5 Ingredients for Pantry Perfection

With the exception of appliances, the pantry may be the most frequently used feature of the kitchen. In many households, it’s the go-to place for every meal- and snack-making endeavor. Whether it’s an oversized cabinet, a converted armoire or a generously-sized, walk-in closet, the pantry is expected to store as many staples, canned goods, packaged foods, paper products, cleaning solutions, serving pieces and pet supplies as the laws of physics allow.

But, irrespective of its size, every pantry holds more — and functions better — when there is order to the chaos. Here are 5 easy ways to get the most out of your pantry:

1. Maximize your available space

Use every square inch of you pantry efficiently, no matter how big or how small. That includes shelves, cabinets and drawers, and even vertical space from the floor to the ceiling. If you have an area where shelves are not feasible, put the wall to good use. Consider installing a pegboard to hang pans and utensils, or attaching a sheet of stainless steel for a magnetized spice rack.

Source: Sandra Bird

Source: Sandra Bird

And, don’t overlook the benefit of hanging a pocket organizer on the back of your pantry door to store loose items like seasoning and spice packets, or small bags of rice and beans.

2. Plan for smart storage

Whether built-in or freestanding, the storage components that you have in place will impact organization significantly, so plan smart. Since your storage needs may change over time, consider a system that offers some built-in flexibility, like adjustable shelves. Cubby units that can move to where they are most needed are preferable over stationary ones.

Source: California Closets

Source: California Closets

And don’t underestimate the storage capacity of drawers. They are more expensive to purchase up front, but they make storing and accessing everything so easy. Stand-alone metal frame shelving also provides an economical solution for pantry storage, so don’t discount its value.

3. Consider using containers

http://www.zillow.com/digs/thea-home-inc-boards/Shah-Kitchen/

Source: Thea Segal

It may seem overkill, but storing your dry goods such as flour, sugar, rice, and beans in uniform containers will help keep your pantry organized and neat. Square containers use space more efficiently than round ones. And, units that are stackable will make better use of vertical-shelf storage. At most stores and online retailers, you’ll find plenty of containers from inexpensive mason jars to an assortment of colorful plastics to service all of your pantry needs. Baskets and repurposed crates are also great for storing small or miscellaneous items, so see what you might be able to recycle before buying new.

4. Go label crazy

Take the time to label everything in your pantry. Doing so will make storing and finding items that much easier, particularly if the pantry is used by all members of the household. Go with traditional, store-bought varieties or get creative with Washi Tape, luggage tags, clothespins or even chalkboard-paint labels.

5. Add some style

Yes, a pantry’s main job is functional, but making it look good will make you more eager to keep it tidy and neat. Paint the walls a cheery color, or give them a makeover with some bold wallpaper. If you’re buying baskets and bins, find a way to coordinate them with your decor. Hang a funky chandelier to brighten the space. Every time you open the door, it will bring a sense of beauty and fun to your meal-making chores.

http://www.zillow.com/digs/California-Closets-boards/Pantry/

Source: California Closets

This article was originally published by Bob Vila on Zillow Blog. To see the original article, click here.

Bob Vila is the home improvement expert widely known as host of TV’s This Old House, Bob Vila’s Home Again, and Bob Vila. Today, Bob continues his mission to help people upgrade their homes and improve their lives with advice online at BobVila.com. His video-rich site offers a full range of fresh, authoritative content – practical tips, inspirational ideas, and more than 1,000 videos from Bob Vila television.

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9 things to look for in an open house

Here are tips on ‘kicking the tires’ of your potential new home on your first tour.

9 things to look for in an open house You’re in the market for a home, you’ve seen the listings online and you’ve put together a short list of potential properties.
There’s even one with the exact number of bedrooms you need, just enough square footage, and that renovated kitchen you’ve been dreaming of – and it all looks good in the photos.

But while a picture online can say a thousand words, seeing a home in person truly speaks volumes. Visiting a property is your first opportunity to “kick the tires.” Of course, the first instinct at an open house is to run straight to the kitchen, the master bedroom, and bathrooms, but when pounding the pavement scoping out prospective homes, don’t overlook these nine critical areas.

1. The neighborhood

You have to remember that you’re not just buying a house, you’re buying a neighborhood, too. And that, perhaps, is the most important takeaway from seeing a property in person. During your visit, though, be sure to pay attention to traffic speeds, the condition of other homes in the area, and whether or not there’s plentiful access to amenities your family needs.

2. The neighbors

Again, you’re buying a house, but it’s important to note that the neighbors come with it, like a package deal. Scope out the homes on either side of the property – and don’t overlook the neighbor in the back of the house. You might think that what’s out of sight is out of mind, but that rule doesn’t apply if they have three large dogs that like to bark all day.

