Friday, July 26, 2019

Smart Lights Control

Hue bulbs in a floor lamp.I’ve seen a lot of people start their foray into smart home with smart bulbs only to be faced with a problem of controlling those smart bulbs in a way that would not annoy the rest of the family.

Recently a friend of mine started this journey and I’ve been going through the options that I have discovered for myself over the course of last year. So I decided to lay out a simple guide of those options along with their pros and cons.

I’ll preface this with a couple of points on the specifics of my experience and smart bulbs in general.

I’ve only dealt with Philips Hue smart bulbs, which is probably the most popular brand. The issue that people face with smart bulbs is that they must always be powered on, thus rendering a regular wall switch useless. If power is cut all the smarts are gone with it.

The first and the most obvious way to control smart bulbs is with a manufacturer’s app that one can install on the phone. However this also takes the first place for the most inconvenient way of dealing with the lights. My opinion is that some form of physical control is a must.

Blocked switch.It is also advisable that the actual physical switch is either removed or blocked in some way in order to prevent other family members or guests from cutting the power off. There are multiple ways to achieve this, but the simplest way is to buy a set of plastic switch blockers on Amazon. These can be bought for any type of switch, be it “decora” or a toggle switch.

Philips Hue motion sensor.Another simple way to control smart bulbs is with a motion sensor. Somebody walks in, the lights go on. After a set period of time of no motion the bulbs go off. I, however, prefer to have my motion sensors to be “on” only at certain times and therefore I have another type of a physical control associated with motion sensor controlled lights.

So let’s talk about actual switches that can be used with Hue in place of the original dumb switch or alongside it.

Hue Dimmer switch being used as a stand-alone remote.Philips itself makes two of these. One is a battery powered Hue Dimmer switch which is probably the most affordable option. These typically go for $25 and can be gotten for even less on sale.

This switch actually gets exposed to HomeKit, so I use it for numerous applications beside controlling the Hue bulbs themselves all throughout the house. For example I have one of these mounted in the hallway on our way to the bedroom to turn off Hue bulbs in the far living room along with kitchen island lights controlled by a smart Wemo switch.

There are three ways to mount these. One is to simply use the stickers on the provided plate and stick it to the wall in a desired place. This switch is battery powered so the placement of it is truly unrestricted. It can go anywhere.

Standard Hue Dimmer plate in place of an old dumb switch.If you’re not happy with sticker approach the plate also has screw holes. I use this approach when I actually replace a physical switch. I take out the actual power switch, connect the wires inside to the constant “on” position and screw on Hue Dimmer to cover the hole.

3D printed plate for Hue Dimmer switches.But my favorite way is to actually use a 3D printed specialty plate that leaves the original switch alone and mounts right on top of it in place of the original plate. I have a couple of these in our house. With this setup you have a fairly clean look and still have an option of accessing a hidden dumb switch.

Same plate as above with switches taken out. Switches are held in by magnets.A ton of possible configurations of these can be found on Etsy. In fact I have replaced a single toggle switch’s plate by our bathroom entrance with a plate that can mount three Hue Dimmers. We have three independently controlled lights in the bathroom and switches for those are in multiple places. Now those lights can be controlled from a single location.

Hue Tap as a stand-alone switch.The next option for a switch is Tap, which is also made by Philips. While Hue Dimmer works well on typical walls I find Tap’s round shape to have a better fit in certain other applications. This switch costs $50 and it also gets exposed to HomeKit.

It doesn’t need any kind of power at all. It uses kinetic energy from the button presses, which makes it feel slightly unusual. Some people dislike the feeling of these buttons, but I find them perfectly acceptable.

Hue Tap attached to the bed's headboard.I have one of these mounted on the headboard of our bed by my pillow. It controls our bedside table lamps along with a Hue led strip under our bed. It works in conjunction with a Hue Dimmer switch mounted in place of the original pre-Hue switch by the bedroom door.

