Home Design Tips

Life is too short to live it in darkness




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Why follow these tips

Design style

Multidimensionality of well-being

White

Custom warm white

Choosing color

Matte and glossy surfaces

Pattern directionality

Surfaces with 3D structures

Flooring

Furniture

Concrete

Textiles

Windows

Joined kitchen and livingroom

The kitchen look

Walk-in shower

Thermal comfort

Lighting

Color perception

Lighting fixtures

Steam mops

Wall-hung photos

Printed furniture

TV

Home scenting

Various

My choices

Can you afford things

Dealing with people

QA

Links



Losing weight

Choosing mattress


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 am not the kind of person who believes that habit and popular knowledge lead to taking informed decisions which help people evolve and understand the world around.

For this, I've purchased over 100 A4 melamine samples (melamine is a thin sheet of plastic and paper which is factory-glued on the chipboard used for furniture), several parquet packs (with about 8 planks each), several cans with different wall paint colors, several furniture handles, and studied them for about 9 months. I've also looked at tens of catalogs and thousands of images of parquet, ceramic tile and melamine, and have done hundreds of simulations in design simulators.

By "studied" I mean I've touched them and looked at them in all possible lighting conditions, for as long as possible, putting the samples of paint, parquet and melamine next to each other.

In total, I've spent about 2'500 hours, spread over more than 2.5 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, but have bought most things from local stores.

This amount of time should not discourage you, especially if you are not the type of person who would spend hundreds upon hundreds of hours trying to understand how the aspect of parquet, tile and melamine affects mood, or developing from scratch the rules about how to create a custom warm white, or looking (several times) through tens upon tens of catalogs and websites for various products, or looking through thousands upon thousands of images from stock 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 steam mops which can clean with virtually no effort, and epoxy grout.



Design style

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 look better.

Watch for any sign of tiredness that color, brightness, 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, brightness, 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 your state of mind is fundamental. Your guiding principle should be this: when in doubt, go for the light! Life is too short to live it in darkness.

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 the smart way.

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. 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. 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.

Try to be flexible in your choices:

  • Orientable light sources and lots of power sockets in many places allow you (or someone else) to later move furniture around.

  • If you start with minimal color and pattern on walls, flooring and furniture, you can later make your home look more cluttered by adding small and easy to change decorations with different colors and patterns.

  • You can always put some rugs on a floor made of tile or parquet, but changing the tile is a nightmare.

  • A stone accent wall may look very nice, but, should you ever get bored of its look, it can only be changed with great effort. A painted accent wall can be easily repainted with a different color. You can combine the two elements: a painted, brick accent wall.

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 can show them in context, so use them as well.

If you worry about choosing light colored flooring because they are difficult to clean, known that there are steam mops which can clean with virtually no effort.

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.



Multidimensionality of well-being

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:

  • Space, so that your home doesn't feel like a box or a hangar. Because it's extremely difficult to increase afterwards, you have to determine the space when the house is built, although for a home extensions can be built.

  • Light, so that your home doesn't feel like a cave or a surgery room. Light can be obtained either from the sun, which is recommended, so you need large windows, or from lighting fixtures. It's important to note that having more light doesn't make a space appear bigger, it makes it appear brighter.

  • Stimulation, so that your home doesn't feel like void / empty box or a crazy house. Stimulation can be obtained from the details like shapes and colors, and their interaction with light. Stimulation can be indirect / subtle or direct / intense. This can be achieved with accent elements 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.

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.



White

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, and also 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 not absorbed by surfaces, but is reflected back in 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 crispness). 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, milk / cheese, alabaster.

Here are some warm white colors with standard color codes: RAL 9001, NCS S0603-Y40R, NCS S0804-Y30R / Y50R. Light warm gray: NCS S1002-Y50R, NCS S1502-Y50R. Beige: RAL 1015, NCS S1005-Y30R / Y40R and NCS S1505-Y30R / Y40R.

It's important to understand that what's called a "pure white surface" is in fact a surface which reflects every single speck of light that it receives. More specifically, it reflects every wavelength with the same intensity, ideally 100% of it. This surface is in fact achromatic, it's not white yet. For a surface to be perceived, it has to be illuminated, and light has color, more specifically, it has a color temperature. This means that a surface which is achromatic can appear to have a cold or warm white color, depending on what kind of light illuminates it.

For example, outdoors, in full sunlight, an achromatic (= pure white) paint appears perfectly neutral and looks amazing (with its blinding brightness). However, indoors, the same paint appears bluish (and therefore cold) because the light which illuminates it is bluish. The indoor light is bluish because the light which is reflected by the sky (which is blue) represents a much higher percentage from the total light (compared to what is true outdoors), so the color temperature of the indoor light is much higher / bluer than outside, which in turn means that the pure white paint is perceived as a cold white paint.

Because of the way in which the eye perceives color, cold white looks very good when it's illuminated by a lot of sunlight, but in most homes shades of warm white or other warm colors are likely to look better to most people.

