Choosing the Right Roofing for Your Style

Home and Greenery

When it comes to roofing your home, there are several different styles and options to choose from. What is your preferred style? Do you have a color preference? Does your home have a certain design element, such as modern, cabin style, or pueblo style? Having a particular roofing style in mind can help you to limit your choices when selecting a new roof. Here are some things you need to know about different roofing styles, and how to choose one that best suits your home.

Design a Look
Before you start looking at composition, laminate, or metal roofing, first, you need to determine what your design style is. One thing to consider is the curb appeal of your home. Do you want to install a new roof that will boost curb appeal? As you look through the various selections available for roofing, you need to determine the color, roofing style, and how long you want the roof to last. A pueblo-styled home, for example, will look best with clay tiles, compared to wood shakes or composite shingles. However, a cabin-styled home will look best with wood shakes or shingles versus clay tiles or metal roofing. Understanding the style of your home will make it easier to begin browsing for the correct roofing materials.

Composition Roofing
Many people select composition roofing because it comes in a variety of colors and styles. Composition roofing is normally called asphalt shingles, and it is one of the cheapest roofing materials available. The other positive benefit to asphalt shingles is they are easy to install and repair. Modern asphalt shingles will help to protect against the sun, which reduces energy costs. You can create a unique design style with composition roofing by selecting two or three different colors of shingles and alternating them. The originality of this design will make your house stand out from the rest. When selecting asphalt shingles, remember, the thicker the shingle, the longer it will last. Composition roofing choices can vary in price, but they average about $50 per square, plus installation costs.

Wood Roofing
While choosing to use wood for a roof can help reduce energy costs, it can also require more effort on your part to maintain the roof. Wood shingles and shakes made for the home normally come from redwood, pine, and cedar. This roofing style will need to be maintained properly to protect the home from leaks. The other concern with wood roofing is pest infestations. Certain bugs can burrow in the wood, and you can have troubles with rodents. Proper treatment of the wood is the best way to prevent problems with these pests. You will need to spray the wood shingles with waterproofing treatments as they start to age. The great thing about wood roofing is how unique it is. It can drastically change the look of your home, and thanks to the way wood breathes, it will help to keep your energy costs lower. Wood roofing can last upwards of 25 years with proper maintenance. The average cost of wood roofing ranges from $100 per square, plus installation costs.

Metal Roofing
If you want to choose roofing that is fire-resistant, energy reducing, and long lasting, opt for metal roofing. Metal roofs can reflect the sunlight, helping to reduce energy bills, as heat won’t be absorbed into the attic. Metal roofing can come in large sheets, or you can select smaller shingles. Metal roofing will last upwards of 40 years, and you can choose various paint options. Paint can help your roof to match the color of your home. Select a higher-grade metal like steel or copper over aluminum, as aluminum can dent in a hailstorm. Metal roofing also varies in price, but it averages $100 or more per square, plus installation costs.
Hosuse with Gate
Meeting with a Roofer
While three roofing selections above are the most common, it is important to meet with a quality roofing company to help you create a design style that best suits your home. If you want to use the composition roofing materials, but are unhappy with the colors, consider special ordering shingles. Obtaining the right color can make your home a stand out in the neighborhood. Certain colors are easier to obtain for roofers than others, so you can end up spending more if you want an uncommon color. The other thing to consider when choosing shingles is the neighborhood. Do you want your home to blend in with the others, or would you like your home to stand out? A good roofer can help you evaluate your options to find the correct roofing style to match your home and personal design.

This article was written by Jared Miert, home improvement blogger, hubby and dad.  If you are looking for a new roof or just a quick repair, click here.

Awesome Driveway Designs

Driveway and Gate

Driveways are often overlooked when it comes to home decoration, but they shouldn’t be. When you or a visitor arrives at your house, the very first thing visible is the driveway; and, as the saying goes, you only get one chance to make a good first impression. As such, for anyone caring about the appearance of their home, the driveway is a perfect place to begin decorating, designing, or improving. A driveway offers countless opportunities for artistic creativity, as well as self-expression. You can make your driveway uniquely you, completely unlike any other in your neighborhood or city, while still being gorgeous and functional. Here are a few awesome driveway designs:

Landscape the surrounding area
Perfect for long driveways, landscaping near the sides can enhance your driveway’s beauty. From flowers to bushes to trees, you can turn the area on either side of your driveway into a fairy tale nature haven that makes you feel like you are driving into a beautiful, exotic, and secretive garden every time you come home. There are few better ways to make your home classy, beautiful, and mystical than by properly landscaping the area around your driveway.
Beautify your concrete
One of the best ways to make a gorgeous and yet classy driveway is to go for the beautified concrete look. From different designs to various shapes and colors, the myriad possibilities presented to you with concrete beautification make it possible for you to create a driveway perfect for you, and completely unique to you. When your friends come over, they’ll be treated to a driveway unlike any they have ever seen before. Plus, the look of beautified concrete is modern, upscale, and artistic.

Plant in the median strip
One of the most unique driveway designs is the median strip garden. Simply by having the median strip (the middle part of the driveway, between the tires) lower than the rest of the driveway, you can create an entire garden impervious to the bottom of your car when you come and go. You’ll enjoy seeing beautiful flowers and exotic plants directly in front of you as you seemingly drive over them, assured in your knowledge that they are undamaged. It’s not only a fun way to support a gardening hobby, but it’s also a driveway that you can bet none of your friends have.
House with Gate
Brick surface
There may be no prettier building material than brick, and that is as true for driveways as anything else. If you build a driveway out of brick, you can add a mesmerizing and rustic element to your home. The beautiful color of brick will immediately set the tone for your home, welcoming any guests or visitors in classy and artistic fashion.

Wood surface
Similar to making a brick surface, a wood driveway can add aesthetic appeal to your home. Wood is classy, but also simplistic. A wood driveway makes the entrance to your home subtle and sweet, brilliant and beautiful. Plus, you can choose a gorgeous wood that perfectly complements your home, so that your driveway acts as trimming for your pretty house.

Plant grass
One of the quaintest driveways around is a grass driveway. Many people don’t think to build a grass driveway, because they know they’ll be driving on top of it. In actuality, your wheels drive over the same two lanes every time you enter or exit your driveway, meaning that the rest of the driveway is perfect for grass. A grass driveway with lush greenery and two perfect pathways for your tires can be an endearing path for years to come.

With these ideas, you can have the prettiest driveway you and your friends have ever seen, and it can be uniquely you. Build one of these driveways, and you’ll smile every time you come home.

This article is written by Jared Miret, home improvement blogger.  Jared recommends contacting as an affordable way to renew your driveway.

How to Keep Your Pipes from Freezing (And What to Do When They Freeze)

Home Repair
Every year when winter comes, home owners and residents find themselves scrambling to prepare for the realities of harsh cold weather. Winter can be a fun time of the year, but only if you are adequately prepared for it. If you are not prepared, you will quickly find that winter is the most troublesome and stressful season. When the weather turns, the house problems can mount, making it quite the chore just to go about your day-to-day life. Thankfully, there are good ways to prepare.

One of the best things you can do to prepare for winter is make sure that your water pipes are ready for the cold temperatures. Temperatures are reaching record lows, so the probability of having frozen pipes is high. Frozen water pipes can be a gigantic trouble. When your pipes freeze, water flow gets blocked and can burst the pipes, causing flooding and thousands of dollars in damage. Plus, broken pipes temporarily mean no water for your house. So it’s best that you prepare to make sure you don’t get stuck with ice in your pipes and nothing but air in your faucet. Here are a few ways to prevent frozen pipes and some tips on what to do in the event that your pipes do actually freeze.

How to prevent frozen pipes
Insulate: The single best way to prevent your pipes from freezing is to insulate them. Insulation is extremely affordable and very easy to install. You can install some simple pipe insulation for $20 or $30 and avoid having to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for repairs. While it’s best that you insulate all of your pipes, it is most important that you make sure to insulate the areas of pipe that are exposed to the coldest weather, such as any places where the pipes travel outside of your house or run along an outside wall (a wall that isn’t insulated). Remember, it only takes your pipe freezing in one location to entirely block your water flow.

Periodically run the water: The longer that water is stagnant, the easier it will freeze. So it’s important that you run water through all the pipes with some regularity. You don’t need to waste water by leaving faucets on, but make sure that those guest bathrooms that don’t get used often get their faucets turned on every once in a while. This will keep the water moving and prevent the ice from forming. If you anticipate a cold night coming up, turn on all the rarely used faucets in the house for at least a few seconds to get the water running.

Heat your cold rooms: It goes without saying that the coldest areas of your house are likely to be the culprit if pipes freeze. That means that your basement is just waiting to freeze your pipes. If pipe insulation isn’t enough (or you don’t want to install it), buy a space heater for your cold rooms and turn it on periodically to keep the ambient heat high enough to prevent freezing.

If your pipes freeze
If your preventive tactics are too late, have no fear. Here are two good ways to handle frozen pipes:

Thaw them: You can thaw your pipes with space heaters, hair dryers, or warm towels. You want to be sure to avoid anything that could be harmful or dangerous, such as fire or torches. When you’re thawing your pipes, make sure to have your faucet on; that way, when a little bit of the ice melts, the water will have somewhere to go, which will expedite the process (and also let you know if you’re having success).
Plumber II
Call a plumber: If you aren’t able to easily thaw the pipes yourself, call a professional plumber. If you don’t know what you are doing, you can do serious damage to your plumbing system and even to your house. Plumbing should only be done by those who know what they are doing.

With these tips, you will be able to handle frozen pipes or prevent them from freezing in the first place.

This article was written by father and home handyman, Jared Miret. Jared recommends calling Doug Turner Plumbing if you are unsure how to handle your frozen pipes.

Energy-Efficient Heating and Cooling Ideas


One of the most wasteful things in an average consumer’s life is heating and cooling. We all care about heating and cooling our homes, as it is the key to being comfortable in the places we live. But, because the weather fluctuates so much, we end up having to use a lot of energy to heat and cool our houses. Of course, the detrimental impact of using large amounts of energy to regulate temperatures is twofold: First, energy is extremely expensive, so the more you use, the harder your wallet gets hit. And second, our energy consumption is harming the environment. Every bit we use has a negative impact, so it’s imperative that we find ways to reduce our energy consumption and our carbon footprints. Thankfully, there are a few simple tricks that can help you save energy—and thus money and the environment—on home heating and cooling costs.

Energy efficient heating
Insulation: Insulation is a pretty basic home feature, but many houses lack it, despite the fact that it is easy to install and extremely affordable. In fact, installing insulation in your home can pay for itself in just a few months because of how much it will lower your heating bill. It’s pretty simple: insulation does to your home what a winter coat does to your body. When the cold comes, it keeps all the warmth inside. Simply insulating your home can save you hundreds of dollars a year on heating, while dramatically decreasing your environmental impact.

Solar heating: If you feel like taking it a step further, you can install solar panels to heat your home. Solar panels rely on light from the sun for energy, which is far more environmentally friendly than other sources of energy. Solar heating can be achieved in two ways: you can get full solar panels, which provide electricity for your whole home, or you can get a solar heating system, which heats water that then travels through your house, heating it in the process.

Replace your windows with energy-efficient options: There are two reasons why replacing your old windows with new, energy-efficient ones is a good option. First, energy-efficient windows are designed specifically to maximize heat absorption and retention. They simply do a better job of keeping your home warm than traditional windows do. In addition, your old windows almost surely have imperfections in their frames. Many windows are not installed perfectly, and even if they are, they will develop framing imperfections in a matter of just a few years. This may not seem like a big deal, but it is. Even the tiniest imperfection in the frame lets in a constant draft of outside air, which, over time, dramatically increases the money you have to spend on heating. Thankfully, if you opt to buy energy-efficient windows, you can get a strong tax return to reward you for your environmentally conscious decision.

Window to Garden

Energy efficient cooling
Shades: Many people don’t realize it, but using shades to cover windows can have just as strong of an impact as turning on the air conditioning. Shades keep some of the strength of the sun away, thus keeping your home a cool and comfortable haven.

Paint your house and walls light colors: As we all learned in grade school, dark colors retain heat. The difference between having a brown house with grey walls and having a tan house with white walls can be the difference between you turning on the air conditioning or not. Keep your colors light (this goes for curtains and furniture as well), and you’ll keep your house cool.

Replace your windows: Replacing your windows doesn’t just help you heat your home, it also helps you cool it. When hot weather comes, the air gets moist (especially if you live in the southern states of the U.S.). When that moist air creeps into your home through imperfections in your window frames, it makes it harder to keep the air cool. Replacing your windows can solve this problem and keep your cooling costs down.

With these tips, you can keep your home at a comfortable temperature all year long, without hurting your wallet or the environment.

This article was written by Jared Miret, home improvement blogger.  Jared says, if you must use Air Conditioners, remember to keep them out of landfills by having them repaired rather than replaced. Check out AC repair in Cypress, Texas today.

5 of the Weirdest Things Commonly Dug Up in Backyards

Digging Up a BackyardA number of common home improvement tasks might require you to dig up parts of your backyard. Diverse remodeling tasks, ranging from installing patios and ponds, to fixing up the messes left by critters in your backyard, all necessitate getting your hands a bit dirty.

While you may not venture into your front or back yard with the intent of unearthing valuable treasures and artifacts, on occasion you may be shocked what you find when digging a hole to plant a tree, tilling your land, or planting a garden. Your average backyard project probably won’t  include a call to your local archaeologist, but countless homeowners have unearthed odd and startling objects over time. Below are some of the most common surprises that people have when digging in their backyards.

1. Ancient Bones

Over the last 150 years, residents of Michigan have unearthed ancient fossil bones just by digging around. In 2012, two 11-year-old boys dug up a bone they initially thought was a cool rock to add to their collection. It ended up being a mastodon vertebra! While the average person will not come across such a rare find, you should submit photos of any large and uneasily identified bones to a nearby paleontologist just in case!

A more common discovery might be finding any number of other fossils, ranging from ancient shells, insects encased in amber, to petrified wood. Your local geological surveys might be able to provide helpful keys for identifying common fossils in backyards.

2. Ancient Artifacts

While you may not know what an ancient artifact looks like at first glance, you will surely take note of any unique pieces of art or tools that are uncovered when you are digging and working in your yard. In 2006 , a Washington state man found a 1,000-year-old Native American artifact while working on his rock garden. If you find something in your yard that appears to be some type of ancient artifact, you can have it authenticated by a local anthropologist or archeologist. While you might not be able to cash in immediately on your find, you can easily find joy in having excavated a part of history in your own backyard.

Planting3. Hidden Treasures

We have all heard of maps that lead to hidden treasures buried decades ago by pirates and thieves. But most of us would not go as far as to search for these buried treasures on our own. In 2013, someone did just that—by accident! A farmer who was searching for the keys he dropped in his field was surprised to find 14 medieval coins that dated back to the 14th and 15th centuries. (But unless you’re While it’s not exactly a pot of gold, each of these coins is worth $700-$800! If you find old coins in your yard or floating around your house (maybe in the back of a drawer!), you can take them to a coin store for authentication. The older the coins are the more specialized the coin dealer will need to be.

While you probably have to reside in Europe, Asia, or South America to find the world’s oldest hidden treasures, Americans have found their fair share of unearthed historical and fascinating objects as well.

4. Deceased Pets

While burying a pet in the backyard may not be uncommon, it can sure be a surprise when you find a pet that the previous home owner buried. From time to time, people even come across bones of bodies buried on their homestead instead of in a local cemetery. If you find bones that appear to be human, call your local police station to confirm that the bones are not part of a crime.

5. Time Capsules

Time capsules are a popular trend that many people bury at significant milestones in their lives. At the time a capsule is buried, it is intended to be found by future generations or uncovered by the creator several years down the road. While time capsules do not often contain items of material value, they can hold great personal value for the person that created them.

While it is more likely that you will find nothing other than dirt, rocks, worms and bugs when you are digging in your yard, keep your eye out for anything unexpected just in case!

Guest writer Ryan Diaz enjoys getting his hands dirty, and can frequently be found assisting homeowners with improvement and beautification projects in the Gulf Coast of Texas and Louisiana. He has come across many of the weird objects listed above while installing concrete in Houston-area homes.

Patio Remodel(1)

Top 5 Patio Designs

Having an outdoor patio to entertain guests and spend quality time with your family may be high on your list of priorities. If you are considering adding a patio to your outdoor living space, you may be looking for a source of inspiration. The patios of today rival the features, functions, and comfort of indoor living spaces—even outdoors in the fresh air. Below are a few ideas to help you get inspired when building or redesigning the right patio for your backyard.

Even basic patios can be cool and fun if they are accessorized correctly. For example, if you have a fairly basic concrete patio, you can easily dress it up by building a patio cover or awning, adding decorative potted plants, or lining the concrete with a flowerbed or bushes. You can also invest in luxurious patio furniture in a color pattern or theme that best expresses your personality. The more comfortable and inviting your patio, the more your friends and family will want to enjoy the outdoors.
While most patios have some amount of greenery or outdoor elements nearby, you may choose to create a garden patio where your greenery and flowerbeds are the primary focal point. There are many ways to create a garden patio. For example, you could create walls or a patio cover using a lattice that you thread with ivy or a climbing flower such as wisteria or sweet pea. You can also build your patio into the center of your garden or flowerbed and mix in elements such as a koi pond or a tranquil fountain.

Poolside Patios
If you have a pool or hot tub outside, your patio design may be based around maximizing these outdoor water elements. For example, adjustable lounge chairs that allow you to sunbathe go hand-in-hand with poolside patios. You may also want lower side tables for your poolside patio that allow you to access snacks and beverages while lounging or while floating over to the edge of the pool to grab a bite to eat or a drink. Don’t forget that you and your guests may prefer a break from the sun while lounging poolside, so create some shaded areas with patio umbrellas, awnings, or built-in structures. Also consider adding a pool house for changing in and out of swimwear and storing water accessories. You may even want an outdoor restroom.

Screened Patios
If you want the fresh air and light of the outdoors but want to keep the comforts of the indoors and a greater sense of privacy, consider a screened patio. Screened patios can be built with removable windows or screens so the patio can be enjoyed regardless of the weather. These types of patios can have indoor light fixtures, electrical outlets, and even indoor furniture depending on their exposure to the elements. You can add a door that leads directly to your yard and your outdoor grilling space. Screened patios are the ideal choice if you would like to have a year-round formal patio.
Outdoor Living Room
Outdoor Kitchen Designs
One of the fastest-growing trends in outdoor patios is building a patio with all the features and functions of an indoor kitchen. These patios will include a sink, refrigeration, drawers, cupboards, and even a range and oven. If you prefer the idea of grilling outdoors you can build in a brick oven, or you can leave a space between your counters to keep your preferred grill easily accessible. One of the many advantages of having an outdoor kitchen is that it eliminates the need to run to and from the house to keep food items at a safe temperature. It also allows you to prepare food on your outdoor counter space and gives you a built-in serving area. You can even build bar-style seating or use traditional patio furniture for your outdoor kitchen.

Each of the patio ideas above is a general theme you can use for inspiration. However, you can add your own personality and style to your outdoor patio by selecting furniture and accessories in the color, décor, and theme that best suits your tastes. With the growing popularity of creating outdoor living spaces, your options for outdoor furniture and dining wear have gone from cheap and flimsy plastic to comfortable, elegant, and luxurious.

This article was written by Jared Miret.  Jared is a father and home handyman who loves reading up on tips for building a great patio, DIY home projects, and great home improvement ideas.  He gives these things a try, then blogs about his real experience.

Window on Green Wall

DIY Window Shutters

Adding shutters to your windows is a great way to give your home a cute, stylish “cottage” look. It’s also an incredibly easy project that won’t cost you too much money. You can always go out and purchase some pre-made shutters from your favorite home improvement store, but that can get expensive depending on the style you’re looking for. Besides, there’s no guarantee that you will be able to find a style that actually fits with your home and window style. As with most home improvement projects, the best way to make sure that you have the ideal shutters for your home is to build them yourself. It does take a little extra work, but the job is actually easier than you might expect, if you have the right tools and materials for the job. It will also be a great way for you to save some money as well. This simple guide for building your own basic window shutters will help you get started.

Gathering the Right Materials
The obvious first step in building your own shutters is gathering the proper supplies and equipment. Your supplies will depend on the kinds of windows you have, so make sure that you have accurate measurements of all of your windows before you start shopping for materials. Once you have measurements, it’s time to buy the wood that you will be using for your shutters. For a basic board and batten shutter, you will need three long planks of wood measured to fit the height of each of your windows and two smaller pieces of wood measured to their width. The smaller pieces are called the battens, and they will be placed across the longer planks to hold them together. You will also need a box of 1-inch exterior screws, a drill, and some hinges if you want your shutters to be functional. You will need two hinges per shutter. Otherwise, you can screw the shutters directly onto your outer wall if you want them to be for appearances only. Depending on the kind of wood you use, this project can be completed for about $40.

Building the Shutters
The next step will be to make sure you know how the shutters will go together. Line up the three long planks of wood so that they fit together evenly, and use a piece of cardboard as a guide to figure out where the batten will fit. You will want the batten to be at the same place on each shutter, so make sure all of your measurements are exact. You will need two battens per shutter placed close to either end.

Once the three long planks are placed together evenly and you know where your battens are going to go, you will add the actual battens to the shutters. The battens will be held in place with two screws drilled into the wood from the back of the shutters. Drilling from the back will eliminate the need to counter sink and add wood fill. It also gives your shutters a better appearance by keeping the screws almost entirely hidden. Repeat these steps until you have two evenly spaced battens holding your shutters together, and you are done with the actual construction. This shouldn’t take you longer than one afternoon. All that is left is to paint or stain the shutters and install them.


Installing the Shutters
How you want to install your shutters is really up to you. If you want them to be stationary, you can drill them into the outer wall of your house on either side of your windows. As always, make sure you measure closely so that everything is at the proper height and width; you don’t want your shutters and your windows to be miss-matched. If you want your shutters to actually function, you will need the proper hinges. Basic strap hinges will work just fine for this project. Buy two hinges per shutter, and install them on your windows at the height you want.

Whether you want to give your home the appearance of a cute cottage or you want a way to give yourself some extra privacy, a set of cheap homemade shutters is truly the way to go. They are remarkably easy to build, and they are certainly cheaper than most pre-made shutters. Remember this project the next time you want to increase your home’s curb appeal.

This article was written by Jared Miret, father and home handyman.  Jared’s wife was so set on getting window shutters to go with the new Home Exterior Systems for Simonton windows in Houston, that he quickly learned how to make and install them.

House with Trees

Eco-friendly Roofing

If you are building a new home or replacing the roof on your current home, you may be looking for some eco-friendly roofing options. Depending on the type of home or building you own, and the needs you have for your roof, there are a variety of eco-friendly roofing options to choose from. Below are a few ideas to consider.

