Blog » Blog Design. Build. Modern. Fri, 07 Jan 2011 02:01:28 +0000 en hourly 1 Home Automation – ADT Pulse Fri, 07 Jan 2011 01:59:57 +0000 Kamil Krainski In our previous installment I wrote about the advantages of a Control 4 system for a new construction. This time ADT (yes the same guys that install security systems) have launched a new product offering with an integrated home control features called ADT Pulse.

If you are in the market for a home security system ADT Pulse adds a basic level of home control capabilities at a reasonable price that will let you control a thermostat, lights, cameras and general security of your home. Benefits are rather clear; since dedicated and more sophisticated home control systems of today have a steep initial installation cost ($5000 and up) ADT Pulse lets you spread the pain into monthly payments of about $49.99 plus a one-time installation fee of approximately $99 dollars, making home automation more accessible to a lot of people.

What does it do?
Depending on the program you choose it can do the following:

• 24/7 Burglary & Theft Monitoring
• Fire & Flood Monitoring
• Smoke/heat and flood detectors
• Carbon Monoxide Monitoring
• Remote Web & Mobile Access
• Email & Text Alerts/Notification
• Lighting & Thermostat Control
• Small Appliance Control
• Remote Real-Time Video
• Home Control Touchscreen
• Monitored Security System
• Smartphone integration

Bottom Line.
ADT Pulse cannot fully match the sophisticated control options of a standalone home control systems such as Crestron, AMX, Savant or Control4, but it does offer an interesting option at lower cost for those already in the market for a home security system. With its streamlined interface that also offers basic home automation capabilities ADT Pulse is a step in the right direction in the expanding home automation arena.

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How to Budget For a New Home Tue, 30 Nov 2010 16:40:37 +0000 Debbie Cornett Remember from science class that three elements must be present to start a fire: fuel, oxygen, and spark? If one of these elements is missing, nothing will happen.

Similarly, three things must happen in order to build your new home: finances must be made available, land must be purchased, and a house design must be finalized. The graph below illustrates how the maximum budget is broken down into individual components.

Figuring out financing and setting the maximum budget is ideally the first step because all future decisions depend on the maximum budget, and your maximum budget is rigid. It does not increase to meet the cost of design and land; rather, land and design are chosen in order to stay within the limitation of the budget. The maximum budget is comprised of any cash you will directly contribute to the project, as well as any financing you will obtain.

Second, I recommend determining how the budget will be divided between land and design. For example, if you have a total budget of $500,000, you could divide the money to spend $100,000 on land and $400,000 on design. Or you could spend $200,000 on land and $300,000 on design. You could even opt to not use your entire budget, instead purchasing land for $100,000 and designing a home that will cost $300,000 to build.

Since the next most limiting factor after budget is land, I recommend investigating your options and setting a realistic budget for the land that will leave you enough to build your home. The cost of land must factor in the sale price for the land, the cost of surveys, and any improvements to the land that will be necessary to build, such as water/sewer connection, well and septic systems, driveways, etc. Each lot is different, ask your builder to provide you with a cost estimate of these improvements.

Finding land doesn’t necessarily have to precede the design process. You can begin designing your home while looking for a lot that will match your expectations and budget. However, if views and orientation of your home are highly important to you, it is best to find the land first and then design a home to take advantage of the site’s best features.

The remainder of your budget will be allocated to your actual home. There is a lot of flexibility in design, both in terms of square footage and level of finish which can be manipulated in order to get the most home for the money. Over the years we have found that people tend to be happier if they direct their budget towards the better finishes and functionality of their home rather than focusing merely on square footage.

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Sound control, what you need to know before you build Fri, 12 Nov 2010 23:51:32 +0000 Dian Lu is—tucked away inside of walls, ceilings, floors and other components of your home. But if you forget it, lack of it will slowly eat away at your sanity]]> Sound control is often overlooked in new home design. Why? Few architects and builders understand it and even fewer of them can explain its importance. You can’t see sound control. It doesn’t make your house more beautiful. It just is—tucked away inside of walls, ceilings, floors and other components of your home. But if you forget it, lack of it will slowly eat away at your sanity every day.

 Two types of noise inside your home

 Airborne noise is the most common noise problem experienced. Airborne noise is that created by speech and music among others and is the easiest to address.

 Impact noise is the type of noise created by doors banging and footsteps and is much more difficult to address because this type of noise is structure borne sound that radiates through the structure of the building.

