Organizing Ideas for the Kitchen


Let’s face it, an unorganized kitchen looks cluttered and gives the outsider’s jitters about possible hygiene conditions. And with kitchen designs becoming more open and integrated with the socializing areas of the home – especially in smaller apartments, you need to be more careful about how your kitchen appears.

It is the most hard-working part of a home and deserves due respect. After all, you wouldn’t want to be caught looking tawdry when there is a visitor, and neither should your kitchen! Keeping modern kitchens tidy and neat isn’t such a tough job; all it needs is creating proper storage areas. You first need to divide your kitchen into the three important areas – the prep area, the cooking area and the washing area. Once that is done, it’s easier to know where to stow and store the matching types of articles. This way, the efficiency of your kitchen improves, while having all the necessary tools within easy reach. Such smart kitchens make cooking and cleaning-up fun and less of a chore.

Here are some simple and easy steps to de-clutter the kitchen and make cooking meals easier:

  • Empty out all your cabinets and have a look-see at all the stuff you’ve been hoarding time to throw out some of the unnecessary stuff!
  • Make piles of all the items on your kitchen floor; cooking items in one corner, plastic containers in another, glassware separate, rarely-used serving pieces separate, etc.
  • Now comes the hard part – putting them back in! Cooking pots and pans should be close to your cooking area, a spice drawer under your cooking range, utensils near your prep area as well as the essential potatoes/onions/garlic baskets – opt to store these in a stylish standing basket for more space. Glassware and daily-use dishes should be in racks next to the washing area. Create a coffee/tea station with all essentials including mugs, coffee-maker and water filter kept together. This saves a lot of unnecessary walking.
  • Use clear plastic containers to store the smaller items like packs of snacks, condiments or ready-to-use gravy mixes. Labeling the containers is a great idea.
  • Store all containers with their lids together so you don’t spend unnecessary time rummaging around.
  • Use Lazy Susans whenever possible to stack different categories of edibles together; this way there is less chance of something expired sitting in your kitchen.

Your personal work-style will determine how and where you store your stuff; the goal should be to make cooking work smoothly and efficiently – without creating clutter!


Kitchens or a Pollution Hazard?


There are many who believe that pollution only exists outdoors. But numerous researches have proved that a lot of pollution exists indoors too, especially in the kitchen. Some form of air pollutions in the kitchen like burnt toast can easily be seen and smelt, and we know how to deal with them consciously by activating the chimneys or exhaust fans or opening kitchen windows to let out the smoke.

But then there are these other forms of pollutions that can’t really be discerned by smell or by sight and these are the dangerous one. Researchers in the UK have found that those who use gas cookers have higher levels of carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide in their kitchens which can sometimes be three times more than what is found outdoors and along busy roads. For those of you who are not in the know, nitrogen dioxide is a poisonous gas that contributes to the brown haze hanging over many cities. This should get you thinking about the importance of proper ventilation in your kitchen, especially while cooking!

Additionally, it was also found that kitchens have higher concentration of particles that are 2.5 microns or less in size and small enough to penetrate the lungs. That’s worrisome news indeed. Aside from these pollutants, there could be formaldehyde gassing from furniture and kitchen cabinets or benzene emissions from wall paints and plastics. Placing pots directly off from the fire and onto granite surfaces can result in release of radon gases in some cases too. This goes to show that there is no dearth of pollutants in your kitchen and stresses the need for proper evacuation of these gases from your enclosed environment.

Air fresheners and strong cleaning agents also leave their share of noxious fumes in energy-efficient homes which are usually kept tightly shut to reduce heating or cooling bills. Since we spend 90% of our time indoors and try to keep our homes air-conditioned and free of flying insects by keeping all doors and windows tightly shut, we are only breathing in more pollution than we ordinarily should if we were outdoors. To put it simplistically, the process of cooking is a form of controlled combustion of fats, oils and carbohydrates; when you grill, fry or toast food with electrical or gas appliances, you are releasing carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter aside from other volatile organic compounds into the air around you.
And if there is no vent available for it to get outside, you and your family will end up breathing in toxic substances, including acrolein, released from burning fats and oils – and earlier used in grenades in World War I for the irritation it induces in the eyes and lungs!

This information should teach you the importance of pollution hazards in your kitchen and the importance of proper ventilation.


