Home Design Tips
Life is too short to live it in darkness
Why follow these tips
When I started to design my home, I knew that I had to understand how space, light, colors, drawn patterns, surface 3D structures and their combinations would affect my perception. I believe that habit and popular knowledge lead to taking uninformed decisions and don't help people understand the world around.
For this, I've purchased a lot of finishing materials and have studied them for about 9 months; by "studied" I mean I've looked at them in all possible lighting conditions, and have touched them to feel their surface. I've looked at tens of catalogs with thousands of products, I've looked at thousands of images with various designs, and have done hundreds of simulations in design simulators.
In total, I've spent over 2'500 hours, spread over 4 years, searching, researching and planning for everything that could possibly be necessary in a home, with most of this time being spent at the computer. I have found everything online, researched them, and have bought things both online and from local stores.
This amount of time should not discourage you if you are not the type of person who would spend hundreds upon hundreds of hours trying to understand how various finishings affects mood, or developing from scratch the rules about how to create a custom warm white, or looking through thousands of images upon thousands of products, or looking through thousands upon thousands of images from photo libraries in search of photos to hang on walls.
I have always disliked white surfaces (like walls, flooring and furniture) because it's easy to see grime on them. For decades I had furniture covered with very dark and glossy wood veneer; I didn't like this either because it was too dark.
At the beginning of my efforts to design my home I wanted dark parquet, dark tile on the floor, medium-lightness tile on the walls, deep yellow wall paint, and heavy wood patterns for the parquet, tile, furniture and doors. In retrospect, it was nuts, but all this was the effect of me disliking the fact that it's easy to see grime on light surfaces.
When I saw the samples in the showrooms, I was hooked. They looked beautiful. After a few months, my perception changed partially, so I ended up installing just the parquet and tile, but kept the walls white; the furniture was not planned for a few more months.
However, when I saw the parquet and tile installed, the look and feel was barely acceptable. Why? Because my perception had changed more than I realized, and I started to like having more light and less patterns. I actually ended up being annoyed by all the lines, long and short, straight and undulated, present in wood (imitation or natural).
I've swung back and forth between heavy wood textures and an aseptic white atmosphere, finally settling on a simple look but with some detail.
I've replaced the parquet and tile with a light tile, with little pattern.
Aside from my changing perception, the other main reason for choosing a light color for the floor was that I've found out about cement grout sealant and epoxy grout.
The most difficult part of my effort was to understand what I like most, not just what I like, because there were several design styles that I liked.
When you'll see yourself free to design your home, you might feel overwhelmed, going around without knowing what to do, so take the time to understand what you like on the long term.
In order to choose a design style for your home, you first have to discover what style you like most for the place where you are going to spend most of your time and life. You may think that you know what you like, but what you know is actually what you are used to, not what you like.
To understand what you like you have to be exposed to several very different design style, over a long time, preferably 2 years or more. You could end up liking several design styles, but you still have to choose a single one. Only at the end of this time you should take the final decision about the tile, parquet, wall paint and furniture material that you will use.
If you choose the finishes for your home quickly, based on your instinct, you are actually following habit, you are choosing what you are used to, not what you could like the most if you were exposed to a diversity of finishes for a long time.
One major question you should answer is if you want your home to feel empty / aired or cluttered / busy. If you lean toward empty then choose flooring and furniture with little structure and pattern, for example materials that look close to a solid color. If you lean toward cluttered then choose flooring and furniture with some pattern and / or structure, for example materials that look like wood or busy stone.
Expose yourself to different design styles by looking at many images, going to furniture stores, looking at how fancy shops are designed, and watching design and home rental shows. Don't try to replicate a view that you've seen, unless you have the same light (distribution) and space.
It may be possible to understand what you like by looking at your clothes, not the clothes that you're wearing in general, but the clothes that you really like to wear. If you like plain clothes, without pattern, grouped by tones of a single color, you would probably like a modern / empty / aired interior design. If you like busy clothes in terms of color and pattern, you would probably like a classical / cluttered / busy interior design. But you should really ask yourself: do I actually like these clothes, or am I simply used to them? Such is life, with tough decisions to make.
You could even find photos with design styles that you like and print them on a large format posters. Keep such posters up a few days or weeks, and see how your perception changes. However, be aware that most photos of interior design use fake lighting which makes them extremely good (and nothing like in reality).
Watch for any sign of tiredness that color, lightness, pattern (like the imitation of wood), structure (= the 3D aspect of the surface) and size (actually the limits created by the edges of surfaces) can give you. Be aware that such tiredness will be dramatically amplified by the large area where the material is going to be used. If you feel tiredness then use a different, simpler material.
The biggest obstacle in your path to create a good design is formed by your habits, the fact that you are used to the look of your current (and previous) home, holding various incomplete (possibly even outright wrong) beliefs, and maybe ignoring the fact that design preferences depend on the state of mind at a given time. The second biggest obstacle is the lack of determination to pursue your dreams.
Be aware that your personality and state of mind will affect what you choose (color, lightness, pattern, structure), but what you choose will also affect your personality, in time. You will have to chase your ever changing perception because you will adapt to the changes that you make, and then you'll want to make adjustments to the adjustments.
The design styles, colors and patterns that you like do change continuously because you, the space and the materials are influenced by the light's (be it natural or artificial) intensity and color, weather, season, personal and work events, and simply getting used to a specific look.
If you want to have a bright and airy home, choose south facing windows (for the southern hemisphere, the direction is reversed) and go with light colors and little pattern on walls, furniture and doors, in order to maximize the effect of the sunlight, light whose effect on the state of mind is fundamental.
Some people like minimalism, most famously known for the extensive use of white for walls, furniture and even floor. Minimalism is preferred because it stimulates the mind as little as possible, perhaps because it's too stimulated elsewhere (for example, at work). However, a minimalistic home may look too empty and give a hospital feel. To bring warmth but still maintain a serene, clean and aired atmosphere, warm colors, warm light, accent colors, shapes and patterns have to be used.
Accent colors are colors which are used for small areas rather than large ones, like the kitchen countertop and backsplash, tables, desk, chairs, bed headboard, curtains, bed and sofa covers, low hanging light fixtures, lamps, decorative pillows, vases with (artificial) flowers, designed objects, photos hung on walls and so on. Accent colors are enough to fill a space and give it contrast, contrast that some people are keen to have, by acting as foreground / conscious colors.
Some images with dark rooms may look great, but only for the short time that you look at them, at the small size of an image, not for your entire life, not at real size (= everywhere around you), and not in real light.
The submillimeter surface structures, smooth or with tiny bumps, matte or glossy, is more important than the pattern drawn on the surface because of the way it diffuses light. The way in which surfaces interact with light (= the way they look) is a major differentiating factor between cheap and expensive materials; while the surface differences may be subtle, they are crucial for experienced viewers; for example, lacquers and varnishes give wood a refined look. The less pattern there is, the less busy the surface feels and the more you perceive the play of the direct sunlight on the surface.
Try to be flexible in your choices:
Some examples of simple design styles: greige parquet and light diffusion, beige parquet and golden wood parquet. Search the Internet for "oak floor white walls", "white floor white walls", "white floor living room" or "scandinavian interior design" to see more images.
To see simulated environments, where you can choose from various predefined rooms and change their parquet and wall colors, use the room designers of parquet manufactures. You can find these easily by searching the Internet for "[Brand] room designer" (for example, "Tarkett room designer").
To make the final choice about what materials, colors, patterns and surface structures to go with, don't spend too much time with the simulated environments, or even in showrooms and shops, instead look at the physical samples in the place where they will be installed. Showrooms and simulators can easily mislead you because they have a very different light and space than what you have in your home.
The environments simulated on a computer screen are too small to give you a correct feel of what your home will look like, and the light distribution is usually fake, so they are likely to induce to you the wrong feeling; you also don't have the light and space used by the simulators. Still, no matter how good some samples look next to each other in reality, the simulated environments show the correct layout, geometry and how things work in context, so use them as well.
It's important to understand that no matter what you choose, you'll eventually get bored of the chosen look because it never changes. What you want to achieve is a look that you will like again when you come back from a vacation.
You have to understand how something will affect your perception after a while, not at the moment you see it. Concentrate on the general look, not on individual elements. Many things are meant to "pop", to get your attention immediately, but once the feeling of novelty wears off, they may become something that feels too busy to look at. Examples are glossy mosaics and printed images. On the other end of the spectrum, the lack of details (like color, pattern, shapes) may leave you feeling like you're staring into the void.
Once you understand what you like, you can work with an interior designer to design your home. Be ready to specify a budget for everything that you want the designer to do for you.
Presumably, you've come here because you want to feel better in your home, so you want to understand more about what you should do in order to improve your home's design.
In terms of interior design, a person's well-being can be projected on several orthogonal dimensions. "Orthogonal" means that modifying the coordinates on one dimension doesn't affect the coordinates from any other dimension, that is, the dimensions are independent.
The dimensions are: space, light, stimulation. Both space and light do affect stimulation to some extent, and light does make space visible, so they are not orthogonal in absolute terms.
If you want to feel well in your home, all these dimensions must have coordinates. This means that your home must have:
To understand this multidimensionality, consider that you are inside a huge black box. What do you see? Nothing, it's just a black void; there aren't even stars above.
Now consider that windows are added to the box and the sunlight comes through them. You start to see the light creating reflections in the dust from the air.
Now let's say that the room turns white. You now see a gray void. It's gray because the room is so large that the sunlight can't fill the room.
Now the sunlight's intensity increases a lot. What do you see? If you are near the windows, you see so much light that it hurts your eyes. If you are away from the windows, you see still see a gray void, although a light shade of gray.
Now the room shrinks, windows are added to several sides, the size of the windows is increased, and lighting fixtures are added. You now see a white void, a canvas for future work. Good sunlight and properly designed lighting fixtures can create very nice effects on the walls.
Moving forward, the floor changes color and pattern, and becomes either wood or stone, whatever you prefer. What do you see? The beginning of a livable room.
Now furniture starts to appear. Colors pop on some walls and on furniture, photos are hung onto walls, objects pop up around the room, filling the space. You now see a home, a place where you want to be, a place which was created in the three dimensions: space, light and stimulation.
Light and neutral colors are popular for interior decorating because they reflect the most amount of light back into the environment, creating the brightest homes, without having a mentally stimulating effect (like strong colors have).
The hallmark of modern design is as much sunlight and space as possible; obviously, not as much light as an operating room, or as much space as a hangar, we're in the context of a home. Still, the light distribution and the space layout are even more important.
The extensive use of light colors in a home produces a huge amount of light in the home due to the fact that the light which enters the home (from the outside, or from lighting fixtures) is absorbed by surfaces only to a minimum extent, and is rather reflected back in the space, over and over again, ending up illuminating even areas where light would not reach in a home which has, for example, a dark floor.
When matte, light colored surfaces are hit by direct sunlight they diffuse it and create a soft glow near them, glow which may extend to the entire room if the room is mostly light colored, creating a misty atmosphere (= lacking shadow harshness). Dense sheer / translucent curtains increase this effect.
White is not a single color but a set, just like red, blue, green are. You can find shades of white under the names: off white, warm white, cold white, dark white, dirty white, antique white, milky white, alabaster.
Here are some light colors with standard color codes, with an undertone that's balanced between yellow and red:
NCS colors are very intuitive for people because of how they are formed: [Blackness %][Chromaticness %]-[Pigment 1 name][Pigment 2 %][Pigment 2 name]. The hue, "Pigment 1 name" and "Pigment 2 name" can be the following primary colors: "Y" (yellow), "R" (red), "B" (blue), "G" (green). An "S" in front of the color identifies that it's a part of the NCS 1950 list. For example, for "YxR", the smaller "x" is, the more yellow the color's undertone is; the higher "x" is, the redder the color's undertone is.
White is neutral, it's a void of color, of stimulation, so it needs at least brightness (= the presence of a lot of light) to create stimulation. Black is similar, it's needs light to form shapes on it, to create some shine and sparkle.
For details, read how the eye perceives color.
The extensive use of white in a home (for walls, furniture and even floor) is usually associated with a hospital look, in a bad way. But in reality, the main reason for the hospital look is not the white, it's the empty space, a space devoid of anything.
For a home to feel comfortable, for most people, it must have its space occupied by colors, patterns, structures and objects, basically any geometry formed by light and shadow.
White does not fill space, it just maintains the emptiness of perception, and this may lead to the hospital look for a completely white home. However, for this look to occur, the space must remain generally empty, meaning that shapes, patterns, structures and objects must also be absent, and light has to be little or cold.
Think of a hospital room. What does it contain? It's a bunch of white walls, white colored tile, metallic beds with white bedsheets, with nothing to fill the space above the bed level.
Much of the hospital look is produced by the fact that pure white wall paint shows a blue-gray color, unless the room is illuminated by a lot of direct sunlight, because the color temperature of the light from shaded areas is high. Artificial lighting with a high color temperature (= with a blue undertone) is also extensively used, and the light also has a flat look, lacking directionality (like sunlight has). To reduce the hospital look, see how you can choose a warm white paint.
So, the problem is the extensive use of shades of cold white and the absence of photos hung on walls, elegant lighting fixtures, wardrobes, sofas, chairs, curtains, bed and sofa covers, pillows, tables, lamps, books, and so on.
You can warm up the look of a home by coloring the (sun)light which is reflected inside the home, with any of the following:
Do you need contrast in a home, like light and dark colors? If you feel the need to have it, then it's needed; it's similar to how little or how much contrast you like for your clothes. Less contrast feels more aired, less busy. Adding colors (be they darker or more colorful), shapes, patterns and structures to a white box (= an empty home) fills the void; too few of them makes a space feel like an empty box.
To eliminate the hospital effect that a mostly white home might have, it's crucial to use a warm white wall paint.
Virtually all pure white wall paints that are mass produced show a blue undertone indoors (and appear cold), especially in low lit areas, because they reflect light with a high color temperature. A white paint with such a blue undertone is also responsible for much of the hospital look.
The perceived color of a paint varies due to the color of the paint, to the color of the light (sunlight is not white), to the intensity of the light, to the weather, to the geographical location, to the season, to the nearby objects which reflect the light, to the structure of the painted surface, and due to the specifics of your eyes. You may be used to ignoring these differences, but the effect they have on how you perceive colors is huge even if you think that the color is "just white".
An overhang over a window casts a shadow in the room, which means that the sunlight which enters that room will have a high color temperature; this is because that sunlight contains more blue light scattered by the sky.
Some people are afraid of warm white because it reminds them of white with a green or yellow undertone, undertones which give a feeling of sick or old and decrepit. These undertones can be fixed by adding (more) orange in the white, to shift the undertone of the color toward orange.
Why should you not use warm colored sheer curtains on the windows? Because their color has to be very intense in order to color the light that passes through them. Because they color the light that comes through the windows, not just the walls and floor, making the air look colored. Because when you look outside, through the windows, you would see the world colored by the curtain's color. Because in dark rooms, colored curtains aren't effective at coloring the light enough to compensate the cold, pure white wall paint, because there is literally too little light to color. Still, warm colored sheer curtains are a very flexible and cheap solution to use when you want to warm the look of your home.
For a shade of warm white which is designed to compensate the usual blue undertone of white paints, you have to use some warm colored pigments, like ochre and orange.
You have to make the warm white look good for most of the time that you spend in the home.
Pure white paint looks very good when direct sunlight illuminates it. Indoor, pure white paint looks cold because the lack of warmth means that the slightest blue undertone from the light with a high color temperature from shaded areas is reflected in the room.
Sunlight's color temperature varies a lot, from a shaded period of time during a sunny day, to heavily cloudy days. To make a home look warm during cloudy days, the wall paint has to compensate the sunlight's high color temperature. To do this, warm colored pigments, like ochre and orange, have to be added to the pure white paint.
The higher the sunlight's color temperature is, the more pigment has to be added to the paint. But the more pigment is added, the warmer would the home look when direct sunlight enters through the windows, making it look much too warm for comfort (especially in the corners and edges of the walls, where shadow leads to an increased saturation).
If you use too little colored pigment, the warm white paint looks like a washed out version of the color of the pigment, that is, it would have no depth, no presence, that is, the color would be easily washed out by light. If you use too much colored pigment, the paint looks too warm / saturated.
The solution to this dilemma is to add black pigment in order to make the paint look less saturated and darker, which means that the resulted warm white paint has a balanced saturation and a depth which fills the white void of the initial paint. The eyes then see little color, but the color will still be in the paint and will continue to compensate the blue sunlight. Black may also have an undertone, like white has.
Even though this will give a home a warm look which is balanced for most cases, care must still be taken because the more pigment is added, the darker the paint becomes and this would make the ceiling feel like it's pushing down on you, so you would have to paint the ceiling with a different, lighter color (which would be yet another thing to take care of).
Why is it that a white paint which is colored and darkened with pigment is still perceived as white and not a warm gray? Mainly because the perception of color depends on the adaptation of the eye to the environment, and on the amount of light which illuminates the paint.
If the eye sees a single very light, almost neutral color in its entire field of view, it adapts to consider that color to be neutral. Also, the more light there is, the brighter the paint will appear, and beyond a certain brightness threshold, the paint appears white. The more pigment is added to the paint, the more light is required to make the paint appear white.
Since in the corners and around the edges of the walls, especially near the ceiling, there is usually less light than everywhere else, the saturation of the color is increased because the light doesn't wash out the color.
Don't try to reproduce the warm white color of any object, or of objects seen outside. The walls will not look like that no matter how much you try because it's a different light and a different scale of perception, tiny versus all around you, and what looks great on a small scale will look horrid on a huge scale. Besides, the materials themselves are different, so the colors will never look the same.
This section is about manually creating a warm white to use as a starting point, by mixing several standard colors. There is no single correct color.
Look for the standard colors with a LRV (Light Reflectance Value) around 80...85%. If you were to use a higher LRV (= a lighter color), the presence of the paint would be easily washed out by sunlight, making the paint appear pure white. If you were to use a lower LRV (= a darker color), the paint would appear too dark to be perceived as white.
While the best pure white wall paint reflects over 90% of the incident light, if it's colored with NCS S0505-Y50R it reflects 81%. Still, numbers alone don't tell a story, so don't worry about this much. The difference is visible, but you are trading lightness for warmth. Still, on walls, the color is perceived very light.
A yellow or green undertone may give the white a sickly look, especially when lit with a light with a low color temperature, like incandescent lightbulbs have. Because of this, the warm white should have an orange undertone.
Make sure that the undertone (red or yellow) of the wall paint color matches with that of the floor and furniture colors.
The best way to compare colors is to first buy large samples for some standard colors that you prefer, and compare them to the colors of the objects that you want to buy, especially objects that will form large areas, like wall paint, tile, parquet, curtains. For examples of light, warm colors, see the examples from White. See Links for where to buy NCS color samples.
You can make the custom color either by mixing together several buckets each colored with a standard color, or by averaging the pigment amounts of those standard colors. Mixing together several buckets requires you to buy a number of buckets which is a multiple of the specified number of buckets, and to mix them thoroughly.
Ask (the paint seller) what amounts of what pigments would the coloring machine use for a bucket of paint colored with the standard colors mentioned below.
For example, for the following standard colors, the manufacturer from which I've bought the paint, Tikkurila, uses the following pigment amounts (in milliliters), for a 9 liters bucket (with white paint). YX is a greenish ochre, OM is a reddish orange, CW is a light black.
Calculate the average pigment amounts for a bucket which is a mix of several buckets colored with standard NCS colors, like in the examples below. An informal code prefix each color:
Let's call these colors "summer white", or "swhite" if you like, because they try to bring inside the warmth of the summer while remaining white. These colors match harmoniously with other warm colors with the same undertone, like greige, beige, gold and brown.
Summer whites are so delicate that a photocamera auto adjusts the white balance to compensate for the slight color cast, making the wall color appear like a cold white.
The color of my wall paint is white 977. If the home is illuminated by (direct or indirect) sunlight, the color looks milky white, that is, it has warmth (without appearing to be colored). If it's cloudy outside, the color looks like a somewhat warm white, with shadowed areas showing a bit more color. If it's gloomy outside, the color looks like a pure white but without being cold. If only the interior light is on, the color looks like a very light beige; the light is a standard warm white, 3000 Kelvin. This color has a high red undertone in daylight, and a slight yellowish undertone in artificial light (3'000 K).
Next time I will probably choose white 1187 (or even 1284), to have slightly more saturation.
