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Design And Decor

Five Essential Elements of a Great Home Theater Room

An opulent home theater room isn’t just the ultimate way to enjoy your favorite films; it is also a trophy item that adds thousands of dollars to the value of the home. Although you undoubtedly want to build the best home theater possible, quality is costly and your expenses can quickly spiral out of control. When planning your home theater budget, consider these five essential elements without which no home theater would be complete.

Screen

Although it goes without saying that every home theater requires a screen, it might not be obvious to you that the type of screen you select will impact the viewing experience significantly. For example, many large LCD screens exhibit poor color saturation for viewers seated too far to one side. On the other hand, projection screens — while relatively inexpensive — work poorly in rooms with too much ambient light.

You’ll also need to consider the size of the screen. Although a 42-inch screen might seem large in your living room, it wouldn’t suffice for most home theaters. If your home theater room is already built, you can experiment with various screen sizes before making a purchase. Have two volunteers hold a tape measure diagonally where you plan to position the screen and imagine yourself viewing films on a display of that size. If you are still unsure, buy the largest screen you can afford. Few people have ever complained about a screen that was too large.

Sound System and Acoustics

Positional audio is one of the most magical elements of the theater viewing experience. Whether it is the left-to-right “whoosh” of a starship at warp speed or floorboards creaking beneath the feet of a zombie that seems to be perched just behind you, nothing puts you in the middle of the action like a great sound system. The 7.1 audio standard — three front speakers, four rear speakers and a subwoofer — is arguably the most popular among home theater owners. Remember that you’ll also need a receiver capable of processing surround-encoded audio and sending it to the correct speakers; you won’t hear positional audio if you connect your speakers to a stereo receiver.

Likewise, pay careful attention to the acoustics of your home theater; this may be even more important than speaker selection. Carpeted floors and walls are common in home theaters because they deaden the sound and prevent echoes. If your home theater is comprised primarily of smooth wood or tile, you can minimize errant echoes by hanging sound baffles from the wall and ceiling. Without proper acoustics, you won’t be able to hear the fine audio details in your films and may even have trouble discerning dialogue; don’t skip this step. If your home theater setup includes a computer or projector with a fan, make sure that it is completely isolated from the viewing area.

Seating

Comfort is the primary factor to consider when selecting the seating for your home theater. A chair or couch that fails to provide proper back support and cushioning for the buttocks and legs will cause discomfort and disrupt blood circulation to the lower extremities, forcing viewers to fidget or stand frequently. The material used to upholster the seating is also critical; you wouldn’t expect your guests to sit perfectly still while watching films. Select a material that doesn’t make loud noises when a viewer changes positions and make sure that errant spills and popcorn kernels are easy to wipe away.

When shopping for seating, you’ve likely noticed a large price discrepancy between “affordable” and “premium” furniture. Generally, chairs at the low end of the price spectrum have particle board frames and plastic fasteners while more expensive seating uses solid wood and metal. In short order, a chair of poor quality will begin to sag and squeak as the frame loosens and the cushioning loses resiliency.

Wireless Controls

Modern data storage technology makes it possible for even budget computer hard drives to store hundreds of high-definition films. More than ever, people are adding computers to their home theaters to avoid disc swapping and to enjoy games and streaming media. This presents a problem, though; if you isolate a noisy computer and storage array from the viewing area in your home theater, you’ll need to control the computer wirelessly. Bluetooth keyboards only function properly within a few feet and an infrared keyboard only works with a clear line of sight to a receiver. As an alternative, use software that utilizes a smartphone or tablet to control your computer over a wireless network.

Bear in mind that it is possible to go too far with wireless home theater systems. Thanks to modern technologies such as 802.11n and Bluetooth, it is possible to transmit audio and video streams over the air, eliminating costly and messy cables. However, this convenience comes at a cost as these streams are compressed before transmission. If you choose to go completely wireless with your home theater, audio and video fidelity will suffer slightly.

Refreshments

You probably have fond memories of your favorite box of candy or the unmistakable smell of movie theater popcorn. Before you add refreshments to your home theater, though, consider the type of environment you want to create. If you want an intimate home theater focused solely on film viewing, a simple refrigerator and cabinet filled with snacks and bottled beverages will suffice. On the other hand, some people prefer home theaters that function as all-around entertainment areas including such elements as a bar and pool table. In this case, you may want to add popcorn and soda machines.

When selecting refreshment options for your home theater, remember that popcorn has a persistent smell easily absorbed by carpets and cushions and nearly impossible to remove. If you don’t want your home theater to smell like popcorn, don’t purchase a popcorn machine. In addition, make sure that alcoholic beverages can be securely locked away if children are allowed unsupervised access.

