Archive for November, 2010

November 30th, 2010
By Vivian Martin

Source: Manitoba Chambers of Commerce

Manitoba’s housing affordability improved in the third quarter of 2010 and housing resales picked up in September and October, swiftly turning the page on a particularly weak summer period, according to the latest Housing Trends and Affordability report released today by RBC Economics Research.

“Any concerns that housing demand in Manitoba would slip into a slump dissipated in recent months as homebuyers took advantage of fairly attractive affordability, which improved for all housing types in the third quarter,” said Robert Hogue, senior economist, RBC. “Lower mortgage rates were particularly helpful in bringing down homeownership costs in the province, although some price declines, particularly for two-storey homes, also contributed.”

According to the RBC report, third quarter measures fell between 0.9 and 2.3 percentage points, reversing one-half to three-quarters of the increase that occurred since spring of 2009. Manitoba is one of two provinces where the measures for all housing types are currently below long-term averages. This will be a supportive factor for housing demand going forward.

The RBC Housing Affordability Measures for Manitoba, which capture the province’s proportion of pre-tax household income needed to service the costs of owning a home, decreased among all housing types in the third quarter of 2010 (a decline in measure means homes are more affordable). The measure for the benchmark detached bungalow moved down by 1.4 percentage points to 34.7 per cent, the standard condominium decreased slightly to 20.7 per cent (down 0.9 of a percentage point) and the standard two-storey home moved down to 37.1 per cent (a decrease of 2.3 percentage points).

All provinces saw improvements in affordability in the third quarter, particularly in British Columbia where elevated property values amplified the effect of the decline in mortgage rates on monthly mortgage charges. Ontario also experienced some notable drops in homeownership costs, pushing down the RBC Measures below their long-term average in the province for bungalows and condominiums. Alberta and Manitoba are the only two provinces where the RBC Measures stand below their long-term average in all housing categories, indicating little stress in these markets.

RBC’s Housing Affordability Measure for a detached bungalow in Canada’s largest cities is as follows: Vancouver 68.8 per cent (down 5.4 percentage points from the last quarter), Toronto 47.2 per cent (down 3.0 percentage points), Montreal 41.7 per cent (down 1.3 percentage points), Ottawa 38.2 per cent (down 2.9 percentage points), Calgary 37.1 per cent (down 2.0 percentage points) and Edmonton 32.7 per cent (down 2.0 percentage points).

The RBC Housing Trends and Affordability Measure, which has been compiled since 1985, is based on the costs of owning a detached bungalow, a reasonable property benchmark for the housing market in Canada. Alternative housing types are also presented including a standard two-storey home and a standard condominium. The higher the reading, the more costly it is to afford a home. For example, an affordability reading of 50 per cent means that homeownership costs, including mortgage payments, utilities and property taxes, take up 50 per cent of a typical household’s monthly pre-tax income.

Highlights from across Canada:

British Columbia: Lower home prices and declining mortgage rates brought the B.C. housing market some welcomed reprieve in the third quarter from the significant deterioration in affordability recorded since the middle of 2009. Amid much cooler resale activity through the spring and summer and greater availability of properties for sale, home prices either fell, particularly for bungalows, or remained stable in the case of condominium apartments. The RBC Housing Affordability Measures for B.C. dropped between 1.8 and 5.0 percentage points, representing the largest declines since the first quarter of 2009; however, all remained significantly above long-term averages. Poor affordability is likely to continue to weigh on housing demand in the province in the period ahead.

Alberta: Despite recording substantial affordability improvements since early 2008, housing demand in Alberta is still a shadow of its former self from just a few years ago and there are few signs that it is picking up meaningfully. The RBC Measures eased between 0.8 and 1.8 percentage points, more than reversing modest rises in the second quarter. Homeownership is among the most affordable in Canada both in absolute terms and relative to historical averages. RBC notes such a high degree of affordability bodes well for a strengthening housing demand once the provincial job market sustains more substantial gains.

