JA slide show

In mid-October Southern California witnessed a preview of the kind of mudslides, and devastation that a torrential rain can have. It was a preview of this year's El Nino storm, predicted by many meteorologists to be one of the most intense El Nino storms on record. 

As everyone is aware, we in California have experienced severe six year drought that has left many parts of this state utterly parched. Because of the extreme dry conditions many homes are at risk for severe damage due to sudden, and heavy rain.

For example, the extremely hot and dry weather would have caused your wooden structures to open up expansion points because of shrinkage. This could cause water leaks into the wood - exposing it to rot or termites. Most roof leakages occur around metal joints. You can test how your roof deals with water by hosing it down with your own water, and seeing how the run-off works. Hiring a certified and experienced roofer would be your best bet. A small investment for an inspection could save you thousands if your roof ends up damaged.

Make sure to spend some time cleaning the gutters, as this is the number one reason for water intrusion and damage. Most experts agree that this requires at least two attempts: the first is prior to the major rains, and then after the first severe torrent. This is to make sure that the gutters are maintained and cleaned up!

If you have decks or balconies make sure that the water trickles away from the walls of your home. Windows may need a check up as well, since the intense heat and dryness of could cause glazing compounds around glass panes to shrink and pull away. 

Finally, one of the lesser mentioned problems that many homeowners experience is a potential bug infestation. Insects of all kinds try to escape the torrent, especially ants. Ants who live in the ground are prone to sudden flooding and due everything they can to escape. Usually it is into your homes, so it may be a good idea to get a preemptive strike and get an exterminator.

However, if your home is prone to mudslides, it is important to make sure that your family is prepared to the fullest for the worst potential disaster. California offers a website that gives you extensive information in what to do during a mudslide! Please visit: http://www.bepreparedcalifornia.ca.gov/BEINFORMED/NATURALDISASTERS/Pages/LandslidesandMudslides.aspx 

To get information to how to protect your family.


Yesterday, April 1st 2015, Governor Brown of California has issued a 20% reduction in water use by the state. Effectively, we are now in the state of water rationing. A while ago we've made an entry regarding why hardscapes are a great idea to solving the large question of how to quickly and effectively make my backyard water efficient, yet pleasing to the eye: http://www.ushomedevelopers.com/blog/2014/09/02/5-water-saving-hardscape-design-for-woodland-hills-calabasas-thousand-oaks-west-hills.html

Today though we will go through a huge myriad of tips and ideas that can help you become water efficient. Some ideas are simple, that you can do you yourself, but there are some that would require a contractor to help you get your home ready.


We've all heard of the EnergyStar program that the EPA has created that would give energy efficient appliances a special privileged of being part of the EnergyStar certification. Similarly, the EPA has created a water efficient certification called: WaterSense. You can visit the WaterSense website right here http://www.epa.gov/watersense/ which will give you a huge a mount of information regarding the kind of appliances you can get. In fact, they have a listing of all the appliance models and companies that product appliances that are considered water efficient by the WaterSense program. Please take a look, and consider switching to the WaterSense models for your home.


Landscaping can take huge amount of water because we often forget exactly how much we are really spending on it. Consider a simple sprinkler that is set on automatically. How often do you wonder about how much water it is using? Does the grass even need the water? 

Make sure your sprinklers are facing and watering the grass area only. Many times you'd see sprinkler systems that are broken or not properly aligned and so much wasted water get's on the sidewalk where it just evaporates.

Another tip would be to not use them as often. A good way to tell if your grass needs water is to step on some of the grass blades and see if they come back up. If they do, the grass blades are full of water and are rigid, but if they are thirsty they will stay bent much longer. 

The ideal solution is to replace your grass with specific water efficient grass, which is very affordable to buy. An example would be: http://eartheasy.com/water-conservation/outdoor/wildflower-farms-eco-lawn-low-maintenance-grass-seed a $40 bag is enough for 1000 square feet of landscape. Imagine how much money it can save you with having to be watered far less?

