Neat Features

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Magnetic Cars for the Wall

February 25th, 2013 Posted in Children, DIY, Fun, Neat Features Tags: , ,

All I can say is that I wished magnetic paint existed when I was a kid.  On second thought it’s probably a good idea it didn’t.  Something tells me I might have used it to magnetize my brother to the ceiling…

But short of that – if you have a kid’s room you need to decorate, or even a play room, magnetic roads and toy cars seems like a genius idea.  You can check out the detailed post at Cutesy Crafts for more of the specifics.

I think it’s interesting to see just how creative people have become with painting rooms.  I’ve seen cars, trees, animals, and entire landscapes painted onto the walls.  There’s no question that one of the amazing thing about the internet age is that we can see all of this creativity!

Plugs that Switch Off

I am forever turning off power strips.  This drives my wife nuts.  But I can’t help it.  I’m one of those people who hates wasting electricity.  Not because of the environmental impact, although if you can do something nice for the environment, why not?  But because I just hate paying for things I’m not using.  And thanks to Phantom Power (the electricity our TV’s and Xbox’s use when turned “off”) it pays to pull the plug.

Some people extreme coupon.  I extreme power save.

Or at least that’s what I tell myself.

But admittedly there’s a problem with that strategy.  Every time I turn off the power strip to the TV, it means the cable box, VCR (yes I still have one of those) and several other things all lose their programming.  It’s a pain to have to let modern cable boxes boot up.  And it’s annoying to have to reset the flashing 12:00 on the VCR.

Enter the plug that has its own switch.

Now I can turn off the individual device (like at TV or a lamp) and let everything else stay on.  No more reprogramming for me!  Although since this is only a proof of concept device, I may have to continue turning off the power strips, and hope my wife forgives me!

(Of course I could just buy separate power strips, but if I do that, it kind of defeats the purpose of saving money through unplugging.  It takes a lot of phantom power to pay for a $50 power strip!)

Don’t Lose Your Keys Anymore!

August 24th, 2011 Posted in Neat Features, Storage Tags: , , ,

When I lived in an apartment I always knew where my keys were.  I just didn’t have a lot of space, so the keys always went in the same place.

Then I bought a house.

Suddenly there were so many tempting places to set my keys on the way to their “home” location.  Would I leave them in the back room?  How about the kitchen on the way to the dining room?   And if my daughter was excited to see me, maybe they’d just get left on the mantle in the living room.

So many places to lose my keys.

That’s what I love about this light switch cover.  If I could just turn off the light and hang my keys at the same time, I’d be set.  As long as the light was off, I’d know where my keys were!

If you have any crazy key-losing stories, feel free to share them in the comments.

Design by Jake Frey


Can You Live in a 4 Foot Wide House?

I don’t consider myself claustrophobic.  Around my own home I’ve squeezed myself into some pretty nasty and pretty small spaces.  (Hello basement crawl space!)

But this house, located in Warsaw Poland, is only 4 feet wide.  I’m not even sure a 4 foot wide house would hold my DVD collection, let alone allow me to stretch in the morning after rolling (wedging?) myself out of bed.

For comparison here are a few things that are wider than this house: your car, a broom, your desk at work, a 10 year old boy (if laying down).

Certainly it takes a special type of person to be able to live in such a confined space.  What do you think?  Do you have what it takes?

image provided by flickr user chefranden

The House on the Hill

There’s a great story on the internet called “the Dionaea House.”  It’s a story about a house that is alive, and well, acts more like a venus fly trap than a place you’d want to vacation.

When I read that story a few years ago it really captured my imagination.  (Which, the story says, is the first sign that the house is hunting you.)  So while I might eventually be eaten by a house, it has really given me an appreciation for great “monster” houses.

And that was the first thing I thought when I saw this house.  What an great building to film a movie!  Or stage an Agatha Christie mystery dinner.  Or even just an awesome place to trick or treat.