 What can be done about it

 Due to inherent features of contemporary design (e.g. open floor plans, hard floor surfaces, numerous media systems), noise transfer between rooms can be an issue. Controlling sound promotes relaxing & private environments inside your home. Sound control is not only about muffling noise from the outside; it’s also reducing the sound transfer between activity zones within your home. There are two ways to accomplish this: soundproofing and sound-reduction.


  • Soundproof noise prone areas like the laundry room.
  • Specify solid doors with door sweeps.
  • Select a spray-foam insulation or ICF for your exterior walls.
  • Request sound dampening of waste pipes traveling from upstairs.
  • Soundproof walls, ceilings, and floors between bedrooms and bathrooms.


  • Choose a low decibel dishwasher, garbage disposal & hood.
  • Substitute a noisy jetted tub for a soaker tub.
  • Use a bathroom ventilation system with a remote motor.
  • Select a door opener with a belt drive instead of a chain drive.
  • Specify proper sizing of ducts to prevent the wheezing sound in ductwork.
  • Request a silent thermostat to avoid hearing the system click on and off.

Why think about it now?

Adding sound control to your house after it has been built is costly, time consuming and is a major interruption to your life. Avoid this by installing sound control during the construction phase of your home. This will significantly reduce the price and eliminate the inconvenience. The reward is in the years of peace and tranquility: priceless!

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Wine Cellars & Tasting Rooms Wed, 20 Oct 2010 18:39:08 +0000 Kamil Krainski The US is in the midst of a growing trend of hosting wine tasting events at home. People seek an alternative to going out. It’s all the rage; wine tasting or cooking with friends creates a layer of intimacy unmatched by impersonal restaurant atmosphere. After all homes are increasingly being designed to serve as a comfortable setting for social gatherings. Our contemporary indoor space is evolving; kitchens once tucked away are the centerpiece of our open space. Likewise our dining rooms and basements are undergoing a transformation often taking inspiration from sophisticated wine tasting rooms or wine cellars.

Below are few inspirational ideas from various designers we enjoy:

Courtesy of Vin de Garde

Courtesy Kelly Deck Design

Courtesy of Fulcrum Structural Engineering

Courtesy of MAP Architects

Courtesy of The Asylum

Courtesy of Bohlin Cywinski Jackson Architecture

Courtesy of Steenbergh Vineyards

Modern Cellar (credit)

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Home Automation: Building a smarter home. Thu, 14 Oct 2010 16:46:28 +0000 Kamil Krainski

Growing up, I heard promises of a great “Jetsonian” future:  lives would be simplified by the use of automation. Devices in homes would work in harmony, performing mundane tasks so that people could have more time to enjoy life. Alas, the year 2000 came and left. Promises of flying cars were broken. Simple-to-use home automation was nowhere to be found, until now.

Finally its here! But what do I choose?

There are many choices in automation. For the sake of simplicity, the four major players are: Crestron, AMX, Savant & Control4. Prices vary, dependant on the preferences and the complexity of the setup. Control4 is my personal favorite recommendation for majority of our clients, based on good price, simplicity of use and performance ratio. 

So what will home automation do for me?

Simply put, home automation will allow you to use your smart phone, computer or a portable touch-screen panel to: 

  • Play different music in every room.
  • Control your lights or put them on a schedule while you’re away.
  • Schedule air conditioning and heating or remotely adjust temperature.
  • View interior/exterior of your house while on vacation.
  • Automate food dispensing for your animals; open & close pet doors.
  • Simplify your home theater with one touch control of multiple devices.
  • Control your home’s security system.
  • See who’s at the door from any where in your home.
  • Open your door without going downstairs.
  • Adjust blinds or curtains based on time of day.

Note: The major advantage of including a control system in your home before it’s built is that a system can be easily integrated thus reducing the price of the system. You can start small and as you learn the system you can easily expand it.

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5 Bathroom Trends: Ultimate Spa Fri, 24 Sep 2010 03:11:01 +0000 Kamil Krainski

Last month I read an article on CNN about how badly Americans need a vacation. The author mentioned the option of a “staycation,” taking time off and relaxing at home. It reminded me of the growing trend of increasingly beautiful, luxurious bathrooms. Could it be that people long for these luxurious master baths because of their desperate need to relax?