Recycled Shingles
Repurposing plastic, rubber, or wood is one eco-friendly way to fix your roof. By purchasing shingles made with recycled materials, you can achieve the look and feel of traditional shingles, without using 100 percent new materials. Recycled shingles offer your roof the same protection as traditional shingles, but they are more environmentally friendly.
Wooden Shingles
Depending on where you live, you may be able to install wooden shingles to your roof. Before investing in them, check to make sure that they do not violate your city’s codes or ordinances, as some places see them as a greater fire risk than traditional shingles. While wooden shingles are less toxic and take less energy to produce than other types, some people feel that cutting down old cedar to create shingles may not be particularly environmentally friendly.

Zinc Roofing
Zinc roofing has a long life span, is highly durable, 100 percent recyclable, rustproof, and fireproof. Zinc roofs are ideal in snowy areas because the snow will simply slide off the roof, unlike with shingles. Zinc is one of many metals that can be used for roofing, and the average metal roof lasts for up to 50 years. Metal roofs also eliminate the need for installing a roof with toxic chemicals and asphalt.

Rooftop Gardens
One way many homeowners in large cities green their roof is to add a rooftop garden or green roof. Rooftop gardens are eco-friendly in a couple of different ways. They add oxidizing plants, flowers, and foliage to the local environment and have also been shown to provide an additional level of insulation, leading to lower heating and cooling bills. Rooftop gardens can also be used to produce fruits and vegetables or other greenery. If your roof is not flat or easily accessible by foot, you may be able to install green roofs with lightweight foliage or moss.

Home with Solar Pannels
Solar Panels
Roofs are an ideal place to add solar panels, as they have an unobstructed view of the sun. Solar panels will reduce or eliminate your need for traditional electricity altogether, and they will provide a reflective layer of protection on warm and sunny days.

Painted Roofs
An inexpensive way to reduce your energy consumption is to paint your roof white, or install white or light colored shingles to your roof. A lighter colored roof will reflect 70-80 percent of the daily sunlight, compared to darker roofs, which only reflect 10-20 percent of light. This allows you to reduce your cooling bills during the spring and summer seasons.

Create Shade
If you have greened your roof as much as possible, but are still looking for ways to improve your home’s energy efficiency, consider creating additional shade by planting strategically placed trees in your yard. They will need adequate time to grow to a height in which they can provide your home with additional shade, but fully-grown trees can lower your homes temperature by as much as nine degrees. Additionally, you can also plant shrubs and bushes outside windows with direct sunlight. While the shrubs and bushes will help to create shade and block the sun, they will still emit an adequate amount of light.

This article was written by Jared Miret, father and home handyman.  If you like the idea of a zinc roof, he recommends Wade Architectural Systems, a leader in metal solutions

Electric Bill

7 DIY Energy Saving Tips

So much of our monthly income ends up going straight out to our utility companies.  Water, sewer and my least favorites, power and gas.  If you are looking for more ways to change your lifestyle and increase your energy efficiency (and of course, save money) you may be looking for some alterations you can make in your home. There are many do-it-yourself home projects that you can implement quickly and inexpensively to help conserve energy in your home. Below are 7 DIY projects, and changes you can make to your home to help conserve energy.

Upgrade To Energy Efficient Products
As more attention is drawn to reducing energy consumption, many electronics and appliance brands are producing energy efficient models of their products. This could be anything from your dishwasher, washer and dryer, computer, light bulbs, ceiling fans, and windows. While it may not be in your budget to replace all of these items at once, prioritize which ones you can upgrade in a manner that best fits your budget. When purchasing anything that draws energy, remember to inquire about energy efficient alternatives.
Home with Solar Pannels

Utilize Solar Power
Installing solar panels to provide electricity to your home is one way to significantly reduce your energy consumption. Depending on the type and size of solar panels you install, this is a project that can cost up to $15,000 to complete. With such a high price tag, this is not an investment that fits into everyone’s budget. For those looking for ways to use solar power without installing costly solar panels, look for other solar alternatives. This could be anything from solar powered outdoor lights, solar powered phone chargers, or solar powered electronic chargers.

Seal Windows And Doors
Regardless of the time of year or climate you live in, outdoor air can sneak in to even the tiniest of cracks and crevices in your windows and doors. This requires you to use both your heat and air-conditioning with greater frequency, which wastes energy. By investing a few dollars into sealing cracks and crevices, replacing old doorjambs, and installing weather stripping, you can keep your heating and cooling bills where they belong. For particularly drafty windows and doors, you can add curtains, install window insulation kits, or replace them altogether.

Insulate Your Home
There are many areas of your home in which you can add insulation to prevent heat from escaping. This could be anything from your basement, attic, hot water heater, or hot water pipes. For areas of your home that have been previously insulated, get into the habit of checking the insulation for damage or gaps every few years. When buying insulation, be sure to purchase the appropriate kind for the specific area of your home you are insulating. The average hot water pipe insulation for a DIY project costs approximately $20 to complete.

Reduce Vampire Energy Sources
The average American household spends at least $100 a year on vampire energy sources. Vampire energy sources are plugged in electronic devices and appliances that draw energy even when they are not currently turned on. This includes items such as your coffee pot, microwave, television, computer, and electronic chargers. To reduce your vampire energy consumption, get into the habit of unplugging things when they are not in use. For hard-to-reach vampire energy sources, purchase smart energy strips that will reduce or eliminate vampire energy from the items plugged into them.

Program Your Thermostat
By investing in a programmable thermostat, or utilizing the programmable features on your thermostat, you can avoid the yo-yo of turning your heat up and down and up again on a whim. You can also program your thermostat so that you are not excessively heating or cooling your home when it’s unnecessary. For example, when you are at work, you may drop the temperature in your home a few degrees, and then turn it back up when you return home.

Maintain Your Heating And Cooling Sources
Even if you have not upgraded to energy efficient heating and cooling sources, your appliances will consume less energy when they are properly maintained. Change the filters on your HVAC system, get a tune-up on your hot water heater, and clean the coils on your refrigerator on a regular basis.

This article was written by Jared Miret, father and home handyman.  He was tired of wasting money too, and made this changes to save some dough.  He also checked out for lower rates on the monthly electricity bill.

House and Sky

Prepare Your Roof For Winter

As a homeowner, one of your more costly home repairs is replacing your roof. Whether your roof is fairly new or several years old, you should protect your investment by performing annual roof maintenance and repairs. This will help extend the life of your roof and protect your home from the elements. The winter months are typically the time when your roof is exposed to the most extreme weather, including rain, snow, ice, hail, or high winds. To ensure that your roof is ready for the winter weather, follow the steps below.

Inspecting your roof before winter helps to ensure that you do not have any pre-existing damage, or areas of your roof that need attention. When inspecting your roof, look for any of these signs:

Sagging: A sagging area, or areas that appear as if they are sunk in, could be a sign that the plywood framing below is rotten.

Discoloration: Discoloration could mean that you have algae or moss on your roof. If this is not addressed in a timely manner it can lead to costly damage.

Missing Shingles: Your shingles are your roof’s first line of defense against the elements. In order to ensure that your roof is ready for the rain, snow, hail, and wind that may arrive in the winter months, replace all missing shingles. Also look for loose shingles that need additional roofing cement.

Curled Shingles: Curled shingles could be a sign that it is time to replace your roof. If you only have a few curled shingles within a general area, the area may need repair. Also inspect the keyways, or areas between the shingles, to ensure there is not any deterioration.

Check The Flashing: The flashing is the sheet metal that connects the joints of your roof to the side of your home, chimney, or plumbing vent pipes. Check to make sure that there are no holes or gaps in your flashing that can lead to leaks in your roof. If you find an area of the flashing with a hole or gap, then remove the old caulk completely before applying new caulking.

snow house
Clean Your Roof
Any dirt and debris that accumulates on your roof needs to be swept off prior to winter. This will require you to climb up on a ladder with a broom and gently sweep your shingles. If you do not remove debris, it will hold water when it rains and can lead to damage when left sitting on your roof for an extended period of time. When sweeping, be particularly careful if you have asphalt shingles. These shingles are particularly granular; make sure you are not sweeping away the shingles granules.

Clean And Inspect Your Gutters
Your gutters have the important job of guiding the rain, hail, and melted ice and snow from on your roof, to down drain spouts. Clogged gutters or those in need of repair can lead to pooling water and leaks. To prepare your gutters for winter, follow the steps below:

Remove Debris: Start by removing any fall leaves, dirt, and debris that have accumulated in your gutters. If not removed, the debris can restrict the flow of runoff and lead to clogs in your drain spout. You should remove the debris in your gutters at least twice a year, or each spring and fall. If cleaning your gutters is too much work, consider installing gutter guards that will drastically reduce your gutter cleaning time, as they will divert most debris back into your backyard.

Inspect: While you are cleaning your gutters be on the lookout for cracks, holes, or any loose or damaged areas. Gutters that are not in proper condition can lead to runoff in areas other than the drain spouts. Over time, this unplanned runoff can lead to damage and leaks.

Much of the maintenance and repairs above are DIY projects. However, if home maintenance is not your strong skill, or the height required to work on your roof is not a task you are up for, hire a local roof maintenance expert to complete the above maintenance and repairs for you. Even if you perform all of your roof maintenance yourself, it is a good idea to reach out to a professional on occasion to gain further insight as to how you can best maintain your roof.

This article was written by Jared Miret, father and home handyman.  Jared wants everyone to know how to protect their roofs from damage during the harsh winter months.  If you do experience some damage there are many roofing services in Houston that will take good care of your roofing needs.

Bathroom II

How To Fix A Running Toilet

Ever flush your loo then hear that dreaded sound as it doesn’t stop filling?  Maybe you “jiggle the handle” to see if it helps?  Well it is a great idea to learn how your toilet works so that you may fix it yourself. Knowing how to fix your toilet, instead of calling a plumber each time your toilet starts to run saves you time and money. Fixing it right away also saves water. Below are step-by-step instructions to help you learn how to fix a running toilet on your own.

Step 1: Take the time to learn how your toilet works
Fortunately, fixing a running toilet does not have to be a time-consuming or expensive process. It can be an easy fix, provided that you have taken the time to learn how your toilet works. Each type of toilet has a different structure, but the way in which toilets function is essentially the same.

Remove the lid from the tank and identify the flapper that lifts when you push the handle. This flapper allows a tankful of water to fall through the opening at the bottom of the tank and go into the toilet bowl.

Identify the plastic float in your toilet tank. When all goes well, the water in the holding tank drains and this float drops, signaling for water to refill the tank. As the water in the tank fills up, the float rises and signals for the water to stop filling the tank.

Identify the overflow tube that is usually in the middle of the toilet tank. If all goes well, this tube drains excess tank water into the toilet bowl.

Step 2: Ensure that the water in the tank is at the water line
One cause of a continuously running toilet is not having the water in the tank at the water line. If the water is not at the water line, check your water valve. If your water valve is not entirely on, change this. Upon turning it on all the way, the water in your tank should start filling up to the water line.

BathroomStep 3: Make sure the flapper is closed
If the toilet does not stop running long after using it, there is a good chance that the flapper might not have closed all the way. Close the flapper manually to solve this problem. To help ensure that the flapper does not get stuck open again, check that the chain on the flapper is not tangled up or caught on other toilet parts. Prevent further tangles by threading a plastic straw through the flapper chain; also, consider replacing the chain altogether with a loop made out of dental floss.

Step 4: Make sure the float is adjusted
If adjusting the water in the toilet tank to reach the water line and making sure the flapper was closing properly did not work, then check up on the float and make sure it is adjusted properly. First, make sure it is functioning by pulling it up with your hand; if it is working, this should stop the water flow. Make the necessary adjustments to the float so that the tank stops filling a half an inch to an inch below the top of the overflow tube. This ensures that water will not be leaking into the bowl. If the float is close to the valve post, pinch the clip so that you may slide it away and down the wire.

Step 5: Fix and prevent any slow toilet leaks
If you have tried all of these options yet your toilet is still running, then it could have a small leak in it. To check whether your toilet has a leak, put some food coloring in the toilet tank and avoid flushing the toilet for a few hours. After these few hours have passed and the food coloring has transferred to the toilet bowl, you will know whether there is a leak.

If this is the case, make sure that your flapper is not leaky; you may have to replace a decaying rubber part. If the flapper is not breaking down, you may try using steel wool to clean buildup off both the flapper and the rim it sits upon.

Jared Miret, home handyman and husband is happy to share the joy of home improvement with you.  He knows leaky toilets are something that need fixing right away, as he has spent way too much time repairing water damage in Houston because of leaks. 

Modern Kitchen

How To Replace A Kitchen Sink

It is inevitable for homeowners to be faced with the task of picking out a new kitchen sink and faucet, and many homeowners will pay a professional to install them. Did you know that you can save a lot of money by not hiring a professional to install your sink and faucet, but instead learning how to install them yourself? Below is a step-by-step guide for replacing your kitchen sink and faucet. This provides you with a less costly, and more convenient, sink and faucet replacing experience.

Step One: Choose the right sink for your home
Choosing the right sink for your home involves considering different surfaces and knowing the sink dimensions that you need. Finding the sink compatible with your family’s needs and lifestyle ensures that your sink will maintain a polished appearance for as long as possible. This also ensures that the sink you choose is as easy to maintain as possible.

Many homeowners choose porcelains sinks for their aesthetic appeal. Porcelains sinks, however, may not be the best choice for kitchens; often, it is best to use them only in bathrooms. The porcelain surface can easily chip or crack if a heavy pot is dropped on it. Heavy, stainless steel sinks can be a great choice for kitchens. Not only are they easy to clean, but their durability helps them to maintain a beautiful appearance for years to come.  Granite sinks are also a lovely option, they look great with tile countertops, and they can be very affordable in price.

Step Two: Turn off the water supply
Open the cabinet that is directly underneath your sink and then shut off the water using the shutoff valve. Place a large bucket under the trap to catch any excess water that may come out.

Step Three: Loosen the slip nuts on the drain
Loosen the slip nuts on both sides of the drain on the sink you are replacing. Do not forget to also disconnect any connections to dishwashers or garbage disposals.

Step Four: Remove the old sink by cutting through its seals
Begin by unscrewing any mounting clips that may be on the sink. After you have done this, take a utility knife and cut through any caulk or adhesive that is connecting the kitchen sink to the countertop. Make sure to remove the seal lining on the perimeter of the sink. Be careful–you do not want to hurt yourself, or scratch the kitchen counter when using your utility knife. Once all of the clips have been loosened and the seal has been broken, you may lift the sink out of its place and set it somewhere nearby.Kitchen





Step Five: Make sure your new sink will fit correctly
Your new sink is likely to have a different depth than your old sink. Because of this, you need to test out, or measure, the new sink to determine whether or not you will need to change the length of the new drain pipe.

Step Six: Set up the basket strainer and faucet
Before installing the sink, turn it over and install both the basket strainer and the faucet using Teflon tape and plumber’s putty. Doing this before installing the sink allows for an upright position and an easier installation.
Step Seven: Apply sealant to the new sink
After attaching the lines, use silicone sealant to line the edge of the opening where your sink will go. Place your new sink in this opening.

Step Eight: Tighten the new mounting clips and make plumbing connections
Once you’ve placed your new sink in its proper place, tighten the mounting clips that are on the bottom portion. Make any needed plumbing connections, such as the trap and drainpipe.

Step Nine: Connect the water lines to your new sink
Connect the supply tubes on your new sink to the shutoffs. Make sure that you connect the cold water on the right and the hot water on the left.

Step Ten: Turn on the water supply and check your work
After turning the water supply on, test your faucet to make sure that it is working correctly. Give the silicone sealant a few hours to dry, then clean up any excess using your utility knife.

This article was written by Jared Miret, home handyman.  Jared is happy to share his love of home improvement through blogging.  If you have any problems installing the sink, or need a hand with pluming or leaks, he recommends finding affordable leak detection in Houston.

Kitchen with Window Tint

Finding the best finance options for starting your home construction business

So, the market has started to stabilize a bit and you’ve decided that you love working in the construction industry. It is your dream to begin a business of your own and you need to find out what to do to accomplish this. You’ve listened to your co-workers and your employer for years and you know that this is the one thing you could do to make a living.

Now you need to figure out the steps to be in business and get some financing to get going.

Financing is not going to be easy

After the crash of the mortgage industry, it took a big chunk out of the construction and painting business. All levels of success have suffered and in the process, people that love what they do, have taken on many more levels of experience just to make ends meet. So, walking into this industry will bring many things to your business.

First, you better be diversified in your values and experienced to get by.

Second, you had better love what you are about to do. It’s going to take a big amount of time to break into the industry.

Third, if you have already started with small things, make sure you have all your licenses in place and be prepared to get continuing education to step into more specialized fields and stay competitive in this market.

Fourth, financing will be a process.

Fifth, you will need a merchant account to process payments for debit and credit transactions. Construction falls into the High Risk Merchant account area.

Finding capital

Joining the SBA or small business administration is good thing. Having them behind you makes your business appear secure, steady and prepared for the future. Every little bit helps. Just know that working with them does not insure that you will get financial assistance, but they will direct you into the areas that can help.

They have banks and loaning institutions that will assist with loans and applications for the construction industry. Follow their pathways and they can and will get you the help you need. You will assign a counselor, or mentor, to get you on your path and he/she will answer questions when you have them arise.

They will also send you down the roads you need for licensing and permits and classes that you may need to keep going in your industry.

If this isn’t what you were after

Like most of us, you need an income now. This dream of a construction business may take everything you have. So make sure you have back up for an income while you build your dream company.

If anything is worth having, then it is worth your time. If you want this bad enough, you will work for it. So, take the other steps you need to do.

Since the SBA is not what you were looking for, the next step is research. Finding the money to finance this venture.

Start online and compile your list of places that you want to go to. Do yourself a favor, when you go to their place of business….. look nice. Wear your going to church clothes. This will insure a nice reception from them and you can accomplish something.

DO not fill out application after application. That counts against your credit score. Have a list of questions ready to ask the person that works with you. Be ready to do business, but know that you could be turned down again and again. Don’t whip out the social security number until you know that you have potential to get the finances you are after.

Keep thinking…… Walt Disney did 101 banks before he found the one that created his giant of an industry. You may not be Walt, but in your mind this is a giant leap for your future. Guard it, work it, and be prepared.

Look at things in a non-traditional manner

Online research will also find ways to get financing that the banking industry does not normally deal with. So, do your research and see what is out there. Make sure you don’t give anyone your personal information until you know they are on the up and up. The state has registrations of businesses that are not frauds and the Better Business Bureau has lists of businesses that really exist.

Take your time. Your business is your dream. Don’t kill it before it even gets off the ground. Nothing worth having is worth wasting before it gets started. Do your research and take your time. Keep an income going before you blast onto a scene that you aren’t prepared for yet. Be diligent and be prepared. Make lists and scratch off each step as you get there. Be smart and prepared. This is your dream and you want to get it off the ground without drowning. Good hunting to you.

Author Bio:

Blair Thomas is an electronic payment expert, who loves all things finance and planning.  He is also the co-founder of, the #1 high risk processing company in the country. But when he’s not running his business he’s more than likely exploring his other passions; music, mountain biking and camping.  If you would like to see what he’s up to, check him out on Facebook.



Tips for Making a Small Backyard Feel Spacious

potted plants and backyard shedIf you have a small backyard and feel like you are limited to the things you can do to make your space warm and inviting, try adding a few features that will make it more appealing. Even small backyards can be utilized as an extension of your home and a place to entertain family and friends. Below are a few ideas that you can use to make the most of your small backyard. Some require more planning than others, but whether you’re an industrious home improvement maven, or a homeowner simply looking for a few quick and cost-effective fixes, there are numerous ways to make your backyard more spacious.

Size and Material Appropriate Furniture

While you want your outdoor furniture to be comfortable, you don’t want it to overwhelm your outdoor space. For example, it may be more appropriate to have chairs with end tables or a quaint two-person table, instead of a table that seats four. Also look for pieces that can be positioned in a manner that will keep your patio space streamlined and flowing so that you can easily walk around your outdoor space.

Repurposed or distressed wood often gives a unique charm to outdoor furniture, and work best in smaller forms. Many homeowners with small backyards opt for rustic materials for their outdoor furniture, which also require less upkeep and maintenance.

Keep Enclosures Open

A popular trend in outdoor patios and small backyards is to add areas that create shade. However, these shade-creating structures, such as panels or pergolas, can make your living space feel smaller if not done right. If you are going to add partial enclosures, do so with roofs that have skylights or walls made from lattice that will add privacy and shade, but have an open feeling. Wood crafters are often a sought-after choice for charming and space-saving enclosures.

Go Vertical

One of the best ways to work with small spaces is to utilize vertical space. For example, if you do not have the room to plant a traditional vegetable or flower garden in your yard, consider planting vertical gardens on fences and hanging plants from vertical structures. If you don’t have any places to hang foliage vertically, consider adding a post or structure that you can use to hang greenery from, without taking up too much of your floor space.

bambooCreating Privacy

Homeowners with small backyards are often jutted squarely next to their surrounding neighbors. While it can be sometimes be a joy to have friendly homeowners nearby, small backyards are often problematic for creating privacy. Property-line plantings are best for screening in the front yard, but for the backyard, homeowners can turn to a variety of differing features. Naturally, fences and walls form the best privacy-defining structures, with board fences being among the most popular choice, but this is often lacking in aesthetics. It doesn’t take too long to begin sprucing up a boring fence with help from bamboo or other giant leafy plants.

More Plant Ideas

Even if you have room to plant a garden, it can take up too much of the valuable floor space in your yard. For the best of both worlds, plant flowers, trees, and vegetables in small or medium pots. This will give you the freedom and flexibility to move your pots around to the areas that best fit your current space needs.

Add Lighting

Adding lighting to a small space will make it feel roomier. You can do this by adding fixtures to the side of your house or by stringing lights along the outer edges of your yard.

Frame Your Space

Even though your space is small you can frame the outer edges of your yard with a line of shrubs, a thin row of flower beds, a low rock wall, or a fence. By framing your space you will give it a distinct structure and flow. When choosing the medium to create your frame make sure the shape, scale, and color are a good representation of the theme you want to create in your yard.

All of these ideas allow you to create a welcoming space in a small yard that is well-organized and functional. If you have a small yard that you don’t enjoy with frequency, consider adding the elements mentioned above to encourage more outdoor activity and fun.

Classic New Orleans Style Home Designs

Awning and BalconyColorful and vibrant, New Orleans often brings to mind images of Mardi Gras, festivals, and fun. Its architecture is no different. This city is one of the places where the edifices really do seem to have a personality all their own. One of the most popular locales in New Orleans is the French Quarter or Vieux Carre, the quarter to locals. Infused with a rich cultural and artistic history, the architecture of the French Quarter has Spanish, French, Creole, and American influences. Several housing styles abound in New Orleans — Shotgun, Double-Gallery, and Raised-Center Hall, to name a few. These styles have much to offer homeowners across the Gulf Coast region and beyond.

