Working from Home? Design a Productive Home Office

With a sudden shift to working from home, many people created make-shift work environments. Some have the luxury of a complete home office, and others are utilizing their kitchen tables or living rooms.

 

While these temporary home offices have played their part in the short-term, they may not suffice for people who continue to work from home.  According to Global Workplace Analytics, many people will continue to work remotely, even after offices start to open back up.

 

“Our best estimate is that 25-30% of the workforce will be working-from-home multiple days a week by the end of 2021.”

– Kate Lister, President of Global Workplace Analytics. 

With this rise in remote employees, home offices are becoming increasingly important. It’s essential to have a place that signals it is ‘working time,’ where you can focus and stay on task. Here are some tips to keep in mind when designing a home office: 

 

Natural Light

Whenever possible, maximize natural light. Natural light boosts mood, increases productivity,  and creates a feeling of openness. When arranging your desk and office furniture, place it so you can see out the windows, but out of direct glare from the sun. Ideally, you should be able to work all day with blinds open. 

 

Add Lighting Options

Natural light isn’t always enough. Add a variety of lighting options in your home office so that you always have plenty of light for work tasks. Overhead lighting, combined with lamps at your working space, is often plenty of light. If you want to add in more, you can incorporate a floor lamp and recessed lighting in the ceiling. 

 

Storage

Storage is needed in any work environment. Whether you need a filing cabinet, a bookcase, or a closet with shelves, make sure you have a system in place to stay organized. 

 

Ergonomics

Ergonomics aims to design the workspace to improve performance and productivity. Often, seemingly small adjustments make a huge difference to how we feel physically and mentally after the workday. Set up your computer and keyboard so you eliminate the hunched over stance and find a chair that is both comfortable and supportive. If you have enough space, create a couple of working areas, including a place to stand, a place to sit, and even a small couch to change things up. 

 

Office Nook

Not everyone has an entire room that can be dedicated to a home office. You can create an office nook that contains most of the above elements. Select a corner of a room that is seldom used, and add in floating shelves, a desk, and lighting. Some people even transform a closet into an office space. 

 

If you are going to continue working from home, we recommend taking the time to design a space that fits your needs. Your home office should reflect your style, be a place that you enjoy, and an area where you can tune out distractions to accomplish your work goals. 

Spruce up your Outdoor Living Space

We’ve all been spending more time at home, and many are making the most of this time to clean, organize, and even complete some DIY projects. 

Now that the weather is warming up, we can all start utilizing our decks, porches, and patios, giving us a change of scenery and making out homes feel more spacious. 

Keep reading for tips to spruce up your outdoor living space. 

Replace hardware. 

How old are your doorknobs, house numbers, and outdoor light fixtures? Dingy fixtures can bring down the entire curb appeal. Replacing hardware creates a new style at a low cost. 

Add some color. 

Sometimes all it takes to spruce up an outdoor living area is to add a pop of color. This can easily be done with some fresh flowers and planters, which are readily available this time of year. If flowers aren’t enough, consider repainting your doors, or add a colorful outdoor rug to your space. 

Power wash your deck or patio. 

Winter elements can leave your deck or patio looking dingy. Power wash your outdoor living space for a quick revival. You can also give a fresh coat of paint or stain to the deck if needed. 

Clean up your patio furniture.

Don’t stop with the deck and patio – clean up your patio furniture. A deep clean might be all it takes to brighten up a table and chairs. Want to add a bit more comfort? Get new seat cushions or opt for some bright pillows that make seating more comfortable. 

Set the mood with outdoor lighting.

Efficient lighting allows you to use your outdoor space after the sun goes down, adds security, and can change the entire vibe. Accent lighting highlights beautiful landscaping, while bistro string lights set a fun mood. 

Add in some fun.

What does your dream backyard look like? Yard games, a new grill, outdoor bar, or firepit can all be easily incorporated into your living space. You can involve the whole family by taking on some DIY projects and designing the space together. 

Working on your outdoor space now will give you time to enjoy it during the summer. What outdoor projects are you taking on right now? 

What is MEP Engineering?

When building, people are often amazed at the floorplan, visual aspects of the structure, and the timeline.

The behind-the-scenes (or in our case the behind-the-walls) elements don’t garner much attention. Yet the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems keep people comfortable. 

What are MEP Systems?

MEP stands for mechanical, electrical, and plumbing. Let’s break down each system here:

  • Mechanical. Mechanical systems include heating and cooling systems, allowing people to stay comfortable inside, no matter the temperature outside.
  • Electrical. Electrical systems keep us connected. We all know how inconvenient it is when the electricity goes out. Electrical systems keep the lights on and other systems running.
  • Plumbing. Plumbing systems provide clean water for drinking, bathing, and cleaning while removing wastewater. 