Now obviously this house isn’t haunted.  But in an age where housing architecture can be so cookie cutter, it’s thrilling to just see something different.  It’s fun to let your imagination run wild.  (Or if you’re not a fan of monster movies, just picture Jane Eyre or Sherlock Holmes.  It gives the same effect.)

So if anyone has a spare $1.5 million laying around, let me know, because I’m totally going to buy this house.  And I’ll invite you over for Trick or Treat.

You Can Buy The Home Alone House

July 5th, 2011 Posted in Neat Features Tags: ,

The house that the movie Home Alone made famous is for sale in Chicago.  Now’s your chance to buy a piece of American cultural history (if you have $2.4 million.)

A few things you might not have known about the house:

  • It’s been owned by the same family since 1988
  • The family lived there during most of the movie
  • Home Alone came out in 1990 – 21 years ago
  • That last fact makes me feel old

So to relive all those old memories, check out one of the original Home Alone trailers.

Luxury Tree Houses

May 24th, 2011 Posted in Neat Features, Outdoors Tags: , ,

Growing up I had a tree house.  Actually I had a tree house that was built on stilts.  We didn’t have a tree big enough to hold much more than a bird feeder.  It was great and my friends and I spent many hours playing in that thing.  (It was awesome, right up to the time it collapsed under too much weight and jumping.  Oops!)

Of course ever since then I’ve dreamed of having another tree house.

Apparently I’m not the only one.  Because the “luxury tree house” market, according to The Wall Street Journal, appears to be taking off.  With such celebrities as Sting and Julianne Moore getting into the swing of things.  (Get it?  Swing of things.  Ah, good times.)

Of course a luxury tree house is nothing like your traditional tree house that’s filled with spiders and other multi-legged creatures.  These new luxury tree houses are filled with all the amenities of a ground house, including plush seats, roomy views, pillows and even windows.

Of course these also can retail for well over $100,000.

photo from flickr user emdot

Roof Shingles That Change Color

Some neat features on this blog are inspired by dreams.  Others are inspired by necessity.  And still others are inspired by the cold hard reality of a leaking roof.  That’s where I found myself recently – with an unexpected expense and an unexpected series of decisions to make.

Now living in Cincinnati we live in a weird temperature climate for making certain technical housing decisions such as insulation, moisture barrier, and roof color.  As we all know, darker color absorbs more heat, while lighter colors reflect heat.

Since I live in a 100 year old house, without any insulation in the ceiling of the finished attic, my house really feels the swings from the brutal Cincinnati summers and the bitter Cincinnati winters.  And whether I like it or not, the color of my roof makes a difference.  If I go with a dark shingle, I will save on heating costs – but at the price of not being able to use my third floor in the summer.  The flip side is a more live-able attic during the summer, but higher heating prices in the winter.

Not exactly a winning selection of choices!

Fortunately for some (although not for me) scientists may be coming to the rescue with heat-responsive color-changing shingles.  Say that three times fast!

These tiles will reflect about 80% of the sunlight in the summer (and only 30% during the winter.)  Meaning your cooling bills might be reduced by about 20%.

While these tiles are probably a few years from market, they still represent a great blend of technology and functionality.  Plus, who doesn’t like the idea of spending less on heating and cooling costs?

Now if only my roof could change colors….


Hanging Plants on Walls

April 1st, 2011 Posted in DIY, home design Tags: , ,

I have cats. And while most people think that sounds “fun” or “cute”, I see it in a different light. Because my cats are certified plant assassins.  Every plant I’ve ever brought home, whether potted or a dozen roses for my wife, end up with hundreds of tiny teeth marks in them by morning.

Some end up far, far worse.

Personally I’d love to have some plants.  Not only can they really add a sense of style, but they can actually improve the air quality of your house.  Considering we’re heading into allergy season here in Cincinnati, I’m willing to try just about anything to stop sneezing.

That’s why I am so intrigued by the Wally Pocket system.  (Not to be confused with the Disney flick.)  I think it might stop my cats from being vegetarians and maybe even get rid of a bit of house air pollution.  Plus it’s a pretty simple DIY project.

What do you think?