Shotgun Style

Perhaps the most prominent of the New Orleans style homes is the Shotgun Style. This style of home has its origins from Haiti and West Africa. Although tall and slim, these houses hold a charm that stems from their mysterious origins. They often have a porch covered by an awning supported by columns that encase the porch. To achieve this look, adding columns and an awning to your current home, as well as a bright layer of colorful paint, might turn your home into a little piece of New Orleans in the Gulf Coast.

Raised Center-Hall Cottage or Villa

This beautifully styled cottage resembles a shorter and wider version of the shotgun style home, but with more elaborate galleries and columns that also support an awning that covers the porch. This New Orleans style home typically has five entries with the front entrance in the middle. If your home is structured differently or has no porch, you can still gain a bit of the look by either adding a deck or embellishing the deck you currently have. Simply add an awning supported by columns over the deck or porch addition. Instead of a deck, adding a patio the entire length of the home will also give you the desired effect. Simply add the awning and columns to surround the patio.

Double Gallery House

In keeping with the columned theme, this two-story house has two galleries supported by columns at each story level. Somewhat resembling a much loftier version of an American colonial, this home also holds its own unique charm. To apply this look to your own home might take some creativity as the roof is side-gabled, and there are two galleries instead of just a porch awning. You might get close to this look by adding a balcony to your second level supported and encased by columns.

American Greek Revival 

Although you might not find these types of homes within the proper metro area, several historic American Greek Revival homes dot the outlying area of New Orleans. Simply put, these are some of the most luxurious mansions of the South; spacious treasures that show some of America’s finest architectural origins. While it can be intimidating to consider styling your home in the manner of an American Greek Revival mansion, many homeowners can pursue this aesthetic in a subtle and classy manner, by adding unique touches and timeless antiques to your home’s collection. If you are looking for inspiration, many of these stately homes are now open for public viewing, or refurbished into unique bed and breakfast lodges, such as the Bocage Plantation, in Darrow, Louisiana.

Home and Greenery These New Orleans style homes signify a time of historical charm and allure. Adding touches of Louisiana style to your own home will make your house stand out from the rest in a great way. Contacting an architect in your area will be an excellent first step to implementing many of the structural changes and additions that will add the French Quarter charm to your home. If you already have columns, a porch, or a deck, then adding a new coat of fresh, bright paint may be all you need to bring a touch of Vieux Carre to your neighborhood. Make sure to check with the housing officials in your area for zoning laws, restrictions, and licenses before making major structural changes to your home. If you don’t want to take on a major remodel, adding bright colored paint, cast iron faux balconies, and a window replacement to your Houston, New Orleans, or Gulf Coast home will also give you a bit of this fun and free-flowing style.

Adding New Orleans Charm to Your Home Décor

Patio RemodelCourtyard patios are a feature of hotels, restaurants, and homes in the French Quarter. The narrow style of house achieves more space by beautifying an enclosed area in the back. Brick is the favorite choice of masonry material in New Orleans, according to the New Orleans Historic District Landmarks Commissions — Guidelines for Masonry and Stucco, and it can add a unique complement to your patio.

To add an authentic touch of New Orleans charm to your home, enclose an area in the back yard with a board fence and pave it with bricks. The tone that you establish with a red brick floor opens the way for you to make your courtyard as charming as those in the old section of the city. The Commission states that red brick is the most popular, but you can use brown, yellow, or orange to match your decor.

Planters and Flower Beds

The warm and humid air in New Orleans provides excellent growing conditions for colorful flowers, so you may need to install a misting system if you live in a dry area. Planters shaped like large vases serve as statuary pieces that you could situate in accent areas. The lightweight material that is used in many of the planters today makes them easy to move.

Flowerbeds along the fence line provide a colorful contrast, and weeds are controllable in a limited space. Bricks that match the patio floor are good for retaining the dirt, or you could use a contrasting color for extra style.

Loads of Flowers

An abundance of blooms is the secret to a successful New Orleans patio. Evergreen plants like camellias and azaleas that bloom in the late winter or early spring are favored varieties. While it has no aroma, the camellia has flowers in red, white, and pink, which resemble large roses, and require little maintenance. Blooms on azaleas are as delicate as little orchids, usually in shades of white and light pink to deep magenta. Decorative flowers that can give you the look you want in your flowerbeds include these:

– Impatiens and vinca

– Gladiolas

– Lantana

– Tea roses

– Lily of the valley

Watering FlowersAccent the Corners and the Center

Banana trees grow thickly, and dense greenery is essential in your patio. The tall leaves bend gracefully, showing yellow tints on the trunk. Some varieties produce miniature bananas, but the plant is sensitive to temperatures that are uncommon in the south. Gardenias produce an aroma that is sweet and pleasant during the day and even more aromatic in the evening. Train some jasmine to grow on your fence, and let its light fragrance add to the inviting ambiance of your courtyard.

Consider a Fountain

Anyone who has visited New Orleans has probably noticed the prevalence of fountains. While your local garden retailer may have ideas about potential New Orleans style fountains, you can do a little research first and find the best type of fountain for your home. While the city of New Orleans often boasts a larger than life personality, you do not have to spring for an ostentatious or gaudy display. Instead, look for a fine smaller fountain that is subtle in its approach. A New Orleans style fountain does not hew close to a particular aesthetic, but rather is playful in its incorporation of various features.

If you are a DIY home improvement enthusiast, you can also construct a shallow pond and connect a water supply for a spouting fountain. Water lilies in the basin or some gold fish can create a focus area that is always interesting.

The Finishing Touch

With a courtyard that is a delightful place to relax or visit, you have the perfect location to entertain family and friends. Open air dining is part of the life style in New Orleans, and it is an elegant way to enjoy a meal. The greenery, flowers and fountain provide an environment that is graceful and pleasant. With a table and some large, comfortable chairs, you are ready to enjoy your own New Orleans courtyard patio. These finishing touches help illuminate and give charm to your home. With these tips in mind, you can see how people across the Gulf Coast have looked to New Orleans for stylish home décor.

With assistance from, the author is adding some classic Gulf Coast style charm to his Houston home. 


Elegant Painting Makes Your House a Home

Since 1978 Fordham MacLean (FM) has been painting in the Boulder, Colorado region. Their dedication to detail and precision in all their work means that customers have a perfect paint job that satisfies every time. Hector told me when I asked what his biggest concern was: “We try not to make the painting process an intrusion on your life.” He explained that while it is an involved process it can also go very quickly and very quietly.


He told me further that even though they can handle any paint job, they are continuously focused on detail and getting the job done just right. Customer satisfaction is another main concern for Hector.

We feel color consultation is very important and offer it free of charge as part of our regular service. Spending time on color consultation at the beginning of the job helps prevent the common problem of customers suddenly hating the color at the end of the job, preventing them from having to pay for another coat of paint.


He explains further that people typically pick colors from little paint chips; he says “Usually people pick colors from a little swatch, not realizing how different it will look on a larger surface in changing light.” Hector further explains that he paints a large swatch of each color his customer is interested in on the side of the house and then goes away for a few days. “We like to let you live with those colors for a couple of days so you can see what they look like over time…”, he explains.

Hector continues on to tell me that he and his crew can handle everything from a single wall to an entire house, inside, outside, residential, commercial, and everything in between. He tells me that his favorite paint is a ‘green’ paint, not one that is green, but one that has no toxins in it. He says that “…they are a new form of water bourne paints that in most cases perform even better than latex paints”! However, that doesn’t mean he and his crew don’t know how to use other paints. On the contrary. They do everything in the book, including faux finishes, venetian plaster, oil-based enamels, urethanes, and much, much more. They even do repairs when needed, though, he says “[w]e [do] bring in trusted carpenters when the repairs are beyond our scale”.

Carpenters aren’t the only professional that Hector and his team partner with. He says that he “also enjoy[s] working with interior designers and colorists” especially because his wife is a world-renowned artist and author. He defers to her when his team runs into particularly difficult color combinations.

Hector tells me about his experience working in Boulder and Denver as a painter.

In 35 years of painting in Boulder and Denver, we’ve done it all. From 5 story exteriors using 80′ booms to painting one office, to painting hundreds of offices in banks, aerospace facilities, warehouses, hotels, apartment buildings, malls, factories, pharmaceutical plants, clean rooms, bridges and stadiums. The harder the job, the more we enjoy the challenge.

Recently Hector added parking lot lettering and striping to his arsenal of services. He tells me that his team handles all of it: from signs, to stripes, arrows, letters, numbers, and anything else a client thinks of.

One of his longtime services has been lead paint removal. He and his team are EPA certified for renovation, repair, and painting involving lead based paints. He comments to me at this point, saying that “We provide lead testing at no charge to the customer…” His dedication to customer service seems to be without boundary. This is reinforced when he later tells me that “[i]ncluded in our price is the power washing of all gutters.” At this point I’m thinking to myself that I know who I want to have paint my house.

Our conversation continues on; he tells me that he feels strongly about color consultations, and that he offers them for free so that he knows when he finishes painting the result is exactly what the customer wants.

He leaves me with a final statement:

I, Hector MacLean, have been the owner and hands on operator of Fordham & MacLean Painting in Boulder since 1978. We do about 60% residential, 30% commercial and 10% high end new construction. I am personally on every job working side by side with my crew, each of whom have been working with me for a minimum of 8 years. We take great pride in our work and enjoy painting and uplifting people’s lives. In painting the 3 most important things are prep, prep, prep. We take great pains to do things the right way so that our jobs last and last. We are neat, professional and fun to work with and our customers are always right.

38 years of experience cannot be wrong. Fordham MacLean painters are considered the best house and commercial painting companies in Denver and Boulder.

Quick Tips for Saving Energy in Your Home This Summer

Smart Home
Although it is frequently overshadowed by the need to keep a house warm in the winter, keeping a home cool and comfortable during the summer can create a strain on a family’s energy bills. This is especially true with families in warmer parts of the country that all but rely on air conditioning to stay cool. Fortunately, there are ways of saving money on your energy bill in the summer without resigning yourself to living in an unbearably warm house.

Keep Your Thermostat Turned Up
As much as you will want to, it’s not always wise to run your air conditioner all the time. Keep your thermostat at around 78 degrees and use fans to circulate cool air. During the summer, keeping the thermostat set at a high, yet comfortable level will decrease cooling costs.

Keep Your Shades Closed
Although it’s not as effective as exterior shading, shades and drapes on the window can go a long way in keeping a home cool. Your home’s windows are some of its largest sources of heat gain, so it’s important to keep them shaded as much as possible.

Open Your Windows When It’s Cool Outside
Instead of running an air conditioner, try opening your windows when it is cooler outside. This will help ventilate your home, especially at night or early in the morning. In addition, try waiting until turning on your air conditioner is needed, usually during early to late-afternoons.

Use Your Ceiling Fans
Ceiling fans are capable of circulating enough air to cool a space by over four degrees, and they use about as much energy as a 100-watt light bulb. Using circulating floor fans in individual rooms is another simple way to keep your house cool, and save energy at the same time. Once again, this should eliminate the need to run your air conditioner non-stop.

Turn Off Your Lights
When you leave a room, make sure you turn off the lights. If you’re in a room with large windows and it isn’t too hot outside, don’t be afraid to open the shades in the middle of the day to let some sunlight inside. Don’t run appliances longer than you need to. Unplug them if you won’t be using them soon.

Use Your Appliances Efficiently
This means not doing entire loads of laundry, keeping your dryer’s lint trap clear and run all appliances during off-peak hours such as after the sun has gone down. If you have to buy new appliances, look for Energy Saver products. These can lower your energy bill by as much as 30 percent, and will save you money in the long run.

Replace Air Conditioner Filters Monthly
Dirty filters can block the airflow in your air conditioning system, causing it to work harder and use more energy. Replacing your filters every month can save you up to five percent on cooling costs.

Keep Outdoor Air Conditioning Units Free of Debris

Most central air conditioning systems run off of a large outdoor unit. This should be kept free of debris and weeds to work efficiently. Leaves, branches, and invasive plants should be removed to keep the unit functioning correctly.

Home with Solar Pannels

Hire Someone to Perform Maintenance on Your Air Conditioner
An air conditioner will last for years if it is properly maintained, but it will also work inefficiently and waste a lot of energy if it goes too long without a tune-up. Make sure you have it repaired and maintained before every summer.

Seal Leaky Windows and Doors
Cool air can easily escape a leaky window or door, and this can be a big problem when cooling your house. Check to make sure there isn’t a draft coming from a closed window. If you do notice a draft, seal it with caulk or weather stripping. These are available in kits at most hardware stores and are a relatively inexpensive fix to a pesky problem.


This article was written by Wesley Francis. Wesley is a home contractor, father of three, and DIY enthusiast. For further energy conservation strategies, he recommends searching for home renovation professionals in your area, like the team at Remedy Roofing, who always provide eco-friendly solutions. There are plenty of energy-saving home projects out there, go find them!

The Top 5 New Orleans Fountains

WaterFountains are found throughout New Orleans, especially in the French Quarter and the Garden District. They grace the courtyards of many private residences and they are commonly found among the restaurants and hotels in the area. Even Pat O’Brien’s on Bourbon Street has a courtyard fountain that appears to be on fire at night. Here are the five most fascinating and historic fountains in the city of New Orleans.

Darlington Fountain

This fountain in New Orleans’s West End was erected prior to World War I. It was known as a musical fountain because an operator controlled the water flow and the lighting by hand to synchronize the fountains with the music contributed by bands and orchestras at special events. The three-dimensional effects produced resulted in it also being known as a “prismatic” fountain. This century-old masterpiece became one of the inspirations for later automated musical fountains, such as those found at The Bellagio in Las Vegas.

The original drawings for the fountain are dated February 1915, and construction likely concluded in 1916. The Darlington fountain later became the symbol for West End Park. Yacht clubs and restaurants also embraced the iconic fountain by using it in their logos. The fountain is slated for a full restoration by the Friends of West End.

Fountain in Jackson Square

This historic fountain is found in Jackson Square, which is situated exactly where the French Mississippi Company built the very first settlement. Fittingly, the fountain in Jackson Square was dedicated on April 29, 1960 to memorialize the visit of French President General Charles de Gaulle and his spouse, Yvonne.

The landscaped area on which the fountain stands was designed in 1721 by architect Louis H. Pilié. For a time it served as grounds for military parades. Today it stands at the heart of the French Quarter in front of St. Louis Cathedral, the longest continually operating cathedral in the U.S. The current home of the New Orleans archdiocese, the cathedral first opened in 1718. The present structure was built in 1789. Pope John Paul II visited in 1987.

Fountain at Coliseum Square Park

South of the French Quarter, in the lower Garden District, is the lush greenery of Coliseum Square Park and its beautiful fountain. Strollers and those on Garden District walking tours often stop to enjoy the tranquil sounds experienced here. Both biking trails and walking trails abound in this park that dates back to the mid-1800s. The park and its fountain are only two blocks away from the St. Charles streetcar stop.

Fountains at Longue Vue House and Gardens

Just off Metairie Road, at 7 Bamboo Road, are the Longue Vue House and Gardens and its 22 fountains. Longue Vue is often thought of as one of the highest quality city estates in the nation. It is open to the public on a paid admission basis. It’s been a National Historic Landmark since 2005.

The Classical Revival mansion serves as a stunning backdrop to a long rectangular pool and lyrical fountains. The fountains frame the mansion in endless photographs captured by enchanted visitors. The fountains are a vital part of the eight acres of gardens inspired by the Gardens of the Alhambra in Spain.

The home was built by New Orleans businessman Edgar Bloom Stern and his wife, Sears heiress Edith Rosenwald Stern. The gardens have been fully restored to the original specifications created when the Sterns built the estate.

Pavement and GrassFountains at the New Orleans Botanical Garden

The Botanical Garden, in City Park, is home to the country’s largest stand of mature live oaks. The cool shade and the fountains offer a wonderful respite from city life. Bronzed statues and sculptures blend well with the historic cast-iron fountains. Photographers never tire of framing scene after scene with low-hanging oak branches. The conservatory has been renovated, and it includes a roaring waterfall and beautiful hanging vines in a simulated rainforest. Over 2,000 plant species can be explored here.

New Orleans truly is a city of fountains, and these five examples have long represented, and help contribute to, its overall vibrancy and heritage.

The author found a great New Orleans-style copper fountain for his home at:

Preparing Your Gulf Coast Garage for Summer

AC Seen from OutsideAs a homeowner in the Gulf Coast region, you can protect your home’s garage doors from summer weather by making a plan and by taking action to implement it. The first of June is the official start of hurricane season, and your prompt action can limit or avoid damage to your home’s structures. Planning for weather events that are predictable is a duty of responsible homeowners.

The National Hurricane Center cites sustained wind speeds at up to 95 mph for Category 1 and up to 157 for Category 5 storms. The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale indicates that frame structures are especially susceptible to damage from wind, and garage doors that are typically constructed of wood or similar materials are vulnerable.

Make a Plan

As part of your general household defense plan, the security of a garage door will improve the structural integrity of your home. Successful efforts to stop hurricane winds from entering a garage can prevent extensive damage to the interior of your home. Interior doors that are not designed to resist impact can easily collapse in hurricane conditions. Captive wind forces inside a garage are extremely destructive, pushing upward and outward to destroy walls and roofing systems. Defensive methods that are commonly used in garage openings to limit wind damage include:

• Impact-Rated Garage Door – Hurricane-force winds pull as well as push against garage doors, shaking and weakening them in the process. Impact-rated doors are designed to withstand forces of extreme wind conditions and flying debris. Some are reinforced within each section of a door to provide increased resistance to winds. Prices start around $900 for a one-car garage door and $1500 for a two-car door.

• Braces – Vertical braces made of aluminum strong enough for use on airplanes strengthen a door and make it more resistant to hurricane winds. For about $200 per brace, you can add to the security of your garage door. The quality of your existing door governs the performance of braces that are a retrofit product. Doors that have glass windows or those that are in poor repair may not get as much protection as those that are solid or new. Manufacturers may choose not to offer guarantees for braces applied to substandard doors.

• Hurricane Panels – Steel offers the best protection from hurricane damage. Aluminum panels are lighter and less capable of deterring damage. Installation of either type of material is a difficult task, and the quality of installation has an effect on effectiveness. Poorly installed panels can add to flying debris and cause damage to people or property. Panels for doors of various sizes are available for less than $1000.

House with a Lot of WindowsImplement a Plan

To assess the need for garage door protection, you may choose to hire a home appraiser. Some companies offer a free evaluation of garage doors to assess the wind load that they can tolerate, their ability to resist impact, and their compliance with local building codes. Checking for effectiveness of protective measures and the cost of installing them is a first step you can take to prevent hurricane damage.

Taking the next step to get the work done is the way to make sure that it is done correctly. The space occupied by a garage door opening is sufficiently large to require installation by someone with professional expertise.

With these tips in hand, the author has begun fortifying his Houston overhead door.

Window Tinting a Gulf Coast Home

Kitchen with Window TintWindow tinting makes any interior space cooler, more private, and more enjoyable; this is particularly valuable for homes in the New Orleans and Gulf Coast region. The addition of window tints can not only reduce cooling expenses, it will protect furnishings and art from the bright sun while also making it harder for intruders or strong winds to break a window. However, it’s important to choose the right team to tint the windows in any private home. Here are a few tips homeowners can follow when searching for a window tinting company.


Not all window tints are created equal. Some are darker and will cut more of the natural light. Special coatings are required to block the UV rays and protect fine artwork from fading. Security tints that hold glass pieces together when a window is broken are also specially designed and labeled. Look for a company that has a good selection and can provide you with the right window tint.


Look for a company with years of experience. They may also specialize in window and commercial tinting, but they should definitely have a few years of experience in residential windows. It takes time to learn how to smoothly install window tint that is free of bubbles or scratches.


When a contractor works on any home, they should have insurance. While it is not likely that a window tinter will break something inside a home, it’s still better to choose a company that protects its customers by investing in insurance. With this coverage, homeowners are protected in the unlikely event that something in their home is damaged or broken.

Timely Services

It’s also important to invest in a company that will provide timely services. When homeowners make the decision to invest in window tint, they don’t want to wait weeks or months to have it installed. Look for a company that can provide fast service to start benefiting from window tinting right away.

Ask About the Clean-Up

Installing window tint can be messy. The technicians will have to use water to get all of the air out from between the windows and the tint. Talk to the company you are considering about the installation process. Find out what steps they take to protect your home and clean up any mess afterward. The best companies will use protective covers under the windows, and they will clean up the entire mess after the tinting is installed.

Window FixGet Multiple Quotes

Talk with several companies and get more than one quote. This is the best way to find the most reasonable prices on window tinting projects and save money. Taking the time to talk with different companies also lets homeowners ask questions about scheduling, how long the project takes, and what steps are taken to keep the area clean.

Ask for References

Finally, ask for references for any tinting company. Reputable companies are happy to provide references for their work including pictures of homes and businesses they have worked on. Don’t be afraid to call the references and ask for more detailed information about how the company did, how long they were in the house, and how pleased the customer is with the work.

Window tinting can lower energy bills and help homeowners save money. The best tinting will also make the home safer by protecting furnishings from the sun and even intruders. Finding the right company for a residential project will require a little research, but homeowners will be much happier with the finished product when they hire a reputable, experienced company. From a decorative tint on a New Orleans bungalow, to a window film in Houston, homeowners across the Gulf Coast have been able to enjoy their summers again by pursuing this simple home renovation project.

Easy Tips for Gulf Coast Homeowners to Keep Cool This Summer

Woman in Front of ACBattling summer heat in an arid region is tough enough, but when you’re living in New Orleans, or any city in the Gulf Coast region, you have to deal with both heat and humidity. Use the following tips to keep you and your family nice and cool during your Gulf Coast summer.

Stay Inside and Crank Up the A/C

This one is simple enough. You probably don’t want to be a hermit all summer long, though, so if you’re going to spend time outdoors, aim for early in the morning or later in the evening when outside temperatures will be more manageable.

Electric Fans

Letting your air conditioner run all summer can be expensive. If you want to cut down your electricity bill, use an electric fan instead. Keep in mind that once temperatures go into the high 90s, an electric fan won’t ward off heat-related illnesses. Take a cool bath or shower if you start getting too hot. You can even turn your fan into a makeshift air conditioner. All you need is a metal bowl filled with ice. Place this bowl directly in front of the fan, and it will go a long way toward cooling the room.

Drink Plenty of Water

You should stay hydrated all year round, but this is even more important during the summer. Drink eight ounces of water each hour. Avoid alcoholic beverages or drinks with high levels of caffeine, as these will dehydrate you quickly. Drinking enough water has numerous health benefits, so this is a good tip follow throughout the year.

