Tag Archives: Eco-Friendly


What you should know about motorized solar shades for large windows

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What you should know about motorized solar shades for large windows

As we continue to move forward in the digital age, motorized solar shades seem like a natural step forward to ensure privacy, comfort and efficiency in our homes. Solar shades are made from fabrics that minimize the amount of sunlight that enters the room in which they’re placed, while also maximizing your outdoor view. Designed to block glare and limit UV rays in your home, solar shades are eco-friendly and come in a variety of fabrics and designs to best suit your needs and budget. This article will examine the benefits of motorized solar shades, specifically for rooms with large windows, and address a few frequently asked questions.


Shades with motorization capabilities can be controlled with the simple touch of a button, a remote control or even a smartphone app. Battery-powered shades are often the most economical option, especially for retrofit applications. They don’t require disruptive wiring and many batteries are made to last for months before needing to be replaced. Remote controls have also come a long way from being loud and clunky. Through motor advancements, control protocols and improved form factor, remotes are now streamlined, elegant options for your motorized shades.

Having convenient control over your blinds via motorization ensures that you are able to improve the security and privacy of your home and reduce your energy consumption and costs. With a myriad of colour and fabric options available, you’ll also be able to find a style that complements your home (or office) decor. Additionally, motorized smart solar shades are compatible with other home automation systems allowing for smooth integration into your smart home. Elite Window Fashions’ Smart Shades are compatible with: Zigbee or Z-Wave for wireless communication or RS485/232 protocol for wired communication.

Minimize energy use & provide security

Motorized solar shades can help to keep your home warm during the winter months, cool during the summer and protect your furniture and other valuables from harsh UV rays. The additional integration into smart home technologies also enables the shades to open or close depending on your home’s temperature and the amount of daylight streaming in. This in turn maximizes the efficiency of your heating and cooling systems.

Security is another important consideration, especially if your home has large windows that you may not want to cover with shades. Motorized solar shades are programmable to open and close on a predetermined schedule that you can set if you’re out for the day, or away on holiday. Either a random or set schedule can give the illusion that someone is home, deterring potential thieves or onlookers. Fitting large window with motorized solar shades enables you to make the most of the views they afford while also protecting the privacy of your home and its valuables.

Additional benefits

Motorized solar shades are easy to install, and can be made to order to fit any size window or door in your home. They’re especially ideal for any windows that are in hard-to-reach places where manually opening and closing the shades would be a considerable hassle. They require little maintenance and are easy to clean with a duster or damp cloth, and their cordless feature makes them completely safe for small children and pets.

As green practices and smart home technologies become more mainstream, motorized solar shades are an inexpensive and ideal way to modernize and refresh your home. Their cordless nature, ability to regulate your home’s temperature, assurance of privacy and security, and colour and fabric options make them a great option for everyone.


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By invitation only, how to be a great guest

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By invitation only, how to be a great guest

What’s more splendid than spending a lazy summer afternoon under a big, blue sky? Why, doing so at a cottage situated by a big, blue lake, of course!

For the cottage-less, opportunities for that will depend on being invited by friends with recreational properties. For their generous hosts, it means laying some ground rules so that visits are mutually pleasant, and don’t add unduly to the weekend workload.

Cottage etiquette

Fortunately, both visitors and their hosts can do their part to see that everybody has fun.

Hosts can avoid an exhausting revolving door of guests by sticking to designated weekends for visitors that work with the family schedule. Unless, of course, an endless stream of folks is their idea of fun.

Cottages that are easy-care mean less worry about guests. Fortunately, handsome and low-maintenance furniture and accessories — for both indoors and out — are a boon. Great examples include weather-resistant outdoor cushions and rugs from Crate and Barrel and unbreakable dishware in pretty patterns or realistic wood grains from retailers like HomeSense.

Host/guest relations

The savvy host tells guests what to expect, including whether they should bring bedding, sleeping bags, or towels, and sketches out what the general vibe of the weekend is; if they all rise early for a communal breakfast, or stay up late and have a sing-along by the campfire.

The gracious guest, on the other hand, asks about issues specific to their visit: so if you’re allergic to pets, or would like to bring Rover with you, talk to your host.

Meal prep & cleanup

Endear yourself by offering to oversee at least one full meal. Pre-make, or at least pre-prep, to reduce water use, time spent, and cleanup required. Or offer to bring the fixing for a signature drink for the weekend that works either with or without alcohol. It’s easy to make a sparkling cranberry drink — that can be spiked with vodka after 5 p.m. — with the highly portable Soda Stream, which turns tap water into sparkling water. Bring fixings for a low-fuss snack too — a cheese and charcuterie board, your world-famous guacamole, or fresh fruit and a yogurt dip.

Plan to help with tidying up at the end of the weekend, or offer to handle at least one chore before taking off. There’s a fine line, here, of course; the thoughtful host will not casually mention at breakfast that a retaining wall needs rebuilding, and suggest guests pitch in.

Reduce waste

Go easy on bringing anything with a lot of packaging — many cottagers have to take garbage out with them or to a landfill. Try re-usable options like beeswax- coated wraps from Toronto based Etee, which now also sells sandwich and food storage bag formats, or Kliin, a machine washable cleaning cloth that’s an alternative to traditional paper towels, and which, by the way, is also made by a Canadian company.