White 977 works well with my furniture whose color is NCS S1505-Y40R. The difference in undertone (the wall paint is more orangy) doesn't matter because the walls are very light, the furniture contrasts because of its middle lightness, and the saturation of both is very small, so the undertone difference is lost to the eye.
Be aware that two NCS colors with the same hue don't (necessarily) have the same undertone. For a precise understanding of the undertone, look at the pigment ratio (OM / YX); even this is not necessarily precise due to how the eye perceives color at different levels of lightness and saturation.
The ceiling can be painted with any of these custom warm whites because they are light enough.
For furniture, if you can't paint MDF / wood with the same color as the wall paint, look for chipboard / MDF with a color that has about the same hue and chromaticness, and with the same or a higher blackness, like NCS S0505-Y50R, S1005-Y40R, S1005-Y50R.
The minimum amount of (one) pigment that the coloring machines can disperse is usually 0.1 ml, but they are not precise at such a level, so you should work with more pigment than that.
For a can of paint, the dosing of a pigment may be imprecise if the amount is very small, but even for a bucket the dosing can be wrong due to random problems.
For a can, the pigment amounts are not always proportional relative to a bucket, most likely due to a need to more precisely disperse them in the can. To ensure that you always use the same physical color, for the same color code, never mix cans and buckets, or ensure that a can and a bucket have proportional amounts for each pigment.
If you increase the amounts of colored pigments, the saturation is increased, while the lightness is decreased; however, a significantly higher saturation increases the perceived lightness (because the eye is stimulated more). If you increase the amount of black pigment, the saturation and the lightness are decreased.
Perceptually, there may be little difference between various warm whites because the eye adapts to a very light, almost neutral color that fills its field of view, and sees just white; only the shadowed areas show a bit of color.
If you want a color with more presence, increase its saturation and decrease its lightness.
For homes with windows oriented toward north (for the southern hemisphere, the direction is reversed) or which are in shadow for a long time during the day, you might want to increase the saturation; the reason is that the natural light in such cases has a very high color temperature (= is blue), so this has to be compensated.
Ochre and orange are similar in the way they darken and color, so they can be swapped one for the other.
Light black can desaturate to perceptual gray an amount of ochre and orange about equal with its own amount. It's darkening capacity is similar to that of ochre and orange.
The amount of pigment required to affect the color with the same percentage (either for lightness or saturation) grows exponentially as you move toward 100% total effect. For example, if 10 ml of pigment would be required to darken the paint from 90% to 80%, then another 20 ml (not 10) of the same pigment would be required to darken the paint from 80% to 70%.
For pigments that have to be manually mixed with paint, a much higher amount is necessary because those pigments are much weaker.
Verify your warm white
Buy a can with your (custom) warm white paint. Be sure to scale the amounts of pigments to a can (from bucket).
Buy some large, rigid, foam (or cardboard) panels, the kind that is put under parquet. The size of a panel should be something like 50 * 100 cm (20 * 40 in). Paint one side of such a panel with the warm white wall paint. Make sure to apply a thick layer of paint in order to block the panel's color from showing through the paint. The paint has to be in excess. Let the panel dry for a few days, horizontally, so that the paint spreads well and leave no marks; the color will change during those days, becoming darker. The margins of the panel must also be painted.
Do not paint wall patches because the contrast with the existing wall color will make the test useless.
Move the panel in your home, in shadowed areas, in light areas, in medium lit areas.
Look at the panel from the front and from an angle.
By looking at the panel you will only see how the paint will look like if you look at the wall from up close, not a general feel of how the entire room will look like (which would be lighter and colder in natural light, and darker and warmer in artificial warm white light).
The panel's warm white should look like a warm gray, not pure white, not light beige. If the panel's color is a clear light beige, direct sunlight will diffuse it out of the walls, and that might be too much for those who want warm white, not light beige, walls.
To see the difference between the warm white and pure white, look at how the painted panel compares to a sheet of white paper.
When you look at the panel, any other colors which are in your field of view (like the floor's color), especially the colors that are in the plane of the panel (like the panel's margins), dramatically influence how you perceive the panel's warm white, confusing you. Therefore, you should try to look at the panel while having in the background a surface whose color is as similar as possible (to the panel's color).
If the color of the wall behind the panel is pure white, or a color that's much less saturated than the warm white of the panel, the panel's warm white will look significantly darker and more saturated (than what it would look like when all the walls will be painted with that warm white). Basically, it will look like a dark yellowish gray rather than a warm white. This is due to the contrast between the warm white and the pure white.
If the warm white sample were painted directly on the pure white wall, the contrast would confuse you to the point where you would think that the warm white can't be right since it looks nowhere near white.
But it would look warm white if all the walls around you were painted with that warm white, because the eye adapts to a very light, almost neutral color that fills its field of view, and sees just white; only the shadowed areas show a bit of color.
For small samples, to have a better understanding of the final color, look at the sample with your palms around your eyes, in a way which creates a tunnel for your vision, blocking your peripheral vision, and try to defocus your view to be a bit in front of the sample. This will show you the closest look of the final wall color. This will not work properly for large samples, like a panel, because it shows less saturation than will be in reality.
The warm white will appear more colorful in the corners and around the edges of the walls, especially near the ceiling, where there is usually less light than in the middle of the walls. The warm white from the well lit areas of the walls will be washed out by the light, making its saturation appear much lower than in the corners and edges, making the paint look virtually achromatic. This is why you have to look at the panel in various places from your home. This is true only for very light colors since they show no hue in well lit areas; dark colors show a hue even in well lit areas.
The more direct sunlight there is in the room, the more color is diffused (= pulled out) from the paint into the room, so it's not possible have a paint color which works well for the entire range of possible lighting conditions from a home. It's possible to paint rooms with different colors, but it's still not a solution for all possible lighting conditions.
Taken as a whole, in the rooms where there is a lot of sunlight, the saturation will be high, that is, the color will be perceived more intensely, as if the air itself is colored, despite the fact that the well lit areas will look washed out. In the rooms which are in shadow, the saturation will be low, that is, the color will be perceived less intensely, as if the air itself isn't colored.
Let the paint dry for a day; the perceived color will change as the paint dries. If you are used with a cold, pure white paint, and especially if your home gets direct sunlight, prepare for a visual shock as the color may feel like it's glowing out of the walls; the brightness is also slightly reduced. Wait several weeks for your perception to adjust to the new color and brightness. The same happens to a photocamera, but instantly: the photocamera adjusts the color temperature and shows the walls as if they are painted with pure white.
The resulted color will depend on the correct dosing of the coloring machine, and on the manufacturer's accurate reproduction of the used standard colors (there are large differences among manufacturers, mostly due to the limitations of the used pigments).
The undertone of the glass of the windows also affects the color of the wall paint. For example, Low-E glass may give a slightly green undertone to the light which comes through the windows.
Don't choose a too saturated color, because this is only meant to compensate the blue undertone that pure white paint shows with ease.
The resulted paint may appear white in the can, but don't worry, it will have a warm undertone on the wall. In fact, the color will look stunning in the can. The reason why this happens is that the thick and liquid paint permits light to penetrate deep in the can, and create a translucent diffusion that looks like warm milk. This means that the thicker the paint is on the walls, the better it looks when it's lit; however, this changed look is small when compared to the look from the can. The thickness of the colored layer is why painted surfaces look much better than melaminated ones, and why hand painted surfaces look very good - they have the thickest layer of paint.
Dark pigments have a much more intense effect than light ones.
Using only red pigment would turn the paint pink. Using only orange pigment would turn the paint pinkish. Using only yellow pigment would turn the paint greenish; (green) vegetation from outside amplifies this undertone.
A red pigment is several times stronger than an orange one (which is red mixed with yellow), and is therefore much harder to disperse properly (due to the very small amount required).
Since it's impossible to identically reproduce the paint color later, in order to be able to repair a small part of a wall which got dirty, make sure to purchase from the beginning more paint than you need.
After you get all the paint that you need for painting your home, it's strongly recommended to mix it all together in a single recipient, to eliminate any difference in the amounts of pigments from can to can (/ bucket to bucket). This way, after the first layer is applied on the walls, you can add more white paint or more colored paint in order to change the paint's color.
The coloring machine can easily disperse the wrong amounts of pigments, especially when dealing with very small amounts. Out of the 9 bucket tests that I've made, it has failed badly one time and catastrophically another time. The first time it has failed, once the sample patch was painted, the color was clearly wrong (or my understanding of pigment behavior was), so I redid that test; indeed, the new color did fit my understanding of pigment behavior, and the color was very much different than the previous test with the same amounts. The second time it has failed, virtually no pigment was dispersed in the bucket. It turned out that the dosing pipes were clogged.
Understanding the undertone of a color will in no way help understand how a warm white color would be perceived if all the walls around you were painted with it. To the contrary, it might even mislead you because of the many factors which influence color perception.
Normally, you can see the undertone of colors only by comparing them one against another. For this, paint some large panels, and put them side by side in order to be able to compare their undertones.
To better see the undertone of a warm white color you can proportionally increase the amounts of pigments (used to create the color) until you create a medium-lightness color; for example, multiply all the amounts of pigments with 10; you can also exclude the black pigment.
In the case of Tikkurila, the color of the paint from a can which contains the amount of colored pigments used for a bucket (12 ml of ochre and 9 ml of orange) looks like a fiery cappuccino in the can, like a dull cappuccino on the lid (if you've shaken the can when closed), and like a dull peach when spread on a white sheet of paper. The differences are due to the thickness of the paint in each case, and due to the fact that light reaches deeper in the liquid paint.
Adding white paint (to a colored paint) dilutes the amounts of pigments proportionally; this is the same thing as proportionally decreasing the amounts of colored pigments, for the same volume.
Below, you can see a simulated example of a dull apricot, the warm white resulted from dilution, and the pure white. The warm white can be simulated (from the apricot) with any image editor which can increase the lightness of an image.
Should I use a strong color for the wall paint in my make up room?
In a make up room, the practical problem about using a strong color is that it strongly colors the light from the room, and that light ends up changing the way you see yourself in the mirror.
For example, if the walls are painted pink, the light from the room would become pinkish and people with white skin would end up seeing their faces more pink than they are, more than they would be outside or inside elsewhere. This will make them change their makeup to look more pale, which in turn could make them look like ghosts in natural sunlight.
For a make up room, you should go with a relatively neutral color, be it (a warm) white or gray, but avoid strong colors.
Choosing a color to use for a large area is impossible to do correctly just by using the samples from a showroom. Even interior designers, for example, paint an entire wall in order to see the actual color of the paint.
Subtle changes to the colors used for large areas result in huge visual differences. An example of this is when you change the undertone of the walls or floor.
In a showroom, you have just a few minutes to look at a sample, you see it in a limited type of illumination, in a different light than that from your home, and most importantly, the sample area is tiny.
When going in a showroom, bring your own colored materials / objects for comparison with color samples. Look at potential material samples in sunlight. Artificial light makes the surface structures look worse, and colors are particularly distorted.
The best way to compare colors is to first buy large samples for some standard colors that you prefer, and compare them to the colors of the objects that you want to buy, especially objects that will form large areas, like wall paint, tile, parquet, curtains. For examples of light, warm colors, see the examples from White. See Links for where to buy NCS color samples.
If you look at a color next to another color, each of them influences how the other color is perceived, and both are influenced by the colors that you perceive with your peripheral vision.
Dark or saturated / intense colors look much darker and more saturated on a large area than they look on sample cards. The more sunlight there is in the room, the more color is diffused (= pulled out) from the paint into the room, making you effectively see the color in the air. In fact, the difference is so large that if you choose a color based only on a small sample, you will regret it when seeing it on an entire wall.
In natural light, very light, almost neutral colors look lighter and less saturated on the walls compared to a small sample. This is because the eye adapts to the wall color as its white point of reference.
Even for grout, which is normally used just for some thin lines, the difference still matters because while the grout lines are thin, they are very long.
If you are used with dark flooring but choose light flooring for your home, your perception will adjust in time to the new contrast between the (presumably) white of the walls and the light color of the flooring, so that (in time) you will no longer think that the new flooring is too light. In other words, your perception scales to what you see most of the time.
Dark colors, with little saturation, may be more esthetically pleasing than light colors. This is because most objects would stand out against that color in the background since your eyes are no longer inundated by all the light that's reflected by a lightly colored background, and also because when a lightly colored object is viewed against a dark colored wall, effectively creating a color inversion, the eye better perceives the light object since this emits more light than the background, while the dark wall fades into the background of the perception.
Color inversion is a tool which can't miss from a successful design. A color inversion occurs when people have very different colors in their field of view at any one time. Color inversion is used because when two or more colors are perceived at the same time, even when they are on areas of opposite sizes, the eye perceives the space as lively / non-monotonous. Without it, the space would look monotonous.
Color inversion is like eating chocolate and vanilla icecream or listening to Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman singing. It's synergy through contrast creating a better result than the parts.
The colors which produce a color inversion usually have very different lightnesses (like black and white, brown and light beige), and sometimes also have different hues (like golden wood and cold white, mauve and beige). Such colors can either both be used on large areas, or one of them on a large area while the other on a small area (which then works as an accent element).
A common example of color inversion is a golden parquet floor with light beige area carpets. Another one is a brown accent wall with white furniture (against the wall).
Color inversion is why, for example, small accent elements are enough to make a lightly colored home (with white floor, walls and furniture) look gorgeous, so long as the accent elements get in people's field of view from virtually all points of view.
Color inversion benefits from using an appropriate spatial separation. For example, while a carpet has to be right on the floor, it looks good that way because its purpose is to be on the floor. However, other decorations might look much better when they are far away from other objects. For example, flowers could look better in the middle of a room rather than next to a wall. This is not necessarily the case, it depends on other factors as well, but the general idea is that you should take notice of the necessary spatial separation between objects.
The inversion principle is also applicable to structure, texture and shape, where absence / smoothness is inverted with presence / structure / texture / shape.
Matte, light colored surfaces diffusely reflect light in all directions, creating a room which looks lit from everywhere, and a misty atmosphere. Glossy (and polished) surfaces exhibit some specular reflection.
Surfaces can have different types of sheen.
Matte surfaces look a bit like a wall, that is, they block the view, whereas glossy ones show some depth (like a mirror) and have a play of light which provides a pleasant variation. This is very visible in the case of furniture.
Glossy surfaces look a bit luxurious, especially when there is a pattern under the surface, while matte ones look a bit raw / natural.
While glossy surfaces show pleasant light reflections, that can become tiring because there are speckles of light on the surface at every glace you give it. You just can't catch a break, especially on very large areas, like wardrobes. It's the same with mirrors, but at least mirrors really make you feel like the space has increased.
Glossy surfaces give a feeling of a bit more space (compared to matte ones), like a mirror does, especially on vertical surfaces, like furniture.
Glossy surfaces are a bit difficult to keep clean because prints are ever present, however, it's easier to clean grime from them then from matte surfaces.
Just like glass, glossy surfaces give a sense of cold, of a need to keep away from them.
It's true that glossy surfaces are less resistant to abrasion and that they show fingerprints more easily than matte surfaces, especially if their color is dark, but the color, pattern and the surface's interaction with light are much more important when making a choice, so the choice depends on what you like.
Sparkling, transparent particles mixed in (wall) paint can add some specular reflections which provides extra stimulation, and are similar to the specular reflections from wet paint.
If the pattern of a surface has directionality (= lines mostly in one direction), the look of the directionality can be affected by the position of the lines relative to the rays of light.
For example, installing the flooring with the lines in the direction of the light (= toward the windows) amplifies the directionality, while installing the flooring with the lines perpendicular on the direction of the light (= parallel with the windows) reduces the directionality.
For vertical surfaces, like furniture or wall mounted tile, the directionality is amplified when the lines are vertical, and reduced when the lines are horizontal.
When the directionality is purposefully reduced, a feeling of pattern compression may occur, and this might feel like a pressure.
If you are interested in creating an artistic look (= with character) for your home, you should look into surfaces with 3D structures.
Surfaces with 3D structures fill the space, creating an anchor for the eye.
Such surfaces can be made with:
Take into consideration that such structures gather dust, especially the horizontal lines, so be ready to do some regular cleaning.
Ceramic tile (or stone)
Ceramic tile is far more durable than parquet, has no squeaky areas (like unglued parquet has), comes with more patterns (whereas parquet mostly has a wood pattern, which looks mostly rustic), keeps the feet chillier in the summer than parquet, is much easier to clean than carpet, and has a much lower emission of toxic fumes than laminated parquet. However, unlike parquet, tile can break on impact with rigid objects.
Porcelain tile is more durable than basic tile, but is also more expensive. Porcelain is actually a type of ceramic. Ask your tile installer to cut the porcelain tile (especially the high quality one) with a powered wet saw in order to minimize losses and get high quality cut lines.
Tile is a better choice if you have underfloor heating because it transmits heat easier than parquet and carpet, and this allows the floor and the air to warm faster.
While tile does feel chillier than parquet on the bare feet, both feel cold and can't match the warmth of carpet. Only where direct sunlight hits the floor, the floor feels warm. In any case, slippers make this irrelevant, especially if they have thick foam soles.
Parquet is slightly noisier than tile when walked upon, on its surface, but tile allows the sound to propagate deeper in the floor.
If you go with tile, for a modern look of your home, choose a large rectangular format, like 60 * 60 cm (24 * 24 in). A large format tile is not too large for a small apartment, no matter what friends will tell you.
If you choose a large format tile, ensure that the adhesive can be used for a large format (specifically for your tile's size); don't blindly accept the recommendation of the installer, read the specifications of the adhesive. Usually, only expensive adhesives can be used for a large format tile.
Some tile has many pattern variations from tile to tile, with some manufactures claiming that each of their tile (model) is unique.
Rounded (like a pillow edge) or beveled edges (cut at a 45 degrees angle) protect the tile from being chipped off when hit on the edges. Rounded and beveled edges give a more rustic and fragmented look to the room.
Straight top edges (cut at a 90 degrees angle) allow for a thinner (and therefore less visible) grout line. Tile with straight top edges looks more modern.
Rectified tile is tile that has been mechanically finished on all sides to much more consistent dimensions; such tile has straight top edges, or microbeveled edges, but never rounded edges. Generally, rectified tile requires a minimum grout line width of 2 mm, while unrectified tile requires a minimum of 3 mm. If you ignore the specifications of the grout manufacturer regarding the thickness of the grout line, the tile may look unevenly installed, with corners or edges sticking out.
Always install tile with grout, at least 1.5 mm wide, even if some installers recommend you to not use any. Without grout, the tile dimensional irregularities will become visible, space will remain between the tiles, grime would get stuck between the tiles, liquids can drip at the bottom of the tiles and create mold, you risk the tiles to break (especially during earthquakes), and it's very difficult to replace individual broken tiles. Really, nothing good can come out of avoiding grouting. If you have underfloor heating, it's even more important to use a grout line in order to allow the floor to expand and contract much more than ceramic itself. Also, tile manufacturers specifically say to always use a grout line.
Grime is more visible on light colored tile than on dark colored tile, but dust, fingerprints and footprints are more visible on dark colored tile than on light colored tile. Black surfaces, especially the glossy ones, are a nightmare to keep clean because dust and prints are ever present.
Grime is also more visible on light colored grout than on dark colored grout, but dark colored grout may change its color toward gray due to water, soap and cleaning solutions, especially if used for the floor of a walk-in shower.
The quality of grout varies. Epoxy grout looks better, is more durable, is easier to keep clean than the average cement-based grout, doesn't need sealing to protect it against grime, and is nearly waterproof. Epoxy grout feels smooth to touch, while the cement-based grout feels rough. Epoxy grout is much more difficult to use and remove (to be replaced). While epoxy grout is very expensive (even five times more than cement-based grout), using a large format tile and a thin grout line results in using a very small amount of grout, so the final cost of the grout is small. Examples of epoxy grout: Mapei Kerapoxy Design.
A cement-based grout should be sealed (with a sealing solution) in order to avoid grime getting into it. Epoxy grout doesn't normally require sealing.
A cement-based grout is relatively easy to remove, while epoxy grout is virtually impossible to remove because it sticks so well to the tile that, if you were to try to remove it, you would end up with the tile scratched all over.
If you want to avoid grout because it gets dirty, look into colored concrete floors.
A grout whose color is contrasting to that of the tile is creating a fragmented look which makes the space feel busier and smaller. To avoid a fragmented look, choose a grout with a color similar to that of the tile, and a large format tile, like 60 * 60 cm (24 * 24 in) or 45 * 90 cm (18 * 36 in).