Saskatchewan: Saskatchewan home resales rebounded since August and reversed most of their slide in the first half of this year; however, the earlier softening of activity had a lingering effect on home prices which fell across all housing types relative to the second quarter. RBC’s Affordability Measures dropped between 1.8 and 2.2 percentage points, the most since early 2009 but still modestly above their long-term average, suggesting that current market conditions might be stretching Saskatchewan homebuyers’ budgets to a degree.

Ontario: After four consecutive quarterly increases, the cost of homeownership declined in Ontario in the third quarter thanks to lower mortgage rates and some softening in property values. RBC’s Measures fell between 1.3 and 2.4 percentage points, fully reversing the increase in the second quarter. Existing home sales ended their precipitous slide confirming RBC’s earlier expectation that the slowdown in activity through the spring and summer largely reflected various transitory factors – including the HST and changes in mortgage lending rules – that spurred demand at the start of this year. With the market now back in balance, the recent softness in home prices will likely prove to be a healthy recalibrating following a strong rally.

Quebec: The Quebec housing market is making its way towards more stable activity levels after plummeting to six-year lows at the end of 2008 and then surging to all-time highs at the start of 2010. Supporting this trend in the near term is an improvement in affordability in the third quarter. Following four consecutive increases, the RBC Measures for the province fell 1.4 to 1.8 percentage points depending on the housing type, but still remain close to the pre-downturn peaks and above their long-term average, which will likely restrain growth in demand in the period ahead.

Atlantic Canada: The East Coast housing market picked up some steam early this fall following a marked cooling in activity in the spring when resales fell back to the lows reached at the end of 2008. Modest price declines and a drop in mortgage rates contributed to lower third quarter homeownership costs with RBC’s Measures moving down between 1.0 and 1.5 percentage points in the third quarter and returning roughly to the levels experienced in mid- to late-2009. Overall, housing affordability remains attractive in Atlantic Canada.

The full RBC Housing Affordability report is available online, as of 8 a.m. ET today (November 29, 2010) at

November 29th, 2010
By Vivian Martin

Designing a kid-friendly bathroom can be a challenge. Color and pattern are great in small doses, but too much whimsy, and the room runs the risk of being quickly outgrown. We asked designer Christopher Coleman to share some of his trade secrets on designing a kid-friendly bathroom that’s both fun and enduring.

Splash of color

Kids love color, and it might be tempting to wash every wall in bright tones and primary hues. However, it’s important to remember that too much color can be distracting.

“Color is a thing for everybody, you just need to find the right dosage” says Coleman. “Introduce color in the fixtures, like the sink or shower curtain, or even a wall mural.”

Keep the walls and floor basic by using beige or white, and add splashes of color with tiles, towels, and other fixtures and accessories. A green or blue sink will stand out if the surrounding walls are white or neutral. Greens, yellows, blues, and tans work great in a kid’s bath, and they are not overbearing, like pink or orange can be.

Patterns are just as important as color. A painted sink adds playful surprise to the standard fixture. Horizontal and vertical stripes are also great ways to add whimsy to a room without going overboard. They’re mature enough for any room, and they introduce another hint of color to the space.

Toy box

With the abundance of toys and trinkets that naturally accompany kids, storage is important in a kid’s bath. If your bathroom doesn’t already have ample storage space, get creative. Keep a wicker basket on the toilet tank, or purchase a plastic shoe holder to hang on the shower rod for toy storage. The key to making any space look nice is to contain the clutter.

“If you have the luxury of space in the wall, it’s always great to create niches” says Coleman. “Rolling cars are always nice, like a floating vanity. They can hide extra toiletries, and are easy to move around the space.”

Sticks and stones

Kids love to touch and feel everything; give them some variety in the bathroom. Stone tiles make a great backsplash, and glass tiles work well around the mirror or in the shower. Vary materials and textures.  

“Bathrooms don’t always have to be marble and tile” says Coleman. “I use more natural materials, like concrete and wood. Natural materials have nice textures, and are actually safer because they provide more friction.”

Growing up

Unfortunately, all kids must grow up sometime. While they’re still young, it’s important to create a space in which they can maneuver.

 For the sink, consider a step stool that can be easily tucked away when not in use. Touchless faucets are easy to reach without needing to turn a handle, and can be set to a comfortable temperature, ensuring the water never gets too hot.

