Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Landscape Lighting: A Great Way to Dress Up Your Home

(ARA) – The real estate market may be in a slump, but not all industries having to do with the home are in trouble. Companies that specialize in remodeling and renovation, particularly in the area of outdoor living, are doing extremely well right now.

“People don’t want to lose money on their biggest investment so instead of moving, they’re improving their homes,” says Joe Rey-Barreau, an associate professor at the University of Kentucky’s School of Interior Design and education consultant for the American Lighting Association (ALA). He says now that warmer weather has arrived, people are adding decks, patios, gazebos and outdoor kitchens to their homes, and they aren’t just planning to use them in the daytime.

“The trend towards expanding outdoor living space has been growing for some time now,” says Richard Lentz, president of Lentz Landscape Lighting in Dallas, Texas. “In past years, our goal was focused on lighting the space and showing off the garden. Now we’re concentrating a lot more effort on finding innovative ways to light outdoor spaces so they can be used at night, much like they’re used during the day.”

Backyard decks no longer just have a small light near the door. Lentz says lighting designers are now installing down lights in trees and attaching them to chimneys to shine light down on the space. “We’re also putting in a lot of step lights to make the transition from the upper to lower level easier,” says Lentz, who adds that people no longer have to feel like they’re under a spotlight when they sit outside under the stars. “If there’s a tree nearby, we can shine light down from it. Attaching fixtures to a chimney is also a nice way to get light from above that feels like moonlight.”

And when it comes to lighting outdoor kitchens, innovation is key. “We do a lot of task lighting in the outdoor kitchen,” says Lentz. “We’ll utilize the arbors to hang task lighting over the sink, the grill and the table, for example, and put them on dimmers so when the light isn’t needed, it can be turned down.”

Lentz credits the recent innovations offered by various lighting manufacturers for making those projects possible. “Technology sure has come a long way in a short amount of time,” he says.

Rey-Barreau agrees. “Manufacturers realize there’s a growing market for outdoor fixtures and they have responded by stepping up to the challenge to develop chandeliers, table lamps and sconces that are rated for wet conditions so they can be safely installed outdoors,” he says.

Safety isn’t the only factor being considered by manufacturers. So is operating cost. Not so long ago, the U.S. government mandated that the lighting industry find ways to cut energy consumption of their products. Kichler Lighting of Cleveland, Ohio, responded by coming out with a line of outdoor fixtures that use highly efficient L.E.D. bulbs that require one-third the energy of incandescents.

“When people realize they can get the same light output, a nice comfortable color and reduce energy use by 75 percent, they are more than willing to make the change,” says Jeff Dross at Kichler Lighting.

There have been innovations in the area of lighting for curb appeal purposes as well. “Landscape lighting is about safety, security and aesthetics. As far as the latter goes, the key to success is being subtle. Less is always more,” says Monty Gilbertson, manager of Lighting Design by Wettsteins in La Crosse, Wisc.

Doug Prexta, who works for the landscape division of Cleveland, Ohio-based Hinckley Lighting confirms lighting the outdoors is a trend that’s here to stay. “Our business is way up in the landscape division because people are investing in their homes more and more,” he says.

For more information about landscape lighting, or to find a lighting showroom near you, log on to the American Lighting Association’s Web site at or call (800) BRIGHT-IDEAS (800-274-4484).

Courtesy of ARAcontent

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Creating a Backyard Getaway

Consider these tips when creating a backyard getaway.

Foundation- Carefully choose the foundation materials you'll need for a patio or walkway. They should maintain design integrity, but easily assimilate into your natural backyard. A couple of great options are stone and brick. These materials are environmentally friendly, and they maintain a natural feel. Walkways should be designed with a logical flow that allows individuals to get from one area to the next with relative ease. And it's a good idea to map out gardens, lounge areas, pools and gazebos around the natural path of sunlight during the day.

Material- Wood, wicker, plastic, metal – make sure the materials you use are high quality. Invest in outdoor furniture made of woods like teak, mahogany and bamboo. These materials withstand extended exposure to rain and sunlight, and they're eco-friendly products. Consider mesh if you live in a wet climate. It's a great option for lounge chairs because it dries quickly without water damage. If you purchase metal furniture, make sure it's rust-proof.

Landscape- Trees, bushes, flowers, rock gardens, waterfalls and ponds — there are endless possibilities when it comes to landscaping your oasis. If shade is important, take into consideration the path of the sun as well as natural foliage. If you want a pool, build it away from trees that shed leaves, pollen and branches. These elements clog filters and create a maintenance nightmare. You want your yard to be a good mixture of sun and shade. Lastly, it's important to provide a barrier between your backyard getaway and the rest of the world. A great way to seclude your yard from the street is through the use of high hedges or a fence.

Remember, your backyard getaway should be a relaxing retreat in nature from the rest of the world.

For more tips on creating the perfect backyard getaway, contact your agent today!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Fraud Alert:

Beware newspaper or internet ads offering "guaranteed" loan approval, and using the Countrywide name. Here's more: