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Beautiful energy efficient appliances available at all price points

Beautiful energy efficient appliances available at all price points

Sleek and practical are the new grand and ornate in the housing market.

So when it comes to new appliances, you can find convenience and efficiency in a wide range of appealing new designs for everyone from entry-level buyers to those shopping at the top of the line, according to Erik Schneider of Hometown Appliance and Electronics in St. John.

“Almost every manufacturer has a wide range of options, and you can choose an appliance package that includes all the same brand or similar styles,” he said. “It’s all about the look, the aesthetics. Everything has the same handles, and with multiple appliance purchases from the same manufacturer, you are likely to be eligible for rebates.”

It’s no secret that older, inefficient appliances waste money and energy.

In 1992, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) introduced ENERGY STAR®, a voluntary labeling program that helps consumers easily find the most energy-efficient products to protect the environment and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The EPA partners with the US Department of Energy (DOE) to evaluate appliances, office equipment, lighting, home electronics, and even homes and office buildings for the blue ENERGY STAR label.

According to the DOE, The U.S. consumes nearly one million dollars worth of energy every minute. By choosing high-efficiency appliances over conventional models, US consumers saved $12 billion on utility bills and avoided greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 23 million cars last year.

That’s because nearly 70 percent of U.S. electricity is generated with coal and natural gas, which release greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. Plus, using water efficiently benefits our lakes, streams and oceans. When you use less energy and water, you help reduce the impact on our environment.

The ENERGY STAR label means a product meets or exceeds strict energy-efficiency guidelines established by the EPA and DOE - so you’ll always find it on the most efficient washing machines, refrigerators and dishwashers.

For example, most HE (high efficiency) Energy Star washing machine models use 4x less energy than those manufactured before 1999. Plus, they spin your clothes faster-most traditional top load washers spin clothes at 1000 rpms while HE front loaders spin up to 1300 rpms. This saves time and money since you and your clothes will spend less drying time – and efficient washers are gentler on clothes, resulting in less wear-and-tear.

Plus, washing machines are one of the biggest water wasters in your house - second to the toilet in the U.S. To save more water, look for a low water factor with a low or no agitator inside. Again, HE front loaders use the least amount of water, somewhere between 8-13 gallons compared with older machines that use up to 55 gallons.

“Appliances are evolving all the time. While you might think that your 25-year-old refrigerator is saving you money as long as it’s in working condition, the opposite is actually true,” Eric Hart of Nason’s Appliance Company in Crown Point said. “Thanks to recent improvements in compressors and insulation, newer refrigerators use much less energy than those from even just 10 years ago. A new ENERGY STAR refrigerator will save over $100 if you replace one purchased in the 80s or almost $200 a year if yours is from the 70s.”

In fact, in most homes, the refrigerator is the biggest energy-depleting kitchen appliance.

“You’ll also find that a free-standing double oven range reduces the amount of gas used since each oven has a smaller capacity cavity,” Hart added. “The smaller oven is ideal for 9 x 13 pans, while the big oven handles holiday turkeys and roasts.”

Dishwashers have also improved greatly. If you own one from before 1994, you are spending almost $40 a year extra in utility costs and wasting more than 10 gallons of water per cycle. Energy Star models save an average of 1300 gallons over their lifetime.

In order to determine the best options for your needs, Schneider, who is an experienced carpenter in both commercial and residential construction, suggests you know the dimensions of the space where your appliances are going, particularly if you're getting a new refrigerator.

“Don't measure the appliance you are replacing, there are many more options in appliances today,” he said. “It’s also important to have a budget in mind when it comes to reviewing the different options and styles available that are going to work best for your layout since most appliances, such as a refrigerator and stove, will function the same at different price points – although with a dishwasher, you truly get what you pay for.”

For example, General Electric introduced a line of appliances aimed at “younger” buyers – first-time homebuyers between the ages of 25 and 34 – last year.

“As far as GE Artistry goes, it's very appealing for first-time homebuyers because it looks great and is very affordable,” Pam Maruszczak of Maruszczak Appliance Sales and Service in Schererville said. “It comes in black or white with stainless steel handles and knobs plus chrome trim. The refrigerator is a bottom freezer model that fits into almost any space so it also works well when remodeling older homes. The range has a great analog clock for all of us that remember how to tell time on them and the microwave has a digital clock for those of us that don't! The dishwasher has nylon racks and dedicated silverware jets to get that last pieces of food off those spoons.”

Along with GE’s new Artistry Series, Maruszczak carries the full line of GE appliances from the top down plus an extensive variety of other trusted brands from entry level to high-end professional with kitchen vignettes offering buyers fresh, new ideas in their showroom.

“We back everything we sell with factory-authorized service and always use a soft, personable sales approach,” Maruszczak added. “We also take great pride in our professional in-house delivery and installation services.”

Along with a great selection and their in-depth product knowledge, service after the sale is what distinguishes a locally-owned and operated independent appliance store from bigger box stores.

Further, Hart points out that it’s a big misconception among consumers today that independent stores cannot compete with box stores when it comes to pricing.

“That’s outrageous! Our volume and buying group allow for us to beat any advertised special in print more than 90 percent of the time for the products we carry,” he explained. “Plus, all of our installation and delivery costs are straight forward and usually end up being less than our competitors as they pull the blindfolds over their customers’ eyes promising free delivery, then riddling them with fees for kits. Another thing that’s really important to our customers is the fact that we keep our dollars local. Keeping it within the community means we are always contributing to local youth programs and school systems that need our support.”

When looking for new appliances – whether it’s for a new home or as your old reliable appliances break down - choosing the most efficient models should be a top priority. In most cases, you don't have to spend more to save more. Energy-efficient choices are available at nearly all price points.

Buying the most efficient models your budget will allow, you will save energy, save money and curb emissions.

19 hours ago Photos


Perennial interest: Why going native is good

Perennial interest: Why going native is good

It’s a little warmer, you’re planning your garden, and you remember that lovely silvery shrub—but wait. Before you head for the garden center, make sure you’re not choosing species that can threaten native Indiana plants, chase away bees and butterflies, and affect the ecosystem in a bad way, read on.

It’s true—the choices made for a backyard garden can have far-reaching consequences, both good and bad. “People have good intentions, but sometimes certain species of plants are brought in and are later discovered to be an invasive species, like the Japanese silver plant,” said Susan MiHalo, conservation coordinator at Nature Conservancy’s Southern Lake Michigan Rim Project Office in Merrillville, Ind. “Especially near a protected area, these invasive things start escaping (beyond the home garden).”

Dean Savarino at Dean’s Landscaping in Schererville, Ind., has seen it. “Invasive plants cause problems, so you do need to know what not to plant. The Chinese native grass or, any type of reed grasses, stay away from those—they’ll just take off.”

The Indiana Native Plant & Wildflower Society’s Web site explains, "The influx of exotic species, without their natural controls, can choke or shade out natural grasses.” That can even affect the food chain: “Some herbivores depend on as few as two types of plants.”

Hard to hold back

Think of the yard as potentially a wildlife corridor for butterflies, birds, bees and other creatures as they work their way to and from nearby remnant natural areas and managed natural areas, said MiHalo. They need Indiana’s native plants to survive, and Hoosiers need them to play a part in pollinating corn, producing honey, and helping support the overall ecosystem.

But it’s a struggle. “In this area, there are a lot of challenges for plants to survive, with roads, subdivisions, and so forth. Thirty percent of Indiana’s endangered species are in Lake County alone, so any help we can get from homeowners in improving biodiversity helps overcome all of these challenges,” said MiHalo.

Watch out for these

Some invasive species that crowd out essential native plants include many ornamentals that insects won’t use; shrubs like Japanese honeysuckle; and plants like dame’s rocket, garlic mustard, and Oriental bittersweet. MiHalo cautions against planting Japanese barberry, autumn olive, Asian honeysuckle, crown vetch, and for water gardens, water hyacinth. And avoid planting Lyme grass in the Dunes area: “Its ‘clumping’ root systems can change dune-building dynamics, impacting that habitat.”

And those wildflower seed packets? “‘Wildflower’ doesn’t mean ‘native,’” said MiHalo; many packets contain very invasive species like Dame’s rocket, so check the label.

Hits and misses

There are lots and lots of native plants to choose from. For sandy soils, says Beverly Stewart, manager at Reed’s Garden Center in Valparaiso, Ind., choose among marran grass, sawgrass, some sedges, any in the cedum family, and fescue. Boxwood and yews can help define an area. For general planting, Butch Zandstra, co-owner of Zandstra’s Greenhouse in Highland, Ind., is partial to butterfly weed, a type of milkweed that, not surprisingly, attracts butterflies.

Once the plants are bought, the biggest mistake home gardeners make, said Saverino at Deans Landscaping, is not understanding what kind of soil composition there is, or whether a particular plant can used for that area. “In this area, a lot of it is hard rock clay soil, especially in developed areas. Nearer the lake, it’s sandier and loamier. If you pick up a handful and it won’t hold tight in your hand, it’s loamy.” ln the Munster area, best choose plants that are more adaptable, like peonies, salvias and veronicas. At his website,, there is a link to determine soil types.

Zandstra said new plants need attention for a couple of weeks, “a little water, a little care—they have such a small root system at first.” He advises watering all plants in the morning so the foliage can dry out during the day, lowering the chance for diseases to take hold.

A final note from MiHalo: “Please make sure not to harvest native plants in our managed natural areas.”

There is a season to plant, and thankfully, it’s just around the corner.

April 19, 2014 9:30 am Photos


At Home: Growing your own

At Home: Growing your own

For three years—ever since I stopped living in the house I own and started living in other people’s houses—I have been a frustrated gardener.

As a foster parent for houses between owners, I know the arrangement is temporary. I am not to do anything permanent, like paint a vanilla room crimson, or plant an English garden. This is trying for someone who likes to knock out a wall now and then.

So this time of year, as Spring blossoms like a debutante, and the yard calls to me like the sea to a sailor, I am aware of how my constraints put a crimp in my garden hose.

I want to plant something green and nurture it. My instinct to nest is as strong as an Osprey’s. Never mind, that time has allowed me to cover, as if with a weed barrier, the memories of my failed yard projects.

Maybe because Spring and hope go together like Easter and eggs, I have all but forgotten the times the rabbits devoured my herb garden, the ugliest worms alive invaded my tomato vines, a hailstorm ravaged my perennials, voles made a buffet of the 200 bulbs I’d planted, and the day several ladies were over for lunch.

That day, I had put sprigs of homegrown mint in their ice tea, which they were sipping genteelly when one of my children loudly announced, “Oh, that’s the mint from Theo’s corner,” referring to our dog’s favorite watering spot.

Which explains why last week, as I was in The Home Depot, along with the rest of America’s home improvers, I couldn’t resist the lure of the garden section.

I had gone to the big box store to buy picture hangers, but the garden section, all bursting and thriving and springing with verdant life, distracted me. I detoured from my task, and was soon putting half a dozen fresh herbs -- little plastic containers of basil, parsley, rosemary – in my cart.

My head spun with a vision of a small herb garden in my kitchen by a sunny window, where I would have my mini, if impermanent -- especially in my hands – garden after all.

I came home inspired, but minus the picture hangers (darn!), and planted my herbs in happy ceramic containers. I banished any thought of the failure and blazed on delusional as someone in the early stages of love, believing, against all odds, that it would be easy, and would turn out right.

I soon after learned, and this is so disillusioning to people like me who think they are original, that I am part of a tsunami-size trend.

“The number one trend, by far, this spring is the home garden,” said Sarah Fishburne, director of trend and design for The Home Depot. “More consumers than ever are growing their own,”

“Vegetables, you mean,” I say, to be clear. I mean with all this talk of legalizing marijuana, you never know what Home Depot will sell next. Heck, they sell everything else.

“Edible plants, in seed and live forms, have been the fastest growing category in live goods for the past five years,” said Fishburne.

Driving the trend, she said, are consumers who have grown up with the Food Network, so are more food savvy. A generation ago, outdoor dining consisted of hot dogs and hamburgers. Today consumers want homegrown tomatoes and endive.

“As more people embrace the idea of farm to table,” she said, “that trend carries into backyard and container gardening.” And renters and homeowners are both getting very creative about gardens in tight places.

Here are some ways they are growing their own edibles:

• Vertical gardens. Those who think a vertical garden is an off-the-wall idea are right. These gardens literally grow on walls, in planters or containers attached to vertical surfaces with clips or brackets. Some home gardeners rig drip watering systems to keep them green.

• Tabletop gardens. Not even the lack of a yard is stopping pent-up gardeners from growing their own herbs and vegetables. They are planting table gardens by converting a flat surface, such as an outdoor table, into a garden by placing a raised bed on it. You can make your own in whatever dimensions suit your space using either a raised-bed kit or building it from scratch. Bonus: Getting down on your knees in the mud isn’t necessary.

• Hanging basket gardens. If you don’t feel like serving a banquet to the critters in your area, getting goods off the ground with hanging, tiered baskets can be the solution. Line lightweight wire baskets with preformed bowls of moisture-retaining moss. Fill them with edibles and stick in some flowers for color.

• Themed gardens. Today’s DIY gardeners are growing gardens with a purpose: Mediterranean cooks are growing oregano, fresh basil, and Italian parsley. Salsa lovers are cultivating onions, chilies, tomatoes, peppers and cilantro. Grill aficionados are harvesting vegetables to throw on the barbie. Happy Hour lovers are planting ingredients to garnish their evening cocktails. Here are some ideas (

• New age organics. Over the past five years, Home Depot has started carrying twice as many kinds of organic soils. “Customers want more organic food, so are demanding organic soils, seeds and herbs that have been started organically,” said Fishburne. “We’re seeing a new generation of gardeners moving toward environmentally friendly, and health-conscious gardens.”

Join me next week as Fishburne shares the next three biggest trends in outdoor living.

Syndicated columnist and speaker Marni Jameson is the author of “House of Havoc” and “The House Always Wins” (Da Capo Press). Contact her through

April 19, 2014 9:00 am

A green clean: Consumers demand more eco-friendly, toxin-free cleaning products

A green clean: Consumers demand more eco-friendly, toxin-free cleaning products

Store shelves and Pinterest boards are filled with ideas when it comes to household cleaners.

Whether making products at home or shopping for them, many Northwest Indiana families are reaching for more natural cleaning options.

Selena Rich, of Highland, said she makes her own cleaners to make her home healthy for her kids.

“I think it's important to remember that you don't have to go all out," Rich said. "Sometimes just making a few changes can help your budget and your home environment.” She makes her own surface and floor cleaners and recently started making her own laundry detergent.

“First and foremost, it was significantly more economical. Secondly, was the lack of chemicals, making it better for our home with four children in it.”

To make the surface cleaner, she fills a spray bottle with vinegar and adds about 10 drops of essential lemon oil. For floor cleaner, she uses baking soda, along with vinegar. Mix until a paste is formed.

“It's wonderful for grout and chemical-free. Both of these are so easy to make," she said. "I also use vinegar as the fabric softener for our laundry. Just put in softener dispenser and it works wonderfully with absolutely no vinegar smell at all.”

Eugene Rosario, category manager for Strack & Van Til, oversees the category of organic and natural products. He said the stores have been adding more natural products to the shelves to give customers lots of options.

One line he purchases is called Earth Friendly Products ( which makes a variety of household products ranging from laundry detergent to floor cleaner to dish soap. The company is Chicago based and carried at most Strack’s locations, he said.

“The thing with them is that they have no toxins, no petrochemicals, no bleach, no ammonia, no phosphates or any other harmful ingredients,” he said.

The Environmental Protection Agency recommends these products and they are designed to protect the environment, he said.

Some Strack’s also carry Mrs. Meyers products ( which are a similar, more natural product with no chemicals or toxins, he said.

“We’re looking for more of a natural earth based product that works.”

He said interest in these products continues to grow as customers get back to their roots and get back to a more natural lifestyle.

“In the last five years, there have been grass roots efforts to use natural products, eat naturally, avoid chemicals. Why do we have to have additives and dyes in everything?”

The natural products have been selling well and are well accepted by the public, Rosario said.

“We’re working to expand our organic offerings in grocery and into cleaning supplies and into the refrigerated section," he said. "There’s a need and people want a choice, and they need to know what’s in their food and cleaning products that they’re using.”

Kaaren Mashura, of Munster, is an independent distributor for the Shaklee Corporation, which manufactures natural products including nontoxic cleaners, nutrition and skin care. She also promotes Shaklee's in-home business opportunities for others looking to join the company, which has been in business for 58 years.

Mashura has used the products and owned the distributorship for 22 years. With an allergy to antibiotics and a desire to clean her home safely for her family and pets, she decided to check out Shaklee's health products.

The cleaning products work, are inexpensive, and go a long way, she said. She said her clients want the natural products because they are easy to use, nontoxic and safe for the environment. She said over the years, there has been an increased interest in the products, especially as allergies are causing more health problems.

"It all works together to keep your body healthy—good nutrition, along with safe and nontoxic cleaners."

When addressing clients with allergies, one of the first questions she asks is ‘what cleaning products do you use?’ ” She recommended changing those products first to see if the allergies improve.

Users can clean just about everything in their house with Shaklee. The line includes household cleaners, laundry products, dishwashing products and cleaning wipes.

Many products in the marketplace today are unsafe for your health, she said. Shaklee's Basic H household cleaner was introduced in 1960 and works on everything from hardwood floors to windows and mirrors. Basic H was the first official Earth Day product.

In 2009 Shaklee received a Green Power Leadership Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in recognition of its commitment and contribution to helping advance the development of the nation’s voluntary green power market.

For information, visit Mashura's website at

April 19, 2014 8:00 am Photos


Shore Things

Shore Things



DEAN'S LANDSCAPING. 238 Kennedy Ave, Schererville. 219.864.9078. Dean Savarino and his team at Dean’s Landscaping specialize in designing outdoor rooms for the home. Using a variety of hardscape structures such as patios, walkways and retaining walls, combined with other materials and patterns, Dean’s can create a custom backyard for each customer. Customers should call to schedule a consultation.

MARUSZCZAK APPLIANCE. 7809 W Lincoln Hwy, Schererville. 219.865.0555. For decades, this award-winning, family-owned company has been selling and servicing major home appliances in the Munster area. Its broad inventory includes refrigerators, stoves, dishwashers, washer/dryers and more, made by virtually every brand in the market. The company is factory-authorized to service everything it sells, and professional in-house delivery and installation services are also available.

POPA HEATING AND COOLING. 2643 Highway Ave, Highland. 219.838.7700. Popa Heating and Cooling has been serving the heating and air conditioning needs of the Highland, Indiana and the surrounding area since 1968. With new construction being the initial focus, the company has grown to provide service for all makes and models of HVAC equipment. In order to assure the job is done right, they provide the highest quality of products installed by highest quality technicians. Popa performs a superior system start up to ensure maximum energy savings and long-term comfort.

STEINER HOMES. 4825 W 100th Ln, Crown Point. 219.916.3744. Steiner Homes offers affordable homes throughout Lake, LaPorte and Porter counties. The in-house residential home designer works with clients' ideas, either from a previous plan or starting from scratch. Clients can build on their own lot, or Steiner has access to a variety of lots throughout the area. A variety of features are available, and Steiner is committed to keeping those options at the highest quality and most affordable price.

SUPERIOR CONSTRUCTION. 2045 East Dunes Highway, Gary, Ind. 219.886.3728. Superior Construction is the premiere large construction firm in Gary, Ind., having built such notable structures as Saint Mark's Church, Lew Wallace High School, the Virginia Hotel, and the Memorial Auditorium. Today, that legacy continues, with their safety priority and awards as one of the top companies in that arena in the state.


GROUNDWORKES. 15486 Red Arrow Hwy, Lakeside. 269.586.2133. Groundworkes' goal is to help you find happiness in your own backyard. Their design philosophy is to think of outdoor space in terms of rooms, allowing you to understand your space better and use it more appropriately. Groudworkes is a full-service landscape design firm. Their team of experts will design, build and maintain your garden. They will be there before, during and after the project to be sure that you are completely satisfied with your new outdoor environment.

WATER PLACE. 18853 W US 12, Ste 3, New Buffalo. 269.231.5153. The Water Place is a decorative plumbing and hardware products superstore. With whirlpools, faucets and cabinets, this facility has "everything you need for plumbing services."