Protect Your Body

Put on plenty of sunscreen and wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. Ideally, sunscreen should be applied approximately thirty minutes before going outside. You should also wear a hat and sunshades in order to ward off heat stroke and prevent your eyes from being damaged by the sun’s UV rays.

Keep Strenuous Activity to Minimum

Those of you looking for a good excuse to avoid home and yard work are in luck. Participating in strenuous activities during a heat wave is dangerous, so either cut back on your work hours or limit your activities to the early morning or evening. If you exercise regularly, you should either alter your workout schedule to avoid the hottest time of the day or exercise in a building with a good air conditioning system. Or, you can take part in outdoor activities that can simultaneously keep you cool, like visiting some of New Orleans’ public pools.

Wooden TableTake Walks by a River

On hot summer days in the Gulf Coast, a large body of water is your friend. If you live in New Orleans, take a stroll through Woldenberg Riverfront Park and watch the ships sail down the Mississippi River. You’ll enjoy cooler temperatures and beautiful scenery.

The Canal Street Ferry

Speaking of New Orleans, a ride on the Canal Street Ferry can provide you with a fun and cost-free way to cool down. The ferry operates seven days a week, from 6 a.m. to midnight.

To offset some of the costs associated with cooling his Gulf Coast home, the author recently invested in an energy saving water heater replacement.

The 4 Most Luxurious Spas in New Orleans

FacialSpa at Windsor Court

The spa at Windsor Court is located inside the elegant Windsor Court Hotel, in the heart of the French Quarter. Enjoy the many luxurious offerings at this full service spa, catering to your every need. Once you enter the spa, you are greeted by friendly, courteous staff that will provide you with the accessories you need for your relaxing session. Guests are provided with robes, sandals, and a private locker for personal belongings. The facility also offers a pool and gym area for those receiving treatments.

The Windsor spa offers personalized treatments from facial, nail, and hair to full body treatments. The spa also offers personalized treatments and spa packages for wedding parties upon request. The spa recommends that you make reservations before arriving; this will be helpful so that they can provide the best service to you.

Guerlain Spa at The Roosevelt New Orleans

This spa is not only known for being linked to one of the more well-known names in town, it is also known for its luxurious offerings. Guerlain Spa has been known for excellence throughout its 180 years of operation. During each session, beauty experts perform a systematic analysis of the skin to determine where their primary focus should be – environmental, nutritional, emotional, or physical. The analysis helps therapists determine a treatment that is specifically tailored to your personal needs; this is one of the signature touches Guerlain offers to their clients. Guest service is the spa’s top priority.

The products used at Guerlain are a full line of high quality products from the prestigious Guerlain Paris. The spa also offers hydrotherapy facilities, makeup services, and a VIP treatment room. Exclusively offered to hotel guests is a special treatment called the Waldorf Impériale, a two-hour body massage and facial. The spa also offers a state-of-the-art fitness center and a relaxing rooftop pool for guests to enjoy.

The Ritz-Carlton Spa New Orleans

The Ritz-Carlton Spa, New Orleans has gained enormous recognition not only for its gorgeous decor, but also for the elegance of its spa treatments. The spa offers over 100 therapies, all of which are customizable to meet the needs of clients, as well as a fitness center, retail store, and valet parking. The staple of The Ritz-Carlton Spa is absolute indulgence in every sense. The atmosphere alone is enough to help you relax and forget about the world, with draped chandeliers and therapists to pamper your every need. The spa is equipped with 22 luxurious treatment rooms as well as relaxation lounge areas, steam rooms, and saunas. Spa packages are available for couples and wedding parties, upon request. Reservations are encouraged to be made one week in advance.

Girl and hair

Woodhouse Day Spa

The Woodhouse Day Spa is a full service luxury spa located near the French Quarter. Upon arrival you are greeted by friendly staff that will provide you with a luxurious robe and a delicious beverage. The spa offers 70 invigorating and rejuvenating spa treatments that offer a unique approach to maintaining the health and beauty of your skin. Woodhouse Day Spa offers signature body wraps and massage therapies, the most popular being the four-handed massage. Tension release and deep relaxation is achieved through the spa’s signature technique called “intent combing science.” The spa offers many services including waxing, hand treatments, foot treatments, body treatments, and much more. Appointments are available seven days a week.

Next time you find yourself in the Big Easy, be sure to take some time to let yourself be pampered. Whether you’re young or old, male or female, New Orleans has a wide variety of luxury spas for every preference.

In researching various spa offerings in the Gulf Coast, the author found that many of the most luxurious locations utilized equipment from one company: T4 Spa

Achord Eye Clinic

Written by: Jill Martinez

The most effective advertising we do, to tell you the truth, is not anything we pay for or can even control to a certain extent,” reports Dr. Shonda Achord. “We get a lot of our business from patients who refer their friends, family members or co-workers to us because they’ve had a positive experience here.” True to form, the moment I entered Achord Eye Clinic the staff offered ample amounts of smiles, assistance and freshly brewed coffee. I even noticed them greeting patients by their first name and immediately delving into enthusiastic bouts of spirited conversation. The friendly atmosphere coupled with Dr. Achord’s sixteen years of experience and laid back charm are enough to inspire hope in those of us who have been worn thin by the crassness of the modern health care industry.

“Here’s the difference,” begins Dr. Achord. “ I have always made it a point to spend the same amount of time with each patient, even if they are just here for a routine eye exam.” And that is, in fact, a big difference. “Often times, patients will say that they’ve never had such a thorough eye exam before. And I take that as a huge compliment,” she says, smiling all the while.

Dr. Achord first became interested in optometry while working at a local optometrist’s office in Gonzales as a college freshman. There began her journey into what has now become her life’s work and passion. After obtaining her degree from LSU, she continued her studies at the University of Houston College of Optometry, one of the top ranked optometry programs in the nation. But home is where the heart is, and Dr. Achord knew she wanted to return to Louisiana to set up shop and settle down.

It’s been nine years since Dr. Achord launched her own full service optical business, and she hasn’t looked back since. In addition to offering the best in name brand designer eyewear such as Gucci, Fendi, Kenneth Cole, Silhouette, Kate Spade, Coach, Dior, and Vera Wang to name a few, Dr. Achord specializes in hard to fit contact lens cases, most notably patients with keratoconus.

Keratoconus is a condition that causes the cornea to bulge forward resulting in a raised peak on the surface of the eye. In these cases, normal soft contacts will not fit, and unfortunately most doctors don’t want to invest the time or resources to stock and fit the rigid contacts necessary for these patients to retain their vision. This is where Dr. Achord can and does help. She’s established her business by serving those who’ve been turned away because their conditions are deemed too labor intensive and are not cost effective enough to treat. Patients who visit Achord Eye Clinic are never turned away, and usually after meeting Dr. Achord they never want to venture far from her care.

Achord Eye Clinic
12726 Perkins Road
Baton Rouge, LA 70810

Acadian Brick and Stone: Paving the way to a new gold standard

Written by: Jill Martinez

It’s been a hard road to hoe since his days working in oil field management almost five years ago, but Darriel Green and his wife, Dione, have stayed committed to their vision to create a service oriented business which provides quality brick and stone products to both residential and commercial projects in the Lafayette area. “Looking back, I get a lot of personal satisfaction knowing that we excelled at a business people told me years ago wasn’t even worth my time,” says Darriel Green. “We’ve been able to grow our business from a cramped modular building in a dusty, dirty brick yard to an expansive state-of-the-art showroom which features an array of brick, flooring and roofing selections. The journey has been tough and tears have definitely been shed, but in the end, myself, my wife and my amazing staff have stayed focus on our core company value – to always treat others as you would like to be treated,” notes Green. “That’s always been our standard, and it continues to set us apart within the industry time and time again.”

In addition to their general emphasis on hospitality and good will, Green’s success is also derived from his specialized selection of antique bricks, especially those extracted from areas around South Carolina, Virginia, St. Louis, and Birmingham. Without carrying the weight of all the green hype that permeates the market today, recovering and reusing bricks is and has always been a great way to recycle materials. And that is exactly the eco friendly manner in which antique bricks are produced. “People in Louisiana and throughout the Southern part of the country love the rustic character and charm of antique bricks. It is a more specialized product, so I have to travel around to different areas to select the best quality bricks available,” he says. “We have some that date back from around 1870.”
Amid all of his success in the industry, Green is probably most proud of his antique brick floor tile. “I burnt up almost $2,000 of equipment in a single day trying to slice antique brick to get just the right hardness, texture and color,” Green recalls. “And we are talking about a product that took an entire three years of this kind of exhausting experimentation to perfect.”

When Darriel and Dione began a renovation of their home in the area, their natural instinct was to use brick in the flooring. Instead of outsourcing the job, Darriel made up his mind to produce the flooring himself – a decision that in the end bolstered his business tremendously despite the many setbacks he encountered along the way. “The antique brick floor tile has been a really great product for us. It’s changed our business, that’s for sure!” exclaims Green. And although Green continues to expand his product selection, grow his markets, and target larger and larger areas, the service-oriented foundation he set into place years ago remains the same. For the Green family and the loyal, dedicated staff at Acadian Brick and Stone, it’s not what they are selling, but the way in which they relate and respect each and every customer they interact with that makes all the difference. “I can’t emphasize that enough. You can buy bricks in many different places, but being able to trust that you’ll get what you want, when you want it, and for the price you agreed to pay is such a relief to the homeowners and builders we deal with on a day to day basis, that they keep coming back or refer their friends and family,” he explains. It is amazing how far a smile and a dose of good old fashion respect will get you. Darriel and Dione Green could not agree more.

Acadian Brick and Stone
2431 S. College Road
P.O. Box 82207
Lafayette, Louisiana 70598

Treasure Trove: Renaissance Interiors

Written by: Simonette Berry

It’s hard to let go of that gorgeous antique writing desk or second set of china that you simply have no room for anymore, but at Renaissance Interiors, your piece will be in good hands. Renaissance Interiors of Metairie has become the leading high-end consignment shop in the South, offering quality furniture, art, silver, china, and collectibles. They accept consignment from individuals and businesses within a 200-mile radius of New Orleans. If you don’t want to make the drive yourself, take advantage of their pick-up, delivery, and shipping services.

With an 18,000-foot showroom and a steady flow of traffic, you can’t go wrong putting your quality consignments with the Mann family. Larry, Dennis, and Sibel Mann discovered their niche in New Orleans in 2002 and have grown quickly, expanding their floor space and services with each location. “As the years went by, the variety and quality of the pieces and the number of customers grew rapidly. Now we have approximately 2,000 customers passing through the store each week,” says Sibel Mann.

“Whether your furniture is antique, nearly new, or in between, we’ll do a great job of getting it out the door and getting a good price for it. We specialize in selling small items such as china, jewelry, silver, household decorations, art, collectibles, and mirrors,” she says. Renaissance also accepts consignments from closing stores and offers pick-up service anywhere in the New Orleans metro area.

The Manns run a hands-on family business. At least one of the three owners is usually in the store, and they are passionate and knowledgeable about what they sell. “We specialize in the sale of antiques, gently used high-quality furniture, antique oil paintings, silver, china, jewelry and specialty items. We recently sold an 1835, six-pound mountain howitzer cannon; two antique barber chairs; a French bicycle from 1920; and a pair of handmade, custom stained glass doors from the 1920s. We also sell antique doors, fireplace mantels, stained glass, and other architectural features.”

There is an incredible variety of items at Renaissance Interiors. The ever and quickly changing inventory guarantees a new collection of treasures every time you walk through the doors. Renaissance also has a unique pricing and discount system, based on how long an item is on the showroom floor, to facilitate sales and get customers the best deals.

“Probably our greatest attribute is that in addition to many new customers from New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Lafayette, we have many people who religiously come by one to three times a week, just to see the new items that have come in. We get new things in almost every day,” says Sibel. The high turnover and staggering amount of inventory has made Renaissance Interiors a hot spot for the movie and television industry. Hundreds of items originally found in Renaissance have found their way onto the sets of some of the biggest productions. “Recently, we did 21 Jump Street and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, and we’re working with the crew of Parker, Ricochet, and G. I. Joe right now,” she says. “It’s a lot of fun.”

Renaissance Interiors
2727 Edenborn Ave
Metairie, LA 70002

On the Right Track:

Written by: Leroy Jenkins

If you live in, or frequent, the “Red Stick,” chances are you’ve noticed the vibrant billboards on Bluebonnet, or even opened your mailbox to discover a personalized booklet of reward cards for your redeeming pleasure. Custom-painted by award-winning artist Terrance Osborne, the artwork embodies the company’s mantra, “We Take You There,” encouraging you to live locally and support your city’s economy. And there’s no better encouragement than incentive. is a user-exclusive website that offers unlimited access to reward card offers available in your city; and you can find rewards for just about anything; sweet deals for your favorite restaurants, discounts on vet check-ups for your pet, and even gift cards for taking the time to test drive a new BMW. They’ve got everything, and the site even empowers you to share these rewards with your friends and family through the familiar portals of email and Facebook.

Once has enough offers in a given city, they will start mailing out keepsake reward card booklets to you every three months. And if you’re wondering how to get your hands on one of these babies, it’s simple. Just sign up online, and you’ll be on the list to receive your very own booklet as soon as it’s available. mails over 25,000 booklets each quarter, and will also send them to nonmembers, based on certain demographic criteria; but if you really want to ensure you receive a book, it’s best to sign up. Whatever you do, don’t wait around your mailbox. All of the current offers are always available online for you to print anytime, as many times as you like, so you can start using your rewards right away.

If you’re bracing yourself for the proverbial “catch,” don’t hold your breath, because there isn’t one. is completely free to consumers; no credit cards, commitments, or fine print-laden contracts to haunt you later on. The intrinsic idea behind revolves around local living; creating and fostering a symbiotic relationship between retailers and consumers. The key for advertisers is to devise an offer that will attract new customers, as well as reward existing patrons for their loyalty, all without haphazardly giving away merchandise simply for a chance to make a sale. This mutually beneficial arrangement is why advertisers allow, and even welcome, repeat redemption of their offers. Everybody wins.

The obvious competitors are the popular “50% off Deals of the Day,” but when comparing to the myriad of these websites, it becomes increasingly clear that local businesses don’t need to sell the farm to attract business. Many of the restaurants and retailers who advertise with have experienced excellent responses and above average redemption rates, all without needing to give a 50 to 90 percent discount to hundreds of customers who may never come back. If you ask founder Roger Smith (and any economics expert), he’ll contend, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” has released several reward card booklets in Baton Rouge and Ascension Parish and currently hosts a slew of online offers for Shreveport, New Orleans, and the Northshore, with plans to mail booklets in these areas later this year. Plans are also in place to build more “tracks” across Louisiana and beyond, as well as unveil some new applications and exciting web updates to help you live locally and reward yourself when you do.

I spoke with Roger Smith, the founder of, to find out more about his “hybrid marketing” methods and plans for the future.

What gave you the idea for

I knew there was a need. There is a huge, gaping hole for local businesses trying to target their local audience. fills that hole by positioning a business in front of their local audience for pennies per household. It’s a “hybrid marketing” campaign that blends traditional media with the new web and social media campaigns that make this work. There has been a lot of buzz about the web for the last 15 years or so, and the stories of what works keep changing from all of the so-called experts. All of the hype has small business owners confused as to what they need to do to be effective on the web. Most of them believe they need a website, but the problem is that web sites are very expensive to build and maintain. It’s also difficult to build a site that consumers will really engage with. The other problem is that making their target audience aware of their particular site requires a large budget. The one thing that a business does need is a web presence at a local level, and does this better than anything else out there.

What is your favorite thing about the program?

It works. We are receiving great feedback from people that have advertised in the program and also generous support from consumers that are using the reward cards as introductory offers to do business locally.

How are you different from your competitors like Bargain Bee and Living Social, and how do you differentiate yourself in the market?

We are very different from the purchase online coupons in the fact that it costs the consumer nothing to use It’s a complimentary offer from the local business. It’s a win for the consumer as well as the business. That’s one of the things that makes this work.

How does stay mutually beneficial for both consumers and local businesses?

The offers don’t break the back or the bank of the business making an offer. It’s a financially sound offer for both the consumer and the business. We encourage our advertisers to change their offer monthly, or as often as they like, to keep their customer motivated and engaged.

What are the benefits of going online if you’ve already received a reward card booklet in the mail?

The online component of provides upgraded offers from retailers and also features offers in other cities, which is ideal for those who travel. Going online also enables you to forward offers to friends and family.

What kind of response have you experienced from consumers and advertisers?

The responses have been incredible. The most common question we hear from consumers is, “When are you coming to my city?”

How do you plan to expand, and how do you see it evolving?

I see becoming the local portal for businesses to get their message to consumers at a local level. will continue to evolve, and we will keep putting the BEST product of its kind out there. We will keep doing all of this right here in Louisiana. Right now 100 percent of everything about this product is produced here. I am very proud of that. Everything we do is upscale, chic, and first class, and that will continue.

What cities do you plan to launch in next?

Our plans for expansion into new areas depend on finding the right people. We will grow into other cities around the country as we find qualified candidates. We are looking for people who want to make a much better than average living and who want to keep their independence. It’s a business opportunity for someone with the right skill set and determination to succeed.

Are there any new online features or promotions we should be on the lookout for?

Right now we have a promotional giveaway of limited edition Terrance Osborne prints. He is a two-time jazz fest poster artist. We have commissioned him to work with All you have to do is send your comments to and tell us why you love to receive your limited edition print. We also just gave away an iPad 2 to Joann Torres, so keep checking and “Like us” on Facebook. We may do it again.


“We’ve been a member of for nearly a year now, and we are extremely happy with the initial results. Within the first three quarters, we’ve seen over $100,000 in sales associated with the reward cards. The average sale per customer using their Rewards card is actually 50 percent higher than our typical transaction. Clearly, has been a great value to our business, and we will continue to use their services in the future.”
>>> Mitch Mayes, Louisiana Nursery

“ has been a GREAT marketing tool for The Londoner Pub & Grill! The redemption rate is fantastic; we have seen immediate results every time it has been published. We have been able to reach a lot of new guests with this product, and the StreetcarShops team has been wonderful to work with. I truly feel this is a partnership. They really work hand in hand with us to promote the business. I highly recommend it for anyone who might be interested!”

>>> Rob Irwin, The Londoner Pub & Grill

Romancing the Stone: D&D Ornamental Concrete

Written by: Simonette Berry

Where can you encounter a giant gorilla, a baby dinosaur, a slumbering dragon, and an angel with a six-foot wingspan surrounded by a host of genuflecting saints? Not in your dreams or even Disneyland (they don’t have saints), but the epic statuary section of D and D Ornamental Concrete. D and D has been offering an inspiring collection of statuary, fountains, birdbaths, garden furniture, and garden ornaments since 1986. With four acres in Napoleonville and another acre at the Baton Rouge location, D and D’s huge selection, among other things, has made it the largest wholesaler and retailer of statuary in Louisiana.

D and D was founded during the oil bust in the 80s and has grown steadily since its inception, thriving even through today’s recession. Founder Mike Dubois grew up working with his parents, Helen and Paul Dubois, at Dubois Nursery in Houma, where they carried a small selection of stone statues. Mike and his wife, co-founder Patricia Dubois, were attracted to the idea of being makers of their own destiny. With the help of Mike’s parents and a retiring statue manufacturer that offered to show them the tricks of the trade, the young couple started D and D Ornamental in 1986. “We started selling to other nurseries that I knew through my mom’s shop, and pretty soon I had a steady clientele. Almost every year we’ve earned more than the one before,” he says.

Patricia worked by Mike’s side as a statuary painter for the first 10 years the business was in operation. Now, she runs the Baton Rouge store and manages the accounting while Mike focuses on sales, production, and fountain installation at the Napoleonville location. People come through both stores on weekends in droves. Though D and D does a good bit of retail, the biggest business comes from wholesale customers; the company serves hundreds of them throughout the Gulf Coast region. “Wholesale was always our biggest market,” says Mike. “My mom’s nursery business gave me lots of ready-made connections, and word spread fast. For the first 15 years or so, it was word of mouth only. We didn’t need to advertise; we could barely handle the business we had! Now, we’ve expanded enough to advertise, and about seven or eight years ago we created the website. People can shop from their homes just by looking through the online catalog.”

“A lot of people come out just to look around. If you come here, make plans to spend a little time so you can see everything. We love having people, and we hardly ever lose customers once they’ve bought from us. Our prices are very competitive because we make 80 percent of everything we sell. So many people say to me they can’t believe how good our prices are, but I explain that we try to give our customers the same benefits we have.”

Mike pumps new life into the business every year with original sculptures, fountains, and ornaments. “We hire a sculptor from time to time to create new work or to do commissions. He’ll come into the shop and sculpt the pieces, and from those we make our own molds. He just did a huge fleur de lis fountain for us. He’s done giant tigers, 14-foot alligators, large Jesus and Mary statues, life-size angels, all sorts of things.”

“Our religious statues are very popular, especially here in the South. People tend to buy them especially after hurricanes, I’ve noticed. We have a lot of original religious pieces and a large selection, so people come from as far away as Houston, Shreveport, and Lake Charles to get them. It’s a fun way to meet people. The Wall Street Journal even did a feature in 1999 about our Virgin Mary statues.”

Driving around south Louisiana, you’ll find D and D pieces proudly displayed in front lawns, schoolyards, church courtyards, and businesses. St. Charles Avenue’s twin vistas, Audubon Park and Tulane University, are dotted with D and D classic benches, urns, and planters. Less than a mile away, Ursuline Academy has a seven-foot custom-made religious statue on their lawn. “The 12-foot-tall crucifixes with Jesus are popular around here, too—you’ll see them out on Airline Highway in Baton Rouge and in some of the church courtyards,” says Mike.

D and D statues are also popular for lighthearted lawn decor and advertising gimmicks. “The big blue gorilla statue on Highway 90 is ours. There’s one like it in Plaquemines Parish in a man’s front yard. He dresses it up like Santa, the Easter Bunny, sometimes like an LSU player. He makes the news just about every year,” he chuckles. “It’s a good feeling to ride down the road and see pieces you made 20 and 25 years ago in people’s yards. It’s a good feeling to make something that people want,” says Mike.

Bella Pietra, Bella Famiglia: The Stone Gallery

Written by: Simonette Berry

In business since 1999, the Stone Gallery is a sprawling, one-acre stone yard in Harahan. This is not your average stone experience; at the Stone Gallery, you can purchase slabs of stone for the same wholesale prices that are usually only offered to stone fabrication shops. There are stone selections to fit every budget. After 10 years in the business, the Stone Gallery owner, Johnny Altobello, Jr., decided his company was going to change the way natural stone was sold in southern Louisiana. He decided to clearly mark each color of stone with the name of the stone, the size of each slab, the price per square foot, and the price of the slab. “It’s the most honest way that I know of doing business,” says Johnny. “Customers leave our facility with all of the information they need to make an educated decision about their project. We take the mystery out of buying natural stone.”