3. Privacy

When you look out the bedroom window, do you peer right into your neighbor’s bathroom? If you wanted to entertain on the back deck, will your neighbor be close enough to give you unwanted barbequing tips? While privacy is always good to consider, the good news is that the issue may be easily resolved. Remember: Hedges make great neighbors.

4. The home’s exterior

Take a walk around the entire perimeter of the house; you might be surprised at what’s hiding along the sides, out of sight. Is there deferred maintenance? Pay close attention to the exterior paint. Does it look fresh, or is it chipping? Do the roof shingles look like they need replacing in the next two to five years? What’s the condition of the gutters or any other key items on the exterior? This is a telltale sign in what you’ll find inside.

5. Good ‘flow’

One thing pictures online don’t show is the flow of the house.  Do rooms feel spacious and well-laid-out? The hub of the home for today’s family is the kitchen. Is it open and inviting? Can family members lounge nearby or dine in an adjacent area? The way one room opens to the next is important when it comes to making the most of the space you’ve got.

6. The layout

A family with young children is likely going to want a home with their bedroom on the same floor as their children. But if you have teenagers, you may want to be on the other side of the house – or even on a different floor. So pay special attention to the layout of the house and whether or not it works for your lifestyle. Overall flow is important, but having space dedicated to specific, important parts of your life – like an office for someone who works from home – is equally as important.

7. Smells, stains and nastiness

The nose knows. Check out the basement and even the attic. If you smell some ominous, it just could be. Water stains in the ceilings and along the baseboards in the basement are signs of flooding, drainage, or roof trouble – and water and dampness often lead to mold and mildew issues, so take note.

8. Light and air

When you’re in the house, is there lots of natural light? Is the house designed in a way that, with weather permitting, there’s good air flow through the house? Not only is sunlight and fresh air enjoyable, but opening those windows and catching a breeze also can help cut down on utility bills during those mid-summer months.

9. Closet space

Is there a little or a lot? Will the home’s storage space keep you organized and accommodate all your stuff? I know that for some homebuyers, this is a deal breaker, so it’s better to check now before you fall in love with the rest of the house.

This article was originally published by By Michael Corbett, Trulia on MSN Real Estate. To see the original article, click here.

Houston Architectural Wonder Lists for $6.99M

One of Texas’ most incredible mansions—a 12,957-square-foot modern palace complete with custom-designed pool and lazy river—has been listed for $6.998 million. This suburban Houston architectural wonder, owned by TAS Energy founder Tom Pierson, is a remarkable work of architecture, blending old-world style with modern amenities.

From realtor.com

There is almost nothing this Sugar Land, TX, estate doesn’t offer, located approximately 20 miles southwest of Houston.

from realtor.com

With five bedrooms and eight bathrooms, the mansion is situated on three-quarters of an acre in a suburban Houston cul-de-sac. The 2009 modern Mediterranean home incorporates exotic granite, imported stone and custom woodwork into a unique floor plan.

from realtor.com

from realtor.com

from realtor.com

from realtor.com

from realtor.com

from realtor.com

from realtor.com

The rooms run the range of styles for each family member’s choice of activity: there is a utility room, a study, a media room and a family room. In addition, there are formal dining and living rooms and a breakfast room.

from realtor.com

from realtor.com

Another amazing feature is the game room, complete with all a game-room space should offer—but also including a modern rock climbing wall, just one more reason this Houston architectural wonder is so desirable.

from realtor.com

In addition, the cooling and circulation features are top-of-the-line as this is the owner’s line of work. The energy features include an attic fan, attic vents, ceiling fans, high-efficiency heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, low-energy windows and tankless on-demand water heater. The flooring is wood and stone throughout.

from realtor.com

Outside, the patio leads to a spa and unique, custom-designed pool—especially enticing for guests. The Sweetwater Country Club is adjacent to the property, as well, providing beautiful views of the golf course and its green fairways.

from realtor.com

from realtor.com

from realtor.com

from realtor.com

from realtor.com

from realtor.com

Tom Pierson is founder and chief technology officer of TAS Energy, a green-energy company providing services and products to the renewable energy, power and cooling industries.

The listing agent is Aida Younis of RE/MAX Southwest.

This article was originally published by  on Realtor.com. To see the original article, click here.

Love Your Lawn? Follow These Guidelines

Americans are not bashful when it comes to expressing their love of lawns — it has been estimated that there are more than 40 million acres of lawn in the United States. But if you really want to show your lawn some love, you’ll have to do more than mow it. If you’re starting from scratch, you’ll need to learn about your soil and climate, and then decide between sod, seed and a lawn alternative. If you are working with an existing lawn, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the proper way to water, fertilize and eliminate (or better yet, prevent) unwanted weeds.