I think so. It isn’t enough to plan for a vacation weeks, months, or years from now. We need to take a little time to recharge everyday. For many of us, the only way to ensure this time to relax is to build it into our everyday lives. A utilitarian bathroom makes our daily hygiene routines seem mundane; a serene, spa-like bathroom reminds us to slow down a little and enjoy the pleasures of life every day.

We’ve created a guide to help in designing your ultimate spa retreat:

1. Open up the space. Being cooped up in a bathroom isn’t exactly luxurious. Now imagine a bathroom that opens up to the rest of the master suite. The latest trends in bath design encourage fusion of bedrooms, bathrooms and closets. Space is often designed to use a pocket doors or barn-style sliders that can easily be hidden away; some avoid doors altogether. Good flow of space is essential, minimizing dead-end areas that interrupt flow. Don’t be afraid to break the conventional design based on outdated rules. You will gain a feel of extra space normally consumed by walls.

2. Remember light. Mirrors and vanities will require proper task lighting for makeup or shaving, while soaking tub can benefit from dimmable mood lighting. And don’t forget the natural light: locating windows horizontally above the head level helps privacy and brings the daylight. For interior bathrooms, consider the option of a light tube. 

3. Make it quiet. If the sound of a TV or outdoor traffic isn’t soothing to you, you may want to consider sound control. Sound control is not only about stopping what’s coming in from the outside; it’s also reducing the sound transfer between activity zones inside your home. Inquire about sound-control techniques in walls, ceilings or floors. The tub itself can be a problem, too. Many new luxury homes are trading in jetted tubs for a simple soaking tub to eliminate unwanted noise. Quiet yet powerful ventilation is important; opt for a remote fan units with a motor located away from your sanctuary space.

4. Choose relaxing finish materials. Combining wood and tile elements in your bathroom looks spectacular. Wood adds a natural element into your space, but it can deteriorate over time in a humid environment. A new wave of tiles that look like wood has stormed the design world in recent years and can withstand direct water exposure while preserving the look of wood.

5. Select extras.  Heated towel rack. Shower with a steam generator. Built-in mini fridge for convenient storage of chilled beverages.  Electric kettle for your favorite tea. On-demand water heater located near the bathroom for a quick and continuous hot water. Heated floors with a programmable thermostat. Conveniently accessible sound system that can wirelessly stream your music collection or internet radio. Fluffy towels, scented sea salt. Candles, lots and lots of candles.

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Instant Modernification Tue, 21 Sep 2010 04:31:40 +0000 Debbie Cornett stairs

1. Staircases

Staircases are frequently-used and often highly visible features of homes. Get familiar with the Michigan Building Code staircase requirements before your heart is set on a particular design; not everything you see in magazines can be implemented in Michigan homes. Then browse our staircase gallery for inspiration.

Go to Lennox website

2. Fireplaces

Fireplaces are frequently the focal point of living spaces, so make sure that your fireplace is worthy of the attention, like this fireplace by Lennox. Consider placing it in a prominent location and dress it well with a complimentary surround and/or mantle. See more about modern fireplace design.


In modern design the kitchen is open to adjoining spaces, so choosing the right cabinets is more important now than ever—since they can be seen from the sofa and the dining room table, they have to support your overall design. Take a look at our kitchen gallery to see some attractive designs.

Go to Hudson Furniture Inc. website

4. Chandeliers

Years ago, lighting design was unheard of. Then task lighting was all the rage. We forgot how a chandelier can transform the tone of a room. Remember that a chandelier is a lot like jewelry—a little goes a long way, so one great piece may be all your space needs. Check out Hudson Furniture to see some of our favorites.

Go to Krown Lab website

5. Doors

Nothing kills a modern design faster than the fussiness of the traditional six-panel door. Slab doors work well with the simplicity of modern design. If you’re looking for something with more visual interest, consider hanging doors in an exciting way, like these sliding barn-door styles at Krown Lab or Bartels.

6. Windows

Despite advances in energy-saving windows, in Michigan’s climate, windows are still relatively inefficient when compared to an insulated wall. Therefore, more/bigger windows result in higher energy use. In our designs, we put the biggest windows where the best views exist and where privacy isn’t a top priority. If the view isn’t noteworthy or when privacy is an issue, short, wide windows placed high up let light in while obstructing views. Additionally, this horizontal window design can be visually striking both indoors and from outside.

