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Every year, designers eagerly anticipate what the home trends ahead will be, particularly when it comes to kitchens, because the appliances, storage ideas and needs for this room are always evolving and changing. While some styles will stay for years and even decades, others have a shorter shelf-life and you can date when the space was designed based on a few tell-tale details.
 
Now don’t get me wrong—this isn’t a bad thing. It’s not like your family or friends are going to walk into your new-ish kitchen and say “This is so 2013!” Unless it’s time to give your kitchen a full makeover, it can just be fun to freshen it up a little with some small changes that embrace your favourite new ideas. Here are some 2016 concepts that are already making an appearance:
 
Stylish Storage
Today’s kitchen is embracing a clutter-free vibe. Instead of having a myriad of small appliances, spice racks, utensil holders and tchotchkes out on your counters, designers are encouraging smart storage options that allow a more open, usable workspace for cooking and food prep.savvy-cabinets
 
Cupboard and drawers are now being designed with specific, modern uses in mind, including built-in cupboards complete with a drop-down front to hide your microwave when it’s not in use (keep in mind that if you opt for this cool way of hiding your microwave, it’s important that you have it designed specifically for this appliance as microwaves need to have their vents clear to expel heat when cooking or you’re looking at a fire hazard). Spice racks are being built into drawers and lazy-Susans making their contents easily visible to you when needed, but out of the way when not. Extra utensil drawers are being built for keeping your larger cooking spoons, whisks, etc. in, and some upper cupboards are being built with more height per shelf so that you can store these items there.
 
The hip décor items we inject personality into our kitchen with are still present, but there are less of them and they’re being given a shelf of honour that takes them off of your counters. These shelves are used to create irresistible vignettes that really let your beloved knick-knacks shine, while giving your kitchen a more usable, breathable feel.
 
Feeling Neutral
Not long ago, kitchens went through a phase where there was bright colour everywhere. We saw cabinets painted in loud primary colours, blends of punchy reds and vibrant blues—it was a positive rainbow to cook in! This was shortly followed by a love of pastels. Pale mint shelves, pink cabinets, baby blue walls—it was still very colourful but a bit softer and more toned-down than the lime green cabinets that came before.
We are now seeing a return to a more neutral, elegant colour palette for kitchens. Soft greys, different shades of white (think softer white versus a very sharp, harsh white), pale taupes and beiges—it’s a much more timeless selection of shades and they create a kitchen that feels sophisticated yet inviting. Instead of announcing your style in blaring hues that can drown everything else out, they’re saying it over a nice cup of coffee with a gentle smile. For pops of colour, we’re seeing washed-out grey-blues and very pale yellows—even muted mints. I have to say, I am a big fan of this. A soft grey and white kitchen with subtle pieces of blue gives you a calm, soothing space where you can unwind after a hectic day while preparing dinner. There’s so much yelling for our attention these days—I like the idea of your kitchen not being one of those things.
 
Colour in Unexpected Places
Appliances are starting to come back in these same soft blues and mints—is that not a fun way to add some colour to your space? Coffee-makers, microwaves, mixers—these are all available in stylish hues that can let you pick-up your colour scheme. One of the very cool new places we’re seeing colour embraced is the kitchen sink. Beautiful, deep farmhouse sinks in quiet blues and rich greys. They really anchor the space, and frankly they are a joy to use. Practical and beautiful—that seems to be the theme of 2016 kitchens and I am on board with that!
 
Mixing Textures
Kitchens used to be very uniform in their materials, but now they’re being mixed and layered and the results are show-stopping. Soft woods mixed with dark to bring some presence to your neutral kitchen, a different quartz is covering your island compared to the one on your counters, your lower cabinets are one Article2colour or material and your upper are a slight variation of that—this blending is all about things complimenting each other while adding depth and character to your kitchen. This is especially great if you want to do some minor updates without a full-blown makeover because your older pieces mixed in with your newer will achieve this look effortlessly. One of the really cool options we’re seeing are for islands that also have breakfast bars on them—the food prep surface will be quartz or marble, and the dining section is in a totally different material to create this perfect juxtaposition.
 