 

What is MEP Engineering?

MEP Engineering is the design and construction of the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems in a building or residence. MEP engineers, or consulting firms, are often used when large buildings are being constructed. They design, estimate costs, and build MEP systems so that the interior spaces are ideal for comfort at home or work.

Benefits of MEP Engineering

It may seem pretty straightforward to install heating, cooling, lighting, and plumbing in a building. When done poorly, it can result in uncomfortable conditions: too hot or too cold, poor lighting, noisy HVAC systems, and inefficient use of energy. 

When strategically designed, MEP engineering can:

  • Lower costs
  • Improve lighting
  • Improve heating and cooling
  • Solve water or plumbing issues
  • Conserve water
  • Conserve energy
  • Automate building systems
  • Improve concentration and mood in the workplace
  • Increase comfort

While MEP Engineering may not be necessary for a single-family home, thoughtful planning and design in offices and multi-unit residences is essential. 

10 Tips to Stay Warm at Home this Winter

Winter weather means spending more time cozied up inside. Staying warm during the coldest season of the year doesn’t have to equate to sky-high heating costs. With some preparation, you and your budget can stay comfortable all year long. 

Incorporate some (or all) of these tips for added warmth this winter.

Programmable Thermostat 

A programmable thermostat, like Nest, makes your heating more efficient. Set your thermostat to a comfortable setting for times you will be home.  Lower the temperature during times the house is empty or when everyone is asleep. An automatic schedule ensures the heat doesn’t stay on high all day long and keeps the house toasty when people are there. 

Let in the Light

Window curtains can do more than give privacy. During the day, when the sun is shining, open the drapes. Even with cold temperatures, the sun’s light is warm. Once the sun goes down, close the curtains to prevent heat from escaping through the windows. You can even purchase insulated curtains for winter use. 

Check the Furnace

Make sure your furnace is in good working order with a simple tune-up. Also, check the furnace filter. If it is dirty, replace it with a new filter to maximize the efficiency of the furnace. 

Seal Gaps and Leaks 

Doors, windows, attics, and basements can have leaks, letting the cold air in during the winter. Finding and sealing these leaks is a simple solution to retaining heat. This do-it-yourself guide from energystar.gov provides more information on how to seal leaks. You can also use draft stoppers for doors where you feel cold air sneaking in. 

Check Vents and Radiators

Vents and radiators that are blocked will produce heat that is blocked. Move furniture away from vents and heaters so that warm air can blow into the room being heated.  

Rugs on Hardwood

Bare hardwood floors can account for heat loss. Grab some area rugs for extra warmth in the rooms you utilize most. 

Reverse Ceiling Fans

We all know that warm air rises, but did you know your ceiling fan can push that warm air back down? The trick is to reverse the motion of the blades, so the fan moves clockwise. 

Radiant Floors

If you want to go a step up from area rugs, radiant floors are the way to go. While more expensive than carpet, radiant heating systems evenly distribute heat that slowly rises to the rest of the room. 

Insulation

Poor insulation equals a loss of heat and a loss of money during the winter months. Check to make sure you have proper insulation. This will help to keep you warm while keeping energy costs low. 

HVAC Zoning System

An HVAC zoning system allows each area of the home to stay at a different temperature. You can keep the most-used rooms warm while lowering the temperature in rooms that are rarely used. 

Living in a region with cold winters means you can appreciate the beauty of the season. It also means you need to prepare your home for the changing temperatures. 

How do you stay warm in winter?

 

What is daylighting?

“Look at those windows!”

It’s a line people often say when in front of wall-to-wall or floor-to-ceiling windows. When paired with a spectacular view, like at the Residences at 66 High Street, it’s no surprise that people love grand windows. Large windows have more benefits than highlighting beautiful views, however. Continue reading to learn what daylighting can do for your home or office.

When builders use windows and skylights to light up a home or building, it is called daylighting. This process requires careful planning, but when done correctly, it has benefits for both residential and commercial properties. 

How does daylighting work?

For daylighting to work to its full potential, window placement is critical. The correct placement allows the right amount of natural light to enter each room, without excess heat or glare. 

In the United States, windows facing South and North are best. Windows facing South let in ample light during the winter months, and little direct sun in summer, when too much direct sunlight creates too much heat. North facing windows let in an even amount of natural light with little glare. 

East and West facing windows are not ideal for daylighting. East and West facing windows let in plenty of light in the morning and afternoon, but along with that comes glare and excess heat, which is especially cumbersome in summer months. 

Enlarged windows, glass doors, and strategically placed skylights optimize natural lighting from the sun.