Cold white is generally considered by people to be "pure white" because in normal daylight it's perceived to be the brightest and most neutral (because the color temperature of the white is closest to the color temperature of the daylight, but in different types of light looks different).

To look good, white / gray needs sunlight, which may seem odd considering that itself reflects the highest amount of light. The colder (= more blueish) the white is, the more (direct) sunlight it needs to look good, in fact, warm. This is because the less chromaticity there is, the easier it is for cold light to become visible.

White is neutral, it's a void of color, of stimulation, so it needs at least brightness to create stimulation. Black is similar, it's needs light to form shapes on it, to create some shine and sparkle.

Warm whites provide some protection against the yellowing of inferior materials.



Hospital look

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 space, 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.

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 most white wall paints have in fact a bluish gray color (unless the room is illuminated by a lot of direct sunlight), that is, their color temperature is high. Artificial lighting with a high color temperature (= with a bluish tint) 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 make a custom 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:

  • A custom warm white paint. This solution is the best because it works in all types of daylight (bright or cloudy).

  • A warm colored floor.

  • Warm colored sheer curtains on the windows.

  • Lightbulbs with a low color temperature.

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 space / void; too few of them makes a space feel like an empty box.



Custom warm white

Virtually all "pure" white wall paints that are mass produced show a bluish tint indoors (and appear cold), especially in low lit areas, because they have a high color temperature. Such a bluish tinted white paint 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 bluish light reflected by the sky.

Why should you not use warm colored sheer curtains on the windows? Because they color all the sunlight that gets through the windows, which means that everything inside will be illuminated with the colored light, and you might not want to color the direct sunlight because that is already warm. Perhaps the biggest problem is that when you look outside, through the windows, you would see the world colored by the curtain's color. Also, in dark rooms, colored curtains aren't effective at coloring the light enough to compensate the standard cold 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.

Why should you not simply choose a standard warm white paint? Because you can't see their undertones and you can't get the exact tint that you want, which means that your walls can easily end up looking too dark, too red, too yellow, or too green.

For a shade of warm white which is designed to compensate the usual bluish tint 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.

Standard white paint, with its high color temperature (= bluish tint) looks very good when direct sunlight illuminates it. Standard white paint is so cold because the chemicals used in it make it the most reflective / brightest possible, but (as a side effect) also give it a high color temperature.

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 standard 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 contradiction 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 bluish sunlight. Black may also have a tint, like white has, and this would affect the paint color.

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 custom make).

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 color in its entire field of view, it adapts to consider that color to be white. 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 in rooms which receive a lot of direct sunlight, sunlight which creates a very high light contrast.

Don't try to reproduce the warm white color of any object. The walls will not look like that no matter how much you try because it's 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 two colors will never look the same.



Diluting a standard warm white

You can approximate the amounts of pigments that you have to use by asking what amount of what pigments would the coloring machine use for a can of paint colored with RAL 9001.

As an example, the manufacturer from which I've bought the paint, Tikkurila, for a 9 liters bucket (with white paint):

  • For RAL 9001 uses 13 ml of ochre, 6 ml of orange and 19 ml of black.

  • For NCS S0502-Y50R uses 4 ml of ochre, 5 ml of orange and 8 ml of black.

  • For NCS S0603-Y40R uses 8 ml of ochre, 3 ml of orange and 10 ml of black.

  • For NCS S0804-Y30R uses 15 ml of ochre, 3 ml of orange and 14 ml of black.

  • For NCS S0804-Y50R uses 12 ml of ochre, 9 ml of orange and 12 ml of black.

  • For RAL 9010 uses 5 ml of ochre, 6 ml of black.

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 (0.9 liters, for Tikkurila), the pigment amounts are not always proportional relative to a bucket (that is, they are far more than the expected 10%), 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 happen to use Tikkurila paint, the ochre's code is YX, the orange's code is OM, the black's code is CW. Their ochre has a greenish tint; this is important when deciding how much orange you want to add, that is, if you need to compensate the greenish tint of the ochre more or less. Their CW black is actually a very dark gray, not true black.

Your first choice / try should be with a paint colored with RAL 9001, a warm white color with a beige tint; its undertone is more yellowish than reddish. It's simple to get in a lot of domains, not just for wall paint, and it's a good warm white. You can get it in a can because it has a lot of pigment in it. You might have to tweak the percentage of orange from ochre and of black from the ochre and orange, so that the final tint fits your needs, tile and furniture. Do note that while the best standard white wall paint reflects over 90% of the incident light, if it's colored with RAL 9001 it reflects only 75%.

If you find RAL 9001 too dark, try to create a custom white. To do this, find out the amounts of pigments for RAL 9001 and multiply them with 50% (= 0.5), but multiply black with 40% (= 0.4) in order to let more color show through (since the absolute amount of color is less than in RAL 9001).

This recipe is about creating a warm white, but you might prefer a much warmer color. There is no single correct color. It's fine to use more pigment, it's fine to use less pigment.