For installing tile over underfloor heating, you have to use a flexible adhesive. An example is Mapei Keraflex Maxi S1, which can be used for a large format tile and for a small grout line width.
The tile surface can be matte, polished or honed / satin (= between matte and polished). A honed surface is a great combination between the visual warmth of a matte surface and the play of light of a polished surface. A matte surface has no reflections (= it just diffuses light), a polished surface has clear reflections, and a honed surface has sheen (= has diffused reflections).
Polished tile provides depth of shadows and a play of light due to the created reflections, a sort of a dynamic pattern which changes depending on the light and objects from the room.
Be aware that polished or honed tile is extremely slippery when wet, shows footprints, scratches and limescale more easily than matte tile, and can get matted over the years or decades. If you like to walk barefoot on tile, polished tile makes the perspiration from the soles more evident than honed or matte tile.
Like glass, polished tile can can give a feeling of cold by inducing a desire to keep away from its surface. Matte tile can also give a cold feeling because the bumps on its surface create specular highlights, and this makes it look like it contains glass particles.
Tile with a 3D surface structure is difficult to clean. A smooth surface is the most practical choice, in general.
Surface hardness, measured in Mohs (maximum 10), indicates the resistance of the surface to scratching. Mohs is a relative, (sort of) logarithmic scale. Absolute scratch hardness is measured with a device called sclerometer. A surface with a given Mohs can be scratched by a surface with a higher Mohs, but not by one with a lower Mohs; this means that granite might be scratched by stainless steel knives, depending on the exact Mohs of both. Here are the Mohs values for some materials: soapstone 1...2, finger nails 2.5, marble and travertine 3...4, window glass 5.5, stainless steel 5.5...6.5, granite 6...7, high quality porcelain tile 6...8, diamond 10.
The modulus of rupture, measured in Newtons / mm2, indicates the body's resistance to pressure. This is important when the tile is cut, during installation. Granite's modulus of rupture is 15...25 N / mm2, and for high quality porcelain tile it's 40...50 N / mm2, which means that (high quality porcelain) tile is much stronger than granite.
The surface abrasion resistance, rated as PEI (maximum 5), indicates the resistance of the surface to wear.
The surface of general indoor floor tile should have at least: hardness Mohs 5, abrasion resistance PEI 3. Mohs 6 and PEI 4 is better.
When ordering tile, be sure to include an extra 10...15% for loses. For a large format tile get at the very least 15% extra, preferably 20%, especially if you get porcelain tile (because this is hard to cut properly since it's very brittle, so many tiles would be usable only in part). For the tile skirting you need very little extra because few skirting tiles are incomplete. For example, I had nearly 20% extra and there were only two full tiles left at the end (because it was porcelain and it wasn't cut with a powered wet saw).
Porcelain tile can be so though that, for drilling holes in it, you need a drill bit with a special type of head. You must use a low revolution speed to drill with this.
Calculating the amount of spacers
Tile can be installed with spacers (= small crosses) which keep the grout line at the same width. However, because the tiles and the floor where they are mounted on are not perfectly flat, it's very useful to use an edge leveling system instead of spacers, at least for large format tile. A leveling system is made, for example, from 4 clips that are mounted near the corners of each tile, and keep adjacent tiles at the same height, providing exceptional floor evenness. Unfortunately, a leveling system is very expensive compared to spacers. Search the Internet for "tile leveling system" for details.
In order to install tile with a minimal positioning error (and have a consistently wide grout line), you need to use spacers; for brevity, we'll also include tile leveling systems under the word "spacers".
The amount of spacers has to be calculated per one tile corner. This is because every other corner of a tile is actually the corner (from the same position on the tile) of an adjacent tile. You actually need a higher amount (preferably with 10% more) because you are going to also use spacers for the far edges of the tiled area (since those tiles from those edges have no adjacent tiles further out).
For spacers (not the leveling kind), you need just one spacer per tile.
For the leveling system it depends on its type. More expensive systems, which can align the tile corners better, are put right on the corners of all four adjacent tiles, so a single piece is required per tile. Cheaper systems are put at a few centimeters away from the corner, so you need four pieces per tile.
The cheaper system actually requires two different types of pieces for each mountable item. One piece goes under the tile and comes out of it, and is shaped like an "L". The other piece from the pair is a wedge that goes in the "L" shaped piece. The wedges can be reused a few times, so you can, for example, buy just a third of the necessary wedges.
The price of spacers (not the leveling kind) is small and you can trust the seller with the amount that you need, but the price of a leveling system is extremely high and that matters whether the seller overshoots intentionally or by accident.
Should grout be level with the top of tile with straight top edges?
Some (rectified) tile has a microbevel (which helps the top edges not get chipped), and if the grout would fill the space from this microbevel it would chip away in time (because the grout is too thin there).
Also, it's a bit difficult to grout perfectly flush with the tile because the grout settles (= gets lower) in the space between tiles, so a bit a space will remain at the top of the tile. It's still possible to do this by allowing more time for the grout to settle before it's cleaned off the tile, else, after a few hours, it may sink a bit below the tile surface.
Is cleaning a lowered grout line more difficult? On one hand, it's more difficult to get grime out from between the tiles, but since the grout is lower it also can't be stepped on with dirty shoes / slippers / feet, and so it remains cleaner and doesn't get worn. So the cleaning effort is mixed.
(For tile with rounded or beveled edges it's not possible to have the grout level with the top of the tile because if it were then the grout would simply get chipped soon.)
Even though for tile with perfectly straight top edges it's possible to have the grout flush with the top of the tile, it still gets chipped away in time, I've seen it happening.
Regardless of your decision, make sure to explicitly specify your choice to the tiler before the grouting starts!
Natural stone is best for people who prefer a natural look over strength. If you want beauty then choose natural stone, if you want strength then choose ceramic tile.
The stone's surface has to be filled with a special filler grout, but the filling is not perfect; this is especially true for travertine. The grout matches the color of the stone, so you can't actually say that it's been grouted. A sealant should be applied after installation to protect the stone from staining; the sealant has to be renewed from time to time, but some sealants claim to have a permanent effect.
An advantage of natural stone over tile is that if the stone chips, the exposed part underneath still looks like stone, although very rough stone.
The look of natural stone can be controlled with more difficulty, compared to ceramic tile, because the pattern in natural stone has a lot of variety.
Natural stone, is much softer than high quality porcelain tile. This means that natural stone is much more likely to chip, especially at the edges, so you may end up with a lot more but slightly better looking chipped areas, when compared to tile.
The softness of natural stone also means that it can break easier than porcelain tile, although some people think that this adds to the natural look of the stone. This is why natural stone doesn't usually come in large tiles (over 60 * 60 cm), so large tiles would break easier, but it's still possible to use thick slabs.
Honed natural stone is a great combination between the visual warmth of a matte surface and the play of light of a polished surface.
Natural stone can be cut with greater precision than tile (but this doesn't means that it actually is), so a narrower grout line can be used (since imperfections will not stick out as much).
If you go with natural stone, for a modern look of your home, for price considerations you can choose a medium format (instead of a large format), like 30 * 60 cm (12 * 24 in) or 45 * 45 cm (18 * 18 in).
If you decide to use natural stone, you should look up cross cut / contro falda, honed and filled light travertine. It's creamy, subtle pattern is beautiful for both modern and classical designs. It's important to choose cross cut because the other cut type, vein cut / in falda, is too directional.
An epoxy floor is not the same thing as an epoxy coating or an epoxy paint; their thickness makes the difference. The thickness of an epoxy floor is at least 2 mm; if it has less then it's called epoxy floor coating.
An epoxy floor is made by pouring several thin coats of epoxy resins on a floor and letting them harden.
An epoxy floor can incorporate (within its coats) an artistic design, either made with very large photographs or hand painted.
Its main advantage is that it's seamless (= has no interruptions) within a room, since it's poured from wall to wall, so it's very easy to clean.
Epoxy floors are strong enough to be used in demanding industrial environments.
Epoxy floors must be installed by people who have experience with them.
Some people say that epoxy floor can be installed over tile, but a few people who say that this is not durable (even if the tile glazing is removed) and recommend against applying it over tile.
The realistic life expectancy of a professional epoxy floor is up to 15...20 years, so less than for tile.
An epoxy floor can't be fixed on a small part, it has to be fully redone. For tile / parquet, a single tile / plank can be replaced.
Walls can also be covered with epoxy resins.
Not all epoxy floor materials are equal. To compare them, check their adhesion rating, abrasion resistance, hardness, and impact resistance. See this for details.
Parquet (wood or laminated)
For flooring, anywhere outside the bathrooms, parquet is a good choice because it's much easier to clean than carpet, (if it's click-mounted then) it's easier to replace than (glued) carpet and tile, and is slightly less cold on the bare feet than tile.
Parquet would not usually crack or chip if something is dropped on it, like tile would.
Parquet absorbs some sound, so it makes a room's acoustic visibly better than tile does.
Pets can scratch parquet (with their claws).
For walking, there is little difference between the rigidity of tile and laminated parquet (which has a foam underlayer and is not glued to the base floor).
Parquet which has a foam underlayer (= is not glued to the base floor) develops various spots where it squeaks when stepped upon.
However, parquet, unlike tile, especially the laminated parquet which is not glued to the floor, can reduce the effect of falls that small children experience from time to time.
Some people say that they prefer solid wood floors instead of melaminated parquet because the latter has to be changed from time to time and that costs money. True, but solid wood floors are 5...10 times more expensive to begin with.
Beveled edges are very useful for parquet, especially for the melaminated one, because without them it can chip off easily on the slightest unevenness of the floor. Beveled edges give a more rustic look to the room; all 4 beveled edges give the most rustic aspect.
If you choose to install parquet with beveled edges, you can also choose large planks. Standard planks have something like 120 * 20 cm, but large ones can have even something like 200 * 25 cm.
When ordering parquet, be sure to include an extra 10...15% for loses.
The planks which are installed one next to another should be installed staggered, with an offset of 1/3 of a plank in order to maximize their stability.
Carpet (or rugs)
Carpet feels warmer to the bare feet, is softer when stepped upon, is much easier to change (especially if it's not glued to the floor), is easy to put over (or take off) tile or parquet, its threads form a beautifully 3D surface structure, and can have a great variety of drawn patterns on it.
Carpet absorbs a significant amount of sound, so it makes a room's acoustic visibly better than tile and parquet.
Carpet, unlike tile and parquet, is not slippery (for the people walking on it), although itself can slide on the slippery floor below it. Carpet should have an antislip back; if it's not, it's possible to buy pads which are antislip on both faces, pads which are put under the carpet.
Carpet, unlike tile, can reduce the effect of falls that small children experience from time to time.
Unlike tile and parquet, carpet is soft on the joints (knees and hips).
Pets can destroy carpet (with their claws).
Carpet is more difficult to clean than tile or parquet; hard surfaces are much easier to clean than carpet.
Carpet traps humidity and smells.
Carpet does not necessarily cause respiratory difficulties, as is widely believed that it does, at least so long as it's cleaned / vacuumed regularly. It may actually decrease the incidence of asthma and allergy. On one hand, carpet fibers trap dust and allergens, but on the other hand, bugs can easily find a home among the carpet fibers, and walking on the carpet may send dust into the air. For details, see Carpet, Asthma and Allergies - Myth or Reality. In my experience, carpet can't be cleaned well enough.
If your budget allows it, you should install either tile or parquet for the floor, and later add carpet where you feel the need for warmth and softness. If you later sell the home, the buyer can remove or replace the carpet easily.
The difference in the comfort provided by the floor to the bare feet is given by the heat loss rate of each floor material, not by the temperature of the floor. The temperature of the floor is virtually the same for any type of floor material. Stone makes your body lose heat the fastest through the soles, while carpet makes your body lose heat the slowest.
Chipboard is lighter than MDF and wood, holds screws better than MDF. Chipboard must be sealed (with ABS edging) when used in humid environments; even so, it can take far more water vapors than MDF before deforming. It's possible to have edging done with laser, which removes (virtually) any spacing between the board's surface and the edging band.
MDF can be milled to have rounded edges, can be painted (which means that it doesn't need edging). MDF must be sealed (with ABS edging or paint) when used in humid environments. MDF is mostly used for furniture fronts / doors, specifically because it can be milled, because the painted MDF has no edging, and because it's surface looks much better than that of chipboard. It's nice to be able to avoid edging because edging can get loose and gets dirty along its own edges (where the glue is visible). However, high quality painted MDF can cost even 10 times more than the average chipboard. MDF may crack when screws are screwed-in because its high density doesn't allow the material to compress too much when a screw pushes inside.
Lightly-colored melaminated chipboard / MDF usually looks like paper because the paper from the melamine is very thin, porous and there is very little pigment impregnated in the paper. These things together make the underlying wood chips show a bit through the paper when light hits the surface. For painted MDF or wood, there is a lot more pigment in the paint, and the paint isn't porous, so the light can't get through the paint as easily.
Chipboard and MDF, without proper support, can sag in time.
All the MDF and chipboard edges should be sealed with paint or edging in order to keep the toxins inside, even the edges which are not visible!
Wood is very strong, can be milled to have rounded edges, can be painted. However, it's far more expensive than chipboard, and can more easily get warped in humid environments.
Plywood is made of several sheets of wood glued together, which makes it behave like a stronger wood. Plywood can't be milled to have rounded edges, like MDF and wood can be.
If you like a clean look, make the entire furniture with the same color, whatever the material is, that is, including the backside and the drawer bottoms.
If you plan to use painted MDF or wood, and you want a light color, try a warm white, the same color as for the walls. Painted MDF or wood looks much better than chipboard because of the paint's reflective properties (compared to the reflective properties of the colored paper from the chipboard).
The edges of the furniture's doors and drawers provide a (regular) pattern which compensates a bit the lack of a pattern in the furniture material itself, which is mostly enough for people who like an uncluttered / empty, modern design. When painted, foiled or veneered MDF is used, it's possible to have edges milled to a high curvature in order to accentuate the pattern which partitions the space; handles milled directly into MDF can also be used to create even more pattern.
When you give your furniture drawings to a builder, specify the furniture size on the outside, so that it includes everything, like the thickness of the material and the height of the legs; mark the legs area / height clearly. For shelves, specify the height of the space between them, that is, without the height of the material.
It might be good to plan the furniture material so that you could later change the fronts, should you want to do so. This means that you should think that the color of the fronts could be different than the color of the rest of the furniture.
If you use edging, use thin edging (maximum 1 mm thick). You should apply edging to all the hidden edges in order to keep the chemicals from leaking out (of chipboard and MDF); you should use the same edging for all the edges, so that you can turn any board in any way, if there is a defect, but if you want to reduce costs, use 0.4 mm ABS tape.
If you apply edging to all the edges, the total length (in meters) required is about equal with the area (in square meters) of the furniture material to use multiplied with 7 (for general furniture) and with 18 (for kitchen cabinets). This means that, for general furniture, you need about 40 meters of edging for each chipboard / MDF board (2800 * 2070 mm).
Each vertical wall needs legs to support it.
The furniture legs should have a (white) plastic bottom in order to avoid scratching the floor. The legs should have a screwing thread all around their inner periphery, that is, they should have no welding point to support the weight of the furniture (which, unfortunately, most metallic legs have).
The height of the legs should be 10...15 cm (4...6 in). This allows for enough space underneath to be able to clean.
In order to cover the furniture legs, you can extend the fronts and sides of the furniture down to 2 cm (1 in) from the ground. For the kitchen, you might want to let 5 cm (2 in) above the ground so that the toes can have room under the cabinets. The doors should be maximum 50 cm (20 in) wide, so that they would not hit your toes when you open them. This also allows you to keep a clean line along the entire height of the furniture since there is no split between the doors and the plinth, and it feels like the furniture is floating in the air. Also, it's easy to clean under the furniture, once you open the (furniture) doors.
If you also want to extend the side panels, since these are load bearing, they have to sit on the bottom panel. Because of this, in order to cover the furniture legs, an extra panel has to be applied over the side panels, on the outside. These outer panels will be visible from the front because the doors can't cover them (since there are no hinges that can open that much).
Let at least 20 cm (8 in) from the top of a wardrobe and the ceiling; you need this space in order to be able to raise a wardrobe from the floor in its upright position.
Let 3 cm of space between the walls and the wardrobes (at the back). Cut spacers from a wood beam, put them behind the wardrobes and screw them between the wardrobes and the walls. This space reduces the risk of mold to appear between furniture and walls, and if you screw through the back panel of the wardrobes, they will also keep the wardrobes in place in case of earthquakes.
The most common failure factor in furniture is the hardware, not the chipboard / MDF / wood, especially drawer runners, so invest in quality hardware.
The wheeled mechanism for sliding doors is much less reliable than hinges. Sliding doors can jump off their rails. Sliding doors take more time to open, and their weight requires more energy to move. Sliding doors allow you to open only half of a wardrobe at a time.
Hinged doors can be maximum 60 cm (24 in) wide, but sliding doors can be much wider (the wider they are, the heavier they are and the more time and energy they require to be moved).
There are several main types of furniture hinges:
Drawers are the most efficient way to organize things, but they are also much more expensive than shelves and are difficult to clean. You can have drawers from the floor up to your sternum (below your chest), above this height you would not be able to see inside the drawers.
Soft-close drawer runners (like Hettich Quadro and Blum Tandem) move much more smoothly, and are much more error tolerant, than roller or ball drawer runners. Get them, if you can afford them.
Pay attention to the specifications of the drawer runners! For example, in order to be able to use soft-close drawer runners Blum Tandem, the side panels of the drawers must be maximum 16 mm thick, and must extend below the bottom (they can't be flush with the bottom). There is a model for 19 mm, 563F, but it's availability is limited. Hettich Quadro glide-on drawer runners may be installed on flush base drawers, so the thickness of the drawer side panels is irrelevant.
If you have drawers inside a wardrobe, leave 9 cm (3.6 in) between them for hinges; between the bottom of the wardrobe and the first drawer, leave 12 cm (5 in). This accounts for the space required by soft-close drawer runners (like Hettich Quadro and Blum Tandem) that are mounted at the bottom of the drawers. Also, in order for the inside margin of the doors to not block the drawers from being pulled outside the wardrobe, add an extra board on which each drawer runner is mounted (so, you basically move the runners away from the sides of the wardrobe). Without this side board, the hinges must have a wide opening angle.
The weight of mirrors (6 mm thick) that are applied on furniture is a bit higher than that of average chipboard (18 mm thick), and about equal with that of MDF. While there are 4mm thick mirrors, these are too thin for large doors. For example, a 220 * 40 cm chipboard door weighs about 11 kg, while a mirror of the same size weighs about 14 kg. This means that you need a lot more hinges on such doors (unless they are sliding doors). Blum recommends a maximum load-bearing of 22 kg for 5 hinges, so for such a door you need about 7 hinges (it's what I've used).
If you want to have mirrors on hinged doors (not sliding doors), you should ask an expert about special hinges for doors with mirrors; if you can't get those, just use half overlay hinges. This allows you to have the mirrors as wide as the doors themselves, while the space between the doors (on the side of hinges) is as wide and deep as a furniture board (18 mm thick). Full overlay hinges would require the mirrors to be narrower than the door with about 30 mm (1.2 in) on the side of the hinges; the space between the doors would be only as thick as the mirrors (6 mm). It's not practical to use hinges with a wide opening angle. Instead of making the mirrors narrower, it's possible to put a separating board between the adjacent wardrobe boxes; the thickness of this board should be at least twice the thickness of the mirror (plus the glue and the safety space in between the mirrors when the doors are open). Without this space, the doors would not have room to open because the mirrors from adjacent wardrobe boxes would touch one another.
Non-smoky mirrors reflect a colder image of reality, usually tinted with green or blue. Smoky mirrors reflect a brownish image.
For handles, if you can't have handles with the same color as the furniture, if the color of the furniture material is light and warm, matte nickel works better than chrome because it has a warm undertone (warmer than chrome and stainless steel, anyway), and creates a slightly retro-futuristic look.
Use knobs because they are small and pretty much invisible, and for mounting they (normally) require only a single hole. Because of the single screw, knobs can be easily changed at any time, since you don't depend on the distance between the (two) installation holes / screws of most handles.
Large chrome or nickel handles may give furniture a bit of a kitchen-like look.
If you integrate a clothing washing machine in the kitchen furniture, and you want the cabinet to have doors, make sure to include enough space. For example most washing machines are about 60 cm (24 in) wide, but the cabinet's outside width has to be at least 72 cm (29 in). Also, the depth from the front of the cabinet to the wall has to be at least 70 cm (28 in).