AMBIANCE - Your Home, Your Story, Inc., 9490 Wicker Ave, St John. 219.558.0748. Ambiance's inventory of new, trendy items as well as stylish gifts are there to help customers express their own voice through their home decor at any occasion. Owners and design experts Jan LeVan and Tina Hines are proud to offer something different to local customers, as well as their help in designing the perfect home space.

ARCHITECTURAL ACCENTS, INC. 9760 Indiana Pkwy, Munster. 219.922.9333. This architectural millwork shop specializes in one-piece curved wood molding and radius millwork. In addition to radius casings for windows and doors, Architectural Accents can customize products for any shape and wood specie.

FENKER'S HOME FURNISHINGS AND GIFTS. 1114 Lincolnway, LaPorte, Ind. 219.362.3538. At Fenker’s Home Furnishings & Gifts, they offer quality home furnishings for every room of the home. Fenker's carries furnishings for the living room, dining room, den, bar, sunroom and more. They also offer delivery service, clock repair, and design services, and are always available with friendly and helpful advice and recommendations.

INTERIORS ETC. 301 Lincolnway E, Mishawaka. 574.259.7717. Interiors Etc. features stylish furnishings, accessories, ornaments, antiques and gifts, along with custom window treatments, wallcoverings, area rugs and carpet. The store's professional interior designers can help with home décor decisions including paint colors, window treatments and furniture. Several seasonal events take place throughout the year, and the inventory changes frequently.

LIKE NEW HOME FURNISHINGS BEACH HOUSE & WICKER GALLERY. 619 East 3rd St, Hobart. 219.942.0783. This home decor store offers gently used high quality furniture in their retail space. The store also offers selection of new furniture in their Beach House and Wicker Gallery.

LOU BUTCHER'S FURNITURE WERKS. 4980 W US 20, Michigan City. 219.872.1700. The Butcher family provides quality furniture upholstery, repair and refinishing. Furniture Werks also offers to work with customers to come up with something new using different finishes or fabrics.

ROBERT NORTHINGTON INTERIOR DESIGN. 3907 Calumet Ave, Ste. 207, Valparaiso. 219.465.1000. Robert Northington Interior Design has the imagination and expertise to produce creative, workable solutions for any space. Whether creating an urban nest, country retreat or personalizing your everyday home, Robert Northington is here to help. Their services include remodels, room additions, kitchen and bath design, indoor/outdoor living space design and custom cabinetry and furniture design. They also specialize in window treatments as well as paint color, furniture and decorative accessory selection and placement.


BAYBERRY COTTAGE. 510 Phoenix St., South Haven. 269.639.9615. One of South Haven's most well-known shops, Gwen DeBruyn's Bayberry Cottage features home furnishings and accessories which include furniture, wall décor, rugs, florals and bath and body products. Interior design services are also available, and items can be special ordered if not in stock.

DECORATING DEN INTERIORS. 269.266.7094. This award-winning international design firm provides full-service, professional interior decorating. Well-trained decorators bring their ideas and expertise directly to clients' homes, along with fabrics, furniture, floor and wall coverings, lighting and other accessories.

HARBOR TOWN INTERIORS. 613 Broad St, St. Joseph. 269.983.7774. Harbor Town Interiors offers home décor items such as furniture, mattresses, bed coverings, rugs, and home accessories. Gift items and full service design consultation are available.

IMPERIAL FURNITURE. 57530 M-51 S, Dowagiac. 269.782.5020. Imperial Furniture was started in 1962 by Russ and Eleanor Klapchuk and was known as Imperial Bedding Company. Originally, it manufactured custom-made mattresses and box springs. With the addition of headboards, chests and upholstered goods, within 10 years the company outgrew its downtown location, moving to its current site. Today, the Klapchuks' daughter, Carol, and her husband, Art Springsteen, own the business. The family provides an old-fashioned atmosphere, where shopping is fun and there are no high-pressure salesmen. Customers say it's the best-kept secret in southwest Michigan.

RETROSEKSUAL. 408 E Britain Ave, Benton Harbor, Michigan. Retroseksual sources modern, retro, kitsch, tiki, lounge styles and much more; restoring that which was cool and altering the rest. Retroseksual specializes in Heywood Wakefield restoration with 3rd generation upholstery services available. The workshop is currently reworking vintage shades with cool fabrics.



DORMAN GARAGE, INC. 1317 Lake St, LaPorte. 219.324.7646. With more than twenty years of experience, Dorman Garage specializes in classic car restoration. Aside from offering restoration services, there is also a large inventory of restored classic automobiles for sale.



CENTER FOR OTOLARYNGOLOGY. 9120 Columbia Ave, Ste A, Munster. 219.836.4820. Bethany Cataldi, D.O., specializes in ear, nose and throat surgery and facial plastic surgery. In fact, she is the only female facial plastic surgeon in Northwest Indiana who's been specifically trained in surgery of the face, head and neck. Dr. Cataldi's expertise in such procedures exclusively ranges all spectrums, from topical treatments like skin peels, to hair removal, to full nasal construction.

OBSTETRICAL & GYNECOLOGICAL ASSOCIATES, INC. 1101 E Glendale Blvd, Ste 102, Valparaiso. 877.462.6249. The board-certified obstetrician-gynecologists—Drs. Murphy, Rutherford, Short, and Strickland—at this clinic specialize in pregnancy care, family planning, infertility and menopause, along with general women's wellness. Patients are made to feel at ease because of the clinic's state-of-the-art equipment and a skilled staff.



MUTUAL BANK, KATHY SELLERS. 307 W Buffalo St, New Buffalo. 269.469.5552. Kathy Sellers is a Mutual Bank agent who services both first-time home buyers and seasoned investors. Mutual Bank specializes in investments and wealth management for businesses and personal clients.



BRIGATA HILLS. 200 W 500 N, Valparaiso. 219.746.6881. Brigata Hills is a luxury new home community located in Porter County, within Valparaiso city limits and just 5 minutes from downtown. Served by the esteemed Valparaiso School System, families living in Brigata Hills have access to academically-acclaimed high schools, middle schools and elementary education. Less than an hour drive or train ride from Chicago or to the Lake Michigan’s beach towns, the variety of cultural, environmental and entertainment opportunities is limitless.

COLDWELL BANKER, DAWN BERNHARDT. 2110 N Calumet Ave, Valparaiso. 219.241.0952. Dawn Bernhardt is the go-to agent for homes in Chesterton's luxurious Sand Creek subdivision, along with other properties in Porter, LaPorte and Lake Counties. The website offers an abundance of resources for both buyers and sellers.

COLDWELL BANKER, DONNA HOFMANN. 219.331.1133. Donna Hofmann, Coldwell Banker and Residential Brokerage, specializes in residential properties in the Indiana Dunes.

McCOLLY REAL ESTATE. Various Locations. Since 1974, McCOLLY Real Estate has provided superior service by understanding personal needs. Whether the customer is a first time home buyer, resale, commercial, land, new construction or luxury home buyer, McColly is there to provide the best options. From purchase to financing to rentals and relocating, we provide one stop real estate with you in mind throughout our local communities, nationally and internationally.


COLDWELL BANKER RESIDENTIAL BROKERAGE. 10 N Whittaker St, New Buffalo. 269.469.3950. New Buffalo’s premier real estate firm features properties in Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin. Both the in-office staff and the Coldwell Banker website offer multiple services and resources for buyers and sellers.

HARBOR SHORES RESORT. 269.932.1600. Southwest Michigan's biggest, most talked about project is underway in Benton Harbor. The residential community will include a Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course, marinas, an indoor water park and a luxury spa. The property is surrounded by two rivers and five beaches. Custom home sites and cottages are available.


DEWITT PLACE. 900 N DeWitt Pl, Chicago. 312.642.7020. This 82-unit vintage building, built in 1924, offers corporate housing, temporary furnished apartment rentals and long-term temporary housing solutions. These studio and one-bedroom apartments come with a variety of amenities, including a fully equipped kitchen, wireless Internet access, DirecTV satellite service and an exercise room.



ELLE SALON. 113 W 8th St, Michigan City. 219.874.3553. This upscale salon, situated in Michigan City's historic district, offers full-service hair care, plus manicures, pedicures and facial waxing. Retail products include skin care, body care, a men's line, wooden styling tools, a full line of Aveda products, and other calming items such as Aveda teas, candles and oils.

SKINFULLY SMOOTH. 1 Jefferson Street, Valparaiso. 219.246.9159. Skinfully Smooth offers medical and cosmetic skincare procedures in the luxury of a spa environment. Customers can enjoy services such as laser hair removal, microdermabrasion, waxing, anti-aging treatments, vein treatments and more.



INN AT ABERDEEN. 3158 S State Rd 2, Valparaiso. 219.465.3753. Located in the beautiful and prestigious Aberdeen neighborhood, just minutes from downtown Valparaiso, the Inn at Aberdeen is a comfortable and convenient place to stay. A variety of unique rooms and suites are available, as well as a Flavia coffee and tea bar, a full gourmet breakfast every morning, and all of the amenities needed for both a personal and business stay. A conference room is available for business meetings and private parties.


THE BOULEVARD INN. 521 Lake Blvd, St. Joseph. 269.983.6600. Warmth and coziness are a theme at this historic hotel in St. Joseph. From the plush furniture in the lobby to the comfort food at the Bistro, to the luxurious amenities in the hotel's suites, the Boulevard offers more than just a place to stay. Business and fitness centers are also available for use.



THE PORTER COUNTY MUSEUM. 153 S Franklin Street, Valparaiso. 219.465.3595. The Porter County Museum–also known as the PoCo Muse–is a small, yet dynamic institution that aims to share the stories of Porter County and its people. The museum features permanent as well as temporary exhibits, and provides educational programs year round. Several school groups, scout troops, and organizations come from all over the county to tour the museum and learn about Porter County’s history.


POINT O' WOODS. 1516 Roslin Road, Benton Harbor. 269.944.1433. Point O’ Woods, located near the shores of Lake Michigan, is famous for the Robert Trent Jones Sr. Championship Golf Course. Amenities include a new clubhouse, re-designed Pro Shop, poolside cabana, tennis courts and family friendly activities. The large enclosed event tent is perfect for hosting family gatherings, business functions and parties. In warm weather, members can enjoy a drink on the large outdoor deck off the clubhouse bar with its majestic views of the sweeping 18th green.

SOUTHWESTERN MICHIGAN TOURIST COUNCIL. 2300 Pipestone Rd, Benton Harbor. 269.925.6301. The natural attractions of Southwest Michigan—the dunes, miles of scenic Lake Michigan beach, rivers and parks with hiking trails and biking paths—offer beauty in every season. The friendly staff at this nonprofit organization can assist travelers whether they seek solitude or a group learning experience.

ST. JOSEPH TODAY. 421 State St, St. Joseph. 269.985.1111. Visitors to St. Joseph will find a variety of helpful information—on shopping, dining and events—at this welcome center. St. Joseph Today is a nonprofit organization that assists and encourages local business and tourism development.



ALBERT'S DIAMOND JEWELERS. 711 Main St, Schererville. 219.322.2700. Besides the fact that Albert's showcases 12,000 square feet of jewelry, the store in itself is an entertainment destination. A bar, large-screen TV, dance floor and karaoke are among the many ways that patrons can let loose while browsing every type of fine jewelry imaginable. Brands include Cartier, Breitling, Omega, Tacori, Roberto Coin, David Yurman, Mikimoto, with more than 100 feet of bridal jewelry on display.

INDIAN SUMMER, CHESTERTON. 131 S Calumet Rd, Chesterton. 219.983.9994. This women's clothing boutique offers casual and contemporary clothing and jewelry from around the world. Indian Summer features brands such as Sympli, Oh My Gauze, Connie's Moonlight, Habitat, Miracle Body and San Diego Hat Co. The Chesterton shop offers a large selection of apparel, jewelry and accessories, while the original New Buffalo storefront continues to feature its quality inventory for those on the other side of the lake.


INDIAN SUMMER, NEW BUFFALO. 126 S Whittaker St, New Buffalo. 269.469.9994. This women's clothing boutique offers casual and contemporary clothing and jewelry from around the world. Indian Summer features brands such as Sympli, Oh My Gauze, Connie's Moonlight, Habitat, Miracle Body and San Diego Hat Co. The the original New Buffalo storefront continues to feature its quality inventory, while the Chesterton shop offers a large selection of apparel, jewelry and accessories for those on the other side of the lake.

April 17, 2014 7:00 am Photos


Lighting sets the atmosphere for your home

Lighting sets the atmosphere for your home

Jenny Mitschelen is the owner/designer at Decorating Den Interiors in Bridgman, Michigan. Decorating Den provides full-service interior design service and home furnishings. Jenny takes pride in seeing a project through from concept to completion.

What types of lighting is trendy this year?

In 2014, we are continuing to see lighting that is more sculptural and whimsical. Materials such as plywood, concrete and even paper are being used to create unusual pendant lights. It truly is art suspended from the ceiling.

What trends are on the way out?

Believe it or not, we are seeing fewer brushed nickel fixtures, while warmer metals are on the rise. The new gold, copper and bronze finishes have more depth and dimension. I think we will be seeing interiors that lean a little more traditional. Incorporating this warm metal trend into your design is a great way to achieve that welcoming atmosphere while keeping your design fresh and current.

What does lighting add to a room?

Lighting is the most important accessory for every room. We all have to have light, so we might as well make a style statement with it. A great lamp or ceiling fixture is like the jewelry completing your outfit. Minimalist styles with straight lines and less ornamentation will make a space feel sleek and modern. A more traditional piece, such as a brass urn lamp or a crystal chandelier, will instantly add a little formality and glam. What is exciting is, in recent years, the sky is the limit. More often, we are seeing pieces that use a mix of styles and materials to create lighting that is truly unique.

How do I know what type of light is right for a room?

Lighting is not only customizable according to your style, it also provides a much-needed function in every room. Before you purchase a lamp or fixture, consider how and where you will use it. Will this piece provide the necessary light for your tasks? Will it be too bright, or too dim? Do you need a dimmer or a three-way lamp switch and bulb? The ideal amount of light in a space depends on the user’s needs and preferences.

How do I update the lights I have in my home?

The easiest way to change your lamps or light fixtures is to switch out the shades. Home improvement stores have quite a variety of options. Try to think outside the box and experiment with mixing styles. I have a pair of heirloom brass lamps that had tired, outdated pleated-linen shades on them. I switched them out for burlap drum shades. The formality is instantly toned down and it’s a great change. If you are a do-it-yourself’er, check out the options for spray painting a fixture or even using a decoupage treatment, decal or stencil. Again, the options are limitless.

April 17, 2014 3:00 am

Choose artwork, accessories based on what you love

Choose artwork, accessories based on what you love

Gwen DeBruyn is the founder and director of creative design at Bayberry Cottage in South Haven, Michigan. The store opened in 2001 and is known for its unique, affordable furniture and accessories. Bayberry Cottage has become a destination store where customers come to get inspired and find their personal style.

What should I consider when choosing artwork or accessories for a room?

Your artwork and accessories should have a connection with the room they are in. What colors have you already established in your space? Make sure your artwork and accessories pick up or compliment those colors. It also is important to keep scale and proportion in mind. Paying attention to these small details creates harmony in your room. In other words, a large, empty wall will probably require larger-scaled artwork. If you have collections you would like to display, consider displaying them together for high impact. Art and accessories should be added to your room last, as they have the ability to pull your room together. when done properly, those details will give it the finished look you are striving for.

What themes are trendy right now, and why?

Themes are not trending, but “collected” is. When we design a room, even when everything Is new, we strive to create a space that looks as if its pieces have been collected over time. Don’t misunderstand, the room still needs to be cohesive. Collected doesn’t mean bringing every style you love into a room, but rather, choose a few pieces that you love that aren’t matched. When you are out shopping, look for special pieces, it could be a vintage piece, or something rustic or warn to mix in with all the existing elements in your room. Having a “collected” space is much warmer and definitely more interesting.

What establishes trends?

Trends aren’t as easy to track as they once were. It used to be that the Home Design Industry followed the fashion industry. It is true that every year, both industries follow the “Color of the Year” established by Pantone, and the newest textiles introduced by the yarn industry. However, with the proliferation of social media, particularly Pinterest, Houzz and some really terrific interior design bloggers, we no longer see the trends coming from the catwalk, but rather many different medias.

What are good accessories or artwork pieces that are inexpensive and can be easily interchanged to give the room a new, fresh look?

One of the more interesting and inexpensive ways to accessories is with items you have been collecting over time. Focus on similar sizes and colors, then gather them in one spot so you can enjoy your collection and avoid the cluttered look that happens when your collections are scattered around your room.

If you really want to change a room up and give it a fresh new look, bring in a new colorful rug. Large-scale artwork is another great way to change up a room. It doesn’t have to be expensive art. Unframed art is reasonably priced and can make a dramatic statement. Fun, new lighting makes a big change in the way your room looks. Again, go a little bold, bring in some color in the base, and keep in mind scale - a larger lamp next to your sofa will keep things in proportion.

April 15, 2014 12:00 am Photos


Some kitchen trends are worth investing in

Some kitchen trends are worth investing in

Robert Northington is owner of Robert Northington Interior Design in Valparaiso, which was founded in 2010. Robert Northington is a licensed Indiana Interior Designer and his firm specializes in all phases of interior design, from concept to completion.

What are some current kitchen remodeling trends?

Of course kitchens that cater to the “home chef” and aspiring gourmet cooks are all the rage. Commercial grade appliances, refrigerators that may have glass doors, and cabinetry that look like furniture are prevailing trends.

What kitchen trends and appliances are worth investing in?

Kitchens and baths offer the best returns, not only for resale but for “quality of life” for the home’s inhabitants. The open floor plan trend in kitchens embraces gathering together, yet offers opportunities to create separate areas within the same space.

What are some trends in kitchen cabinets, countertops and color palates?

A current cabinetry trend is mixing wood finishes, paints and stains. Quartz for counter tops and exotic materials such as quartzite are very “in” these days. Just like contrasting cabinetry finishes, mixing counter materials has proven popular as well. Overall color palettes have gone gray, though white still remains the top selling cabinet color throughout the country.

How can I incorporate more storage into my kitchen?

If your budget allows, collaborate with a designer. They have sources for storage solutions. Amenities such as appliance garages keep counters free of clutter. There are some pull-out options that allow easy access to deep corner cabinets, along with other options that make narrow cabinets functional for pantry space.

How can I redecorate my kitchen on a budget?

Planning and research will save you the most money when doing a remodel. Start an inspiration folder, Pinterest kitchen board, or log into Houzz to keep your ideas and information orderly. Go shopping, find out what things cost and establish a realistic budget. To get the most bang for your buck, keep it simple and work within an existing footprint, if possible. Moving a wall can quickly become a budget buster.

April 15, 2014 12:00 am Photos


Repurposing furniture gives home unique look

Repurposing furniture gives home unique look

Dale and Mary Porter opened Hammond Salvage and Resale in December 2002. They run the store with their daughter, Jessica, and sell antiques, used furniture, household items and some vintage clothing. Although many resale shops rely on donated items, Hammond Salvage and Resale buys items from different sources and prides itself in providing its customers with unique items that you can’t find at the big box stores.

What trends are popular in your store?

Right now, trends in decorating are the industrial look, bright colors, and painted items that are sanded a little bit to give them a worn look.

What can a customer who shops at a resale and salvage shop expect?

People need not be afraid of salvage and resale stores. Most shop keepers want to help the customer find the treasure they desire. Usually, a little bargaining takes place. When making an offer on something, think about what it took to get that item there. The store is there to make money, too, and not give things away.

How can I repurpose something I find into something else?

Customers find all kinds of stuff in our store to repurpose into other things. For example, old doors become headboards, and four mismatched chairs painted similarly become a set. Old wood crates become shelves or side tables, and old bikes can become planters in the yard. Old costume jewelry can become a unique accessory for a wedding party or typewriter keys can become jewelry. A buffet table becomes a TV stand, or a large end table with a drawer can be a child’s desk.

We have a lot of dealers and shop owners who shop our store to find items that they can rework and sell in their own store or show at a flea market.

If I’ve never repurposed anything in my home, what is a good way to start?

Sometimes customers are intimidated by projects. I tell them to take their time and if you screw up, you don’t have a lot of money invested. It’s not so bad to start over or say this is not my cup of tea. You always learn from the experience.

