High-Tech Office Décor for the Work-at-Home Mom

When you think of décor for your home office, the term “high-tech” may not be your first priority. And
yet, items that do double duty by being both functional and attractive are certainly more appealing than
a bunch of equipment that makes your space look more like a starship than a room in your home. And
often, the term high-tech comes with a connotation of compact size, which is great for the mom that
doesn’t have a lot of space to spare, what with toys underfoot and craft supplies filling every cubby. So
if you’re looking for a few ways to update your office space while you work from home, here are a few
high-tech décor solutions that just might suit your needs (both practically and aesthetically).

The first thing you’ll probably want to consider is furniture, and you might be scratching your head over
how it can be high-tech. For starters, there are computer desks, which come with plenty of storage,
spaces designed for basic computing elements, and built-in channels to corral your many cables. And
you should also look into ergonomic solutions. Since you’re likely to spend quite a bit of time in your
home office, you should have an ergonomic chair and possibly even a keyboard to ensure that your body
is in proper alignment. This will correct your posture and help you avoid physical ailments related to
sitting at a desk all day.

Next you should think about a computer. This is the main piece of equipment you’ll need to do
your work. And your best bet is a laptop. It has all the power of your average PC these days and it
is compact, lightweight, portable, and easy to store out of sight. Plus, modern laptops have tons of
options for connectivity (both wirelessly and through multiple ports) so that you can easily hook them
up to a printer, a cable modem, or an external hard drive for additional storage. You should also
consider a portable printer, a webcam (if your laptop doesn’t already have one) and a smart phone as
high-tech necessities for the modern home office.

And if you’re worried about keeping tabs on the kids, consider a smart home security system (like those
offered by Vivint) that allows you to monitor kids via surveillance cameras and even control the lights,
the thermostat, electronics (like the TV), and the home alarm system, all from your computer or smart
phone. Let’s face it: there are times when you just have to get some work done, and this system can
help you keep an eye on the kids while you do it.

Of course, hardware won’t get you far without attendant software to make it worthwhile. So if you’re
thinking of web design, for example, there’s no need to bust out Word Pad and learn HTML. There are
programs to do it for you! You can even find software that allows your smart phone to interact with
the various programs that are running on your desktop in case you want a connection on the go. And if
you need to interface with fax machines, you don’t have to get another bulky piece of equipment, just
employ a fax2email program on your computer. A high-tech home office could be filled to the brim with
the latest gadgets, but without the software solutions that make them work for you, they’ll be nothing
more than space-age décor.

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Home Decorating Tips for a Warm and Cozy Winter

When the cold months of winter start to set in, with shorter days, longer nights, and biting winds that
makes you long to wrap your hands around a warm mug of cocoa, you may find yourself going into
hibernation mode. You’ll likely have trouble getting out of bed in the morning and you’ll want nothing
more than to come home and snuggle up under your favorite down comforter or drink some wine and
eat some cheese with your honey next to a blazing fire. Or perhaps your fondest wish is to settle down
on the couch with the family, pop some corn, and watch a few holiday flicks. The point is, much of the
winter will be spent indoors, which means you’ll likely want a home that is warm and cozy. So here are
just a few decorating tips to create the perfect space to wait out the winter.

1. Pillows and throws. Unless you want to pay beaucoup bucks to heat your house, you’re likely
going to lock the thermostat at a temperature that is a little chilly for most people. But since
you can only pile on so many sweaters and socks, it behooves you to create some areas for
members of your household to nest. This is where fluffy pillows and fuzzy throws enter the
picture, and you should have plenty handy in cupboards, bins, and baskets around the house.
As for color, you can’t go wrong with winter white (it gets dirty, but cleans up well with bleach)
or a bright accent color that goes with your décor. Various shades of green are always nice
when there’s no greenery outside.

2. Door draft stops. While you can certainly add some weather stripping for exterior doors or
place practical rubber draft stops under entryways, you can use your drafty house as an excuse
for some cute (yet functional) accessorizing. Decorative draft stoppers (for interior doors) are
often colorful and whimsical (although you can definitely find some that are simply a solid-
colored tube). They may come in the shape of animals (often snakes) or you might prefer pretty
colors or patterns. But when doors are closed, these cute items of décor will ensure that the
heat stays in.

3. Candles. Nothing says cozy like the flickering light of a candle, so find ways to incorporate these
alternate light sources into your space. They can set the mood for an intimate dinner, a low-key
holiday party, or a night of reading seasonal stories by the fire, and if the power goes out you’ll
be glad you have them.