I have four different light schemes programmed into this switch along with the main button being a toggle for a regular warm light and “off” button. This can be achieved with 3rd party HomeKit applications which allow for conditional automations. If light is “on” perform “off” function. And vise versa.

A third switch that I have used in my home is a “decora” shaped kinetic switch made by a company called RunLessWire. It fits into an opening in the wall in place of standard dumb switch. For it to work the actual wires have to be connected together in a permanent “on” configuration.

This switch will cost you $59 and it also gets exposed into HomeKit. It’s called Click.

A pair of RunLessWire Click switches.The switch itself does not use any kind of power — same principal as Tap switch mentioned above. When ordered, the switch comes with two possible options — single or double button. This particular switch is useful when you have a multiple gang box, but only want to replace one of them.

I specifically had a configuration where I wanted to control four different lights, but only had two sized opening in the wall. I replaced both of the original switches with two-buttoned versions of RunLessWire Click switches.

As with Tap, the buttons have an unusual feel to them. I find them not to be instant all the time, meaning that you have to hold the button depressed and wait for a programmed action to trigger. Kids in particular had trouble with this, but eventually got trained to hold the buttons down for a long enough period of time.

Lutron Aurora switch next to a standard Lutron Caseta smart switch.The last and a very new addition to this party is a recently release Lutron Aurora dimmer switch made specifically for Hue. This is the only switch out of the above mentioned ones that does not get exposed to HomeKit, which limits it to controlling Hue bulbs only.

A pair of Lutron Aurora switches next to Wemo smart switches.It attaches right onto a standard toggle switch, thus blocking it in permanent “on” position and takes over the Hue control functionality. It looks like an old style dimmer knob. It’s aesthetically pleasing and it provides a physical control for Hue bulbs as opposed to simply blocking the dumb switch with a piece of plastic.

Same as above, different angle.The installation takes less than five minutes. The base comes with a blade kind of a piece that cuts slightly into the toggle switch when you tighten the screw on this base. And the controller itself just snaps onto the installed base. Aurora will run you $39 a piece.

Lutron Aurora mounting base attached to a standard toggle switch.That’s it for the physical controls. A good sized array of options. And I should mention voice control as well if you have access to Siri or Alexa. But it not nearly as convenient as any of the actual physical controls.

In conclusion all of these have their strong sides and you probably should be choosing based on your application.

Custom printed plate for Hue Dimmer switches.In my opinion custom 3D printed plates for Hue Dimmers are probably the most versatile option — you’re making the least amount of modifications, you still have access to your dumb switches which are cleverly hidden and you’re not gluing anything to the wall.

Same as above, with one switch taken out.Philips Hue Dimmers themselves are very cheap and you get the full functionality of HomeKit open to them, giving you a wide array of configurations and use cases.

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Monday, June 24, 2019

The First Year Sagа

I'll start from the end. This is our little helper mowing the lawn just this past weekend.For our first anniversary of living in our own house I’ve decided to go pick out all home related pictures on my phone taken throughout this year. I heavily trimmed this collection and still have ended up with a massive number — 100 photos in total.

These photos tell a gradual story of us making this home ours. It starts out with how things were and how we progressed to making it what it is now. We’ve done a LOT of things and this collection show only certain aspects of our saga. Although even a number of later photos in this collection is already outdated.

The photo of the entrance taken during our original inspection. This hideous chandelier has got to go.The photo of the entrance taken during our original inspection. This hideous chandelier has got to go.

Dining room photo taken on the same day. Hideous wall lights and another terrible chandelier.Dining room photo taken on the same day. Hideous wall lights and another terrible chandelier.

First shots of the patio. Note the chair. It will show up later in this set. We are going to restore it to its former glory.First shots of the patio. Note the chair. It will show up later in this set. We are going to restore it to its former glory.