For those of you who have a green thumb and would love a creative project, check out Xeriscape ideas, which were designed for drought prone areas, and still maximize natural flora in the backyard: http://eartheasy.com/grow_xeriscape.htm

The EPA offers an extensive knowledge base on water efficient landscaping ideas that you can check out here: http://www.epa.gov/greenhomes/ConserveWater.htm#landscaping

If you are building a home take into consideration that we live in a drought prone area, and as such, plan ahead. Having to invest a bit of money for more efficient appliances, construction materials and design can come to save you tons during the more severe drought years.


Last week with the season finale of South Park, one of it's main characters Kyle Broflovski, declared "The living room room is dead!" because no one is using it anymore. What a poignant observation that we have also noticed and blogged about in August in this entry: http://www.ushomedevelopers.com/blog/2014/08/22/3-modern-lifestyles-kitchen-reseda-encino-winnetka-northridge . In it we discussed the transition from the living room being the place where the family gathers to become more and more towards the Kitchen.

So how do we take advantage of this? How do we make our kitchen reflect a more family orientated feel, which draws the family to a single location in the home? We will present a few ideas and suggestions that you should consider if this is a concern to you!

Kitchen Island One of the most inviting thing you can have in your kitchen is the Kitchen Island. A small place where the family can sit around and either snack, or have a quick meal together. Kitchen islands have always been relatively popular with kitchen remodeling, but it has grown tremendously in popularity in the recent years. We believe that it is reflective of the change of family life dynamics. The Kitchen Island is a good replacement for the dining room. Modern families are constantly on the go, and rarely gather together for an extended meal, but a kitchen island offers a great alternative, it's easy to maintain, it's inviting, and far less formal than sitting at a dining table.

Easy to Clean Surfaces when choosing a material for a counter top, go for materials that are easy to clean and maintain. Avoid porous materials that may absorb liquids and stains and make it a headache to clean. Families are messy, and especially a family on the go. Quartz, a manmade material, is a great option, because it is durable and easy to clean. If you're on a tighter budget opt for vinyl as a material. Go for Porcelain flooring which is far easier to clean.

Open Wall Plan A lot of kitchens are separated from the living room and are usually their own rooms. Open up the walls between the kitchen and the living room and make the transition seamless. This makes both rooms almost conjoined and used together frequently by the family.

Family Seating Nook Include a small area for your family to gather. This is especially good if you can't find a way to fit a Kitchen Island into your kitchen. A small seating area in or next to the kitchen will serve as a perfect area to have a quick meal. A great way to have your children be in the same area as you while your busying about the kitchen. Even a coffee table can change the behavior of your family, because it'll allow a place to sit down for a few minutes and enjoy their meal.

It is important to ask yourself what kind of a family life you have. How many children, pets, you may have, or how they behave. Do they go out often? Do they stay in? Sometimes it may not be worth the effort and the cost if you already have a family unit that is used to family gatherings in your dining room.

Don't hesitate to ask your contractor if they can provide you a family friendly layout of your next kitchen remodeling project. A good contractor will know how to best take any kitchen and convert into their client's dreams. 



Have you considered the kind of tiles you want to use in your bathroom? Although there are a ton of materials, we will discuss the importance of stone, marble, and ceramic tile.
These materials are extremely good for people who live in warm climates like Los Angeles, San Diego, or Anaheim, because they provide a cooler material even during hot climates.

Marble marble flooring is perhaps one of the most elegant and beautiful options you can have. Not only does marble keep your floor and bathroom cool during the hot summer months, the twirling patterns and the classic, elegant style that very few materials can match. However, marble can be a headache for those unprepared to deal with the maintenance. You also have to seal the marble quite frequently because otherwise it would stain by any kind of water marks.


Travertine a natural by product of hot springs all around the world, Traveltine is a very popular material to use. It is far easier to maintain than Marble but also has that unique stone look to it. Although it is very beautiful to look at, Travertine can be a bit pricey compared to other materials. Although it's far more water resistant than marble, it is also very soft, and if you have children or pets in the household, the Travertine stone is susceptible to damage.