Where can I find ideas on how to repurpose something?

People get a lot of ideas on repurposing things now from Pinterest. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel to come up with cool ideas for using old stuff in a new way. It is a good idea to check your favorite shopping places often, so when you find something interesting buy it right away. It probably won’t be there next time you come back, and we can’t order another one.

April 15, 2014 12:00 am Photos


Nutritious gardens: Master gardners share ways any gardener can grow produce

Nutritious gardens: Master gardners share ways any gardener can grow produce

Choosing which fruits and vegetables to plant in your garden can often feel like a stop light: green—even newbies shouldn’t have problems, yellow—use caution if you’re a novice, and red—don’t even think about it.

April is often a month of planning for gardeners, and local master gardeners say this is the perfect time to research which plants have the best odds at producing bountiful returns, and which ones you’re willing to take a chance on.

Whether you’re a beginner or master at gardening, here are some recommendations from local gardeners of fruits and vegetables you should try this season.


Sacha Gee-Burns said she loves tomatoes. In fact, the operator of an organic farm in LaPorte specializes in growing chemical-free heirloom varieties—75 varieties of tomatoes alone.

“For beginners, the best plants to start a garden with are hybrid variety tomato plants, which are bred to be more resistant to an array of issues that plague gardeners from time to time,” she said.

Most first-time gardeners should be successful growing a few basic root vegetables as well, like radishes, carrots and beets, said Bill Tobin, an Illinois Master Gardener.

“Kids especially get a bang out of sowing these seeds in early spring and watching little green sprouts pop up a week or two later,” he said. “Just follow the directions on the seed packet and be sure to thin the seedlings when they come up so they are not crowded and spindly.”

Greens like lettuce and Swiss chard are also fairly easy to direct sow in the spring garden, Tobin said.

“Onion sets, both for full-sized onions and for scallions, are also easy to grow,” he said.

Because soils in Northwest Indiana—whether clay or sandy—can be a challenge for new gardeners to grow in because of their alkaline nature, amending the soil to bring the PH closer to neutral is important, said Maureen Phillips, with Porter County Master Gardeners.

“One way to control the soil is to use raised beds,” she said. “After amending my clay for several years, I added raised beds a couple of years ago. That way, I can better control the soil that’s in the box to give my plants the nourishment they need to flourish.”


Those who have tried gardening for a few years and have had success should try incorporating some heirloom varieties, Gee-Burns said.

“While the yields are usually lower, the flavor definitely makes up for it,” she said. “Raspberries and strawberries are great fruits to try as long as you can wait a year for them to take root for your first crop.”

Experienced gardeners should also try various types of “cucurbits”—from cucumbers and easy summer varieties of squash like zucchini to winter varieties like acorn, spaghetti and butternut. Although they are fairly easy to grow, Tobin said, they require a lot of space and insect pests like vine borers can be a problem.

“Also at this stage, gardeners might like to try brassicas, like broccoli and cabbage,” he said. “Cauliflower and Brussels sprouts are a little trickier and are often grown in the fall.”

Asparagus, leeks and okra are also great options for gardeners wanting to try something new, though each has its own challenges and requires some advanced know-how and a lot of patience, Tobin said.

Though potatoes are fun to grow, they also require deep planting of seed potatoes, or little cut-up pieces of a potato, and proper care as they grow.

“They are well worth the effort because nothing is fluffier and tastier than a home-grown potato right out of the ground,” Tobin said.

Phillips recommended more experienced gardeners to start plants from seed. Doing so increases their cultivar options beyond the bedding plants stocked at the store, she said.

“Growing organically is definitely for experienced gardeners because it requires close attention to plants and insects, but you do know what’s in your food when you grow it organically,” she said.


Gardeners with advanced skills often look for new challenges, which is why Gee-Burns recommends trying more unique varieties of edibles.

“Pattypan squash, which taste similar to summer squash, are really fun saucer shaped vegetables,” she said. “They require good insect pollination, which may be tricky for newbie gardeners to arrange.”

Currants and blueberries, which have more specific soil needs, are also good challenges for advanced gardeners, she said.

April 14, 2014 9:00 pm Photos


At Home: Moving forces new appreciation for the routine

At Home: Moving forces new appreciation for the routine

It’s 7 a.m. Do you know where your toothbrush is?

If you do, and you can also find your phone charger, put your hands on a clean towel, and have all you need at hand to make a cup of coffee, be grateful.

For the last 48 hours, I’ve had none of this.

Every time I move—and if you’ll excuse me, I am going to pause here for a moment of prayer: Dear God, Let this be the last time I move for a while because this is taking years off my life and I would like to meet my unborn grandchildren some day, and I have plans and places I would like to visit in one piece, and, besides, moving is hard as heck on my fingernails and makes me pop Advil like jelly beans, which can’t be good—I remember the importance of patterns.

Patterns matter. They are the tracks that ground your days, the rudders that keep you on the roiling sea of life. All your patterns get destroyed when you take every one of your earthly possessions and put them all at once in a new place.

Moving, as I have done this past week for the fourth time in three years, defines disruption. And it’s why I am staring into space, trying with the mental might of Stephen Hawking to remember where in the universe my favorite pillow is.

I do not thrive in chaos. Anyone who says he does is lying.

The hardest part of moving isn’t physical, though the packing, loading, unloading and unpacking is exhausting, to be sure. The hardest part is mental, making thousands of small interconnected decisions in short order about where to put, well, everything. Because where you put stuff when you set up house dictates your routine in a way that will either help you move through your day efficiently, or not.

When all is in place, you can swiftly get dressed, put on mascara, feed the dog, pay a bill, check Facebook, scramble an egg, floss, set the table and recycle the newspaper on autopilot. Thus, you can devote more brain space to bigger issues like how to land that big client or contemplate the future of Obamacare.

Moving tosses a hand grenade in all that.

Now the benefit of moving, which I am trying hard to stay focused on otherwise I will go sit on the curb by the garbage cans and swill straight shots of whiskey, is that you inadvertently find better ways to do things. Given a fourth chance, you have epiphanies: Oh, why not store the can opener by the canned goods!

Whether you’re moving (my sympathies) or well established and settled in your home (congratulations), carefully consider or reconsider each of your acts of daily living, and see if you can streamline them even more. A few thoughtful changes can payoff in more time, more brain space, and, quite possibly, a longer life. Here are some patterns to look at:

• Morning and bedtime rituals. You want to spend these times of day thinking about the day ahead and processing the day just ending. You don’t want to be rummaging through the hair appliances, knocking over the toilet bowl cleaner to find your body lotion. You need systems. Hair brushes and hair appliances together. Cold cream next to the floss. Razor by the shaving cream. Think of what you do, when, where and with what, and pull it all together.

• Coffee makes and breaks. Set up a coffee station in your kitchen so you can make coffee without taking any steps. That means locate the coffee maker, coffee, filters, cups—for here and to go—and stirring spoons so they’re all in arms’ reach.

• Place settings everyone. This is so forehead-smacking obvious, but you’d be surprised at the number of kitchens that aren’t organized around this principle: Store silverware, placemats and napkins closest to the table where you eat. Likewise, store hot pads and cooking utensils close the stove.

• The daily mail. Of course you sort it immediately, right? After you prune the junk, set the rest in a dedicated place, such as a lovely platter, or basket.

• Coming and going. Create a landing and launch pad. This is where you drop your keys and coat when you walk in, and grab them as you go. It’s also where you set your purse, computer bag, lunch sack, coupons and anything else you want to take with you.

• Recycling. Put your recycle bin in a convenient place, because the easier something is to do, the more likely you are to do it. And recycling is the right thing to do.

You get the idea. Living well is a lot less about where you live, and far more about how you live. Now if I could just find my pillow.

Syndicated columnist and speaker Marni Jameson is the author of “House of Havoc” and “The House Always Wins” (Da Capo Press). Contact her through

April 12, 2014 9:00 am

How I got a chalkboard wall

How I got a chalkboard wall

"I was looking for something else on Pinterest" is the simplest explanation of how I got a chalkboard wall. But my willingness to completely ignore adequate sleep requirements while following pins leading entirely away from my original search is typical of how I’m likely to come across an idea for a home improvement project. That is to say, these random searches occur late at night or on weekends only.

I had followed a trail that started with “interior design” but eventually led to the big “do-it-yourself” scrapbook on the site. Then I looked for “walls” inside of that cluster. “Chalkboard walls,” was not much of a leap from there, but I was surprised by how many chalkboards were there considering I don’t follow that many people.

Several chalkboard walls were in kitchens with grocery lists on them, which made me think of my daughter-in-law who has two small children and not much time. On a chalkboard hanging on the kitchen wall, she has a two-week menu plan with main ingredients in a grocery list underneath the meals. When she leaves to go to the store, she takes a picture of the chalkboard with her phone.

Not all the chalkboard walls I saw were practical. Some were amazingly inventive and cool: Like the loft wall with a high-ceiling chalkboard that I imagined would look great with ornate chandeliers drawn on it; another chalkboard wall had absolutely everything stuck to it in a rectangular collage, including photos in frames and pages ripped out of magazines taped underneath chalk drawings.

I quickly came to the conclusion that I needed a chalkboard wall and did a search to find out where to get the paint. (Everywhere.) I already had the painter—Alex Anderson, who had been to our house to assess the extent of our spring tune-up—who was scheduled to begin working on the second floor bedrooms in a few days.

I gave brief consideration to the kitchen idea but I don’t have much wall space in the kitchen. Given that I never start grocery lists, avoid shopping whenever possible and rarely cook, there was no need to have a chalkboard wall there. But I do have a big empty wall—once I removed a picture —with one electrical outlet on it that I don’t really need. That chalkboard wall would be easy to reach for people who are only 2-3 feet tall. And the wall is handy to built-in shelves where I could stockpile chalk and an eraser or two. So Alex put another task on his to-do list and my husband Jeff made another trip to Menard’s. He came back with the Rust-oleum version of blackboard paint in a smallish can. Although the wall took three coats, there was still paint left.

The helpful paint seller told Jeff that the wall would need three days to dry, but we ended up giving it an extra day anyway. I was lucky enough that a situation developed where the first people to draw on the chalkboard happened to be professional artists and designers. So now there is a wall with an overstuffed chair, a window with curtains, and a table with flowers and a simple floor plan on the chalkboard.

I still have to get an eraser, but I keep forgetting because there is nothing on the chalkboard that I want to erase yet. But 2-3 foot tall people have shorter attention spans than I do.

You can follow my Pinterest board by friending me on Facebook or just go find me on Pinterest yourself. Or look for chalkboard walls and you’ll see the walls I’ve pinned and my own wall. If you think you should have a chalkboard wall, you are probably right.

April 10, 2014 12:00 pm Photos


Many options when selecting doors for your home

Many options when selecting doors for your home

Meghan Healey-Hunter has been in retail sails for Schilling in St. John for eight years. Schilling, which has been in business for more than 65 years, prides itself in having the knowledge and versatility to serve every customer, regardless of budget or the complexity of their home improvement project.

What kinds of door styles are currently popular?

The most popular style for exterior doors is definitely stain-grade fiberglass. The customer is able to achieve the look of wood without the maintenance issues that are associated with wood. Fiberglass has a greater insulation value and eliminates warping, cupping and cracking. Especially in the Midwest, this is desirable because of our climate changes. Interior doors are moving away from stainable doors towards paint-grade, or hardboard, doors. Especially when painting a door, using a man-made, one piece skin, versus a door that has stiles, rails and panels that naturally expand and contract, will eliminate exposure of paint lines.

What colors are popular for doors?

For interior doors, use colors that are neutral, ranging from white to cream. On the rare occasion we do get a customer that has a flare for the out-of-the-ordinary look, we see colors becoming more saturated in the charcoal to black range.

Exterior stain colors are trending towards the darker side: English walnut and walnut. Paints are more saturated colors like black, naval and French roast, all by Sherwin Williams.

How should I choose an exterior door for my home?

When selecting an exterior door, think about warranty and service. Schilling works with the best in the industry, and if I wouldn’t put a product in my own home, I am going to be less inclined to push the product. Secondly, make sure you select materials like fiberglass that are not going to tie me to them for maintenance. A simple rinse with the hose and a wipe of the glass and my door is back to looking fresh and new. Finally, door jamb material that holds the door/sidelight is essential, as well. Select a hard wood or material such as Alaskan Yellow Cypress that will deter moisture absorption as well as insect infiltration.

What can sidelights add to a door?

Doors with sidelights are a great look. They can add elegance to an otherwise plain or modest home. We find most often when this combination is utilized that the door is either full to three-quarters light with coordinating sidelights. Introduced just last year is a door sidelight combination that has sidelights that vent. The sidelights have full-length screens on the outside of the unit so the panels will open towards the interior of the home. This option gives the homeowner the ability to ventilate their entryway and get away from using a storm door.

What kinds of doors are fading in popularity?

I find fewer people are requesting the traditional, 6-panel doors. Trends seem to be moving towards a more transitional look that is neither defined as traditional or contemporary. They are doors with cleaner lines and less panel detail.

How often should my exterior door be replaced?

Exterior doors have the same life expectancy as roofing materials. The assumption is that a door will last forever, but that is not the case. On average, a door should be replaced in the 20-25 year range, depending on the quality of materials utilized in the initial installation.

How do I freshen up the look of my exterior door without actually replacing it?

A nice coat of good quality exterior-grade paint can transform the most mundane front door into a show stopper. Ideally, three colors are utilized on the exterior of your home in the roofing, siding or brick and the windows. The front door can then be the pop of color to make it the focal point and give visitors an insight to the décor of your home.

April 08, 2014 5:22 pm Photos


Fireplaces can be focal point of room

Fireplaces can be focal point of room

Michael Harrigan and his wife, Nancy, have operated Munster-based Architectural Accents for 25 years. The shop offers architectural millwork and custom cabinetry and specializes in curved interior trim for homes, including casing, baseboards and crown moldings. They also design and build fireplace mantels, entertainment centers, bookcases and furniture. He also is a lieutenant with the Munster Fire Department.

What types of styles of fireplaces are there?

Fireplaces and their accompanying mantels and surrounds have always been, and continue to be, one of the main focal points of a home. Styles range from a simple shelf on a stone or brick fireplace wall to a shelf with breast and legs all the way to a full ceiling height installation with columns and over mantel paneling.

What are some of the styles that are popular today?

Styles today are trending to simpler lines and lighter colored, simpler-grained woods. Instead of raised panels, we are seeing flat panels with beaded edges. Instead of stained oak, we are seeing natural cherry or maple. White painted finishes continue to be popular. The fireplace style can either continue the millwork theme from the rest of the house, or it can be a statement piece, like a stained furniture look in a white painted trim package.

How can I update the look of my fireplace?

Existing fireplaces with a dated look can be refreshed. New tile or granite can be applied over existing masonry face and a wood surround can be designed and built to be slipped over the existing fireplace wall.

How can I add a custom built-in to my fireplace?

In many homes, the fireplace has space for cabinets on one or both sides. This is a perfect location for an entertainment center, bookcase or curio cabinet. Again, the styles and materials are trending to cleaner lines and lighter finishes. The entertainment centers don’t have to be as deep as in the past to fit the new flat panel televisions. The cabinets can be designed to look like freestanding furniture or be built in. At Architectural Accents, the most important thing is to design and build a mantel or cabinet that exactly matches the homeowner’s vision.

How do I decide what size fireplace would work well in my home?

The size of the room and the height of the ceiling helps dictate the size of the fireplace. You don’t want to overpower the room and you don’t want a small surround getting lost in a big room. A rule of thumb is that the shelf should be elbow-high to a standing man, which is about 58 inches. Keep proportions in mind. If you have a beefy shelf and breast panel, you don’t want to skimp and have skinny legs.

I have a limited budget. Can I still have something custom made?

One of the side effects of simpler and cleaner lines and natural finishes are slightly lower costs. Without fluting, carving and extensive moldings, the material and labor costs go down. Natural finishes omit the staining step and help keep the costs down, as well.

April 08, 2014 5:03 pm Photos


Quality furniture pieces are worth investing in

Quality furniture pieces are worth investing in

Michele Ramirez is general manager and a senior designer at Walter E. Smithe Furniture in Merrillville. She began her career with Smithe 15 years ago and assists her clients with furnishing and decorating their homes and businesses.

What colors, patterns and textures are on trend this year?

Purple is a strong color trend in 2014, all shades from light to dark are popular. Geometrics and botanicals are popular patterns this year. Solids with lots of textures are also popular. Luxury neutrals, warmer neutrals with lots of texture, are a big trend this year.

Are there any styles that are out this year?

Light blues with tans, or light blues with taupe or browns are out.

What are some furniture trends?

Mid-Century Modern is on trend right now. We are seeing a lot more clients going with bolder, more vibrant colors. Rustic Contemporary, or Urban Contemporary or Industrial Contemporary are all hot right now. We have a lot of reclaimed wood pieces that are very popular, especially for dining rooms. People are moving away from formal, traditional dining rooms. We see a lot more upholstered dining room chairs instead of just upholstered seats for dining tables and dinette tables. Traditional casual is much more common these days than traditional formal or French Country. Cottage Contemporary is still popular, too.

How can working with an interior designer benefit me?

The interior designers here at Smithe give complimentary design consultations to our clients who are purchasing with us. So before any purchasing decisions are made, clients can have a designer come out to the house and work within their budget. It could be for one piece, or for a whole room. It really helps to have a second expert opinion to help give people a new perspective on their space and what would work best in that space. Design is for everyone, not just the rich and famous. We try our best to get that across to everyone who comes into our store. Everyone should have an inviting home that they can enjoy, no matter what their budget.

How do I figure out what size or scale furniture will work well in a room?

Having a designer out to your house is important. Designers can see the space, take measurements and evaluate what scale would work best for you. Using a designer is a wise choice when purchasing any furniture. It will save you from making big mistakes and makes the process of furniture buying easier.

What pieces of furniture are worth investing in?

A good rug is worth investing in. It can be moved from room to room and it helps anchor a space or define a conversation area. Window treatments are also a good investment. We do a lot of custom window treatments here at Smithe and it really takes a room from nice to wow!

If I have a limited budget and want to freshen up a room, what one piece of furniture should I add?

If you’d like to freshen up a room, add paint and a good sofa. The sofa should be heirloom quality with 8-way, hand-tied springs with a hardwood kiln-dried frame. It will last you for years and can be reupholstered. You can build around a good sofa. Fresh paint will freshen up any room.

April 08, 2014 5:07 pm Photos


There are many options for great sunroom décor

There are many options for great sunroom décor

Carolyn DeYoung is an interior designer at DeYount Interiors, which has been located in St. John since 2005. DeYoung and Sons has been in business in the region since 1929. Carolyn DeYoung has a degree in fine arts in interior design from Harrington College of Design and has been working at the store since 2005. She specializes in living room design and custom window treatments. 

What types of furniture work well in sunrooms?

Sunroom furniture does not have to be wicker. My clients usually prefer a mix of comfortable, fully upholstered pieces mixed in with more causal wicker pieces.

What fabrics, textures and patterns work well in sunrooms?

I like to use a variety of textures in a sunroom to create warmth and visual interest. The natural textures in wicker and rattan work well in combination with upholstered pieces.

A sunroom is a good place to use Sunbrella fabrics that resist sun damage and fading. They are also more resistant to staining. I am seeing a lot of bright florals and bold geometric prints from our fabric vendors. Herringbone continues to be a popular choice for larger items such as sofas and sectionals. These more subtle patterns then become a backdrop for the brighter colors and unique patterns.

What kind of window treatments work well in a sunroom?

A sunroom is a great place to use woven wood shades or linen draperies. This gives a soft look to a room with a lot of windows. We also can install screen shades to cut down on UV damage to fabric and wood pieces.

What kind of flooring and lighting work best in a sunroom?

Tile flooring usually works best in a sunroom. An area rug can be added to soften the space and also bring in more color and texture. Most sunrooms will have overhead lighting, but I like to add in floor lamps and table lamps to create ambient lighting also.

What are some inexpensive changes I can make in the sunroom to freshen its look?

I like to switch out pillows or paint colors for a quick, inexpensive change in a room.