Window Technology

With the advancement of window technology, daylighting is becoming more common. 

In the past, a wall of windows meant drafty winters and stuffy summers indoors. Now, windows are insulated, which helps to keep interiors cool in summer and warm in winter while providing loads of natural light. 

Tinted windows can be used to help reduce the glare from the sun. Electrochromic windows, or smart windows, go one step further, changing the darkness of the tint with the brightness of sunlight. Electrochromic windows have a variety of control options, which include an automated system or user control. 

Benefits of Daylighting

In buildings and homes with daylighting, windows and skylights provide most of the light you need, so overhead lights are not often necessary during the day. A light-colored ceiling enhances daylighting even more. 

When electricity is not being used for lighting, utility costs go down. In commercial buildings, where lighting accounts for a significant portion of electrical energy consumption, daylighting saves both energy and money. 

In addition, daylighting creates a more comfortable atmosphere both at home and at work. Sunlight boosts positive moods and increases productivity. This is particularly helpful throughout the winter, when shorter days means people have fewer chances to be outside during daylight hours. 

Daylighting fulfills the needs of some of the top needs in residential and commercial buildings: sustainability and employee health. Where would daylighting benefit you most?

5 Tips to Prepare for a Remodel

You’ve met with your contractor, set a budget, and are excited to see the vision for your updated home come to life. 

Now you have to live through the remodel. 

Remodeling your home is a thrilling venture, especially if it is something you have been working towards. Knowing the changes you want is the first step, and it is exciting when construction gets underway. If you plan on living in the home while renovations are taking place, you need to prepare for life in a work zone.

Here are some tips to make the construction phase as seamless as possible. 

Prepare Emotionally

By preparing mentally to live in a home that is being remodeled, you will ease into the mindset needed. There will be a certain level of mess (after all, things are being ripped up and put back together), noise, and workers entering and exiting. Find a contractor who communicates clearly and plan extra time outside or visiting loved ones. Remind yourself that though things may get hectic, it is just a phase!

Pack Up

Pack up your belongings as if you are moving. This helps the workers, as they will not need to work around any of your things. This step will also be beneficial to you because the space you are living in will not be overcrowded. Keep your essential items, and put the rest in storage.  

Establish Living Zones

Where will you be spending your time when you are in the house? Decide how you can repurpose the rooms that are not being worked on to help you live as comfortably as possible. Perhaps the master bedroom becomes more like a studio apartment, with an area for sleeping and a space for a living room. If your kitchen is being remodeled, set up a countertop with a coffee maker, small fridge, microwave, and toaster oven for use at home. You will need to be creative when creating living zones, but it will help make the transition easier. 

Seal the Work Zone

Work zones are full of dust, construction materials, and tools. If possible, make a separate entryway for construction workers, and tape off the work site from your living space. 

Prepare to be Flexible

During a remodel, unforeseen issues may arise. Your contractor works to make sure everything runs smoothly. Plan to communicate with your contractor regularly, so you understand the progress of the project. This way, if a surprise does pop up, you can calmly decide what your next step is. 

Renovations do not have to be extremely stressful, but they do require preparation, communication, and flexibility. Are you ready to complete a remodel?

Most (and Least) Wanted Features in a Home

We’ve all thought about our dream home: the features, design, and amenities we would select if there were no limiting factors. 

In What Home Buyers Really Want (2019 Edition), a study conducted by the National Association of Home Builders, close to 4,000 home buyers were surveyed to determine the most desirable features when looking for a home.

The survey found that the most desirable features are all about practicality. 

Most Wanted Features

In the survey, participants ranked each feature as Essential, Desirable, Indifferent, or Do Not Want. These were the top ten features buyers look for in a home, according to the survey:

Feature Percentage of People who Rated the Feature ‘Essential’ or ‘Desirable’
Laundry Room 91%
ENERGY STAR rated windows 89%
Patio 87%
ENERGY STAR rated appliances 86%
Ceiling Fan 85%
Garage Storage 85%
Exterior Lighting 85%
Walk-in Pantry 83%
Hardwood Flooring 83%
Double Kitchen Sink 81%

 

A laundry room came in as the most desired feature in a home, with 91% noting this was important in their home search. Having a laundry room in the primary residence is convenient and saves our most valued asset: time. 

The remaining top ten features focus heavily on sensible and sustainable features. Two spots in the top ten show that ENERGY STAR ratings are essential to today’s buyers.

In addition to ENERGY STAR windows and appliances in the top ten, ENERGY STAR for the entire home came in at number 11, with 81% of buyers stating it was essential or desirable in a home. Green construction is important to consider when moving into a new home, and ENERGY STAR features are one of the easiest ways to implement a sustainable lifestyle. 