The more beige you want the color to be, the more colored pigment you need relative to the black pigment, so either increase the amount of colored pigment, or decrease the amount of black pigment.

I've painted several times with Tikkurila using:

  • Standard white.

  • Pigment percentages from RAL 9001: 14% of ochre, 10% ml of orange and no black. The orange was 33% from the ochre, which, combined with the greenish tint of the window glass, produced a color with a slightly greenish tint in a room which received a lot of sunlight, sunlight which amplified the greenish tint of the glass.

  • Pigment percentages from RAL 9001: 30% of ochre, 30% of orange and 15% of black; the 46% of orange from the ochre makes the color a good fit for the color of my floor (a dark, warm white). The resulted color looks white (a touch beige in shadowed areas), just not snow white, with some presence which fills the white void. When my house was empty, with the standard cold white wall paint it looked like a hospital, but it looked warmish when I've used this recipe to color the paint.

As odd as it may seem, perceptually, there is virtually no difference between the colors produced by the two recipes that I've used. This is because the eye adapts to this little color, and sees just white; only the shadowed areas show a bit of color.

The amount of orange that you should use depends on the color of the floor. Less orange makes the paint look greenish, while more makes the paint look reddish. If the floor has a yellowish or greenish tint, choose a lower percentage. If the floor has a reddish tint, choose a higher percentage.

Ochre and orange are similar in the way they darken and color, so they can be swapped one for the other with no extra calculation.

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.

More black may be needed for a home which has a lot of direct sunlight for a long time during the day. The reason is that the direct sunlight from such homes diffuses a lot more color out of the paint, so this has to be neutralized.

More color may be needed for a home which is in shadow for a long time during the day. The reason is that the shadow light has a very high color temperature (= is quite bluish), so this has to be compensated.

Standard colors (like NCSs and RALs) vary a lot in reality, depending on the paint manufacturer, so this translation algorithm might not work elsewhere as intended.

For pigments that have to be manually mixed with paint, a much higher concentration is necessary because those pigments are much weaker.

Buy a can with standard white paint colored with the resulted amounts of pigments.

Go home with the can of paint and paint a sample patch on a wall, in a shadowed area, preferably an area of at least 0.6 * 0.6 m / 2 * 2 ft. You should also paint a sample patch in an area which gets an amount of light which is about average for your home, for most of the time; the patch should be painted thick (with two layers).

Look at the sample patches from front and from an angle. The patches have to look like a warm gray, not white, not colored; if color is clearly visible, direct sunlight will diffuse it out of the walls and make the air from the room appear colored.

The color of the wall on which you paint your warm white, and any other colors which are in your field of view (like the floor's color), dramatically influence how you perceive the warm white, confusing you seriously.

If the wall color is standard white (or a lighter color than the warm white sample) then the sample patch will look significantly darker and more saturated than when all the walls will be painted with that warm white. Basically, it will look like a medium warm gray rather than a warm white. This is due to the contrast between the warm white and the existing wall color. This contrast will confuse you to the point where you'll think that the color can't be right since it looks like a medium gray. But it will look warm white once all the walls around you are painted with that color. You will really have to trust these words rather than your eyes.

To have a good understanding of the final color, look at the sample patches 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 wall. This will show you the closest look of the final wall color.

An lesser alternative would be to paint a separate piece of cardboard. The separation from the wall makes the eye see things differently (= a lighter color), and the sample color will look much closer to the final wall color. Make sure to apply a thick layer of paint in order to block the cardboard's color from showing through the paint.

To see the difference between the warm white and the standard white, look at how the wall color compares to the (standard white) window frame, or to a white sheet of paper.

In rooms which receive a lot of direct sunlight, sunlight which creates a very high light contrast, the paint 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 near the floor. The color on the well lit areas of the walls will be washed out by the light, making the saturation appear much lower than in the corners and edges, making the paint look virtually achromatic. This is why you have to paint a sample patch in a shadowed area. 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 color will change as the paint dries. If you are used with a standard / cold 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: if I take a photo of my home (of a room with sunlight), the photocamera adjusts the color temperature and shows the walls as if they are painted with cold white.

The resulted color will depend on the tint of the pigments and of the (standard) white, on the correct dosing of the coloring machine, and on the manufacturer's accurate reproduction of the RAL 9001 (there are large differences among manufacturers, mostly due to the limitations of the used pigments).

Let's call the resulted color "summer white" because it tries to bring inside the warmth of the summer while remaining white. This color matches harmoniously with other warm colors, mainly warm white, warm gray, beige, gold and brown.

The tint of the glass of the windows also affects the color of the wall paint. For example, Low-E glass may give a slightly greenish tint to the light which comes through the windows.

Don't overdo the amounts of pigments because they are only meant to compensate the blueish tint that standard white paint has.

The resulted paint will appear white in the can, but don't worry, it will have a warm tint 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.