Metals
Metallic finishes and surfaces crept in to kitchen design many moons ago in the form of handles, hanging pot racks and stainless steel appliances. Metallics are bigger than ever this year, but they’re being given a brushed finish to make them less reflective and more subtle (added bonus—brushed metals are also easier to keep clean-looking!). Rose gold and antique-finished brass are big in the jewellery and fashion world these days, so it’s not really a surprise that they’re finding room for themselves in the kitchen too. Cabinet handles and smaller appliances are being released in these finishes, and they are adding a total wow factor in a pleasingly understated fashion. Like the other 2016 kitchen trends, these details blend into the overall effect of the room rather than screaming for your focus.
 
Range hoods are also appearing in unique metal options—blackened steel, brushed copper, oil-rubbed bronze. While we used to paint or finish hood ranges in a way that minimalized their presence, they are now being used to add to the aesthetics, which given their size makes more sense than trying to blend them away, doesn’t it? The darker finishes offer an anchor to your neutral palette, and they somehow add a more lived-in, time-passing touch, which gives your kitchen the warmth all kitchens should have.
 
While the emergence of lovely new finishes, appliances and options for your kitchen are always welcome and fun, and it’s enjoyable reviewing them to see if you want to implement any or all of them into your home, the most important thing is that you’re creating a space you are happy in. The kitchen is considered the heart of the home, so yours should reflect your tastes and needs (unless you’re planning to sell soon, in which case, rose-gold handles stat!).
 
 

Originally Published by The Chronicle Herald

 

Alexandra Kelter

 
Alexandra Kelter is a social media specialist with Central Home Improvements. Her column covers many aspects of home improvement, both indoor and outdoor, and will combine trending styles with practical applications all within realistic budgets. Kelter is also passionate about fashion, travel, living by the ocean and her bulldog.
 

 
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Since the year 2000, Pantone, a subsidiary of X-Rite (a company who creates, communicates, and strategizes colour), has been releasing a colour of the year. Selected by a prestigious group of international experts hand-picked from areas of fashion, home design, popular culture, international travel, technology, and even automotive design (among others), this committee spends the better part of a year scouring the globe, particularly the style capitals of the world such as Paris, Milan and New York, for cues and inspiration on what colour is creeping in to the modern subconscious in a pronounced and definitive way.
 
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It is difficult to pinpoint the major influences in this decision, because in a way it’s everything. It’s the world around us, the climate of politics, the mood of the prominent generations—the goal is for this colour to encapsulate and speak to the ambiance of the year it represents. Kind of a big job for one colour, isn’t it?
 
Maybe that’s part of the reason why Pantone has made the drastic, and frankly bold, decision to go with two pantone colours for 2016, a move unprecedented in the last 15 years of selection. 2016 will be painted with Rose Quartz and Serenity.
 
Rose Quartz is a delicate, soft, warm, feminine pale pink, while Serenity stands in juxtaposition to this as a cooler, tranquil pastel blue, blending the 2000 choice of Cerulean with periwinkle influences.
 
Apart from their growing presence in the current zeitgeist, and their obvious visual appeal, Rose Quartz and Serenity were also chosen for their psychological influence. Both should induce a calming, soothing sense of peace, stillness, reflection and tranquility, while the pink offers a warmer side and the blue, a cooler.
 
The growing acceptance and awareness of broader definitions and understandings of gender have also been reflected in this decision. Pantone explains that “this more unilateral approach to colour (in fashion) is coinciding with societal movements toward gender equality and fluidity, the consumer’s increased comfort with using colour as a form of expression, a generation that has less concern about being typecast or judged and an open exchange of digital information that has opened our eyes to difference approaches to colour usage.”
 
