marie Lurie. “There is also the impact that energy prices have on consumer confidence. If energy prices stay low throughout the year, concern regarding job stability could cause consumers to delay unnecessary changes regarding housing.”

The report notes that while sales activity is expected to ease in 2015, it remains consistent with long-term levels. By comparison, sales in 2014 were nearly 15 per cent higher than the long-term trends for the city.

“The economic situation is far better today than what is was in 2009, where the fallout of the financial crises resulted in a U.S. recession, weakness in energy sectors, a pullback in investment and ultimately job losses in Calgary,” said Lurie. “With economic indicators remaining more positive in this period, the pullback in housing is not expected to mirror activity during the 2009-2010 period.”

CREB®’s forecast also notes that housing activity can vary significantly depending on location, price range and property type. For example, in 2014, there were less detached homes within city limits available in the lower price ranges. This caused many consumers who were looking for lower priced product to move to the attached and apartment sectors within city limits as well as other surrounding areas. Many consumers turned to the larger surrounding areas of Airdrie, Cochrane, Okotkoks and Chestermere, which all recorded record levels of sales in 2014.

“With more supply in the market expected this year, buyers will likely have more alternatives in all price ranges,” said 2015 CREB® president Corinne Lyall. “It’s a nice scenario for buyers, but it also means that sellers will likely have to adjust their price expectations and be realistic about the amount of time their home will be on the market.”

“A REALTOR® can help navigate market conditions and real estate options, which are always unique to each consumer,” said Lyall. “While challenges in the market can raise concerns for buyers and sellers, it really comes down to their personal situation and knowing what’s right for them. Real estate is truly local.”