Brighten Your Outdoor Decor in Winter – A Unique Element of Color to Beat the Winter Blahs

It’s no wonder that many folks suffer from the post holiday “blahs.” As the holidays come to a close and we start to take down all those festive decorations and lights, things can seem a little drab, leading us to search for ways to recapture the life in our surroundings. The first thing to do to reignite our senses is to simply open up all the blinds and curtains to let as much light into our homes as possible. Sunlight alone can have an uplifting effect on mood.But then we look out the windows and find that much of the sensual experience of our landscape is missing this time of year. Winter has visibly set in across our outdoor environment. Empty branches remain in all but our evergreen trees, our lawn has faded to a pale straw color and most other color has faded from our landscape. Now, I am a nature lover, and I know that we are supposed to enjoy the graceful look of the leafless tree branches and that every season has its beauty, but I just miss the color!  Of course there are some flowers that can survive the cold winter temperatures; like pansies, which seem to smile back at you even through a blanket of snow, or ornamental kale for some color and texture in your beds.  But let’s face it; unless you live in a tropical climate, the color options for your winter landscape are fairly limited.Thankfully, there is another option to brighten your landscape that you may not have encountered at the nursery or the home improvement store. I recently discovered some wonderfully creative artisans that design and create (by hand) glass wind chimes in an amazing array of colors and designs that add a whole new element to patio and garden décor. Glass wind chimes, you ask? Ah yes, but more than wind chimes, these are like art glass for your patio or garden. We have hung one right outside our living room window for a pop of color when we look outside across the now-barren tree line.Now, you may have wind chimes hanging in your yard or on your patio now, some of them even with a little color, but these chimes are pure color in this luminous tumbled and frosted glass that is designed to be hung outdoors. When I say luminous, I mean they truly light up when the sunlight hits them! They are like having a wind chime and a sun catcher all wrapped in one! There are even floral designs that look like beautiful blossoms. I think they just may tide me over until those spring blossoms return to our landscape.If you are wondering how you will brighten up your environment once the holiday decorations come down, this is one idea that may delight your senses.  And when those warm spring breezes return, they will continue to bring sound, color and light to life in your surroundings – and a break from the ordinary, which is my favorite part.

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Custom House Plans – Finding a Good Designer

The field of drawing custom house plans is a crowded and competitive one. There are many architectural and design firms out there vying for a “piece of the pie.” However, if you look closely at examples of their finished product, you will find huge differences among them. The better ones offer quality designs and highly detailed plans.

Drawing a good set of custom home plans involves integrating many different concepts and ideas into a solid and usable working plan. Many designers are able to come up with a unique or interesting preliminary design, but fail to deliver when its time to detail the house structure. They draw a pretty picture but have little or no understanding of how to translate that nice design into a working plan which the builder can understand.

Having been in the business for more than 30 years, we have seen a large number of house plans which looked good at first glance. However, upon closer examination, many of these plans were found to be lacking large amounts of needed information. If a house plan is not easy to navigate or is not thoroughly detailed, then the builder is left to guess at the designer’s intentions. This often means that he will “pad” his bid to make sure that he covers any unknown construction costs that may arise.

One item to look for when evaluating a house plans’ quality level is the number of structural sections which are shown on the plan. Highly detailed sets of plans will always cut lots of sectional views through the house to show every different roof framing situation. This might mean that 10 or 12 (or even more) sections need to be drawn for a large house plan. And even a small house plan should include 3 or 4 sections minimum. However, many home plans available today (especially plans purchased through inexpensive plan directories) cut corners in this department and only show one or two house section views. This means that the builder will have to guess at the rest of the house framing.

Another item which is often missing or lacking in a set of house plans is comprehensive and accurate dimensions. We have always strived to provide more than the minimum amount of house dimensions so that it is easy for the owner and builder to layout a home on its building site. We will even calculate point to point dimensions (using trigonometry) for homes which have lots of odd angles to them (as opposed to a simple rectangle layout). Not all architects or designers will go this “extra mile,” so it pays to check these things out beforehand.

Every set of custom house plans includes several items which need to be blown up and detailed for further clarification. If a set of plans does not provide additional close-up drawings (for things such as beam connections, deck railings, stairway construction, etc.), then it is not a complete set. It is very easy to cut corners during the planning process. But the end result will be higher costs for the home owner – and lots of frustration for the building contractor.

There are some architects and designers who seem to think that its the responsibility of the building department to check and catch any omissions. But the best of the breed takes it as a matter of pride to pr

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