“Our one-tiered pricing system is very important to me,” Johnny continues. “There are no games or gimmicks here, just premium quality material at wholesale prices. We charge the same price regardless if the customer is a stone fabrication shop, homeowner, contractor, or designer. Homeowners can buy their stone directly from us, and we will hold it for them until their job is ready,” he says. The Stone Gallery will also ship customers’ purchases to the stone fabrication shop of their choice, or if they don’t know a stone fabricator, one can be recommended from their list of preferred fabricators.

There are different grades of natural stone, just like there are different grades of diamonds, emeralds, and other gemstones. The Stone Gallery imports and sells only first-quality, premium grade natural stone, the highest grade available. “We have quality control people in Italy and Brazil who select the first quality stone just for us. Before we purchase the material chosen by our quality control staff, I must approve each stock. And I’m picky,” he laughs.

The Stone Gallery has over 150 colors of natural stone in stock and has access to hundreds more. The most popular have historically been marble and granite, but exotic quartzites are starting to take the market by storm. “It’s a natural stone that’s harder than granite, and it comes in some really gorgeous colors. The only stone harder than quartzite is a diamond. People are starting to ask for more exotic stones in unusual colors, so we’re importing more and more quartzite and unusual granites every month,” says Johnny.

“People’s taste in natural stone continues to mature. They don’t want the same colors of stone that they see everywhere; they want new, bold and fresh colors. We specialize in the unusual. When we opened in 1999, there were probably 10 colors of stone in this market. As we grew, I reinvested our profits into exotic stones, bringing colors to Louisiana that no one had ever seen. Some of the most popular exotic quartzites are Palomino, Fusion, and Symphony. We have many other colors that are here or en route from Brazil and Italy. We’re always adding new colors to our product line.”

By popular demand, the Stone Gallery also started carrying Blanco sinks and faucets. “Our customers wanted to be able to get everything they needed for their kitchen in one place. They told us that if we had sinks, tile, and backsplash ideas, they wouldn’t have to run all over the city! So, we’ve made it a one-stop shop. We also carry an extensive line of DuPont stone care and maintenance products, as well as stone remnants and half slabs of marble for vanity tops and smaller projects. Like the larger, full slabs of stone, these smaller pieces are on display in the stone yard and all marked with the stone name, size, and price. Customers can also shop by taking the virtual tour of our stone yard on our website,,” Johnny says.

The Stone Gallery is the oldest wholesaler of stone in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, and it has been a family owned and operated business since day one. Johnny started the business on a small covered lot on Airline Highway. “It was me, the forklift, a cordless phone, and the office trailer. Bathroom breaks and lunch breaks were luxuries,” he says. Though many members of the Altobello clan have worked at the Stone Gallery over the years, the sales team now consists of Johnny Jr., his wife and business partner Carolyn, their son Johnny III, and Johnny’s brother-in-law, John Bordes.

The family staff gives personalized golf cart tours to assist customers in selecting the perfect piece of stone for their project. While on the golf cart tour, you ride through rows and rows of beautifully displayed natural works of art. The Stone Gallery is truly an art gallery of stone, with an extensive natural stone and porcelain tile selection for flooring and backsplash materials. Carolyn offers free design services and advice for customers who purchase their countertops from the Stone Gallery. Once Carolyn and the customer have agreed on a backsplash selection, they again visit the stone yard with a sample of the backsplash to see it next to the slabs of stone selected for the kitchen or bath.

“I’ve done a number of things in my professional career and liked all of them, but none as much as this,” says Johnny. “It’s great to see our customers get excited when they find the perfect stone for their kitchen or bath. This isn’t a job; it’s a passion, and it’s one shared by my entire family.”

The Stone Gallery
5600 Mounes Street
Harahan, LA 70123

LED-ing the Way: Valley Supply

Written by: Simonette Berry

The lighting industry is undergoing radical changes with the dawn of the green movement. In south Louisiana, a region not often thought of as a frontrunner in green technologies, Valley Supply in Houma has been sewing these seeds of change for years. Owner Cecil Zeringue, whose family has run Valley Supply for over 30 years, says he remembers customers requesting “long life bulbs” ages ago. “It used to be that the typical customer would walk into our store and ask George Chaisson for our long life 130v bulbs. They were known to live through power surges and last quite a bit longer than the 120v bulbs. I used to get a big kick out of these conversations, especially when they were in Louisiana French!”

The seeds of change were planted with the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA), which contained, in part, energy saving standards and requirements aimed to move the country towards more energy efficient lighting. The intent was to shift the nation’s focus away from inexpensive, fuel-hungry, standard incandescent light bulbs that use only the basic technology invented by Thomas Edison over 130 years ago. The shift prompted manufacturers, not only in the U.S. but worldwide, to increase research and development for more energy efficient lighting technologies. LED (Light Emitting Diode), OLED (Organic LED), CFL (Compact Fluorescent Lamp), Halogen, and Cold-Cathode light bulbs are not necessarily new inventions, but these technologies have now become more affordable and available. “Embracing these new technologies has allowed consumers to save on maintenance cost, conserve energy, and have a wider pool of options to choose from,” says Zeringue. “It’s revealed some pretty cool lighting strategies and created real ingenuity in the marketplace.” “There are so many different manufacturers throwing their hats into the LED ring,” he says. “It’s kept us very busy lately on the research front. We have several customers, business owners and electricians, who are pretty hip on the LED potential. They’re always stopping by to learn about the hottest new technology and give us feedback. So, we have to stay on the cutting edge.”

“We are also seeing many customers in Terrebonne and Lafourche who really want to change the way they consume energy. Our community was hit hard by the oil spill, and in many ways I think everyone here wants to do their part, no matter how small that might be. ‘How can we save money? Could we reduce our energy usage? Do we really have energy efficient options that make sense now?’ That’s what we’re all saying these days.”

“We are continually field testing, learning, listening, and seeking out the right products for our customers and the trade-offs that occur between the different technologies and manufacturers. It is easy to make this complicated, because the new variables and choices in lighting have suddenly increased tenfold,” said Zeringue.

“We’ve had to learn a whole new language at Valley Supply to communicate with customers and distributors about things such as Kelvin temperature (whiteness of the light source), lumens per watt (amount of light per energy usage), CRI (Color Rendering Index; a fancy way of factoring the depth of color upon an object when illuminated), and the multiplicity of shadows created by the number of LED sources from a single light bulb. It can really push us at times, but it’s fun to learn,” says Zeringue.

“LEDs have been getting much of the press and excitement in our world, but they’re not the answer for every application and every customer…at least for awhile. I’m seeing some interesting lower cost solutions with TCP’s Infrared Reflective Coated Halogen bulbs and their shatterproof armor coated Insta-bright dimmable CFLs. They have great potential as well. So far this year, LED bulbs have taken off in the task lighting arena, with applications such as under-counter and cove lighting applications. LED landscape lighting and recessed down lights have also been in high demand. RAB Lighting has a great, affordable 20-watt wall pack that has become pretty popular as well.”

“The quality and right amount of light is very important to us and our customers. I don’t know anyone who enjoys climbing up a ladder on a consistent basis,” he chuckles. “Sometimes, though, the less expensive standard incandescent can still be the better overall option. It really depends upon what is most important to the customer in their application,” Zeringue explains.

Lighting isn’t the only area Valley Supply has updated. They also have a Facebook page, where Zeringue is constantly posting photos from their Lighting Market and demo videos. “It’s a great place to interact with our customers and share things with them that they wouldn’t normally get to see,” he says.

“Over the years, I’ve learned that many factors go into whether a new product or technology will succeed in our region: performance, compatibility, cost, quality, life-expectancy, and availability. I think it also depends on companies like us who actively listen to our customers and manufacturers to bridge the gap. That is our job. We enjoy what we do and we greatly appreciate the great people of this beautiful region. Nothing makes me happier than to hear from someone who was well served at Valley.”

Valley Supply Co. of Houma
1000 Barataria Ave.
Houma, LA 70360

Timeless Design: Supreme Ornamental Ironworks

Written by: Simonette Berry

Graceful scrolls, vine tendrils, and ornate old world designs are interwoven into the rich fabric of Louisiana’s architecture in the form of historic ornamental ironwork. Iron is a timeless medium; old houses are restored around it. Wood rots, bricks crumble, and cement sidewalks crack beside the gracefully aging balconies, railings, fences, and window grilles of yesteryear that stand strong through hundreds of hurricane seasons and frosty winters. These works of art crown the homes and businesses that local families hand down for generations.

Karl Adams, founder of Supreme Ornamental Ironworks, was drawn to the old ironwork in the Vieux Carré long before he began creating it himself. At the time, he owned a muffler and quick lube shop, where he enjoyed restoring classic motorcycles. “Every Saturday, I used to ride through the French Quarter with three friends of mine, and I’d stop and look at the ironwork. I still go there for inspiration today. I like studying the old European style, where the roots are, and looking at the workmanship. I’m always researching and looking for inspiration. I learn something new every day.

Adams started playing around with ironwork in 1994 in his shop. He made garden gates and small ironwork panels for friends and enjoyed the creative spark that happened with each new job. In 1998, a local contractor asked Adams to create a 200-foot fence across the front of a new cemetery. After creating a long, elegant fence, much larger than anything he had done before, Adams realized he had found his true calling in ornamental iron. Since completing the cemetery project for the Houma Thibodaux Archdiocese, Adams has gone on to build dozens of custom fences and architectural elements for their many schools, churches, and cemeteries over the past 13 years.

Three years ago, Adams made the final leap away from auto work and closed his muffler and quick lube shop. He converted the building into another fabrication studio for Supreme Ornamental, whose two facilities now span over 7,000 feet and feature cutting edge CAD design technology. Supreme Ornamental Ironworks now specializes in creating wrought iron fencing, gates, New Orleans-style posts and ornamental designs, staircases, balcony railings, and various architectural elements. They also offer custom awnings, chimney tops, dormers, flashing, and other ornamental iron pieces done in copper and colored metal. “I have eight specially trained team members. I could have 25 if I wanted, but for the quality of what I want to produce, I need a small, tightly knit team. I want to be positive about the quality of what I put out there, and I’m not out to do mass production,” says Adams. “I’m very particular about each piece of ironwork being completely solid. Everything we put out is a high quality, refined product, so no bolts or tack welding. After the construction is done, each piece is sandblasted, primed, and painted with industrial marine enamel. These pieces will stand the test of time.”

“I do everything hands-on. When you call me for a job, I make an appointment and we’re going to spend at least an hour together at first. Then, I’ll invite you out to the workshop to see how things are done. Then, we sit down to create the final design. I am with my clients every step of the way,” Adams says.

Adams and his team spend three weeks out of each month constructing and finishing; the rest of the time, they are on the road, installing work throughout Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Texas. “If someone wants our work, we will travel wherever they want us to,” he says. After Gustav, Adams was called to Mississippi to painstakingly replicate and restore damaged ironwork that dated back to the 1800s. He is most popular, though, in South Louisiana, where he has woven old New Orleans ironwork styles along the main boulevards of Thibodaux and Houma. His work can be seen at the Ellendale Country Club, the Baton Rouge Country Club of Louisiana, St. John’s Episcopal Church (the oldest church south of the Mississippi River), in every home in the Acadia Plantation subdivision, and throughout countless other commercial facilities, businesses, schools, churches, and homes. “I’ve worked for a lot of high-profile, popular people, but I respect their privacy. Sometimes I won’t even take pictures. I’ll just say that I’ve worked on some pretty amazing projects in my time.”

“I wanted to create a company that no one else around here had, something people had never heard of. The fact that everything is custom designed, built by hand, and tailored to the customer’s needs is what has made us so successful. I like building something you can’t find anywhere else. If a person can explain what their vision is, we can create it. We can build anybody’s dream.”

Supreme Ornamental
2870 Hwy 1
Labadieville, LA
(985) 526-0056

Outdoor Living: Adams Aluminum

Written by: Simonette Berry

Have you ever walked outside on a beautiful day, ready to enjoy a cool drink by the pool or tan on the patio, only to discover you need to clean your pool, rake the yard, or douse yourself in bug spray before you can relax? We are lucky to have gorgeous weather in Louisiana almost year-round, yet often our tropical climate presents other challenges: the constant leaf debris, clouds of giant mosquitoes, and the occasional snake or family of raccoons that drop in for a visit.Imagine for a moment a hassle-free, tranquil area that you can use anytime of the day or year: your own outdoor living room. At Adams Aluminum Pool and Patio Enclosures, Richard Adams has been realizing this dream for his customers since 1979. “It’s basically an invisible barrier that allows you to open up your house and enjoy the outdoors without the nuisances. No leaves to rake, no flies getting into the kitchen, or extra maintenance costs. Anytime you walk outside, you’re set free!” 
he says.

Adams Aluminum enclosures enable customers to enjoy spending more time outside year-round entertaining, cooking, exercising, meditating, or just relaxing; and all with very little maintenance. Enclosed pools don’t require the use of as many chemicals to keep them clean, which creates a healthier environment for you to swim in, cuts down on costs, and allows a longer life for your pool finish. Some enclosure materials can also act as a UV barrier, allowing you to enjoy the warmth of the sunlight without damaging your skin.

“People are moving their lives outside these days,” Adams says. “In 32 years of specializing solely in custom enclosures, these projects have evolved from the construction of simple deck enclosures to the creation of full outdoor living spaces. Now instead of a barbeque grill on the patio, people are building full-service kitchens with granite countertops, double ovens, and warming drawers. Next to that is often a fireplace with a flat screen TV, loveseats, and couches made with water resistant material. The area becomes their second living room, and they can watch the game and cook dinner while the kids play in the pool. It’s a great way to enjoy family time or entertain guests.”

Adams Aluminum designs each enclosure to fit seamlessly with the existing architecture of the home. The finished product appears as if it were part of the original design, but also blends into the background, allowing the beauty of the natural surroundings to shine through. Often they continue the roofline of the house or mimic the shape of an existing architectural element in creating an enclosure design. “If there’s a wing on one side of the house, we might frame the enclosure on the other side to mirror it,” he explains. While most companies only offer one or two designs, Adams Aluminum can create enclosures in all shapes, sizes, and materials. “Today it’s become common for the homeowners associations of subdivisions to require more blending with the existing architecture. We can match any style, and we have the ability to incorporate stucco, brick, and wooden elements into our enclosures.”

Adams Aluminum has a 15,000-square-foot facility in Mandeville and decades of design experience. The staff has the technology and experience needed to design and fabricate a wide array of architectural styles. “We take tremendous joy and pride in designing our enclosures,” says Adams. “We gain a great sense of accomplishment when people tell us that our enclosures are superior to others they have seen.”

In addition to catering to the needs of homeowners, Adams Aluminum works closely with several architects nationwide on both residential and commercial enclosures. Adams Aluminum has created custom enclosures for homes designed in the essence of Frank Lloyd Wright, A Hays Town houses, Arthur Rutenburg, and many historical homes and plantations. Some of their commercial work is in the garden suites of the L’Auberge du Lac Casino Resort and in the St. James Place assisted living community. The latter glass enclosure was created to enable residents to enjoy aqua therapy year-round. Adams Aluminum screen and glass pool and patio enclosures are found throughout Louisiana and in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas.

Outdoor living has allowed the clients of Adams Aluminum to do things they only dreamed of before. “Now people are creating outdoor living environments within our enclosures. As they get older, people often downsize their homes, get rid of the extra bedrooms, and spend more time outside relaxing and doing what they love. They have created beautiful water features with landscaping, lighting, and palm trees. A few customers have made butterfly gardens inside of their enclosures or allowed their parakeets and cockatoos to fly freely within these spaces instead of keeping them in birdcages,” says Adams. “Imagine having an extra room in your house bathed in natural light year-round. It’s there for all the family to use for any purpose, and it can only increase the quality of living and entertaining in your home. The possibilities are endless.”

Adams Aluminum
68469 James Street
Mandeville, LA 70447
(985) 626-8813

The Secret to Success: Brian’s Furniture

Written by: Simonette Berry

Louisiana has many “locals-only” secrets; where to get the best boudin (Hebert’s Meat Market in Maurice), where to go hear the best music (if you don’t know, ask a local), and where you got them shoes (according to the French Quarter scam artists, they’re “on yo’ feet!”). In the heart of downtown Port Allen’s historic district, there is another well-kept secret; a city block transformed into a shopper’s paradise. Brian’s Furniture is anything but a simple furniture store. The 40,000-square-foot complex is made up of four specialty shops offering indoor and outdoor furniture, accessories, art, and miscellaneous architectural pieces. You’ll find everything from bedroom sets and patio furniture to original Louisiana art and a life-size Star Wars C3PO and E.T. for your lawn.

At one time, Brian’s was a 5,000-square-foot warehouse that offered interior furnishings only. Thirty years later, it has become a destination spot where shoppers stop to spend the day. Brian Fourroux, owner of this unique, family-run business, says his success is no secret. He is constantly recreating and adding to his space. Brian works with his wife, Keri, and his nephew, Tyler, to keep each space lively and never the same the next time you visit. “We’ve become the superstore of outdoor living. People come from all around to see what we’ve got,” Brian says.

“Saturdays are big here,” he says. Across the street from the large indoor furniture store, Brian converted his father’s old service station into a quaint, New Orleans-style courtyard. On certain weekends, a musician plays traditional jazz, his melodies filtering sweetly through the sunlit rows of chairs, statues, and fountains. Several artists hang their paintings along the fence, and you’ll often find Brian’s in-house artist painting on the patio or decorating the sugar kettles and furniture in brilliantly colored finishes. A variety of aluminum patio furniture, mailboxes, lawn ornaments, bronze and copper fountains, and garden ornaments fill the space. “The jazz and the art on the fence give the space that old New Orleans feeling. It’s got charm. People love it,” he says.

Brian’s Furniture offers a milieu of outdoor elements. The New Orleans courtyard is filled with the largest selection of unique outdoor furniture, architectural pieces, mailboxes, light posts, and miscellaneous outdoor accents. “We have New Orleans-style light fixtures in aluminum and copper, and over 20 different styles of mailboxes alone to choose from.” A popular item is Brian’s custom designed fleur-de-lis patio set, which he had custom designed around the fleur-de-lis that was once on the old Huey P. Long Bridge over the Mississippi. The fine workmanship and designs of Brian’s aluminum patio furniture almost supersedes its other charms. By virtue of being aluminum, it’s easy to move around and rust-free; and the pieces are all powder coated, which makes the product virtually maintenance free.

“Our niche is the New Orleans-style courtyard, but we have much more to offer, and people see that once they walk in the door,” he says. Brian’s Furniture just added another location within the complex; a sugar kettle yard. “We have hundreds of sugar kettles, probably the largest collection and selection in the entire southern region. We have cast iron sugar kettles guaranteed not to rust in two, three, four, five, six, and seven foot. We call the seven-foot sugar kettle ‘the coonass hot tub!'” he laughs. Brian’s Furniture also offers fiberglass sugar kettles made from molds of old Louisiana sugar kettles, with New Orleans, LA stenciled on the rim. “We have the fiberglass in two, three, four, five, and six foot. They are absolutely beautiful kettles, and once the natural aging process begins, you can barely tell the difference between the fiberglass and the iron.

In the main furniture store, Brian has a huge selection of indoor home furnishings. “In our main store, we specialize in reclaimed cypress pieces,” he explains. “I have a talented carpenter, a true Louisiana craftsman who was trained as a cabinetmaker. He creates beautiful consoles, desks, dining tables, end tables, armoires, buffets, and many customized pieces from Louisiana cypress wood.” The main store also houses Brian’s mid- to high-end imported reproduction accent pieces for the home. Next door is Brian’s furniture warehouse, where you can find great deals on discounted pieces. Biannual auctions are held in the warehouse (for more information on the auctions and special events, subscribe to the newsletter at

Brian’s Furniture also features over 400 pieces of art by local artists inside the main store. Every week he spotlights a few of them, creating a constantly rotating wall space filled with Louisiana imagery and local color. If the music and art doesn’t grab you from the street, the comic relief out front will. Brian’s sense of humor shines through his choice in statuary; his street looks almost like a scene from a fantastic children’s book or television show. “We’ve got a life-size tiger, a huge alligator, life-size cigar Indian, a giraffe, and a six-foot-tall pelican along the fence out front. It adds a unique touch to downtown,” he chuckles. “Bring your camera!”

Living Like George Jetson: Select Automation homes of the future

Written by: Lauren Noel

However cliche the title sounds, it is literally the only way to describe the things that Select Automation of Mandeville has to offer for your home. Security systems of the highest quality, lighting control systems, media and audio systems, or all in one package: anything you can think of to create your very own “smart home,” Select Automation can install and maintain for you.

When I began working on this story, I had no idea what “select automation” even meant. When I spoke with someone from the company, all they told me was that I had to visit the store to get the full effect. Wow, did I ever! I was taken into a conference room set up as a model home with all the different amenities that Select Automation had to offer. From there, it was a presentation of automatic lighting adjustments, security cameras, audio options and movies galore, throughout which my jaw stayed on the floor.

I had no idea these sort of things were available for a home. They offer an audio system that loads (and stores) up to 1,000 CDs (and album artwork) for you to choose from at any time with the push of a button, or a security system that rings all of the phones in the household ring if someone presses the doorbell and allows them to converse through the phone and an intercom outside. Say you are miles away on a beautiful vacation, but you are worried about the safety of your home. Using a “smart phone,” you can check all of your security cameras around the property, ensuring your home’s safety. One last thing that I will mention has to be my favorite of the available options. Using Select Automation’s system, you can set your lighting, television, or audio to a wake-up time, where at any given time your TV or any song will turn on to wake you up, while your lighting can gradually increase over ten minutes to slowly awake you. Now really, how cool is that?

The most important thing Select Automation offers is their certified technicians that install every piece of equipment, including wiring—which, by the way, is installed within the walls of your home, eliminating ANY exposed wiring. It also helps to know that you don’t need to install everything at once, or at all. You can pick and choose from any of their customized packages for what you think is the most beneficial to your home, and you can customize based on pricing—which is also surprisingly not that bad.

I could go on and on describing the things that Select Automation can do for your home. However, the best thing I can recommend is a visit, because that is all it took for me to become convinced, and I am sure you will be, too.