When it comes to incorporating these colour choices into your home décor, it can be a daunting prospect. The knee-jerk reaction when you think of these two hues on your walls is to dismiss it is as child-like or dated, but the way the soft blush and
washed-out periwinkle are being used is wholly fresh. They’re creeping in via subtle accents, usually in very pale, unassuming shades of the colours. Accent chairs, vases, beautifully but not intricately designed rugs, soft throws. The boldest appearance of these colours seems to be via easy-to-embrace-and-change details, like pillows and a single repainted accent piece, such as a side table or small bookcase.
 
Even more surprising are the colours that are being paired with them—gold accents, pronounced greys, toned-down blacks, crisp whites, and brown-based olives, just to name a few. These unexpected mixtures are grounding the ethereal Rose Quartz and Serenity, giving them a more liveable, approachable, mature vibe.
 
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While it can be hard to be conscious of it, Pantone’s Colour of the Year usually creeps into our subconscious because it begins appearing everywhere in tasteful, subtle details. You may start to notice that a lot of sweaters this year are available in these colours; suddenly you realize you’ve bought a pillow in that same pink and a scarf in the blue; popular housewares stores start showcasing irresistible mugs using one or both of these colours.
 
It’s partially because Pantone’s choice influences designers in fashion, housewares, home décor, and more, but it’s also a sign that this was the right selection for 2016 because they base their decision on noticing what is already insinuating itself into current colour palettes. The more we start to come into contact with Rose Quartz and Serenity, the more likely you’ll start feeling the urge to incorporate it into your home somewhere.
 
I always recommend starting with small details unless you are smitten with the colour(s). Unless you want to redo your home décor every time a new shade turns your head, it can be better to blend your new favourites with your existing style. Switch some pieces around, add an accent wall or furnishing, change your art, repaint some furniture. Details like this can really create a presence for these colours in your space but in a way that can be easily changed.
 
If you want to dive headlong into Rose Quartz and Serenity, I recommend using a very pale version of the rose on your walls then giving it depth and dimension with darker furnishings—look to blacks, heavy greys, rich browns and even deep burgundies. The blue can be easier to work with and is a less daring change. Any soft blue is going to look airy and breathy with whites and creams, or mature and nautical with taupes and creams. Consult your taste and the way a room makes you feel—these should always be the most important influences when it comes to decorating any part of your home.
 
As this year winds down and we bid farewell to Marsala with all its chic and sophisticated connotations, we start to look ahead to what is next. If Pantone’s choice for 2016 is an accurate snapshot of this time in history, we’re commencing a year with open eyes, full hearts, and beautiful colours.
 
 

Originally Published by The Chronicle Herald

 

Alexandra Kelter

 
Alexandra Kelter is a social media specialist with Central Home Improvements. Her column covers many aspects of home improvement, both indoor and outdoor, and will combine trending styles with practical applications all within realistic budgets. Kelter is also passionate about fashion, travel, living by the ocean and her bulldog.
 

 
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When it comes to your home, one of the most important but oft-overlooked areas to take care of are your windows. They can be a point of strength or weakness, yielding major physical effects on other structural elements of your house. This is an investment you want to make.
 
Though updating your windows can be costly, there are programs (for qualifying homeowners) through Efficiency Nova Scotia to shoulder some of that cost, and in the long-run, quality windows will save you a shocking amount of money when it comes to regulating the temperature of your home, and protecting it from the elements, time, and even intruders. Windows also play a surprisingly important role in the resale value of your property—this is an investment you will get your money back on.
 
Types of Windows
The two most common types of window in Nova Scotia are the casement and the slider. The casement is when the whole window opens (sort of like a mini-door to let fresh air in). Because you can fling the casement open completely or have it just a few inches open, you have maximum control over how much air comes in or out. These windows are considered the most energy efficient when it comes to air seepage from the casement. Compression seal technology means when you close a casement window, it’s such a snug fit that almost no heat or air is escaping from it.
 
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Slider windows are when you slide a panel to open them. Available in both single and double sliders (where one or two panels can be opened), these are best-suited to openings that are wider than they are tall. Sliders are easy to clean and offer great unobstructed views of the world outside as they are large panels of glass. The double slider is more energy efficient as it adds an additional layer between the home you’re paying to heat and the cold Nova Scotia outdoors.
 
