Technology is a large part of everyday life. You can do so much just with your phone; why not add some apps to control your home? We’ve put together a list of some of our favorite smart home gadgets to add to your list this Black Friday.

Smart Lights
Smart lights can do it all. Many have built-in timers, sensors, and remote controls. The Phillips Hue bulbs are some of our favorites – they can mimic the effect of the sun to help you wake up naturally in the morning, or adjust to set the ambiance in your home. The colored lights can be controlled through your phone, or can be set to react to the music playing through your home, perfect for entertaining.

Smart thermostats have been popular for several years because they offer more control and automation than traditional thermostats, which saves money on energy. These thermostats can tell when you’re home or away, can be adjusted remotely from your smart phone, and even send alerts reporting your energy usage.


Smart Outlets
You can turn any electronic device into a smart device with smart outlets. There are several outlets that can be controlled through smartphones or through a smart assistant. Some need to be hardwired into the wall, but others plug into your normal outlet. Controlling your lamps via the outlet is easy, but you might also consider using it to turn on your coffee maker in the morning, or for your space heater so you never worry about leaving it on.

Smart home assistants have exploded over the past several years. They can play music, answer questions, make calls, interact with other smart home devices, and even order groceries. Whether you’re loyal to Amazon, Google, Microsoft, or Apple, there’s an assistant for your home.

Untitled3.pngSmart Appliances
If you want your entire home to be connected, look into smart appliances. Most major appliance manufacturers make smart appliances like ovens, washers and dryers, refrigerators, dishwashers, and more. With smart appliances you can control your oven and dishwasher remotely, and even brew coffee from your refrigerator.

Open House: Zicka Homes Model Oct. 20 & 21

More homes are on the way in Crooked Tree Preserve! You’re invited to explore the new model home from Zicka Homes this Friday, October 20 & Saturday, October 21 from 11am-5pm.

The home features a new custom open concept plan with first floor master, huge kitchen and dining room, custom built-ins, and details throughout. Downstairs in the finished lower level is a wet bar and extraordinary entertainment area. The home is professionally decorated with a blend of contemporary and traditional, and the latest fixtures and cabinetry.

The home will be available for viewing Thursdays and Fridays 12-4pm and Saturdays and Sundays 12-5pm. To set up a showing at another time, contact Bob Johnson at (513) 477-2300.

Home Trend: Cerused Wood

It’s rare that a decorating trend can be used on floors, ceilings, walls, and in furniture, but that’s the case with cerused wood. You might not know what it’s called, but you’ve likely seen cerused wood recently – it’s the antique-looking finish that highlights the contrast between the wood grain and the rest of the surface

We’ve seen lots of furniture with this finish lately – from side tables to media centers to dining tables. The pieces are versatile, and they’re relatively easy to find, or even DIY.

The finish is also becoming popular on floors since it’s a more interesting alternative to traditional hardwood. With the recent popularity of wood-look tiles, it’s also easy to find tile with a mimicked finish for outdoor spaces.

Another interesting look we’ve seen? Cerused wood kitchen cabinets. They perfectly compliment simple tile and backsplashes, while bringing visual interest to the room in a way that’s slightly more toned down than painted cabinets.

Perhaps the most unique use we’ve seen is on walls and ceilings. The finish adds an interesting texture with some versatility. You can incorporate different accents to make the room look more rustic, find high-end pieces to elevate the look, or even find nautical trinkets to give the room a beachy feel.

Cerused wood is an interesting finish for any room in your house. Talk to our builders about adding cerused wood to your new home in Crooked Tree Preserve today.

Using Your Home for Organization

School has been back in session for about a month, which means your organizational system is probably starting to get disorganized. What if strategic home design could help keep your schedules and stuff in order? We have a few ideas to use the space in your home to make sure everything has a place so nothing gets lost.

Mornings are always a shuffle of looking for coats, shoes, and backpacks. Avoid the chaos with cubbies by the door. Make sure everyone has their own space, and get in the habit of putting away coats and shoes as soon as you come in the door. Backpacks should be placed in the cubby after finishing homework so they’re ready to go in the morning.

You might also add a “command center” to your home. Turn a wall into a central message board with storage by using chalkboard paint, corkboard, and a filing system. Use the chalkboard to write down a daily schedule and meal plan to avoid questions about “where’s mom?” and “what’s for dinner?” and use the corkboard to post important forms like permission slips that need to be returned. Use the filing system to separate mail and other papers so the whole family can easily see what they have.