Select Automation
68445 James Street
Mandeville, LA

Following the Music: Dancing in Louisiana

Written by: Simonette Berry

I’ll never forget learning to Cajun dance on the worn wooden dance floor of Mulate’s Restaurant in New Orleans, my little feet poised on the toes of my mom’s high-heeled shoes as she walked me through a slow waltz. I was utterly mesmerized as my legs magically moved in time with the giant pairs of legs gliding past me. Fast forward 23 years and I’m still enchanted by Louisiana music, learning new steps every chance I get, and attending dance classes to learn new styles. I’ve grooved to Rockin’ Doopsie, two-stepped to Rosie Ledet, second-lined to the Dirty Dozen, undulated to Tab Benoit’s sultry swamp blues, swung to the Cottonmouth Kings, salsa danced to Los Poboycitos, and shaken it to TBC Brass Band on the corner of Frenchmen and Chartres. Twirling through countless festivals, backyard ballrooms, and fais-do-dos each year, I’ve noticed that a dance renaissance has risen from the ashes of Katrina-struck Louisiana, creating a whole new generation of dancing schools. There are lessons throughout the state for such a variety of dance styles that you could spend your whole life taking them and never learn it all. What a better way to spend August, when the festival junkies go into withdrawal, college kids flee to cooler climates, and restaurants and clubs often close for reno(vaca)tions. The best way to follow the music in this heat is to act a little bit like a vampire—wait until the sun is laying low in the sky before you emerge from your air-conditioned cave to hit the streets and heat up the dance floor.

In New Orleans, the hottest steppers on Frenchmen Street are the swing dancers. It only takes a few weeks of practice to get the hang of the basic moves, and before you know it, you’re jumping, jiving, and wailing to the best traditional jazz, big band, and swing music on the block. There are three free beginner classes weekly: 5 pm on Sundays at d.b.a. on Frenchmen, 9:30 pm on Mondays at Mimi’s in the Marigny, and 5 pm Wednesdays at the Spotted Cat on Frenchmen. Nola Jitterbugs, the company that puts on these free lessons, is stationed above Maison on Frenchmen Street, where they teach workshops and classes every Monday in August. Classes are cheap, fun, and packed with people. You don’t need to bring a partner, and it’s a great way to make friends and meet potential dancing partners on your level.

The NOLA Jitterbugs are one of the sponsors for the annual Satchmo Summerfest, a three-day-long celebration of Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong and his musical legacy held August 4-7 at the old U.S. Mint in the French Quarter. Nola Jitterbugs will be hosting an indoor dance floor and free dance lessons between bands at the Back O’ Town Stage. Also, check out the free event “Satchmo Swing Dance” in the Stage Door Canteen at the D-Day Museum. The D-Day Museum is another hot spot for swing dancing, weekly swing dance shows, jazz concerts, and lessons.

Traditional Louisiana dances are easy to follow and great to learn for festivals and fais-do-dos, when someone will inevitably walk up and ask you to dance. One of the best ways to pick up a few Zydeco steps is to go to Zydeco night at Rock-n-Bowl in New Orleans every Thursday. You’ll go from partner to partner, dancing the night away and learning basic steps from each one. To get schooled in a fusion of Cajun Jitterbug, Whiskey River Jitterbug, Zydeco, and Cajun Two-Step, register for a class with the Cajun-Zydeco Dance Association. They teach at Tooloulas in Slidell on Mondays and at Rock-n-Bowl on Tuesdays.

The Cajun French Music Association in Baton Rouge offers free dance lessons starting at 7 pm before each CFMA dance (admission $10). Located at UTC hall on Florida Blvd, this month’s dances feature Blake Miller and the Vermilion Playboys on August 12 and Wallace Trahan and Rice and Gravy on August 26. The CFMA also has a chapter in Lake Charles, where free dance lessons are held on the third Thursday of each month at the CFMA headquarters on East Prien Lake Road. Practice your steps at Boutin’s restaurant in Baton Rouge, where there is a live band every night of the week. Once you’ve got the hang of it, go to Acadiana for the litmus test. In Lafayette, the two most popular dance spots are Randol’s Restaurant and Prejean’s Restaurant, both famous eateries and lively dancehalls.

If you’re in north Louisiana, the new craze is belly dancing. The Port Belly Project is the dance company responsible for Shreveport and Bossier City’s blossoming belly dance scene. This beautiful form of dance is slowly starting to change from something unapproachable and risque to a fun way for women to exercise and learn graceful dance sequences. The Port Belly Project’s dance troupe performs regularly and offers a variety of dance classes out of their home base, the Lotus Studio. For a wider array of more traditional styles in Shreveport, Sandy’s Dance Studio offers private and group lessons in Ballroom, Swing, Country Western, Line Dance, Tango, and Salsa.

To keep up with the latest music events, I start by browsing the web. In New Orleans, the best music calendar is the WWOZ Livewire, which you can view online at or listen to, along with a fantastic array of Louisiana music, at the top of each odd hour on 90.7 FM. Clarence’s List of Cajun and Zydeco music is a great resource not only for music but also for Cajun French lessons and dance lessons in Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Houma, New Orleans, and surrounding areas. You can find this at In north Louisiana, go to to find out about dance, music, and cultural events. Though this is only a small part of what Louisiana has to offer, it should get you jitterbugging in no time.

Particular About Pianos: Tips on buying the best

Written by: Simonette Berry

The first time I sat at a piano at age nine, I didn’t know a note of music. After six years of ballet lessons and seemingly glorious recitals, my parents forced me to change course and study music, to my utter horror. Didn’t they get it? I was destined to be a famous prima ballerina like Anna Pavlova! I wanted to live forever in a tutu and leap across stages.

Very reluctantly, I began taking piano lessons from a serious, no-nonsense teacher who would crack a pencil across my hands when I missed a single note. Despite this, I eventually grew to relish the daily discipline of practicing scales.

Five years later, at age 14, I was performing piano for Broadway musicals at school with the ULL orchestra, competing statewide, and taking pipe organ lessons at the college with a very demanding, phenomenal university professor. Despite his steadfast goal of sending me to Juilliard for the organ, I jumped ship. The piano was my true love. Besides, it made me popular at parties. I became grateful for that harsh (and wise) parental intervention, as my tutu gathered dust in the closet.

After graduating from high school, I moved to New Orleans, the birthplace of jazz, armed with dreams and a scholarship to Loyola’s College of Music. I would spend four to six hours a night practicing on the funky old upright pianos on campus. It was during those four years while performing recitals on concert grand pianos that I fell head over heels for Steinways.

Having played every kind of piano imaginable over the past few decades, I still feel there is nothing comparable to a Steinway and Sons piano. In north Louisiana, the best place to find a great Steinway is at Pendley Piano Gallery (5803 Youree Drive; 318-219-1900); in south Louisiana, it is Hall Piano (901 David Drive in Metairie; 

When those who play piano professionally are asked which piano is the best one in the world today, the answer is inevitably a Steinway. According to Grammy award-winning Emanuel Ax, one of the best known concert pianists of the 21st century, “When one plays a Steinway, there is a warmth and nobility in the sound that is unequalled by any other instrument.”

Buying a piano is a major investment, much like buying a car. You may want to consider purchasing one that will increase in value rather than devaluate. Steinway pianos, which are made by hand by master craftsmen in limited numbers, are great investments. I have been told that my own, beloved Steinway has tripled in value since it was purchased over 30 years ago.

“They only make around 7,000 Steinways worldwide each year,” says James Pendley, manager of Pendley Piano Gallery. “Each one is made by hand over a period of one year, so none of the pianos are the same. From an investment standpoint, the value of your Steinway will go up.”

There are many things to consider when purchasing a piano, from the space you have in your home to the interest and level of the person who will be playing it. Pendley continues, “For children who are beginning to study piano, most parents purchase a vertical piano for a child who may or may not continue to play, because they are less expensive.” Pendley Piano Gallery offers Steinway verticals (uprights), baby grands, and various styles of grand pianos, from new to used, and they also offer rent-to-own Steinways. Whoever purchases a piano there gets free delivery (which can be costly) and free tuning upon delivery.

A console is the most popular of the vertical pianos. Many piano teachers recommend that young beginners should learn on an acoustic vertical piano, and most will advise strongly against a digital piano. My grandmother, a pianist, treated me to a new console piano for my bedroom when I first started taking lessons, even though we had a baby grand in our home. It proved to be a wise move.

There are four types of vertical pianos, based on height: console, spinet, studio, and upright. I advise against a spinet because of the indirect “drop action” design. Try at least for a console, 42 inches or higher. Of course, the tonal quality of a Steinway grand piano cannot be matched. Larger soundboards and longer strings produce greater volume and resonance of tone.

If you have to move your piano at some point, go with only the best movers, because disasters can happen; I learned that lesson the hard way. I recommend using Kid Gloves Inc. (601 S. Galvez Street in New Orleans, 504-309-6894), which is the largest specialty moving company in this region of the country, with a great reputation. The 23-year-old company runs trucks nationwide. They are piano moving experts, and can also move antiques, fine art, chandeliers, and accessories. You can rest assured that your piano will be moved exactly right, which is a great comfort if you love your piano as much I love mine. Owning a piano and learning to play is a joy that can last a lifetime.

Stairway to Success: The Stairway Shop

Written by: Simonette Berry

Has your house every felt like a scene from The Money Pit? In this movie about a home renovation gone hilariously wrong, a young couple buys a house only to find that what they thought were minor repairs turn into months of renovations. In one iconic scene, the main stairway collapses and Walter and Anna are forced to move things from floor to floor by ladder and pulley. After Katrina, scenes of this nature occurred in thousands of flood-ravaged homes, yet there was no place for New Orleans residents to buy custom stairway products. Everything had to be ordered off the Internet, and if something went wrong, clients had nowhere to turn. Phil Cerminaro of Industrial Products, an industrial supply company, saw the need for a shop that offered a comprehensive service for clients in the market for stairways, complete with a showroom and full-service design and installation. Cerminaro worked fast to open by the end of 2005, meeting the demand of post-Katrina rebuilders. It was a godsend to many New Orleans residents in need of a local service they could trust.

Six years after the storm, the city has rebuilt and the local market revolves around renovation rather than building or rebuilding. Cerminaro’s business has grown with the city’s residents, now offering a turnkey solution for a variety of stairway and railing products. They offer everything from prefab DIY spiral staircase kits to custom stairway design and installation geared toward home and business renovations. The Stairway Shop’s 1000-square-foot showroom allows customers to browse through a wealth of traditional stairways, spiral stairs, attic stairs, library ladders, and a host of railing systems. The Stairway Shop renovates existing staircases to update the look and bring them into code compliance. It’s also common for clients to come to them in need of a fix when a carpenter or contractor has installed a stairway incorrectly. A full-time custom stair builder and installation team are on staff, and customers can buy standard stair parts or have a stairway designed and built to spec. Custom stairs require careful design and planning to adhere to building codes.

The Stairway Shop provides each customer with a unique style to fit their space, while keeping the cost in line with the project budget. “We can either create or have fabricated any type of stairway product for any residence or facility. Our network of craftsmen, stair builders, and factories across the country can supply anything we don’t make in-house. Recently, a family from Ville Platte was building a new home, and they wanted a custom, curved, freestanding wooden staircase. We created it with a combination of oak and iron balusters and had it made by some Amish craftsmen in Ohio. They drove it down here and we installed it,” Cerminaro says.

His team works through each phase of the design, construction, and installation process to ensure a positive result for their clients, which has led to overwhelming positive response and a business that finds success wherever it chooses to go. In addition to using the typical industrial materials, Cerminaro began using reclaimed wood to meet his clients’ needs. “A lot of clients had antique heart pine floors, and they wanted their stairs to match. We use reclaimed wood from local renovation projects. We got our first load of reclaimed heart pine when a space on Canal Street was being gutted and renovated post-Katrina,” he says. “My brother-in-law is a builder, and he had to tear out the walls during the renovation of an old house uptown. They found this beautiful 100-year-old cypress bargeboard beneath the sheetrock, and we got a hold of that and started offering it to our clients.” Eco-friendly and timeless, the reclaimed wood has been a hit with Cerminaro’s clients. Cerminaro recently started a new venture: building furniture out of the re-claimed heart pine and cypress bargeboard. To maximize the skills of his gifted in-shop artisans, Cerminaro asked them to play around with making coffee and dining room tables from the reclaimed wood during their down time. This classic furniture has become another offshoot of Cerminaro’s creative business model.”Now, we’re making dining room tables from 100-year-old cypress,” he says. “We can create anything we put our minds to.”

The Stairway Shop
A Division of Industrial Products
5632 Salmen Street
Harahan, LA 70123
888-243-3339 | 504-734-1315

The Other Side of Paris: Fabulous flea markets awaiting discovery

Written by: Michelle LeBlanc Fine

Paris is a city of discovery. Its graceful bridges curve over the sensuous Seine River connecting its vibrant streets to an array of intriguing neighborhoods. Visitors explore this romantic city’s great art, architecture, and historic sites, while savvy dealers from around the globe flock to Paris to search its flea markets for rare and collectible antiques.
The flea markets of Paris are a virtual treasure trove for antique dealers. Here is where some of the finest collectibles are found and shipped back to the states for resale. Although no one needs an excuse to go to The City of Lights, a trip to search for antiques for your home or garden is a good one.

There are over eighty flea markets in and around Paris. Each market has its own character where merchants of many different types display their wares. These markets represent the real Paris where the locals of every social ranking barter over everything from a pound of sausage to an 18th century armoire.

Serious collectors in search of antiques venture out from the center of Paris to the more famous flea markets just outside the city’s boarders. The flea market at the Port de Clignancourt, Les Puces de Saint-Quen, is considered the best market to find rare antiques. Considered the largest flea market in the world, Les Puces de Saint-Quen or simply Les Puces is one of the first flea markets from the turn-of-the-century. It has a wonderful history that evolved form the early traders of Paris.

In the late 1700s the moon fishermen (“pecheres de lune”) and rag-and-bone men searched the streets of Paris by night, picking up discarded valuables from the wealthy residents. In the 1880s the city’s authorities considered these scavengers a nuisance and forced them to sell their wares beyond the fortifications near the city’s gates at Porte de Clignancourt and other locations.

It did not take long for these resourceful traders to band together to create the first true Parisian flea markets. Eventually stalls were set up and a series of markets appeared at Porte de Clignancourt. The traders began to acquire more collectibles that attracted the Parisian antique dealers. The late 19th-century flea markets soon became the place where the social elite of Paris browsed on Sunday afternoons for bargains and entertainment.

The term “flea market” was coined at the turn-of-the-century. The French translation for flea is “les puces.” As the legend goes a bargain hunter in the 1890s looked down from one of the city’s walls onto the vast field of merchants selling their wares and proclaimed, “My word, it is a flea market!” The expression caught on and was used on promotional material all over the world.

Today, over 150,000 visitors each weekend stroll through the vast marketplace at Les Puces. It is a pulsating series of villages ranging from hawking street vendors selling shoes and kitchen items to chic Parisian shop keepers displaying Louis XV bureaus and 19th-century art. There are over ten different individually named markets located on the grounds of Les Puces. Some of the markets carry high-end collectibles while others offer kitsch items and vintage clothing.

Plan to get up early to beat the noon-day crowd at Les Puces. It is a convenient ride from the center of the city on Metro number four to Port de Clignancourt. The flea markets open at 8:30 am every Saturday and at 10 am on Sunday and Monday. The prime time to arrive is at 8 am on Saturday to observe the antique dealers setting up new displays for the day. Find a nearby café and have a steaming cup of café crème while waiting for the madness to begin.

If you are looking for French collectibles, walk past the many stalls of household goods and African imports. The main street is Rue des Rosiers where many of the better markets are connected. On the left side of Rue des Rosiers is the Paul Bert Market (96 Rue des Rosiers) and Marche Serptette (110 rue des Rosiers). These are two of the markets that dealers frequent for French country furniture, Art Deco items, and interesting garden and culinary pieces. There is a wonderful selection of mirrors here and an impressive selection of 19th-century art of investment quality. Although these two markets are not considered the highest end of Les Puces, the vendors are friendly and they offer good bargains. Be prepared to negotiate the prices as most dealers expect this of their seasoned clientele.

Also on the left side of Rue des Rosiers is Marche Malassis (142 Rue des Rosiers) where rare archeological artifacts are displayed with collections of 18th and 19th-century silver. Next door is Marche Dauphine (140 Rue des Rosiers), which has vintage clothing, books, prints, and some very nice decorative objects of art. There is also good 19th-century French furniture here as well as interesting and rare garden statuary.

L’Entrepot is next door to Paul Bert and offers an enormous selection of large architectural elements such as massive marble tables and gazebos. There is a selection of large winding staircases here that are too big for a suitcase but can easily be added to a container if you have arranged one for shipping.

For religious art and some 18th-century stained glass, try the Marche Vallee. There is a selection of smaller items that are less expensive and can be taken back on the plane.

The right side of Rue des Rosiers has one of the insiders’ favorite markets, Marche Biron (85 rue des Rosiers). Country style French antiques are abundant here including some wonderful 19th-century country farm tables and reproduction Louis XVI cane chair sets. The selection of furniture here is vast and also includes sets of formal gold gilded Louis XV parlor sets. Although the prices are high at Biron, the selection is outstanding.

Art Deco enthusiasts can find a great deal of stalls along this route that have unique pieces for sale. The nicest selection of Art Deco items can be found at Marche Antica (99 Rue des Rosiers). Paintings, prints, and watercolors are worth the trip to this market to view.

There are many restaurants and cafés throughout Les Puces; some have street musicians performing nostalgic French songs. Fine wines with cheese, paté, and fresh loaves of French bread (baguettes) make a perfect meal after a hard day of negotiations.

Although the Euro is much higher than it has been in years there are still bargains to be found and the prices here are certainly lower than one can find in the United States. There are many shipping companies that can handle all of the details of picking up goods and getting them packed for export. There are even personal buyers that can be hired to assist with translating and negotiating purchases. France’s Office of Tourism has a list of companies that specialize in handling shipping arrangements.

The thrill of traveling to France to discover the flea markets usually known only to dealers is a memorable experience. This is the other side of Paris most travelers never get to know.

Building Better: MLM Incorporated

Written by: Simonette Berry

For environmentally friendly kitchen and bathroom design, remodeling, and renovation in Boulder, Co., click here!

If you’re like most New Orleans residents, you or someone you know has a home renovation horror story. From Chinese drywall to carpetbaggers that take off with the cash, this city has seen it all since Katrina. It still seems like a gamble when you’re looking to hire someone to do renovations: will they give you a fair price, get the job done on time, and do it right? At MLM Incorporated, the superb work ethic, superior customer service, competitive rates, quick turnover time, and impressive workmanship will make renovation a surprisingly pleasant experience.

Making changes to your house is a big decision, and MLM Inc. is there for you every step of the way, from picking out the look to putting on that final touch. Is your kitchen in need of an update? Is your flooring tattered and begging for a fresh shine or a new look altogether? Do you want to make that dream of a luxurious shower in your master bath come true? How about that outdoor kitchen or deck you’ve been dreaming of? Owner Machi Medrzycki is emphatic that it’s possible to get the look of your dreams while still staying in your budget. Medrzycki offers competitive pricing with low hourly rates and never an overcharge in sight. No job is too small or big for Medrzycki, who jumps on each task with a positive, friendly attitude.

“I really enjoy what I do,” says Medrzycki. “There is nothing better then a huge smile on my client’s face after performing our service and a simple ‘thank you, great job!’ I enjoy designing and coming up with bold ideas. I treat it more like a hobby rather than a job, so essentially I never work.”

Before he came to New Orleans, Medrzycki worked for a company in Florida for many years doing high-end construction in the Daytona Beach/Orlando area. “I’ve done everything from custom renovations of luxury condos to single family homes. In 2005, I established my own company and have been growing ever since.” Medrzycki, along with COO Nick Udych, built the company from the ground up. “Nick has been with us from the beginning and has played a big role in building this company,” Medrzycki says.

The devastation left by Hurricane Katrina gave MLM Inc. their first boost in business and sped up the growing process. “MLM Inc. contributed to rebuilding of the city, which in its turn helped us to establish roots in the New Orleans area. Our excellent work ethic and outstanding customer service helped us acquire great commercial and residential accounts, such as Red Wing Shoe Stores, Stirling Properties, and Register Real Estate. Bathroom and kitchen design and remodeling became the core of our operation in the last 24 months,” he says.

“The hottest items with clients right now are bathrooms and kitchens. The spaces we design are one of a kind, very unique. We also work with interior designers, but our spaces are one of a kind!” says Medrzycki.

MLM Inc. currently offers a large spectrum of services: residential and commercial maintenance services (Register Real Estate, Keller Williams, Century 21), residential and commercial multifamily renovations (Esplanade at City Park; Diamond Lakes, Castlebrook, Palm Isle, and Audubon Pointe apartments), REO preservation services, and the newest venture that was added in 2011, real estate investments and development, which grew more than 50 percent in the first year.

“I want clients to experience that great design ideas can be performed without breaking the bank. I have personally been doing custom design bathrooms and kitchens for about ten years now. The key to our success is in creating spaces that look high-end and stay on the budget at the same time,” says Medrzycki.

Medrzycki doesn’t endorse any specific products, but he enjoys using natural stone and glass combinations in bathrooms, large mirrors, open space, and simple, elegant designs. He can design in any style and accommodate any request a client might have.

“We are trying to develop our bathroom and kitchen design and remodeling division even more in 2012,” Medrzycki reveals. “We have a huge amount of quote requests via our website. My goal this year is to perform six to eight projects per month so we can lower the price even more for our clients based on company work volume. As of right now, we have a competitive price structure, but everyone loves to have even more savings.” ✦

MLM Inc.
3500 N. Causeway Blvd., Ste. 160
Metairie, LA


Shreveport-Bossier Opera Guild presents:
 Les Boutiques de Noel

Written by: Simonette Berry

Are you one of those people who finds yourself weaving in and out of crowded department store aisles a few days before Christmas, battling the masses instead of making like Betty Crocker? Canned holiday music is barely audible over the din of long, bustling queues in which the nearly deaf or technologically impaired yell urgently into cell phones, and badly behaved children tear through displays like tiny bulls charging at every red bow in sight (there’s always one in the store during Christmas who you just know is getting coal in his stocking that year). As you wait in line, you tell yourself, again, boy, procrastination just isn’t worth it. Last minute shopping is the last way to get into the holiday spirit. Wouldn’t you would rather be home decorating your tree to “Santa Baby” and smiling like a Cheshire cat at all of your neatly wrapped presents and spotless house?

The Shreveport-Bossier Opera Guild has a solution for you, restless Christmas shopper. To prevent holiday procrastination, combine one part winter wonderland with two parts open market-style shopping, add a dash of support-the-arts, and pour in a frosted glass. The 37th annual Boutiques de Noel brings a one-stop-shopping open market event to the Bossier Civic Center this year. All proceeds of this festive shopping event will benefit the Shreveport Opera and their educational outreach program, the Shreveport Opera Express. One of the oldest opera companies in the country, the Shreveport Opera is now celebrating its 63rd season. Get your holiday shopping done before December settles her icy mantle over Louisiana, and let your gift list benefit an extraordinary local arts organization.