Dark pigments have a much more intense effect than light ones, so use less of them.

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 tint.

A red pigment is several times stronger than an orange one (which is red mixed / diluted with yellow), and is therefore much harder to disperse properly (due to the very small amounts required), so prefer an orange pigment instead of a red one.

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 / bucket to can / bucket. This way, after the first coat is painted 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.



Diluting a medium-lightness color

Generally speaking, you can obtain a warm white color by diluting a medium-lightness color, a color whose undertone you can see easily, that is, you can see if it's leaning toward blue, green, yellow or red. This method is not precise, but it explains how color lightness works.

Go to a dedicated shop which can color paint with a dedicated machine, pick your preferred medium-lightness color from the color cards of the paint manufacturer. To see if you like the color, study it in various types of light in order to see what its undertone / tint is, that is, does the color lean toward blue, green, yellow or red.

Then, ask what amount of what pigments would the coloring machine use for that color, per can of paint.

In order to get a warm white from the picked color, you have to dilute the pigments proportionally. This can be done by dividing each pigment amount, for example, with 10. Ask for the coloring machine to add the calculated amounts of pigments to a can with white paint.

Adding white paint (to a colored paint) dilutes the amounts of pigments proportionally; this is the same thing as decreasing the amount of colored pigment with the same percentage.

For example, let's say that you have a can with 1 liter of white paint to which you add 40 ml of ochre and 20 ml of orange. By adding (and mixing) this colored paint to a bucket with 9 liters of white paint, you get a total of 10 liters of white paint, which means that you dilute the amounts of pigments by 10, which means a concentration of 4 ml of ochre and 2 ml of orange per liter of white paint, which means that the color of the paint from the bucket will be 10 times lighter than the color from the can.

Below, you can see a simulated example of a yellowish orange, the warm white resulted from dilution, and the standard white. The warm white can be simulated (from the yellowish orange) 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 color

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 tint (not the color, just the tint) 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.

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.

Any color looks much darker and more saturated on a large area than it looks on a sample (card), although this is mitigated by the fact that perception adapts (in weeks) to the color of the walls and you end up perceiving the color lighter and less colorful. 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 on a small sample, you will regret it when seeing it on an entire wall.

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.



Color inversion

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.

The colors which produce a color inversion usually have very different brightnesses (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 and glossy surfaces

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.



Pattern directionality

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.



Surfaces with 3D structures

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 furniture, with:

  • Matte painted, brushed / etched wood. This has a slightly rustic look.

  • Hand painted wood, which due to the imperfect manual process involved looks a bit like a painting on canvas.

  • Milled MDF. This can be classic with a rectangle around the edge of each door and drawer, or can be modern with various grooves, or can be complex with multiple planes overlapping (where each plane has a curved edge, somewhat like frozen ocean waves).

  • Embossed MDF.

  • Perforated MDF (normally, used only decoratively).

Take into consideration that such structures gather dust, especially the horizontal lines, so be ready to do some regular cleaning.



Flooring



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 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, like beach slippers have.

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 format, like 60 * 60 cm (24 * 24 in) or 45 * 90 cm (18 * 36 in). A large format tile is not too large for a small apartment, and, if anything, it's too small.

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; ItalGraniti makes this claim, but I've seen duplicates, probably in the same box since they were installed next to each other.

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 appear wrongly install, 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 and steam (from steam mops) would get 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, but 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.

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).



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!

Details here.



Natural stone

Natural stone is best for people who prefer design 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. 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.

A very important advantage of natural stone over tile is that if the stone chips, the exposed part underneath still looks like stone, although very rough stone.

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.

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.



Epoxy floor

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 130 * 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.



Furniture

The big question is what material to use for furniture: chipboard, MDF, wood or plywood?

Chipboard is much 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 (and even 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 it. 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.

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 deform 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 design your own furniture, note that each vertical wall needs feet to support it.

Hinged doors can be maximum 60 cm (24 in) wide, but sliding doors can be much wider.

Drawers are the most efficient way to organize things, but are also much more expensive than shelves.

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. Sliding doors allow you to open only half of a wardrobe at a time.



Kitchen countertop

It's possible to make a kitchen countertop from a composite material made from acrylic, powder and crushed stone, and glue. This type of material is very durable. These are usually known as solid surface materials.

Composite materials are very expensive, but their main advantage is that the sink can be perfectly glued to the countertop, so that it's impossible to tell where either of them ends.



Concrete

Normally, concrete is used as a structural material because it looks unfinished.

However, it's possible to give concrete a finish and make it look as elegant as any other finishing material. The result is called "stained concrete". If the concrete's surface is made tridimensional, imitating stone, it's called "stamped concrete".

Concrete is used for flooring, kitchen countertop, sinks.



Textiles

Sheer / transparent curtains block about 30% of light.

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 printed model or the structure / texture / pattern of the knitting 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.



Tracks

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:

  • One for sheer curtains (closest to the window).

  • One for blackout curtains (in the middle).