If you make large custom furniture, be sure it fits through the stairs and doors. For example, you might want to make a double bed foundation from two pieces instead of a single monolithic one, in order to avoid any risk that it would not fit through some area. Breaking parts of walls is not desirable.
It's possible to make a kitchen countertop from a composite material made from powder stone, crushed stone, glue, and possibly acrylic. This type of material is very durable. These are usually known as solid surface materials.
Composite materials are expensive, but their main advantage is that the sink can be perfectly glued to the countertop, if the sink is also from composite, so that it's impossible to tell where either of them ends. The backsplash can also be perfectly glued to the countertop, if the backsplash is also from composite, and the connecting part can be rounded.
Normally, concrete is used only as a structural material because it looks unfinished.
However, concrete can be used for flooring, kitchen countertop, sinks.
It's possible to give concrete a finish, by coloring it throughout or by staining or painting its surface (which gives the ability to create some surface patterns). The result is called "colored concrete" or "stained concrete". The colors are medium to dark; for lighter colors, white concrete is used (instead of the usual dark gray).
If you want to make your own custom color for a colored concrete floor, look into mixing concrete pigments with cement; use white cement to get a light color. As an example, for a pale beige color, you could use yellow oxide (0.7% from the mass of the cement) and red oxide (0.3% from the mass of the cement). Unless otherwise specified by the instructions of the pigments, mix the pigments with the water which will be then mixed with the cement powder; this way the pigment will be well mixed into the resulting concrete.
The surface of the concrete which is colored throughout should be polished to create a clean and smooth finish.
The color of concrete which is colored throughout is not uniform, that is, has slight variations of intensity over its surface.
Concrete which is colored throughout has to be sealed in order to protect it from staining. Make sure the sealant is either transparent, or has the same color as the coloring pigment.
The finish of concrete which is colored throughout lasts a lifetime. The finish of concrete which is stained / painted on the surface lasts maximum 20 years.
Concrete can be stamped in order to create patterned grooves. The result is called "stamped concrete".
It's possible to stain and stamp concrete to make it look like wood.
Concrete will crack in time, so be prepared to see cracks, even if you grout the cracks.
Install the concrete floor before you paint the walls so that the dust resulted from polishing the concrete doesn't end up on the wall paint.
If you want to get rid of tile grout even on the (bathroom) walls (tile), look into epoxy resin.
Sheer / transparent curtains block about 30% of light.
To see the undertone of an apparently white sheer curtain, fold it in several layers.
The thread count of sheer / transparent curtains can vary significantly, but a higher one means a more delicate fabric and this means that the eye is less distracted by the fabric's details, so it can concentrate more on the view outside the room.
If sunlight bothers you in the early morning, you can get blackout curtains. These block all the light coming through the windows; the only light which still comes through is visible around the curtains. There are also dimout curtains which block most of the light, but not as much as blackout curtains.
Curtain folds make it difficult to see the beauty of the material. Think at how a bed cover or a couch would look if the material would have folds / wrinkles all over. You would only see the folds / wrinkles, not the material itself. Of course, to like a look without folds / wrinkles, you have to prefer simplicity over embellishments. When there are no folds, the structure / texture / pattern of the knitting or the printed model becomes critical for a good visual effect.
Opaque curtains without folds don't look neat when they are drawn to the sides, because the material has no predefined folds to follow. Also, even though there are no folds created with pleats, there still are some small folds / bends because the material is not kept perfectly straight by anything. It's possible to get curtains that are mounted on bars / panels at the top, to keep them straight, but such bars are rather short (in order to allow you to draw the curtains to the sides of the walls).
Without folds, since you use / need less material, you either pay less or can afford to get more expensive materials; also, the curtains can be washed easier since there is less material.
Curtains with pleats normally require a multiplication factor of about 1.8. The S / wave pattern (which goes back and forth along the depth of the track) requires a multiplication factor of about 2.5. The multiplication factor is a multiplier which has to be applied to the length of the tracks where the curtains are mounted, in order for the curtains to make folds.
If you want to have curtains with folds, it's recommended to use two single-channel tracks rather than one double-channel track because the double-channel tracks have a too small distance between the channels. This small distance means that the opaque curtains and the sheer curtains rub on each other, and therefore one drags the other when moved, and also limits the space that each curtain has to flow nicely, vertically. If you use two tracks, you can change the distance as you like.
The S / wave pattern requires the largest distance between two tracks, like 12...15 cm (5...6 in), so that the curtains from the two tracks don't rub against one another when they are pulled along the tracks. The pleats pattern requires a distance of only about 8...10 cm (3...4 in).
Consider using 3 tracks:
The advantages for 3 tracks are:
The disadvantages are:
Textile manufacturers and their products can have Oeko-Tex certifications. These certifications are different things.
To be certified, a mattress must have a label (with green, orange and black text) stitched on it, label which represents the Oeko-Tex certificate. This label contains the text "Confidence in textiles". If the label contains the text "0904046.O", it means that the mattress is class 2 certified, meaning that it's not expressly certified as being safe for babies.
Oeko-Tex says that in order to get their certification it's required that all the components of an item meet the required criteria without exception (meaning, the outer material, sewing threads, linings, prints, buttons, zip fasteners, rivets).
If you want to verify that a manufacturer is not falsely attaching an Oeko-Tex label to their products, verify that their name is on the Oeko-Text website.
Large windows have a huge visual impact in terms of aspect and amount of light that goes through them, but since windows can't normally be increased in size, they have to be planned from the build phase. Still, if you can, get windows as large as the exterior walls; note that in this case the heating bill will increase visibly.
A large window, especially a wall-sized one, give homes a better look, is visually pleasing because it doesn't feel like a wall. It allows more sunlight to come inside and be better distributed throughout the room, it shows a larger part of the outside world, therefore minimizing the wall effect and maximizing the depth effect and the dynamic look of the outside. No matter how well a wall is illuminated, it remains a wall which shows no depth, no landscape, no movement, no dynamics of lighting.
Homes which have windows that are for the most part oriented toward north (for the southern hemisphere, the direction is reversed) are much darker than those oriented toward south, if nothing blocks the sunlight. The color of the indirect sunlight that enters a home looks colder for homes oriented toward north.
If you have windows that are hit by direct sunlight for hours daily, during summer, and you can't stand the heat, you can buy glass which is coated to reflect a high percentage of heat. Such windows are usually known as "tinted windows". Tinted windows are not good for indoor flowers.
Tinted windows have a mirror effect due to which people effectively can't see inside the home even when standing right next to the windows (on the outside).
Tinted windows theoretically block about 40% of the sunlight, 60% of the heat, and change the aspect of the sunlight as if it's going through sunglasses, giving it a bit of a green or blue undertone (which is why you should avoid tinted windows unless you absolutely need them). High performance tinted windows block 30% of the sunlight, 60% of the heat, and don't tint the sunlight.
The Low-E coating applied to some windows blocks a high amount of heat without changing the color of the sunlight, so it may be unnecessary to use tinted windows. For example, a window with triple glazing and double Low-E theoretically blocks 30% of the sunlight, and 50% of the heat, while a window with double glazing and single Low-E blocks 20% of the sunlight, and 40% of the heat.
Clear glass windows theoretically block about 20%...30% of the sunlight, and 20%...30% of the heat.
These theoretical measurements are done at a 0 angle of incidence (= perpendicular on the glass), but in reality most of the sunlight comes inside at a high angle of incidence (because the sun is mostly high above the horizon), so a lot more sunlight will be reflected by the glass. During a sunny day, most of the light comes from above the head (forming a very high angle of incidence), but during a cloudy day, at sunrise or at sunset, most of the sunlight gets inside at a low angle of incidence.
During the winter, the sun is lower in the sky than during the summer, so more direct sunlight can get through the windows and less light will be reflected by the glass (due to the lower angle of incidence). As an example, a room with windows oriented toward south (for the southern hemisphere, the direction is reversed) gets over two times more light during the winter than during the summer.
As an example, in practice, for triple pane, tinted windows, sunlight is reduced to 38% at midday of sunny days, and to 70% during partially cloudy days. For double pane, untinted windows, the sunlight was reduced to 60% at midday of sunny days, and to 70% in late afternoon; a window screen further reduced the light to 47%, and to 57%. All percentages are relative to the amount of light which was measured with the windows opened.
It's important to understand that tinted windows will protect only from direct sunlight, not from continuous summer heat. This is because the heat will eventually sip inside through the windows and walls, especially if the windows are kept open for airing. Keeping windows open increases the temperature inside. For example, in the summer, at a mid-latitude, opening the windows fully in a standard livingroom increased the temperature with 1 Celsius compared to having the windows opened just slightly for airing.
How well does tinting work? In a home oriented toward south (but without direct sunlight) you can have 0.5...1 Celsius less than in a home next door with standard (double pane, single Low-E) windows.
While blinds would be more flexible than a tinted window, using blinds would make it impossible to see outside, when used, while the tinted windows don't have this problem. It's hard to decide what to choose, but at least the blinds and the window glass are easy to change.
Windows with triple glazing should be installed only in very cold locations, like those with a north / south latitude beyond 60 degrees. Otherwise, they block too much light, and distort the light's color too much.
Windows with triple glazing (and double Low-E) do reduce the heating costs, however, the savings are not worth the loss of visible light. In my case, living at mid-latitudes, with standard-sized windows (= not wall-sized), going from double to triple glazing would reduce heating costs with about 7%. What may be worth is the reduction of heat from the sun if in the summer you have windows that are directly hit by sunlight for hours daily, and the slower heat loss during winter which leads to better thermal comfort.
For a home in a location which experiences freezing temperatures and has large windows, the window frames should allow for both double and triple glazing, even if initially only double glazing is installed. The reason is that later it may be discovered that double glazing makes the home too cold, or there may be too much condensation on the glass, so the double glazing may have to be replaced with triple glazing. If the frame doesn't have to be replaced, it's much easier to make the replacement, and it would be cheaper.
Rooms which have windows that are for the most part oriented toward south (for the southern hemisphere, the direction is reversed) have much higher temperature variation than those oriented toward north. This is because on the south side even if no direct sunlight hits the windows, the air is heated by the sun and the air then transfers the heat through the windows. At mid-latitudes, I've seen a difference of 3 Celsius (5.4 Fahrenheit) in the summer.
Here are the most important factors that you should take into consideration when choosing the glass for the windows:
Regarding the acoustic insulation, if you have double or triple pane windows and you hear some weak sounds coming in from outside, like they are channeled through some narrow gap, that you feel should not be heard, it's most likely because the window's frame is curved and the rubber seal can't seal the frame when shut. You effectively have holes in your windows through which sound comes in and heat goes out. This may be fixable using the adjustment options available on the frame.
Isn't there too much sunlight inside with wall-sized windows?
It's possible, but even if, naturally, you do get too much sunlight (which is only during some moments of the day, anyway), you can control the amount of light with window blinds or shades, or even with the glass of the windows.
For example, in a room which has white wall paint, dark white flooring, has a standard sized window, is oriented toward the sun / south (opposite in southern hemisphere), has no overhang over the window and has the window fully open (or closed, in the winter, when the sun is lower), you can get an unbearable 4'000 lux even a few meters away from the window; 1'000 lux is pretty much the maximum acceptable if you want to stay in the room for a long time. The light's diffusion on the white wall paint is stunning, but you have to squint in order to keep the light's intensity bearable even for just a few tens of seconds.
All the sunlight that you can see in the room comes through the window, window which is generally on a wall (not on the ceiling), with an area around 1...2 m2 (11..22 ft2).
The amount of sunlight which gets through the window depends on the sun's position relative to the window. For example, the sun might not even shine directly through the window, which means that only sunlight diffused from the ground, other buildings and by the dust in the air will get in. An overhang over the window may also limit the amount of sunlight (and heat, at the same time).
The window's glass reflects and absorbs a part of the incoming light. The higher the angle of incidence is on the glass (= the higher above the horizon the sun is), the more light and heat will be reflected by the window.
Where I live, in the summer, the sun is too high in the sky to be able to directly shine in the house for long, with south-facing windows (for the southern hemisphere, the direction is reversed). This depends on the latitude of the location: the closer you are to the equator, the higher the sun is at noon. East-facing and west-facing windows can get very good direct sunlight because the sun is much lower near sunrise and sunset.
Sheer / transparent curtains block about 30% of light.
White wall paint reflects about 90% of the light at every diffusion, and at each diffusion it remains less and less of it (you have to multiply the reflectiveness).
All the direct sunlight is concentrated near the window, on the floor. If you were outside the window, facing the sun, you would see the full direct sunlight. Inside, the direct sunlight that comes through the window is diffused multiple times on the floor, walls, ceiling and by the dust in the air, over the room's entire area. Since light is diffused in the entire room, you can't see everywhere the same intensity like in the place where the light directly hits the floor or wall.
You can measure the actual amount of light with a luxmeter.
It's possible to make a basic test using a smartphone's light sensor. While it's not accurate enough to measure absolute values, it can be used for comparison. On a Samsung Galaxy smartphone, go to the phone pad and type *#0*# to open a test application; there, tap the "Sensor" button and then the "Light Sensor" button to open the light measurement app.
During some clear, sunny days, inside some rooms with white walls, I measured the following values at 2 meters (7 feet) away from the window:
With the sensor directly toward the sun, you can even measure over 150'000 lux.
More than 1'500 lux inside a room is uncomfortable for the eyes.
The difference in the amount of light between the south and north oriented rooms will not feel as dramatic as the numbers show because the eye adapts to the available amount of light (with little quality degradation when the difference of amounts is not large), and because looking toward the windows will make the eye notice the amount of light which is outside not inside (and there is much more light outside).
The amount of light which gets inside the house depends on the sun's position relative to the windows, which may mean that at noon there is, inside the house, for example, twice the amount of light from morning. Not only does this mean that there are hourly variations, but there are also seasonal variations because of the sun's height above the horizon.
In modern design, there is usually no wall between the kitchen and the diningroom or livingroom.
This is done in order to maximize the space because, at least in apartments, the two rooms are rather small taken individually, but, when joined together, appear bigger because each room's furniture can extend into the other. As walls are added to create rooms, the resulted space looks exponentially worse; of course, there are functional (= non-visual) reasons why walls are added and rooms created.
Another reason for joining the rooms is to get multiple windows to light the joined room. You might think that it's still the same amount of light light lighting the same amount of space, but the fact that the light is coming from multiple directions is a significant improvement because the distribution of light is much more important than the amount of light.
The newly created space and light will significantly affect your mood and lifestyle. Before joining the rooms, in the morning, you were perhaps going in the kitchen for a quick breakfast, wanting subconsciously to get out from the small cave-like room as quickly as possible. After creating one big room, you may find yourself slowing sipping your tea or coffee in the middle of a huge space, maybe lying on the sofa, while basking in the morning sun.
Light and space are the most important things in designing a home; although, the light distribution and the space layout are even more important. Because it's extremely expensive or nearly impossible to fix them afterwards, it's important to get these things right from the beginning.
For space it's important to have few larger rooms rather than many smaller rooms.
For light it's important to have large windows, multiple windows that are well distributed (like on opposite sides) on the walls of a room, and flexible artificial illumination (with orientable light sources). Esthetically, it's better to have several narrow windows as tall as the wall rather than a single short window as wide as the wall.
A good reason to keep the livingroom and the kitchen separated is if someone sleeps regularly in the livingroom.
Think hard about removing the wall between the kitchen and the livingroom. It's true that the smell of cooked food would spread in the livingroom, and that you may hear the refrigerator and even the water heater (pump), but the result is worth it (at least for those who use little heat for cooking). Think hard to what you think the bigger problem is: the open space or the cooking?
Removing walls may require a permit from a government agency. Normally, only walls which don't provide support for the building (that is, are not load bearing) may be removed.
Think hard about the look of your kitchen, especially if you join the kitchen and livingroom to create an open space.
Should it look like a kitchen, distinct from the livingroom? Do you want to create a separation based on functionality? Do you want to sit in the livingroom, turn your head toward the kitchen and say "well, there's the kitchen"?
The classic kitchen look is impersonal, separate from a living area, it's meant to tell people that they should cook there and then move on to other areas of the home. Do you want it to look like that?
If you want your kitchen to fit transparently in an open space and invite you to stay around, design your kitchen as you design your livingroom, avoiding to use distinct tile, avoiding a stone (imitating) countertop (especially those like speckled granite), avoiding stainless steel appliances.
A walk-in shower is a space, usually in the bathroom, where people can take showers, and where people can step in without having to raise their feet more than a few centimeters / inches.
To be comfortable, a walk-in shower should have at the very least 120 * 80 cm (48 * 32 in).
The floor of a walk-in shower has to be sloped toward the drain, in order to allow water to drain. For efficient drainage, the slope / pitch has to be 1%...2% (about 0.6...1.15 degrees), meaning a 1...2 cm vertical drop for each 1 m (0.125...0.25 in for each 1 ft) of shower floor. The slope has to be the same for the entire area that will receive water, like from the farthest wall of the shower to the drain.
If the shower is used by someone with limited mobility, the slope should be less than 1%.
Most drain manufacturers recommend a slope between 1% and 2%.
My shower has a 1.5% slope.
The sloped floor of a shower should be separated from the rest of the bathroom floor with a slat, to keep the water contained within. This could be made with tile or with a composite material, or even plastic.
For safety reasons, floors which can get wet regularly or are sloped, like in a bathroom, must be matte.
If the tile has an antislip rating at least "B" (for the DIN 51097 wet bare foot test), it means that it has a grip that's excellent for people who may slip (like children or elderly); "A" is a lower rating, "C" is higher and is normally used in industrial environments.
Tile with a "B" or "C" antislip rating has much better antislip properties than tile without it, but its 3D surface structure makes it difficult to clean.
While the average acrylic bathtub meets the standard requirements for bathtubs, it is in fact very slippery (as you may have actually noticed in your own home) because it doesn't meet the standard requirements for antislip surfaces and is nowhere near the "A" antislip rating. You can find more details here.
Tile can be made more slip resistant with antislip treatment solutions. Search online shops (or the Internet) for "non slip floor treatment", "antislip floor treatment".
Some people say that mosaic is antisplip, no doubt because they think that since the grout has a rough surface, and it forms a dense mesh on the mosaic, then the floor becomes antisplip. This is not the case, and in fact the rounded edges of the mosaic's small tiles allow water to fill the grout line, which together with the roundness can form a ramp that can throw people off their feet.
Thermal comfort is linked to temperature, but also to heat transfer, heat distribution, and air currents. Remember that heat moves from areas with higher temperatures toward areas with lower temperatures.
The temperature in a home is not stable, it's constantly modified, and can both increase and decrease rapidly in the same area, therefore influencing how fast the human body loses heat.
The same temperature, inside a home, is felt very differently in the summer and winter. In the summer, the air outside is warmer than that from inside, so the heat transfer is from outside toward inside (through windows and walls), and therefore the body loses heat slower.
In the winter, the air outside is colder than that from inside, so the heat transfer is from inside toward outside, and therefore the body loses heat faster. However, if a room gets direct sunlight, it will warm the room's air and the body will lose heat slower. This is why, for example, being outside in freezing temperatures can feel warm if your body is hit by direct sunlight, and once the sun is covered by clouds, you start feeling the cold.
Consider when in the winter the heating system is working and heats a room. At that moment you lose heat slowly, you can feel warmth coming toward you, embracing you. When the heating system is not working, the room is getting colder, you lose heat faster, so you feel the heat escaping from your body.
The purpose of heating a room is the comfort of people, but the way in which the heating is done results in different types of comfort. Aside from the heat's transfer speed, the heat's distribution is crucial for comfort.
When the heat's transfer speed is high, the heat tends to be better distributed in the room, that is, the temperature drop off, as you move away from the radiator, is flatter, which means that the temperature is more equally distributed in the room.
In the case of a classic wall radiator, the heat is concentrated mostly around the radiator, and drops fast as you move away from it. The reason for this is not the heat's transfer speed, but the small area of the radiator, which means that the radiator's temperature must be very high (compared to the temperature of the body).
Think how good it feels when, during a cold winter, you come home from outside and go straight to the radiator. But if you move away from it, you feel cold because the heat is mostly concentrated around the radiator.
To make things worse, heat moves quickly toward the ceiling rather than going horizontally throughout the room, and this results in the ceiling being much warmer than the floor.
You may have heard the advice to never put anything (like clothes) on a radiator. The reason for this advice is that the clothes would increase the thermal resistance, which in turn would amplify the temperature drop off with the distance, which in turn would decrease the thermal comfort for people.