The marketplace is held Thursday, November 17th, through Saturday, November 19th. Admission is $7 and valet parking is $5. Among the many exciting events on the schedule is a fashion show Friday night and a special appearance by Santa on Saturday. This year’s theme is “Winter Wonderland,” and the 19th-century-style open market will be twinkling with holiday spirit. Over 100 vendors display their wares at this one-stop-shopping extravaganza. You can browse through art, jewelry, clothing, decorations, and a myriad of gift items to knock out your Christmas list in one fell swoop. The lovely Boutiques de Noel gala, where you can enjoy fine cuisine, music, and exclusive pre-shopping, is held on the evening of Wednesday, November 16th, and tickets are still available.

The seed for the 19th-century-style marketplace was planted in the 1970s when Delton Harrison, co-chair of the Shreveport-Bossier Opera Guild at the time, stumbled upon a holiday market set up in a Madison Avenue hotel in New York City. He found the idea of a Christmas bazaar enchanting, and decided to propose it to the opera board as a way to raise money and involve local retailers. The first Boutique de Noel, in 1974, was a smashing success, and the event quickly became the guild’s largest fundraising event.

The Shreveport-Bossier Opera Guild’s mission, since its inception in 1949, has been to promote the love and appreciation of vocal music in all of its forms and to financially support the opera. Early fundraising efforts included style shows, luncheons, and membership dues, attracting stars like Beverly Sills, Franco Corelli, Sherrill Milnes, and Leontyne Price. The Shreveport Opera has also helped launch the careers of internationally acclaimed stars like Renée Fleming and Greer Grimsley.

The proceeds of Les Boutiques de Noel add to the Opera Guild’s efforts to bring the best and brightest to the stage, and also benefit the Shreveport Opera Express Program. SOX is the only opera education and outreach program in the state and one of few in the country, starting its 12th season this year. With schools cutting music education programs right and left, SOX’s mission is to make sure as many students as possible are still exposed to the arts. Each year they reach 50,000 students in Louisiana, east Texas, southern Arkansas, and Mississippi. They educate children, youths, and adults with touring shows. Blossoming performers from around the country, often fresh out of college, audition for the chance to spend nine months touring and performing with the company. This year, they are putting on 
a show about bully prevention and another about the green movement for elementary students. For high school students and adults, they offer Operatizers, a broadway-style opera concert to give the audience a feel for the multiple 
genres and applications of musical theater.

Help support the Shreveport Opera by becoming a sponsor, or by purchasing tickets for Les Boutiques de Noel market and gala from Maria Casten at (318) 797-9484 or (318) 470-7385. 
To join the Guild, mail $25 to Wendy Harper, 109 Preston Ave., Shreveport, LA 71105. Enter the 
Winter Wonderland this season and experience the magic of Christmas with the Shreveport Opera.

A Decade of Design: Stafford Tile

Written by: Simonette Berry

“You remember your struggles, the things you work the hardest for in life,” says Peggy Stafford, owner and founder of Stafford Tile. A fearless entrepreneur, she dared to dream big and got something even bigger in return. Her mission was to bring a world-class selection of tile and stone products to Louisiana; what she received was a host of meaningful relationships with staff members and clients and a chance to reestablish her roots. What started as a tiny shop on Oak Street in New Orleans is now a Louisiana icon, exclusively distributing several nationally recognized product lines and offering a dizzying selection of tile, stone, glass, and ceramic products. Architects, designers, homeowners, contractors, and developers fill the gleaming showrooms of Stafford’s two locations, one a bustling Magazine Street staple, and the other, the newest hot spot in Baton Rouge’s Southdowns Village.

A Louisiana native and graduate of Newcomb College at Tulane, Stafford moved to Boulder, Colorado, after college and got her start working in a small tile shop. By the 1990s, she had a successful interior design business that specialized in “finish” work for high-end residences. “At that time, contractors and homeowners would send me to San Francisco to find tile and stone for their projects. Even Denver did not have the selection of tile products that I was looking for in my designs. The higher-end tile and stone showrooms of San Francisco were my stomping grounds,” she says.

Though Stafford was happy and successful in Boulder, she realized how much she missed the vibrancy and cultural variety of New Orleans when she traveled to Mexico to build a house. The lively Latinos reminded her of the southern and Caribbean roots of her early years. She was deeply inspired, and soon all the signs started pointing to a new business venture in the South. “I decided to leave my comfortable, well-established business in Boulder and return home to start a new endeavor. I drove a U-Haul truck, the trailer packed with samples, by myself from Boulder to New Orleans. When I passed through Houston, I finalized my contract with Walker Zanger to distribute their products along with my own.” Once home, Stafford secured a location on the residential end of Oak Street, “the side you need a road map to get to,” she laughs. The first incarnation of Stafford Tile and Stone was barely 700 square feet and opened in the rough days following 9-11. “It was crowded if we had more than one customer. When I finally got two other employees, we really had to squeeze together. If someone made a phone call, they had to talk in the corner of the building so as not to disturb the rest of us.”

Two years after setting up shop, Stafford Tile had fast outgrown its tiny abode. Stafford was driving in a downpour one day when she saw a “For Rent” sign in the window of a corner shop on Magazine Street, a prime location. She saw the space that day and felt like she had hit the jackpot. From there, the business flourished as Stafford gathered an expert staff, an ever-growing client base, and an impressive portfolio. “After Katrina, we went through a lot with our clients. Helping someone rebuild their kitchen or their bathroom is a very personal thing. Home is where the heart is,” she says. After rebounding from the storm, a Baton Rouge location was the next step in 2008. By 2010, that store outgrew its small confines and was moved to a larger location in Southdowns Village, where sales promptly doubled.

“I call the staff my little rock stars,” she giggles. “They are what make me prevail. All of the salespeople have design degrees. Heather Trahan and Meredith Grover in New Orleans have been working with me for over seven years, and Kimberly Guillot and Daniel Baer in Baton Rouge are a fantastic addition to the team. We have so much collective experience that there’s nothing we can’t do. We could handle twice the workload of what we have now, easily. We can take a pattern from a dress, piece of stationery, a rug pattern, anything, and turn it into a mosaic. We look to all sorts of sources for inspiration, and we have fun working with products from all around the world.” “Our specialty has become creating the most fantastic spaces that our budget will permit. We love to work with custom mosaics and designs, but those are not our everyday work. We do lots of commercial projects as well,” she says. Stafford most recently completed the pool for the Monteleone Hotel and has also done hotels in Curacao and Aruba.

“Our numbers have grown in leaps and bounds, and I cannot thank the Louisiana community enough for the support we have received over the last 10 years. As I have been reviewing my client list, I am amazed at how many people we have touched with our products over the years. It is a real treat to think that these customers have such beautiful things in their houses, gardens, and pools, and I know how much enjoyment they get from our designs,” she says. To show their appreciation for Louisiana’s loyal support and service, Stafford Tile is throwing a small cocktail party at Preservation Hall to thank their vendors, followed by a larger customer appreciation party the following night, where Treme brass band will perform. “I’m just so happy to be a part of this city again,” she says. “When I was on my way back to New Orleans from Boulder, interviewing with Walter Zanger with my U-Haul truck in the parking lot, they asked me why they should sign on with me. I told them, ‘Because I can spell and pronounce Tchoupitoulas correctly, and I know what it means.’ They didn’t understand, but I did.” Stafford knows what it means to miss New Orleans.

Stafford Tile
5234 Magazine Street
New Orleans, LA 70115

Southdowns Village
4269 Perkins Road
Baton Rouge, LA 70808

The Corbel: Something old, Something new

Written by: Simonette Berry

“We were doing green before green was cool,” says Don Charlet, co-owner of the Corbel. “We do it because old things have this character, beauty, and depth that new products don’t. It’s about an appreciation for the originality and history that come with old things, but it also happens to go hand in hand with being eco-conscious.” Don and his wife Susan focus intently on what their customers need in the home building and renovation process. The Corbel employs builders, designers, and artisans who exist in symbiosis, creating custom furniture, lighting, ceiling beam, and wood design for homes. They make architectural salvage and home renovation into an exciting creative process, continuously discovering new niches in the market and uses for their timeless products.

Since the Corbel’s inception in 2004, the business has grown into an 11,000-square-foot store offering a dizzying array of interior accents, flooring, and architectural features. The Corbel is best known for its heart pine flooring, bead board, refurbished furniture, salvaged doors, and great holiday gift items. Don also continues to run his construction company, Charlet Brothers Southern Design and Construction. Perhaps because the nature of their business is finding new purpose for old things, the Charlets’ business model is able to flourish in constant creative flux. With each new project, new energy and life floods into that area of the store.

“Our big new item is imported antique doors. We noticed over the last several years that, whether clients are renovating or building a new home, architects tend to specify 8-foot-tall doors in their plans. In the salvage business, it’s rare to find an 8-foot domestic door, so most people in the area either have to get new doors made or can only find a few odd old doors to fit their home. It’s even harder to find a matching set in that size, because doors in Louisiana weren’t built that way 100 years ago. They were 6 or 7 feet, but rarely 8.”

A solution to this conundrum is news in south Louisiana. The nearest spot that was a sure bet for 8-foot salvaged doors was Dallas, TX, but now the Charlets have brought a new resource to our back door. “We found the answer in France and Belgium,” explains Don. “Most of the salvaged doors there are 7 ½-8 ½ feet in height. Now I’m receiving half a container of 100 to 200-year-old European doors every two months. The character of these doors lends itself to the architecture here. We’re the only place in Louisiana that gets these, and we have craftsmen that can patch and square the doors as well as create custom door frames to match them.”

“I only have so much room here—enough for about 750 doors. When two or three people come and buy 20 or 30 doors each, it makes a big dent. Most people want doors that all match, and it’s hard to do, but we do receive a few collections of matching doors within each shipment. We’ve been asking people to follow us on Facebook to see when the next shipment is, so that they can come and have first pick. This change is a real jewel, and people know it.”

On a local and national basis, the Corbel is still reclaiming old stores and homes. The Corbel is famous for their selection of antique beams and flooring from around the country, but they’re also making a name for themselves in refurbished antique furniture. The quality of their unusual finds draws customers with each new shipment.

“We have pickers that go around the United States. In addition to old homes, they often find things in old warehouses; industrial iron tool bases and old pieces of antique tools. We refurbish them and build pieces of furniture around them,” he says. For example, a custom island the Corbel built for a client’s kitchen includes a large iron tool base salvaged from a manufacturing center. An antique cypress board now sits on the tool base, creating a charming kitchen workspace.

“Whenever we let people know we’ve received a shipment of these antique tools, they come over. They say, ‘Make me an 8-foot dining room table out of that piece.’ What they get is a real piece of history put together in a new way with several one-of-a-kind elements. No one else will ever have a piece like that. Also, when you look at the cost of tables at other places, it’s the same or sometimes less, since often we get these bases for a low cost that we can pass on to the customers. We also custom design everything in-house; everything from islands to coffee tables.”

“All these things marry into one another,” says Don. “It’s all part of the symbiotic nature of what’s going on here. We focus on the real needs of people during the home building and renovation process, because we know how it is to build a home. If someone comes to the Corbel looking for antique heart pine beams, they just came to someone who not only has the material, but the knowledge and capability to do the work and design the space.” You can find the Charlet Brothers Southern Design and Construction office in the Corbel store, ready to provide you with an experienced, professional construction team as well as an architect, should you need one. “We understand the aesthetics of old buildings. We know the historically accurate way to add and change things in these homes. The men I have working for me are true craftsmen.”

Don’s childhood primed him in an unusual way, not only for appreciating the beauty of old things, but also for dealing with people under stress. “I grew up in a funeral home. My grandfather and his brother started Charlet Funeral Home in 1947, and the family lived in a complex in the back of the home. It was a big mansion with incredible old wood, shutters, and old glass. It needed a lot of repair, which I learned how to do alongside my dad.” Don grew up to become a licensed funeral director, where he quickly learned how to navigate the troubled waters of emotionally-charged customer relations. “A funeral is a time when people feel both emotionally and financially vulnerable. They’re sensitive, and they don’t always think logically. They tend to get mad, but most of the time they’re not really mad at you. You’ve got to have thick skin. A similar phenomenon happens in construction. When someone is renovating their home, they’re spending more money than they’ve ever spent in their lives, doing something they don’t know how to do, and they’re scared, though they don’t want to admit it. Short of a funeral, I’ve never experienced more volatile interpersonal reactions, but it’s really just human nature.”

As clients quickly discover, no home renovation project is ever perfect. When this happens, it helps to keep a cool head, something Don learned to do long ago. Don’s clients have told him that even when they were mad about things that went wrong, they appreciated his willingness to listen and calmly solve the problem at hand. “Though some people think it’s odd to have grown up this way, it’s where a lot of my gifts came from: my appreciation for architecture and my knack for knowing how to give people what they need. There’s always a purpose. God had me there for a reason, and he’s kept me here for a reason.”

The Corbel
911 Highway 61
Jackson, LA 70748

A Vision for Living: Eye Care Surgery Center

Written by: Simonette Berry

“Restoring someone’s vision is one of the most gratifying things you can imagine. Patients have an immediate improvement in the quality of their lives. If you tell someone you’ve controlled their blood pressure, they can’t tell the difference, but when they can immediately see again, the patient is very excited and appreciative,” says Dr. Scott Nelson, MD of the Eye Care Surgery Center in Baton Rouge.

Dr. Nelson, who has been in private practice for 21 years, is a Baton Rouge native and a groundbreaker in his field. He is well known in south Louisiana for his integrity and professional demeanor. In 1995, he was the first ophthalmologist in Baton Rouge to perform LASIK surgery, a procedure that corrects vision impairments, freeing countless patients of their need for glasses. After he graduated from the LSU Medical School and completed his residency at the University of Alabama in Birmingham, Dr. Nelson and his wife Penny, another LSU alum, moved back to the city to raise their four children. Dr. Nelson’s sons are following in his footsteps, with Steven at LSU Dental School, and Daniel and Matthew who are undergrads at LSU. Their daughter Sarah is still in high school at St. Joseph’s Academy. Dr. Nelson, likewise, had followed in his father’s footsteps; he was a professor at LSU and has created a family legacy of scholarship.

Dr. Nelson’s decision to become an ophthalmologist grew from his desire to help the visually impaired. In 2006, Dr. Nelson, along with Dr. Henry Haley, Jr. and Dr. Jeffrey Singer, purchased and revamped the practice at the Eye Care Surgery Center. These doctors have created a state-of-the-art practice committed to bringing affordable care and the best technology on the market to their patients. Since its inception, the doctors at the Eye Care Surgery Center have performed more LASIK surgery than any other practice in the Baton Rouge region. They are also the fastest growing clinic in the area, having gained three new doctors in just the past year. Thousands of satisfied patients each year see proof of the amazing results made possible by Dr. Nelson and his associates.

“In our Ambulatory Surgery Center, we take the personal approach with our patients. We offer both quality medical care and emotional reassurance. Our goal is to make patients comfortable and offer the best care possible.” The services offered at Eye Care Surgery Center include retina and vitreous surgery, corneal surgery, glaucoma surgery, cataract surgery, LASIK, cosmetic surgery, general exams, and glasses and contact fittings. At this time, Eye Care Surgery Center has four locations: Baton Rouge, Hammond, Gonzales, and Covington. “We’re looking to continue to expand our practice and grow into other surrounding regions,” Dr. Nelson says.

“I specialize in cataract and refractive surgery,” explains Dr. Nelson. “Cataract surgery allows us to restore sight to patients that have clouded vision. We have the latest technology on the market available here. With traditional cataract surgery, we used an implant that reduces farsightedness and nearsightedness, but couldn’t correct astigmatism or allow a patient to see both far and near in the same eye. They would still need reading glasses, in other words.”

“Now, that has all changed with the new premium intraocular lens implants. I am able to offer a new type of lifestyle improvement implant that not only corrects the cataracts but also helps people function without any glasses at all. We can basically take people who had strong glasses and correct their vision so they can see without them.”

Not everyone in Baton Rouge offers the kind of advanced vision repair technology that the Eye Care Surgery Center makes available for its patients. The team at Eye Care Surgery Center also uses the most state-of-the-art LASIK equipment: the VISX Star 4 Laser and the Intralase.

“I went into ophthalmology because I like operating under a microscope and being able to diagnose most things through direct observation, as opposed to relying on a lot of ancillary testing,” says Dr. Nelson. “I believe in the hands on approach to my patients’ care and in fostering relationships with my patients. I want them to feel confident and continue to return to me for their eye care needs year after year.”

Making Space: Ruffino Custom Closets

Written by: Simonette Berry
What are you always trying to find? Hint: There’s never enough of it. “Time” is probably your first answer, followed by another biggie, “space.” If only we had the time and energy to make the spaces around us exactly how we want them to be””beautiful, unique, and useful. Thankfully, Ruffino Custom Closets offers a rare custom option in a world of prefab space-makers. Partners Christian Russell and Matt Ruffino have opened the door to a myriad of creative options that just aren’t possible with factory made products. “We help people organize their lives,” says Russell. “We know how to maximize any space so you can get the most out of it.” “We’re a local company that manufactures our product from beginning to end,” says Russell. “This is not a closet in a box. Each one is custom tailored to fit the client’s needs and desires. We want to make the things they do every day easier and make a place for everything in their lives, so they can spend more time doing what they like to do. We want to facilitate new growth as well, so whenever they get new things, they have a spot for them.”

Russell and Ruffino joined forces to create Ruffino Custom Closets not long after Hurricane Katrina. “After Katrina, things exploded in our business, especially in the wire shelving department. People were buying a lot of wire shelving at first as they were renovating, just so they would have a place to put things as they got them back.” After the first year of post-K rebuilding, Russell saw the market trending slowly away from strictly utilitarian shelving and towards higher-end custom jobs.

“I thought we could make the product better in house than any manufacturer could, and pass the savings along to our customers, too. I convinced Matt that we needed to change with the market and should get the equipment to do so. Four years ago, we made the jump,” he says. “The workmanship, the functionality, and the design quality have improved tenfold since then. We are the only company in this region that does truly custom closets with fully customizable, in-house work.”

“When we bought the equipment, there was a learning curve for a month or so. Neither my partner nor I had experience with these machines. We were so lucky to have a mentor, Wilson McGuire, who took pity on us neophytes. He took us under his wing and taught us a tremendous amount. He has been in the cabinetmaking business for 35 years, so he knew the process in and out.”

“Now, three and one-half years later, we’re doing extraordinary jobs we’d never have dreamed of doing if we couldn’t create them ourselves. Nothing can really catch Matt and me off guard, because now we’re able to be involved every step of the way.”

Being thrown into the world of custom-made closets has allowed Russell and Ruffino to attract a whole new category of clientele. “We handle everything from the smallest, most meager jobs to the huge $35,000 luxury walk-ins. Clients usually have a wish list. We’re lucky enough to draw from a wide variety of specialized vendors. We’re able to do so much with accessories that we can make any dream a reality. We’re unique in that aspect. We can get specialty doors, custom dovetailed drawers, hardware, baskets, rods, and any type of organizational accessory. We do as much as we can locally. We feel really strongly about that. Why send business out of state when we can help our local economy?”

“A lot of people these days are trying to make their bedrooms larger by eliminating furniture like armoires and chests of drawers. Ideally, they should be able to go into their closet, get dressed, and then have more space in the bedroom to do what they want and go about their day,” he says. Russell and Ruffino also work with many customers building or renovating their master suites. “We meet with them on a preliminary basis and do a consultation to figure out how much room they need to accomplish what they envision. Then, they go back to their contractor and work up the blueprints, and when it’s time, we’ll come back and create the closet. A lot of clients now want functional islands in their closets, for example, and you need a certain amount of space in order to have one.”

“These days, I see a lot of people wanting to put shelves and drawers in their closets. Women especially love shoe shelves. Depending on the height of the ceiling, we can also add a third tier of hanging space up high. We offer an automatic wardrobe lift that people just love; you pull it down and it lifts back up by itself when you want it to.”

“Most of the closets we do are straightforward, but sometimes we get wild ones. One, we called the ‘crazy shoe closet’. A woman on the Northshore had a beautiful collection of about 400 pairs of shoes. We made a smaller closet within her large walk-in with shoes that went three rows back. It looked great and it was convenient; she loved it.” Another fun one was a man who had a nice condo downtown; he wanted glass on all his drawer fronts so he could see what was inside of them. We really enjoy designing and creating out-of-the-box ideas.”

“We stand on our integrity and gain the customers trust by making them happy with our work; we stand by what we do. We’re not going to promise you the world, but we deliver what we know we can do very well. We have the loyalty of our clientele because of that.”

Ruffino Custom Closets
110 Campbell Blvd # 1B
Mandeville, LA
(985) 809-7623

A Personal Touch: Inessa Stewart’s Antiques and Interiors

Written by: Simonette Berry
Inessa Stewart is a rare gem in the antique world. It’s unusual to find a business owner who personally selects each piece of merchandise, especially for an antique store. It’s common practice in the antique world to send out “buyers” to do the legwork or to buy online, but Inessa insists on keeping a personal touch. After 20 years of experience and refinement, that personal touch has made her business wildly successful. She and her husband and business partner John Stewart still personally select each piece that fills their 55,000 square feet of showrooms over three locations across Louisiana and Texas. They are now one of the largest importers of European antiques in the country.

“I handpick each piece as if I were buying it for my own home,” says Inessa. “Our whole house is done with nothing but antiques, and I always consider if what I’m buying would be something I’d want to live with and display in my own space.” Inessa travels to Europe every few months to bring home a variety of fine French, French Country, and Italian antiques. She also carries Contintental antiques and specializes in classic décor, offering antique and reproduction home furniture, accessories, art, mirrors, lighting, culinary antiques, and architectural elements. The large showrooms in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Dallas and Plano, Texas, bustle with activity; inventory moves fast and new containers come to each store two or three times a month. Customers often spend years slowly building their collections through Inessa’s inspiring cache. “I think it’s wonderful to integrate antiques into today’s interiors. You can mix and match with modern décor, or fill your house with special pieces as you find them. We are always excited when we reach a client before they’ve begun a home renovation or new construction plan. I grew up in Europe, and we didn’t throw things away. We used our furniture for generations, and my mother taught me to love old pieces. My mother and I antiqued in the 70s, before it was in vogue here. It was just something we did on the weekends, but for me it became a lifelong passion,” she says.

Though she sells the beauty of the old world, Inessa has modified her business to complement modern tastes. What started as a mom and pop antique store 20 years ago has blossomed into a booming business with a busy website and an international client base. “Anyone who owns a business knows you’re either growing or you’re dying. Our business model is adaptive, constantly changing and expanding to reflect the market trends. We keep our ears to the ground,” she explains.

“Adapting antiques to a modern lifestyle is our trademark,” Inessa says. “People often want tables to be bigger, beds to be king sized, buffets and armoires turned into entertainment centers.” A score of expert craftsmen trained in the old and new world techniques are on hand to transform any antique into a modern luxury. “It’s attracted a lot of the younger generation. One thing we do that’s become popular these days is modernizing pieces with media. For example, we can adapt a buffet so that, at the push of a button, a plasma screen television quietly rises up from the top. It’s great because you can enjoy having something modern inside while the outside shell is a beautiful antique.”