April 08, 2014 5:05 pm Photos


The foyer can set the tone for your home

The foyer can set the tone for your home

Jan Levan is an ASID interior designer and accredited home stager. She has owned her own interior design company, New Solutions, Inc., for 12 years. She and Tina Hines have co-owned Ambiance Your Home Your Story, Inc. since August 2013. The store specializes in unique home décor items and gifts as well as provides a variety of design services.

What does how your entryway looks say about your home?

There is a saying I use when I am staging a home to sell. “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Whether selling or staying, the entryway is the first thing your guests will see when visiting your home. It should be a reflection of your personality and style and tell the story of your home.

What is essential to have in the entryway?

I believe all entryways should first and foremost have good, stylish lighting. Always have dimmers on foyer lighting so you can set whatever mood you are trying to achieve. A great mirror and a bench or a chair are always great for people coming and going.

What should you avoid having in the entryway?

Shoes, coats, toys and dog beds are just a few of the things that should not be in the foyer when guests arrive. Clutter is not what you want to portray. If you don’t have an entry closet, keep a Rubbermaid bin handy to quickly throw things in and store until company leaves.

What should be the focus in an entryway?

Entryways are not always a large space, so I suggest having one “wow” factor in the area. Adding too much can be overwhelming and distracting. That one thing can be a great fabric on a bench, a special rug or a piece of artwork. That one thing could also be an accent wall with a fun paint color or wallpaper. There are great wallpaper designs out there, but use them sparingly as an accent only. Make sure whatever you use will extend the design and colors from the surrounding rooms.

How do I make quick, inexpensive changes to my entryway?

Quick, easy and inexpensive fixes to update your foyer include changing the paint color, adding some greenery or changing your rug or artwork.

How do I add storage to my foyer?

Storage solutions in foyers will vary based on the size of the area. If there’s space, built-in shelves, cabinets and hooks are great for coats, shoes and bags. In larger spaces, an armoire can be used in place of a closet for a more decorative look. If you have a staircase going upward, you can sometimes utilize the area underneath by adding shelving, with or without doors, built into the wall. Sort on space? Add a decorative coat rack for guests. Baskets or fabric stools with tops that open can be placed under a console table. Trunks can hold many things that aren’t used on a regular basis. Stack them up, put a lamp on top and you have a great foyer table. There are also some great benches available with built-in drawers. Be sure everyone has their own drop spot so items are easy to grab and go on the way out. Don’t forget about some extra space for your guests.

April 08, 2014 4:57 pm

Dozens of flooring options are available

Dozens of flooring options are available

Jennifer Smith opened Floor Art in Benton Harbor, Michigan, in 2011 after working in her family’s business, Tile Mart, for 20 years. Her goal is to create a comfortable, knowledgeable, environment with the most inventory and selection at a great value.

What type of flooring is popular right now?

The hottest trend right now appears to be wood-looking porcelain tile. The variety ranges from traditional chestnut colors to beachy tiles that appear to be sun-washed, hand-painted planks. The advantage to this product is its superior durability over wood. It is great for beach cottages with lots of sand or high-traffic commercial applications.

What color flooring is popular?

Grey has taken over as the number one selling color in the country. However, it is a popular color in our area, but not the top color yet. I think our Lake Michigan sand-colored shoreline influences many of our color selections. However, cooler tones are definitely being embraced. One of my favorite words of the moment is “greige,” a mix of beige and grey.

How do I know what type of flooring to choose?

Explaining your lifestyle to a sales consultant will help you pick the right type of flooring. A busy family of four with a dog wont’ be happy with the performance of a softer wood, like cherry. However, it can be the perfect warm accessory for a master bedroom. A family’s mudroom will be easy to take care of with a durable, non-porous, heavy-duty porcelain tile. Once the consultant knows the area and its use, she can direct you to the best flooring solution.

How practical is sustainable flooring?

There are many great features to cork and bamboo. Cork can be great for tired legs as a softer surface in the kitchen, and it is still easy to clean. On the flip side, the consumer has to be aware that it is not as hard and durable as porcelain tile. Cork will not like stilettos or sharp objects.

Bamboo can lend flair to an Asian-inspired environment. However, its smooth surface will show more scratches and wear in heavy traffic-pattern areas. There are now bamboo-inspired porcelain tiles if you want the benefits of both. Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of each product is key.

Are floor murals popular right now?

Designs incorporated into flooring help make each job unique. We have an artist who creates personal murals. These are a lot of fun, especially for a second home. There are whimsical murals with lighthouses, sailboats, fish, etc. These can be really fun if we incorporate stone that looks like beach rocks. More traditional murals may also be created. They usually come out the best when made in natural stone.

Patterns in flooring using squares and rectangles can also be fun. You’re about to see more pattern being used in design magazines. Patterns such as the herringbone are beginning to make a comeback.

On the other end of the design trend is a minimal look. Scandanavian and contemporary furniture have influenced clean line designs in tile. This look often uses one of the most popular shapes out, which is the 12-inch by 24-inch tile. It is a fun time to decorate because there are so many choices.

What options are there for glass flooring?

There are so many choices. I have never seen a part of our industry morph and change as quickly as it does with glass. There is always a new twist to it - new sizes, new colors, mixed with metal, slate and even metallic foils.

What trends are on the way out?

Trends on the way out would be smaller tiles used in large areas. In the 1990s, a 12-inch by 12-inch tile was considered large, and up to date in the kitchen. Today, people want to see a 12-inch by 24-inch tile or a 16-inch by 16-inch or 18-inch by 18-inch in that larger area. Twelve inch square tiles still play a role in smaller areas.

April 08, 2014 4:50 pm

Accessorize your home beautifully with Ambiance

Accessorize your home beautifully with Ambiance

Tina Hines and Jan LeVan are having loads of fun. They’re not on vacation—they’re in business, and couldn’t be happier as customers eagerly discover all things trendy and must-haves at Ambiance–Your Home Your Story.

“We’re hearing from a lot of people that they’re excited to have a new store in St. John,” says Hines. “Maybe the biggest reason is that they don’t have to travel far to find new, trendy things for their homes.”

Hines says it’s the stories that keep customers coming back.

“Because we take time to really listen to what our customers want, what they need—doesn’t matter if they’re spending ten dollars or a thousand—their stories emerge. We get to know each other—their kids, their pets.

“We’ve gathered merchandise that reflects the mood, character, and impression you want your home to portray, from on-trend to elegant,” explains Hines. She and business partner LeVan go to shows across the country for new things in the market, often items that won’t be found locally.

“Ambiance is the lighting, the mood; what you want to create in your home, it’s what’s refreshing and reflective of who you are,” says Hines.

April 08, 2014 4:52 pm Photos


Options abound for window treatments

Options abound for window treatments

“Expressions by Jan” is a mobile window treatment service owned by Jan Guigue that comes to your home or office. It is based out of South Haven, Michigan and Kalamazoo, Michigan. The South Haven native has been creating custom window treatments and accessories since 1987.

What different types of window treatments are there?

There are many types of window treatments, from traditional draperies to remote control. Also, Smart Windows you can control from your phone. Skylight treatments are available, including screen shades which let you keep the view and light but block the sun’s intense rays. Top-down/bottom-up shades are great. The bottom comes up like a normal shade, but the top can also be lowered, allowing for privacy. All of these shades come in varying degrees of light opacity and control.

What trends are there in window treatments?

The trend now seems to be going back to nature. A lot of woven, natural fabrics are being shown. This texture helps work with the relaxing feel we all want in our lives and homes. As people are entertaining more, they strive for a natural and comfortable area to do this in. Woven shades can be very reasonable and come with a high-end look. Also, retro colors are staying around. A shot of bright pink, lime or orange is just enough color to make a room pop. Used in small doses, it can make a great statement while being budget friendly. A window treatment will be trendy when it looks good, pulls the décor of the house together and just plain has you loving your home. Add in the fact that it is good in helping the insulation of your home and you have a winner.

What is the proper way to measure a window for treatments?

Always width first, height second. However, there is so much more to properly fitting a treatment other than getting the width and height. For instance, will this be an inside mount or outside mount? If it is an inside mount, will the type of treatment desired fit in the space available. Additionally, what will the treatment be mounted into? What problems may be encountered when the installer finally mounts the treatment? This is just a few examples of what I look for when I visit your house. If it looks like it went up with no big deal, then I did my job right.

Do different treatments work better in different rooms or parts of the house?

I come to your home with a van full of samples and work with what you feel you want for an area, while giving suggestions of what I think will work best in an area. For instance, you may want light filtering shades in living areas to highlight the décor of the room, while room darkening shades may be the choice in a bedroom. Window treatments can make or break a room. They can be very cost-effective and their ability to highlight your furniture and artwork is a plus. Their insulation factor helps to keep those heating and cooling bills reasonable makes everyone happy.

How can I make small, cost-effective changes to my existing window treatments to give them a new look?

Add on banding, change side panels or put draperies on a new rod. You can also change the under drape, or add one. Some fringe added to an existing treatment is a great way for a DIY person to show their creativity.

The ways of making a small change with a big impact are endless.

April 08, 2014 4:45 pm

Area rugs serve a variety of purposes

Area rugs serve a variety of purposes

Mary Kay Hylton is co-owner of Harbortown Interiors, located in downtown St. Joseph, Michigan. The store specializes in “relaxed living,” focusing on practical, functional and fabulously fun home furnishings.

What types of area rugs are there?

Area rugs can be made of any number of fibers, with wool probably being the most common and traditional fiber. But nylon, cotton, silk, leather, polyester and polypropylene and natural fibers like sisal and jute are also used.

Styles range from traditional Oriental to super contemporary and shag styles and everywhere in between. Construction can be woven, tufted, knotted or hooked, and rugs can be machine made or hand made. Textures range from flat weaves to thick shag.

What is the purpose of an area rug?

Area rugs are both functional and/or strictly decorative. Often, they are both. A rug can both literally and figuratively anchor the furniture in a room. Furniture that sits on a rug is much less likely to move and slide than furniture that sits on a hard surface, like a wood or tile floor. It will visually designate a conversation area or visually separate a reading space from a TV watching space in a room. Of course, there is always the practical aspect of rugs. They are a way to keep dining chairs from scratching your wood floor or a place to wipe your feet with a rug at the door, or alleviate leg fatigue with a rug in the kitchen in front of the sink. Rugs add texture, color and pattern to any room.

How do I know what size area rug I need?

The size of the room or area and the purpose of the rug will help you decide what size rug you need. Most rugs come in a variety of sizes, ranging from two-feet by three-feet up to 10-feet by 14-feet. Five-by-eight is probably the most common size. A rug in a living room should be large enough to touch the furniture around it. Furniture does not have to literally sit on the rug, but the rug should be the anchor and most of the pieces should appear to be in contact with it.

There is a rule of thumb for a rug under a dining table. Generally, when people sit at a table, they are about 18 inches away from it, so if you want all four of the chair legs to sit on the rug, you need the size of your table, plus three feet or more, if the size of the room allows it. This also accommodates scooting the chair in and out without catching the rug.

What are some trends in area rugs?

A huge trend we are seeing now is indoor/outdoor rugs. Generally made of polypropylene, they are designed for outdoor space like decks and patios. But they have become popular for indoor use because of their unbelievable practicality. They are cleanable, designed to be spot cleaned or hosed off. They are stain resistant, bleach proof and durable. They come in a variety of textures, sizes, wonderful colors and patterns and best of all, are very inexpensive. They can mimic natural fibers like sisal, or hooked wool rugs and are prefect for kitchens, foyers, and even bathrooms.

Do some types of rugs work better in certain rooms?

There are definitely rugs better suited or some areas in your home, some maybe less suited. Sisal rugs are an example. These natural fiber rugs are very popular and they look wonderful in many rooms, but these rugs are woven from very porous fibers. Even water can leave a spot on them. I own a jute rug and it came with this information in the package: “If something spills on your rug, we will keep our fingers crossed for you.” They are generally very reasonably priced, you just have to know you won’t keep it forever. They are also not the softest rug you can put in a room, which is something to remember for bare feet or if kids are playing on the floor. But you can’t beat them for their casual look and great price.

Can an area rug work on any type of flooring?

Rugs are appropriate for any room and any floor surface. They can soften a tile floor or add sound-absorbing qualities to a room. There are a variety of pads or grippers to put under rugs. There is even a specific under layer designed for a rug that is going on top of carpeting. A rug on carpet has a tendency to move and wrinkle and this specific pad has a bit of an adhesive quality that helps eliminate this. It also will help to protect the carpet underneath from color or dye transfer if the rug would happen to get wet.

April 08, 2014 4:33 pm Photos


Bathrooms are trending away from tubs

Bathrooms are trending away from tubs

Ralph Herrbach opened WaterPlace in New Buffalo, Michigan, in 2008 after spending 33 years in the plumbing industry. The business was purchased by Leeps Supply Company in 2009, and is one of the company’s two showrooms. WaterPlace offers plumbing products, cabinetry, countertops and door hardware products.

What are some popular bathroom trends?

Overhead showers, what people call “rain heads,” have been popular for a couple of years. Also, our customers are beginning to realize they typically shower at least once a day, and take baths much less often. Consequently, many are replacing a basic bathtub with a shower area. Transitioning a 60-inch by 34-inch tub space into a shower allows people to update in a practical way that eliminates having to climb into a tub every day for a shower.

People also are wanting to replace the large whirlpool or soaking tub that is dropped into a platform. In this case, we can plan for a large shower area. There are lots of design and feature options available in larger showers, like an open “walk in,” rather than a door, a channel drain at one end of the space, which allows the use of larger floor tile. There also are bench seats, steam units, multiple showerheads, hand-held showers and body sprays.

Floating vanities are popular, as are toilets with in-wall carriers and tanks. With those toilets, only the bowl is visible in the room. This is popular especially in smaller bathrooms where there isn’t a lot of room. People can then fit an elongated bowl in less space than what was needed for an old, round-front bowl.

What materials work well in the bathroom?

Tile, quarts and granite work well for surfaces. Vanity cabinet boxes should be made of all wood and plywood, instead of MDF particle board. Those are better in a bathroom where moisture is present. Avoid using wood flooring, except in a powder room where no bathing takes place.

What bathroom trends are going out of style?

Large tubs with platforms that use a lot of space are going out of style. Oak finished cabinets are going out of style, unless they are being used to tie into a prairie-style home’s overall design. Vessel bowls are on their way out, as are whirlpool tubs. Those are being replaced in favor of air tubs or just soaking tubs.

If I have a limited budget, what are some quick changes I can make?

You can add anew countertop, sink and faucet. Or replace cabinet knobs and pulls. A new toilet can be added for water saving and improved flush performance. You also can update your showerhead and/or the trim on the tub or shower faucet.

April 08, 2014 4:30 pm Photos


Robert Northington Interior Design brings imagination to your project

Robert Northington Interior Design brings imagination to your project

Robert Northington Interior Design's team encompasses the imagination and expertise to produce creative, workable solutions for your space.

The experts have the resources, vendor relationships and access to artists and artisans from around the globe. Whether a kitchen design, bath remodel or creative floor plan to include your grandmother's armoire, Robert Northington has the imagination and expertise to assist you with any phase of your project.

Robert Northington Interior Design's Services include: Remodels, room additions, kitchen and bath design, indoor/outdoor living space design and custom cabinetry and furniture design. The firm also specializes in window treatments as well as paint color, furniture and decorative accessory selection and placement. Their expertise allows the Robert Northington experts to assist with just about any design need you have. Whether you're painting a single room or creating the home of your dreams, no job is too big or too small.

April 08, 2014 3:59 pm Photos


The Revelation of True Beauty

The Revelation of True Beauty

When the light catches it right, there’s nothing quite like it: an evanescent, shimmering glow that seems to radiate deep within, casting colored light on everything in its proximity. Stained glass, at its heart, is the simplest of materials–sand transformed by fire–and yet it has inspired centuries of religious devotion, emotional experience, and artistic passion.

Colored glass has been produced since antiquity, but the most famous examples that come to mind are probably the cobalt, scarlet, and golden windows of some of the world’s most legendary religious sites: Sainte-Chapelle in Paris, the Washington National Cathedral, or the Saint Vitus Cathedral in Prague. But Indiana is also home to some magnificent examples of stained glass, and there are few sites more majestically radiant than the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at the University of Notre Dame. The Basilica is home to what is possibly the largest extant collection of nineteenth-century French stained glass, and its beauty attracts an impressive 100,000 visitors each year.

Father Edward Sorin, the founder of the University, dreamed of a site that would inspire students, and by 1888, that dream was complete. The neo-Gothic basilica is home to forty-four large windows featuring 114 life-size scenes and 106 smaller images. These stained glass marvels were the handiwork of Carmelite nuns at a foundry in Le Mans, France, and they were intended to have a joint decorative and instructive purpose, giving visitors a sense of God’s majesty. Over 1,200 glass panels that had suffered from deteriorated lead, faded paint, or cracks were recently restored, making this historical site all the more awe-inspiring.

Michigan City is also home to several religious sites that have exemplary stained glass. The First Congregational Church, St. Stanislaus Roman Catholic Church, Trinity Episcopal Church, and St. Mary Roman Catholic Church all contain inspiring, light-catching scenes, and in the winter, the Michigan City Mainstreet Association hosts a Stained Glass Tour that highlights these vibrant pieces.

While cathedrals and churches may be the architectural sites most well known for their stained glass, the immense power and beauty of the medium lends itself to a variety of other settings and forms. Tom Sourlis and Twyla Butler of Sourlis Glass Studio have spent decades honing the craft, and while their style pays homage to traditional stained glass, years of experience have allowed them to develop a contemporary, sculptural approach to the craft. Their pieces often involve naturalistic, organic motifs with gently undulating waves, layers of soft light, and subtle variations in tone. “When you look at a blade of grass,” Sourlis says, “it may seem green, but then you get closer, and you can see that it actually has a wide variety of colors.” What the eye processes as a single shade of green actually requires the delicate cooperation of many hues, and it’s precisely this depth and visual interest that Sourlis and Butler pursue in their work.

This is especially true in their fused pieces, where glass is carefully applied in layers and fired multiple times in a kiln, bonding each layer step-by-step until the artists are left with a luminous, radiant masterpiece. Because of the multi-layered process, the component parts are often rather delicate: tendrils formed out of fine-grained frit (particles of fusible glass), the gentle curves of stringers (thin pieces of pulled glass), and the soft, atmospheric blends of finely placed hues. Out of a series of slivers, lines, and dots, a gentle, yet confident, piece of art emerges.

Sourlis’ fascination with stained glass began in the 1970s, and the inspiration for his first works drew heavily on the lamps of Louis Comfort Tiffany. Tiffany is most widely known for his Art Nouveau style pieces, which were created out of soldered glass. Sourlis and Butler also produce pieces using this method, and their signature pieces, with curving fins and radiating arms, are laboriously pieced together using mottled glass from Uroboros Glass in Portland, Oregon. The pattern for the lamp is drawn, numbered, and labeled, and the glass is laid over the pattern and traced, taking into account the variations of pattern and color that are desired for the finished product. The glass is then cut and ground to its correct shape, copper foil is applied to the edges, and the pieces are soldered together. This is an extremely time-intensive process that requires a great deal of precision and patience.

Sourlis studied architecture at Illinois Institute of Technology before going into Volunteers in Service to America, and he credits his courses in visual training with giving him such a keen sense of detail. While it can be a vastly creative undertaking, working with glass ultimately requires meticulous handiwork, focused attention, and a delicate sense of perspective, balance, and color. According to Sourlis and Butler, their craft requires a constant negotiation between freedom and focus. And yet the duo is never content to keep producing pieces in the same style or with the same method. Experimentation is key to their process, and in his search for new techniques, Tom has created a number of unusual and beautiful objects. For example, he created a series of “glass paintings” by laying out cold glass stringers, which gently melt and compress when hot glass is rolled over them. “The first one I make is usually the best,” he says of new styles. They tend to mark the perfect confluence of creativity, energy, and inspiration, and there’s a pure sense of joy when all these elements come together to produce a vibrant new object.

