Home Designing Service, Ltd

Residential Design Specialists serving Connecticut and beyond

Fundamentals of Fun Heating

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Perhaps you’ve been living under a rock for the past month or so, which, if you’re reading this, means the home you’ve made for yourself under this rock has internet, which is almost never a bad thing. But if you haven’t been living under a rock, you may or may not have noticed it’s winter.

Now, as a home design business, you might expect us to offer advice on how to winterize your home before it actually gets cold, but you can get that sort of information anywhere. Instead, we decided it would be funnier better to remind you of things after the fact. I won’t be going over the big stuff. Obviously, if you were so inclined, you’d get new windows, or insulate your house or set fire to your furniture to stay warm through the winter months. Instead, we’re going to look at some easy stuff you may have simply forgotten.

Right off the bat, I’m going to deviate from my expressed purpose. This tip isn’t going to make you warmer so much as it’ll save some money. Maybe my focus group had the wrong people in it, but it’s my understanding that people don’t get excited about their thermostat. I have never personally heard two guys discussing the latest model over cold beers, but there’s so much more to them than leaving it somewhere between 68 and 72. New thermostats can be programmed to lower the heat during certain parts of the day, say, when you’re at work or in bed, and raise it so it’s warm when you’re up and about. Most studies have savings between 6 and 12%, which can end up being several hundred dollars. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how many trips to Starbucks that is.

This next one’s even easier. Do you have a ceiling fan? If you answered no, skip this paragraph. If you said yes, go find it and bring a step stool or something with you. Somewhere around the base, there’ll be a switch. Flip it. During the summer, you have your fan set to pull up hot air, which cools the room. In the winter, though, by flipping this switch, you’ll push the hot air back down into the room. It’s like having another heater in the house. You’re welcome.

Here’s one I’m personally guilty of forgetting. Throughout the year, the filter on your furnace… uh… filters out icky stuff from the air so you don’t breathe it in. But that gunk slowly reduces the air transfer rate. And like a vacuum doesn’t suck stuff up when the filter is covered in dust and hair (I’m looking at you, ladies), a furnace doesn’t do a great job circulating warm air when the filter is covered in a nice, thick layer of… whatever it is it traps. I tried to make a habit of changing the filter on the first day I needed to turn the furnace on. Sometimes I even remembered. It was great. But the difference is pretty incredible.

Another way to keep your rooms warm is to close off the ones you don’t use and make sure your ducts are nice and sealed. Spare bedrooms, random extra bathrooms, libraries, that exercise room that’s already doing nothing more than collecting dust? Shut the vent and close the door. By reducing the amount of space your furnace has to heat, it makes it easier to warm the ones you want, and cheaper too. Just make sure there are no leaks in your ducts. Warm air shooting into your basement is not a good way to heat your living room.

This last tip won’t be for everyone. But the ones who respond well to it, I feel like it will change their lives forever. It’s the thing that, up till now, they’ve been seeking without success. To those people, you owe me nothing. I’m just here to help.

Build a greenhouse around your existing house.

It’s like all the perks of global warming, without all that doom and end of the world stuff.

That’s a geodesic dome. They’re super cheap and easy to build. And they can turn any area into an immediate greenhouse. Just like that. Don’t like the winter? Reject the season and make your property live in perpetual summer. All year round! And with my very inconclusive search on the internet, I can tell you with a minimal amount of certainty that you can cover your house in one of these babies for as little as a thousand dollars. Then you’d never have to turn your furnace on again. Windows open in the middle of January. Flowers blooming all the time.


For those who’d like help building their geodesic dome, or for those who’d like to build a house from the ground up that’s built to be very efficient with its heating and cooling, give us a ring. We’d be more than happy to help.

Evolution of the House: Part 2 – When Walls Were Walls

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Last week, we visited the beginning of time. Or whatever you call the vague, detail-deficient thing I wrote last week. But I’m not a historian, which we’ve gone over. And that period of time is pretty light on facts anyway, which we’ve also gone over. So I’m not to be blame.

So this week, to continue the series on houses, where they came from and where they’re going, we’ll move forward a bit in time. The date: 3500 BC, the place: Finland. There is snow. Lots and lots of snow. In fact, there is nothing but snow and trees for as far as you can imagine. And what do you do when all you have is snow and trees? Naturally, you build log cabin saunas. True story.

