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  • Just Add a Dash of Lighting!

    LED LightIf your home is like every other home in the US, the kitchen is the heart of it.  When you have gatherings, it’s where everyone chooses to hang out.  A well-lit room is welcoming and emits positive energy.  Task lighting, ambient lighting…all types of lighting come into play in a kitchen, even mood lighting, as we like to call it, to add a certain romance to the space.  One of our signatures in a kitchen lighting design is mini pendants.  They come in so many options and colors.  The choices are endless.  It can be overwhelming for a homeowner to choose.  That’s why you need BK Design Associates.  To narrow the selections and make the perfect choice for you.

    The greatest lighting to hit the market recently is LED (Light-emitting diode) lighting.  New fixtures are being introduced faster than we can keep up with, partly because of the EPA’s decision to ban the 100 watt light bulb.  But the drive for more efficient, longer lasting lighting is also a reason for the new technology.  LED undercabinet lighting is compact, extremely efficient, and produces a very pleasing light for tasking in the kitchen.  And surprisingly, it’s affordable so you won’t have to sell your first born to install it.  Once again BK Design Associates can work with you to specify the correct fixtures and manage the installation.

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  • How to Define Your Interior Design Budget

    When you decide it’s time to purchase a new car, the amount of money you want to spend is probably at the top of your list of decisions to make.  The amount of money you’ll be spending usually dictates what kind of car you’ll buy, if it will be new or used, compact or full size, cloth or leather seats, etc.  At that point you go to the dealership and start negotiating with the sales person.  The sales person knows approximately how much money you’ll be spending on this new car and realistically you’re negotiating small amounts of money at that point.  But when you call an interior designer in for help why do people hesitate to share their budget.  It becomes a mind reading game if you don’t give the designer some budget range, at the very least.  If there isn’t a budget, then where do we start?  Just like a Lexus costs more than a Ford Fiesta, there are all sorts of furniture and fabric grades.  Maybe you think this is an assumption the designer should make but that’s just not fair to the designer.  He or she can waste valuable time making the perfect selections for you only to realize once presented, that the unknown budget has been busted.  I’ll admit, there are some that believe budget is an arbitrary number that is meant to be abused.  But if you’ve done your homework and selected the right interior designer, then he or she is going to respect that number and honor it like his or her parents.   It’s important to not confuse the word “budget” with “blank check”.

    Your budget should be the amount of money you are willing to spend to achieve the result you are looking for.  Whether it’s a lump sum of money you have set aside specifically or money that you have built into your monthly allowances, you are comfortable with this amount of money you intend to spend.  Then please share this number with your designer.  It’s critical to a successful relationship with your designer and thus a successful design.  Do you have to tell your designer the exact number you’re willing to spend?  I’d say no.  Actually I think it’s a good idea to hold back some percentage just in case… just-in-case you see an antique armoire you can’t live without, or a plug needs to be moved over 2 feet so that antique armoire will work, or termites have decided to take up residence in your walls.  The point is contingency budgets are a good idea.  We have one and so should you.

    Then there is the fairy tale of TV design show budgets.  Please do remember the projects you see on TV are not real. There are typically 2 budgets. The TV show itself has a budget that usually includes labor costs and the side deals they have with vendors who are getting free advertising, which aren’t shared with the viewer.  And then there is the 1000 dollar, redo-the-whole-house, no-way-this-is-even-possible budget.  Another facet of TV design is you can’t do a close-up inspection of the quality of work on a completed project.  I’d bet these projects would never pass muster with my clients on a cloudy day, much less a sunny day.

    Please do consider the quality of work you’ll be happy with when deciding on a budget.   As an example, I can have a mural painted by a master and spend a large sum of money.  Or I can have my neighbor’s 3-year-old paint a mural and spend next to nothing.  Both technically are murals.   The point is, if you expect perfection and top of the line quality, then share that with the designer.  It impacts the bottom line.  If you’re willing to settle for something less than perfect and go cheap, speak up.  But don’t go cheap on your budget and then expect perfect masterpieces and top-of-the-line merchandise.  That expectation is not realistic today.  It used to be.  But today there are too many choices and options for labor and merchandise.  Just remember you get what you pay for.  If you pay cheap or nothing, you’re usually getting cheap or nothing.   If your expectations are high, then your budget should follow suit.