For the toilet, consider a toilet training seat. It fits over any regular size seat, but creates a comfortable and safe place to sit for younger, smaller children. The Transitions seat also frees up space by removing the need for a tot toilet.

In the shower or bath, install adjustable showerheads and handshowers. This will allow you to direct water to any height. Handshowers are great when for washing kids who won’t sit still.

Throughout the room, consider light switches placed at a lower height, or even motion-sensors for those too short to reach the switch.

Safety first

Making a bathroom kid-friendly invoves taking a few extra steps in safety. There are a number of things you can do to reduce risks in the restroom.

1. Install quiet-close toilet seats to keep tiny fingers from getting pinched.
2. Use toilet and cabinet clamps to keep kids from reaching in the toilet, and to lock up bathroom cleaners.
3. Plug all outlets with safety guards.
4. Use shower mats to avoid slippery floors.
5. Install grab bars near the tub or toilet to make it easy for kids to get in and out.
6. Use drain covers to keep kids from reaching in, and to keep the toys out.
7. Install touchless faucets for both preset, safe temperatures and easy-to-reach fixtures.

Can I help?

Let the kids give input on some of the design decisions. “Not everything has to match” says Coleman. “Remember, it’s for a child, it should have some sort of fun and adventure.”

Put up kids artwork in the bathroom to make the space both personal and fun. Let the kids paint a tile for the backsplash, or let them decorate a mirror frame. The best way to design a kids bathroom, is to get their input. Just remember, they grow up fast!

Source: Kohler Canada

November 27th, 2010
By Vivian Martin - Plan # 2677 - Plan # 2677

A brilliant Palladian window bathes the vaulted study with light, then a creative 2265 sq. ft. interior captures the heart. The bright and comfortable living room with fireplace eases into the dining area and on to a massive kitchen with island, then to the discreet laundry area and half bath.

Upstairs, the vaulted master suite showcases another Palladian window, and a generous private bathroom and walk-in closet. A second vaulted bedroom enjoys a private bathroom, and two easy-going bedrooms share a Jack-and-Jill bathroom.

This home is lovely from every angle and fits onto a demure 46 ft wide footprint, including the two-car garage.

Also included is an unfinished basement which would allow for additional recreation, bedrooms or storage. You decide!

For more details on this plan, click here…

Looking for other 2 story house plans? Check our 2 Story house plans with garage,  or Create  a “New House Plans – Latest Trends” Alert to receive all of the latest designs direct to you by email!

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November 25th, 2010
By Vivian Martin

It’s very tough to pick just one icon from all of the work of Isamu Noguchi, so I’m planning on sharing some of his other work, such as his oft-imitated lamps, in the future. I’d also love to share his playgrounds with you sometime (I’m lucky enough to have one a mile from my house). However, today we are going to concentrate on what is probably the most popular modern coffee table out there. In fact, according to the Noguchi Museum’s website, “late in his life the artist felt that it [the coffee table] was the only instance in which he had been wholly successful in the field of industrial design.” I suppose that helped my choice as well. Here is the table hard at work: (click on title for full article or use direction arrows to move slides)

For more of Becky Harris’ posts on the Houzz design website (one of my favourites!), visit here.

November 24th, 2010
By Vivian Martin

About 50% of the water used inside U.S. homes can be reused to irrigate landscapes and flush toilets, according to a gray water report released by the Pacific Institute  last week. The Overview of Greywater Reuse examined the application of gray water systems worldwide to determine how the wastewater generated from sinks, baths, showers and clothes washers could be reused to reduce demand for more costly, high-quality drinking water.

“In California, there are a lot of reasons why we’re looking for new and innovative water sources, including the legal restrictions that are coming to bear on our ability to move water around the state,” said Juliet Christian-Smith, senior research associate at the Oakland-based research institute. “Climactic changes are occurring…. We are looking at a future with less of a natural reservoir in our snow in the Sierras and less water available from the Colorado River system.”

In 2009, California modified its plumbing code to allow the reuse of certain types of gray water. The Pacific Institute was interested in examining how that change might affect the state and aid its development of a “soft path of water management.”