Storage is another factor homebuyers seriously consider, with both garage storage and a walk-in pantry making the top ten features. 

Least Wanted Features

As far as what buyers are not looking for, here are the most unwanted features in a home:

Feature Percentage of People who Rated the Feature ‘Do Not Want’
Elevator 66%
Wine Cellar 57%
Day Care Center 50%
Plant Covered Roof 50%
Pet Washing Station 49%
Dual Toilets in Master Bath 48%
Cork Flooring 47%
Golf Course Community 47%
Two Story Family Room 47%
High Density Development 46%

 

The top two unwanted features in a home were an elevator, with 66% of home buyers stating they did not want one in a home, and a wine cellar, with 57% of participants stating they do not want one.

Other features that are unwanted by home buyers are focused on community amenities. Ones that made the ‘do not want’ list include a daycare center, plant-covered roof, pet washing station, and golf course community. 

What are your most desired features in a home?

What is Market-Rate Housing?

Market-rate housing is a term that confuses many people. With the announcement of our development project with Davenport Properties, we want to take a look at what this means for the teachers and community of Springfield, Massachusetts.

Housing Affordability

For housing to be considered affordable, it means you spend 30% or less of your total income on housing. This leaves you with 70% of your income to spend on additional bills, food, transportation, and savings.

Many people, especially in larger cities, are spending more than 30% of income on housing. In the case of teachers who work in cities, the cost of housing is often an issue. 

HUD offers affordable housing options throughout the country for people and families who spend more than 30% on housing.

Market-Rate Housing

Market-rate housing means that rent is set at a rate that is comparable to other housing units in the area. New construction is costly, which means that new housing developments frequently come with high rents. 

In the case of Willy’s Overland Redevelopment Housing Initiative, Davenport Properties and partners of the city of Springfield wanted to create market-rate housing catered to teachers and welcoming to millennials and baby boomers. 

As we build 60 new units in this first building, we are focusing heavily on the building amenities and making each unit functional for the people who live there. These brand new housing units will feature the quality and design that The Horton Group is known for. Knowing that the city of Springfield is dedicated to making this market-rate project affordable to those living there makes the project even more meaningful. 

 

Kitchen Renovations: Where to Splurge

A well-designed kitchen can make an entire house feel more luxurious. The heart of the home, the kitchen is where families and friends gather to prepare food, discuss their days, enjoy meals, and unwind with a drink.

The Horton Group knows how important the kitchen is to most people, which is why we incorporate the best quality and design into the homes we build. For the luxury condominium units at The Residences at 66 High Street, we called on Bender to design the kitchen cabinetry with designer Daryl Zorn.

Bender has six Connecticut locations, with national recognition for their award-winning showrooms. For the model units of the Whitfield and Leete buildings, Zorn worked closely with our interior designer and Nicole White from One + Company Real Estate, the listing company for 66 High Street, to make selections.

“The rest were custom units where I worked directly with the buyers and got a feel of the styling they liked. The styles range from traditional to somewhat farmhouse with distressed cabinets to transitional,” Zorn said.

Kitchens continue to be the most desired room to renovate. The average kitchen renovation costs over $20,000, according to Home Advisor, and can easily go much higher. Because Bender focuses on function, budget, and innovative design, we reached out to them to determine which items are worth the splurge in the kitchen.

1. Cabinet Box Construction

A quality-built cabinet is essential for new kitchens. Pay attention to both the material of the cabinet box and the way it is built. Some manufacturers claim all plywood construction, but with poor assembly. Paying more for the build of the cabinets will go a long way in your kitchen.

2. Qualified Contractor or Installer

Spending money on the quality of the cabinets will go to waste if not installed correctly, and it is not the best time to try out your DIY skills. Find a contractor or installer who is an expert with cabinetry. They know what screws to use, how to level cabinetry, and how to adjust drawers and hinges. A quality installation job will last a lifetime and makes it easier for other contractors in your kitchen, including plumbers, electricians, and countertop installers.

3. Appliances

High-quality appliances not only add to the design of your kitchen but, more importantly, better your cooking experience and the food you eat. With advanced technology, high-end appliances give you more control over how you cook and make cleanup easier.

4. Cabinet Hardware

Hardware allows for endless customization options in the kitchen. Mixed metals, including brushed brass, chrome, and matte black, are trending in kitchen designs. Bender recommends choosing two or three metals that complement each other and play off of one another in cabinet hardware, light fixtures, and faucets. The “jewelry” of the kitchen, cabinet knobs and pulls can make the difference between a nice kitchen and a fabulous kitchen.

No matter what you decide to spend your budget on in the kitchen, you cannot go wrong with quality products installed by a professional.

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