  • One for decorative opaque curtains (closest to the room interior).

The advantages are:

  • You have a lot more flexibility in choosing the decorative opaque curtains (from many more models), most of which don't have a blackout curtain. The blackout curtain will block the light from getting inside from the outside, while the decorative opaque curtain will create the visual look that you want.

  • It's possible to cover the windows with either both the blackout curtain and the decorative opaque curtain, or with just the decorative opaque curtain (in case you want some light to get in from the outside, and not be blocked by the blackout curtain).

  • It's possible to use the middle track for a second type of sheer curtain, like a denser or more colorful one, which you usually keep drawn to the sides.

  • It's possible to use contrasting colors (for the blackout curtains and the decorative opaque curtains) in order to create an accent element at the outer edges of the curtains.

  • You can later buy other decorative opaque curtains without having to pay for the blackout curtains again.

  • It's easier to wash the decorative opaque curtain because it's thinner.

  • The deeper space that they occupy (in front of the windows) is both an advantage and a disadvantage. Because of the extra space, the curtains have more volume and don't look as flat as with 2 tracks.

The disadvantages are:

  • The higher costs for both the curtains and the tracks.

  • The deeper space occupied (in front of the windows) by the extra track (plus the spacing between the tracks).



Oeko-Tex certification

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.



Windows

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 greenish or bluish tint (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 glazed, tinted windows, sunlight is reduced to 38% at midday of sunny days, and to 70% during partially cloudy days. For double glazed, 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 glazed, 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 tint doesn'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:

  • U factor: the lower this is, the less heat escapes through the window from inside toward outside.

  • R factor: the higher this is, the less heat escapes through the window from inside toward outside.

  • Visible Transmittance (VT): the higher this is, the more light goes through the window from outside toward inside.

  • Solar factor / Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC): the lower this is, the less heat goes through the window from outside toward inside. The visible transmittance decreases together with this value.

  • Color render index: the higher this is, the less changes occur in the color of the sunlight; a low color index represents a change of the aspect of the sunlight as if it's going through sunglasses, giving it a bit of a greenish or bluish tint. Tinted windows usually have a low color render index (88%...92%), while clear glass usually has a high one (96...99%).

  • Acoustic insulation: the higher this is, the less sound goes through the window from outside toward inside. The acoustic insulation of triple glazing is imperceptibly higher than that of double glazing (for example, 31 dB compared to 30 dB).

Regarding the acoustic insulation, if you have double or triple glazed 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:

  • 1'000 lux. The window was toward the south / sun, open, in an empty room with white walls and floor, with no direct sunlight. With the window closed, there were only 300 lux. The window had triple glazing, Low-E and was tinted.

  • 2'100 lux. The window was toward the south / sun, open, in an empty room with white walls and floor, with no direct sunlight. With the window closed, there were only 1'100 lux. The window had double glazing and single Low-E.

  • 30 lux. The window was toward north / away from the sun, closed, in a room with dark floor and furniture, with an overhang over the window. The window had double glazing and single Low-E.

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.



Joined kitchen and livingroom

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; aside from the visual aspect, this also allows for flexibility in organizing furniture.

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).

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.



The kitchen look

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.



Walk-in shower

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.



Slip resistance

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 without a steam mop.

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

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 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 system

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.

Keeps the lower part of the room warmer than the upper part because even though the warm air raises above the cold air, it starts from the (entire) floor. Without underfloor heating, the upper part of the room is warmer than the bottom 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 extra comfort, and because feet are immediately warmed by the heat source, the thermostat can be set at a lower temperature (about 2 Celsius / 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). 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).

Don't use an underfloor cooling system because the air would not cool where you need it most in the summer, around your torso, which for a standard ceiling height of about 250 cm (100 in) is above the (vertical) middle of the room. Since warm air raises and cool air sinks, an underfloor cooling system would not effectively cool the air in that area.



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. The heating cost is the huge, the rest (like induction cooktop consumption) are acceptable.

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 conditioning

Air conditioning is the best 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.



Lighting



Fake lighting

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), and by using various natural and artificial illumination techniques that people do not normally use in a home.

In fact, while many of those great magazine photos may use only natural light, they can be exposed for even 30 seconds, especially for the evening shots, which is 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 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 products rather than show how they look in reality.

Light colors used on large surfaces increase the percentage of light which is reflected back by the room, therefore making the room brighter, but they don't perform miracles. If you don't have enough (sun)light, it just wouldn't be enough to change a dark floor with a light one. The most important factor is for people to feel comfortable in their homes, not the level 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 small 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 bluish), 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 quality degradation when the difference of amounts is not large).

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.



Color perception

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 brightness, that is, what people call white. But light itself is not achromatic, only its perception is.

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). If the surface reflects all the incoming light, it will be perceived white.