Creating Space for your Pets at Home


Your pets are more than just animals to you; they are your friends, buddies, your silent companions. They can come furry, feathered or finned, but they all require your time and attention. They depend on you for their well-being and it falls on you to provide them with a safe and comfortable home, without much inconvenience to yourself. When buying homes, most people don’t think about pets, they are usually an afterthought to be added after purchasing the home.

These pets maybe man’s best friend, but they aren’t always easy to live with. Constantly tripping over your pet’s water dishes or dealing with the animal fur or the stench from the litter box, do have their downsides. But it doesn’t always have to be that way. Here are some tips on peacefully co-habiting with your pet at home:

  • Give them their own personal space to hang out in, a place that’s a little secluded and lined with comfy washable cushions.
  • Find strategic areas to keep your pet’s food and water bowls – so you don’t keep tripping over them. Under the kitchen island, the laundry room or under the staircase are some ideal locations.
  • If you can’t avoid using carpets, then opt for short-piled carpets which are easier to vacuum and get rid of animal dander. Or go a step further and use rugs made of natural fibers like jute or sisal that make getting rid of fur more easy.
  • Paw prints or scratches aren’t exactly very appealing, especially on your expensive rugs or pale colored couch. To keep the peace at home, clip their nails regularly and go for synthetic materials which are stain, smell and germ-resistant. Or if you want it classy, go for durable leather which is easier to maintain.
  • Keep your pet safe from cleaning chemicals, choking hazards, electrical points and even the waste-bin.
  • Store pet food neatly in dry containers so they don’t spoil or get infested with insects or rodents, after all, you don’t want them getting sick.
  • Your pet’s litter box doesn’t have to be an eyesore either. There are numerous trendy upscale designs available that can make litter boxes into a statement style.
  • Regularly grooming pets is essential to controlling fur issues and preventing allergies. Groom them just before bathing and after bathing to prevent blocking of drains and spreading fur all over the house.

All this helps in living harmoniously with your pet….


What kinds of things can be done to Make Houses more Secure?


Your home is your sanctuary, the place you consider your own little private safe haven where you feel most secure. And if this personal space gets invaded by thieves, it can be very traumatizing; aside from the monetary loss, there is the distressing feeling that your home has been violated, and that feeling takes time to heal. For those who invest in home insurance, though the company may compensate you monetarily for the loss or damage to property, nothing can replace the sentimental value and love attached to those items.

Since ‘prevention is better than cure’, you need to make securing your home among the list of top priorities when you move into a home. Here are a few tips for boosting your home security and thwarting thieves:

Doors – About 33% of thieves gain entry through doors, especially the kitchen back door, so you need to ensure that the frames are strong, the hinges are internal and there are a couple of additional deadbolts on the door for strength – security shouldn’t be compromised in the face of aesthetic looks. All external doors should also have peepholes.

Windows – Most ready-to-move-in homes come with flimsy latches that aren’t really effective. Consider replacing them with something stronger. Always close all windows when leaving home or at bedtime – even on the upper floors.

Security system – Aside from the fact that many of the new homes come with options for a security system, it’s a good idea to install one that you are comfortable with. Aside from CCTV cameras, there are motion sensors with alarm triggers that are quite effective at deterring thieves. Some of the latest devices even send pictures of invaders to your smart phones.

Neighbors – There is nothing like getting friendly with the neighbors so you can look out for each other whenever there is any fishy activity going on around. Neighbors can also act like the first line of defense against invasion.

Keys – Keep keys out of sight, whether it’s the house key or car key; thieves can easily access them by breaking a window or through the cat flap. Thieves also know that the porch doormat and flowerpot are among the favored places to hide house keys, so be careful.

Light – Light up the landscape around your home, especially the backyard. An alternative would be to use motion-sensor lights that come on when there is movement. It would also be smart to eliminate shadowy places like bushes and trees where thieves can take cover. You could also use timer-fitted switches that make lights go on and off in your absence.

You will need to secure your garage too in case it has a door leading into the house. Finally, it’s your home – look around and see where else the weak points of entry are located.


