Decorating Ideas: How to Design with your Kids

Shedding Some Light on a New Room

Shedding Some Light on a New Room

By Kathy Woodard

Congratulations, you have survived the moving process to your new home! Although your kids accepted the moving news, they may be feeling less than settled in — as well as a little scared and uneasy once they are in their new home. One of the best ways to help kids make the transition after a move is create a space that is all their own by decorating their room. This will help them create a new look for their new room, as well as offer a creative outlet and a way for them to express themselves.

Start talking about decorating your child’s new room before moving day. Allow the excitement to help with those difficult transitions. Brainstorm ideas with your child, so you can get an idea of what appeals to them!

As soon as you are settled into your new home, start making decorating your kids rooms a reality. Take them shopping in your new community to get ideas for their room décor. (This is a also a great way for them to start feeling more at home)

Create a plan with your child, not for them. You want to make sure your child is involved in the whole process. This way they will feel a real kinship with their new space, and taking ownership goes a long way toward getting over that homesick feeling for all they left behind at their old home.

Pick a theme and a color scheme with your child. This doesn’t have to be some cutesy cartoon character theme or anything commercial at all. Perhaps your 10-year-old wants a chic, stylish room painted in pinks and greens; while your toddler may want fish and mermaids. As soon as you identify your theme, write it down and have them make a drawing or list of what things they would like included in their room. Make sure they include the necessities like window coverings and storage, in addition to the beaded curtain they want as a closet door, or the disco ball they will insist will make a great bedroom lamp. Sit down together, and make choices as to what will be acceptable to you, and what you can afford.

Come up with creative ways you can make the room happen within your budget, and work on these home improvement projects together. Some money saving ideas?

•    Sew two sheets together on three sides and insert their old comforter for an inexpensive duvet cover.

•    Use paint to create the feeling in the room. Whether your child is quiet and shy, outgoing and vivacious, or somewhere in between, the right color scheme for their personality will make the difference between the room being a success, or a dud! Paint is cheap; use it ravishingly to create a fantasy for your child.

•    Visit dollar shops for accessories for your child. Fun picture frames, storage baskets in bright colors, and themed toys to use for décor are all easy finds that will save you big money. Remember, stick to your theme!

•    Craft and fabric stores are a gold mine for the DIY decorator. Use iron on hem tape to create simple curtains and throw pillows. Use craft foam in your rooms colors to cut out shapes that can be used as 3-D art on the walls.

•    Visit thrift stores and yard sales to find rugs, lamps and accessories that can be renewed with a quick update of paint or fabric.

Finally, make a party of decorating day. Assemble all the ingredients and implement them all at once, instead of gradually. This gives a dramatic effect and underlines the importance this new space has for the child. Allow them to invite a couple of their new friends over to celebrate, or make it a family affair with a barbecue or the child’s favorite dinner.

Decorating for kids when you move to a new home can be a fun and a healthy transitional experience for both parent and child. Take advantage of the situation to make it a bonding experience you will both remember.

Want free home and garden ideas? Kathy Woodard is an author, columnist and home decorating expert. Read more articles written by Kathy on the websites and


How to Locate a Contractor

A Roofing Job Placed by a Contractor

A New Roof Placed by a Contractor

By Serena Norr

Remodeling is great way to alter some rooms in your home to add value to your property, or as a way to fix and repair existing damage. Anything from adding on new bathroom tiles to expanding your kitchen to knocking down walls can be a great way to add value to your home and of course make it more presentable.

Some people opt to go the do-it-yourself route as they channel their inner decorator/contractor in order to save money. This can be a great idea for simple projects like painting and gardening, but with massive projects such as landscaping or window installation it is better to hire a professional such as a contractor.

Once you decide to hire a contractor, there will be the challenge of actually finding one and not finding just anyone, but someone whose services, rates, professionalism and personality are all on par with what you need. This will require some time and research on your part as you ask friends, post tweets, scour the internet and skim through your phone book. It is also important to figure out exactly what you need (bathroom tiles), as well your design ideas (pink elephants on the tiles, but not too pink) and of course your budget. Having in-house meetings where you can ask questions, show the potential contractor your home, as well as receive multiple bids is huge when locating a contractor. Be wiry of going with the cheapest bid, sometimes this may be the right decision, but the old adage of “you get what you pay for” is certainly prevalent with some contractors. You also want to pick someone that you get along with since they will be working for you, as well as fixing or creating part of your home. Through this preparation you will soon be working with the contractor of your dreams.

1. Contractors from Friends and Family Referrals
Word-of-mouth research is a great (and easy) way to locate contractors. Start by asking your co-workers, friends and family members for referrals. These first-hand experiences will be the best way to hear contractor stories from a trusted source. You can also visit the homes where the contractor worked, which is a great way to see their work before you even meet with them.