In the case of a parquet floor with underfloor heating, the heat is mostly concentrated around the radiator (= floor) and drops fast along the height of the human body.
Stone transfers heat much faster than wood, so the temperature drop off is flatter for stone, and this means that there is a better thermal comfort along the height of the human body, for an underfloor heating system with a stone / ceramic floor.
Uneven heat distribution leads to less comfort which can lead to a desire to increase the temperature which would lead to greater energy costs.
High temperatures feel better when the air humidity is low rather than when the air humidity is high. Homes oriented toward north (for the southern hemisphere, the direction is reversed) have the highest humidity levels.
Heat sources which create hot air currents, like fan heaters, may dry your eyes, which in turn may cause headaches. This is because such air currents are much warmer and much more dynamic than the air which is heated with radiators. The larger the area of the radiator is, the better the comfort is; for underfloor heating, the area is the entire floor.
Underfloor heating warms the entire floor with the same temperature at the same time. This, in turn, warms the air more homogenously, from the floor toward the ceiling, which means a lower and more stable loss of heat at body height, which means better thermal comfort.
In an experiment, the temperature at 250 cm (100 in) from the floor was the same as the one at 50 cm (20 in), so the heat distribution is exceptionally good.
With wall radiators instead of underfloor heating, the upper part of the room is warmer than the bottom with several Celsius because the warm air from the radiators immediately raises above the cold air, and stops at the ceiling, pushing slowly toward the floor.
Because of this, and because the feet are immediately warmed by the heat source, the thermostat can be set at a lower temperature (1...2 Celsius / 2...4 Fahrenheit) than should be set for a heating system based on wall radiators.
Tile is the best flooring choice if you have underfloor heating because it transmits heat much easier than parquet and carpet, and this allows the floor and the air to warm faster.
Underfloor heating can give some warmth to tile and parquet in the cold season. However, you will generally not feel warm to the bare feet because the thermostat would stop the heating before the floor is actually warm.
This is because the temperature of the floor can be maximum 27 Celsius for wood / laminate / vinyl and 29 Celsius for ceramic / stone (but is much lower most of the time), while the body's temperature is 37 Celsius, so a huge difference.
Worse, if the thermostat is in a room which receives direct sunlight, the sun will warm the room with several degrees above the temperature set on the thermostat, so the heating will be mostly off while direct sunlight gets inside.
Only where direct sunlight hits the floor, the floor feels warm.
Slippers make this issue irrelevant, especially if they have thick foam soles.
The difference in the comfort provided by the floor to the bare feet is given by the heat loss rate of each floor material, not by the temperature of the floor. The temperature of the floor is virtually the same for any type of floor material. Stone makes your body lose heat the fastest through the soles, while carpet makes your body lose heat the slowest.
For an underfloor heating system, if you want to use a gas heater then choose one with condensation (and run it at a low temperature, 45 Celsius). The efficiency of a simple gas heater can be around 90%, while for one with condensation it can be 96...98%; for an electrical heater, the efficiency is around 99%. Ignore any salesmen talk about efficiency over 100%; that's a "normed efficiency" which ignores the heat lost through the exhaust (and then "recovered" as if it wasn't lost in the first place).
Since warm air raises at the top and cool air sinks at the bottom, an underfloor cooling system might not be very effective because it would cool the air at the bottom of a room where the air is the coldest, not at the top where the air is the hottest. The water temperature must be above 16 Celsius in order to avoid the appearance of condensation; also, the humidity in the house should be below 60%.
It's possible that the underfloor heating raises the dust from the floor into the air. If that happens, just wipe the floor with a wet mop, once a week.
Gas or electrical heater?
Let's clarify a critical thing which most people don't realize and salesmen exploit. The amount of energy required to heat a given space, in given conditions, is the same regardless of what fuel is used to produce that energy. The difference between the efficiencies of turning electricity and gas into heated water is less around 10% (in favor of electricity), when the gas heater is an instant one.
An underfloor heating system or a radiant panel system can give you better thermal comfort for the same consumed energy by heating more the lower parts of a room, where people are, rather than mostly the upper parts like radiators do. This means that you can lower the room temperature (and consume less energy) and get the same thermal comfort.
Where I live, electricity is 3...4 times more expensive than gas (per kWh), so the only sane source of energy is gas. In such a case, the heating cost would be huge compared to the rest of the costs (like induction cooking).
If you get the gas price quoted per cubic meter, just divide that by 10 in order to get the approximate price per kWh. If you get the gas price quoted per cubic foot, multiply by 3.
You may see ads for electrical heaters, ads which say that these are more efficient than gas heaters. While this is true, the difference is simply insignificant when you consider a fuel cost difference of up to 300%.
Air as insulation
Air has a very low thermal conductivity and this makes it a very good thermal insulator. You may be confused how this is possible considering that outside you're surrounded by air, yet it's very cold in the winter. The reason is that the air must be trapped in order to provide insulation. The air outside is free flowing, so any heat you lose to it gets lost immediately with the air movement.
Examples for this are: windows with several panes, hallow bricks, aerated concrete, polystyrene and basaltic fiber. All these materials are very good insulators because they trap a lot of air (compared to materials which don't trap air, like concrete).
In fact, if you want windows that have better thermal insulation, look for those that are thicker. For example, triple pane windows has a thermal conductivity which is about half of the thermal conductivity of double pane windows because they amount of air is double. It's also possible to get windows with more space between the panes, therefore trapping more air, and therefore providing better thermal insulation.
Heat pumps are of interest because they consume less energy to heat the same space, compare to a gas heater. But how much would they cost people who use them?
A heat pump's advantage depends on the cost of the electricity and of the heating which would be used instead (of the heat pump, like gas heating).
A heat pump must consume 20% (usually much more) of what it produces in electricity. If the alternative is gas heating and if the price of electricity is 4 times higher than that of gas (per kWh), like it is where I live, then the heat pump heating would already cost 80% of the gas heating, which is very far from the promoted savings of 70...80%. This means that a heat pump is cost effective only with electricity generated from renewable sources (like sun).
However, if you factor in the cost of the ground drill, of the heat pump and of the solar panels (to produce "free" electricity), the total upfront cost is likely the same as the standard heating cost for 20 years, after which the equipment will have to be replaced.
If you have the money to spend on this kind of expensive equipment, it's more cost effective to spend it on (a lot) more thermal insulation (which also has a much longer lifetime).
Air conditioning is a simple way to maintain thermal comfort during the summer. However, it consumes an amount of energy similar to heating during the winter, at least in temperate areas.
An air cooler consumes tens of times less energy, while a simple fan consumes a hundred times less energy, so they are much more efficient in terms of energy consumption, but they don't actually cool the air, they just change the way in which the air temperature feels. For some people, this change can be enough, but for some it isn't.
An air cooler is a fan which passes the air through a wet membrane. If the water tank has ice cubes in it, the water and the air will be cooler than the surrounding air, so the air temperature will be felt as if it's much lower than that of the surrounding air. A disadvantage of an air cooler is that it increases the air moisture, so they should be used only in dry areas.
The bigger the blades of a fan are, the more air it can move at the same noise level as a fan with smaller blades.
Is a fan enough to cool you during summer? It might be. Think at how you feel, during the summer, when you ride in a car / bus with the windows open. If that's enough to make the heat bearable then a fan would also be enough.
In virtually all the images with designed homes, the most important thing that most people are not aware of is the distribution of light, especially the direct sunlight. Specifically, this distribution is non-central and non-flat / non-homogenous, usually coming from multiple sources, from opposite sides.
These images lie to the viewer to the greatest possible extent by using the light from a very specific moment in the day (when it's the most flattering), by using photographic flashes which give a tremendous amount of light (compared to what the eye can see in a home), by using a greater exposure time than the human eye uses in similar conditions (this gathers a lot more light than what the eye can see in a home), by using various natural and artificial illumination techniques that people do not normally use in a home, by warming the colors, by intensifying the colors, by adding clarity (to remove the natural muddy look from environments that have no direct sunlight).
In fact, while many of those great magazine photos may use only natural light, they can be exposed for several seconds, while the evening shots are exposed for tens of seconds, which can end up being hundreds of times more light than the eye can see. More importantly, this compresses the entire image toward the bright side, pushing the shadows up, reducing them dramatically, fact which is visually appealing. The same is done in fashion photography, which is why the models look so good, virtually perfect.
All these tricks fool the viewer into thinking that those homes are much better illuminated and that this is how those homes would look like when seen in person. They would not. In fact, most would usually look bland or even bad, with dark areas and harsh shadows, cold, and only those with really good interior lighting design would look good enough (but still not like in the photos).
You can simulate the increased amount of light by passing a photograph (that you know is normal) through a photo editor, and increasing the exposure with 1...4 units (/ stops of light); each unit represents a doubling of the amount of light, so 4 units means 16 times more light.
In environment simulators it's even worse than in photos because they don't render shadows realistically (they are softer than in reality), so they set unrealistic expectations. Simulators add light where in reality there isn't any, like far away from windows, and smooth the light's distribution in order to showcase the sold products rather than show how they look in reality.
Light colors used on large surfaces reflect most of the light back in the room, therefore making the room brighter. A very dark floor dramatically reduces the amount available of light (by reducing the reflected light). However, if you don't have enough (sun)light, it just wouldn't be enough to change a dark floor with a light one. Still, the most important factor is for people to feel comfortable in their homes, not the amount of light, and for many people this means having a home which looks warm.
Play of light and dynamic range
With standard illumination (= low brightness, central light fixture) in a room, the eye feels as if there is some sort of fog in the room.
Lightbulbs with a narrow illumination angle (= the angle of the emitted cone of light), maximum 45 degrees, positioned near walls and furniture create cones of dense light (on the walls and furniture).
Because the same amount of light is emitted in a smaller space (= in the cone of light coming from the lightbulb rather than all around it), the density of light of such lightbulbs is higher than the density of light of normal lightbulbs. You should be aware of this when you read in various places over the Internet that low voltage illumination systems give a higher quality light than line / high voltage illumination systems. The perceived quality of light has nothing to do with the low voltage, but with the higher density of light.
The eye likes to see a high density of light, but not an excessive one (that is, it likes to be stimulated, but not excessively), one where white is seen as being white (not light gray) and black is seen as being black (not dark gray). Generally, indoor lighting is perceived as uninteresting and having a muddy look because it doesn't provide a high density of light.
The eye also likes to see a high dynamic range, but not an excessive one. The dynamic range is, in basic terms, the ratio between the highest light intensity and the lowest light intensity visible at the same time.
You can see this when the sunlight coming through partially opened horizontal or vertical window shutters creates bands of light and shadows on walls and furniture.
The less pattern and 3D surface structure there is which are directly hit by sunlight, the more clear will be the dynamic play of light, and you may even be able to see on them the movement of the air heated by the sunlight.
Glossy and polished surfaces (like furniture and tile) provide a play of light due to the reflections they create. This acts like a sort of a dynamic pattern which changes depending on the light and objects from the room. However, just like glass, glossy and polished surfaces give a sense of cold, of a need to keep away from them.
The distribution of light is much more important than the amount of light, especially the direct sunlight. To understand this, consider that the amount of light reflected by a cloudy sky is only a bit smaller than the amount of light reflected by the clear sky opposite to the sun at noon; the whiter the clouds are, the more light they reflect. Everything looks dull under a cloudy sky because the color temperature is very high (= is blue), there is no source of intense light to capture the attention of the eye, there is no dynamic range, there is no play of light and shadow, that is, everything appears lit with the same amount of light. During a clear day, the light looks warmer, and the sun beams act as a focus point which captures the attention of the eye.
The amount of light is much less important than its distribution because the eye adapts to the available amount of light (with little perceived quality degradation when the difference of amounts is not extreme).
Artificial light can't easily reproduce the distribution and diffusion of the natural light which comes through the windows. Therefore, artificial light usually creates harsh shadows and specular highlights on some materials (even textiles). You can, however, orient the lightbulbs from a home toward the walls and furniture, to have the light diffused by them. In this case, the colors of the walls and furniture are very important, because they alter the color of the light which they reflect back in the room.
If you are interested to know why white paper diffuses light while a mirror reflects it, read this.
The perceived color of an object is a composition of the color of the object, the color of the light (which illuminates the object), the intensity of the light, the weather, the geographical location, the season, the nearby objects which reflect the light, the structure of the object's surface, and the specifics of your eyes. You may be used to ignoring these differences, but the effect they have on how you perceive colors is huge.
Light has color. Sunlight contains contains all possible colors, to different degrees. Some light, when viewed directly by the eye, may be perceived achromatic because it contains the colors which put together with certain intensities stimulate the eye such that the brain considers it achromatic and of the highest lightness, that is, what people call white. But light itself is not achromatic, only its perception is. This happens because the eye has adapted to daylight along many millions of years, and it now considers daylight to be the neutral point.
When the same light is viewed indirectly, that is, when it's reflected by a surface, the color perceived by the eye depends on the light's color and on the surface's color (and also on the intensity of the light).
White looks achromatic / neutral outdoors because the eye has evolved (since the beginning of life on this planet) while being exposed to a specific type of sunlight, with a specific spectral power distribution. If you would take an object which appears white on Earth and go look at it on a planet whose sun has a different type of light, the object will no longer appear white. This is because color is perceived as a composition of the color of the object and the color of the light which illuminates it.
The correct expressions are "direct light is colored", "direct light is perceived achromatic", "achromatic surfaces are perceived white with various undertones". The expression "light is white" and "pure white" are examples where the simplification of language leads to confusion and lack of understanding.
The lower the color temperature is, like 2'000 kelvin (same as a candle), the more red the light's perceived color is. As the color temperature gets higher, at 2'700 kelvin (same as the incandescent lightbulbs), the undertone gets orange. Higher, at 4'000 kelvin, the undertone gets more balanced between red and blue, that is, looks more neutral. Finally, even higher, at 6'500 kelvin, the light's perceived color gets bluish.
On Earth, the sunlight's color temperature varies depending on the longitude, altitude, time of day and atmospheric conditions: 2'000 kelvin - sunrise and sunset, 3'500 kelvin – an hour after sunrise and before sunset, 4'300 kelvin - early morning and late afternoon, 5'400 kelvin - summer noon excluding sky at mid latitudes, 6'000 kelvin - overcast sky, 6'500 kelvin - summer noon including sky at mid latitudes, 7'100 kelvin - light summer shade, over 8'000 kelvin - average to heavy summer shade. The sunlight above the Earth's atmosphere has 5'900 kelvin. Moonlight has 4'100 kelvin.
White has shades, even though it's generally known to be colorless, and these are simplistically identified by a color temperature. There are cool / cold whites (with a blue undertone) and there are warm whites (with an orange or red undertone). The reason for this is that even presuming that you can see an ideal surface which reflects all light (= white), what you then perceive is the color of the light.
The light's color is perceived according to its color temperature, color rendering index and intensity, or more specifically, its absolute spectral power distribution. But the sunlight is hundreds and even thousands of times more intense than the light from lightbulbs, which means that the eye perceives more red outdoors (than it perceives for the same color temperature used in interior lighting).
The less intense the light is, the less red is perceived by the eye because its red and blue color receptors respond differently at different light intensities, which is known as the Purkinje effect. In interior lighting it's necessary to compensate this difference with a light that has a bit of red or orange in it, that is, which has a lower color temperature. For details, also see this.
This is the reason why the light bulbs which are being sold as having a daylight color appear to have a bluish light, unlike sunlight during a sunny day which looks warm (= has an orange undertone). These lightbulbs don't actually produce a light with daylight characteristics, they don't mimic it.
A surface which emits light, like a lightbulb or a computer display, has an emissive color which can never be pure white because light always has color. At most, it can be a white with an undertone.
A surface which doesn't emit visible light has a reflective color, that is, it shows a color depending on the light that it reflects. A surface can fully reflect every single speck of light (/ wavelength) that it receives, and is considered to have a pure white color. However, in terms of perception, this surface is achromatic, not white. For the surface to be perceived, it has to reflect light, and since light has color (more specifically, it has a color temperature), the surface is perceived as having different shades of white, meaning, it can appear to have a cold or warm white undertone.
The color of the light which enters in a room is a combination of the color of the direct sunlight (which is orangish, has a low color temperature), the color of the sky (which is bluish, has a high color temperature), and the color of other elements from the environment (like vegetation).
The color temperature of the light in shaded areas is higher (= bluer) than the color temperature of the direct sunlight because the (color temperature of the) light scattered by the sky represents a much higher percentage from the total light (from the shaded areas), and the light scattered by the blue sky is quite bluish.
Outdoors, in full sunlight, an achromatic (/ pure white) paint appears perfectly neutral and looks amazing (with its blinding brightness). However, indoors, in shaded areas, since the indirect light's color temperature is higher (= bluer), the same paint appears bluish (and therefore cold).
A room with windows oriented toward north looks colder than a room with windows oriented toward south; for the southern hemisphere, the direction is reversed. Consider a house with windows oriented toward south. The south wall of the house receives the maximum amount of sunlight because there is nothing between the sun and the wall. Even when no direct sunlight goes through the windows, there still is a lot of sunlight reflected by the ground; we consider that the color of the ground is not cold, but brownish. In this case, the sunlight scattered by the sky matters less from the total amount of light which gets through the windows, so there is little blue in this light, meaning, this light is warm.
Now consider the north wall of the house. This receives the minimum amount of sunlight because the house itself blocks the sunlight from hitting the ground in front of that wall. Some sunlight is reflected in the house by the ground near the house's north wall, but most of the light which comes through the north windows is sunlight which is scattered by the sky, so there is a lot of blue in this light, meaning, this light is cold.
If (a lot of) direct sunlight illuminates the room, the color of the sunlight has preponderance over the color of the sky, so the room appears warm and cozy. If no direct sunlight illuminates the room, the color of the sky has preponderance over the color of the sunlight, so the room appears cold and distant. This is why designers recommend to use warmer colors in rooms with windows oriented toward north (for the southern hemisphere, the direction is reversed).
Some people don't know the physical reason for this, so they recommend to use cold colors in rooms with windows oriented toward south. This, however, is incorrect because a room appears to have a warm look only if direct sunlight illuminates it. The problem is that even rooms with windows oriented toward south might not get enough direct sunlight to make the atmosphere feel warm.
For people who like a warm look for their home, shades of warm white or other warm colors will look better than cold colors.
Even if a room does get direct sunlight, it only gets it for a short period of interval, interval which depends on the time of the day, on the latitude and altitude of the location, on the weather, and on the season, that is, it depends on all the factors which influence the position of the sun relative to the room's windows. For example, the sun gets closer to the horizon the closer you get to the Earth's poles, or the closer the middle of the winter is, in which cases more and more direct sunlight can get into the rooms oriented toward south. Overhangs over windows may block a lot of direct sunlight.
A cold white color can be compensated by using lighting with a low color temperature (which has an orange undertone), but, if it's possible, it's better to replace it with shades of warm white.
Color perception is dramatically affected by the surrounding colors from your field of view. This is because the adaptation of the eye occurs at its periphery (not at the center, as you might expect). This is why watching TV in a dark room leads to eye exhaustion: the periphery of the eyes sees dark and adapts to it making the eyes more sensitive, while the center is now too sensitive for all the light coming from the TV. The same thing happens if you read books with light over the book, when in a dark room.
A higher saturation increase the perceived lightness of a color because the eye is stimulated more.
In order to have a good understanding of the color of a small area, look at the area with your palms around your eyes in a way which creates a tunnel for your vision, blocking your peripheral vision, and try to defocus your view to be a bit in front of the area.
If the eye sees a single very light, almost neutral color in its entire field of view, it adapts to consider that color to be white.
When you choose the colors for your home (or for individual rooms), it's best too see how much direct sunlight it gets. As a general rule, choose warm colors for the rooms with windows oriented toward north. That's it! There is no complement like: choose cold colors for the rooms with windows oriented toward south. If anything, the colors for the rooms with windows oriented toward north should be warmer than the colors for the rooms with windows oriented toward south.
You can see the true color of a wall paint in the corners and around the edges of the walls, especially near the ceiling, where there is usually less light than near the floor. This is what will give the room its chromatic look and feel, not the color that you see on well lit areas of the walls. The color on well lit areas of the walls will be washed out by the light, making the saturation appear lower than in the corners and edges, making the paint look virtually achromatic.
In a very low lit room, the eye perceives objects as being darker than in a well lit room, but it also perceives colors less saturated, that is, the colors appear shifted toward gray.