Because sliders have to have enough space between parts for you to slide the panels, they are not as air-tight when closed as a casement window, and therefore are considered the less energy-efficient of the two. There are Energy Star Rated slider windows available, though.
Both window options are made with locks to help keep your home secure.
 
The U-Factor
Non-solar heat flow is caused by the temperature difference between the environment outside and your home inside. When it’s cold outside, this is when more non-solar heat will flow out of your home and into the chilly outdoors. This is because the temperature difference between inside your cozy house and outside in that Nova Scotia winter tend to be more drastic than the temperature difference between the two during the summer. The U-factor gauges the rate of this warm air flow through your window. You want this number to be low—ideally no more than 0.60. The lower this number, the better your window insulates.
 
The R-Value
The R-Value measures how much heat is retained by your window (on both the outside and inside of your home) and is shown as a number. The higher the number, the better the retention levels and quality of your window. You want this value to be 3 or higher, with 5 being the ideal. Basically, this is measuring how much of the warm air you’re paying for in the winter is being kept inside of your home and how much of the hot air you want to avoid in the summer is being kept out.
 
Glazing
Glazing is the glass portion of your window. Though in and of itself a single piece of glass cannot offer any real insulation, manufacturers have developed glazing options that help with the thermal energy efficiency of a window. Single-pane windows used to be the only option many moons ago; however, they offer no insulation and cost you huge sums of money by raising your home heating and cooling bills. Double pane gives you an exterior pane of glass, a layer of gas, and then an interior pane of glass—think of it as a glazing sandwich.
 
This is much more effective at keeping good air in and bad air out. Better still are the triple glazed windows, which offer an additional gas/glass layer sealed into the window frame. In addition to the insulation benefits of glazing, this also offers you stronger, more sound-resistant windows. It’s much harder to break double glazed windows versus single pane, and usually results in a great deal of loud noise, so your home has an extra level of protection against intruders. It also helps keep noise pollution out, which is a nice benefit.
 
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Low-E Coatings
Think of a low-e coating as a mirror for heat. It’s a microscopically thin metallic oxide coating on your window glass (it’s essentially invisible to the naked eye), or alternatively to a thin plastic film that is inserted between the glass panes. When it’s cold outside, the Low-E coating reflects the heat coming from your home to the window back in your home, while in the summer it reflects the sun’s heat back outside instead of allowing it into your house.
 
Your Window Has Gas (if you’re smart)
It used to be just air that would be between windowpanes, but manufacturers have recognized that there are gases that offer better insulation. For only a few extra dollars to the price of your window, you can have the space between panes filled with gases such as argon, krypton or carbon dioxide depending on the manufacturer. The gas does not seep out, and it helps your windows maintain the desired temperature of your home. This option is most effective when combined with Low-E coating.
 
Paid to Update
Why not have Efficiency Nova Scotia help you pay to make your home less costly to run? If you qualify to participate in their Home Energy Assessment Rebate Program, you can include windows as a Smart Upgrade to add-on. They measure the windows by pre-existing rough openings (i.e. a large bay window with multiple units will yield one rebate), but each one qualifies for a rebate of up to $40.00. The program itself allows you to take advantage of up to $5,000.00 in rebates or $25,000.00 in low-interest financing, so if your home needs some updates, you’ll definitely want to explore how Efficiency Nova Scotia can help you with those.
 
There are lots of details to consider when choosing your new windows. Remember, this is an occasion where the cost is proportional to the quality and value of what you’re purchasing. Good windows will save you money on things like your heating bill, and will drastically increase your asking price when you’re selling your house—they definitely offer a high return on your investment.
 
 

Originally Published by The Chronicle Herald

 

Alexandra Kelter

 
Alexandra Kelter is a social media specialist with Central Home Improvements. Her column covers many aspects of home improvement, both indoor and outdoor, and will combine trending styles with practical applications all within realistic budgets. Kelter is also passionate about fashion, travel, living by the ocean and her bulldog.