“The 20th century was dominated by a paradigm of water supply and water extraction which focused on large-scale centralized resources like reservoirs, canals and pipelines that have been very successful at moving water and providing a higher standard of living but also come with social, environmental, energy and economic costs that weren’t apparent from the beginning,” said Christian-Smith. “As we move into the 21st century, we’re starting to think about other options … such as demand management — conservation and efficiency — and to look at new technologies that reuse water.”

Australia is the most progressive country in terms of gray water policy. The government for this drought-prone continent not only promotes gray water reuse but provides monetary incentives for systems that recycle wastewater from showers and sinks to flush toilets and irrigate outdoor plants. Korea, Cyprus, Japan and Germany are also at the forefront of gray water technology implementation.

While there is no national policy in the U.S. regarding gray water, about 30 of the 50 states have some sort of gray water regulation, some of which require treatment of the wastewater before its reuse. Other states, including Arizona and California, use a landscape’s soil as a natural filter to reduce potential contaminants.

According to the report, which cited a study conducted in Barcelona, Spain, this year, factors determining public acceptance of gray water include a perceived health risk, perceived cost, operation regime and environmental awareness.

The Overview of Greywater Reuse is a starting point, Christian-Smith said, to “a larger project that will start to outline supportive and protective instruments” for understanding the long-term impacts of gray water reuse.

Source: Los Angeles Times

Photo credit: Don Kelsen / Los Angeles Times

Additional reading on greywater systems in Canada -

November 23rd, 2010
By Vivian Martin
The following list of topics pertaining to backup power for your home is covered in the About Your House — General Series from the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC).

You rely on many appliances and systems in your home for your health, comfort and security. Most depend completely on utility-supplied electricity. It makes sense to have a backup system that will keep your family comfortable and your home safe in a power failure.

This fact sheet has 10 tips about backup power systems. Following the tips, six basic types of backup systems are described. Also included are Generator Maintenance Tips (Typical 5,000 Watt Gasoline Engine)…

Topics covered include:

1 – Plan

2 — Depending on the Season, Keep the Heat In (or Out)

3 — Change to Energy-Efficient Appliances

4 — If Your House Is All-Electric…

5 — Decide What Needs Power

6 — Choose a Backup System

7 — Hire an Electrician

8 — Don’t Use Unvented Appliances Indoors

9 — Install Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarms

10 — Test Your System Regularly

Read the full fact sheet for details on how to stay safe and comfortable with your backup power plan.

Source: CMHC

November 22nd, 2010
By Vivian Martin

Canadian designers tell us what’s cooking in kitchens in 2011.

The kitchen is the heart of the home. Indeed, no matter how lovely the living room, how comfortable the dining room chairs, you’re sure to find a coterie of friends and family hovering around the kitchen whenever they’re over. And no one can argue that having an up-to-date space will fill you with pride when you’re entertaining, not to mention cooking.

Advertisement Advertisment asked Canadian designers for their forecasts on what’s cooking in the kitchen in 2011.

Kitchens will be gray
“We’ll see warm gray neutrals, natural limestone colours and textures, paired with sleek white cabinets or dark woods.”
Amy Kent and Ryan Martin, Croma Design, Toronto

“Gray will continue to be a prevalent colour in paint and in kitchen cabinets. It can be used in a traditional way with a Shaker-style front, or in very modern high-gloss applications. Gray is definitely here to stay, commonly paired with brown and white.”
Lisa Canning, Lisa Canning Interiors, Toronto

“Lots of gray though [the kitchen] and painted cabinetry. Martha Stewart just launched a new line of kitchens for the Home Depot – again lots of neutral painted cabinets in colours like Ocean Floor (gray), Beach Sand, Sharkey Gray for [longtime creative collaborator] Kevin Sharkey.”
Samantha Pynn, Contributing Design Editor, Style at Home; host and principal designer, Pure Design

Bright colours in the kitchen
“We’re also going to see dynamic pops of colour. In Canada, this will be reserved to neon or jewel-tone colours in fun accessories or small appliances (unlike our neighbours across the pond who may do their major appliances and cabinets in neons and jewel tones).
Lisa Canning