Porcelain porcelain is a very durable, yet cheap material to choose from. Although porcelain doesn't have the same kind of appeal and aesthetic that marble or travertine may have, it certainly stands on it's own as a practical choice for a bathroom. It is very water resistant, and also damage resistant. Recent technologies have allowed for porcelain to be made in very beautiful colors, patterns, and shapes, allowing for even a larger variety of options for any home.


Slate slate tile is a great option for those who want a bold, natural look to their bathroom floor. Slate is a very durable material that is very water resistant. However, it is expensive to install, and is not sound proof, that is, sound can easily go through it. Despite that, Slate maintains a durable, dependable, and aesthetically pleasing option for a material choice.


Granite Granite is an excellent choice for any bathroom. It is a natural rock and is very cost effective. While maintaining a strong durability, and water resistance, it can often come with it's own problems. Granite is very hard floor, and although it is great for keeping your feet cool during the summer months, it can also become super cold and frigid during the winter months. That's because Granite is not the best stone at conducting heat, so it is an options best reserved for areas where warm climates are nearly year round.


Onyx onyx is  used minimally between tiles, and can add a timeless beauty to any flooring. Although rarely ever used entirely for tiles, due to it's soft texture, high cost, and maintenance, it is often used as studs between tile patterns that create a gorgeous pattern. Keep in mind though that Onyx is a very soft stone, and is easy damaged. Maintenance on onyx is even more demanding than Marble, but the benefit of a beautiful floor is worth it.


Quartz Quartz tiles are an excellent choice for anyone looking for a durable and long lasting stone. They can be a bit on the high end cost of options, but they can also provide some of the most elegant looking materials because quartz is a manufactured stone and can be colored to any space. But because of this, it's hard to sometimes match the natural look that marble may have. Despite all that, quartz holds it's own in great material options.

These are some of the most common used stone materials used for bathroom modeling. Next time we will look into some of the more unconventional options for your bathroom floor and how it can be of great benefit.


With many of our customers we provide a 3 dimensional designs of their projects before we get started to give our customers the clearest, and best representation of what their project is expected to look like in the end. We feel that it is important for our customers to see this because we can tackle issues such as color choice, cabinet style, appliance locations, before we fully tackle on the project.

Today we will provide a sneak peak into the process with the help of our talented artist and designer providing information and examples.

After a thorough discussion with our client's needs we then begin to take photographs of the area we are going to be working on. This is important so we can establish context as to how everything is currently laid out. 

Here is an image of a kitchen we are working on. The agent who took this picture will then sketch out a very rough blueprint for our designer to put together into a professional blue print, and 3D renders. These sketches are very rough, and provide, mostly, an idea of layout, dimension, and where the placement of appliances and cabinets will be.

As you can see in the sketch here, we are given the main cabinet sizes, and appliance sizes. 
Our artists use some of the best 3D software for our projects. Primarily we use a software called 20/20, an industry standard, however, whenever we need specialized, or customized cabinets our artists also use 3D Studio Max, and Photoshop to create the proper materials necessary for our renders to come out great.

Our artist then starts working on putting together the walls and creating the proper dimensions.

When the dimensions are placed the artist then begins to select the correct cabinets from our extensive catalog, and begins to build the kitchen.

As the kitchen is being build, more and more furniture is then placed. While placing the cabinets, our artist also select the style and material used for the cabinets themselves:

As you can see, each object in the software has it's own parameters, dimensions, costs, materials, etc. Our artist meticulously controls every aspect of the pieces to make sure everything fits properly. As the artist continues to position the cabinets, and appliances in the proper places you start seeing a fully fleshed out professional looking blue print. 

The software converts all the information put into it by our artist. It converts the cabinets into 3D images, and our artist then begins to work on the lighting, and the angle of the images. After some trial and error, because no room is exactly the same, our artist creates a great lighting scheme, which makes the image look even better.

The final image is a composite of all the data that was put into it. 

The final 3D Render is a great representation that helps all our customers understand what their design will look like in the end.