2. Social Media Contractors
Twitter, Facebook, Digg (and many others) have changed the way in which we share information and locating a contractor is no different. Post on your wall or write a tweet that you are seeking a contractor, along with the specific details of your job (if characters permit). You may also see postings about contractors on another friend’s wall, which was the case with one of our readers. She writes: “A friend/former colleague posted on Facebook about a roofing job he was just completing at his home and mentioned the contractor who was doing the work. He praised the good work this contractor was doing so I wrote back asking for details. He posted photos of the contractor’s work to my wall and forwarded along contact information. We’re planning to use these guys this summer for some home projects.”

3. Contractors in your Neighborhood
Another great way to locate a contractor is to be on the look out for any home construction projects in your neighborhood.  Even if you don’t know your neighbors, asking a few questions about their contractors and their services will narrow down your selections. In the very least, it will add another connection on your list of prospective contractors.

4. Searching for a Contractor Online
Yes, you can find a contractor via the Internet, but you have to be very aware of too-good-to-be-true prices and claims online. Make a list of four-five contractors that you are interested in; based on their services, rates, Better Business Bureau to see if any unresolved issues or complaints were taken out against the contractor. You can also check out the National Association of the Remodeling Industry and Contractor Check, which allows consumers to search for contractors in their area, check their background, licenses, years in business, insurances of if  they have any complaints. You can also locate a reputable and licensed contractor through our extensive database of local professionals. When looking at prices online, don’t use those numbers as concrete figures until a contractor actually visits your home and you receive an estimate in writing. You can also locate contractors on sites like Craigslist, where local contractors post advertisements about their service, etc, but also be sure to look into references and liabilities when going this route. Also, this goes without saying, but be wary of any contractor that only accepts cash or requires money upfront.

5. Phone Books for a Contractor
Not many people use phone books anymore, but these local directories can be a great way to locate a contractor. The same way you searched for contractors online, you can also try your luck by finding one from the yellow pages. This is also not very time-consuming and you can go at your pace. When you call a contractor, have these calls be a consultation where you ask companies about their services, company history and customer experiences. Generally, contractors that are reputable have a list of customers that have agreed to act as references. Ask the rep or contractor themselves if you can have the names and contact information of past customers. If they don’t have these listings you can also ask where you can see examples of their past jobs (pictures, websites, etc).

This initial call may even determine if you want to meet with them in-person based on the amount of information that you received to the demeanor of the customer service rep. Also, be aware of guarantees or if a rep tells you have to make a decision now and offers you a rate over the phone, as this also can fall into the “too good to be true” category. Based on what information you like, arrange to meet with these individuals in person.


8 Questions to Ask a Prospective Contractor

So the moving company has left, all your stuff is set up perfectly and you’re looking to get some work done. Don’t hire a contractor without first asking these questions:

Are you covered?
This is a question with no wiggle room. Under so circumstances should you work with an individual or company that is not licensed and bonded. That means requesting–and verifying–proof that he or she is currently state licensed, paying employees legally and carrying workers’ compensation, property damage and liability insurance.

What clubs do you belong to?
If your prospective contractor has a list of clubs and associations they belong to, it’s always a good sign. Usually, members are encouraged to attend continuing education program courses, and they often receive professional designations such as Certified Graduate Builder (CGB).

What is the estimate?
Along with the other questions you want to ask during the process of hiring a contractor, you should request an itemized estimate from each. Be sure to look over the information thoroughly, paying particular attention to those that seem too high as well as too low. Estimates that fall in the shallow end of the pool can be a red flag for a hasty job that won’t leave you with a quality product; those on the high end might have artificially inflated prices.

Can I have a copy of the schedule?
You need to know exactly how long that kitchen renovation is going to take. Before you hire a contractor, you should ask them to provide you with a fixed start date and a completion date–including any cleanup duties. These dates should be included in the formal written agreement, along with a timetable of the work that’ll be done and a material list of everything that’ll be needed.

What is the payment schedule?
Most professional builders work on a pay-as-you-go basis, receiving partial payments throughout the process. The payments for new construction, also called draws, typically are scheduled as a certain percentage of the total cost when specific stages of construction are completed. Avoid any contractor who wants full payment before starting the job.

In addition to your references, can I have a list of previous customers?
It’s one thing to talk to a list of people the contractor has prepared for your call; it’s another thing to cold call prior customers from whom you’re more likely to get an honest assessment.

Can I see some of your projects?
Good builders are proud of their work and enjoy showing it to potential clients. Ask to see photographs of complete projects, and choose someone whose work looks similar to the job you’re planning.

How do you schedule call backs?
You want to know what to expect and how to best contact the contractor if, for any reason, they need to come back and fix or redo a job. Go with the person that has a concrete plan for these types of issues.

Related Articles:
How to Set Your Home Improvement Plan
Hiring a Contractor: When to Know When You Need One
How to Get Along With Contractors