Source: shuttershock.com

Source: shuttershock.com

If you count yourself among the lucky homeowners with land to spare for a verdant landscape, these guidelines should help you cultivate a beautiful lawn that will reward you year after year.

Seed

Before you decide on a Kentucky bluegrass, Bermuda or rye, find out which grass is best for your climate by consulting the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) plant hardiness zone map. Perform a soil test to see if you need to make any amendments before planting seed, and then follow these guidelines:

  • Till the soil and remove weeds, rocks and plants. Consider adding fresh topsoil mixed with an organic material to improve water retention, and a fertilizer to stimulate germination.
  • For small areas you can sow the seed by hand; for larger areas use a seed spreader. Cover the seeded soil with straw to protect the seeds and help them retain moisture. Section off the area to avoid foot traffic.
  • Water daily and do not mow the grass until it is at least 3-inches high. Water less frequently as the grass matures.

Sod

Laying sod is a great way to have a lawn without the wait, but it’s a big job. It’s best to lay sod during cooler weather so the grass can take root and avoid the risk of burnout. (Fall or spring are typically the best times of year in the North; spring is ideal in the South.) Familiarize yourself with how to lay sod before deciding if it’s right for your lawn.

Lawn alternatives

Lawn alternatives provide as much greenery and coverage as a regular turf but can be lower maintenance, hardier and even scent-filled. There are many varieties to consider — from micro clover to Corsican mint — so be sure to check to see which is best for your lawn, climate and upkeep.

Watering

Most lawns require about 1 inch of water per week. It’s better to give your grass a good soak every three days than to water a little bit every day. Your lawn will tell you when it needs watering, provided you know the signs. As you walk over the grass, your footsteps should readily disappear; if they don’t, you need to water. A bluish-green color and curling glass blades are also indicators of dehydration.

  • Watering less frequently encourages roots to grow downward (in search of water), which makes your lawn more stable.
  • In most climates, a deep, thorough watering twice a week should be enough to keep your lawn happy.
  • Water your lawn in the early morning, so there will be less evaporation. Grass will also have a chance to dry out before the sun starts beating down.

Fertilizing

Grass requires small amounts of many nutrients (calcium, magnesium and sulfur, to name a few). Macronutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium are needed in larger quantities. A soil test performed by your local extension office will reveal what your lawn needs to succeed. The results of the test will include a range of information, such as your soil’s pH.

  • Cool-season grasses (including Kentucky bluegrass and tall fescue) benefit most from fertilizer in the fall, at which time the added nutrients go a long way toward bolstering root growth.
  • For warm-season grasses (including zoysia and Bermuda), springtime fertilization is appropriate once the lawn is actively growing, about six weeks after the last frost date.
  • Using slow-release fertilizer prevents nutrient overload and lowers the risk that your application will contribute to shoot, not root, growth.

Mowing

When choosing a lawn mower, take into consideration the size of your lawn, the presence of inclines and obstructions, comfort (if you decide to go with a riding mower), safety and maintenance. You want a mower that will suit your unique landscape and be user-friendly. When you mow,

  • Never cut more than one-third of the blade; any more will shock the plant.
  • Cut your lawn higher than the recommended rate during hot summer months.
  • Switch mowing directions to prevent turf wear and soil compaction.

Weed control

Familiarize yourself with common lawn-care problems, from dandelions and ants to brown patches. Learn to mitigate — or better yet, prevent — these pesky predicaments to keep your lawn healthy and lush all year long.

This article was originally published by Marisa Villarreal of BobVila.com on Zillow Blog. To see the original article, click here.

Bob Vila is the home improvement expert widely known as host of TV’s This Old House, Bob Vila’s Home Again, and Bob Vila. Today, Bob continues his mission to help people upgrade their homes and improve their lives with advice online at BobVila.com. His video-rich site offers a full range of fresh, authoritative content – practical tips, inspirational ideas, and more than 1,000 videos from Bob Vila television.

Getting a Mortgage: Why SO MUCH Paperwork?

We are often asked why there is so much paperwork mandated by the bank for a mortgage loan application when buying a home today.

Getting a Mortgage: Why SO MUCH Paperwork?

It seems that the bank needs to know everything about us and requires three separate sources to validate each and every entry on the application form. Many buyers are being told by friends and family that the process was a hundred times easier when they bought their home ten to twenty years ago.

There are two very good reasons that the loan process is much more onerous on today’s buyer than perhaps any time in history.

  1. The government has set new guidelines that now demand that the bank prove beyond any doubt that you are indeed capable of affording the mortgage. During the run-up in the housing market, many people ‘qualified’ for mortgages that they could never pay back. This led to millions of families losing their home. The government wants to make sure this can’t happen again
  2. The banks don’t want to be in the real estate business. Over the last seven years, banks were forced to take on the responsibility of liquidating millions of foreclosures and also negotiating another million plus short sales. Just like the government, they don’t want more foreclosures. For that reason, they need to double (maybe even triple) check everything on the application.

However, there is some good news in the situation. The housing crash that mandated that banks be extremely strict on paperwork requirements also allowed you to get a mortgage interest rate probably below 5%.

The friends and family who bought homes ten or twenty ago experienced a simpler mortgage application process but also paid a higher interest rate (the average 30 year fixed rate mortgage was 8.12% in the 1990’s and 6.29% in the 2000’s). If you went to the bank and offered to pay 7% instead of <5%, they would probably bend over backwards to make the process much easier.

Bottom Line

Instead of concentrating on the additional paperwork required, let’s be thankful that we are able to buy a home at historically low rates.

This article was originally published by The KCM Crew on Keeping Current Matters. To see the original article, click here.

13 breathtaking outdoor party spaces

Designing your yard for entertaining guests and for parties means figuring out a plan. What kind of parties do you want to have throughout the spring and summer? Is your circle of friends composed of a few folks or everyone from your office and then some? What are your interests, and which ones do you share with your friends?

Depending on your budget and the size of your outdoor area, you could transform the area into a breathtaking space that everyone will want to spend time at on the weekends. To give you ideas for designing your party space, here are some photos to inspire you.

© Distinguished Home Improvements LLC

© Distinguished Home Improvements LLC

As pictured here, a balcony space can be perfect for entertaining guests, with wicker chairs spread out for different views of the scenery, along with a fireplace to sit near at night and easy access to the inside for dinners and drinks.

Enjoying the view

© Window Covering Concepts Inc.

© Window Covering Concepts Inc.

The basics of an outdoor entertaining area often include a porch with tables and chairs. This photo, credited to a Lumberton, New Jersey, professional, is simple but has a breathtaking view of the scenery. It’s intimate for parties of four to six and leads indoors for windy or chilly temperatures.

The small table and high chairs allow for relaxation and conversation under a fabric awning that protects against the sun’s rays. Stone steps lead from the porch to the pond that feeds into the water below for a scenic view. It’s comfortable, quiet and easy for homeowners who want to invite a few friends over on the weekend.

Need more fire?

© Monarch Nurseries Inc

© Monarch Nurseries Inc

Having an outdoor grill is important for parties because then you can grill hot dogs, hamburgers, steaks and more without having to transport those items from the kitchen to the yard and back again. Having an outdoor fireplace allows people to stay warm during cool nights, see one another under the warm lighting and cook s’mores.

So why not put both of those in close proximity to each other for increased warmth and lighting? This outdoor grill and fireplace in West Dundee, Illinois, are next to each other and inlaid with stone to blend together on this stone tile patio. The cushioned seating is designed to be close to the fire while allowing a cook to get to and from the grill easily for serving and grilling. It’s fast, efficient and guarantees plenty of warmth on cold nights.

Comfy and intimate dining

© Darlington Designs LLC

© Darlington Designs LLC

For couples and families, a Glassboro, New Jersey, landscaper made an outdoor dining area perfect for a romantic evening or gathering. Four chairs are situated around a metal wicker table that is set and ready for dinner with a burning fire in the fireplace behind it. The view of the pond offsets the sunset, and the landscape evokes a feeling of calm and peace.

It’s serene, comfortable and perfect for those who need an escape from the busy weekdays to connect with one another again. For those who want to recreate a scene like this in their yard, the two pieces that you must have are the outdoor fireplace and the stone deck.

The cost to install a fireplace averages between $2,000 and $2,700, though it could vary depending on the outdoor conditions and materials required. A stone deck’s price will also vary because of the type of stone and landscaping conditions.

© DesignMine

© DesignMine

Designing outdoor party spaces on balconies or terraces means it will be more modern and cozy than a backyard with tables and chairs. This terrace space by a contractor from Dayton, Ohio, has an assembly of cushioned chairs and couches around an electronic firepit. It easily transitions into the house for those cold nights when a fire pit might not be enough warmth.

There’s a dining area for occasions when a host or hostess might want to set the table and say grace. In short, a terrace or rooftop party space just means you’ll be more comfortable and often have quicker access to amenities than what you’d have out in the backyard.