Sourlis Glass Studio exhibits the highest level of craftsmanship, so it comes as no surprise that their work has been featured in some rather prominent places. One of their lamps is part of the permanent décor at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Emil Bach House, they’ve been featured at the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, Washington for the last three years, and they were a part of the Milwaukee Art Museum Store for “The Artistic Furniture of Charles Rohlfs” exhibit. In Northwest Indiana, you can see many examples of their work at the Merge Building in Hammond, a workspace that showcases pieces by regional artists. You can also find their work at the Lubeznik Center for the Arts in Michigan City, the Lake Street Gallery in Gary, the South Shore Art Center in Munster, and the Miller Bakery Café in Gary.


Sourlis Glass Studio

The Merge Building

5920 Hohman Avenue; Hammond, IN

Basilica of the Sacred Heart

114 Coleman-Morse Center; Notre Dame, IN


Michigan City Mainstreet Association


April 08, 2014 3:49 pm Photos


Habitat for Humanity helps residents get a new start

Habitat for Humanity helps residents get a new start

Star Washington and her young son, Avontie Dejohnette, were living in a small apartment in Hammond in March 2012.

She had noisy neighbors and her son was starting school, and she wanted to provide a stable environment for him.

“I was paying a rent I could barely afford,” she says. “I was looking for a better situation for the two of us.”

She applied to Habitat for Humanity of Northwest Indiana, and by September 2013, she and her son moved into a completely refurbished home in a quiet Hammond neighborhood.

“They helped me get into my own home, and it was cheaper than what I was paying for rent,” Washington says. “My neighbors here are so helpful. It is a peaceful, quiet neighborhood.”

Washington, 29, works at a grocery store and knew she would never be able to qualify for a bank loan. The financial class mandated by Habitat for Humanity taught her how to stick to a budget and how to save money.

“I learned the difference between what I need and what I want,” she says. “I pictured owning a home in my future, but not so soon. I feel like I accomplished something out of life.”

Her son, now seven, is thriving in his new neighborhood.

“My son loves it. When you live in an apartment, you don’t have a back yard. This summer, he’ll get to experience being in his own backyard,” she says. “Habitat was an absolute blessing. They have so many volunteers who come out to help you. You don’t even know where they’re coming from, but they come help you out of love. It’s an emotional feeling, every time I think about it.”

Washington’s story is similar to the stories of dozens of other families who have been helped by Habitat for Humanity of Northwest Indiana and Harbor Habitat for Humanity in southwest Michigan.

Daniel Klein, executive director for Habitat for Humanity of Northwest Indiana, says his organization is on its 76th project and builds all over Lake County, averaging about six or seven homes a year.

This year, Habitat of Northwest Indiana will be adding two homes to their Field of Dreams neighborhood in Gary, a neighborhood which already consists of eight homes built by Habitat.

Klein says his organization recently launched their Veterans Build Initiative, which aims to serve those who have served by helping veterans who need housing assistance.

In Michigan, Harbor Habitat builds two to three new homes a year in addition to doing four to five total rehabilitations. The homes are located around Benton Harbor and Benton Charter Township, but they also have a neighborhood of 22 Harbor Habitat homes in Crystal Estates, says Erin Hudson, the Harbor Habitat executive director.

“That was such a success that we’ve started building homes for our families in groups,” she says. “We have more than 30 homes in a neighborhood near the Southwest Michigan Regional Airport and plan to focus many of our new builds in that location for the next few years.”

Hudson says their push is to make homes some of the most energy efficient in Michigan to ensure families aren’t spending a fortune on utility bills. They also build their homes according to the guidelines established by the Americans with Disabilities Act, she says.

“It’s important that seniors be able to age in place,” she says. “For instance, should they ever need to use a walker or wheelchair, the doors are wide enough to accommodate them.”

Families are chosen based on financial need and their willingness to work within the organization’s rules. Qualifying families must go through a 10 week Dave Ramsey Financial Peace course, and be willing to put “sweat equity” into their home, Klein says.

“It’s very important because people have gotten themselves into financial situations they can’t get out of,” he says. “We want them to learn the responsibilities of owning a house and have them prepare for unexpected problems you might have as a house gets older.”

They need to learn the ins and outs of home ownership, from weekly mowing to having a contingency fund, he says.

“This is something they’ve never experienced before,” he says. “In some instances, this could be the first time in their family someone has owned a home.”

The homes generally are about 1,100 square feet and have three bedrooms, a living room and an eat-in kitchen. They’re constructed by volunteers over a three month period.

It generally takes a year between when a family is identified and when they get to close on their home.

“During that time frame, they pay into an escrow account, and when we close, they have all of their insurance money ready to be paid,” Klein says. “When they come out, they have a mortgage payment of about $500 a month, including taxes and insurance, and get it at a zero interest rate.”

The actual construction is done with a combination of contracted crews and volunteers, averaging about 20 volunteers a day, or about 300 volunteers during the length of a build project, he says.

After a home is completed and passed along to its new owner, there is an “after care” program to help ensure success for the homeowners.

“We understand that we’re throwing a great deal of information at the families as they complete their sweat equity hours and want to make sure we don’t leave their sides just as the heavy lifting begins,” she says. “The After Care department works with the families when the bills start coming in and the glamour of homeownership begins to fade. They are there to help with budgeting, answer questions and point them to resources in the community.”

The Indiana and Michigan organizations also regularly host events for families to meet and get to know each other.

“We foster a relationship so if something does happen, like an illness or loss of a job, they feel comfortable coming to us,” Hudson says. “We are always willing to work with them and help them through rough patches but are often unable to do that if we don’t know what’s happening. Because we hold their mortgage, there are many things we can do to help keep families in their homes that banks cannot.”

Hudson says it is a misconception that Habitat gives houses away for free.

“What we are doing is providing a hand up, and not a hand out, to hard-working, deserving people who happen to make 30 percent to 80 percent of the area median income,” she says. “They would never qualify for a traditional mortgage, but that shouldn’t keep them from owning a safe, decent, affordable place to live. The true gift from habitat is a zero percent mortgage.”

Both organizations also have ReStore outlets, where donated items are resold, with proceeds going back into the organization.

“The beautiful thing about the Habitat model is that your donations never go away,” Hudson says. “When someone donates money or appliances and furniture to the ReStore to help us build a house, a family pays a mortgage that helps us to build the next house, and so on. It is truly the gift that keeps on giving.”

April 08, 2014 3:40 pm Photos


Bayberry Cottage: Putting design expertise to work

Bayberry Cottage: Putting design expertise to work

Why hire an interior designer?

Interior designers have the time, the knowledge, and the experience to develop a plan for your project down to the littlest details (think electrical outlets, then multiply that by a million other details). They are your advocates with manufacturers, tradespeople, and architects, constantly asking, “Is this in my client’s best interest?”

Their knowledge can make the project a little easier on your wallet too. They’ll watch your budget and save you from expensive mistakes, all while increasing the market value of your home! They have the best contacts in the trades and manufacturing so you get access to their already vetted teams.

Best of all, you get their creative direction to help determine your personal style and translate it into a space you’ve only dreamed of - a space designed for your life.

At Bayberry Cottage, the team of experts takes these responsibilities very seriously and consistently create and implement fantastic spaces that their clients love to live in. Bayberry Cottage can get you there too!

April 08, 2014 3:35 pm

Restoration Resources: Returning homes to their period glory

Restoration Resources: Returning homes to their period glory

When the Art Institute of Chicago needed help restoring Frank Lloyd Wright designed furniture, it turned to a professional. Many choose those same types of craftsmen to help them restore or purchase furniture and accent pieces.

Some desire to maintain the home’s original look. Others want the opportunity to invest in a piece of furniture history.

Lou Butcher owns Furniture Werks in Porter County between Chesterton and Michigan City. (4980 W. US 20, Michigan City, 219.872.1700, At his shop, he provides customers with furniture restoration and reupholstering. He offers offer pick up and delivery service throughout Chicago and its suburbs, but he did not have to go far when the School of the Art Institute in Chicago called for help.

When the Frank Lloyd Wright designed furniture at the school’s New Buffalo retreat houses started to look “shabby,” Butcher and his team, along with the help of the Art Institute’s research department, returned the furniture to its original beauty.

The craftsmanship needed to properly restore furniture is not always easy to find. Butcher learned the trade during his high school years while helping his father who did furniture restoration and reupholstering. After trying a few other jobs, he found that the field of furniture was where he belonged. In the 1970s he moved to the Michigan City area and worked hard to get the years of satisfied customers he now has.

When his customers remodel or restore older homes in various styles, they need baseboards, doors and windows restored. That’s where he and his team come in. They can even color the wood of new pieces to match the existing ones.

Other times, customers need him to finish an incomplete piece of furniture, such as cabinets, bookcases and China cabinets from Chicago bungalows. These pieces, made of oak, often have a raw side once the homeowners move. That raw wood that was once connected to the house needs to be finished to match and make a complete piece that can be used elsewhere in the home.

Butcher says when people bought furniture in the early 1900s, they bought it with the idea that that after 15 or 25 years, it would need to be reupholstered or refinished. Items from that time period are worth redoing, not necessarily to increase the dollar value of them, but because owners will get another 30 or 40 years of use out of them.

The average furniture bought in the 1900s through ’40s was better made than average furniture you could buy today, Butcher says.

“Well made furniture is very durable. My customers refinish or reupholster their furniture to extend its useful and functional life for generations in the future.”

Along with durability, the right classic furniture adds value and style, says Scott Schilke who owns (229 W. Main St., Benton Harbor,

At his mid-century modern restoration business, he specializes in pieces from Heywood Wakefield, a U.S. furniture manufacturer around for about a century, and pieces by Paul McCobb, a modern furniture and industrial designer.

Schilke did IT work in Silicon Valley and Sweden but moved back to the area where he was born when the “ bubble was bursting.” He opened a consignment furniture shop, where he learned about different styles and quality of furniture and met refinishers and pickers who became his friends.

After closing his consignment business, he started refinishing furniture and focused on the mid-century pieces he had grown to love.

“Preserve what you can because it serves you well and you want that look that’s of great value to a lot of us. Find something with some history to it,” Schilke says.

Most of his clients want to restore an existing piece in their home or something newly acquired. He also says collectors add pieces as their budgets and desires allow.

“I have things to sell. I have information to provide. I’m always willing to help. If people want to understand the process, I’m happy to explain it and/or help them make purchase decisions to know what they’re getting into,” Schilke says.

Over the years, some clients become friends including owners of a mid-century ranch in Lansing, Mich.

“Their house is chock full of stuff that they bought from me or had it restored by me. Over the past three years, this home has been outfitted with probably 50 pieces of Heywood under my sales or restoration.”

Clients like these, who have the means and understanding that they should buy this furniture, already know what they should be doing and are doing it, he says. “What I try to do is motivate people who may not have a mid-century home but have a desire for stylish and valuable furniture to consider this style.”

For those in their 30s, he tries to impress upon them the fact that designer pieces from this era are a good investment. Restoring them increases their value, which will still be there when it comes time to get a new piece or hand it down to the next generation.

“Don’t buy IKEA, don’t buy new when you’re not even getting solid furniture. Why spend $2,000 on a sofa that’s contemporary and has no appeal other than a present visual? Go find or look for these things from back in the ‘40s, ‘50s, ‘60s.”

Michael Harrigan learned the value of restoration while remodeling his own home. It not only transformed a 1925 bungalow into a Victorian painted lady, but also an electrical engineer into a home accent restorer and builder.

Harrigan, owner of Architectural Accents in Munster (9760 Indiana Parkway, Munster, 219.922.9333,, builds architectural details such as fireplace mantels, cabinetry and bookcases for homes. He also builds custom furniture and details like columns and transoms.

“We did a house in Munster that had the beginnings of a craftsman style fireplace in it and we added the rest of the embellishments and trim to bring it up to more a true craftsman style,” Harrigan says. The homeowners knew it needed more “bells and whistles” on it to be true to its original concept.

More recently, Harrigan has been working on creating 60 rosette blocks for a suburban Chicago home. After receiving a sample of the old rosettes removed from the home, Harrigan began to duplicate them to maintain the home’s original look.

Curved molding is another shop specialty, with Harrigan and his team recreating the old profile of trim when needed in places like front porches. In the modern age of straight molding, having these items custom built ensures the integrity of the home’s look.

Homeowners who need custom work can take pictures of the remains that are there.

“Do detective work and try to deduce what it might have looked like.” Most homes will have a piece of original trim somewhere that can be used as a clue or if houses in a neighborhood are built during the same time period, homeowners can look to those to find inspiration.

Harrigan also restores nickelodeon cabinetry dating back to the 1900s. These generational “jukeboxes” would play music on rolls. Working with a restoration company that repairs the guts of the cabinet, Harrigan uses his skills to rebuild or repair the cabinets that hold them.

“We try to help everybody convert their house into their home. We make it theirs, take their wishes and their desires and try to make it happen.”

April 08, 2014 3:08 pm Photos


Fresh, fun, unique finds at HarborTown Interiors

Fresh, fun, unique finds at HarborTown Interiors

When you step into HarborTown Interiors you step into a cool vibe, so take a moment to gaze – because you're going to want everything in sight. This is a treasure trove of everything fun, everything chic, everything you need for some fresh flair.

Be prepared for delightful surprises in truly unique gifts for besties and your fave sister-in-law. But don't let the light-hearted atmosphere fool you: This place is serious about providing high-quality products and services. You'll find name-brand furniture with durable fabrics in endless choices. For long-lasting beauty, choose from made-in-the USA furniture lines like Harden, Four Seasons, Norwalk, Company C, Wesley Hall, Comfort Design, Vanguard, and more. And your budget will thank you: “We always give 25 percent off on almost all furniture lines -- even special orders.”

Ready for a room makeover but don’t have time to plan it all out? HarborTown Interiors offers unbeatable convenience: Co-owners Stephanie Grill, MaryKay Hylton, and Kerry Cressler specialize in in-home consultations, helping you to select everything from a few terrific accent pieces to a whole new look that reflects YOUR personality and assure YOUR comfort …and isn’t that what “home” is?

“It becomes an enjoyable adventure! You can design a piece exactly the way you want it -- not just choose the fabric, but decide on the leg, the cushions, arms, skirt, everything,” says MaryKay. “And it doesn’t cost extra to special order. We’re finding that people really want to have a unique look. They don’t want a cookie-cutter approach to home décor.”

Go coastal! “We can help you achieve that coastal look no matter where you live. We’re the destination shop along the coast for that relaxed lifestyle,” says Stephanie.

HarborTown Interiors offers a certified specialist in Green Advantage for commercial builds, and MaryKay Hilton has certification for green residential environments. HarborTown Interiors offers items from reclaimed materials and repurposed lumber and your purchase may well have been from a fair-trade company.

Fall in love with your home all over again! Update the look with fresh, new colors, one-of-a-kind accent pieces, an important chair or sofa. Pull the whole look together with a fabulous rug from Company C, Dash & Albert, Jaipur, or Suria. “Then sit back and enjoy the compliments! We stay ahead of the trends and we get it right the first time."


HarborTown Interiors

613 Broad St.

St. Joseph, MI


April 08, 2014 3:12 pm Photos


Groundworkes: Find true happiness in your own back yard

Groundworkes: Find true happiness in your own back yard

Groundworkes is a full-service landscape design firm on Red Arrow Highway in Lakeside, MI. They design, build and maintain intimate to expansive gardens and promise complete satisfaction with your new outdoor environment.

First and foremost, Groundworkes is a design firm, and their design philosophy influences everything they do. Their experts visualize outdoor spaces as rooms, allowing better understanding, utilization and enjoyment of your garden and yard. Groundworkes chooses plants from the region's finest growers, selected to succeed in your specific conditions, even if they're problematic. Native plants along with proven non-natives create a full spectrum for a beautiful, pastoral landscape that also attracts and supports wildlife. Design and construction of water features, decorative and functional structures and fencing, fire pits and their surroundings, outdoor furnishings and stonework of all kinds complete Groundworkes' comprehensive repertoire. Their pride is the installation crew, who are professional, fast, neat and detail-oriented.

In celebration of art and design, artist and sculptor Richard Morse will be displaying his life-size, wooden wildlife sculptures at Groundworkes for Art Attack Weekend, 2014. Richard fashions fallen timbers, limbs and branches into powerful horses and graceful woodland deer. Inspired by human struggle and perseverance, the horses represent the simple grace and powerful attitude that humans find when confronting life’s difficult situations. Richard’s galloping horses displayed in the Grand River in 2012 entitled “Stick-to-it-ive-ness: Unwavering Pertinacity; perseverance” received an Art-Prize award. Stop by Groundworkes at 15486 Red Arrow Highway to see Richard Morse’s work and perhaps buy or commission a piece for your own backyard.

April 08, 2014 2:01 pm Photos


Spring into a fresh, new look at home with Decorating Den

Jenny Mitschelen understands that your home is your haven, the place where your style and comfort are so important. With spring in the air, it’s the perfect time to make your home shine. And Decorating Den can help make that transformation easier than you might imagine.

“We truly are full service,” says Mitschelen. “A lot of places offer designing services, but I personally come to your home so that we can see the space together and plan your vision for it. We take care of it all—our customers appreciate having all those things handled in one place. My system is the most efficient and personalized way to manage a project from concept to completion."

Decorating Den is the premier destination in southwest Michigan and all of Michiana for transforming your home.

“Starting with a complimentary consultation, I typically do not charge hourly design fees. I spend a lot of time helping my clients customize and prioritize their design wish lists." And since Decorating Den is a powerhouse retailer with a range of merchandise from high-end to budget-friendly, we can have a lot fun creating spaces you’ll love.”

April 08, 2014 1:47 pm

Elegant accents make your home unforgettable

Elegant accents make your home unforgettable

When only custom-made pieces will do, Architectural Accents is the company to call. Their artisans create for your most valuable investment—your home.

Architectural Accents’ fine craftsmanship defines your spaces, with superb quality and attention to every detail. From expertly crafted furniture to exquisite crown moldings, quality, not compromise, is their promise to customers.

Architectural Accents creates mantels for every style preference, from minimalist beauty to the richness of a complete surround.

For the past 25 years, Architectural Accents has designed and crafted countless entertainment centers, residential bars, home offices and libraries. Their designers are happy to help you translate your ideas and desires into a beautiful one-of-a-kind cabinet, wall unit or room sized suite of furniture all the way to complete rooms of furniture and trim.

Exceptional pieces don’t have to be extravagant for your budget, yet “They’re the extra touches that change a person’s house to a home,” says Architectural Accents owner Michael Harrigan.

Architectural Accents will help you take your home to a whole new level—and isn’t that where you want to be?

April 08, 2014 1:32 pm Photos


Create a room with imagination at Interiors Etc.

Create a room with imagination at Interiors Etc.

Treat yourself to a visit at Interiors Etc., Carol Brademas’ wildly imaginative interior design store in Mishawaka, Ind. Intriguing vignettes show how easy it is to create charming, inviting spaces in your home with a little guidance and Carol’s wonderful collection of well-known brands and one-of-a-kind finds.

“I love antiquing! I’m always looking for fascinating antique and vintage things wherever I go. Our customers are amazed at how many different types of things we have.”

It’s a pleasure to shop with the staff at Interiors Etc.. “Our customers tell me we have such a wonderful group of women on our staff. They make our many special events really fun.” Among them are the Portobello Road Market in the fall, the very popular Christmas Open House, and next spring the annual Paris Flea Market. People plan their vacations around these special events.

Interiors Etc. has become a destination shop for creating beautiful rooms and finding the perfect gifts and accessories. And visit to see some of their wonderful vignettes!

April 08, 2014 10:20 am Photos


Customers love personalized service from Popa HVAC

Customers love personalized service from Popa HVAC

Pat Popa, president of Popa Heating and Cooling, loves the northwest Indiana region her company serves and loves her business. “There’s more traffic in here than you’d imagine for a downtown heating and cooling business. Our customers are so happy with the personal, professional service they receive from us that they’ll stop in here to chat with us, and maybe have a cup of coffee here. Often our new customers come to us because of great reviews from their friends.”

That kind of customer satisfaction results from experienced, professional technicians installing top-quality products at fair prices. Pat Popa’s personal follow-up makes sure everything is running smoothly and there’s been the same top-of-the-line service Pat Popa expects from every employee.

“My technicians really take pride in their work. They continue to get training and education, a minimum of 40 hours of training each year,” and with increasingly high-tech products, that minimum is almost always exceeded.

“We’re proud that as a woman-owned business, we understand how quality products and services can be delivered with a sincere interest in how people will live with our product.”