To look good, all colors need light, in particular, warm sunlight. However, darker warm colors maintain their warmth better as it gets darker outside.
Colors are viewed at their best when a lot of (sun)light illuminates the room. Think at how the (sand on a) beach looks like during a bright day - stimulating / awesome, and how it looks during a cloudy day - dull. The difference is not given by the weather, but by the light's distribution and color temperature, both changed by the clouds.
The dust which gathers over the years on the wall paint also makes white turn slightly gray.
Before looking cold, colors have more leeway the farther they are from white / gray.
Because of all these things, choosing colors is a compromise between how they look during bright days, cloudy days and evenings.
The more saturated a color is, the more tolerant it is to other colors which reflect in it and taint it. That's why white gets easily tainted by green vegetation. A brown color, for example, would require a lot more green to be reflected on it in order to look greenish. This is why people like dark and intense colors, especially in dark places like bars and restaurants. During cloudy days, or when there is little sunlight in the home, such colors aren't (visibly) affected by the blue-gray undertone that the sunlight with a high color temperature casts around. Such colors are comfort colors, colors for bleak times.
You can see here how the environment looks like when lit with light of various color temperatures.
The Kruithof curve correlates color temperature and light intensity, from a visually pleasing point of view.
Matte, light colored surfaces diffusely reflect light in all directions, creating a room which looks lit from everywhere, and a misty atmosphere, which for some people means too little contrast. Glossy surfaces exhibit some specular reflection.
The lighting for a home should be done with LED lightbulbs, with a color temperature between 3'000...3'200 kelvin and a CRI of at least 80; the CRI approximates the quality of the emitted light, 100 being maximum. If you like a cooler light, you can go up to 4'000 kelvin. The color temperature in kelvin, the intensity in lumens and the CRI should be written on the lightbulb boxes.
The lower the CRI is, the more tinted the emitted light will be, and it will, for example, create a greenish atmosphere. Normal household lightbulbs have a CRI around 80. Quality lightbulbs have at least 90.
Most lightbulbs have a color temperature of either below 3'000 or above 4'000 kelvin, but if you look at the Kruithof curve, for the recommended interior lighting of 100...200 lux, the most pleasing color temperature is between 3'000...4'000 kelvin. Halogen lightbulbs usually have 3'200 kelvin and CRI 100.
A classical (= incandescent) lightbulb of 100 watts has about 1'500 lumens. Ignore what the lightbulb manufacturers write on the boxes of LED lightbulbs as equivalent in watts; by their equivalence, a 100 watts incandescent lightbulb emits under 1'000 lumens, which is not real.
It's important to be consistent with the color temperature of the lightbulbs in your home, so that your vision would not be forced to adjust back and forth between the different colors of light.
The quality of the light of LED lightbulbs varies enormously. Cheap, low quality ones usually have a slightly greenish color cast.
Never use (just) a central lighting fixture. If you do use a central fixture, keep its intensity relatively low compared to all the rest. Prefer fixtures positioned near the walls, and for specific areas.
Don't use a lighting fixture above the bathroom mirror because it creates very harsh shadows below your eyes and nose, making your face look tired or like you're wearing creepy makeup. Fixtures on the sides of the mirror are fine so long as you're not bothered by the low hanging lightbulbs which emit light directly in your eyes.
Fixed light sources which illuminate the floor give a bland light to a room.
The most flexible solution for a modern home is to use spotbars which have several orientable lightbulbs on them. Lightbulbs with a narrow angle of illumination, 40...45 degrees, are preferable because their light can clearly sculpt forms of light and shadow on surfaces, due to the higher density of light in their small cone of light.
Pay attention to the base / mount of the spotbars because a lot of spotbars have a great design but their base / mount looks horrid.
The most flexible solution is to use tracklights. However, this is a very expensive solution, and is not very good for residential use due to how the tracks divide the ceiling.
Recessed (= in ceiling) spotlights give the ceiling a very clean look, which is very useful when there are a lot of light sources. While they can have orientable lightbulbs, these can't be oriented as flexibly as the lightbulbs from spotbars. Distributing recessed spotlights equally on the ceiling creates a flat light which is less pleasing than what you can get from a more clustered distribution (like spotbars with orientable lightbulbs achieve).
Install the orientable lights at about 30...60 cm (12...24 in) from walls, furniture, curtains and artworks. Put lights near windows in order to illuminate the curtains, and to be able to direct the spots as if sunlight is coming in from outside; make sure to take the depth of the curtains into account, and keep at least 30 cm (12 in) between the curtains and the lighting fixtures.
Use lightbulbs with a narrow illumination angle, 40...45 degrees, to be able to create cones of dense light. Light has a density which is calculated by dividing the number of emitted lumens to the angle of illumination. The higher the density is, the clearer the air and the objects in its path look. If the density is low, the air and objects look murky, like they are in a fog. If the illumination angle is too small, it's not good for general illumination because the light is too concentrated in a small area.
Use lighting fixture with a GU10 screw. This allows you to replace the lightbulbs. At the same time, the lightbulbs with a GU10 screw have a narrow illumination angle. GU10 lightbulbs usually have fewer lumens than E27 lightbulbs, so you'll have to buy more (if you are used with E27 lightbulbs).
The longer a lighting fixture is, the more likely it is that it will encounter an uneven ceiling, so after installation a large space would remain between the ceiling and one of the long ends. Before you buy long lighting fixture, check the ceiling with a long level.
Because it's difficult to find lightbulbs with the color temperature that you desire, you can mix lightbulbs that have 3'000 kelvin with lightbulbs that have 4'000 kelvin, until you obtain the desired effect. The problem is that this mixed light isn't consistent, that is, there will be areas where the low color temperature will be mostly visible, and there will be areas where the high color temperature will be mostly visible.
If the wall paint is a light color, use small, white lighting fixtures with white lightbulbs in order to make the illumination system unobtrusive and give the room a clean look.
The light intensity should be about 100...200 lux at floor level, which means 100...200 lumens per square meter, but you can go up to 400 (but you need to have a dimmer, or at least 2 electrical circuits per room).
The light distribution of the lightbulbs with a wide angle of illumination (from lightbulbs with a E27 screw, the common type) is perceived very differently than the light distribution of the lightbulbs with a narrow angle of illumination (from lightbulbs with a GU10 screw), so don't compare them. The E27 lightbulbs will appear to have a more intense light than the GU10 lightbulbs, at the same total lumen output; this is because the light of the GU10 lightbulbs is concentrated in smaller areas.
However, there is no need to have this amount of light for every square meter of your home, just for the areas that need to be well lit. A very dark floor dramatically reduces the amount available of light (by reducing the reflected light).
Multiply the lumens per square meter with the area of a room (and divide by 10 if the area is in square feet) in order to see how much light (in lumens) you need for the room, and ultimately how many lightbulbs you need.
For example, for a room with an area of 20 square meters (220 square foot), you need maximum 20 * 200 = 4'000 lumens. Check the specifications of the lightbulbs to see how many lumens they emit. If a lightbulb emits 400 lumens, you need 4'000 / 400 = 10 lightbulbs.
Each lightbulb should have about 200...400 lumens, so that you need many lightbulbs that you can distribute around the room. Generally, such an LED lightbulb consumes less than 5 W.
If your ceiling is much higher than the standard height (of about 250 centimeters, 100 inches), and if most lighting fixtures are on the ceiling, you may have to increase the amount of light. Test with how much, don't do it proportionally, because the light's distribution in the room is much more important than the amount of light. However, the look of the light may be murky because the density of the light decreases with the square of the ceiling's height (relative to the standard ceiling height).
A nightstand lamp should have a lightbulb with about 600 lumens.
Except for small rooms, install at least 2 power circuits that are controlled by separate light switches / buttons. If you later decide to have a single switch, it can be done, but you can't later split a single circuit in several ones.
Using a dimmer is a great way to make your lighting more flexible by allowing you to lower the intensity of the light to create mood lighting. It also spares you of the trouble of having several switches which operate different power circuits that switch on / off different lighting fixtures.
A dimmer is a special kind of light switch which can change the voltage that the lighting fixtures get from the power line. This in turn changes the intensity of the light emitted by the lightbulbs.
A dimmer can have a normal switch right next to the dimming switch, or can have just the dimming switch.
The dimming switch can be a wheel, a lever or a dual button. Once turned, moved or pressed it changes the voltage up or down.
The advantage of having a normal switch together with the dimming switch is that you can use the normal switch when you simply want to illuminate the room with the full light intensity of light, and use the dimming switch only when you need to lower the intensity of the light to create mood. If, for example, the dimmer would be just a wheel, you would have to fully rotate the wheel every time when you want to just "turn on / off the lights".
When using a dimmer, it's critical that all the lighting fixtures (including the lightbulbs) which are linked to the power circuit operated by the dimmer are compatible with dimming.
Make sure the dimmer works with your type of lightbulbs (for example LEDs). Also make sure that the total power supported by the dimmer is not exceeded by the total power of the lightbulbs that are on the power circuit that's controlled by the dimmer. For example, if the dimmer's total power is 60 W (75 VA), and a lightbulb's power is 5 W, you can have maximum 12 lightbulbs on that circuit.
There may be a maximum number of bulbs, per power circuit, that a dimmer could work with. If a dimmer is rated VA instead of W, for LEDs, then multiply the VA value with 0.8 to get the W value.
For better light control, you can use smart lightbulbs that are remotely controlled, are dimmable (to reduce their luminosity), can vary their color temperature (to show warmer or cooler shades of white), and can even show non-white colors (commonly known as "RGB" lightbulbs).
Make sure you understand the features of such systems, as their prices vary with the features. Also make sure that you buy lightbulbs with the screw that you need (E27 or GU10).
An example of such a system is Philips Hue. While they are all remotely controlled and dimmable, the other features vary with price. They also have a remote control which allows you to avoid having to use their bridge and a smartphone, but this can only control 10 lightbulbs, and it also lacks the control capabilities that the bridge has. The remote control is not infrared, so it doesn't need a direct line of sight.
Tracklights may give the ceiling a (too) busy look, and a more industrial than elegant feel, especially if the tracks are near the walls. In a home, tracks divide the ceiling in a way which lacks elegance.
Tracklights with many lightbulbs of a low brightness (rather than few lightbulbs of a high brightness) allow you to orient the lightbulbs in many directions, but also to add or remove lightbulbs in order to increase or decrease a room's brightness (and even move them from room to room).
Multiple tracklights can be joined (with special connectors) to form a single, longer tracklight. On some tracklights, the lightbulbs can be switched on / off from several power circuits, circuits which can be switched on / off independently; make sure to check the tracklight specifications for this option.
Each lightbulb can be assigned to be switched on / off from one of the power circuits, by turning a dial on the lightbulb's mount, which makes it possible to form several groups of lightbulbs which can be switched on / off independently. The lightbulbs from a group don't have to be in line (= one after another), they can be mixed with the lightbulbs from the other groups. This dramatically reduces the need to have dimming, since there can be several levels of intensity of light which is well distributed in space. You can find more details here.
A tracklight can be cut to a shorter length, to fit in any place you need it.
Professional steam cleaners are able to dislodge grit from ceramic, grout, laminate and wood. Steam mops are not powerful enough.
A steam cleaner only needs water, no cleaning solutions, yet it still disinfects the cleaned surfaces because of the high temperature of the steam.
It's recommended to use distilled water, else the minerals from the water could clog the steamer's pipes, just like it happens in washing machines. However, the effort to find it, and the cost of distilled water might be too much to be worth it.
A steam cleaner can only clean the surface of grout, not deep inside it.
Some steam cleaners can clean various types of surfaces (including glass), both horizontal (like floors) and vertical (like windows).
Be careful! Steam is very hot since it's basically boiling water, heated over 100 Celsius (212 Fahrenheit).
You need good ventilation so that the steam can get out.
Before using a steam cleaner on a floor, clean the floor the classic way, else the steam would just move the dirt around the floor.
If you want to decorate a room and make it feel livelier, you can hang on walls any of the following:
Outline prints can fill a wall space without making it fill busy, and without harshly delineating a zone (like photo edges do). You can get ideas from the signage industry; to build the pieces, look for companies that work in this industry.
Outline printing on acryl
Direct printing, of text and drawings, on the front of a slab of transparent acrylic glass (plexiglas) provides a very airy feel to a room (because of the transparency of the print support).
Depending on how airy or busy you want this to look, change the color of the outline to be either close to that of the wall behind, or strongly contrast with it.
If you're a sci-fi or fantasy art fan, you can create volumetric character, gear and spaceship cutouts. If you want to stylize the art, in an image editor apply the following effects on an image you like: pencil sketch, outline, or edge detection + invert colors + pencil sketch. Take take to a graphic designer to create a stylized version which can be milled into polystyrene, forex or MDF and then painted.
If you want to use text, see if you like any of these quotes.
Volumetric / 3D text
Volumetric / 3D text, graphics included, provides a very airy feel to a room because it has no opaque support, and it's either glued to the wall or hung on thin metal slats.
Volumetric letters can be made from various materials, like: wood, MDF, (extruded) polystyrene, plastic, forex, acrylic glass (plexiglas), glass, metal (aluminum, brass). They can have virtually any shape, size, thickness and color, and they can be lit with LEDs or neon gas.
Depending on how airy or busy you want this to look, change the color of the outline to be either close to that of the wall behind, or strongly contrast with it.
Such text will gather dust at the top. If the text is glued on the wall, dust will create a shape around it, and any attempt to clean it could easily soil the wall paint.
If you want to use text, see if you like any of these quotes.
You can print photos on forex / foamboard (a kind of plastic), on sizes like 120 * 70 cm (= 48 * 28 in).
In continental Europe, Cewe (look for the local branch) provides excellent quality and lets you pick any size for the forex prints (up to 150 * 100 cm / 60 * 40 in). For larger formats (like 300 * 100) check with local companies that provide prints for the advertising industry.
For photos printed on forex, they have a hanging system with round screwing clamps which are mounted around the top and bottom edges of the forex panel. This system looks very good, doesn't require holes in the image, and allows you to easily replace the photo (even with photos of different widths). This system also allows you to mount it at various distances from the left and right edges of the forex panel, should you need it in order to avoid drilling the screw holes in cables and pipes that are in the wall. A visual advantage of the system is that, because it keeps the photo well separated from the wall, it gives the photo some volume on the wall, which works very well in the case of edge-to-edge printed photos.
I've printed the same photograph on all the materials that Cewe prints on (except paper). For me, forex shows the best quality, by far; while forex doesn't have the best durability, that's not a concern I have.
Personally, I find it better looking to mount the hanging supports at about 10 cm (4 in) from the left and right edges of the photo, rather than at the corners.
Printing photos on forex provides exceptional quality, moisture resistance, and light and thin prints (which allows you to store many prints, so that you can change the displayed ones from time to time).
While some people may prefer canvas prints because of the 3D surface structure of the canvas, the structure is not large enough to matter, and is not visible from over 1 meter (= 3...4 feet) away. However, canvas is much cheaper than forex.
If you want your home to have a modern look, the photos should not have an empty (white or black) border around the photo itself, and should not have a frame. However, there should be a few centimeters between the wall and the photo, space which gives volume to that area.
While there are other surfaces on which photos can be glued or printed, like doors and desks, doing this will make the room look too busy, and changing them later is costly or very difficult.
How large should the printed photo be?
There should be a scale match between the size of the photo and the size of wall or object right next to it.
If you hang the photo above a sofa or a desk, at about 135 cm (54 in), for a standard wall height (of about 250 centimeters, 100 inches), its height should be around 70 cm (28 in), to allow for space both below and above it. The width should be maximum twice the height, enough to esthetically match the width of the sofa or desk.
If you hang the photo on an empty wall, with no furniture in front of it, the size should be much bigger, like 120 cm in height. The width depends on the width of the wall; the width will also give the photo its aspect: landscape / horizontal or portrait / vertical.
What photos to choose
Be very careful what photographs you choose to hang on walls. They have to fit in the room's design style, so the colors, the scale and amount of the details must fit with the design style. This means that when you look at the photos on the computer, you have to consider them in the context of the room, regardless of how nice they look separately. For this, use 3D simulations.
Wall-hung photos are meant to act as accent elements, so look for photos that are light, colorful and have many small details. While light and colors make pretty snapshots, the photos should display a geometric esthetics that makes them works of art.
Dull colored photos make a room look airy, while lots of strong colors make a room look busier and impactful. Since the photos are meant to be accent elements that fill an existing airy space, it might look like you should go for lots of strong colors. However, little color is actually needed to warm a space, so there is no need to have too much color; or, if you choose lots of strong colors, you might want to reduce the number of details.
It's extremely difficult to find photos that contain all the elements that make them a perfect fit for your home, so you will have to compromise on some criteria.
Expand the sample photos that you like and save them on your computer; the photo resolution should be very high. You might want to categorize the photos in subfolders.
Later, to be able to add each photo to your shopping cart, you need to be on the page of each photo. However, there is no need to save the URLs from which you've saved the photos since you can later search directly for the photos, using the photo library's search function, using the long code that's included in the saved file name.
Use a photo editing software to process the photos and see if you can achieve the look that you want.
Paintings can be processed with Paint.Net's "Surface blur" effect; the larger the resolution of a photo is, the more you have to increase the parameters. This effect will remove the coarseness of brush strokes from a painting, but without removing clarity, creating a soft yet crisp result. This effect is particularly good for watercolor paintings. Artistic photos can also benefit because this effect stylizes them.
Here are some examples:
Here are some examples to use for printed glass backsplashes (obviously, these images have to be processed before printing):
Some great free photos:
It's possible to print photos on furniture, either on a small or large scale. However, doing this would most likely lead to very expensive furniture with a very busy pattern, this presuming that you can even find a photo which has a quality that's high enough for the large size of a furniture panel.
For decorative purposes, you should keep the furniture pattern simple and instead use:
For the viewing experience, for an immersive experience, the resolution of the image is irrelevant (because you are viewing the image in its entirety, not pixels). What matters is for the image to cover a large part of your field of view.
The viewing distance to the TV should be around 2...2.5 times the TV's diagonal. While in cinemas the distance is even lower than the screen's diagonal, that type of experience is limited to movies. For TV shows which have more movement, for longer, like sports, it's better to sit further apart or else you can get motion sickness.
To scent your home, use a diffuser made from a bottle filled with fragrance, and with reed straws in it. This is the best solution for a subtle and continuous scenting of a home.
You can also put the fragrance in a bottle or a jar, and not cover the opening. The larger the opening is, the higher the evaporation rate of the fragrance is.
High quality fragrances are quite expensive and their evaporation rate can be about 100 ml per month. You can decrease / increase the amount of diffused fragrance by decreasing / increasing the number of straws from the bottle.
If you don't want the fragrance to be constantly released, you can use a sprayable fragrance and spray in the air, once or twice a day.
Electrical dispensers may cause respiratory irritation, and even headaches, because they dispense too much fragrance at once, while straws diffuse much less but continuously.
While candles also diffuse fragrance continuously, they may emit toxic fumes, so they should be used only for short times.
Keep in mind that you should scent your home, not make it stink.
A "spicy" perfume means that it smells like pepper or the dentist's office (like clove). Lavender smells a bit like mold. Argan smells a bit spicy, but there are some products which prominently say that they contain argan oil, yet they smell sweet.
An indoor alarm system should have as many of the following features as possible: videocamera, night vision, microphone, battery (to prevent thieves from cutting the power), 4G (to prevent thieves from cutting the Internet connection), motion and sound detection and notification (through SMS, email), mobility (so that you can mount it only when needed, like when you are away from home), power cable (to avoid changing batteries too often).
A smartphone with an alarm software has all these features, except night vision.
You can also use a GSM alarm system. Such a system can send SMSs and even call you if they detect motion or a sensor trigger. You can also call the alarm to hear what happens in your home.
If you want to buy a metallic door, make sure that the door has the security classification 3; 4 is also possible for homes, but it's most likely unnecessary. Doors with such a security classification are usually called armored doors.
Installing an armored door at a location where the thieves could (easily) enter through a window is obviously pointless.
An entrance door should have a sound insulation rating of at least 32 decibels. A high quality door would have at least 42 decibels; such a door is a good choice if it opens into the livingroom.
High quality cylinders (the place where the key goes into) are Evva MCS, Abloy Protec, Ikon W10. What you choose depends on what you need.