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3 Brilliant Ways to Upgrade Your Backyard

Your backyard is an extension of your home, so why not treat is as such? Renovating your backyard will not only increase your home value, it will expand your living space and your enjoyment of your home. Here are three stellar upgrades that can transform your backyard from boring to breathtaking.

  1. Install a rain garden. Do you have problems with rainwater runoff, or want to camouflage an unattractive downspout area on your house? Are you concerned about the quality of lakes and streams in your area? Or, are you simply looking for a low-maintenance way to beautify your yard? A rain garden is an excellent solution to all three.

A rain garden is an area of your yard where rainwater is directed and allowed to sink naturally into the ground. It is a perfect alternative to a retention pond because it doesn’t breed mosquitos. Rain gardens also help the environment by reducing flooding, erosion, and surface water pollution, and by helping maintain the water table. Because of this, some cities now offer rebates to help cover the cost of installing a rain garden.

Most rain gardens use native plants that require little or no care. With careful plant selection they can be a beautiful addition to the landscape. This makes them an ideal backyard upgrade for busy people. As a bonus, rain gardens are a haven for butterflies and birds. Consider adding a garden bench to your rain garden so you can enjoy their antics!

  1. Add an outdoor entertainment area. Do you wish you had more space for entertaining? Expanding your living space into your backyard can be quite cost-effective compared to building an addition to your home. Outdoor spaces also lend themselves to parties and gatherings, especially if you include a fire ring or grill.

Your outdoor entertainment area can be as simple as an open patio with some attractive patio furniture and a nice grill. It can also be as elaborate as your budget and imagination allow. How about a pool, outdoor kitchen and bar, an outdoor fireplace, lighting to illuminate pathways and steps, a sandbox or child-sized table for the kids, or even a built-in flat-screen TV? The possibilities abound, and a good landscape professional can help you bring your ideas to life.

  1. Grow a potager garden. Leave it to the French to find a way to enjoy great food while still looking fabulous. “Potager” is French for edible, and a potager garden is an ornamental kitchen garden that provides a feast for the eyes as well as fresh, succulent produce for the table. Originating during the French Renaissance, these gardens combine vegetables and small fruits with flowers and herbs, and are carefully designed for beauty and aesthetics.

When designing your potager garden, think of it as a place to relax and enjoy life as well as grow food. Including arbors, winding paths, and outdoor furniture such as benches or a patio table and chairs will add to its inviting quality. How about a bird bath, sundial or gazing ball? Add a small fruit tree or two and train vining plants up trellises to add levels to your garden design. Don’t forget to plant lots of flowers and fragrant herbs in between your veggies!

Next time you look out at your boring backyard, don’t just sigh and turn away. Whether you are looking for a low-maintenance facelift for your yard, a place to entertain family and guests, or a beautiful source of fresh food for your table, imagine how your home life would change with an improved backyard — and then start planning how you will transform yours!

 

About the author:

Jessica Kyriakos is Brand Manager for Webcoat, Inc. in McAlester, OK. She has 15 years of experience in the site furnishing industry, which brought her to her current role at the company. Webcoat provides durable, economical and comfortable amenity designs to furnish your outdoor space.

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5 Ways to Improve Storage and Organization in Your Home

It is extremely easy to get caught up in a cycle of disorganization. Most homes do not have adequate closet space, so storage is a major challenge. However, a few tips will help a home get more organized and become less messy.

1. Turn Toy Room Nightmares into a Dream Space
A child’s playroom is probably the messiest space in the house. Usually small toy pieces are everywhere. It is possible to create an organized place for a child to play. To maximize space, it is wise to net stuffed animals from the ceiling. This keeps them out of the way but within reach. Most parents opt for a toy box, but this rarely works. A child digs to the bottom and leaves behind a big mess. Instead, it is smart to invest in clear bins. Since a child can see the contents, there will be no need to disrupt everything at one time. Each container can be labeled as well. If a child is too young to read, the labels can be made of pictures.

2. Clothes for All Seasons
Most people have clothing that does not fit into the closet. There are numerous ways to organize a bedroom closet to make the most of every inch of space. Hanging organizers will work well for shoes and accessories, but an even better solution is a complete closet system. This includes drawers, cubby storage, and hanging bars that ensure everything has a dedicated place. It is important to avoid too many shelves. Even though they seem helpful, they take up precious space. Also, having them placed too high can make it difficult to remove and neatly stack items.

