Can Your Home Kill You? 6 Home Improvement Projects to Prevent Disasters

From not hiring the right general contractor to the devastation resulting from natural disasters like the current LA fires, a lot of things can go wrong with the construction of your home. But you can minimize damage done by taking the proper precautions. Here are 6 unglamorous (but totally necessary) home improvement projects for optimizing the safety, structure, and sustainability of your home:


With the Rye fire blazing in Los Angeles right now, this is a big one on everyone’s minds in Southern California right now: the importance of fire-proofing your home. The key to preventing fire damage is in flame resistant roofing and siding and the use of ICFs (Insulated Concrete Forms: flame resistant, inter-locking concrete traditionally used in the construction of commercial properties). If fire safety is a concern, as it pertains to the interior design of your home, work with an interior designer to find flame-resistant fabrics and furnishings. 


Just a few years ago, hillside homes in Southern California were sliding down and those at the bottom were flooding. If your home is one of those at risk for flooding, one of the best ways to prevent such an occurrence is to work with a general contractor to make sure your doors, windows, and walls are sealed properly. Conversely, another method is to minimize the water damage done if any is to get inside by installing electrical outlets higher up the walls and installing a solid, rather than wood flooring. This brings us to our next home improvement project to prevent disasters later on…

Mold Prevention

The process of preventing mold growth prior to or during construction is referred to as “Drying in the walls.” Unfortunately when you mix dry wall and ceiling tiles with heat and water, you get the perfect recipe for mold growth. The best ways to prevent is to have the home properly sealed to keep moisture out and that the construction site is properly dehumidified throughout the process. Another way to preserve the dryness is to stay on schedule as much as possible. When a site has to shut down for any reason, you run the risk of mold growth.  

Electrical Wiring

Strangely, electrical wiring is a project that people feel comfortable often doing themselves, but so many little mistakes can be made: from installing wires too tightly or wires of the wrong size entirely or making too loose of wire connections and overloading outlets, which can easily ignite electrical fires. These are tasks that are easy for your electrician or contractor to do quickly and taking the time to work with a profession is well worth the investment!

Gas Leak Prevention

Gas leaks are another easily preventable problem: They are so often the result of a homeowner who’s improperly installed an appliance and can lead to fires and explosions. This is another instance where having a well-vetted professional install boilers and cookers, and check them regularly, will worth the time and investment for the safety of your home and family.


This is something we have to be very careful about here in Southern California. The state has strict build codes, that are updated and improved upon after any devastating earthquake, to help mitigate the effects of an earthquake, but it is worth it for the safety of your family to have a general contractor or design team do a home inspection to make sure everything is built to code, especially if you have an older property that needs to be retrofitted.

4 Major Ways to Transform Productivity in Your Home Office

Workspaces, whether they’re your home study or a commercial office space have to prioritize a few key areas in ways that other rooms do not, namely productivity. Considering many of us spend the majority of our waking hours in our workspaces, they also need to be comfortable, (but not so cozy you fall asleep).

From the flow of the space to the lighting, storage, and technology, a great designer or remodeling company thinks of every little detail to make your workspaces fun and functional.


Workspaces are often high traffic areas. Think about how you move about in the space: A bustling commercial office may have clients and employees coming and going, by contrast a home office may not have as many people trekking through, but perhaps you pace back and forth on the phone. Clearly define walkways with rugs and be sure to secure with reg mats to prevent slippage.


Since you spend a lot of time in an office, you need to include a variety of lighting sources. Consider how the daylight pouring in from outside changes throughout the day, or how tired your eyes may get from staring at a computer screen all day. We always suggest including as much natural lighting as possible and then supplementing with warm-tinted LED bulbs, which are both environmentally friendly and easier on the eyes than bolder alternatives. And op’t for lamps and chandeliers over canned or track lighting with everything on dimmers for maximum customization.  

Seating & Comfort

Ergonomic office chairs are a MUST. If you’re seated behind your desk for hours on end, you want to be sure selecting that seat is one of the items you’re investing in. By contrast, you’re unlikely to spend much time in other seating in the room; an important thing to keep in mind in designing your seating area.

Storage & Technology

We often talk about how nothing ruins a great design quite like unsightly cables sticking out like a sore thumb. Aesthetics aside, they can often be a safety risk, if they’re hanging down in the middle of walkways. We often design built-in’s with the ability to keep electronics and cables safely stowed away or suggest under-table clasps to keep them secured.

For even more tips on creating a stylish and productive home office, read up on these 10 tips from our partners at Lori Dennis Inc.