For example, outdoors, in full sunlight, an achromatic (= pure white) paint appears perfectly neutral and looks amazing (with its blinding brightness). However, indoors, the same paint appears bluish (and therefore cold) because the light which illuminates it is bluish. The indoor light is bluish because the light which is reflected by the sky (which is blue) represents a much higher percentage from the total light (compared to what is true outdoors), so the color temperature of the indoor light is much higher / bluer than outside, which in turn means that the pure white paint is perceived as a cold white paint.

White looks achromatic / neutral 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.

So, the correct expressions are "light is colored" and "light is perceived achromatic". The expression "light is white" is one of the examples where the simplification of language leads to confusion and lack of understanding.

The color of the light is given by its full spectral power distribution, or simplistically, by its color temperature.??

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 tint gets orange. Higher, at 4'000 kelvin, the tint 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 tint) and there are warm whites (with a red tint). 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 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 tint). These lightbulbs don't actually produce a light with daylight characteristics, they don't mimic it.

To look good, white / gray needs sunlight, which may seem odd considering that itself reflects the highest amount of light. The colder (= more blueish) the white is, the more (direct) sunlight it needs to look good, in fact, warm. This is because the less chromaticity there is, the easier it is for cold light to become visible.

The so called "pure white" (which is a white with a high color temperature) which looks perfectly white / neutral outdoors, appears a dull gray or even a bluish gray indoors because the (color temperature of the) light reflected by the sky represents a much higher percentage from the total light (from the shaded areas). This feels cold and industrial (think cloudy beach). Such a cold white can be compensated by using lighting with a low color temperature (which has an orange tint), but, if it's possible, it's better to replace it with shades of warm white.

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 reflected by the sky represents a much higher percentage from the total light (from the shaded areas), and the light reflected by the blue sky is quite bluish.

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 reflected 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 reflected 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.

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.

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 now becomes too sensitive for all the light coming from the TV.

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 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.

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 very intense sunlight to reflect the vegetation on it in order to look as greenish as the white. This is why people like dark and intense colors. During cloudy days, or when there is little light in the home, such colors aren't (visibly) affected by the bluish-gray tint 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.

For more details, see white balance, color vision, D65.



Light diffusion

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.



Lighting fixtures

The lighting for a home should be done with LED lightbulbs, with a color temperature between 3'000...3'500 kelvin and a CRI of at least 80; 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.

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.

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.

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 ideal solution for a modern home is to use spotbars which have several orientable lightbulbs on them. Lightbulbs with a narrow angle of illumination 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, but they can't be oriented in the most flexible way.

Install the orientable lights at about 50 cm (20 in) from walls, furniture, curtains and artworks. Put lights near windows in order to be able to direct the spots as fit 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 small illumination angle, below 40 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.

How many (orientable) lightbulbs do you need in order to be able to creatively illuminate your home? Around 0.5...1 lightbulbs for each 1 m2 (10 ft2); the larger the home, the fewer lightbulbs you need because you don't need to light everything. Each lightbulb should have 200...400 lumens; this generally means that each one would consume maximum 5 W if they are LEDs.

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.

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.



Dimmers

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.



Tracklights

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.



Light intensity

The light intensity should be about 200 lux (= lumens per square meter) at floor level. Multiply this value 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. Check the specifications of the lightbulbs to see how many lumens they emit.

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 no matter what because the density of the light decreases with the square of the ceiling's height (ratio to the standard ceiling height).

A reading lamp should have a lightbulb with about 400...600 lumens.



Steam mops

If you worry about choosing light colored flooring or grout because they are difficult to clean, known that there are steam mops which are able to dislodge grit from ceramic, grout, laminate and wood.

A steam mop can only clean the surface of grout, not deep inside it.

Some steam mops can clean various types of surfaces (including glass), both horizontal (like floors) and vertical (like windows).

A steam cleaner can provide more and hotter stream, at a higher pressure than a mop.

Be careful! Steam is very hot since it's basically water heated over 100 Celsius (212 Fahrenheit).

A steam mop only needs water (and the included microfiber pad), 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.

Here and here are examples of cleaning with a steam mop.



Wall-hung photos

If you want to decorate a room or make it feel fuller, you should hang on walls photos printed on forex / foamboard (a kind of plastic), on sizes like 140 * 80 cm (= 56 * 32 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). They have a clamp-like hanging system which is mounted around the (top and bottom) edges of the image, system which looks very good, doesn't require holes in the image, and allows you to easily replace the image (even with images of different widths).

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.

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.

Be very careful what photographs you choose to print and hang on walls. They have to fit in the design style, so the colors and the scale of the details must fit. This means that when you look at them on the computer, you have to consider them in the context of your home, regardless of how nice they look on the display. This is one time when 3D simulations should be used.



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, for a standard wall height (of about 250 centimeters, 100 inches), its height should be around 75 cm (30 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 next to it, the size should be much bigger, more like 150 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.



Examples

For the photos to print, search on digital stock photo libraries for digital files at a high resolution that you can process and print on whatever physical support you want. 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:



Printed furniture

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:

  • Photos hung on walls.