To keep things organized, it is important to group items according to color and style. For example, dress pants should be kept separate from jeans, and polo shirts should be in a different place than long sleeve dress shirts. Shoes should be neatly stacked in rows on the bottom of the closet.

Each season requires different types of clothes. It makes no sense to keep sweaters in the closet during the summer. Since space is limited, it becomes necessary to find an alternative place to keep them until winter. A great idea is to purchase tupperware containers that can slide under the bed. This is also a great place to keep comforters and sheets as well.

3. Entry Door Storage Solutions
When a person enters the home, he or she is likely to take off his or her shoes and jacket. It is important to have a place to hang and keep these items out of the way. With a large family, it is common to see piles of shoes all over the house. To hide the clutter and keep things neat, it is wise to create a space with built in hooks and cubbies. These pieces of furniture come pre-made, but it is also possible to build a custom piece that fits specific measurements. It is simple to gather a few cabinets, beadboard, and a shelf to assemble a simple place to sit, take off shoes, place them neatly, and hang coats, purses, and backpacks.

4. Organize the Kitchen
Kitchens are heavily used, so it is essential to keep things neatly tucked away for mealtime. To keep the pantry in order, it is essential to create a space that conveniently displays contents. Shelves, baskets, and drawers will keep things looking tidy and easy to find. Instead of organizing containers according to size, it is better to group them according to contents. For example, cans of soup and vegetables should be placed apart from snack foods.

Besides storing food, the kitchen is filled with all sorts of pots, pans and other cooking devices. Since cupboards are usually filled with dishes and cups, it is important to find furniture that is functional and creates more storage. One of the smartest pieces of furniture for the kitchen is a mobile island. Not only can it be used for extra counter space to prepare food, it usually contains drawers and cabinets that can store extra items out of sight. Since it is not permanent, it can be moved anywhere. It is a great place to keep small appliances from cluttering the counter tops. Some larger kitchens have ornate hutches that add beauty to the room and also create a place for loose items. It is possible to find a piece that is made from wood for a traditional look or metal for a more modern feel.

5. Garage Junk
It seems that people store everything but cars in a garage. To clean up the space and make it more useful, there are certain tips to follow. A garage usually houses garden equipment, tools, and other junk that has no place in the house. Determining a functional garage layout is key to organization. Installing built-in cabinets and modular storage is a smart idea. These can house sporting equipment, gardening supplies, and holiday decorations. Cabinets should be sized appropriately and include mounted pegboards. This will make best use of the space and allow items to hang from the walls. Some people enjoy shelving units that are sturdy enough to store bulk items like pet foods and large containers of cleaning supplies. Adding a workbench against the wall will create a space for projects. Having a dedicated area will increase the odds of completing tasks before moving onto something else.

Home organization does not need to be complicated. The above ideas are just a few ways to declutter the area and effectively store things neatly. It creates a pleasant space that has increased function and helps a person become more productive.

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5 Ways to Modernize Your Pool Area

Are you ready to stop dreaming about creating a personal oasis in your outdoor space and make it happen? These 5 spectacular add-ons and build-ins are virtually guaranteed to turn even the drabbest backyard into a resort-quality retreat:

1. Swim-Up Bar with a Sunken Patio

With this design option, there’s no reason for anyone to feel left out of the party just because they can’t bear to get out of the pool. A strategically placed bar allows everyone to enjoy a cool, refreshing drink and a little conversation poolside by integrating underwater seating on one side and a sunken patio on the other. Don’t forget an extra-large market umbrella for shade; it will keep your guests and bartender just as cool as that clear, blue water while it adds to the festive atmosphere.

This sleek, contemporary design option is a smart way to use a rolling landscape to your advantage, but it’s also possible to create a dual-purpose bar on even the most level space with a little excavation and sturdy retaining walls. To stay safe, use break-resistant drinkware.

2. Grottos and Shaded Caves

On the hottest summer days, even the coolest pool water isn’t a match for the unrelenting heat of the sun. Update your pool with a natural-looking grotto complete with a cascading waterfall for a relaxing retreat that will calm your mind while it provides welcome relief from the high temperatures.

Grottos vary from small, cave-like recesses that can shade one or two people from the sun to full caverns with multiple entrances, dramatic lighting and convenient ledges. These areas can provide complete privacy and an exotic atmosphere in addition to protection from the sun.

The most attractive grottos have a natural, seamless appearance that blends in perfectly with the surrounding environment. If your pool area doesn’t incorporate natural or natural-looking stone, you can create this design feature using poured concrete with rock facing paired with complementary boulders and greenery.