“Inspired by exotic destinations like Africa, India, Peru and Turkey we are seeing bold colours and prints in pinks, oranges, turquoise and greens. Bright colours and bold patterns paired with the classic earthy and neutral accessories create a well-balanced combination of colour for a visual feast in your home.”
The residential team of Sizeland Evans Interior Design, Calgary

Colour may not be for everyone
“We will not see striking change in colour or design direction from 2010 moving into 2011, but rather a continuation and strengthening of several trends that have been around or emerging over the last year.”
Sizeland Evans Interior Design

“For the most part [kitchens] are staying classic because it’s a kitchen and you want it to last.”
Samantha Pynn

Kitchen cabinetry will conceal nearly everything

“I think more and more, especially in small homes and condos, people are opting for as clean a look as possible – fridges with fronts to match their cabinetry, garbage/recycling/compost stations concealed in a pull-out cabinet. Economy of space also applies to our eyes; especially in a small space, it helps to make everything as seamless as possible.
Lisa Canning

“For 2011, there’ll be hidden equipment and appliances. Everything is in drawers: fridge drawers, dishwasher drawers and microwave drawers.”
Céline Pitre, Céline Interiors, Vancouver

“Microwave drawers – they hide microwaves and free up counter space.”
Sizeland Evans Interior Design

“Using pantries and drawers for storage and forgoing the uppers will allow a small kitchen to feel airy and open while still maximizing storage.”
Amy Kent and Ryan Martin

Sleeker and more streamlined
“Kitchens will be more contemporary – with a cleaner vocabulary. For example, less visible hardware – all doors looking like panelling.”
Céline Pitre

“Integrated appliances, meaning appliances built into the cabinetry of your kitchen will continue to be popular. Also, look for shallow-depth fridges – fridges now flush with counters resulting in cleaner lines in the kitchen.”
Sizeland Evans Interior Design

A move toward better organization
Organized cabinet interiors will be important. IKEA is following the lead of high-end kitchen manufacturers like Boffi and Poliform by offering drawer and cabinet inserts to organize everything from bowls to spatulas. There should be a place for everything. Keeping your countertops clear of appliances lets them be a display for a unique sculptural piece or to lean a work of art.”
Amy Kent and Martin Ryan

Natural materials will be all the rage in the kitchen
“Let your backsplash be the art. Beautiful natural stone veining or texture may be all the focal point your kitchen needs. Full-height stone backsplashes lets a dramatic appliance like a sleek hood fan take centre stage.”
Amy Kent and Ryan Martin

“Martha Stewart for Home Depot also has horizontal wood grain cabinets. The trend toward the unfinished wood look is still going strong. This cabinet is called the Weston and it’s in a soft gray, called Persian Gray.”
Samantha Pynn

How can you make your kitchen stand out in 2011?
“A built-in cappuccino machine.”
Céline Pitre

“Coming on strong from 2010′s top picks list is poured glass countertops. Countertops have new additions created by LED lights and decorative interlayers. And matte black sinks and faucets”
Sizeland Evans Interior Design

Fast and slow cooking
“‘Speed ovens’ or ‘convenience ovens’ are being added to kitchens in addition to conventional ovens.”
Sizeland Evans Interior Design

“Cooking ‘en famille’ –  with friends – will be important. It’ll be a shared experience.”
Céline Pitre

Source: Style at Home

Read more in Kitchen & Bath and Trends

November 21st, 2010
By Vivian Martin

Home maintenance is a must for preserving the value of one of your greatest assests and to assure the comfort and safety of your family. These days, many homes feature gas fireplaces for aesthetics and ambiance. As with any appliance that involves combustion, routine maintenance is essential to ensure safe and efficient operation. We have found the following article on DIY maintenance guidelines but you may also enlist the services of a professional at the same time as your furnace maintenance. Now, about that hot chocolate…

DrummondHousePlans Photo Gallery Image - Model #2835 - Master Bedroom Fireplace

DrummondHousePlans Photo Gallery Image - Model #2835 - Master Bedroom Fireplace

When owning a gas fireplace, it is very important to understand how it works and to make sure that it is operating appropriately for efficiency and safety purposes. The following information will help you enjoy your gas fireplace and feel confident that you and your family will be safe.