April 08, 2014 10:19 am

Office should be a space you enjoy

Office should be a space you enjoy

Carol Brademas has owned Interiors Etc., in Mishawaka, Indiana, for the past 39 years. Specializing in residential interior design, Interiors Etc. also features a large showroom and shop which includes furniture, accessories, antiques and gifts.

What are some essentials when designing your home office?

The home office has become a very standard part of many newer homes. With the popularity of laptops and notebooks and iPads, the amount of space dedicated to accommodate these necessities has definitely decreased since the days of the big monitor, screen and keypad. A sleek library or lady’s desk can be used for the main piece of furniture in a home office, creating a more residential and cozy feel.

How can I provide storage in our office, yet have it remain stylish?

Often times, a filing cabinet can be used to hold the printer. There are many lovely filing cabinets available for purchase now in colors, white or any wood finish you desire.

What colors are popular in offices?

Wall colors for a home office can run the gamut from calm and peaceful to bright and cheerful, depending on the occupant’s preferences. Soft sky blues, willow greens and buttery yellows have been popular colors lately for home offices we have completed. We seem to be moving away from the beiges and tans of the recent past, and into colors that blend more with nature, like the water, sun and sky.

What can I do to give my office some style?

Book shelves are always a nice addition to the home office, being available to store professional books, filing boxes, magazines and decorative items that reflect your personal taste. A comfortable wingback, a straight Parsons chair or any chair with a high enough seat can be the perfect desk chair, and can add some personality to your office. Choosing interesting lamps, pictures and desktop accessories can create an office all your own. Making it a room you enjoy spending time in is the most important thing.

April 08, 2014 9:36 am

House and Grounds: A tranquil retreat in the great outdoors

House and Grounds: A tranquil retreat in the great outdoors

When the hurly-burly of city life began to grate, John Natsis and Tom Hemingway sought relief along Lake Michigan’s quieter shore in southwestern Michigan. They found it in a Zen-like retreat at their rehabbed Union Pier home.

Not that the road to serene surroundings was all mantras and music. The journey began years ago when John and Tom discovered the natural beauty of Warren Dunes State Park, where camping was their go-to getaway. The next step closer to a more permanent getaway was a tiny fixer-upper as a second home.

John explains, “We liked being able to be outdoors and back to nature. We were doing the big-city thing in Chicago and at the same time searching for the right place here (in southwestern Michigan).”

Their search went from six years in the fixer-upper cottage to a big step up to one of the townhouses they developed. “We lived there and enjoyed it, but although it was a great townhouse and close to the beach, we wanted land,” John says firmly. Last year they found it in Union Pier, Michigan. “Here we’re only a block or two from the lake. This house has three acres of land and I loved the way the house was set up.”

This was it, the couple decided. The two are in business in Union Pier with Bluefish Vacation Rentals and Tom handles the RE/MAX office there as well, so the home is handily nearby, but they agreed some major changes were in order. Their vision for the house was ambitious—and just what the little home nestled amongst the trees needed, to be, well, fabulous. John credits Chris Reed at CHS Homebuilders and Ade Adewoye with Brooks Architectural for helping to define the vision.

The project began with gutting walls down to the studs and changing the pitch of the roof to accommodate higher ceilings. A double garage was converted to a single garage, providing room for a newly situated, updated kitchen. The original kitchen was taking up space that is now an extension of the living room, where the increased living area is enhanced with a vaulted ceiling in the original knotty pine.

“I love the ceilings. It makes the home lodge-like but with a modern, contemporary look,” says John. Support beams were added, encased in wood and capped with black wrought iron to match door hardware and the railing that leads to the lower level. The new design includes a sunroom, situated opposite the new, larger entryway and offering a view of the pie-shaped property edged with a river and trees.

John cringes at the thought of long, narrow hallways. Now a widened hallway leads to the two main-level bedrooms and bath, and there’s room for a large, wood abacus as artwork. A pocket door to the master bath contributes to the clean lines and uncluttered spaces.

“So this became a 3,200-square-foot home. It’s not meant to be a contemporary home, but a blend of the original cottage with more modern concepts.”

One of those concepts is the fireplace, where instead of wood logs, the gas flames play amongst perfectly round concrete balls in varying sizes. The flooring of linoleum was replaced with gray teak hardwood, a complement to the intentional vibe of serenity.

Downstairs, a third bedroom’s white-painted barn doors on closets reference the rolling countryside. The original layout of big closet, small bath was reversed, allowing room for a large, glassed shower and access to the bath from the bedroom and from the adjacent living area with wet bar. The bedroom opens out onto a screened porch extending three-fourths the length of the house that also has stairs leading down to the pool.

A fourth bedroom with its own bath makes the most use of space with a pullout daybed, framed in wrought iron. A clever response to the desire for more natural light was deepening a window well.

“There’s a wood-burning fireplace down here and a half kitchen, so guests can make their own coffee in the morning. It’s a great house for entertaining.”

Upstairs, a crystal prism at a sunroom window casts an occasional rainbow across to the long, white-painted dining table. John remarks that it’s a reminder of a late, dear friend, then turns back to look out the window.

“This was a life-changing move for us. It’s not taken for granted, ever, ever.”

April 08, 2014 9:32 am Photos


Waterfront Film Festival brings the silver screen to South Haven

Waterfront Film Festival brings the silver screen to South Haven

Having grown up in Holland, Michigan borrowing his mother’s Super 8 camera to make movies from an early age, it seemed only natural that Hopwood DePree would move to Los Angeles, attend film school and start a career in the film business. Success came quickly when after graduating; a film he made received a lot of recognition at Sundance and travel around the world.

“During my travels I met so many film makers and went to film festivals all over,” says DePree. “I saw what kind of festivals worked and what didn’t. I remember thinking what each one was all about and how many of these films made it and how many didn’t.”

But what might not seem like such a sure thing is the DePree returned to West Michigan (he has a film studio in Chicago) to start the Waterfront Film Festival, now in its 16th year. For 14 of those years, the festival was held in Saugatuck, a picture perfect village on the Saugatuck River which winds its way through the dunes into Lake Michigan. Two years ago, Waterfront changed locations to downtown South Haven located on where the Black River flows into the lake. With an old time movie show, still open and showing current feature films, within walking distance, it seemed the perfect place for Waterfront.

“I want to take film making in Michigan to the next level,” says DePree. “And I want to give people a sense of discovery, to see the movies people will be talking about six months or even a year from now. Our goal is to grow the region, making the festival economically and artistically benefit the entire region of West Michigan.”

DePree describes the months before the festival, ranked as one of the top 5 film festivals in the world by SAGIndie in the Screen Actors Guild Magazine, as “quite a process.” That’s when he and volunteers like Terri Rowe and Christine Elisa McCarthy, an actress who appeared in one of DePree’s earlier films and has also had recurring roles on China Beach, Beverly Hills, 90210 and ER, begin to watch the hundreds and hundreds of films submitted to the festival as well as those that are solicited. Beginning in January, it can often add up to a rigorous three movies a day.

Rowe says she first attended the festival in 2002 and since then has returned each year to work as a volunteer. Her duties included serving, taking tickets at opening night parties, training people for being ushers and selling tickers, making introductions and assisting with the during their fundraising party during the Academy Awards. Indeed, says Hopwood, the festival is totally staffed by volunteers and they didn’t hire their first salaried employee until this year. All donations and proceeds from ticket and merchandise sales go directly to their operational budget and all donations are fully tax deductible and allow for the continuation of the festival in the upcoming years.

For Rowe, who has written three story books including Who Are You and Green Goo and describes herself as a film buff, dedicating her time is worth it.

“This festival really draws a lot of film makers to it,” she says. “And what’s great is the audience gets to interact with them, to see their films and talk to them about how and why the made it. It’s a fantastic way to be able to witness the creative process.”

Rowe is quick to point out that several of the films they’ve screened have won major awards. Blackfish: the Movie and Blood Brother, both screened at the 2013 Waterfront Film Festival, are featured on the Top 10 Documentaries of 2013 list from DocGeeks, a Website created to provide the latest news, reviews, trailers, interviews and industry gossip for documentary films. Another film previewed at Waterfront was Murderball, a 2005 documentary about quadriplegics, who play full-contact rugby in wheelchairs and the obstacles they must overcome to compete in the Paralympics Games in Athens, Greece, was nominated for an Academy Award, Best Documentary Features and won 17 other prestigious awards.

McCarthy, program director for Waterfront, wrote, directed and starred in the short film Bathing and the Single Girl which was screened at the festival as well as some 100 other film festivals, winning more than 2- awards. She was then encouraged to write a novel based upon the film.

“It was a ten minute film and 472 page novel,” says McCarthy about the comedic book which was published this year.

“With the changes in technology, people who wouldn’t have had access to making films before because of the high cost now can express their ideas and visions,” says McCarthy. “That’s one reason why film festivals aren’t just on the east and west coasts or in the big cities anymore. Festivals like Waterfront allow so much room for artistic expression.”

April 08, 2014 9:18 am Photos


Trending Architecture: Local architects embrace the custom, the green and the universal

Trending Architecture: Local architects embrace the custom, the green and the universal

Open up, green, efficient, universal, refresh, collaborate—these are the trending buzzwords for architects along the Lake Michigan Shore.

The latest trends in architecture on the lake may not come in radical looking buildings with cold, stark interiors. Rather, the architectural trends include updating classic comforts and making traditional-looking design more efficient and eco-friendly.

Architects along the shore are also keeping clients’ ideas at the forefront. It is becoming clear that clients are more and more educated in what they want in a remodel or new project, and these local architects are ready to embrace those ideas.

The Customer’s Always Right

Well, not always, but these architects are starting out with that mindset to be sure the customer will end up with something they love.

“I approach each project as if it was the most important project I’ve ever worked on,” says Ade Adewoye, an architect at Brooks Architectural, Inc. in Stevensville. “That’s the way it is for the customer because it may be one of the only (architectural) projects they’ll work on in their lifetime.”

Adewoye says he tries to find out what the goals are for each customer. “A goal is sometimes hard to articulate for some people, so that’s why you have to have true dialogues to find out what they really want.”

He said people have “champagne taste”, which they get from watching programs on channels like HGTV, and are under the impression many things are very easy and cheap.

“But it is true, good design doesn’t have to cost a lot,” Adewoye says. That is why it’s important to understand the customer, he said, because a lot of the time, they know what they want.

Michelle Rumsa, an architect with Edgewater Resources, agrees and approaches her projects ready to listen to each of her client’s needs because they are more educated these days.

“I tend to be a blank page and sort of act as a sponge listening well and taking away important points,” Rumsa says. “It’s all about learning something new and collaboration with the client.”

Rumsa is currently finishing a project in Harbor Shores. The Harbor Village will be a multi-family resort community with a new marina at the Paw Paw and St. Joe rivers. She’s working closely with her clients to create a custom building that will capture the essence of the Harbor Shores community.

For other architects, inspiration comes from working closely with a client and looking back to past architectural greats.

This strategy is true for the architects at Duncan G. Stroik Architect, LLC located in South Bend.

“The plan is very much up to the client,” says Forest Walton, a project manager with the firm. “But we definitely pull inspiration from historical architects.”

For Stroik's architects, that historic inspiration comes from Andrea Palladio (1508-1580), an Italian architect, who wrote “The Four Books of Architecture” and influenced early American architecture. Another influence lies in Vitruvius (80-70BC – 15AD), a Roman architect who wrote “De Architectura,” which is the first known treatise on architecture.

Both of these historic architects sought perfection in order and proportion, which fits in with the classical and traditional style Stroik works to achieve with clients.

Thinking Green

Whether it’s capturing the community or looking back in time for classic style, one thing most local clients are demanding is green or energy-efficient design.

“Right off the bat, most customers will demand and make sure they are working with someone who is in an energy-saving practice,” Adewoye says.

He says this energy-saving is more than just insulating a home properly, but also means using recycled or salvaged materials like reusing glass for tiles or countertops. Green products may cost more “green”, though, as Adewoye says those elements can be pricier because they require more work sometimes.

“They require more labor, but it is a labor of love,” he says. “These products are being reused in another space rather than being shipped off to a landfill.”

Salvaging materials is something Bill McCollum of McCollum Architects in Union Pier is no stranger.

McCollum recycles many elements to incorporate into his projects including flag poles, boat masts, tillers, terra cotta, stained glass, and in one instance, a 1940s train car.

“It’s better to build and invent things,” he says.

McCollum incorporates other energy efficient elements into both his remodel projects and his new construction. His most recent projects include the New Buffalo Township Pavilion, the Camp Buffalo Cottages and The Stray Dog Bar and Grill. 

“I believe that a well-sealed envelope, combined with high-performance windows provide the most cost effective product than a larger, expensive mechanical system,” he says. “Natural convection can provide an energy-free solution.”

That is why McCollum utilizes Computer Aided Design (CAD) in his projects to determine where the sun will hit a house and its windows.

McCollum also embraces other technologies like radiant flooring—a hose weaved underneath the concrete to provide heat from the ground up—and SIP (structural insulated panels) on the roofs of his remodel projects to retain the structure, but improve energy efficiency by upgrading the insulation.

Architect Heidi Hornaday of New Buffalo also sees her clients requesting many of these green materials.

For her projects, Hornaday uses heated ceramic floors, recycled decking, composite siding and metal roofing. She said many of these products are still affordable, though some are rising in price because of demand. But, still, these are what the client calls for and the products are built to last.

“The metal roofing is meant to last a long time, and because it’s metal, there is not a lot of energy that goes into making it,” Hornaday says. “There’s a small building footprint, and clients are taking that into consideration.”

Sometimes “green” can literally mean plants, as with Rumsa’s project in Harbor Shores. Her team incorporated rain gardens and indigenous plants to surround the area of the Harbor Village site.

“We worked a lot with the natural environment,” Rumsa says. “A lot of these ‘green’ materials are more expensive, but the key is to find materials that are green for the environment and green including cost.”

Universal Design

Looking at the whole picture is something most architects do, but one trend that has taken over many of the houses along the lakeshore, universal design, takes a look into the future.

Universal design is a practice that will make a home accessible for all ages and allow owners to essentially grow into their home.

Hornaday has been seeing this as the most popular trend as of late.

She says the elements of universal design include elevators in the home (or space for them to be installed eventually), minimal thresholds, pathways around the property, open spaces for gatherings and room for the master bedroom to be on the first floor.

This design not only allows for accessibility, but also provides space for the whole family of all ages to come and enjoy the homes along the lakeshore.

“These trends aren’t very glamorous or sexy, but the idea of universal design is exciting,” Hornaday says. “The challenge and problem solving comes in when you try to make a home universal without looking institutional.”

McCollom also encounters universal design with his clients and sees it as an opportunity create more livable spaces, especially working with his remodel projects.

“By removing interior walls, we create larger interior spaces for living and entertaining,” he says. “An old ranch house can be updated by simply opening up the space and adding on a few elements."

Tried and True

Innovation and trends are important, but architects, this sampling included, seem to revere the constancy of methods that will always give their clients a good result.

Walton says he sees this as one of the cornerstones behind their architectural practice in South Bend.

“The techniques and design we use are the tried and true techniques using traditional materials,” he says. “We try to steer clear for new or untested techniques because our clients mostly ask for the traditional methods.”

Duncan Stroik, the owner of the firm Walton represents, is a professor in the School of Architecture at the University of Notre Dame where traditional and classical designs are taught and practiced.

But, Walton notes, the traditional methods still include efficient design.

“The traditional design and those tried and true methods will lend themselves to efficient insulation and climate control."

Hornaday says the design her clients along the lakeshore will always find appealing is the Shaker style. This open, simple and clean design gives the feel of a vacation.

“The Hampton or Shaker style is always going to be popular because it’s what people think about or are looking for in a second home,” Hornaday says. “It’s meant to be a getaway or a retreat.”

Rumsa says good planning and cost projections will always be a trend.

“It’s important to think about the aspects of the entire building and coordinate with what the clients want,” she says.

Rumsa also says a trend that is here to stay is clients being more and more educated about design and knowing what they want. She says this is thanks to both popular television shows and technology.

“It’s refreshing to work with those clients.”

Signing off

Alongside the trends and best practices, each architect has their own signature or focal point that sets their practice apart.

For McCollum it’s the element of surprise.

“When you enter a structure, you should never see everything all at once,” McCollum says. “The design should unfold as you walk through the spaces.”

The surprises McCollum refers to can manifest themselves in elements like nook off the entryway, a hidden view or an art display.

Incorporating art into a project is something Rumsa knows a lot about, as she finishes the Harbor Village hotel project.

Rumsa and her designers were able to incorporate art from artists around St. Joe into each hotel room designing each room around the art and the views guests will visit.

“I used words and colors that were very specific to our area,” Rumsa says. “The art and words will hopefully intrigue guests, and they’ll realize it’s all part of the story here.

“We want to give a sense of who we are and who we’ve been and show that (local) people care.”

For other architects, it’s the simple action of starting a project that bring out their signature style.

“I enjoy the details in and out of a house. I like simple,” Adewoye says. “After you layout the house and decide where the rooms and major elements are going to go, then, you make it beautiful.”

Adewoye says he’s wanted to be an architect since he was 6 years old. His work as an architect is his passion.

Passion, it seems, is what all these local architects share along with their interest in upcoming trends, clients, the surrounding landscape, local community and the opportunity to create.

“The challenge to create a building inspires me,” Adewoye says. “I get very, very fired up when given the opportunity. The more difficult a project is, the more I get inspired to find solutions to it.”

April 08, 2014 7:00 am Photos


Experience La Dolce Vita in Brigata Hills

Experience La Dolce Vita in Brigata Hills

Brigata Hills is a stunning development nestled within the picturesque countryside of Valparaiso. With rich Tuscan charm emanating throughout, the striking custom-built homes, impeccable landscaping and amenities of Brigata Hills will envelope you. The unsurpassed quality and craftsmanship of Porter county’s finest builders complement the already picturesque landscape of this fashionable community. Brigata Hills is the perfect plaqce to start anew and celebrate exceptional living.

- Sommers Construction Company is in its third generation of the family-owned constructin business. Alan Sommers began his business in 1989, giving him over 30 years of hands-on construction experience. Sommers Homes have been built in the finest Porter County developments including the current Brigata model home.

- Since 1972 Charlson Custom Homes has built some of Northwest Indiana’s finest, most prestigious homes, and developed a reputation for attention to detail, craftsmanship and service unsurpassed in the profession. Charlson can design your Brigata home based on your own personal needs, or choose from their portfolio of custom home plans.

- Wagner Homes is dedicated to creating homes that stand alone in terms of unmistakable quality and craftsmanship. Their homes are distinctively styled, customized to individual needs, crafted to virtual perfection and surpass all measures of expected appreciation in value.

April 08, 2014 12:00 am Photos




The trend towards homeowners wanting to improve and perfect the home they live in is a phenomenon that Dean Savarino sees constantly. In some cases, families have been discussing and imagining the changes they would like to make for years. Moving the dreamer’s vision to reality is a tough leap. Homeowners know the routine on adding space or renovating kitchens in their house: you need a plan and you call a designer or an architect. “Most of my clients are wanting to enjoy their home and their backyard,” he explains. “The majority of homes we work with are existing homes and we're enhancing them.”

But when the improvements involves exterior space, when the homeowners want to put in a pool, an outdoor kitchen, a pavilion, a greenhouse, a pizza oven or a scenic garden---there is dissonance. Here’s what could happen: The homeowner, so thrilled with the interior renovation, gazes out the window of her new, high-tech kitchen onto the pristine blue water of the recently-installed pool, realizes that in order to get to the pool she has to cross a wide and dusty gravel road.

This is not exactly what happened one of Dean’s clients but it’s close enough. The family had nurtured a fantastic idea about an indoor-outdoor space. “Two flat screens built-in above the gigantic fireplace along one of the walls,” Dean readily accesses a farily dramatic set of photos of this unique renovation. The outdoor space is a great room with large comfortable seating, beautifully lit, windows showing bright green foliage decorating the front area of the house, visible through the back wall of the renovation. The other two sides of the space have no walls, but are flanked by classic stone pillars that extend out to a patio and a pool. The first time Dean saw it his jaw dropped. The thoughtful and carefully designed outdoor living space suddenly stopped. Piles of bricks, tufts of grass and pebbles surrounding the exquisite pool---he had seldom seen a contrast so stark.