If you need to be as sure as possible that nobody gets inside your home without your knowledge, Evva MCS is the most secure choice. There are no known public cases of people being able to lockpick such a cylinder. The keys use magnets, so they can be copied only with very specialized equipment, and they have no grooves to clone (even if the thief has physical access to the key). By default, this cylinder doesn't come with all the security options (it can be broken with a rod), so it's not the best solution to protect against thieves who don't care if you know that someone has broken into your home. Such a cylinder may cost half the price of the rest of the door, so an alarm system may be a more cost effective choice.
There are no known public cases of people being able to lockpick Abloy Protec, but its keys have grooves that can be cloned (if the thief has physical access to the key).
All cylinders that require a key to be inserted into them are susceptible to being jammed by inserting glue or a wood splinter into the keyhole. This way, thieves can force you to buy a new cylinder until you can no longer afford to buy unbreakable cylinders. In such a case, instead of buying a cheap, breakable cylinder, search for a motorized cylinder that requires no key (and uses RFID cards).
The average budget for everything that goes into a finished home, like furniture and appliances, is (as percentage from the home's price):
Home with windows mostly oriented toward east are good for early risers, while those oriented toward west can give your great sunsets.
Don't buy things because somebody (usually a their seller) tells you that they've seen those things in other people's homes and look beautiful. You need things that look beautiful in your home, and for that they need to fit in the overall design, not look good on their own or in a showroom or in someone else's home.
For decoration, use artificial flowers instead of natural ones. There is a wide variety of artificial flowers which look natural. Since artificial flowers don't fade, they cost less than natural flowers, in the long run, and there are a lot more types available (at any time of the year) which can give you much more creative space.
Darkening a space too much makes the home feel like a cave. Good lighting can make a dark space look good, but artificial light doesn't have the properties of sunlight, especially its directionality, and, most importantly, during the day the eye is expects to receive more light than during the night, so even a well illuminated dark space feels odd.
For a modern bedroom look, suspend the nightstands on the bed's headboard. The headboard should be wide enough to cover the bed and the nightstands; its height should not exceed your shoulders when you sit on the bed. The nightstands should be thin, for example, they should have just one drawer.
Home ventilation should be done by opening wide a window in each room, for 10 minutes, in order to remove the humidity, gases released by the materials, and dust. Opening the windows just a bit for a long time forces the walls to cool, so you loose a lot more heat and may increase the potential of mold.
Choose the electrical appliances according to the reviews of other people, not according to brands. For reviews, search the local online shops, the international online shops, and the Internet at large.
When you measure the walls to see how thick should be the door frame, make sure to include anything that would later be put on the walls, like tile (include the adhesive as well).
Metal can normally be painted only with RAL colors. This is because electrostatic painting, which is used for durability, is done with powders which come colored from the factory; manually mixing powders leads to uneven coloring. This is a problem because you have virtually no control over the very light colors, since there's very few of them and the warm ones have a greenish undertone.
Doors whose hinges are mounted in the middle of the door frame, depth wise, can open only 90 degrees, not 180.
Non-rabbeted doors (= doors which are closed inside the door frame) have hidden hinges and look much better than rabbeted doors (= doors which are closed over the door frame). These can open close to 180 degrees.
Don't use rotating door knobs because they are awful for the wrists. Use normal door handles (that are pressed downward).
When buying electrical appliances, make sure that their doors can open in the place where they are supposed to be. For example, make sure that the door of the fridge doesn't hit any object while it's being opened.
Install 2 power circuits for the bathroom lighting, one to use during the day and one during the night (when you don't want a lot of light which could keep you up for hours).
Install a shower head near the toilet bowl so that you can clean the bowl easily.
If you have installed a concealed toilet tank, also install a door through which you can slip a water refreshing pill. An example for this kind of mechanism is Grohe Fresh.
Don't cover the entire cabinets wall of the kitchen with tile. You need to have easy access to all the pipes and cables that are in the wall, so you don't want to have to take the tile down if there is a problem. Only the backsplash should be made of tile (or some other material, like glass or composite).
Keep the light switches at a height of about 90...100 cm (36...40 in) so that you don't have to raise your hands to switch the lights on or off.
If you plan your power circuits through the walls, make sure that you first decide where you want to mount objects on (both sides of) walls (like TV supports, wall-hung decorations, cabinets), so that the screws don't perforate the electrical cables (which normally go vertically from the ceiling downward).
Window screens (= bug screens) should be rollable in order to allow you roll them up and maximize the sunlight which can get inside. The hinged ones which clip on a side lack this flexibility and can easily be blown open by a gust of wind.
If your flooring is installed, keep some extruded polystyrene (10 mm thick) handy for cases when you'll need to do some heavy work and you need to protect the floor. Rollable foam (the type that is put under parquet) is also good because it can mold on walls that may need to be protected.
If you dislike defrosting the fridge, buy a fridge with full no-frost (where both the fridge and the freezer are no frost) and with an inverter compressor. The inverter smooths the noisy behavior of a simple no-frost compressor. LG, Samsung and Sharp have fridges with no-frost and inverter. Samsung also has an interesting feature (called Twin Cooling) where the freezer can be used as a small fridge, and both the fridge and freezer compartments can be turned off, separately, to save electricity.
Dark surfaces are a nightmare to keep clean because dust is ever visible.
For floor cleaning, use a brush, a cloth mop, water, soap and an utility razor (to mechanically break building material off tile / concrete). Mechanical cleaning is the most efficient way to clean, by far.
Don't get a very light colored desk because it reflects most of the light that it receives right into your eyes, slowly eroding your vision. For a similar reason, the surface of the desk should be matte.
Don't get a large computer display because the larger it is, the more light and heat it emits right into your eyes, slowly eroding your vision; you should keep the diagonal under 24 inches. For example, in a room with a temperature of 23 Celsius, the temperature of a display after hours of use is 30...34.5 Celsius (it varies all over the display). Another thing which slowly erodes your vision is watching for a long time at the same distance (since the display is a flat surface); the eyes need to look at various distances.
The brightness of a computer display should be kept at a level which is comfortable for you. The color scheme of the applications should be comfortable for you, whether light (= white background with black text) or dark (= black background with white text). You will hear some people who will vehemently tell you that you must use a light background color because that provides the most visibility. This is a misunderstanding of the difference between visibility and comfortability. Shinning a flashlight in someone's eyes makes it visible alright, but certainly not comfortable and would destroy the eyes in a short time.
If your eyes tire easily, especially when sitting in front of a computer display, you should either calibrate it (with a hardware calibrator) to D55 (or D50), or search through its menu and switch the color temperature to 5'500 (or 5'000) kelvin. This will make the colors a bit warmer. The color temperature of summer noon excluding sky at mid latitudes is 5'400 kelvin. The standard color temperature of prints is 5'000 kelvin. The standard color temperature of photographic and motion picture film is 5'500 or 5'600 kelvin.
Be wary of any claims of products which are anatomical or orthopedic, especially when it comes to shoes and mattresses. Such products have an exaggerated shape which is likely to not fit your body. When you buy shoes, feel the inner side of their soles. They have to be almost flat, you should barely feel any difference in height; usually, the heel is a bit lower, but it should be very little.
If you wear slippers (with thick foam soles) and they make your feet perspire, drill holes in their (not your) soles to improve the air circulation. Nobody may wear the slippers, be it on their feet or hands, when you drill wholes in them!
Ensure that the chairs which will be around the dinning table have the following characteristics:
Don't get chairs that wobble (= have a slight backward rocking effect) for sitting at the table or desk, because they cause body instability, which in turn strains the backbone (especially in the neck area).
The sitting part of chairs must not be slippery. However, for chairs used outside, slippery surfaces are easy to clean.
Chair backs made from a textile mesh aren't good for the backbone since they offer no rigid support for the lower back to sit straight.
Chairs (and tables) with wooden legs can be made shorter, by cutting from the bottom of the legs, to make them fit shorter people.
Don't put anything (that can fall or break) over the areas where people stay for a long time, like mirrors over a bed. Wall-hung photos that are printed on forex are fine because forex is a very light and soft material.
For maximum hygiene, use a stainless steel pedal-activated garbage bin which allows you to open the lid without touching it, so that you can hold the garbage with both hands. A sensor activated garbage bin only opens the lid, it doesn't close it. Keep the bin on the floor, not in a closet, in order to keep the humidity around it to a minimum; bacteria thrive in humid environments.
Ceramic cookware usually contains lead and cadmium way above what's safe for children. Some manufactures use materials with amounts that are near the safety limits for children, like Emile Henry (tested here). Note that the simple presence of lead and cadmium in the ceramic doesn't mean that it can contaminate food, but any scratch in the glazing of the ceramic may cause these elements to leach in food.
Glass cookware is difficult to keep clean because the limescale from the water is easily seen on glass. (Apple) Vinegar can dissolve limescale when it's allowed to sit over night in / on the glass surface to clean; you must of course dilute the vinegar in water.
Crystal glasses contain lead. Plain glass usually doesn't. Some manufacturers make crystal with titanium instead of lead, like Schott Zwiesel.
If you like to stir the wine in order to better smell its aroma, buy wine glasses which are at least 4 times larger than the portion that you intend to drink at a time. Obviously, only fill them at 1 / 4 of their capacity.
For best skin care, use soap which is rated to have a pH of about 5...6. The skin's pH is 4.7. Anything with a higher pH than this, which comes in contact with the skin, negatively affects the normal skin bacteria. The pH of normal shampoo is around 6...7, of pure water is 7, of surface water is around 6.5...8.5, of normal hand soap (including homemade) is around 9...10. However, there are other factors which are important; for example, if you use soap very often, you need a soap which is intensely moisturizing. A soap which dries the skin may cause your skin to itch.
It's possible to buy a video camera peephole (or door viewer) for an entrance door. Such a peephole allows you to push a button and see on a small display what the camera sees on the exterior of the door. Some are motion activated and can record images, some have night vision. Usually, these are good only indoors (the light from outdoors washes out the image). If you want to install such a video camera in a place where it can capture images of people who are passing by, like neighbors, make sure the law allows you to do so.
Don't buy things in advance because the flooring, wall paint and furniture material that you choose may change, and therefore the things you buy in advance may not fit in the (new) design. First finish building / renovating the home, then the furniture, and only then buy everything that goes inside. You will be tempted to buy because, for example, you'll see large discounts, but these will end up costing you more if you change the design style.
Get a parking spot if it's cheap, even if you don't intend to get a car. You never know what will happen later, maybe you will have a car, maybe your partner will, maybe people visiting you need a place to park, or you might later sell your home to someone who wants a parking spot.
If you expect a high quality result, keep in mind that people who work for you after their day job will either need a lot of time to finish your work, or they will rush it, make mistakes and deliver a low quality result.
If common sense tells you that something is wrong, than that something really is wrong. There is no magic technology to fix bad design, choices and installation which obviously lack strength and reliability. Some people will try to cut corners and tell you that it works fine like that; they will not deliver a high quality result.
When the walls of your home are laid out and when the flooring is installed, check the work progress daily. For example, make sure that the floor skirting will be able to cover the rough cuts of the flooring (be it tile, parquet or carpet) next to the walls. For a walk-in shower, check that the floor is sloped toward the drain in order to allow water to drain, with 1...2%; make sure to agree on the floor's height difference before it's installed.
Humidity and cold keep wall paint from sticking, and may cause it to run down the walls or wrinkle. If you have such problems when it's freezing outside, check that the humidity is below 70% (if not then use a dehumidifier), turn the heat up to something like 23 Celsius (73 Fahrenheit), and ventilate the space by opening the windows wide (in multiple rooms) for 10 minutes. If you have underfloor heating, the external facing walls will remain cold since no wall radiator heats them directly; such walls may need direct ventilation from a fan heater (even if it blows air at room temperature) in order to dry quickly (in 30 minutes). Don't turn on the underfloor heating if the flooring is being installed; the adhesive requires a stable floor temperature.
High quality wall paint can't be sanded by hand due to its mechanical resistance, only with a sanding machine. Moreover, manual sanding would leave scratch marks because the hand movement is linear, whereas for sanding machines it's circular.
If you need to cover wall heat radiators with plastic sheets to keep them from getting dirty when you paint the walls, avoid using colored plastic because the high heat could evaporate the chemicals used for color, and they could end up coloring your ceiling.
Don't drill holes near the edge of tile because that's where the glazing is the weakest and it could chip easier than in the middle of the tile.
Clean thoroughly only after the furniture is installed. Before that, just wipe the dust so you don't breathe it later.
Don't let anyone clean / wipe your windows with newspaper (or other stiff paper) because that will scratch the glass (at least the various chemical treatments which are supposed to provide insulation).
A good detergent for wiping pencil marks from furniture and tile is Cif Power & Shine Kitchen (liquid). The fresher the marks are, the easier they are to wipe.
One of the most important tools to have around a house is a cordless power drill. Here are some features to look for:
If you want to design a home which looks modern, bright and spacious, the choices below will give you a good start so long as you like consistency, harmony / consonance and low contrast in design. If you prefer dissonance or a high contrast, you'll have to make adjustments.
Have I ever doubted my choices? Constantly. For example, I had one sample tile that I was looking at from time to time, the model that I actually ended up with. Right from the start it felt a bit too raw / natural and cold, and at some point it started to get boring. I was even contemplating to get another type of tile, one with a luxurious look, something like a beige marble (a type called Marfil), but the pattern of that one was a bit too busy and the color a bit too dark, although, the matching wall tile was amazing (it was a very light beige, with little pattern).
How did I feel when seeing my home empty? Bored. Bored of every color, pattern, structure, tile, parquet, melamine, wood, stone, whatever. If I see something new and interesting, a few minutes later I'm bored. But what is left after the boredom is light, space and simplicity, and these things actually matter, they have a beneficial influence on the state of mind.
I didn't know / choose the design style of my home, I had to discover what I like by seeing various combinations in reality, in photos and in simulators. When everything was in place and I had time to get used to the very different atmosphere (than what I had before), it all came together in a subtle and comfortable way. It was home. The look is subtle, relaxing enough to stimulate creativity, it's airy, it's modern yet it has details on which to focus. It looks a bit like a beach home.
Could I have done things more artistically? Yes, but I would not clean all those structural details.
After this entire experience, there are some things that I would do differently in the future:
Large areas: If you like warm colors, for large areas (like walls, floor and furniture) use light, neutral colors, like warm white, light greige (= light warm gray) or light beige (= very light brown). For floors, if you prefer darker or more colorful colors, you can use light brown tile or golden wood parquet.
If you like strong colors, don't use them for very large areas, use them just for accent colors.
Neutral colors, like warm white and greige (and even beige), provide a good background for colorful decorations, especially for large and colorful photos which are hung on walls. Any colorful decorations become very powerful focus points for the eye, untainted and unobstructed by background colors.
If you want to have the floor, walls and furniture all lightly colored then make sure that all the light colors have the same undertone; the saturation and the lightness may vary over a wide range. In simple words: don't mix areas of orangy whites with areas of greenish, yellowish or bluish whites. Don't mix a cold white ceiling with warm white walls (like white ceiling and yellow walls), or cold white walls with a warm white floor, or cold white walls with warm white furniture. You can mix different undertones if the lightness is contrasting (light with dark), or the saturation is very low for one and very high for the other, so you mix cold white walls with a golden wood floor. If you can't match the undertones of the light colors, use colors that contrast either on lightness or hue.
If your windows are not toward south (for the southern hemisphere, the direction is reversed), choose warm colors because the low light from homes shifts colors toward gray, which looks rather cold and industrial (think cloudy beach). However, don't exaggerate because you could end up with a color which is too warm when there is a lot of light.
Accent colors can be used for small areas, like the kitchen countertop and backsplash, tables, desk, chairs, bed headboard, curtains, bed and sofa covers, low hanging light fixtures, lamps, decorative pillows, vases with (artificial) flowers, designed objects, photos hung on walls and so on. Accent colors are enough to fill a space and give it contrast, contrast that some people are keen to have.
Wall paint: If you like warm colors, use a warm white. Usually, matte paint is used, especially because it's better at hiding wall imperfections.
In order to obtain the smoothest surface possible, the walls have to be painted with a pump rather than manually, but this would make it almost impossible for you to paint your home on your own, plus, later fixes would stand out.
Choose the wall paint color before anything else because it will color the largest area of your home, and will therefore define the background / subconscious perception of colors. The wall paint color has the greatest weight in creating the atmosphere of your home because color perception is dramatically affected by the surrounding colors from your field of view; this is because the adaptation of the eye occurs at its periphery (not at the center, as you might expect).
Some people will recommend you to choose the wall paint color at the end because it's harder to find tile or parquet matching the wall paint, than it is to find wall paint that matches the tile or parquet. While this is true, you would then be forced to choose a wall paint that fits the floor color, not what you like, for the largest area of your home. Besides, if you install colored concrete, you can customize the color of the floor.
After that, choose the colors of the furniture, doors, window frames, curtains, and, finally, of various decorations.
Do not add pattern to the walls, except for an accent wall, that is, a wall which is patterned or colored very differently than all the other walls. More than one patterned wall in a room give a very cluttered / busy look to the room.
Wallpaper: Wallpaper brings an exceptional design variety due to its simple manufacturing and installation processes. Be very careful not too use a busy pattern for all the walls of a room.
Floor: The simple choice would be to go with a golden wood parquet, but if you don't like the look of wood (with all its lines), you can use tile with a color like dark warm white, beige, or, for more contrast, light brown. If the floor's color is similar to that of the walls, the feeling will be of less clutter, but for many people it may be too little clutter.
A more colorful floor allows more flexibility in choosing the wall paint color, especially later.
A very dark floor dramatically reduces the amount available of light (by reducing the reflected light).
The floor should have little pattern. For example, if the flooring material imitates wood, choose a model which has little color contrast and especially few lines (long or short) marking the wood all over the place, lines which are common in wood imitations and give it too much contrast and directionality. If there are lines on the flooring, install the flooring with the lines toward the windows (toward the larger one, if there are several), in order to maximize the visual effect of the sunlight on the floor.
Tile: I've chosen a (rectified, 60 * 60 cm / 24 * 24 in, porcelain) tile which imitates white travertine (with little pattern contrast). Its color is a dark and dirty white, a bit warm in sunlight, with some reddish-gray pattern. If there is a lot of light, the pattern looks like dust / sand being blown by wind over a warm white stone, or like the bottom of a creek, made of white stone, where the water dragged sand all over.
The tile is perfectly matte, which makes it look a bit like raw / unglazed ceramic. I've used it for all floors and bathroom walls; for the floor, the lines are oriented toward the light / windows, for the walls, the lines are horizontal.
The slightly dark white color and the delicate pattern of the tile are useful at hiding dust and not having to clean the floor every day.
I would have preferred a larger format, but the next larger format was twice as expensive (for the same area). The extra tile that was necessary (above the installation area) was nearly 20%, and only two full tiles remained, mostly because all the tiles were aligned to the ones from the hallway.
To match the slightly reddish-gray pattern of the tile, I've chosen an orangy warm white wall paint, and a slightly orange chipboard for the furniture.
Tile grout: I've chosen an epoxy grout with a color very close to that of the tile, but darker, basically a medium-lightness warm gray. Epoxy grout looks better, is more durable and is easier to keep clean than the average cement-based grout. Epoxy grout feels smooth to touch, while the cement-based grout feels rough.
If its color is similar to that of the tile, the feeling will be of less clutter. If its color is contrasting to that of the tile, the feeling will be more cluttered.
I've used a 1.5 mm (1/16 in) wide grout line. An extra bucket with grout was necessary above the amount calculated with the manufacturer's formula, which means that I've used 4 buckets rather than 3.
Silicon: I've chosen a silicon with a color very close to that of the grout, basically a medium-lightness warm gray.
Doors: If their color is similar to that of the walls, the feeling will be of less clutter. If their color is contrasting to that of the walls, the feeling will be more cluttered. If their pattern is similar to wood, the feeling will be more rustic.
If you can afford, then choose non-rabbeted doors (= doors which are closed inside the door frame, not over it) with hidden / 3D hinges.
If you can't find doors with the color you want, ask the seller for doors that can be painted in a car paintshop; of course, you would have to deal with that when the doors arrive.
I've chosen doors whose color is the same as that of the furniture, NCS S1505-Y40R.
Furniture: If its color is similar to that of the walls, the feeling will be of less clutter. If its color is contrasting to that of the walls, the feeling will be more cluttered. If its pattern is similar to wood, the feeling will be more rustic.
The price of the workmanship was about equal with the price of the chipboard. The price of the board cutting and edging (material and application) was about half from the price of the chipboard. To this, add the price of the hardware. Overall, the price of the furniture was about 3 times the price of the chipboard.