  • Veneered decorative panels.

  • Accent walls created with paint, stone or wood.

  • Decorative panels printed with photos.



TV

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.



Home scenting

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.

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. To significantly increase the amount of diffused fragrance, you can put the fragrance in a jar with a wide opening, and not cover it.

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 nose 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!



Various

The average budget for everything that goes into a finished home, like furniture and appliances, is (as percentage from the home's price):

  • 20%, for basic quality finishes.

  • 50%, for high quality finishes.

  • Above 100%, for luxury finishes.

Home with windows mostly oriented toward east are good for early risers, while those oriented toward west can give your great sunsets.

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.

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.

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 (like Amazon) and Internet at large.

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!

If you make a custom bed, put an MDF plank on top of a steel frame. The MDF allows you to have rounded edges. The MDF should have holes in it, 5 cm (2 in) in diameter, 5 cm (2 in) apart, to allow the mattress to ventilate. The holes should be sealed with paint or edging in order to keep the toxins inside.

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).

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 refreshing pill. An example for this kind of mechanism is Grohe Fresh.

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.

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 electrical 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 photos, 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 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 present.

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).

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 color scheme because that's the most visible combination. 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 search through its menu and switch the color temperature to 5'500 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 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 a shape which is likely to not fit your body, because your body is not the average that was used to design the shape of these products. 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.

Ensure that the chairs which will be around the dinning table:

  • Their base support has the right height for your height; this is usually between 45 and 50 cm (18 and 20 in). The soles of your feet should touch the ground when you sit on a chair. Of course, the height of the table should match as well; this is usually between 73 and 78 cm (29 and 31 in).

  • The join between the bottom support and the back support is not rounded. A rounded join would block your bottom from sliding all the way to the back support, so your lower back would not sit straight.

  • Are as light as possible, so that they can be moved around with ease.

  • There is no horizontal bar between the front longs, bar which could potentially hinder the movement of your feet.

  • Have the desired height for their back support. A support that's too long will be too much above the table, which may block viewing across the table.

  • The back support looks good, that is, any metal support is inside the back support, not outside.

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.

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 about three times larger than the portion you intend to drink at a time. Obviously, only fill them at a third of their capacity.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Don't let anyone clean / wipe your windows with (news)paper because that will scratch the glass (at least the various chemical treatments which are supposed to provide insulation).

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.

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 want a parking spot.



My choices

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. Right from the start it felt a bit too raw / natural, 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 light brown 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 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 house.

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:

  • I would choose a warmer colored tile. The current tile is quite gray, and since there isn't enough sunlight in my home (due to the standard sized windows), it looks a bit cold. When I was looking for tile, I didn't find exactly what I wanted, but I've later seen some very light beige natural stone (both travertine and marble), although natural stone wears much faster than the tile that I have.

  • For the bathroom walls, perhaps I should choose honed or polished tile instead of matte, because the matte tile creates a clear visual wall in such a small room, whereas a polished tile provides some depth through reflections.

  • I would choose a warmer colored wall paint, like RAL 9001. I've gotten used to the current wall color (which is 30% from RAL 9001), and it still looks a bit colder and emptier than what I wanted to achieve.

  • I would choose furniture made from MDF painted with a warm white (like RAL 9001) or light greige (like NCS 1002-Y50R), depending on how it looks against the wall color. Painted MDF costs quite a lot more money than melaminated chipboard, so few people would be willing to pay for it, but the paint looks much better than melamine.

Large areas: For large areas (like walls, floor and furniture), use warm white, light greige (= 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.

If all the large areas are neutral in color, the look of the home is similar to that of a beach cottage. This provides a good background for colorful decorations, especially for large and colorful photos which are hung on walls.

If the background is neutrally colored, with warm white walls and warm gray floor and furniture, 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 tint / hue; the saturation and the brightness 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 tints if the brightness 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 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: Use a standard white or a custom 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. Painting the walls manually leaves tiny ridges and dents into the paint, and these alter the way in which light is diffused, making the walls look darker.

You have to choose the flooring before you choose the wall paint because the flooring choices are much more limited. You must still have a general idea about what wall paint color you will be using.

Choose the color of the wall paint before you choose the furniture material, because the wall paint will be responsible for coloring most of the area of your home, therefore defining the background / subconscious perception of colors, and so must be extremely carefully chosen. Also, 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).

After that, choose the window frames, the furniture, the doors, and finally the curtains and 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.

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; overall, you could call it a light greige. 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, bathroom walls, and kitchen countertop's wall; 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 a slightly reddish custom warm white wall paint, and a slightly reddish 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.

I've chosen doors whose color is similar to that of the furniture.

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 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, is possible to use edges with 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.

It's good to plan the furniture material so that you could change the fronts if you would later like to do so. This means that you should think that the color of the fronts could be different than the color of the rest / box of the furniture.

Furniture chipboard: I've used a chipboard whose color was (specified by the manufacturer as) NCS S1505-Y40R, which is a significantly darker version of the warm white wall paint that I've used, similar with the lightness of the floor tile.