“People are often surprised at how reasonable our prices are. They think that we’ll charge more because we’re a big company, but I can never stress enough how that’s not true. We ship at such a volume that we can pass the savings on to our customers,” she says. “We even have a part of the business that is devoted to bargains””on the website it’s called Antique Website Sale; in the showrooms we call it the Designer Outlet. A lot of pieces get reduced because we like to move them quickly to make room for incoming containers, so there’s always a sale going on.”

One of the Stewarts’ most successful tools is their website, a unique blend of personal service, accessibility, history, and real-time sales. It features a comprehensive catalog of antiques and home décor, educational information about antique genres and fodder for the history buffs, the latest scoop on market trends, updates about what’s going on at each location, and two blogs that Inessa and John update weekly. “We were one of the first antique stores to have a website, and it’s become an enormously useful tool. We’ve built a large client base on our web presence alone. The site is updated every day, several times a day, by our website team. It’s not something we outsource; I feel it’s important to do this in-house. If people can’t come to the store, they still get personal service and can access us 24/7.”

A few years ago, Inessa and John added the two blogs (“Antique Living” and “Mirroring History”) to interact with customers and keep them updated on the latest trends, shipments, and events. They even feature an “Antique of the Week,” usually a piece they find intriguing, unusual, or special in some way. Inessa explains, “Through the blogs, we’re able to share new ideas and interact with the customers. It’s a great way to connect.”

“Owning a business is like owning a living, breathing thing,” Inessa says. “We’ve been having fun with it, embracing the technology and growing with it. The members of our teams in the States and in Europe are a daily inspiration. But most of all, our clients inspire us. We enjoy creating beauty and bringing excitement to people’s homes. It’s a wonderful thing to do.”

Inessa Stewart’s Antiques and Interiors
225-368-8600· 5330 Bluebonnet Rd, Baton Rouge, LA
972-378-5100· 5800 Legacy, Ste C-4, Plano, TX
214-742-5800· 1643 Dragon at Oak Lawn, Dallas, TX

The Hidden Treasure of Old Metairie: Sister’s Antiques

Written by: Simonette Berry

At first glance, Sister’s Antiques looks like just another tiny shop tucked away in the heart of Old Metairie. The diminutive exterior of Kathy Collins’ quaint double shotgun storefront is deceiving; once over the threshold, customers discover 12 large rooms filled with antiques and interior décor accessories. After a few hours of getting lost in the artful maze of vignettes, set up naturally as if in a home environment, customers discover what a treasure the Sister’s Antiques collection is. “The outside is deceiving. Once I get customers through the door, they’re surprised by how big the store is and the quality and variety of the pieces I carry. After they’ve come once, they come back again and again,” says Collins.

Collins remembers when her neighbor introduced her to the joys of antiquing when she was a tot. “I loved the hunt! Estate sales, auctions, little places you find by the side of the road; it’s still so exciting to me. You never know what you’re going to come across, and more often than not, there’s a good story to go along with it,” she says. Collins grew up to become a nurse and only antiqued on the weekends, until 17 years ago, when she and her sister Kim decided to open Sister’s Antiques. Collins kept her nursing job and Kim had another job as well, so they managed the store in shifts. After three years, Kim went on to pursue another venture, but Collins felt she had found her calling at last. She left the nursing profession to manage Sister’s Antiques full time, and she hasn’t looked back since.

“Most of my things are from Louisiana. I specialize in furniture from the 1930s. I think it’s popular not only because it’s beautifully made, but because a lot of people like to have pieces that they remember their parents or grandparents having. It reminds them of their childhood. This furniture has an elegance to it. Old armoires done in rich mahogany, marble-top buffets, sideboards, dressers, chests, classic old Louisiana furniture. I also get a lot of Duncan Phyfe and Eastlake furniture, pieces from the early 1900s,” Collins says. Sister’s Antiques is also known for their interior décor accent items, glassware, and vintage jewelry collection.

“I have a real variety in my inventory here,” she says. “There’s always something new and different.” The 12 showrooms of Sister’s Antiques are filled to the brim with vintage treasures. Whether you’re looking for French Country, English, Primitive, or Fine American Made Furniture, Sister’s has the right thing for that space you’ve been longing to fill. Sister’s Antiques also carries a selection of vintage outdoor garden elements and patio items.

“I get pieces from all over. I have several people who are always on the road, scouting for me. One of my best sources is a retired couple from Morgan City who go all over the state to these little auctions. I also go to a lot of estate sales and auctions myself,” she says. Collins enjoys the hunt, but she also appreciates the variety that comes with a staff of experienced buyers. Her scouts traverse the highways and winding back roads to find special items with enough character to make the cut for the Sister’s Antiques collection. Shipments come in every two to three weeks, and merchandise turns over quickly. Collins especially enjoys coming across items from long-forgotten local furniture makers. “There were some great cabinetmakers in Louisiana that made beautiful quality furniture. It’s a treat to find remnants of the trade still in circulation.”

The holiday season brings a festive atmosphere to Sister’s Antiques. “My customers tell me it feels homey in here during the holidays. We do an open house the first week of December, with prizes and promotional sales. It’s a great place to come for gifts,” she says. “You never know what you might find that will be perfect for someone on your list.”

The holiday season is a time for storytelling and reflection, and there’s no better place to come for stories than Sister’s Antiques. “The stories are my favorite part,” says Collins. “When people come in, I get to hear how they grew up, or what a certain piece reminds them of. I, in turn, have a story to share with them. I try to find out the history behind each piece””that’s what makes antiquing exciting. Each piece is your own little piece of history.”

Sister’s Antiques
114 Codifer Blvd, Metairie, LA

Inside the Interiors of Ty Larkins

Written by: Simonette Berry

Award-winning interior designer Ty Larkins is a rising star in the Louisiana interior design community. Looking at his portfolio, you’d never guess he was arguing cases in the courtroom instead of drafting designs in the studio just a few short years ago. The jump from attorney to interior designer is quite a long way, but for someone who sees each project as a test of his ingenuity, it came naturally.

For as long as Larkins can remember, he’s been told he has “good taste.” His first home, a small 1,600-square-foot cottage, got rave reviews from visitors, and soon friends were bringing their friends over to get inspiration. This home was later featured in the 2002 issue of City Social magazine, which to Larkins was a huge validation for his budding design sensibilities. “My first projects involved decorating for friends and associates. My advice was sought out, though I had never advertised myself as an interior decorator,” he says.

“Although almost everyone realized I was an attorney, it got to the point where I was being sought out for design advice as much as I was for legal consultation! I also learned a lot when I got into real estate investing. I bought fixer uppers that required extensive renovation along with the myriad of design decisions required to be made with these types of endeavors. Over the years, I slowly gained confidence and knowledge about architecture, construction, reading blueprints, and contracting. I read everything I could get my hands on related to interior design, space planning, and drafting. Eventually, this led to designing spec houses from the ground up.” Larkins “coming out moment,” as he jokingly calls it, occurred as a result of a project he had been hired to work on for some clients living in Chicago. They had been selected by the HGTV network to participate in a reality show called Dream House, which chronicled the interior design and building of their dream home. “As their interior designer, I made numerous appearances on this show. The show aired for 13 weeks. I guess this was the first time I officially considered myself something other than an attorney,” he laughs. Since his appearance on HGTV, Larkins’ work has been in demand and in the spotlight, garnering national attention.

Larkins made his official debut by starting his own design business in 2006. In 2009, he opened a retail showroom and design studio; and he had another huge break when House Beautiful magazine published a spread on his current home in their December 2009 issue. “My primary reason for opening up the design showroom was to illustrate my design aesthetic and preferences to a larger audience who may not have been familiar with my approach. It was also to establish a place where people could shop for quality, carefully selected furniture, art, and accessories,” he explains.

Larkins doesn’t advocate any particular style, though he does enjoy working with traditional architecture decorated in a modern 21st-century kind of way. “I try never to make it about me and my personal preferences. I believe that an individual’s “tastes”—which can loosely be defined as what one responds to subjectively, primarily derived from experiential and visual associations, both positive and negative—should ultimately inform the design of the environment they are going to feel happy living in.” In spaces where one spends the majority of their time, like bedrooms, family rooms, and kitchens, Larkins advocates a more neutral, restrained environment that doesn’t involve a lot of strong color. “Neutral spaces are simply more restful over long periods of time. You don’t tire of them as quickly. On the other hand, in spaces only used occasionally, like dining rooms and powder rooms or pass-through zones like foyers, I often do designs that are bold, memorable, and daring.”

Larkins’ design process with new clients involves learning as much as he can about what they respond to, both negatively and positively. He uses this information to create a design plan which reflects those preferences, but only up to a point. “I would suggest that although one’s personal tastes should be reflected in their own homes, it should not be applied without barriers or a disregard for what is appropriate. After all, in the same way one might have their own unique fashion style in their dress, it would be inappropriate to wear your pajamas to a job interview. The same can be said regarding the appropriateness of applying certain design styles to certain types of conditions. For instance, most will agree that the design style appropriate for an urban loft is quite different from the style befitting a cottage at the beach. Ultimately, my job as a design consultant is to use sound judgment, my sense of scale, color, and light to successfully bring together all the client’s preferences into a seamless cohesive whole.”

“Ever since childhood, I have been a creative person. That creativity eventually brought me to the field of interior design, but it didn’t happen overnight. Although I was not unhappy as an attorney, it was not my life’s passion. I believe we all have a gift or the ability to be extraordinary at something. It was time to see where my aptitude for creativity would lead me,” Larkins says. “Looking back on it, I have always had the ability to bring out the hidden beauty in something that had underlying potential.” Larkins has realized the potential creativity in both his life and art and is now happily at work with his design team on major home projects in Baton Rouge, New Orleans, and Fort Worth, Texas.

1948 Government Street
Baton Rouge, LA 70806

The Road Less Traveled: Designer’s Showroom

Written by: Simonette Berry

While most European antique buyers are shopping in the high-traffic Parisian markets, Randy Williamson and Richard Clements of Designer’s Showroom are leaving dust trails in early morning light down the winding roads of the French and Belgian countryside. During a typical buying trip, they wake before dawn and work 12- to 16-hour days. They find their best pieces in small towns among the dusty bric-a-brac of shops, street fairs, personal storehouses, and farmhouses, pieces that have been tucked away sometimes for centuries. The trick, they say, is traveling by box truck; this way, they don’t have to pay exorbitant shipping costs to transport their treasures.

“We do more than most buyers ever will. We get our hands dirty, we get lost down dirt roads in the middle of nowhere, and sometimes we have to literally step over cow pies and go into barns at midnight with flashlights, but it’s worth every second of it,” says Randy. “We’re dealing in three different languages, so it’s always an adventure. We have a guide that serves as an interpreter at times, but we can communicate well enough. We know enough to know when they’re talking about us,” he chuckles.

Randy learned the ropes from his parents, who started the tradition of these off-road adventures. When they retired, they passed the legacy on to Randy, his brother Guy Williamson, and sister Sherri Pascal. The Williamsons’ 13,000-square-foot showroom in Shreveport houses designer furniture, fabric, and interior accents, but their niche is French antiques and antique lighting fixtures.

Designer’s Showroom is an interior design firm as well, with five certified interior designers on staff. Richard Clements, a buyer and Randy’s partner in crime on trips, is one of these designers. “We do design work all over the world,” he says. “We just finished projects in Tuscany, Dubai, and on the upper East Coast. We also do a lot of work in the Midwest, in Aspen and Vail, and a lot of luxury second homes in Florida.”

“We have all the major manufacturers in stock and we have the ability to do anything custom. We do design work, high-end fabrics, and a lot of custom furniture, but there are a lot of firms out there that do that, too. We have fabrics from all over the world, and access to the line that does fabric for today’s royal families and the papal line. The antique lighting and French and Belgian antiques are kind of our niche, though,” Richard says.

Designer’s Showroom has evolved year after year to reflect the latest trends, and over the past 55 years they’ve been in business, some trends have come full circle. “Tastes change, colors and finishes change, the scale of furniture changes, but we have evolved with the market. Things that were popular 30 years ago are back today. The mutation of color that was used in the 60s and 70s is popular again, too. Houses are larger than ever before now, and the formality has left. People want things that are more functional, livable.”

Designer’s Showroom specializes in 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th-century lighting elements in iron, bronze, brass, and crystal, but on buying trips, they look for any items that will generate interest. “Recently I found a pair of six-foot-tall linen panels hand-painted with the Stations of the Cross, dated 1825. They were hanging in a barn. We bought them, had them stretched on canvas and framed, and we sold them both within the first week. One of the buyers cried when she first saw the piece, it was so powerful for her.”

Randy and Richard focus on French pieces, but they find many Italian and English items along the way. They buy regularly from the hunting chateaus in northern France, and often stumble upon priceless architectural pieces from the remainders of 15th- and 16th-century churches that were destroyed in WWI. The highest point of a battlefield was normally the church steeple, so soldiers used them as lookout points. Many of the churches were destroyed. Soldiers and townspeople salvaged what they could from the ruins. “We’ve gotten a lot of Gothic bronze light fixtures from Catholic orphanages, convents, churches, and monasteries. At any given time, we stock 100, sometimes 130 antique fixtures. Some were made to hold candles, and others are gas or early electrical fixtures. Each one is unique. We’ve placed these all over the world.” “Sometimes it goes like this: we have an appointment at five pm with a guy in southern Belgium. That guy calls his friend who has a consignment storage two miles down the road, and he tips off his friend five miles down the road, and on it goes; so they’re literally lining up when we get there. We go from place to place to place until three in the morning sometimes, following a trail. We travel 75 miles down a dead-end road sometimes, but it just takes one piece to make the trip special.”

“Normally this is hard to do because you can’t take it with you, but we can. Shipping costs are so much lower this way, and we can then pass these low costs on to our customers. Logistically, the cost of picking up that one piece from a little village, and getting it to Paris would be extravagant. The pieces we bring back are one of a kind. Our clients and their lifestyles are not cookie-cutter either, and that’s why they gravitate towards these pieces. Sometimes we do as many as five or six fixtures in a given home because they just fall in love with them. You can’t just walk into a new lighting store and see what we have here. There are so many wonderful stories behind these things; it makes them almost like part of the family after they’re installed.”

“It’s a fun job. It’s fun to sell-it’s probably more fun to buy. Again, we’re really not selling, we’re placing. We do a tremendous amount of central and south Louisiana business because we can pass these prices on, and we’re known for our value and unique inventory,” Richard says. “I often tell my clients that we have an ulterior motive; the quicker we sell, the quicker we get to go back!”

La Pavers: Planning a Vacation in Your Own Backyard

Written by: Simonette Berry

Whether it’s a desire to stay close to family or because of the struggling economy, many people are spending their vacations at home rather than abroad. Rod Trahan, owner of La Pavers, has seen this trend develop over the past few years; instead of spending cash on a vacation that lasts a few weeks, his clients invest in an outdoor living room that they can visit year-round and will last for a lifetime. A well-designed outdoor living space can make your own backyard into a vacation destination, and La Pavers can make any dreamscape come true.

“The great weather in the last three or four years and the lack of tropical disturbances have encouraged people in Louisiana to enjoy their summers at home. Cable programming networks such as DIY, the Food Network, and HGTV have also highlighted outdoor living upgrades and shown people more exciting possibilities of eating and entertaining in your own backyard. People are inspired by these programs. They call us to help them bring their ideas to fruition, bringing magazine pictures and you tube videos of ideas they want to implement in their own backyards,” says Trahan.

La Pavers specializes in hardscapes, which are the patios, pathways, driveways, pool decks, privacy walls, and garden edges that outline an outdoor living space. “We use water and lighting accents to set the mood during a day or night excursion. Fire pits and outdoor fireplaces are extremely popular now, too. An outdoor pizza oven, for example, will make any party into an exciting occasion,” he says. “We have expanded our installation services to give people what they want. Now we offer outdoor fireplaces, fire pits, pizza ovens, and outdoor kitchens. We handle lighting, irrigation, and residential landscaping services through our synergy partner Kim White at Acadian Landscapes. We can bring the whole package to the homeowner.”

Lately Trahan has seen a big demand for Travertine patios and pool decks. Travertine is a natural stone paver that comes in rich tones ranging from ivory to sunset walnut. “Our Travertine from Turkey is beautiful as well as very affordable. We just completed a 17,000-square-foot section of Travertine on the new pool deck at the Hyatt Regency in New Orleans,” Trahan says. Because of its porosity, this Turkish stone retains a cool temperature even in the summer heat. “It is by far the coolest decking available that is completely natural and nonslick like the indoor Travertines.”

“Right now we are working on small courtyard space in New Orleans that will have Travertine pavers, a stack stone garden seat and wall, and a wall fountain that will spill over into a raised pond. Detailed and elegant, this design works well with the space provided. We are installing lighting in the fountain area, the seating area, and the bench as well as in some of the garden planters. Uptown New Orleans properties often have limited space but excellent visual appeal and potential. These courtyards are great to look down on from a second story. We can provide artwork as part of the patio, so when you see your patio from a second floor, it really comes to life.”

You may have seen some of La Pavers larger-scale work in the brand new Champion Square at the Superdome Outdoor Venue. La Pavers laid 247,000 pavers in multicolored contemporary lineal patterns to create the Superdome’s outdoor living area where tailgaters and fans enjoy hours of fun. “The Champion Square Project was more of a municipal dream patio for 25,000 plus people to enjoy. We are proud of the work we do, and it does show in our work,” says Trahan.

What’s your dreamscape? Trahan will help you realize its potential and tailor it to fit your needs as well as your budget. “Actually, in a consultation I spend more time inside my clients’ houses rather than outside. I see how they live, what their tastes are, where they vacation, and what’s important to them. I listen a lot to what they are saying, to their needs as well as their dreams. After this experience concludes, I usually have a great idea of what they want. We work under many budget conditions, and we maximize the conditions so that the client gets the best design, quality of materials, and installation for a price that is within their budget. When they see we can do this, they always come back for more.”

La Pavers also enjoys working with landscape architects to bring their visions to completion. “Some of our best work has come from the minds of New Orleans’ best landscape architects. We also work with local landscape companies that need paving and hardscape work done. This keeps us very busy,” Trahan says.

2011 saw La Pavers grow by almost 40 percent. Their high quality products and services are now available to the larger general contractors for commercial work. La Pavers has recently done projects for Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, the City of New Orleans Streetscapes, the World War II D-Day Museum, St. Martin School in River Ridge, St. Scholastica and St. Paul schools in Covington, the Hyatt Regency in New Orleans, and the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.

“We have also expanded our business to Baton Rouge and Lafayette. We never design and build the same patio, driveway, or pool deck the same. Every project reflects the spirit of the homeowner and their need for their personal outdoor experience in their backyard. We love what we do, and it shows in our work.” La Pavers makes hardscapes look easy.

A Magazine Street Marvel: Floor and Decor Design Center

Written by: Simonette Berry

Floor and Decor has taken the home improvement market by storm, creating a whole new way to shop and design for customers, designers, and contractors. By cutting out the middleman, Floor and Decor is able to offer unheard of prices and unmatched selection. Since the first outlet opened in Atlanta in 2001, they have grown to more than 28 retail locations across the nation and changed the way customers shop for flooring and cabinetry. The newest location, which has recently opened on Magazine Street in the heart of the Uptown New Orleans shopping district, has caused quite a sensation.

Patrick Levy, the general manager of the new Floor and Decor Design Center on Magazine Street, explains. “Floor and Decor has revolutionized the way customers buy hard flooring products for the home. We have more choices than the big-box stores, and we offer them for less than what you would find at a designer showroom. We also have unrivaled customer service. It’s the best of both worlds.”

“We opened our big retail store in Gretna next to Academy Sports last year and business really took off. People love our concept, our prices, and our customer-oriented shopping experience. So we decided to open a design center on the Eastbank to make the process even easier for customers and designers. Our Magazine Street showroom offers the same low prices and product selection as our large Gretna Outlet Store but offers more ideas and inspiration like a traditional designer showroom. You can’t go wrong at either of our stores.”

“We designed this location with the Magazine Street experience in mind. The customers in this area are used to businesses going the extra mile. A lot of shops in this area are unique, hands-on, and customer service oriented, so we knew we would fit right into the neighborhood. We found a location at 2801 Magazine Street on the corner of Washington, across from Sake Cafe and next to Starbucks.”

The Magazine Street Designer Outlet is an inviting storefront with large windows and an open floor plan, where thousands of colorful samples are easy to flip through. The store was structured to complement the architectural themes from which many of the historic homes in the Garden District were originally designed, and there are several full bathroom and kitchen displays demonstrating how popular flooring and backsplash combinations might work together. At various spots around the store, design stations are set up for customers, designers, and contractors who need a place to work. Coffee and Wifi are free. In one corner, a couple pours over some blueprints on their laptop with an interior designer; they are surrounded by tile samples, paint swatches, and sketches. At another workstation, a woman creates a lovely sunburst mosaic design in small, diamond-shaped gold and red tiles, making notes as she completes each section.

“I encourage people to come in and take advantage of our free in-house design services; we have three designers on staff that do consultations and go out to our customers’ homes. Customers can also bring their own designers,” Levy says. “We know how stressful the process is. We just want to make it an easier, more enjoyable experience. If you need a designer, we can help you. If you need a place to work, spread out here. If you need to take something home, we have samples available for you to take home. What we offer is a huge selection that will take care of all of your flooring and cabinet needs. Best of all, everything is in stock.”

Have you ever bought something for your home, only to take it home and realize it isn’t quite right? Floor and Decor has built their business around concerns such as these, excelling in customer service where other companies fall short. “In most flooring stores you go in and pick out a piece of flooring; then they have to order it. If it’s not what you like, then you are either stuck with it or have to pay a hefty restocking fee to return it. Not us,” says Levy. All items on display are in stock and ready to go, so you won’t have to wait weeks for them to be shipped to the store. You can also exchange them for no extra cost—no restocking fees, no waiting weeks for another package from the supplier.

“Floor and Decor carries slate, travertine, marble, onyx, wood, laminate, glass tiles, ceramic, porcelain, and cabinets. We have green items like bamboo, cork, and reclaimed antique heart pine. We have one of the largest in-stock selections of stone mosaics and decoratives I’ve ever seen. The Carrara White line alone is impressive, with over 40 different shapes and sizes of Carrara Marble,” he says.

“It’s a more convenient shopping experience, a more inspiring shopping experience, and a more rewarding shopping experience. That’s the goal of each of our locations, and it will be the goal of our future locations as well,” Levy says. Come by a Floor and Decor location today and experience the difference for yourself.

Floor and Decor Designer’s Outlet
2801 Magazine Street
New Orleans, LA

Floor and Decor
Westside Shopping Center
Gretna, LA