We can then take many more images from many angles and provide any kind of image our customer would want. If they want any kind of changes, such as material color, or placement of the cabinets/appliances, this would be the most opportune moment to do so, as our artist can easily then change the layout before we begin.

Don't hesitate to ask your contractors to provide a 3D render for what they intend to do. It is the best way to get an idea for what kind of a project you want to have. US Home Improvement provides a wonderful coupon on Angie's List that gives you a huge discount on the 3D render designs. Take advantage of it!


Have you ever considered having a theme for your landscape? A themed backyard design could pull all the right elements together, and give a very unique aesthetic to your backyard. It can easily become the center of your property, and a place where you can enjoy and relax in an environment that you chose. Today we will discuss some popular themes for a landscape design.

Tuscan Garden

One of the most popular landscape theme is Tuscan gardens. It is so popular that a lot of people are not even aware how much of their current, or future landscape remodeling projects are heavily influenced by famous gardens from Tuscany. Tuscan Gardens are renowned for centuries, since the great gardens of Medici family, to the beautiful gardens of private villas rolling over the hills of Tuscany. The main elements of Tuscan Garden design are: stonework including walls and paths, Mediterranean plant pallet, boxed hedges, terra cotta pots, potted plants, gravel, fountains, and urns. These kind of gardens are extremely popular in South Western states, especially along the coast of California, due to the natural vineyards, and orchards that are present in that region.

English Landscape

Almost as popular as the Tuscan Gardens are the English Landscapes. These are elegant, natural, and extremely beautiful landscape designs that became extremely prominent at the turn of the 20th century. They hark back to the Romantic era aesthetic, abandoning the fear of natural and embracing it instead. It is because of this English gardens tend to encorporate a lot of natural features such as man-made or natural ponds, gazebos, and if you have a large enough property, a grotto. Common elements of this style also include: Recreations of classic buildings, Ruins, Bridges, Benches, Bricks, Thatch, natural stone, cobblestone, and English pots. These kinds of environments are very popular in New England, where cooler, wetter climate is perfect for the kind of plants necessary for a beautiful English garden.

Southwest Desert Landscape

Popular in drier and more arid regions of the South West, this design harkens back to a mix of old Western look, Spanish Colonial architecutre, Native American patterns, and the natural aesthetic of the desert landscape around. Orange, taupe, and light browns are the prefered color themes, white is also popular because it absorbs far less sunlight and heat. Elements for this style include:
Native American decor, Terracotta tiles, fountains, Olla pottery, red clay pavers, Natural stone, Plaster, Gravel, Decomposed Granite, Wood, and natural Desert hues. 

It is important to choose drought tolerant plants, and use them sparingly in key areas of your garden to emphasize the gaze towards that region. Because green and red tends to stick out in contrast to the color palette normally associated with this style, they make that area "pop-out". 

Japanese Gardens

Japanese gardens invoke a serene, contemplative, and peaceful moods to anyone who wants to visit them. Inspired by Zen Bhuddism, Taoism, and Shinto teachings and emphasize on peaceful meditation, these gardens tend to invoke a quiet, natural place, away from the busy surroundings of modern life. The main focus of these gardens is Nature, and harmonizing with the natural elements around you. Japanese Gardens tend to have four major elements: rocks, water, plants, and ornaments. Japanese gardens also have a very specific layout which include asymmetry, enclosure, borrowed scenery, balance and symbolism. Make sure to select oriental plants, with an emphasis on evergreens.

Although suited for a wide variety of climates, keep in mind that the large element is natural water, be that from rain or plumbing. If you live in drier areas, it would become harder to maintain a Japanese Garden that is full of a lot of plants, or water features. One way of circumventing this problem is to focus the garden on sand mazes, contemplative rocks, and natural gravel.

These are some of the styles that are very popular today. When choosing the type of landscape theme you want to go with, please make sure you have a contractor that is ready to tackle these challenges with you.


Color can affect your mood and  how you feel. One of the most challenging decisions to make while doing a home remodel is to select which color palates to go with. It all depends on the kind of mood you want to achieve. For example, for many people when they think of their bedrooms they want to find a tranquil spot to rest in. Because of this it is often a good idea to mix and match colors that are either very bold - such as red on maroon, or light gray and dark gray - or are a muted color palate such as light blues, cyans, peach colors. Bolder color palates which have a lot of hue tend to create a mood of enclosure - like a warm, comforting blanket, or a sense of great privacy. Brighter and muted colors tend be "open" and give the feeling the room is larger, wider, with more atmosphere. 

The blue with white trim, although a classic favorite for a lot of people, can often times come of as boring, and unoriginal. Try your hand at looking at color combinations that you haven't thought of much before: such as a dark brown, with red, a light gray and a dark gray, or a bright orange with dark wood, and neutral hues of taupe. 

For a more brighter color palette, try bright cyan with sky blue, or for a bit more earth tones: a bright green with a bright brown. When going for brighter color palates, you're not creating a strong contrast. The contrast should be subtle, so choose a main color and select a color in the same hue but slightly darker, and test out the combinations with your room.

Having the right mood is everything. As I mentioned before, dark, and bold colors tend to create a sensual feeling, invoking the feelings of privacy, intimacy, closeness, coziness, where brighter colors tend to do the near opposite: they invoke a feelings of freshness, open air, wide spaces. Selecting how you want to feel when you are in your bedroom can reflect what kind of colors you go for.

But that's not all, consider also looking at the lighting of your room: if you have lights with a yellow hue to it, consider how it would look like on the color during the night when that light is turned on. We had a customer several years ago that had a previous contractor sell them on the idea of painting their bedrooms a solid forest green color. It was clear to us that the contractor was just happy to oblige the decisions of our customers without providing the necessary details and considerations. A forest green color is a wonderful color to have when you have a lot of natural light flowing into your room, it doesn't work well when the room is darker, and when you are at night and using bedroom lights with a yellow hue. We stuck with the green hues and repainted in a much brighter, and much grayer tone, so that it would capture as much of the natural light as possible, and not be terribly affected by lights.

Consider also the kind of environment you are in. If you live in a cold cool climate, a warmer color pallete of reds, oranges, and yellows would be a great idea to give that sense of warmth and coziness. Where as if you live in climates that are predominately warmer, or even hot, try selecting cooler tones like blues, cyan and green. A lot of neutral colors tend to also look great in either case.

When hiring a contractor, make sure that they give you the miriad of options available to you. Ask them detailed questions, such as how it would look like during the day and night, does the color fit the kind of room it is. Many of these things a professional contractor would be able to answer for you in great detail. 


Often times when we go over designs and ideas with customers we ask how they feel about fireplace. A lot of the time customers respond to us that they didn't even think about it because they assumed it was going to be an expensive and an unnecessary addition to their home. But besides being a beautiful addition to any home, a fireplace is not that terribly expensive of a project. According to HomeAdvisor.com, a website dedicated to providing customer information, the average cost for a fireplace installation in Los Angeles is $2358. Of course, this all depends on the kind of fire place you install, and the materials you use!

But if you do decide to install a fireplace, consider first and foremost the kind you want to go with. A gas fire place offers the best in terms of heating efficiency, is far more environmentally sound, and can be installed for homes that do not have chimneys. For those people that love that timeless crackle and warmth of wood fireplace can also find a huge variety of options available.

Materials are an important factor to. Do you want a classic look? Traditional? Maybe use stone or granite? Depending on which you choose can determine the final costs of your fireplace. A lot of fire place manufactures provide a kit for the installation, and depending on the material you choose the pieces can go from a few to a lot more, due to weight. Discuss the options you have with your contractor.

Check to make sure that if you plan to have a chimney make sure that it is properly vented. An un-vented chimney can push a lot of the smoke, and the toxins in that smoke, back into the house. Safety is the prime concern when building a fireplace, remember you are dealing with fire.

The right contractor will know how to make sure the fireplace is up to code, and how to properly install it. If you do consider a fireplace installation don't hesitate to explore the vast variety of options available!