3. A Multi-Functional Outdoor Living Space

With today’s modern amenities, there’s absolutely no reason to ever take the party inside. Weather-proof outdoor furniture and carpeting is every bit as attractive and comfortable as anything designed for indoor use, and you can complete your poolside entertainment area with a retractable high-definition TV so that no one has to make a choice between catching the big game or spending time with friends and family around the pool. Position the screen just right and you won’t even have to get out of the pool to view the action.

On cool days or nights, take the chill off with a poolside fireplace or build a fully integrated seating area with a fire pit that extends out into the pool for cozy chats or some quiet contemplation. Even if it’s too cold to swim, this type of add-on allows you to take full advantage of your new outdoor living space.

4. Protective Domes and Enclosures

The clear ceilings and screened walls used in modern pool enclosures protect swimmers from insects and rain without taking away from the natural beauty of a thoughtfully landscaped pool area so that you can fully enjoy your pool even when the weather isn’t picture perfect. Pool enclosure designs range from permanent screened-in structures to fully retractable glass that can turn your outdoor pool into an indoor recreational area at the flip of a switch.

In addition to increasing the time you can use your pool, domes and enclosures protect finishes and prevent leaves and other debris from falling or blowing into the pool to keep your water cleaner and cut down on the time it takes to complete routine maintenance.

5. Waterpark-Quality Slides

Bars, fire pits and grottos are great for the adults, but let’s not forget the young and the young at heart. Nothing’s more fun than sliding into the pool, especially when you consider the many features that are now available. Today’s options deliver waterpark-quality experiences to backyard pools with attractive slides that appear to be carved out of the landscape.

Some of the most sought-after features include free-flowing water inside the slide to reduce friction, waterfalls that drench the slider and curves and drops to add excitement. With carefully-planned lighting, thoughtful placement and a sophisticated design, a waterslide will tempt the biggest thrill seekers in your group while adding to the visual appeal of your modern pool area.

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How to Choose the Best Leather Furniture for Your Living Room

With its durability and classic look, leather furniture is quite popular for living room seating. Yet deciding that you want a leather seating option in your living room is just the first step. As you begin shopping, you will find a large number of options are available for those investing in leather. Here are some tips to help you choose the right leather furniture for your living room.

Choose By Leather Type

Not all leathers are created equal, and understanding the different types will help you make the best possible decision. Here are some common types of leather:

  • Pigmented: Pigmented leather works great for growing families, as it has a shiny outer coat that resists stains. This is a lower-grade leather that has been dyed to cover color imperfections and may come in a range of modern hues.
  • Full-grain: The highest quality of leather, this type is not processed at all. It is a tough, durable leather for furniture. The high cost comes from the challenge of getting uniform color without treating the leather.
  • Aniline: Full-grain, dyed leather that is one of the softest and most supple options. This leather can fade if kept in direct sunlight.
  • Split-grain: This is the “genuine leather” you typically see in stores. It comes from the lower half of the hides, so it is less durable and somewhat softer than the full-grain option.

To determine the type of leather you need, you must first determine where you will be using the furniture an what the conditions in your living room will be like.

Choose the Right Style

Leather is a material that lasts for decades, and as such, you want to choose a style that is fairly timeless. Also, choose a piece designed to hold up well over years of use. Nothing would be worse than investing in a piece of leather furniture, only to have the frame fall apart before the leather does.

Next, decide whether you want a large piece or an accent piece. A full leather couch can make a bold statement in your living room and provide ample seating for all your needs. On the other hand, a leather accent chair can add some warmth and a classic look to a neglected corner in your home. You can even find comfortable recliners, sectional sofas and ottomans in leather.

Choose the Right Color

When most people think of leather, they think of shades of brown and black, but leather can come in a variety of classic and trendy colors. Choose a color that matches your tastes, but remember to keep timelessness in mind. That lime green leather chair may be all the rage today, but in 20 years it might look dated. A trendy color combined with a classic design can be a pleasing compromise. Of course, for an ultra-modern look, you can choose both a contemporary frame and  a contemporary color.

Caring for the Leather

Once you have invested in a piece of leather furniture, keeping it well cared for is crucial. Properly cleaning and conditioning your leather is going to keep it beautiful and soft for many years to come. Start with a non-toxic cleaning product, then add a natural conditioning product to put moisture back into the leather. This will help your new piece of living room furniture become an heirloom in your home.

About the author:

Jim McGowen is the founder of Leather Honey, which manufactures Leather Honey Leather  Conditioner, the #1 selling leather care product on Amazon.com. The company’s new product, Leather Honey Leather Cleaner, is designed to gently clean the leather before conditioning, and in between conditioner applications.

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