If you are lucky enough to have a friend offer you their cottage and refuse rental payment, think about splurging on a gift they’ll get lots of use out of. Hauser has very handsome solar lanterns: they’re pricey — about $170 and up, but these beautiful, eco-friendly lights cost far, far less than the cost of rental, and might just ensure that you’re invited back.

SOURCES Crate and Barrel, SodaStream, Hauser, Etee, Kliin


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Water wise, tankless toilets conserve up to 35,000 litres of water a year

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Water wise, tankless toilets conserve up to 35,000 litres of water a year

Tankless toilets are a modern option for homeowners looking for a cost-effective solution for renovating or adding a new bathroom.

Their compact and streamlined aesthetic make them a great option for smaller bathrooms. They work differently from traditional toilets, so if you’re thinking about installing one in your home or cottage, make sure you choose the right product for your needs.

With a conventional toilet, the tank sits above the bowl to allow gravity to draw water down into the tank for use when the toilet is flushed, and then re-fills with water.

A tankless toilet has no tank because it does not need to reserve water for flushing. Instead, it is connected directly to your home’s existing plumbing system so that water enters the bowl at a high pressure when the toilet is flushed, pumping away the effluent and wastewater. An electric pump built into the toilet chamber helps power the flush instead of gravity.

The biggest advantage of tankless toilets is the efficiency with which they help homeowners save water. Some models even provide a dual-flush option to reduce consumption even further, giving you a watersaving solution unmatched by conventional toilets.

Other benefits include:

  • Space-saving compact, streamlined design
  • Pipes can be installed inside the wall or under the floor with minimal construction
  • Easy installation and minimal maintenance required

Did you know that Saniflo’s eco-friendly plumbing solutions, like the popular Sanicompact, can help homeowners save almost 35,000 litres of water per year?

The average toilet uses approximately 9.8 litres of water per flush. Assuming that each person uses four flushes per day that translates into roughly 14,300 litres per person per year. For a family of four, that’s more than 57,000 litres of water every year. Saniflo’s Sanicompact uses as little as 3.8 litres of water per flush, saving approximately 8,750 litres of water per person. For that same family of four, this would save their household approximately 35,000 litres of water per year!

The Sanicompact, along with many of Saniflo’s other plumbing solutions, is designed to be ecological throughout its lifecycle from installation to waste disposal.

The unit reduces water consumption though a contemporary, tankless design and dual-flush macerating system, making it perfect for the green minded user.

With simple installation requirements and easy set-up, the Sanicompact is a great solution for a half-bathroom, powder room, or to convert an under-used closet into an extra bathroom.



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Condo Market: Summer a Great Time to Shop For a Condo

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Condo Market: Summer a Great Time to Shop For a Condo

With everything in full bloom across Ontario’s towns and cities, summer is a wonderful time of year to shop for a new condominium. Nowadays, developers spend a lot of time on landscaping buildings to add a touch of natural greenery and colour to their surroundings. In Toronto, a cosmopolitan city with an abundance of greenery, the cityscape is all that more lush with condo landscaping. Landscape architects are truly artists in their own right. They select plant material carefully so that the shrubs, trees and flowers flourish in appropriate light/shade conditions and maximize the visual effect. On a practical note, well-planned and planted landscaping at any residences enhances its value.

Landscaping takes on many forms in condos. For example, some feature ground-level courtyards with lovely garden areas. They may contain park benches, barbecues, trellises or other scenic touches or other spots where owners can enjoy a coffee and morning paper surrounded by greenery, or meet friends for a chat. Higher up in buildings, outdoor terraces are extremely popular. These landscaped areas may offer barbecues, reflecting pools, swimming pools, sunbathing decks, cabanas, hot tubs and/or or other highlights.

And let’s go up even higher. The green roof has gained tremendous appeal, especially with environmental consciousness taking on an important role in today’s real estate scene. As well as being beautiful to look at, green roofs are eco friendly and provide an inviting place to barbecue with friends and dine alfresco amid nature and fabulous city views. We are seeing a lot of developers feature fire pits on rooftop terraces as well, to extend the use of these areas past September. What a fun sight it is to see people in parkas barbecuing in the cold weather and then bringing their dishes into their suites to enjoy.

The icing on the condo landscaping cake is the effort many residents put into planting greenery and flowers on their personal balconies and terraces. Container gardening is a hot trend right now. Garden centres carry every shape, size, colour and pattern of container imaginable. Suite owners can add fresh herbs to their cuisine by stepping out onto their balconies. Some condos even feature gardening areas where residents can grow vegetables. Talk about eating close to home!

Of course, with balconies in a high-rise condo, residents must consider wind and shade conditions when choosing plant material. Of course, drought-tolerant and drought-resistant plant material is a good idea. The staff at garden centres can help with determining what will grow well and look good for as much as the season as possible. Ornamental grasses can add visual interest during the winter as well.