Before you clean your gas fireplace, always make sure the gas valve is turned off. Then, before relighting it, make sure you follow the manufacturers instructions to a tee. The burner and control compartment should always be kept clean, which can be done by vacuuming and brushing it a minimum of one time per year. For cleaning the logs, simply use a soft, paint brush to brush off debris or spider webs. Since most logs are fragile, this type of brush will ensure it does not break.

For the appliance and door itself, simply use a damp cloth while everything is cool. Avoid any type of abrasive cleaner and for the glass, use a standard window cleaner.

Venting System

Before you use your fireplace, especially the first time at the beginning of the new season, check the venting system to make sure there is nothing clogging it. If you have any concerns, have a qualified technician inspect the fireplace before you begin using it all the time. Additionally, look for any areas that show wear or corrosion, which would look like streaks or rust spots. If you find any, they will need to be replaced before using the fireplace.

Be sure to remove the cap and use a flashlight to look down the vent to see if any birds have built nests or if any leaves or other debris has accumulated in the chimney, which is a serious safety issue.

Condensation – You also wantto look for any condensation that would look like water droplets forming in the vents. If condensation continues, the caps will corrode along with fittings and pipes. The joints should also be checked to make sure nothing has been loosened.

Brass Louvers or Gold Plated – Many of the new, sophisticated fireplaces have 24-karat gold trim. To keep this trim clean, you can simply use a damp cloth and wipe it down. Never use anything abrasive or chemical cleaners since they will damage the finish.

Logs – If you have any broken logs, do not use the fireplace. In this situation, turn the gas value off and let the fireplace cool if it had been in operation. You want to make sure the pilot light is off and always use the appropriate replacement log. Keep in mind that not all fireplace logs fit universally. Check the position of the logs as well to make sure they are connected firmly and safely. If the logs are not positioned according to the manufacturers guidelines, carbon build-up can occur and ultimately damage the unit.

Latch – Be sure the latch of your fireplace, whether gas or wood burning fits tightly, creating a perfect seal.

Door Gasket – It is important that the door gasket of your fireplace be the right type to handle high temperatures.


November 20th, 2010
By Vivian Martin - Plan # 3226-V2 - Plan # 3226-V2

This tidy bungalow boasts an open floor plan and loads of flexibility. A covered entry leads to an open foyer, and the eye is drawn to the focal point of a lovely fireplace flanked by generous built-in cabinetry or the vista of windows offering backyard views.

The kitchen is sure to be the hub of activity with generous island area plus easy access to the dining room and living room.

The first bedroom is ideally situated to serve as a bedroom, den or office – ideal as family circumstances change. It and a second bedroom have easy access to a full bathroom. The master suite includes a very comfortable 5-piece bathroom and, of course, walk-in closet.

A bonus space over the garage is ideal for a game room or media room plus an undeveloped basement allows for additional bedrooms or activity areas. The plan is designed with a full basement and could easily be built on a sloping lot with daylight or walk-out basement.

A double garage with workshop area and covered grilling deck off the back top off the essentials. This comfortable home is suitable for every stage of life!

For more details on this plan, click here…

Looking for other bungalow house plans? Check our 1 Story and Bungalow Design Collection,  or Create  a “New House Plans – Latest Trends” Alert to receive all of the latest designs direct to you by email!

Thanks for visiting the DrummondHousePlans Blog!

November 19th, 2010
By Vivian Martin

Rediscover the joy of decorating through the witty and colourful interiors of New York designer Jonathan Adler. Known for his whimsical pottery, bright textiles and sleek furniture, Adler uses these signature items liberally in the modern hotels and homes he has decorated. Get tricks and tips on mixing patterns, embracing colour, contrasting shapes and textures and displaying artwork in living rooms, bedrooms and more. As Adler’s manifesto states: “Your home should make you happy.”

Photography: Jason Schmidt
View entire gallery here…

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