7. Trim

Baseboards, crown moldings, and casings were popularized because they easily covered cracks and uneven lines where the wall ends or changes direction. In modern design, elaborate trim work over-complicates space. Simple, straight trims in the wall color create a transitional look. Opt for no trim for the most contemporary feel.

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Modern Gas Fireplaces Tue, 07 Sep 2010 23:40:37 +0000 Kamil Krainski Montigo Custom FireplaceMontigo makes custom modern fireplaces.

Low-profile “horizontal” fireplaces have the sleek, sophisticated look that frequently catch the eyes of my clients. These models are three (or more) times wider than their height.

Why are these horizontal fireplaces so attractive? Besides the refreshing shape, the design is as much about what you don’t see as what you do. Here’s how this fireplace style keeps the focus on the flames:

  • Minimalist framing—the metal surround is so simple it is barely noticeable.
  • No logs needed—higher profile fireplaces need logs to fill the vertical space.

Until recently, these fireplaces were only available in the US by means of custom fabrication. Now manufacturers offer ready-to-install models. Here are just a few: Click on the images below to go to the manufacturer’s websites.

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Objectified (Hustwit, 2009) Fri, 27 Aug 2010 15:54:27 +0000 Debbie Cornett It’s not every day you’ll come across a movie review on this blog, but then again, I don’t often browse through Netflix and find a great film on design…

I stumbled across Objectified (Hustwit, 2009) in the “watch instantly” documentaries section. I just had to pass this on to the design lovers here. The movie covers the industrial design of everyday products, from “analog” products like toothbrushes, chairs, and potato peelers to “digital” products like computers, MP3 players, and cell phones. It’s not just a discussion of how things are made; the true focus is on the philosophy of good design, the impact design has on our everyday lives, and the responsibility designers have in protecting the environment. If you love design, this is a great way to spend 1.25 hours.

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How to Deal with your Partner’s (Ridiculous) Design Ideas Fri, 20 Aug 2010 12:44:49 +0000 Debbie Cornett ridiculous, but in the heat of a disagreement about your new home’s design, you may feel that way. A lot is at stake, after all. Even couples who have lived peacefully together for years can be irked by their significant other under these changing circumstances. ]]> couple in front of a fireplaceOne of my favorite couples had differing ideas for the fireplace in their new home. With her childhood memories of the family gathering around the hearth during the holidays, wood burning was her first choice: the crackling wood filled the air with an earthy fragrance that just can’t be beat. He, on the other hand, had memories of cutting down trees and splitting wood, backaches lasting for days, and the chore of cleaning the fireplace. Needless to say, he was dreaming of a gas fireplace—beauty and warmth at the flip of a switch.

Each person’s sensibilities, styles, needs, and wants are unique. No matter how similar a couple’s individual ideas are, previously unidentified differences are bound to surface. This is where communication and compromise become vital. Vying for the victory of one’s own perspective can bring the design process to a gridlock or end in a painful lose-lose scenario. Effectively voicing concerns and listening can turn this situation around; often the resolution is simple and finding it is relationship-strengthening.

In the instance of the fireplace couple, he revealed that he was worried about being able to maintain a wood-burning fireplace as they aged, since the plan was to retire in this home. She understood this, having experienced a back injury before, and agreed that the gas fireplace would better fit the lifestyle they envisioned for themselves.

Here are some tips to keep in mind when you’re in a design disagreement:

Take some time to cool off.

Sometimes when we’re passionate about a point, heated discussion can draw us further into our own corner and escalate the disagreement. Revisit the issues when your blood pressure has returned to normal. If a design disagreement comes up in the presence of your designer or architect, don’t feel pressured to come to a consensus immediately. Make decisions when you have the privacy to talk about everything that may concern you.

Remember what’s truly important.

Arguments frequently occur over trivial matters when people feel like no one is listening. Listening is a two way street; if you want to be heard, listen to your partner. Keep strengthening your relationship at the top of your design priorities and you’ll have no problem working out differences.

List out each option’s pros and cons in writing.

Grab some sticky notes. Write one point on each sticky note. But don’t pen your own ideas; transcribe your partner’s thoughts. While one of you dictates, the other should write. There is something very tangible about seeing your partner write down your points; you’ll both feel recognized and maybe even understand an issue you’d been missing before. Sticky notes are small and limit the point to a few words (rather than a rant). After listing, you can move them around and prioritize them.

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