Kind of a nightmare, but a wonderful challenge in his mind. “We have a very unique, new program now, through technology and CAD renderings we can show our clients in 3D exactly what the project is going to look like. “You really want to start with a plan,” he says, whether you're building a house, a garden or a landscape.” A good design matters especially when you are integrating it with an architectural interior design that is already in place. (It’s not unusual for Dean to work with another designer, architect, lighting company or implement a sound system into a master plan he’s created for a landscape.)

Now that Dean’s has powerful computers for design graphics he can produce complex and visually complete images and the drawings will incorporate pieces to the puzzle that come from other sources, plumbers, electricians, even materials vendors. Putting a client’s ideas into a plan---for a $500 fee--could require a 15-hour investment for Dean Savarino; he welcomes the risk. Whether he ultimately gets the job or not, he has done his best interpretation and the design he thinks is most likely to succeed.

And Dean finds that more and more his clients will opt for an artistic risk. The clients crave the authentic and original. “We had a client who wanted a large, circular granite couch with a fire pit in the center,” Dean says. “So I said this dinky fire pit is not going to look right, it’s too small. So, we built this fire table.” The table which is long and narrow, but runs across the center of the circular space in the front of the stone couch has coals and flames in a strip down the middle. It’s breathtaking. “We built a whole outdoor kitchen and worked with the heating company to run an extra large gas line. The bricks were cut and made custom.

“I don't like the usual, but a lot of our customers don’t want the cookie-cutter approach either. You have to listen to what they want. Ask the right questions. And then you know the materials you are going to use. You know what it will look like in the sun, how the pool is going to work visually with the trees. I know what the atmosphere will be like. We have put in vertical gardens for clients for privacy, for instance.”

“The work is amazing and challenging,” Dean says. “When I stand back and look at what we were able to do together with our client, it’s really unbelievable.”





April 06, 2014 9:10 am Photos


May 2014 Shore Letter from the Editor

May 2014 Shore Letter from the Editor


A frequently quoted maxim of design experts says that the closer something is to your physical space the more important the quality. I’ve been thinking about that idea a lot as we were putting this issue together. I was reading and writing about families retrofitting existing spaces to other uses, while I was going through the same process at home. My turning point revolved around the purchase of a new bed—a king, finally— that had been researched and negotiated for more than a year. There was never any doubt about the size or the style; those questions were off the table 100 hotel rooms ago. We like the contemporary metal frame we already have and are just getting that same design in another color.

But mattress technology has moved rapidly in the past few years and yes, there is a spectrum: basic triple layers of foam for several hundred dollars on up to the $10,000+ hand-sewn quality material custom-built mattress on top of a box spring made up of hundreds of state-of-the-art metallurgical coils. At the middle-of-the road are popular pillow tops that come in a range of soft to extra-firm, the kind of mattress standard in hotels. A queen or king set probably on average costs about $3500. There are endless web sites with information, ratings and years of comments on mattresses.

Over the years, I read and heard my friends talk about memory foam mattresses and we still have a couple of memory foam pillows around that we don’t much like. But I hadn’t actually slept on memory foam and didn’t like the idea of trying it out in a store either. Memory foam has its attractions. Maybe because I’m a sucker for good writing—it always sounds genuine—I went with an off-brand (or newish) memory foam that at least had the sense to hire a marketing executive who was able to make a case in the comments section. Oh, and memory foam mattresses are inexpensive to buy and transport. This is because you unroll your mattress and let it grow like bread dough for 48 hours before you sleep on it. We paid about $700 for the mattress and have slept without incident past the 30-day no fault return deadline. Do I feel like a new person? Well, no, but ask me again when winter is over. There were numerous decisions that came quickly along with the new bed involving redecorating, new light fixtures, updated fans, moving furniture around, getting rid of some things I never liked anyway and ultimately a chalkboard wall.

This issue is a practical guide for a sliding scale rehab. Whether you are buying a house out of foreclosure that is going to need a major investment to become habitable or just reorganizing a closet packed so tightly with outfits you would never wear even if they fit, there is a photo or paragraph that will fire your imagination. And that question about quality? That’s relative. Like absolutely any project of consequence in life, you have to do your homework.

Pat Colander


twitter icon #shorefan




April 06, 2014 9:00 am Photos


At Home: Design: Turning obstacles into opportunities

At Home: Design: Turning obstacles into opportunities

Some years ago when I was taking horseback riding lessons, I felt this unfamiliar and fleeting sensation that could only be described as getting the hang of it. In that same millisecond, my trainer, glimpsing perhaps smugness, knocked me off my high horse saying, “A good rider is not one who can ride a good horse and look good; it’s one who can ride a bad horse and look good.”

Life. So humbling.

This maxim is reverberating in my head as I get psyched up to move next week into the fourth house I will stage to sell. House No. 4 will have design challenges. I don’t know what they are yet, but challenges come with every home along with the keys.

A great designer isn’t one who can make a great space look fabulous. A great designer is one who makes a house with issues look as if it fell from the pages of a magazine with the initials AD.

To gear up for my next staging project, I tap the vision of Beverly Hills interior designer and master home flipper Nicole Sassaman, whose new book, "100 Sassy Tips: Renovations" (Design Life), just came out.

We engage in a little shop talk then get right to down to business. I throw house problems at her like fast balls, and she hits every pitch. That bathroom tile in colors that date back to “Miami Vice,” that hallway that looks as if it leads to the temple of doom, that picture window that looks straight onto the neighbor’s air conditioner, that column in the middle of the living room… where many decorators see obstacles, Sassaman sees opportunity.

“Don’t just focus on what’s there,” she said. “Focus on what could be.”

“Or divert attention,” I said. “Whenever I don’t like what I see, I put up a mirror to reflect something better.” It’s a cheap trick, I admit.

“In Los Angeles, where I work, the city is pretty built out,” she said. “I don’t have the luxury of working with new construction. I’m constantly having to work with and around design flaws.”

“I feel that way every time I get dressed,” I said.

“When I’m done, the former obstacle often becomes my favorite part of the room.”

Now that’s what I call talent.

Here are some common design challenges, Sassaman and I have both run up against, and some solutions.

• Dreary hallway. Often hallways feel like something you just have to get through. They tend to be long, narrow and boring. Sassaman adds interest and dimension by creating niches on one long wall. She adds a downlight in the niches and something artful, like flowers or a sculpture. Painting the hallway ceiling darker and walls lighter will also give the illusion of width.

• Boring tubs. Straight up white, rectangular bathtubs are common, but not special. Tearing them out and replacing them gets expensive. Instead, Sassaman suggested covering the prominent flat side with a veneer of stone or tile. Then use the same material around the top to create a ledge all around. The treatment gives the tub more edge.

• No entry. Homes that have a built-in entryway feel more gracious than those where visitors arrive directly into the main room. But when a home doesn’t have an entry, you can make one with furniture, said Sassaman. Put a console table in front of the door, for keys and purses. If the door opens by a wall, add a small bench. An area rug or a change of flooring can also declare the space as an entry.

• Wasted space. Odd halls, the space under the stairs, landings, and the gap between cabinets and ceilings are often wasted. Make them usable and more attractive by building small desk areas, book niches or wine racks into them.

• Outdated tile. When old tile or floor pavers detract, don’t replace, repaint, said Sassaman. Materials are available to turn orange clay pavers into a more up-to-date color like chocolate. Similarly, when bath tile is turquoise and bubblegum pink, and you want ecru, ask your paint professional about paints specially designed for tile surfaces.

• No boundaries. Many of today’s open floor plans backfire because they are too vast and ill defined. When that happens in a kitchen, for example, a row of hanging pendant lights between the cooking and eating areas can create a subtle boundary.

• An ugly view. If a window looks onto a less than scenic view – say, a cinder block wall, or an alley of trash cans – don’t just close the blinds. Cover the wall with a ceiling to floor drapery on a fabulous rod, or place a decorative folding screen in front of the window.

• Inconvenient columns. When a column lands in the middle of a room or another inopportune place, turn it into a statement or bury it. Cladding it with mosaic tiles or a smoky-mirror veneer will highlight it. Wrap a circular bench around it and add pillows. Or hide it by building a double-sided book case between the column and the wall, encasing the column inside, so no one will know it’s there, said Sassaman.

“Look at these situations from different angles until you see all the possibilities,” she said.

Syndicated columnist and speaker Marni Jameson is the author of “House of Havoc” and “The House Always Wins” (Da Capo Press). Contact her through

April 05, 2014 9:00 am Photos


Natural Remedy: Healing gardens offer benefits for the body and mind

Natural Remedy: Healing gardens offer benefits for the body and mind

Gardens beguile with their scents, colors, textures and blooms, creating a sense of calm and nurturing. But even more than that, many therapists believe that gardens can heal us.

“Garden therapy is the use of garden-related activities as an aid to the recovery and rehabilitation of the disabled or challenged—physical, emotional and mental health,” said James Pavelka, Garden Therapy/Healing Chairman for The Garden Club of Indiana and member of the Hobart Garden Club.

Pavelka said therapeutic gardening can mean many things.

“It can be building raised garden beds so the elderly or disabled such as from a stroke don’t have to lean down to be able to garden,” he said. “Hospitals use them particularly for cancer patients.”

The idea of finding comfort and restoration dates back millenniums. The soft splashing sounds of a fountain centered in the middle of a Roman atrium during the reign of the Caesars, the 600 BC hanging gardens of Babylon known for their spectacular botanicals, the cloister gardens found in Medieval England, the 12-century Chartres Cathedral Labyrinth and the elaborate tombstone art and picnicking areas of Victorian cemeteries all show the important role gardens have and continue to play.

Dr. Larry Brewerton, a professor of psychology at Indiana University Northwest who also has a private practice specializing in rehabilitation, said the bond between people and other living systems is instinctual and necessary for both physical and emotional well-being.

Shinrin-yoku, Japanese for forest bathing, is simply taking a walk in the woods. The benefits for Shinrin-yoku are said to lower blood pressure, pulse rate and cortisol levels, increase vigor, reduce anger and depression; there’s also an increase in psychological benefits—deeper and clearer intuition, increased flow of energy, increased capacity to communicate with the land and its species and an overall increase in sense of happiness.

“Nature and gardening take place in a non-therapeutic setting but are therapeutic,” said Brewerton. “I have watched patients react positively—it’s really amazing, they seem to come alive. It helps build self-advocacy which is knowing who we are and being able to convey that to others, to be able to take care of ourselves. It also it imparts a sense of well-being and meaningfulness.”

It’s not difficult to build a healing garden said Pavelka, who lives in Hobart.

It doesn’t take much to turn a landscape into a healing garden. Soft plants create a soothing touch sensation as do smooth stones and polished glass, botanicals like lavender and chamomile are both fragrant and can be made into tisanes or teas for calming. Fountains provide the comforting sounds of flowing water and the colors of flowers and grasses can pack a powerful affect. Cool colors, like shades of blue, purple and green, calm and promote a sense of tranquility while soft reds, oranges and yellows evoke feelings of warmth, enliven the emotions and give us energy.

“The healing garden should be peaceful and tranquil,” said Pavelka. “You can plant flowers that attract butterflies and add a pond or fountain. There’s something about the serenity of running water and butterflies. Flowers with fragrant blooms add another sense sensation.”

The mission of the garden club is to work with groups to create soothing spots for places such as hospitals, homeless shelters, retirement centers and schools by providing—free of charge—consultation, information and ideas for garden therapy. And the list of those who can benefit is long—the physically disabled, veterans with injuries or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, abused children, the homeless, victims of violence and, of course, even ourselves—stressed, troubled and seeking to cope with life demands.

“Anyone can make a healing garden," said Pavelka, noting the job of helping people of all ages through healing gardens is priceless.

April 05, 2014 6:00 am Photos


10 tips for homeowners this spring

10 tips for homeowners this spring

After a grueling winter, it’s important to prepare your home for spring by repairing any cold weather damage. Snow and ice can wreak havoc on your home’s infrastructure, and it’s important to address issues quickly.

Begin prepping your home for spring as soon as possible, you’ll have plenty of time to relax and enjoy the fruits of your labor this summer.

“Spring is an ideal time to inspect in and around your home for any safety hazards,” Loretta Worters, vice president of communications at the Insurance Information Institute (III), says. “Spring is also a great time to make sure warm weather necessities, such as air conditioning units, are working properly after the cold season.”

The III offers the following ten home maintenance tips to help you get your home in tip-top shape this spring.

1. Clean gutters and check for leaks. Clean out any leaves or debris that may have accumulated in the gutters. Check to make sure the downspout directs water away from the foundation, and add extensions if necessary to keep the water away from your house. It’s also a good plan to install gutter guards. These will protect your gutters from clogging and ensure that water does not accumulate on the roof.

2. Replace roof shingles. It’s no fun waking up to water dripping from your roof, and the significant cost of repairs can cause major headaches. Check for roof damage, including missing shingles, leaks, and general aging, as soon as possible after the snow melts. Shingles that are cracked or loose need to be replaced.

3. Repair concrete. Ice can do serious damage to cement and exterior walkways around your home. Inspect concrete for shifting cement or for cracks, which should be filled with caulk or concrete crack filler.

4. Inspect pipes for leaks. Water damage can mean big insurance claims, so check for leaks in pipes and faucets as well as in hoses leading to dishwashers, washing machines, and refrigerators.

In addition, know the location of the main water shutoff valve in your home. A damaged hose or a burst pipe can send water racing into your home. You will save yourself time and money by knowing where this valve is located and how to use it to shut off the water supply.

5. Replace smoke detector batteries. If you didn’t already handle this task when the time changed, while you’re prepping your home for spring, make sure all smoke detectors have fresh batteries and are working properly.

6. Seal windows and doors. A windy winter may have damaged the seals on your windows and doors. Check caulking for decay around doors, windows, corner boards, and joints, and recaulk as needed. Be sure seals are tight to improve insulation and prevent water damage.

7. Prepare lawn equipment. Replacing your engine oil will increase the life of your machine, and a sharpened blade will make yard work easier.

8. Check the basement for water damage. Basements can bear the brunt of water damage if not checked frequently. They’re also a prime location for mold. If the air is too dry, consider a dehumidifier. If you have standing water, figure out whether the problem is on the interior or the exterior of your house.

9. Test the air conditioning units. Don’t wait for a hot day to discover that your air conditioning is not functioning properly. Spring is the right time to change the filters, clean the system, and make sure everything is working to maximum efficiency. Clean filters will also prevent your air conditioner from straining. Hire a contractor who can clean and inspect your mechanical systems.

10. Check your washer and dryer for fire hazards. Lint can escape a dryer hose that has been poorly connected and can then build up against the wall, causing a fire hazard. Household appliance fires are one of the most common reasons given for homeowner insurance claims.

As a homeowner, it’s impossible to prevent every problem that can arise, however with regular maintenance and a little elbow grease, you can ensure your home is a safe and comfortable place to enjoy the warm weather months ahead.

April 03, 2014 10:25 am Photos


New harmonies reflect changing themes in color and design

New harmonies reflect changing themes in color and design

While rigid color rules have been replaced by more creative options, color and style coordination in home interiors is a consistent goal. Lifestyle patterns and tastes are consistently evolving and so are the resulting forecasts that are spawning new harmonies in both color and design, according to the experts at Pantone, the leading authority on color and provider of color systems.

Color forecasts can validate some pre-conceived color choices, while also providing new inspiration and direction. In almost every space of your home, color can be the most important decorating decision you’ll make.

Color is a language. Color is one of the most fulfilling elements in our lives. Color can attract your attention or change your mood. It speaks to who you are, how you feel and where you're going. When putting together the perfect colors for your home and lifestyle, Sherwin-Williams suggests considering how color makes you feel and what it says about you.

Because it is one of the first things you notice when you walk into a room, colors and the way they're applied give voice to your personality and décor. Color sets the mood. From floor to ceiling, paint color reflects your style and makes a personal statement of what home means to you – uniting one-of-a-kind accent pieces with manufactured items throughout your home.

For example, electrifying hues, inspired by technology, bring a touch of whimsy to spaces that also feature natural carved wood, woven textiles and wrought iron.

These bright colors are further enhanced when paired with large areas of negative space.

When it comes to using color inside your home, the color experts at Sherwin-Williams have developed a few “rules of thumb” for color placement in an effort to help those with a modest CCQ (Color Confidence Quotient) boost it by learning more about the basics.

• Whether you’re creating a warm or cool color scheme, choose one color as the predominant color and use other colors as accent colors.

• If you have a long and narrow room, you can consider painting the end walls a darker shade than the long, narrow walls. The darker colors will recede and will create an illusion of width in this instance. Light colors will advance.

• Solids and simple patterns reduce visual weight, while bold patterns add visual weight.

• Bright and intense colors add visual weight, while muted, neutral colors reduce visual weight.

• To make a small room look larger, choose a light-color paint and select furnishings in the same color family. Or, you can paint some of the furniture to match the walls.

• Light-color ceilings will attract attention, but dark-color ceilings will direct the eye back to head level, allowing the focus to be on the walls, furnishings and accessories in a room.

• Light affects color dramatically. Fluorescent light tends to be cool lighting and brings out more green or blue in a color. Incandescent light — light bulbs — brings more of the red or warmth out in a color. It is important to view colors in daylight or night, because they will appear different.

• The location of color within an interior space can make a great deal of difference in influencing the room's character. A color placed on a ceiling, wall or door may elicit many different reactions.

Did you know that perception of temperature may also be altered with color?

Most design schemes contain more than one color in a space, so if the design includes a color from each group — warm and cool — coordination of the space is still accomplished.

Find just the right colors for your home with the Sherwin-Williams easy-to-use online tool or, better yet, by personally visiting their booth during the Home & Lifestyle Show.

April 03, 2014 10:27 am

Renew, refresh and restore your home

Renew, refresh and restore your home

Whether you’re home improvement goals this spring revolve around a few easy updates or something a bit more ambitious, chances are you’ll be looking for expert advice to guide you along the way.

For example, when it comes to incorporating the latest design trends into your existing home, the experts at Better Homes & Gardens recently outlined what they are loving right now, including simple tips for making them impactful. With trends, it’s always interesting to see which ones are here to stay, which ones will quietly go away and what’s next on the horizon—like navy blue. It seems to be popping up everywhere!

For now, here’s a look at a few of the trends Better Homes & Gardens is already seeing this year along with their take on how you can simply incorporate them into your current design scheme.

Warm grays—those with yellow or reddish undertones, are the neutral of the moment and are as versatile as they are trendy right now. Since there doesn’t seem to be any end in sight to the popularity of grays, this year’s tones are a welcome warm up from all the cooler shades of gray. If you still have beige walls, switching to warm gray is easy.

Gold and brass—while silver and its cohorts have been the first place metal in home décor for quite some time, yellow metals are inching their way back into the spotlight. Try embracing the trend with gold accents that have a little softer finish, rather than metals with a full-on shine. For those of you who have finally managed to switch out all those shiny brass light fixtures and doorknobs, no worries. Gold is being used in fresh new ways—from accessories to picture/mirror frames as well as upholstery and pillows.

Pastels—think bright, not Easter egg-esque when it comes to pastels. These fun hues lend a feminine aura to flea market finds and rustic and industrial finishes—or when paired with traditional furniture and styling, recall a romantic look. This trend is an obvious nod to Pantone’s “Radiant Orchid” Color of the Year.

Taxidermy—making its way out of the hunting lodge, taxidermy is now mainstream. Whether it’s antlers and horns or stuffed heads and papier-mâché models, taxidermy-inspired pieces offer a quirky alternative to standard wall décor and tabletop accessories. Probably still not for the squeamish however.

Dhurries—these affordable flat-weave rugs that hail from India are a stylish alternative to thick-pile rugs. With a variety of colors, patterns and sizes to choose from, you can layer them on an existing rug or introduce them in spaces where you currently are not using a rug.

Wallpaper—adds interest on an accent wall or in small spaces such as an entryway or powder room. It will be interesting to see how many people who stripped their walls clean are ready to give this trend a try in small doses.

Schoolhouse style—BHG has declared school is in session in the decorating world. Repurposed schoolhouse furniture and lighting, beakers used as vases and vintage flashcards as art can add a bit of flea market whimsy to a range of spaces.