4. Centerpieces and displays. You may think you need to place a seasonal display on every surface,
from the dining room table to the sideboard to the standing desks in the office. But the truth
is, less is more when it comes to décor. You don’t have to go all minimalist, but one big display
will have a lot more impact than several smaller ones scattered all over the house (which can
just look like clutter). A modern option is to fill a hurricane glass with colorful ornaments and
ribbon, but if you want a more traditional or rustic look, collect some pine cones and cut a
couple of branches from a pine tree in your yard to place in a bowl.

5. Consider your furnishings. Whether your everyday decorating style leans towards French
antiquity or mid century modern furniture (or anything in between), it’s important to stick
to your aesthetic when it comes to adding seasonal décor. So if your space is ultra-modern,
skip the old-timey decorations. And if your style is more eclectic, search for décor that is
understated so it won’t compete with key pieces.

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Essential Products for Eco-Friendly Home Building

Whether you have purchased a plot of land to build your eco-friendly home from the ground up or you
are looking to tackle some upgrades on your existing structure (but reduce your carbon footprint in the
process), there are an amazing number of products on the market to help you meet all of your goals.
Okay, I know what you’re thinking; you’re going to end up with a concrete hobbit-hole of a home or
else it will look like it was cobbled together, shanty style, from whatever particle board castoffs you can
find in the “recycled” section of the lumber yard. Oh, and you’ll spend considerably more for this ill-
designed domicile. Right? Well, decades ago you may have been correct in these assumptions. But
thanks to the increased consumer demand for all things green, plenty of building manufacturers have
seen fit to offer products and services that are not only eco-friendly, but also attractive and affordable.
Here are a few that you may want to check out.

If you’re taking a ground-up approach, the obvious place to start is at ground level. While most people
are familiar with concrete foundations, few have heard about insulated concrete forms (ICFs), which
can be used in place of a wooden framework. They are strong and durable and they have insulating
properties, which make them a great option for areas that suffer severe weather (hot or cold). They are
also resistant to many environmental dangers that can adversely affect wooden structures, such as fire,
flood, mold, and termites. They are also fairly affordable and so much greener than deforestation.

And when it comes to fleshing out the walls of your home, consider structural insulated panels (SIPs).
Their price is comparable to wood, but they come with a whole host of eco-friendly properties. The
insulating foam core is faced on either side by oriented strand board, a compressed wood product
that uses every part of the tree and can be made from fast-growing or young trees (making it more
sustainable than, say, harder woods). Then finish off the walls with EcoRock (incredibly green drywall)
on the inside and eco-friendly (non-vinyl) siding on the outside. As for roofing materials, you are
probably going to spend a bit more here for the environmental value since clay tiles are a lot more eco-
friendly than, say, low-cost asphalt. However, they will better insulate your home, they’re fire resistant,
and they can last more than 50 years, which makes them a pretty good buy.

So, now that you’ve got the basic home in place, it’s time to attend to the interior spaces, and you’re
going to want options for energy and water. Depending on where you live you may have access to
alternative forms of energy like solar, wind, water, or even geothermal. Often you can use these to
meet both your electrical and heating needs (and even sell clean energy back to the power grid). And
consider an open floor plan to let plenty of natural light in. As for water, think about installing a cistern
to collect rainwater, install low-flow toilets, aerated faucets, and a tankless water heater, and use
recycled water on the lawn (landscaped with drought-resistant native plants).

Evan Fischer is a contributing writer for Morrison Hershfield, the leader in innovative, eco-friendly and
cost effective engineering projects.

Small Home Improvements that Add Resale Value to Your Home

Times continue to be tough, and the housing market can be scary. If you’re thinking of selling your
home someday, you probably want to begin figuring out ways to improve the resale value of your
property without breaking the bank. Think about these tips that will help you save money as well as
bring your house into a more inviting condition.

The exterior. Consider the curb appeal of your home, which simply means looking at your from a more
objective viewpoint, usually that of a potential buyer. The first thing anyone will see of your home is
the outside, including your yard. This is one place that doesn’t take a lot effort to keep up. Make the
sure lawn stays mowed and watered. Pull any unsightly weeds. If you feel that you are lacking in the
landscape department, add a tree, a hedge, or some flowers (window boxes are attractive). Fix anything
that is broken or ugly. Add a coat of paint to windowsills or trims.

The bathroom. Along with the kitchen, this is one of the most important rooms in your house, and one
that buyers are going to want to investigate before they make any decisions. Replace the toilet seat or
even the sink, or simply add new handles. If the floor has seen better days, you can apply new tiles or
sheet vinyl directly over the old one.