The log cabins the Finns were making, saunas included, were way ahead of their time. Using a pretty advanced form of double-notched jointing, the buildings were more resistant to weather and the extreme winters, and infinitely more stable. And some of them were saunas. This point can’t be emphasized enough. The only reason the Finns didn’t use their genius to conquer the world is that the first manifestation of their brilliance was a sauna. They were too mellow afterwards to do much of anything.


Invention of peace.

The only reason we speak American and not whatever language they speak in Finland. I’m gonna assume Finnish.

There were log cabins in Russia and Scandinavia too, but they didn’t have saunas, so they’re not worth mentioning. Around 300 BC, though, Chinese architecture came to Japan and saved their homes from the rains there, by creating log cabins on stilts. So that’s kind of neat. Japanese architecture wouldn’t become fun until much later. Check in next week for that.

So last week, we went from sleeping under trees to tents. This week, it’s all about walls. The end of this period, at least in my eyes (remember, not a historian) is the early Greek/Roman domus. It sort of perfected the wall part and just started edging out into decorative extravagance. Sure there were gigantic villas at that time, but the majority of housing was in the domus. It is one of the earliest forms of our now traditional houses.

Courtyards and bedrooms, dining rooms and storerooms, the domus was a huge step in the right direction. Although mostly available only to the wealthy, it began a trend for demanding more from a place of shelter than just protection. Comfort, convenience, something to be proud of. It had walls, a roof and was heated mostly from a central hearth, but it also had gardens, frescos, rooms to entertain guests. Family life had grabbed a gigantic flag and staked a claim. And it wasn’t going anywhere.



Looks more like a compound than a house, but it’s house. Just go with it.

Next week we’ll go over the direction housing took from here. The spread across Europe and each country’s translation on different themes. Italy, France, Europe and eventually America will all be making an appearance. Oh, and that fun Japanese architecture I promised earlier.

Stay tuned.





Ranch dressing is awesome. Ranch houses aren’t bad either.

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I’m going to get this out of the way right now, because I know more than a few of you were wondering. I love ranch dressing. Like, an unhealthy amount. As in, sometimes, when no one’s looking, I pull out the little bottle I keep in my pocket and take a sip. And by sip, I mean mouthful.


I'm neither of these people, but I'd be lying if I said I haven't done this before. And enjoyed it.

So now you know.

I think we can all agree that we think of ranch houses when we see ranch dressing, or visa versa. What with the aforementioned ranch dressing flask I keep with me at all times, I think it goes without saying that ranches are on my mind a lot, both the houses and the dressing. And let me tell you right now – it is a weird state of mind to be in.

But you know what isn’t weird? Ranch houses. They’re quite the opposite, actually. They define simple. Last week there was a post from April about bungalows, and how they became popular for the lower middle class right after WWI. Well, ranch houses were popular for a lot of the same reasons, at the same time, but for the middle class. They were the upgrade to bungalows.

Ranches went through a couple evolutions, but the style essentially remained the same. Single story, long and low, attached garage, simple/open floor plans, sliding glass door leading to a patio, large windows, simple/rustic interior and exterior. You might have noticed I used the word “simple” twice in the description. Not a mistake.


Cozy, simple, cozy.


But as we learned last week, simple houses definitely aren’t a bad thing. I remember April using words like “cozy” and “intimate” and probably “cozy” again. Ranch style homes took the good points of bungalows and just sort of stretched them out a bit. They focused on large living areas and bedrooms, eat-in kitchens and good-sized yards. Between ranches and bungalows, almost the entire image of a family at that time was defined.

Around the 70s, however, neo-eclectic homes had become the home of choice after elements of the style had spent a few years diluting the simpler ranch designs. At that time, land prices were rising, so it became less practical to build the single-story ranch. Traditional houses, fusing the grandeur of older Victorian homes with the modern appeal of ranches, became the go-to design.

During the late 90s, though, ranches saw a bit of a revival, mostly through a process called gentrification. Basically, gentrification is the process of the rich purchasing houses that may be considered beneath their normal buying level, then upgrading them. These upgrades increase the value of the home and surrounding property, making it difficult for the current level of income families to stay in the area. They move away, the rich move in. Gentrification.

Anyway, late 90s and ranches were going through gentrification mostly, but they were also catching the eyes of both young home buyers attracted by the low price and simple (that word again) design, and also older couples who needed a house they could easily navigate as they aged. They don’t enjoy quite the popularity they had in earlier decades, but are still a desired style for many people.

So if you’re interested in coziness and intimacy and coziness again, with some room to move around in, we’re the clear choice. Call us and we’ll design you a ranch house. We can discuss the plans over an ice-cold glass of Hidden Valley.




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