Vaastu Points to Consider Before Buying a Property


Vaastu is an ancient Indian science that deals with the correct usage of space. Though the younger generation has difficulties relating to it, there is a scientific explanation behind the application of these principles in home designing. If applied correctly, Vaastu creates homes that are well-lit, well-ventilated, uncluttered, well-designed and spacious.

With current lifestyles, few people have the time to go to the trouble of building their own homes; the end result is that people are increasingly opting for ready-to-move-in apartments and villas now. However, this brings in another doubt…whether the home is built in accordance with the principles of Vaastu or not. In most case, it shouldn’t be a cause for worry as most builders are aware of the importance of Vaastu for their customers and build Vaastu-compliant homes.

Here are some Vaastu guidelines you can check when looking over a property:

Entrance: When buying an apartment, it’s the block entrance that’s considered as the entrance to the home. Go for entrances that face the north or north-east to avoid the harmful infrared rays coming in through the south or south-west facing entrances. Ample unobstructed space should be present in front of the entrance.

Circulation around the building: The lift and staircase should be adjacent to one another and preferably in the south or south-west corner of the building – as they act as buffers and keep the heat of the sun away from the building’s interiors.

Cross-ventilation and sunlight: As Vaastu places great importance on circulation and natural light, go for homes where the windows and balconies face the north or north-east from where the positive energies of the morning sun emerge. Opt for homes that don’t have south or south-west facing windows as they bring in harmful rays and illness.

Circulation within the apartment: According to Vaastu, the center of the apartment, the living room, should be well-lit and bright to make it look spacious and all doors should be accessible from here.

Kitchen: According to Vaastu, the kitchen should be in the south-east corner of the home.

Bathroom: Toilets should always be built in the south or south-west direction of the home; as India experiences north-east to south-west winds all year round, placing it anywhere else would result in contaminating the air of the rest of the house.

Children’s room: The kid’s room should be in north-east or north-west, so that no harmful rays from the south touch on this room.

Water tank: The water storage tank on a multi-storied building should be placed in the north-east corner where the early morning light rich in ultraviolet rays can purify it. Go for dark colored tanks that will absorb sunlight.

With pollution of air and water gaining prominence, application of Vaastu to living spaces becomes imperative for peaceful and healthy living.


Points to Implement to Reduce Wastage of Water


With global warming and consequent climatic changes including melting of glaciers, the time will soon come when scarcity of potable water will also begin to hit humanity hard.

And as the old saying goes, ‘a stitch in time, saves nine’, so we must make efforts from now itself to do our bit towards finding ways to reduce wastage of water. The WHO advocates that a minimum of 25 liters is required per person to meet their daily needs. Unfortunately in developed countries like the US, the average water use per day is around 262 liters, about ten times more. In developing countries, it’s difficult to get an idea of exact water usage as many households don’t even have functional meters, aside from leaking pipes and unauthorized use of water. Here are a few useful tips on ways to conserve water at home:

Ensure your water meter is functional – When you can actually see how many liters of water you are consuming in the bill, it provides an incentive to reduce wastage.

Buy water-saving appliances and sanitary products – The older models of washing machines, showerheads, toilets and taps weren’t designed with water saving in mind. So when replacing these things, ensure you buy toilets that use 3-6 liters max of water; taps with aerators use less water too along with the new-gen washing machines.

Check for dripping taps, toilet cisterns or water pipes – A dripping tap can waste up to 15 liters a day, and that’s a lot of water wasted.

Use a watering can instead of a hosepipe – Water your garden the good old way with a watering can as hosepipe can lose up to a 1,000 liters of water an hour. Mulching your plants and watering only early morning or late evening can help in saving water and reducing evaporation.

Store the run-off water – Use a rain harvesting system and conserve run-off water to be used in gardening or washing the car. You can save up to 5,000 liters a year this way.

Use your washing machine optimally – Run your washing machine only when it’s a full load; you can save up to 10 liters of water this way.

Go for a shower – Showers use about 6-45 liters of water per minute, depending on the model of the showerhead. Go for the aerated showerheads which use less water and opt for shorter showers; close the knob while soaping to prevent wastage. Avoid bathtubs as they use up too much water.

Turn off the tap – A lot of water is wasted while brushing; keep the tap turned off till it is needed only. This saves about 6liters per minute!

Aside from saving you some money on your bill, reducing water wastage also saves on energy required to treat the water and more importantly – saving on natural resources.


Staircase Trends


Building designs keep evolving over the years and we are now into the era where open living is the in-thing. With the focus being on space, the staircase easily becomes the center of attention in a home. So why not dress it up and make it a little interesting!

From being a solely functional feature that’s used to get from one floor to another, it can easily be made into a designer piece. Over the last few years, new trends have been cropping up for staircase designs in terms of materials used for the treads, the types of balustrades, staircase lighting, clever use of the stairwell etc. However, the emphasis hasn’t moved away from the safety aspect as new materials are being introduced. Here are a few popular trends to elevate your stairs to the next level…..

Seamless designs: Here, the materials used for the floor are repeated in the staircase treads, creating a continuity effect; this not only makes the place look more spacious but also gives it a lavish look. With the wooden look coming into fashion, the treads and risers can be paneled in the same material to give an overall harmonious effect.

Glass: As far as barrier walls go, reinforced glass is an amazing element to use; it also creates the free-flowing visual effect, creating a sense of space. You can go one step further and use glass etched with smoky designs for a classy look. Or just go ahead and try your hand at glass painting and give it a personal touch!

Classy metals: Stainless steel and chrome are the popular metals of choice for staircases, but customized wrought iron meshwork paired with dark treads look elegant too.

Fusion: Staircases are no longer dreary old things made with the same old materials from yesteryears. We now have a combination of materials being used – with balustrades made of steel, support walls of glass and treads made of wood, granite, plastic, resin tiles or even glass. As long as the colors mesh together, there is no end to the materials that can be artistically combined together.

Drama: For homes that are short on space, spiral staircases are the best and you can make them into architectural masterpieces with clever use of materials to make them look functional, yet arty. Using glass as barriers gives them a more open and unhampered look.

Storage: Let your imagination run riot when it comes to using the space under the stairwell. It can be used as a display area or a reading nook with bookshelves. It can even make a cozy play-area for the kids or a get-away for the family pet. It makes an ideal location to build storage cupboards too.

The staircase is going to be with you for life, so make it an object of art and enjoy!


Smart Home Technology

Technology is hitting every aspect of life, and homes are among its newest target. For those who have technophobia, there is nothing to fear either as smart home technologies are very simple to use. Just a press of the button on your smart phone is all it takes to get so many appliances in your home taken care of!

Smart home technology is Wi-Fi enabled and ideal for those who keep having nagging doubts after leaving home…. Is the coffee maker off? Is the security alarm on? Is the AC off? …..The list of worries can go on and on. But with smart homes, a quick scroll through your smart phone and your worries are over. Numerous devices including lighting, home security, garage doors, entertainment devices, thermostat regulators, etc, can all be linked to your smart phone now. A press of the button or a voice command is enough to get your appliances following through. Life couldn’t get better than this surely!

In the earlier days of smart home automation, only the rich could afford automated homes, but now they have become more affordable to the common man. A lot of it is due to the success of the smart phone, making it a full-blown consumer trend.

If you are just getting started off, consider getting a smart home bundle that includes a range of devices that you use on a regular basis- like bulbs, music system, TV, thermostat/AC, fridges, locks, bells, etc. Though the earliest smart appliance was the lighting system, the technology has moved far ahead. You now have smart devices that can even tell when your plant needs watering or when your fridge needs stocking up. Technology has moved so far that you can even get voice answers to your questions regarding some appliance.

Smart home technology is best for those who don’t like getting off the couch just to turn down the lights or turn on the coffeemaker in the kitchen. It also means that just before you reach home, your gate would be opened, your garage door will open, lights will come on in the house, music will be playing to welcome you and the AC would have come on. What a homely welcome!

As home security is always a matter of priority to all Indians, there are smart security cameras that can detect movement and inform you when there is an intruder inside the house and even zoom into the intruder and stream high-resolution footage as it follows his image; this provides a good source of evidence for the police. And what’s best is that this camera looks just like some common art object lying around! Digital locks are also very useful for the security-conscious Indians and pretty fool-proof. What’s more, when tampered with, they send off an alarm!

Isn’t it time you got started on home automation too?

Questions to Ask when Apartment Hunting

With migration into the urban areas on the rise, city’s populations are growing larger day-by-day, and to cope up with the consequent land shortage, homes are increasingly growing vertically. Apartments are hot properties these days with more builders getting into the fray over the recent years. This provides potential homebuyers with a lot of choices – but then a problem arises….how to choose the best one!

Like going into a new relationship, you need to be a little level-headed when choosing your apartment, after all, you can’t make a commitment with the first person you meet! Instead, you need to spend some time and check if your needs and requirements are a good fit… And for this, here is a list of questions that you will need to get answered before deciding on ‘the’ one!

Who is the builder?  As a home stays with you forever, you don’t want to compromise on its quality; for this reason alone, it’s important, you go with a builder who has a good reputation, has a brand name that the builder wouldn’t want to play around with. You will need to check his records and possibly visit some of their other project sites. Do find out about their project delivery timings as delays would only result in loss to you.

Any nearby developments?  If there are any nearby developments coming up, they might spoil or block your views. Additionally it could affect the amount of sunlight coming in.

Any car parking space?  Do find out if there is covered car parking space available with the apartment and if it comes at an extra cost. Most builders charge separately for car spaces. This information isn’t always mentioned in the brochures.

Any public transport nearby?  Since most apartments don’t offer multiple car parking areas to its owners, access to nearby public transport becomes essential. A nearby bus stop or railway station can make all the difference to residents.

Availability of daily need facilities nearby?  It doesn’t make sense to go more than a kilometer to meet day-to-day needs like supermarket, pharmacy, gym, bus stop, etc. There should also be hospitals, schools, theatres and malls nearby.

What are the amenities available?  With the work schedules changing, people don’t have too much time in the evenings for recreational activities; hence, it’s better to have some basic amenities like a swimming pool, gym, various game courts and a clubhouse within the facility itself.

What’s the quality of fittings and fixtures?  There must be a finished model apartment that you can go through to get an idea of you will be getting into. All the same, do make sure the type of fixtures and their brands are mentioned in your contract letter to prevent any discrepancies later on.

You can always add some more questions to this list, before taking the plunge!

How to Conserve Energy Consumption at Home

How to Conserve Energy Consumption at Home

For one reason or the other, the bills are always on the rise, with your electricity bill topping the list. There are some bills we can control by compromising on, but some others are just too inconvenient to give up! Electricity is one such element that’s difficult to put a cap on. However, unknown to most of us, there are numerous small-small ways in which we can cut costs and wastage of energy – and contribute our little bit towards saving the environment.

With increasing use of technology in all aspects of our life, including heating/cooling, lighting, devices as well as transportation, energy consumption is on the rise. However with the following tips, you can make a difference to your wallet and the planet…

Keep doors and curtains closed. Heating or cooling the whole house is expensive, so use heaters/coolers only in the rooms that you spend most time in, keeping the doors and curtains closed to keep the desired temperatures locked in. Make sure your windows close tightly to prevent air leakage.

Set your thermostat correctly. The temperature on your thermostat shouldn’t be more than 2-4 degrees different from the outside temperature or it will contribute to a 10% increase in your bill. In the summer, set temperatures at 26 degrees.

Wash clothes in normal water. There is not much point in washing clothes in heated water as it consumes a significantly higher amount of energy. Operate the washing when it’s a full load and use the shortest cycle appropriate.

Dress according to the weather. Wear layered clothes during winter and light cottons during summers so you won’t feel the need to keep the heaters/coolers turned on high.

Insulate your roof. This would help grossly in keeping your home cool during the Indian summers, reducing your air-conditioning bills. There are numerous ways you can do this, depending on the kind of roof you have.

Standby power is energy wasted. Once your gadgets are charged or not in use, switch off from the socket. This loss of vampire energy could account for as much as 10% of your bill!

Use energy-efficient lighting. New generation LED or CFL lighting save on energy as well as last longer. Time to do away with the old incandescent and halogen bulbs!

Use your fridge efficiently. As your fridge is one of the appliances that’s always on 24×7, you need to make sure it closes properly and is working at the right temperatures. Ideal fridge temperature is 4-5 degrees while for freezer, it’s minus fifteen to minus eighteen degrees.

Save energy in the kitchen. Some ways to save energy include using the microwave instead of the electric oven whenever possible as it consumes less electricity. Cover pots when cooking as it reduces cooking time and run the dishwasher only when it’s full.