The kitchen. Rather than hire someone to do it for you, practice your own kitchen remodeling
skills. Visit a home improvement store and pick out new cabinet doors and up-to-date handles, then
install them yourself. Slap on a fresh coat of paint in the pantry. You’ll come off as savvy as well as
environmentally conscious if you replace your old light bulbs with energy efficient light fixtures that will
help you save now as well as later.

Living room. Help yourself out now by establishing a cleaning regime for the windows and then keep
them clean regularly. Pick out new curtains, the lighter colored the better, so as to allow in more
natural light and give your living room a fresh new feel. Take a close look at light fixtures and outlet
covers, which may be cracked or old. Since LED lighting is currently in vogue, consider replacing your
light bulbs as you did in the kitchen.

The bedroom. Spruce it up with a new coat of paint, or touch up any areas to give it a fresh look.
Consider adding a wallpaper border just below the ceiling. You can clean the carpets yourself by renting
a cleaner (which you can do from your nearby grocery store) and saving money at the same time.
Coordinate the colors in your room by adding a new bedspread or comforter.

You can make little changes along the way by picking out area rugs to conceal any stains that you are
having trouble removing. And remember that sometimes all you need to do to feel better about your
home is to make sure it smells just right by adding a few scented candles.

Decorating Your Home to Minimize the Time You Spend Cleaning

Home décor is not just a way to fill your space; it is a method of making your house into a home by
instilling the aesthetic you prefer. But every piece you add to the rooms in your house, from furnishings
and electronics to accessories like photos, lamps, pillows, and rugs, is one more item you have to clean
(or clean around). However, you don’t want your home to look like a monastery just so you can cut back
on housekeeping. So here are a few ways to decorate your space in order to make it both beautiful and
easy to clean.

1. Put furniture on sliders. You may not need to clean under and around furniture every time
you pull out the vacuum or mop, but you should do it once in a while, if for no other reason
than preserving your health. And if your furnishings are too bulky and heavy to move easily,
you’re probably not going to exert the effort very often. So think about putting them on sliders
or wheels (depending on the surface they’re on). This will make even large pieces easy to
maneuver for cleaning purposes and keep your hard flooring surfaces from becoming damaged
during cleaning.

2. Avoid unnecessary knick-knacks. The more stuff you have, the more time it will take you
to clean; that’s just common sense. Things in your home will not only need to be cleaned
themselves, but you’ll also have to clean around them. So if you find that the time needed to
clean your space keeps getting longer, perhaps you should think about ways to minimize the

3. Keep collectibles enclosed. You may have display items that you want to showcase in your
home. But since cleaning them can be difficult and even dangerous (especially if they’re
breakable) you don’t want to do it any more than absolutely necessary. For this reason, it
behooves you to keep these items in enclosed display cases rather than on shelves so that less
dirt and dust gets in.

4. Get an e-reader. A lot of people love to read in their spare time, but if you’re spending all day
dusting shelves of books, you may not have much time for reading. By getting yourself a Kindle
or Nook you can house a whole library in one tiny package, drastically reducing the amount of
time you spend cleaning. You might also consider switching to a streaming movie service and
buying only MP3s instead of filling your shelves with CD and DVD cases that have to be dusted

5. Look for stain-resistant fabrics. Everyone is bound to have accidents and spills here and there,
but you’ll have a much easier time cleaning them up with stain-resistant textiles on your side.
Couches, chairs, curtains, and rugs can all be found in materials that have been treated to make
it harder for stains to stick. So unless you want to be on your hands and knees scrubbing the
carpet or the couch to remove stuck-on stains, look for stain-resistant materials whenever you
buy items to decorate your home.

Evan Fischer writes for Suspended Ceiling Shop, where you can find Dune Supreme ceiling tiles and
other ceiling accessories for your home improvement needs.

Create a Labeling System to Get Your Home Organized

All of us would like to live in a house like Donna Reed’s, a spic-and-span domicile with nary a spec of
dirt or a couch cushion out of place. But the reality of most modern homes is that both parents work
(or there is only one parent in attendance) and between jobs, kids, pets, and everything else that life
throws at you, keeping your home clean and organized is the least of your worries. So you let things go
until suddenly you start to wonder if your house could be featured on an episode of Hoarders! Okay, it’s
probably not that bad, but if you’re facing some serious clutter and you’re not sure how to get it under
control, one of the best ways to organize your space is to create a system of labeling that ensures every
last thing has a place to go.