Furniture chipboard: I've used a chipboard whose color was (specified by the manufacturer as) NCS S1505-Y40R, which is a significantly darker color than what I wanted (which was a warm white), but it was the best choice that I had. This color is a greige with an orange undertone. You may be able to find this color under the name "tortora".
MDF painted glossy with NCS S1505-Y40R looks spectacular, in particular on horizontal surfaces like tables. This is how the countertops of my tables look like; the glossiness makes the color appear lighter than the matte color of the wardrobes and doors.
The finalist decors for furniture were: warm white oak (= colored white, not just named white) and NCS S1505-Y40R. I dropped the white oak because it gave a rustic look to my home, and it wasn't warm enough for my wall paint.
Neutral colors together with neutrally colored wood, like warm white or greige oak, give a home the feel of a beach cottage.
My furniture is entirely made from the same chipboard decor, that is, including the backside and the drawer bottoms.
Furniture legs: I've chosen furniture legs with a polished chrome finish, and white plastic bottom to avoid scratching the floor.
I've extended the fronts and sides of the furniture down to 2 cm (1 in) from the ground, in order to hide the furniture legs but still allow for easy cleaning under the furniture, plus the furniture feels like it's floating in the air.
Furniture runners: I've used Hettich Quadro glide-on which allows installation on flush base drawers, meaning that the thickness of the drawer sides is irrelevant.
Furniture handles: I wanted to use knobs with the same color as the furniture, but I've ended up with matte nickel knobs because other potential choices had various problems.
Support frame: For beds and tables, I've used custom metal frames (painted RAL 9001). The horizontal section of the rectangular pipe used is 50 * 50 * 3 mm (2 * 2 in).
The deflection (= maximum bend) of a 50 * 50 * 3 mm pipe over a 2 meters length, supported and welded only at the ends, with 100 kg (220 pounds) pushing down on the center, is about 1.5 mm. This deflection is equivalent to that of a 80 * 80 mm spruce wood beam; the type of wood has little influence on this. You can see more deflections here. If you can build a program from source code, look for the "Deflection" folder in the source code archive.
Window frames: If their color is similar to that of the walls, the feeling will be of less clutter. If their color is contrasting to that of the walls, the feeling will be more cluttered. If their pattern is similar to wood, the feeling will be more rustic.
Walk-in shower: To separate the sloped floor of the shower from the rest of the bathroom floor, I've used a slat made of composite material whose color is very close to that of the tile.
Spotbars: I'm using spotbars with orientable lightbulbs, 40 degrees illumination angle, 3'000 kelvin, an average of 400 lumens per square meter, mostly mounted near walls and curtains. The light warms up my warm white walls more, giving them a very slight cream color. I can say without a shadow of a doubt that this kind of illumination is spectacular, although it's too much light for relaxing nights.
My finalists were (all white colored):
Since Philips has launched their smart lightbulbs, Hue, they've also started to launch spotbars with smart lightbulbs, like Hue Buratto and Hue Runner.
Textiles: Use textiles with no embellishments, like flowers or geometric shapes. The pattern should be only the fabric's regular pattern. The color should be pretty much a solid color, although two different but similar colors can form a simple yet pleasant design.
My curtains are wall-sized and have folds (equally spaced top to bottom). The color of my sheer curtains is warm white. The color of the textiles that I've used is slightly warm (but generally neutral) in order to preserve the neutral aspect of the large areas, but is darker than the floor's color in order to provide some contrast.
I've used 3 curtain tracks, with 10 cm (4 in) between their middles. Their color is a warm white.
When you buy a new home, you may also buy a lot of things to put in it. Even though you may have all the necessary money at that moment, you still have to ensure that you can afford all those things, that is, you have to ensure that in the future you will have money to renew these things.
To do this, make a list with all the (major) things that you intend to buy. For each thing, write down its price and for how long you intend to keep it, and perhaps even how much money do you think you may get back if you sell it later (this may work for cars).
Then calculate how much each thing is going to cost you per month. For this, divide its price to the number of months that the thing will be in use. We have to consider that, on average, your income / price of things ratio remains constant through time, since we can't know what will happen later in your life.
Let's take a refrigerator as an example. Let's consider that it costs 500 dollars and that you are going to keep it for 7 years. You also know that you will not sell it, but simply discard it. This means that the refrigerator will cost you 500 (dollars) / 7 (years) / 12 (months / year) = 6 dollars / month.
You know that you can afford a 500 dollars refrigerator if you can and do save 6 dollars each month.
Let's take a car as an example. Let's consider that it costs 15'000 dollars and that you are going to keep it for 7 years. You also know, from used car sale ads, that you will sell it for about 5'000 dollars. This means that the car will cost you (15'000 - 5'000) (dollars) / 7 (years) / 12 (months / year) = 120 dollars / month.
You know that you can afford a 15'000 dollars car if you can and do save 120 dollars each month. This is just the cost of the car, but you have to add up the fuel, maintenance, insurance, parking and other costs.
After you add up all the monthly costs of the things that you intend to buy, compare the total with your monthly income. Can you save money to cover the total cost? Take a hard look at the costs and then decide your priorities.
Here are a few things for which you may have to keep an account:
A note about smoking. Where I live, with the money spent on smoking a pack of cigarettes per day for 30 years, you can buy an average studio apartment.
If you borrow money from a bank, ensure that the monthly payment for all your debt is maximum 40% from your net (= take-home) income. This percentage is standard in banking.
When you contract debt and make large expenses, base your actions on the idea that your income will remain the same or get somewhat lower, but never on the idea that it will increase.
Some parts of the whole process were pretty much a nightmare.
I was either being told that things can't be done, or I wasn't told what could be made on request and for what money, or I would not be called back (even after insisting many times), or I would not be told (by the manufacturer) the prices of the products which could only be bought through distributors (even though I could see the prices at the distributors), or I would be given quotes based on things that I specifically said I didn't want, or I would be told lies shamelessly just to promote their stuff (like "these colors fit together", for things that were a horrid match).
This kind of behavior leads to uninformed decisions made by consumers, and I don't mean uninformed about how the prices compare, I mean uninformed about the available choices and materials. Since (where I live) the competition is low, the consumers are not demanding, and high quality materials are limited, the result is a general low quality.
When you want something but you are told that it's not possible, even though you saw in a catalog that it is possible, say something like "Tell me how much it would cost to have what I want. This is important to me."
When talking to people who may be doing custom work for you, like construction or furniture work, do not give away any information about how much money you are willing to spend, do not say how much money you have spent or will spend on various things, and do not say how much money others have asked you for the same thing. The only exception would be a designer or architect who needs a budget to work with.
If people hear that you are willing to pay a lot of money on various things, they'll increase their quotes. The trouble is, their normal prices match their normal quality of work, but the increase of the price doesn't result in an increase of the quality of work, quality which if it were in the same league as expensive things, would cost more to begin with.
One of the most important thing to keep in mind when building a house is the cost of heating and cooling it, cost which depends on the location's climate, on the building materials and on the layout of the levels.
We'll choose a simple example of a house that's 30 * 10 * 3 meters, with the long front wall facing the sun made only of glass / windows. The house is suspended off the ground, to simplify calculations; if the house is on the ground, the thermal loss is slightly smaller because the ground is warmer than air and it also stores the heat which comes from the house.
The house has a frame made of reinforced concrete. The top and bottom sides are made of 15 cm thick reinforced concrete. The outer walls are made of 25 cm thick hollow brick, and the thermal insulation is made of 20 cm thick basaltic fiber (installed on the outside of the walls, top and bottom sides). Concrete pylons keep the house off the ground (with one level).
Almost the entire windows area should be fixed (= not opening), with a very small area of windows that open for ventilation (and possibly escape in case of fire). This minimizes heat loss and noise getting through imperfect installation and window wear.
Raising the house on pylons, with one level, provides several advantages:
The stair for a house which is on pylons can be outside, so it doesn't occupy expensive interior space which requires heating.
To design your home's layout, in a home design software, in 2D design only, create your desired rooms as rectangles (or other shapes), of the desired dimensions, and then move them around until you get the layout you feel is best.
The thermal conductivity of a material, lambda (W / m / K), represents the amount of heat in Wh which is transmitted through 1 m2 of material that has a thickness of 1 m, during 1 hour, when the temperature difference between the material's internal and external surfaces is 1 C. The smaller lambda is, the better is the thermal insulation that the material provides.
The thermal transmittance of a material, U-value (W / m2 / K), is the heat loss per actual material thickness. Thermal transmittance = thermal conductivity / material thickness (m).
House thermal transmittance: HTT (W/K) = (Uw * Aw) + 2 * (Uf * Af) + (Ug * Ag)
House power loss: HPL (W) = HTT * (Ti - To)
Total energy loss for a month: TELM (kWh) = HPL * 24 (hours) * 30 (days) / 1000
Total heating cost for a month: THCM (money) = TELM * HFC
Let's say that the brick is Porotherm 25 Robust which has a thermal conductivity lambda = 0.2 W/mK, and the thermal insulation is basaltic fiber Rockwool Frontrock which has a thermal conductivity lambda = 0.036 W/mK. We'll consider that the concrete has a thermal conductivity lambda = 2.3 W/mK.
Thermal conductivity for various materials: concrete 2.3, mortar 1.73, ground 1, solid brick 0.8, gypsum board 0.17, oak 0.17, hollow brick 0.14...0.25, pine 0.15, plywood 0.13, aerated concrete (AAC) 0.11, cork board 0.043, expanded polystyrene 0.039, basaltic fiber 0.036, extruded polystyrene 0.033, polyurethane foam 0.03, air 0.026, argon 0.016, krypton 0.009.
A brick wall has an effective thermal conductivity higher than the brick's value because a lot of mortar has to be used to hold the bricks together, mortar which has a very high thermal conductivity. For aerated concrete (AAC), very little mortar has to be used.
Should you use aerated concrete instead of brick? All things considered, since most of the area of the house is (insulated) concrete and glass, the differences between these materials are too small to matter, and it all comes down to how much it costs you per m2 (material and workmanship). There is no point in spending more money for one material, unless it gives you peace of mind to use that specific material., it's not important (from a heating point of view) if the walls are made with hollow brick or aerated concrete.
The difference could be made by something called thermal mass, that is, the capacity of a material to store heat (when heated), and to release it around it (when not heated anymore). As the thermal mass increases, so does the thermal comfort inside the house, especially in hot climates where it dampens extreme temperature swings (and therefore the cooling needs). Brick has a higher thermal mass than aerated concrete.
However, the large windows oriented toward the sun make this effect irrelevant since the heat from the sun quickly enters the house through the windows. Because of this, there has to be an overhang above the windows, overhang whose depth is calculated according to the location (which affects the sun's height above the horizon); this overhang is meant to block a significant part of the direct summer sun from entering through the windows, while fully allowing the winter sun to enter.
Disadvantages of aerated concrete:
Calculating heating cost
Calculate the thermal transmittance of a layered system: U = 1 / (D1 / L1 + D2 / L2).
For the insulation, we include a 10% thermal inefficiency, so we get 0.0396 W/mK.
The house uses brick or concrete, and basaltic fiber, so we have:
You can also use Ubakus to make the calculations.
For a highly insulating triple pane windows (with frame) we have Ug = 0.8 W/m2K.
For the natural gas price in the USA, we look for the residential prices here. We choose an average price of 10 dollars / thousand cubic feet, we means 10 / 28.3 = 0.35 dollars / m3, which is about 0.035 dollars / kWh (which, as it happens, is what I pay).
For the average winter temperature in the USA, we look here. We choose an average temperature of -5 Celsius (happens to be New York).
Keep in mind that this is the lowest price determined from simple calculations. The real price will be visibly higher because of installation inefficiencies and ventilation, but you can see the level of the heating cost.
Let's say that the house gets an average of 5 months of winter per year, and let's also say that the thermal insulation has to be redone every 40 years (or it will outlive you). The heating cost for this period is 145 * 5 * 40 = 29'000 dollars. To get the entire cost related to heating, add the cost for the thermal insulation (including the workmanship); the house's area that's covered by thermal insulation is 750 m2. You can then calculate the total for different thicknesses of the thermal insulation.
The heating cost is just one factor that matters. The other factor is the cost of creating the thermal insulating envelope of the house, because this is just a heating related costs that you have to pay upfront rather than monthly. This means that if you spend too much money on insulating the house, you can end up paying more on the house than you will spend on the heating fuel, for decades or even centuries.
Decreasing building and heating costs
One way to decrease the building and heating costs is by using multiple levels. Consider that the house is divided in the middle of the long side, resulting two halves that are 15 * 10 * 3 meters. Now imagine that these halves are put one over the other. At this point, the top and bottom sides of the house which are exposed to the temperature outside are halved; at the same time, the side walls which were inside the house, along the cut, are now exposed to the outside.
Since these side walls are much smaller than half of the top and bottom sides, it means that, for 2 levels, the house's area that's exposed to the outside has decreased significantly, which means a significantly lower thermal loss (which means a lower heating cost), but also significantly less construction materials for the outside (like insulation). However, the stair (1 + 1 m wide, 3 m long, 1 + 1 m landing area) will take some 20 m2 from the useful area of the house.
The smaller the house is, the smaller the cost saving is for 2 levels. This is because the gains provided by the area exposed to the outside by the top and bottom sides end up being nullified by the expenses caused by the area exposed to the outside by the side walls. On top of this, the stair eats a higher percentage from the useful space.
For a valid comparison, a double level house has to provide a layout which is just as functional as the layout of a single level house, for a similar gross internal area; the layout must account for the stair. Because the layout is critical for a cozy home and because it will vary a lot depending on preferences, a double level house could cost either less or more than a single level house.
The single level house takes twice the land footprint, compared to the double level house. However, if the single level house is raised on pylons (with one level), the space under it remains usable.
Here are some simulations calculated for a medium-sized house located in a temperate climate.
The most important values are:
Pay attention to the percentual distribution of the "House energy loss for average winter day". The floor, roof and wall values should be as balanced as possible, else it means that there is a lack of balance in insulation, which means that the distribution of the budget for the insulation can be improved.
Since there is no prospect of having a cheap energy source in the next few decades, you can count on fuel prices to raise. Because of this, the used fuel price is higher with 50% than the current price.
From the simulations, for a single level house you can see that the lowest overall cost is for the 20 cm thick insulation.
The most efficient house shape is a cube because the cube has the minimum amount of (outer) area for a given volume, which means that it has the minimum area through which it loses heat.
Basaltic fiber and expanded polystyrene (EPS) can't sustain heavy weights, like poured concrete, while aerated concrete and extruded polystyrene (XPS) can. Because of this, basaltic fiber and EPS can't be used to insulate the bottom slab, while aerated concrete and XPS can. EPS may be usable as roof slab insulation (to keep the cost down), but it can't sustain anything more than the hydroinsulation; walking on such a roof must be limited.
Don't use flammable insulation, like polystyrene, on the inside of the house (like in the attic).
In locations with large temperature variations, don't use (spray) polyurethane or polyurea foam on roofs, for either thermal or hydro insulation, because it's likely to crack and allow water to sip in. This comes directly from people who have used it in a temperate climate, where there can be 50 Celsius between summer maximum and winter minimum.
How do I choose a mattress?
See this for details.
SweetHome 3D is a free home design application which allows planning a home in 2D and 3D space. It runs as a desktop application, but also as a web app.
The reduce your learning curve, here are some tips.
Download and install the program. The program contains a default object library.
Download the newest object libraries. After downloading and unzipping them, if the program is already installed, you can simply double-click each one to import the objects from it.
After starting the program, in the menu "File \ Preferences" you should change the measurement unit, and the default height and thickness of the walls. In the menu "3D view \ Modify virtual visitor" you should modify the visualization angle "Field of view" to, let's say, 100.
To draw walls, click on the "Create walls" icon from the top icon bar; keep the mouse over the icons to see what the tooltip says about each one. Then, in the hashed area click and drag the mouse as long as the wall should be, then click again and drag the mouse, and this until the last wall corner is placed on the drawing. Double-click to end drawing walls. If you accidentally click somewhere, press the "Esc" key. A double-click on a wall opens its properties.
Unfortunately no room is created within the drawn walls, so repeat the same steps with the icon "Create rooms". Make sure to draw the room within the bounds of the walls that you've just created.
To place and move objects in the drawing, use the "Select" icon (the one with an arrow). Objects are placed by dragging them from the objects panel from the left side of the program's window, and dropping them on the drawing. A double-click on an object (from the drawing) opens its properties.
It's simpler to make all the furniture (including the photos hanged on the walls) with cubes on which you can apply a color or texture (from the cube's properties). In the additional object libraries you can find some objects called "Box" and "Cylinder" which can be used for box-like and cylinder-like objects.
You should start the names of all the furniture pieces with the same prefix, like "Furniture - ", so that you can later select all of them quickly and change their color.
If you want to change the texture of multiples selected objects (of the same type), at the same time, and the "Texture" button is disabled, you first have to change the color of the objects. After you reopen the Properties dialog, the "Texture" button should be enabled.
SweetHome 3D is also rather bad at showing colors in the design mode, but it's rendering them with acceptable quality. For example, surfaces which have a color are rendered differently than surfaces which have a texture which has the same color.
SweetHome 3D is rather bad at lighting, and you can't change the orientation and angle of the light sources, or the color of the light. In order to be able to generate better renderings of your home, if you want to simulate the effect of having a lot of light sources, you have to add many light source objects called "White light source" (which you can find in one of the additional object libraries – "eTeks"); to simulate artificial lighting, use the "Halogen light source". These show up in the final render as light, not as objects. It's recommended that you place these light source objects at a height of 120 cm, and set their power to 15%.
If you want to use warm whites then for the walls and furniture try #EFD8C3.
Should I get a bidet?
These days there is a lot of promotion of bidets as the proper way to wash your bottom. The problem is that they cost money, occupy space in the bathroom and need to cleaned. So, are they the ideal solution?
Regardless of how you choose to wash, you must first wipe (some people don't wipe before using a bidet).
On a bidet you have to either sit or crouch. If you sit then it's very difficult to wash because you need space for your hand to get to the areas that need washing; worse, because of the position, your thighs would be lower than your bottom and water would run down your thighs. If you crouch then you are high above the bidet, and the water which would get to your bottom would be splashed around the bidet.
In the shower / bathtub you can crouch, so your bottom becomes the lowest body part (except for the feet soles), and you have ample space to move your hands around. Also, since you are so close to the floor (/ bottom of shower), the water is well contained and isn't splashing on the bathroom floor.
Obviously, if you have enough room in the bathroom, you can install a bidet and later decide whether to use it or the shower.
The manufacturers listed below are mostly European companies which sell internationally.
SweetHome 3D is a free home design application which allows planning a home in 2D and 3D space. It runs as a desktop application, but also as a web app. See this for instructions to start working quickly.
Design rules is a series of lessons about interior design.
E-Paint has information about various standard colors, online viewers, and an online shop for color samples (including A4 size). They also show the RGB values for the standard colors, and you ca use these in simulations made with SweetHome 3D.
Ubakus has an online calculator (free demo) for the thermal transmittance (U-value) of walls.
Inspirational interior design: Houzz.
Inspirational homes: Huf Haus.
Effect wall paint (for accent walls): Giorgio Graesan.
Tile: Aparici, Atlas Concorde, Cifre, Italgraniti, Fioranese, Marazzi, Sant'Agostino, Serenissima, Tagina, Undefasa. These tile manufacturers are high profile, so their prices include a significant markup for the brand.
Epoxy floors: Colledani.
Furniture chipboard: Alvic, Cleaf, Egger, Fundermax, Kaindl. Egger has a factory in my country, and I was able to create an account and order samples of any decor they have; the entire process is fully automated.
Interior doors: Barausse.
Entrance doors: Oikos.
Concrete furniture: Pietra Danzare (concrete sinks).
Epoxy furniture: La Table (tables). If you want to make one yourself, search (for example, on YouTube) for how to make a table coated with epoxy resin. This is basically a roughly cut block of wood or stone covered with transparent or translucent epoxy resin.
Textiles (for curtains and upholstery): Ado, Alhambra, Anka, Comersan, Fibero, Gardisette, James Hare, Loneta, Moondream (only blackout curtains), Reig Marti, Rioma, Robert Kaufman, Szintetika (their website is really bad, but they have great products), Yebane.
Chairs and tables: Julia Grup (La Forma).
Kitchen pans and pots: Demeyere.
Kitchen cutlery: Zwilling.
Waste bins: Brabantia.