    Once you’ve decided how much money you will spend, decide exactly what you want to accomplish with this budget.  Are we doing the kitchen only?  The kitchen and the adjoining breakfast?  Then it’s your designer’s job to allocate how much should be spent on each area and share with you.  If you don’t get some sort of spreadsheet with a line item break down before one dollar is spent, something is wrong.  And it is just good business to know exactly how much items will cost before anything is purchased.  In our practice, our clients get a written purchase contract (in addition to a written letter of agreement for the design fee) on anything costing over $500.

    Lastly consider we all have budgets.  That shouldn’t be a foreign word or something you feel you have to apologize for.  If you have a small budget but high expectations, consider doing things in phases.  A good designer doesn’t have a problem working this way.    After all what better than to have a client for a while.  That’s a good designer’s goal anyway…to make our client so happy that they’re clients for life!

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  • Going Green with HVAC

    The number one reason for the green movement within the residential housing industry should be energy conservation.  And what is the #1 way to green up your home?  It’s not by selecting low or no VOC paints and finishes.  And it’s not by using bamboo instead of wood.  CFL’s (compact fluorescent lamps) are a good idea but that isn’t #1 either.  The best way to go green is to make sure your heating and air-conditioning are working as efficiently as you can make them.  Because if your HVAC system isn’t at peak integrity, then you’re negating all the other green steps you’ve taken in your home. HVAC is an acronym for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning.  Generally along the Gulf Coast heating isn’t as much of a concern as air-conditioning.  After all, it’s conceivable we could run our air conditioning 12 months out of the year during a mild winter.

    How does one go about greening up your HVAC system?

    1. What is the overall efficiency of your entire system?  The efficiency of air conditioners is rated as the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER).  The higher the SEER on an air conditioning unit, the more efficient it is.  Central air conditioning units manufactured after 2005 must be a 13 SEER or higher.  ENERGY STAR qualified units must be 14 SEER or better.

    2. Is ductwork properly sealed and designed properly? Ductwork is located in the attic and walls and in between the floors of a multi-story house.  These areas are usually not insulated and if the ductwork isn’t properly sealed the conditioned air will leak into the unconditioned areas. Ductwork can be pressure tested for leaks that aren’t obvious or in inaccessible areas.  Leaks in ducts should be sealed with a special kind of air-conditioning tape, not duct tape.  And ductwork should be as straight as possible.  For every turn in the duct, drag is created in the airflow reducing the efficiency.

    3. Is ductwork contained in an extremely hot or cold unconditioned attic? Its not unrealistic that in an unventilated attic, temperatures can reach in excess of 140 degrees on some summer days when the outside temp might only be 95.  So it makes sense if you lower the attic temperature, that extreme heat doesn’t have a chance to raise the temp of the air pulsing through the ducts in your attic.  How do you do that?  One way is to create a basic push pull system of air exchange in the attic.   The cooler 95 degree air is pulled into the attic through soffit or ridge vents and the hotter 140 degree air leaves the attic pushed out by ventilation fans or roof turbines. Another way to cool the attic is to apply a radiant barrier to the underside of the roof reflecting the heat out of the attic.  The best way to install a radiant barrier in a preexisting home is to have a special radiant paint sprayed on the underside of the roof.  This is not a DIY project.  A professional should install it. A foil radiant barrier should be installed standard in new homes.

    4. And fourth, is your filtration system clean?  In order for a system to work efficiently it must receive intake air as a balance to the air it is producing.  That air comes from inside your house through your filter.  The filter of a system should be changed or cleaned every month.  If you’ve got a dirty filter, you’re reducing the amount of air to the unit and recycling that dirt back into your HVAC equipment.  You’re running the risk of the condenser freezing up because it isn’t getting enough air and or the pan stopping up from the extra dirt.  If either happens, your air conditioning stops cooling and you get hot.

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  • The Aluminum Wood Folding Door System

    Aluminum Wood Folding Door SystemNew!
    The Aluminum Wood Folding Door System combines the consistency and strength of aluminum with the beauty of a real wood interior.