View of the kitchen from the living room. That bracket on the wall is going to be replaced with a TV that we often watch during our meals at that kitchen bar.View of the kitchen from the living room. That bracket on the wall is going to be replaced with a TV that we often watch during our meals at that kitchen bar.

Kitchen from another angle. Our furniture of our first weeks can be seen through the door on the side.Kitchen from another angle. Our furniture of our first weeks can be seen through the door on the side.

Our naked porch door.Our naked porch door.

Empty porch. Great place to eat during the summer dinners, especially with guests. No furniture yet.Empty porch. Great place to eat during the summer dinners, especially with guests. No furniture yet.

Same porch, different angle. It really needs stuff. And a grill which will be our first purchase for the new house.Same porch, different angle. It really needs stuff. And a grill which will be our first purchase for the new house.

These are the last days in our apartment. All our stuff is packed and ready to be moved. What a mess!These are the last days in our apartment. All our stuff is packed and ready to be moved. What a mess!

And our things have been relocated to our house. Last minutes at a place that has been our home for the last 11 years.And our things have been relocated to our house. Last minutes at a place that has been our home for the last 11 years.

Our first acquisition. Weber Genesis II three burner grill. We bought it on the very first day of staying in the house.Our first acquisition. Weber Genesis II three burner grill. We bought it on the very first day of staying in the house.

The installation of a new septic system has commenced in the first few weeks after the move. Our poor backyard is being completely destroyed.The installation of a new septic system has commenced in the first few weeks after the move. Our poor backyard is being completely destroyed.

Septics tanks go into the front yard, which also is being completely destroyed. The leaching field is in the back of the backyard in the previous picture.Septics tanks go into the front yard, which also is being completely destroyed. The leaching field is in the back of the backyard in the previous picture.

Septic tanks go here. We've replaced old three bedroom system with a brand new much larger system that can support a four bedroom house.Septic tanks go here. We’ve replaced old three bedroom system with a brand new much larger system that can support a four bedroom house.

And the septic tanks themselves. A pair of these massive concrete containers. It's going to take us a while to get our yard back to a nice green lawn.And the septic tanks themselves. A pair of these massive concrete containers. It’s going to take us a while to get our yard back to a nice green lawn.

Our new bed has arrived. We've finally upgraded to a king size bed with a great Casper mattress. The bedding doesn't match yet. And there are still green curtains on the windows that were left by the previous owners. We're gong to fix that.Our new bed has arrived. We’ve finally upgraded to a king size bed with a great Casper mattress. The bedding doesn’t match yet. And there are still green curtains on the windows that were left by the previous owners. We’re gong to fix that.

We've decided to put a sleeper sofa into the office. When we have a lot of guest over we have a nice and private place to sleep at.We’ve decided to put a sleeper sofa into the office. When we have a lot of guest over we have a nice and private place to sleep at.

We got this sofa as a free bonus when we ordered our bedroom set. It folds out into a fairly comfortable queen sized bed and looks modern enough not to spoil the overall look of the room.We got this sofa as a free bonus when we ordered our bedroom set. It folds out into a fairly comfortable queen sized bed and looks modern enough not to spoil the overall look of the room.

New and expensive entrance chandelier! Gift from the parents. It took Alёna and I lot of time and energy to install it. But it looks amazing. We've got numerous compliments on it. The shelves on the wall are still a mess. We're gong to fix that.New and expensive entrance chandelier! Gift from the parents. It took Alёna and I lot of time and energy to install it. But it looks amazing. We’ve got numerous compliments on it. The shelves on the wall are still a mess. We’re gong to fix that.

A new and expensive dining room chandelier. Also a huge upgrade over the previous monstrosity. And we kept hitting our heads on the old one. So we put this one closer to the ceiling. It was even harder to install this one because of its massive weight.A new and expensive dining room chandelier. Also a huge upgrade over the previous monstrosity. And we kept hitting our heads on the old one. So we put this one closer to the ceiling. It was even harder to install this one because of its massive weight.