Designing Hygienic & Sustainable Bathrooms

Bathrooms are one of our favorite rooms to renovate and they always result in high returns on investment. Since our designers are LEED AP certified, that means we care a lot about protecting the environment when we design. We wanted to share some tips on designing better bathrooms to meet hygienic and sustainable standards.  

Green Building Materials for Tile & Countertops

Not only is natural stone sustainable but it’s also aesthetically beautiful, especially in a bathroom where you need something that can withstand water and changing temperatures, and want to create a spa-like oasis at home. Delve further in depth about flooring materials and types of tile in this post we wrote here.

Green Bath/Shower Appliances

There are some incredible luxurious shower options you could install including smart shower heads that can be set to particular temperatures and put on timers to conserve water. Low-flow shower heads will use less water with the same amount of pressure.

Green Faucets

Similarly to your shower, you’ll want to find a low-flow option for your sink faucets to cut back on water waste. Another option is to install a motion-sensored faucet. We’ve all left the faucet on while brushing our teeth, and a motion-sensor faucet will fix that!

Green Toilets

More than every other appliance in the home, toilets use the most water so in order to conserve as best you can, you’ll want to install a low-flow toilet, either with automatic flush or multiple settings.

Toto Toilets – Whole Bathroom

Green Lighting for Bathrooms

We love a naturally lit bathroom, preferably with a view from the shower or perhaps a skylight to filter in the sun. But if that’s a non-option, op’t for LED bulbs to conserve energy. Opt for warmer LED bulbs lend that warm, tungsten glow.

Green Paint for Bathrooms

If you’re painting your bathroom, look for low-VOC if not Zero VOC paints. Avoid paints with formaldehyde. Acrylic or water-based paint is great, unless it lists toxic chemicals such as cadmium, cobalt, magnesium, chromium, and, of course, lead.

Green Bathroom Accessories

Now this is the easiest fix! It involves no construction and you can do it today to make your home a little more green: From your soaps to your towels and toothbrushes, shop around for certified organic products from companies that promote zero or no-waste policies.

Hiring a General Contractor: Vet Your General Contractor and Hire the Best Home Builders

There are a couple questions we’ve been getting a lot we felt would be perfect to address together on the blog: How do you choose a general contractor or home builder? And what makes one home remodeling company different from another? These are both very broad, but we’ll address them in five parts: 1. Vetting your contractor or other home improvement expert, 2. Being flexible, 3. Property Inspection and what to look for, 4. Contracts and 5. How you can expect contractors to charge for their services.

  1. Vetting Your Contractor

You want to have trust in your contractor, but you also shouldn’t be afraid to speak up. They’ll be working for you so be sure to address any concerns or additional services you may want/need prior to signing a contract.

Here are a few of the questions you’ll want to have in mind when vetting your contractor:

  • When can the contractor start and do they have enough resources/bandwidth to commit to your job?  
  • Do you like this person?/Do your personalities jive well together?
  • How long has the contractor been working in this industry?
  • How many projects have they worked on and what type of projects?
  • Has the contractor attended any type of formal training or continuing education?  
  • Is the contractor licensed to practice as a general contractor?
  • Does the contractor have a valid workman’s comp insurance policy for their employees that will be on your site?
  • If the contractor  only employs subcontractors, do they have valid insurance and licenses?
  • Does the contractor  have insurance in case something in your home gets broken in the renovation and/or construction process?
  • What is the projected timeline for the project?  
  • What happens if the construction goes past the stated finish date?
  • How often will the contractor or his project manager stop by to check on the progress?
  • Does the contractor plan to work on the project personally or assign a supervisor?  
  • How often should I be updated on progress?  
  • Who pulls the permits for a project?
  • Who meets with the inspectors?
  • What hours should I expect a contractor to work?
  • Has the contractor been involved with any legal disputed following a previous job?  
  • Has the contractor previously operated as a contractor under a different name? I
  • What is the payment schedule?  

To go more in-depth in answering these questions, read here.

  1. Be Flexible

Knowing your schedule gives you a big-picture view of sequencing and deadlines- Are you planning a big event at the house, a wedding, an anniversary party? Is a new baby on the way? It’s already stressful to plan an event, not knowing if you’re going to make the deadline is adding unnecessary stress.  Be mentally prepared for things to be delayed.  

  1. Property Inspection

If someone tells you nothing will go wrong, hire someone else.  Something always goes wrong in construction and the best defensive is a good offense.  If your contractor can think on their feet and feels confident problem solving, they will work it out.  Ask if them what the most challenging aspect of a project has been, and how they worked through the challenge. Have they ever worked on the problems they see occurring at your project?