Painted furniture—innovative homeowners are not only giving their personal items new life, they are scouring secondhand shops for pieces that can be repurposed with a fresh coat of paint and new hardware. While there is a great appreciation for beautiful wood in our homes, painted pieces with a special purpose are unique treasures right now.

Statement light fixtures—since good lighting is essential in any room, why miss this opportunity to add a little extra style? Beautiful fixtures are available everywhere and have taken on more importance in decorating.

Colorful front doors are a Pinterest favorite and easy way to spruce up your home’s exterior.

Plus, did you know that when it comes the remodeling project that offers the best return on investment, replacing your front door is consistently number one over the years. A replacement steel door has by far the highest return in a historical look back at the REMODELING Magazine Cost vs Value Report, which has been published since 2002.

With an average cost of $1,162, a steel front door replacement is an energy upgrade with great curb appeal that offers the added benefit of no maintenance.

Other larger projects that made the list for best return on investment over time include new siding (vinyl, fiber-cement and foam-backed siding replacements all made the top ten), a minor kitchen remodel (new cabinet doors and drawer fronts, countertops, flooring and appliances), wood deck addition and attic bedroom addition. While turning previously unused basement living space into a bedroom suite, family room, craft/exercise/office area and/or second kitchen (i.e any useful space) has become a top performer on the Cost vs Value Report in recent years.

April 03, 2014 10:22 am Photos


HBA Home and Lifestyle Show: Here's your chance to "Ask the Experts"

HBA Home and Lifestyle Show: Here's your chance to "Ask the Experts"

New to the Home & Lifestyle Show for 2014: Face-painting for the kids from 12-2pm both days and LeRoy’s “Hot Stuff” will be providing concessions.

The annual Home & Lifestyle Shows sponsored by the Home Builders Association of Northwest Indiana (HBA) will once again bring together builders and associated industry professionals at the Lake County Fairgrounds in Crown Point April 5-6.

Featuring the areas leading home improvement, remodeling and new home construction experts, the Home & Lifestyle Show gives you the opportunity to make connections with service providers and see a wide range of products - from the very latest offerings to those that are tried and true - so you can optimize the space, natural assets, comfort and style of your home.

“As a more traditional home improvement show, our focus in on the exchange of ideas,” HBA Executive Officer Vicky Gadd said. “It’s about inspiring people to enjoy their homes. What’s really great about the Home & Lifestyle Show is the fact that you’ll be primarily talking to small business owners, the people who in most cases are doing the work. Not only are they experts in their fields, they keep up with new ideas and will be displaying the latest trends. It’s all here, under one roof.”

Whether you want to redesign the flow of your kitchen, transform your master bath into a relaxation spa, create a new space for that game room/hobby room/exercise room/man cave you’ve been dreaming about, upgrade your outdoor living area or learn more about energy efficiency, the Home & Lifestyle show offers all the expertise and tools you need to get the job done.

Plus, this is definitely the place to find complete solutions for any challenges your having in your home with all the products and expert advice you need to make your home more safe, comfortable, energy-efficient and down right gorgeous.

You can explore the latest trends in entertainment systems, sunrooms, heating and cooling, home security and window treatments. Talk to the experts about your home maintenance challenges and find solutions. Green up that lawn, exterminate those pests and enjoy a new patio this spring.

“Come out and explore all types of home and lifestyle improvement,” Gadd said. “Along with the great displays, our talented vendors look forward to advising people so they will be re-inspired to do great things for their home.”

Plus, new this year, LeRoy’s “Hot Stuff” will be providing concessions.

Leroy Fores established his signature restaurant after purchasing Randlers in 1990. With the vision of a working mans’ establishment serving only the highest quality foods – Mexican cuisine just like they make in Mexico plus a great selection of American favorites - Leroy's "Hot Stuff" has become a staple of the Duneland community.

As a result, Leroy's is always looking to give back to the community that made it so successful. Each year they sponsor the Annual Rebuilding Together Poker Run in April (other causes are supported with Poker Runs as well) and close out the summer with Porter's Perfect Pint, a micro-brew fest that supports the local parks and the fire department.

Join the HBA April 5-6 in Lake County for expert advice, fresh ideas and sensible solutions to all your home improvement, remodeling and product purchasing needs.

Look for a complete schedule of events including face painting for the kids from 12-2pm both days at


For Your Info:

The Home & Lifestyle Show

Sponsored by the Home Builders Association of Northwest Indiana

Lake County Fairgrounds

889 S Court Street | Crown Point, IN

Saturday, April 5, 9am-6pm

Sunday, April 6, 10am-5pm

Admission $7 for adults (children under 18 free)

$2 off coupon available in The Times


About The Home Builders Association of Northwest Indiana . . .

“The Strength of a Nation Lies in the Homes of its People”

--Abraham Lincoln

The Home Builders Association of Northwest Indiana is a not-for-profit trade association of builders and associated industry professionals dedicated to promoting the American Dream of home ownership.

The noteworthy history of this Association is reflected in the leadership of the top builders and developers in Northwest Indiana, along with the participation and support of thousands of associate members representing various trades and businesses.

For more than 50 years, the members of the Association have worked locally, statewide, and nationally to enhance the building industry in Northwest Indiana. The members of HBA of NWI are at the forefront of the creation of a multitude of developments in both counties, with a focus on providing the residents of Northwest Indiana with affordable, quality housing.

Over the years the Association has produced a very successful Parades of Homes showcasing the latest in homebuilding and remodeling and Home & Garden (now Home & Lifestyle) Shows featuring products and ideas for home building and improvement. Thousands of visitors attend these events annually. Also, members have supported charities in both counties by donating funds or organizing and participating fundraising events and building projects.

With the resources and leadership of both counties combined into a regional Association, the Home Builders Association of Northwest Indiana is able to offer its members more opportunities for business and encourage new business relationships that cross county lines.

The Home Builders Association of Northwest Indiana seeks to provide a unified approach to development, a powerful voice in the formulation of local policies that affect housing, and consumer education about affordable and innovative home construction options. The Association’s goal is to promote well-planned growth, development, and building standards that will provide the residents of Northwest Indiana with quality and affordable housing in the future.

For more info:

Home Builders Association of Northwest Indiana

800 East 86th Avenue, Suite A | Merrillville, IN


Vicky Gadd, Executive Officer

Upcoming HBA events:

June 21-29

2014 HBA of NWI Parade of Homes, Northwest Indiana's Premier Home Tour


Use this checklist from the HBA when selecting a builder or remodeler for your home:

• Contact the Home Builders Association of Northwest Indiana for the names of member builders and remodelers or go to our website: You can also ask family, friends or coworkers for recommendations.

• Make sure the builder or home remodeler has a permanent business location and a good reputation with local banks and suppliers.

• Find out how long they have been in the building business. It usually takes three to five years to establish a financially sound business. You want to make sure they will be around after the construction is complete to service any warranties.

• Check out the company's rating and if there have been any complaints filed with your local Better Business Bureau.

• Make sure the builder/remodeler has sufficient workers compensation and general liability insurance. If not, you may be liable for any construction-related accidents on your premises.

• Ask the builder/remodeler to provide you with names of previous customers. If they won't, beware. If they do, ask the customers if they would hire the builder/remodeler again.

• Ask if you can see the builder/remodelers work, both completed and in progress. Check for quality of workmanship and materials.

• Do you feel you can easily communicate with the builder/remodeler? Remember you will be in close contact with them throughout the construction process and afterward as you live in your new home.

• Make sure the builder/remodeler provides you with a complete and clearly written contract. The contract will benefit both of you. If you are having a new home built, get and review a copy of the home warranty and homeowner manual as well.

• Be cautious of unusually low-priced bids. If the builder/remodeler is unable to pay for the materials and labor as the project proceeds, this may indicate a potential problem. Keep in mind that less expensive does not necessarily mean better!

• Verify that your remodeler is an EPA Lead-Safe Certified Renovator if you are planning work in a pre-1978 home that will disturb more than six square feet of painted surfaces inside the home or 20 square feet on the exterior of the home.

April 03, 2014 10:13 am Photos


Meet the Home & Lifestyle Show vendors

Meet the Home & Lifestyle Show vendors

Spring is a great time to add to the appeal of your home, and the Home & Lifestyle Show brings together a great group of vendors who look forward to sharing their ideas and expertise with you.

These local experts are the best resources when it comes to making a your house a home. From creating and maintaining the structure of the “house” that provides your basic needs for shelter and safety to creating the sanctuary you call “home,” you’ll find a wealth of knowledge to help you make it just right for you and your family.

From décor and design to setting up flexible spaces and choosing the right furnishings on the inside as well as ensuring everything’s ready to go for summer on the outside and everywhere in between, there’s an expert to help you every step of the way, including:

• Builders/Remodelers

• Closet Creations

• Cookware

• Doors

• Gutters

• Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC)

• Home Electronics

• Kitchen Cabinets

• Patios and Sunrooms

• Windows

• Yard Care Services

Here’s a closer look at just a few of the experts who will be on hand to personally answer all your home and lifestyle questions:

Tonia McLinn of Closet Creations and Momper Insulation and Gutters

Local home organization expert Tonia McLinn helps people find peace of mind, get organized and focus on what’s really important in life. As a fully trained and authorized ORG Home dealer, Closet Creations offers a complete line of professionally designed and custom-built solutions for organizing closets, pantries, garages, basements, laundry rooms, the home office and extra bedroom.

By showing people that there’s more to organizing a space than simply installing shelves, McLinn can make any space more aesthetically pleasing, optimize function, and bring added value to your home. When any space is organized the right way, people are surprised by how much useable space they actually have and reorganizing existing homes is huge right now. There are also a lot of people who are looking for solutions in new construction since that is picking up this spring as well, according to McLinn.

“From the insulation standpoint, after our cold long winter, people are taking a serious look at how their home is insulated, and they definitely want to be more efficient,” she said. “We’re also hearing from people who experienced some problems with their gutters once the ice and snow started melting. Many of them are looking for some new solutions as well.”

Mark and Kathy Ribi of Artistic Visions

While our winter weather has caused some problems for homeowners that require repairing and replacing some functional structures, it can also present new opportunities for refreshing the landscape. Changes around the foundation can help alleviate wet basements when the snow melts, and a new pond can transform a problematic muddy patch into an attractive amenity.

Once these projects are complete, you’ll want to call attention to them with lighting.

Local designers are ready to discuss all your decorative landscape and garden lighting needs. Along with their booth at the Home & Lifestyle Show, they are especially proud of all the fresh ideas on display in their new and expanded Valparaiso showroom.

When professional lighting designers approach your home as a blank canvas, they take in the architectural details, landscape highlights and open spaces in order to create a custom lighting design that draws attention to the best aspects of all of these things producing a “wow” affect when people drive up to your home and a warm, welcoming feel to your backyard.

With solutions that incorporate home, garden, deck and path lighting with hand made yard art fixtures to bring your outdoors to life both during the day and at night, Artistic Visions helps ensure your landscaping is a key focal point providing everything for the do-it-yourselfer and turn key service with maintenance for those who prefer dependable “plug and play” performance.

Dean Voelker of Michiana Softub

Looking for an easy way to soothe your mind, body and spirit at the end of a long day? Check out Softub spas - the leading brand of soft-sided hot tubs – where relaxing has never been easier. Simply plug it in, fill it up and enjoy an experience that leaves you feeling rejuvenated and relaxed.

Because warm water stimulates the body’s natural production of endorphins, hot tubs elevate your mood while relaxing muscles and improving blood circulation.

Available in different sizes to meet your needs, Softubs weigh as little as 80 pounds, are easy to assemble and very portable. They also provide many of the same health benefits of larger spas for a fraction of the cost.

Softub's Heat Recovery Technology incorporates a pump motor that heats into a single Hydromate Unit. The heat from the motor is then used to heat the filtered water, keeping energy consumption to a minimum. Softubs plug into a standard 120V outlet, and do not require any additional wiring.

Visit the Softub booth to discover how simple is can be to enjoy the benefits of a hot tub at home.

Jeff Wallar of American Sunspace Additions,

Locally owned and operated in Elkhart since 1976, American Sunspace Additions provides “factory direct” three-season and four-season sunrooms, replacement windows and doors. With design consultants who visit your home to listen to your ideas and make suggestions for the best products to fit your home, lifestyle and budget, the team at American Sunspace Additions produces their products for an average customer cost savings of 5-20 percent based on competitive estimates.

With more than 17,000 customers spread throughout Indiana, southern Michigan and western Ohio, American Sunspace Additions specializes in custom sizes and colors, while offering a variety of options and configurations including gable sunrooms, studio sunrooms and porch enclosures. They also help customers improve the energy efficiency of their homes by installing high-end custom vinyl replacement windows that are easy to operate and maintain.

April 03, 2014 10:07 am Photos


At Home: When moves align, or don't

At Home: When moves align, or don't

“Where are you moving?” People logically ask when they hear I am once again pulling up stakes.

“I don’t know,” I say, which is sad, true, and puzzling to most normal people, a group to which I have not belonged for some time.

Eyebrows raise. Silences grows. Subjects change. People whisper.

This I do know: After seven-months of living in and staging a lovely Southern Plantation-style Florida home, I am moving. Allegedly, I am moving to another home that I will again decorate to help sell.

The home staging company and I have a home in mind, a lovely Spanish Mediterranean facing a lake. There’s just one little hitch. I need to be out of my home 48 hours sooner than the current resident of my target home plans to move out. Apparently those living in her target home can’t be out any sooner.

I appear to be the only one concerned about this.

“Ahh details, schmeetails. What’s 48 hours?” say those pulling the strings behind the curtain.

Although two days don’t seem like much in the shifting sands of real estate time, when you’re trying to coordinate the handing over of the keys along with the relocation of, oh, ten tons of household contents, two days might as well be two years.

What am I supposed to do, sit on the curb with my stuff? Move in with the current resident? Excuse me, Ms. Thistlebottom, would you be so kind as to scoot your things over just a skosh while I slip my queen bed next to yours? I promise to stay on this side of the sink.

Sometimes I picture the real estate map of America like a giant chess game. One move triggers a cascade of contingencies that has ripple across the entire board, often at the expense of someone’s castle.

Meanwhile, speaking of bad timing, as I’m packing to move to a home where I may or may not be headed—asking myself why am I in this situation, and answering, oh, yea, because I don’t want to buy a home until I sell the home I own in Colorado, which is difficult since it isn’t for sale, but Lord willing and the creek don’t rise that will end in August when the lease is up and I can put that house on the market—my tenant calls.

She wants to extend the lease. For a year.

"NOOOOOOOO!!" I think. But what I say is, “The end of the lease is months away. Do we need to decide this now?” I mean, why panic today when you can panic later? That’s my motto.

“Actually, yes,” she said, adding something about wanting to know where she’ll be living in six months and not liking uncertainty.

You want to talk about uncertainty! I feel like saying, but instead, I find my last shred of calm, and say, “Let me think about it.”

And I will, even though this hurts my head so bad I want to rush back to fourth grade when my biggest problem was keeping my knee socks from sliding down.

For therapy, I run all this by my friend Audrey Will, a realtor from Castle Rock, Colo. “So many things have to align for everyone’s life to fall into place,” she said, succinctly summing both my housing predicaments.

“It’s like dominos. You can have them all lined up, but if one down the line falls the wrong way, or doesn’t fall, it sets off a chain reaction of frenzy,” she said.

We agree, though timing is a huge issue, it’s the elephant in the room no one talks about.

To prepare her clients, Will tells them up front: “Every deal takes on a life of its own. We’re going to have issues. We just don’t know what they are yet.”

Here are a few hiccups that can derail a move’s timing, and suggestions from real estate pros on avoiding or getting through them:

Why timelines blow up:

• The house doesn’t appraise well, so everyone goes back to the bargaining table.

• The loans falls through. Get a lender letter soon after the home is under contract stating the confidence level of funding.

• A failed home inspections. A pre-inspection from the seller can disclose problems up front.

• Arguments about repairs. Parties have walked away after disagreeing about who’s going to pay for fixing what. “Check your ego at the door,” says Will.

• The roof caves in. After a house is under contract, catastrophes -- the basement floods – can set deals back.

• Cold feet. For reasons ranging from sudden job loss to a change of heart to onerous homes associations, buyers back out.

• A lien surfaces. Escrows collapse when a property doesn’t clear title, or a lien pops up. Run a title search beforehand.

• Other people. Any one of the above happening to another deal in the housing chain can affect yours.

When move dates don’t align:

• Buy time. If sellers need more time in the house, they can rent the property back from the buyer. If buyers want in sooner than the seller is out, they can hold their stuff on the truck if the overlap is only a day (otherwise it can get expensive), or rent a pod which they can fill and store until the new place is ready. Then find a friend that has a guest room, or stay at an inn.

• Adopt the Zen of moving. “When you think about how much real estate changes hands every day, it’s amazing how well it all works out,” says Will. You may not move the day you set out to, but ultimately you move. You can’t know how it’s all going to work out, but trust that it will.”

Syndicated columnist and speaker Marni Jameson is the author of “House of Havoc” and “The House Always Wins” (Da Capo Press). Contact her through

April 01, 2014 9:00 am

Local birder receives award for advancing ornithology in our region

Local birder receives award for advancing ornithology in our region

Kenneth J. Brock always enjoyed nature and being outdoors but he wasn’t in it for the birds. After completing a B.S. in Geology and spending four years in the Navy as a navigator aboard C-130 transport planes, he returned to his home state of California and began working on his PhD at Stanford University.

“I had an office mate who always wanted to take me out birding,” he said. “When you’re a graduate student you’re always so busy, but I finally agreed to go. Now I’m a birder, and he’s probably a billionaire.”

Brock's birding has paid off, though, and on April 6 he will receive the prestigious American Birding Association's Ludlow Griscom Award for 2014. This honor is awarded to birders who have increased the knowledge of ornithology in a particular region.

He is one of a group who go birding on a regular basis, they frequent the dunes looking for migratory birds such as Jaegers, also called also known as the Arctic Skuas.

“They’re my favorites,” said Brock. “They’re predatory and nest in the tundra of the Artic and catch lemmings—those animals said to march into the sea and eat other birds’ eggs. They perform the same role as hawks do on land and are often called the hawks of the sea.”

Jaegers have some pretty cool moves said Brock.

“They’re just super-duper fliers,” he continued. "They fly like paragon falcons, they follow a tern who has caught a fish, doing circles around it until the tern drops the fish and then the Jaeger swoops down and catches the fish before it hits the water.”

For lovers of Jaegers, there’s few places better to be than Northwest Indiana—well, I suppose you could hang out on the Arctic tundra but really winters here are bad enough.

“We see more here than in other areas because they fly lower over the lake,” said Brock noting when it’s Jaeger traveling season, birders come from hundreds of miles away. “I think we get more Long Tail Jaegers than any other place.”

This year Northwest Indiana was also big on snowy owls, those pretty snow white birds that look so wise (and they are smarter than the average bird said Brock noting that really isn’t saying much).

Since retiring from Indiana University Northwest, Brock has gone into birding big time including serving as director of a year-long bird survey of the five sites under consideration for the Chicago area’s third regional airport as well as currently serves as a member on the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Technical Bird Committee. He also is a formerly regional editor for the national journal North American Birds and is currently a board member in the Flora Richardson Foundation and the Northwestern Indiana Migratory Bird Association.

His interest in Hoosier ornithology has led him to visit almost every one of the state’s 92 counties.

“I haven’t been to Switzerland County yet,” he says.

He also remembers coming across a white winged tern in 1979.

“They used to be called white winged black terns,” he said. “They’re actually European and so you don’t find them out here much if any at all.”

Brock spotted his at Roxanna Pond, a marshy wide spot in the Grand Calumet River that he said has just been restored.

“It was the first inland report of one in over 100 years,” he said.

Though his wife isn’t a birder, she’s a good sport about the whole thing.

“She called me the other day to tell me she’d seen a pelican near Striebel Pond in Michigan City,” he said.

Being the dedicated birder he is, Brock headed over there. And sure enough there was a pelican.

“You don’t see them this far north very often,” he said. Then he sighs. Like the fish that got away, there are birds too that did so.

“I wasn’t into birding when I was in the Navy and there was a week when our ship was getting fixed in Bangkok where we just waited around,” he said. “Think of all the wonderful birds I could have spotted.”

April 01, 2014 8:30 am

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