The finalist decors for furniture were: warm white oak (= colored white, not just named white) and NCS 1505-Y40R, both being neutral colors. I dropped the white oak because it gave a rustic look to my home. Neutral colors give a home the feel of a beach cottage, especially when wood (like white oak) is used extensively.

Furniture handles: Use a color similar to the color of the furniture. Matte nickel works very well with warm, light colors because it has a warm tint (warmer than chrome and stainless steel, anyway), and creates a slightly retro-futuristic look. Start with knobs because they are small and pretty much invisible. Large chrome or nickel handles may give furniture a bit of a kitchen-like look.

I've chosen matte nickel knobs.

Furniture feet: I've extended the fronts and sides of the furniture down to 2 cm from the ground, in order to hide the furniture feet. In such a case, the furniture doors should be maximum 50 cm (20 in) wide, if the handles are mounted high (at about chest level), so that they would not hit your toes while you open them. The ground clearance is 15 cm (6 in), enough for a robot vacuum cleaner to pass under the furniture (when the doors are open).

Support frame: For beds and tables, I've used custom steel frames, painted with a color similar to that of the furniture. The feet are cylindrical and welded with rectangular bars (H 2 * A 4 cm). The feet diameter is 8 cm (3 in).

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: My finalists were (all white colored):

  • Lucide Xyrus (their color is a slightly warm white)

  • Philips Zesta and Runner

  • Trio Cayman

  • SLV / Big White Puri (ugly base, but can fit wider lightbulbs)

Philips has spotbars with some great futuristic designs for the fixtures with integrated LEDs, but they have a maximum color temperature of 2'700 kelvin (which makes the light a bit too orangy).

Philips has a feature called "WarmGlow" which lowers the color temperature of the light (down to 2'200 kelvin) as the lightbulbs are dimmed (you need a dimmer for this). This is good because of how the eye perceives color depending on the intensity of the light.

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 neutral (slightly warm) 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.



Can you afford things?

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:

  • Monthly costs: rent, mortgage, various debt repayments, food, bottled water, public transportation, gas, electricity, car fuel, tap water, phone subscription, Internet subscription, TV subscription, entertainment / fun / going out, private health insurance, life insurance, home insurance, car insurance. For heating costs, make sure to take seasons into account.

  • Long term costs: heating system (renew at 15 years), mattress (renew at 7 years), refrigerator (renew at 7 years), washing machine (renew at 7 years), dish washer (renew at 7 years), TV (renew at 7 years), computer (renew at 7 years), smartphone (renew at 5 years), tablet (renew at 5 years), furniture (renew at 25 years), repaint walls (every 20 years), car (renew at 7 years).

  • Other costs (not necessarily periodic): cosmetics, haircut, dentist, various.

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.



Dealing with people

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, and do not say how much money you have spent or will spend on various things. 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.



QA



How do I choose a mattress?

See this for details.



How do I start designing with SweetHome 3D?

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 paintings 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.

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.

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). 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 try #FEFAF8, and for the furniture try #E5D8C9.

If you want to use a warm white tile for the floor then try this texture.



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.



Links

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 colors which allows you to compare, for example, RAL and NCS colors.



Inspirational interior design: Houzz.

Wall paint: Behr (has simulator), Benjamin Moore, Sherwin Williams (has simulator), Tikkurila (shows NCS codes for their colors).

Tile: Aparici, Atlas Concorde, Cifre, Italgraniti, Fioranese, Marazzi, Sant'Agostino, Serenissima, Tagina. These tile manufacturers are high profile, so their prices include a significant markup for the brand.

Epoxy grout: Laticrete, Mapei (Mapei Kerapoxy Design).

Epoxy floors: Colledani.

Parquet: Egger, Kaindl, Tarkett. (All have simulators.)

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.

Furniture handles: Hafele, Hettich.

Furniture accessories: Blum, Hafele, Hettich.

Interior doors: Barausse.

Entrance doors: Oikos.

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.

Bed linen: Behrens, Issimo, Valeron.

Towels: Behrens, Cawoe, Erwin Mueller, Moeve, Valeron, Vossen.

Lighting: Eglo, Globo, Faro Barcelona, Lucide, Philips, SLV / Big White, Trio.

Composite countertops: Corian (has simulator), Franke, Himacs, Kerrock, Rehau, Silestone, Staron.

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.

Window glass: Pilkington, Saint Gobain.

Kitchen pans and pots: Demeyere.

Kitchen cutlery: Zwilling.

Waste bins: Brabantia.

Decorations: Etsy (artisanal; decorative lighting fixtures).

Home perfumes: Culti, Millefiori, Vranjes. Note that a "spicy" perfume usually means that it smells like the dentist's office (like clover).

Photo libraries: DeviantArt (has a lot of great digital paintings, but they prefer to make the prints themselves), iStockPhoto, ShutterStock.







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