  1. Contracts with Your Home Remodeling Company

When the scope of work changes the process starts with what is called a “change order.” Change orders are a reality throughout projects because it’s likely you’ll change your mind about

what you want, add things or the project or financing takes a turn. Have a very clear clause in your contract about how the contractor will record, handle and bill for the change orders.

A contract is a good communication tool to make your project run as smoothly as possible, as it is a written understanding of what is expected from each side.  It should be referred to throughout the process. Common contracts include elements like: a detailed work scope, line items for materials, the cost, and a termination clause.  Any special requests, concerns or agreements should be written in the contract.

What are the termination terms?  Either party, you or your contractor, should be able to stop work and a good contract will have written terms as to how this plays out.  

  1. How Contractors Should Charge

Once the contract is written, you and the contractor will work out a payment schedule that will keep the job moving forward and meet your financial capabilities.

A good contractor should be able to give you some very broad ranges of what past projects with similar scopes cost, but will not be able to give you an accurate estimate until you provide a specific set of plans from a designer or architect detailing exactly what will be done and what types of materials will be used. If someone gives you a firm quote without seeing plans, be careful. You could have a lot of change orders in your future, which will cost more time and money.

For more detail about how contractors charge, read here.

Hack Your Home: 10 Tips for Hiding All the Ugly Stuff in Your Home & Keeping Your House Clean

ahh…That feeling you get when your house has been spotlessly clean. It’s refreshing, relaxing, it feels like your home is brand new. It’s ready to grace the pages of Architectural Digest. But then the kids come home from school and litter countertops with school papers; you have to make dinner in a rush and have another new sink full of dishes, then the dog tracks mud through the living room, and that wonderful, accomplished feeling of cleanliness subsides. But it doesn’t have to be that way! What if we told you there were ways to maintain a tidy home? Here are 10 tips to implement in your space:

10 Tips for Hiding the Ugly Stuff in Your Home and Keeping Your House Tidy

1 Cord Corrals & Hooks  

We’ve written before about how easily untamed bundles of cords can ruin an otherwise beautifully designed room. For media rooms, home offices, or other spaces where you have ugly cords, consider taming them with cord corrals and desk hooks to keep your home’s streamlined aesthetic.

Ultra Charging Station & Cord Coral

2 Utilize Art

Install art or a mirror on hinges so it swings like a door over unsightly thermostats or home security systems installed in walls.

3 Varied Cabinets

Include a variety of storage options in kitchens and bathrooms for organizational purposes and maximum functionality. Clear-front storage will entice you to keep both the interior and exterior of the cabinets clean. And you want to be sure your shelving is not too deep, so you don’t run the risk of accumulating expired products that might get neglected at the back.

4 Drawer Charging Stations

Top Desk Drawer charging stations: Install a charging strip at the back of the top desk drawer to utilize as a charging station that keeps devices and chargers off your desktop.

5 A Place for Everything Mentality

Embrace an ‘everything has a place’ mentality to aid in habit building, purge everything else, which includes pets, shoes, things that come and go from your home like keys and bags.

6 Custom Built-In’s

Consider working with a designer and contractor to design custom built-in’s for odd items that don’t need to sit out on counters, but don’t usually fit in general storage space, like printers or computer routers in home offices, purses and shoes in closets, trash cans and smaller appliances in kitchens, laundry baskets or hampers in laundry rooms, etc.

7 Easily-Maintained Building Materials

Consider that in the design of your home, the storage materials, countertops, and flooring should be as easily cleanable as their contents. Avoid dust collectors or things that show spots. Ensuring everything is installed and sealed correctly, by a professional contractor, will make maintaining your home easy.

8 Accessible Cleaners

Keep a green, all-purpose cleaner within reach of places in your home that need them most frequently, rather than with the other cleaning supplies, hidden away in a closet or the garage far away, which you don’t use all the time, like wood or mirror cleaners.

Gabriella System from Pottery Barn

9 Think Vertically

Don’t waste any space! Embrace vertical wall space with wall hooks for coats and hats and install a collapsable wall drying rack in laundry rooms, hand ironing boards on a wall or build one into a closet that can retract.

10 Decorative Organizers  

Decorative chotchkies and art objects or books and magazines should fit on or in your coffee top table tray, and any that don’t, have to go. Similarly, keys should go in a catch all tray or hung on a key hook by the door so they’re never lost!