The 2014 year is soon closing, and the brand new and exciting year of 2015 is on the horizon. And with the new year, we can expect new trends in every industry, including Kitchen and Bathroom remodeling. With this in mind, we present 7 trends in 2015 for Kitchen Remodeling.

Open Shelving If you recall our blog post, Small Kitchen In Your Reseda Home? http://goo.gl/lNOyWu , we mention that open shelving is a great means of opening up spaces and making  your kitchen seem larger than it already is. Well, for the year 2015, open-shelving is becoming even more popular kitchen design, due to the desire for larger kitchen look, and the unique feel that they offer.

Unique Ceiling Design there has been a growing trend for kitchens that have ceilings that are unique, and generally force the eye towards it. Small windows near the ceiling is a great way of creating additional natural light, and at the same time force the gaze upwards. This in turn makes the kitchen seem taller, and larger, which ties in well with the idea that the kitchen is becoming the new hub for the family.

Furniture Style-Design We've mentioned before in our blog, Remodeling the Kitchen for Modern Lifestyles, http://goo.gl/kIUR4i, that the kitchen is replacing the family room as the hub of the family, and the house hold. Indeed, this is even more evident as there have been a higher demand in furniture looking kitchen cabinets, pantries, countertops, that all make the kitchen a place of comfort, and gathering.

Modern-Traditional Styles although a seeming oxymoron, the modern traditional style is a take on a traditional solid shaped or flat surfaced cabinets and modernized with either new technology, or design elements such as solid color palettes,  or unique layouts.

Bold Colors more than ever people are choosing bold solid colors such as black and white to create their kitchens. This goes perfectly with the modern-traditional design, where such bold color palettes create a sense of elegance.  

Switching Metals for a long time silver, stainless steel, and chrome metal was the most popular options for kitchen remodeling. Everything from kitchen faucets, to cabinet handles, appliance cabbinets, to countertops, these metals have been extremely possible. However in the recent years, and with even more certainty in 2015, people are switching those cooler, colder metals for a warmer options. We've seen a trend in replacing the silver, chrome, and stainless steel, to gold, copper, and bronze.

Wood Preferences are also changing trends going into 2015. We're seeing a lot of people switching to strong pale woods and warm color woods specifically maple for kitchen cabinets. We've seen a decline in demand for birch wood for cabinets, and an increase in demand for walnut and maple wood.



Los Angeles offers an ideal area to have a Screened in Porch. What is a screened in porch? Essentially it is a normal porch or deck that has a screen of mesh, glass, or acrylic that allows a lot of the environmental elements, like rain, or high winds, to be blocked out, while at the same time, providing the natural benefits like sunshine, fresh air, and a natural area to relax in. 

In LA, however, we have a lot of days of perfectly warm weather, frequently with a nice breeze or actual wind. This is great weather for having an outdoor relaxation area. Most homes dedicate their deck area, or an outside patio to such activities, however, all too often, during the summer months we are always swarmed by bugs, insects, and beetles trying to escape the dry heat and find a cool area to chill out in.

This is where the screened really shines. Because of it's screens such insects cannot find their way in, allowing you to enjoy an outdoor relaxing environment, with plenty of fresh air, natural light, and even a light breeze, without having to worry about various creepy crawlies coming to bother you.

Not only that, you can substitute a mesh screen with a glass or acrylic one for those months with high wind, or cold temperatures.

Some things to remember about installing a screened in porch:

Glass screen - glass screens are very durable, and provide the most protection from the sun's uv rays, insects, wind and is very insulating, however they tend to be more expensive than other materials.

Acrylic Screen - acrylic  screens are far cheaper than the glass screens and they are easier to install, however, they don't provide the same kind of level of insulation, and protection that glass screen do.

Mesh Screen - a basic mesh screen will allow you to enjoy the nice breeze and the natural environment around you, for a good cheap cost. However they aren't at all insulating, and require maintenance.  

Sky Light - a skylight is a great idea for those people that enjoy a lot of natural light. It can provide a great for cloud-watching, and enjoying the bright sunny California weather!

Remember though, when you are building an screen in porch to hire a professional that knows what they are doing. Explore all the options and see what they can do for you.