Fun games for every age

© DesignMine

© DesignMine

Do you enjoy strategy games or a workout? Why not install a life-size chess board in your backyard? How about a life-size Scrabble board or bowling alley?

In addition to having an outdoor grill and some seating, large game boards are eclectic and fun accessories that people will remember when visiting your backyard. It’s a recent trend, having appeared in cities such as Toronto, Tokyo and New York, including a life-size version of the board game “Mouse Trap” in Queens.

Getting in some time on the green

© Back Nine Greens Inc

© Back Nine Greens Inc

If you know friends and coworkers who love to golf, then installing a putting green in your backyard is perfect for parties on the weekends. This green in Palm Desert, California, has different distances between each hole so everyone can practice their putt from short or long distances. It’s good for those who are experts at the game, or even those who want to try their hand at golf for the first time.

Nearby is an outdoor grill for putting on a few patties while you practice, and a few lamps in the ground around the flora means you can practice at night as well. Having a green like this means turf, not real grass, though, or else you run the risk of a lot of patch. While the cost reported by homeowners to install turf averages between $3,900 and $5,500, it varies depending on square feet.

Taking a few laps around the pool

© RR Paving and Masonry

© RR Paving and Masonry

If you live a particularly hot climate, one of the best installations for outdoor parties is a swimming pool. This pool in New Rochelle, New York is comfortable, kid-friendly and can hold a lot of people. There’s a dining area and fire pit for warmth and relaxation in between laps.

While the cost to build a swimming pool might be expensive, between $7,800 and $11,100, it varies by materials and square footage. Also consider accessories such as the waterfall featured here and landscaping around the pool to help it flow with the backyard.

Extracurricular activities for all

© PH Architects LLC

© PH Architects LLC

This backyard in Newtown, Connecticut, has plenty of room and activities for guests with different interests. On one side is a swimming pool for kids, people who want to relax and the aquatically inclined. On the far right side is a tennis court for those who might be competitive or want to get a good workout in. There are chairs and tables for eating and chatting while others enjoy the activities provided by the pool and tennis court.

Remember that tennis courts require a playing surface, a net and lines for determining boundaires, so be sure to hire a tennis court contractor to construct it.

Entertainment for everyone

© The Mace Group Inc.

© The Mace Group Inc.

If you have children and want them to have a place to play with their friends during parties, you should have an outdoor playground or play equipment installed. Kids love to go to playgrounds and swing, go down slides, climb on the monkey bars and more. Having that in the backyard is even better because you will be able to watch them without worrying about kids wandering off, and you can enjoy other comforts of home.

This backyard in Westfield, Indiana, has a play structure near to a covered patio with a fireplace, outdoor grill and cabinet for a complete kitchen setup. It creates a comfortable atmosphere for adults and children to ensure a fun weekend for everyone. If you don’t want to deal with the hassle of installing a playground in your yard, you can have an outdoor-playground contractor build it for you.

An outdoor living room

© Luxury for the Home

© Luxury for the Home

To enjoy the outdoors with the comforts of your living room, homeowners can create a luxury living space on their back porch. This covered porch in Dallas has almost everything you’d find in a living room. Couches and comfortable chairs sit near a burning fireplace with a flat screen TV and coffee table. Temperature is controlled by the outside, and it’s easy to transition from comfort to the outdoors. The separation provided by windows and doors is gone, so homeowners who enjoy nature and indoor relaxation get both with this design.

Ample space for guests and grilling

© Landmark Custom Landscape

© Landmark Custom Landscape

If you really need space for entertaining during any time of year or climate condition, then make sure you have a covered patio that can hold a lot of seating. It’s an additional bonus if you put an outdoor grill nearby for feeding everyone rather than going in and out of your kitchen. This outdoor patio in Lake Forest, California, has a wooden awning, lots of cushioned seating and a fireplace with a flat-screen TV overhead. The stone tile flooring can endure a lot of foot traffic, and awning overhead protects against rain and some wind. The landscaping helps it to blend in with the backyard and provides some protection against the elements.

A backyard big enough for any occasion

© O R Landscaping Inc

© O R Landscaping Inc

If you have many people you plan to entertain, you will need enough space in your backyard. This backyard from a Hialeah Gardens, Florida, landscape designer has the room and necessities for entertaining large parties with plenty of seating and tables, allotting room for more seats to be brought out and situated on the green or stone tiles. There’s an outdoor grill for cooking and a hot tub covered by a patio awning for people to relax in with the landscaping completing the look. If you want a backyard like this, a landscape designer will be crucial to its creation.

This article was originally published by By Andrea Davis of HomeAdvisor on MSN Real Estate. To see the original article, click here.