You’ll want to start, of course, with a massive decluttering. Sift through “stuff” in the living room,
dining room, bedrooms, bathrooms, home office, and even cupboards and closets. Clear out everything
that you don’t need and won’t use. Donate usable items to charity thrift stores (they often pick up),
including extra furnishings that are just taking up space, and toss anything that is broken, worn, or no
longer functional. Now that you’ve figured out what you’re going to keep, it’s time to decide where it’s
going to go; and storage space can be a problem.

If it quickly becomes clear that you really don’t have adequate storage to accommodate all of your stuff,
you need to see what you can do to expand your storage solutions. Cabinets and shelves can both be
helpful as long as they are appropriately sized for your space. Modular furniture stores like IKEA can
help you here with pieces that are moderately sized, but easily expandable. You’ll want cabinets with
doors and drawers to hide items like media (CDs, DVDs, video games, etc.) while shelving units and even
free-floating shelves can help you find a spot for books and curios that then to pile up around the house.
You may also want to get tasteful bins for common spaces (office, living room) and colorful ones to place
in cubbies in the kids’ rooms. And organizing units are great for small items like office supplies (pens,
pencils, paperclips, etc.) and toiletries.

Finally, it’s time to start labeling. Of course, you may not want to slap labels all over shelving in areas
that guests may frequent, but there are many spaces that can benefit from easy-to-make stick-on
labels. In the office you can put them on bins and even shelves so that when kids come in to grab office
supplies for a school project they know just where leftovers should be returned. Labeling file folders is
also a must to ensure that everything is in order come tax time. Hidden storage can also get the label
treatment, so set up alphabetized shelves in your media cabinet so that you can always find the movie
you’re looking for without having to search through hundreds of DVDs that are in no particular order.
Even kitchen shelves can benefit from labels, with areas for dry goods, canned food, pasta, cereal, and
more. And when it comes to the kids, label cubbies for toys, books, stuffed animals, and so on (you may
even want to consider see tamper proof labels www.assettags.co.uk for this one).

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WAHM Home Office Design Tips

This is for all the work-at-home moms out there that are spreading their work hither and yon
throughout the household as they follow their kids around all day long: stop using your home as an
office! Okay, so if you’re working from home you might not think you have much choice, but the truth is
that you walk a fine line when you commingle your work with your family. And ultimately, you risk failing
at both pursuits if you don’t learn to divide them into two separate spheres. Your work suffers when
you’re distracted by kids, errands, and a house that needs cleaning, and your kids suffer when your
attention is split between them and your job. So do yourself a favor and set up a home office (with set,
but flexible hours). Here are a few design tips that will help you make the most of your work space.

1. Pick your paint. Believe it or not, the paint color you choose for your office could make a big
difference in how much work you get done in there. Even if you’re not into feng shui, you
probably like certain colors better than others because of the way they make you feel. So there
are two ways you can go. If your world is in chaos most of the time, you might want to go with
soft neutral shades or pastel colors (blues are especially nice) to calm you so that you can focus
on your work. But if you need some energy and inspiration, choose a bold and saturated color
that speaks to you. Warm tones like reds, oranges, and pinks will brighten your space and get
your creative juices flowing.

2. Furnish accordingly. Most people use the smallest room in the house for the office, which
means you will necessarily have to choose smaller furnishings. By going with modern, modular
pieces you can ensure that everything fits (and fits together). As a bonus, this type of furnishing
is often less expensive and easier to move than heavy, old antiques. Keep in mind that you
may be hosting clients or other business associates at some point, so think about adding
a “conference” area that includes chairs or a couch.

3. Storage solutions. You will almost certainly need storage for client files, projects, reference
materials, and so on. But if you have little space to begin with, this could be hard to
accommodate. Consider that many desks come with storage solutions like file drawers and
compartments for office supplies (pens, paperclips, staples, etc.). So keep an eye out for
functional furnishing. And don’t forget that there’s plenty of space over your head. By adding
shelves with plenty of bins you can maximize your space and declutter your desktop.

4. Accommodating kids. There may be times when you have to work while watching the kids.
Since you don’t want to follow them around the house with a laptop and an armload of papers,
why not give them space in your office? Set up a small work table for kids to do craft projects
and give them storage cubbies or shelves at their level for easy access to supplies (not to
mention easy clean-up).

5. Equipment and services. You probably have a good idea of the equipment you’ll need to run
your business from home, such as a computer, printer, and smart phone. But when it comes
to finding quality tech services you may be at a loss. So start by comparing internet and phone
services available in your area to get the best prices and business solutions. Then ask for
referrals if you need a website built or other technical assistance.

Evan Fischer is a contributing writer for Quality Tech, offering data center solutions and colocation.