If you have space by your message board add a shelf with phone chargers and key hooks. By designating one central location you always know where you can plug in your phone and keys can easily be grabbed on the way out the door.

We know that organizing your home can be easier said than done, but hopefully these ideas will help keep your home in order as the school year continues.

Design Trends – Updated Bathroom Tiles

There are lots of decisions to be made when designing a bathroom. You’ll likely use tile, and the good news is you have more options than ever. Tile is an easy way to bring color and design elements to the bathroom using a material that is sure to stand up to steam from the shower. Read on for some of our favorite trends.

Bold Patterns
Who says that bathrooms need to be simple to be relaxing? We’ve seen big, bold patterned tiles recently, and love them on either the floor or the walls. Large patterns, whether they’re brightly colored or monochromatic, add drama to any bathroom. Let these statement tiles stand out and use simple materials in the rest of the room.

Wood Look
Hardwood floors are beautiful, but they don’t always work well in bathrooms. There are plenty of options that truly looks like hardwood, but are much more durable. Because wood is neutral, you can add colors and patterns to the rest of the room, and even use some of the bold patterned tiles.

If you like the wood look but want to be a little more unconventional, consider using it on your walls instead of your floor. It can make for a stunning and unexpected effect.

Sometimes it’s the smallest things that have the biggest impact. Breaking up one style of tile with another catches the eye. Consider adding a rug-like pattern of decorative tile to the floor or adding an artwork-like feature inside the shower.

Preparing Your Yard for Fall

The weather may not have changed yet, but with school buses driving down the road and football games on Friday nights we all know fall is here. As we say goodbye to long summer days in the sun and welcome back the crisp fall air and changing leaves, it’s time to prepare your backyard for fall.

Your fire pit likely got some use over the summer, and it’s sure to get more use this autumn. Clean up your fire pit area and make sure you have plenty of logs ready for use. You might also want to add a few blankets in a convenient location. On cooler nights some of your guests might want an extra layer while sitting by the fire.

Another option to stay warm while outside in the crisp air is to get a nice heat lamp. They can extend the life of your deck by months, and even let you head outside if there’s an unseasonably warm winter day. The traditional towers are becoming more comment, and they look nice, but there are so many more options to bring a unique heating element to your deck.

If you don’t have much floor space there are several options for overhead or wall mounted heatlamps. Buy a couple and spread them throughout your space to make sure everyone stays warm. If you do have some room but want something a little smaller and more stylish, some heat lamps look just like indoor floor lamps. Other lamps still have the traditional heat lamp look, but are pulling double duty – the base acts as a nice table, which is the prefect place to put your drink or food while keeping close to the warmth.

While preparing for fall you don’t want to neglect your landscaping. Add fall flowers like mums or dark colored pansies to your yard to make the color reflect the season. They’re easy to plant in the ground or festive planters. A colorful wreath for the front door helps complete the autumn transition.

This transitional time is also perfect for a Goodbye Summer, Hello Fall party. Invite your friends over to celebrate the last of the hazy days with water balloon fights and a cookout, accompanied by apple cider and s’mores around the fire pit.

Making the Most of Your Summer: Backyard Classics for Young and Old

When planning your backyard you want it to be beautiful and inviting as well as functional for all who use it. While adults spend their time relaxing and enjoying the scenery, kids are looking for a backyard with plenty of activities. We have a few ideas that are sure to be a hit with backyard users young and old.

Take game night outside in the summer for a little fun neighborhood competition. No yard is complete without a classic yard game like bocce ball or corn hole. Add a dedicated court to make it easier to hold tournaments and practice. Giant versions of classic board games like Jenga, checkers, and chess are also hits.

If you’re bringing game night outside, why not bring movie night outside too? Get a giant screen and set it up in the yard. Make sure you have plenty of blankets and pillows for comfortable movie viewing.

It’s also a good idea to think towards the future. Your kids might enjoy a sandbox when they’re younger, but eventually they’ll grow out of it. Consider making the sandbox a covered structure that you can turn into a cabana seating area as your family gets older.

The tree house is another backyard staple that could use an upgrade. Add some decks and make it accessible to adults. You’ll enjoy looking out over the yard, and it will continue to get use when children grow older.