    The Aluminum Wood system is catching attention by simply providing everything you want in a low maintenance folding door system. The system features:
    – 2 1/4″ thick panel for more durability and strength
    – 3 5/8″ wide stile and rail up to 10′ tall
    – New thermally broken frame for extreme climates
    – A selection of color options (Custom colors have an extended lead time)
    – Concealed locking throughout for a sleek look
    – Promotional pricing through June 30th
    Enquire today by calling 281.531.4242

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  • Micro Wind Turbines by Philippe Starck

    Stylish Wind TurbineWhen home owners think green, they are thinking about ways to conserve energy and reducing their own energy costs.  Philippe Starck, a cutting edge French designer best known for chic hotels, contemporary furniture and household items, is throwing his hat into the ring of alternative energy product development with the introduction of two sleek micro wind-power turbines geared toward domestic use.   Starck and the Italian company Pramac have unveiled Revolutionair, a collection of two micro wind turbine typologies designed for residential applications and small businesses. Revolutionair WT 400W is a quadrangular device with a power output of 400w and the Revolutionair WT 1KW is a helicoidal-shaped turbine that can generate power of 1kw when the wind blows at a speed of 14mps. The blades of both the two types are made of transparent plastic, giving the products a virtually invisible aesthetic.   Starck explained, ”I would love to see them on sale in supermarkets.” The turbines will be made in the Tuscan city of Siena.  They can be placed in the garden or on the roof. Prices will begin around 2,500 euros and 3,500 euros respectively and estimated installation costs are between 1,000 and 2,000 euros. Although families could need three turbines to meet their energy needs, it is still believed that lower electricity bills could make this a cost-effective solution.  When will we see them in the US?

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  • New Rules for Renovation, Repair and Painting

    In April of this year a new EPA rule will go into effect for all homes, childcare facilities, and schools built before 1978. Anyone working in housing and child-occupied facilities built prior to 1978 on common renovation activities such as sanding, cutting, and demolition that disturbs lead-based paint must be certified and must follow specific work practices to prevent lead contamination. This rule establishes requirements for training renovators, other renovation workers, and dust sampling technicians; for certifying renovators, dust sampling technicians, and renovation firms; for accrediting providers of renovation and dust sampling technician training; for renovation work practices; and for record keeping.

    How this rule will be enforced has yet to be determined. But the key question you should be asking is “Does this affect me?” If your home or apartment was built prior to 1978 then this rule absolutely applies to you. It also applies to any facility, public or commercial, that is visited by the same child, under 6 years of age on at least 2 different days within any week and the visits last at least 3 hours each time and the combined annual visits last at least 60 hours. The only exempt housing is that for the elderly or persons with disabilities (unless any child under age 6 resides or is expected to reside in such housing). Residential remodelers should be aware of this rule, as well as multi family maintenance crews, school maintenance crews, plumbers, heating and air conditioning contractors, electrical contractors…and the list goes on and on. Actions that potentially release lead dust and disturbs more than 6 square feet of interior surface space in a room and/or 20 square feet of exterior surface space are: painting and sanding; paint removal by any means; kitchen cabinet removal; replacing boards, soffits, or trim; window replacement; flooring removal and installation; HVAC repair or replacement, including duct work; drilling or sawing into wood or plaster…once again the list goes on and on.  And as a homeowner residing at the property in question if no child under the age of 6 resides there, that no pregnant woman resides there, and that the property is not a child-occupied facility, you have the authority to opt out of this regulation.  But you must provide documentation to that effect to your contractor.

    Therefore effective April 22, 2010, federal law will require that contractors performing renovation, repair and painting projects that disturb lead-based paint in homes, child care facilities, and schools built before 1978 to be certified and follow specific work practices to prevent lead contamination. BK Design Associates is exploring whether this law will affect our operations. We do not believe it will since the homes we perform work in usually were built after 1978. At the least, we would need to test for the presence of lead if your home was built prior to 1978 and then determine the best course of action to follow. Please call us for more information at 281-531-4242.

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  • A Smart Solution for Small Screens

    computer display storageHere’s a product that’s sure to clear the clutter from your work surface. The Ascent is a slim and compact, mechanical lift for small television and computer screens up to 14.5 pounds, 17.5″ tall, and 22″ diagonally. The Ascent conceals and secures screens when not in use, keeping surfaces free of clutter. To operate, the user presses the top of the lift support column, activating it to rise in about 2 seconds.  This product does not require power; movement is controlled through counterbalancing weights. The support column swivels left and right 112.5º, which expands viewing angles. The Ascent is easy to integrate into kitchens, office furniture, and entertainment center cabinetry.  BK Design Associates can help you design the perfect work space.  Call us today 281-531-4242.

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