People are also incorporating natural materials such as rocks on their balconies to bring more of the outdoors “up.” You might want to highlight one statement plant in a container or group three or more that combine hardy and delicate flowers for effect. Fountains, living walls – the possibilities are diverse and exciting. After you move into your condo, you will have ample opportunity to enjoy the outdoors without leaving home!

BARBARA LAWLOR is president and CEO of Baker Real Estate Incorporated and an in-demand columnist and speaker. A member of the Baker team since 1993, she oversees the marketing and sales of condominium developments in the GTA and overseas. Keep current with The Baker Blog at blog.bakerrealestate.com


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Take Back Your Backyard Privacy

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Take Back Your Backyard Privacy

By Chris Palmer

This is the year to bring back privacy to your outdoor spaces. With neighbourhoods getting denser, and Ontario’s population growing, backyard privacy is becoming more important and hard to achieve for homeowners. Good news is there are easy solutions to enhance backyard privacy so that everyone can create their dream outdoor living space.

Spring is the perfect time to create an outdoor living room to escape to with lush planters, rich jewel tones and eco-friendly privacy solutions to create a visual outline for your backyard.

Whether you’re working with a large or small budget, the trick is to get creative with your existing surroundings to provide a natural aesthetic that creates privacy.

Plants: Regardless of whether you’re working with a small or large backyard, adding some low-maintenance greenery can optimize privacy while adding some visual appeal. Alternatively, you can plant tall grass in raised planters, which creates a nice blind while allowing the wind to pass through easily. If greenery isn’t enough, buy fast-growing trees that work with your backyard location, which can offer privacy and shade.

Pergola: Overhead privacy structures and pergolas provide endless possibilities to add style, privacy and shade to your backyard. A great outdoor investment that also increases the value of your property, much like a deck would. It also creates the sense of an outdoor room. To add personality, plant climbing vines to gradually colonize the structure for a natural, soothing canopy. And try trailing fashionable vintage lights or lanterns to bring a touch of the indoors outside.

Horizontal privacy: Horizontal or woven privacy screens are also a great aesthetic addition that can help create that separation in your backyard from neighbours. They also provide a cool lounge feel to any outdoor space. Many of my clients are always looking to build more sustainably and are more aware of the ecological impact of certain materials. An industry secret is MicroPro Sienna, which is an eco-friendly pressure- treated wood that’s affordable and at about half the price of cedar.

Upcycling: I’m a big fan of transforming unwanted old furniture or doors into unique outdoor accents. You can easily make over a vintage door into a privacy wall to add a personal and vintage touch. A fun and affordable project that also reduces our carbon footprint!

Furniture and accessories: Brighten up shady corners with vivid jewel tones, shades and vibrant patterns. If your backyard feels like you’re on vacation, then every time you step outside will be invigorating. Feel refreshed with sunshine yellow bistro chairs, bright blue accessories and modern white tables to entertain your family and friends this spring behind colourful and multi-tasking privacy curtains.

Often billed as Canada’s Favourite Handyman, Chris Palmer has quickly become a household name through his thoughtful and creative DIYs. With a strong focus on handcrafted woodwork, Chris has turned his passion into a career creating custom projects through his company Handcrafted by Chris Palmer. He made his national debut on the hit HGTV show Canada’s Handyman Challenge.



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Better Living Expert – Domestic Details A Clean Sweep

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Better Living Expert – Domestic Details A Clean Sweep

Top-to-tail spring cleaning makes summer living even sweeter.

This is also a good time to tackle kitchen or floor surfaces that require periodic resealing.

Begin your annual seasonal cleaning by setting a realistic timeline. It may be possible to get a small condo ship-shape in a day but in a large house, chores may better spread over a week. Whatever the size of the home, these tips should help:


  • Vacuum rooms from the top down—starting with the ceilings. Dust light fixtures and bulbs.
  • Empty and vacuum closets. If something has not been worn in the last 12 months—and it’s not a tuxedo or a wedding gown—throw it out or donate it to a thrift shop.
  • Vacuum mattresses, and wash mattress and pillow protectors on a sanitary wash setting.
  • Dust bookshelves.
Hoover Steamscrub 2-in-1 steam cleaner has a detachable head, which means it functions as both a hand-held and floor device.


  • Keep in mind that effective cleaners don’t need to contain harsh chemicals. Consider green cleaning solutions, such as vinegar and water, or eco-friendly commercial products, such as Mrs. Meyer’s, a sustainable, plantbased cleaning line with pleasant scents that launched in Canada earlier this year.
  • Steam is another eco-friendly choice. It works well on floors of all types and is terrific for freshening soft furnishings and cleaning draperies. (Drapes can also be placed in the dryer on a no-heat setting to dislodge dust.) If you launder slipcovers, put them back on while very slightly damp to avoid shrinkage.
  • Vacuum window screens and wipe around sills and frames. Wash glass the old-fashioned way with a mild detergent solution rinsed with vinegar and water. Or try Hoover’s new SteamScrub 2-in-1, (hoover.ca) which comes with a squeegee made for the purpose.
  • Wash greasy kitchen walls and cabinets, or consider repainting. While you’re at it, toss all your reusable shopping bags in the wash.
  • Clean and wax wood furniture.


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