Entrance chandelier installed. Beautiful.Entrance chandelier installed. Beautiful.

Next up is our closet. It was in for a complete reconstruction. We're going to transform it to a much more usable space. First order of business was tearing out ancient built in drawers. The top part in this pictures has just been taken out.Next up is our closet. It was in for a complete reconstruction. We’re going to transform it to a much more usable space. First order of business was tearing out ancient built in drawers. The top part in this pictures has just been taken out.

Walls are patched and painted. Old cheap closet system is next to go.Walls are patched and painted. Old cheap closet system is next to go.

We’re building out a new interior using Ikea PAX system. Lots of furniture construction. Everything is screwed together and attached to the walls.

Almost there. Still a bunch of finishing touches left. More drawers, boxes on the top, new lighting. End result shot is further down this post.Almost there. Still a bunch of finishing touches left. More drawers, boxes on the top, new lighting. End result shot is further down.

New sconces! Same style as the chandelier. These replace a pair of really ugly looking flower and they produce a really nice light pattern when on.New sconces! Same style as the chandelier. These replace a pair of really ugly looking flowers and they produce a really nice light pattern when turned on.

Switches for our Hue bulbs. Every smart device in our house has a physical controls. This is a 3D printed plate that goes over the actual switches.Switches for our Hue bulbs. Every smart device in our house has a physical controls. This is a 3D printed plate that goes over the actual switches.

Arosha always loved trampolines. None of his friends would really let him jump on them freely. Some were downright mean. So when we finally had a massive backyard we could not not buy one. We put it together right after the septic install was done. And our kids love it. A year in and it gets used on multiple occasions almost every week.Arosha always loved trampolines. None of his friends would really let him jump on them freely. Some were downright mean. So when we finally had a massive backyard we could not not buy one. We put it together right after the septic install was done. And our kids love it. A year in and it gets used on multiple occasions almost every week.

A brand new SONY XBR-55X900F 55 inch TV mounted on the wall in our family room. At first I was trying to hire somebody to put these up. But then I ended up doing it myself. It's not nearly as hard as it seems. A good bracket from Amazon and some tools along with a good stud finder. A cable is still visible on this picture. We're going to fix that.A brand new SONY XBR-55X900F 55 inch TV mounted on the wall in our family room. At first I was trying to hire somebody to put these up. But then I ended up doing it myself. It’s not nearly as hard as it seems. A good bracket from Amazon and some tools along with a good stud finder. A cable is still visible on this picture. We’re going to fix that.

And the same for our living room kitchen TV. This is our old Samsung that we brought with us. Mounted the same way as our SONY. This is the shot after the electrical plugs have been installed behind the TV. No wires. Both TVs are powered by WIFI connected Apple TVs. HD for kitchen, 4K for family room. Both are invisibly mounted behind the TVs themselves.And the same for our living room kitchen TV. This is our old Samsung that we brought with us. Mounted the same way as our SONY. This is the shot after the electrical plugs have been installed behind the TV. No wires. Both TVs are powered by WIFI connected Apple TVs. HD for kitchen, 4K for family room. Both are invisibly mounted behind the TVs themselves.

Our massive new sofa has arrived. We scoured a ton of furniture stores in Brooklyn and some others in CT. Most American stores just don't fit our tastes. And Russian stores either have tiny apartment oriented sofas available or to get something large and modern an order had to be placed with 4-6 months wait. So we went the WayFair way.Our massive new sofa has arrived. We scoured a ton of furniture stores in Brooklyn and some others in CT. Most American stores just don’t fit our tastes. And Russian stores either have tiny apartment oriented sofas available or to get something large and modern an order had to be placed with 4-6 months wait. So we went the WayFair way.

Sadly going with online furniture purchases you never know what you're going to get. While this sectional looks great it turned out to be not very comfortable. Luckily this was easily remedied with a couple of throw pillows that can be used for support. Also some parts were miss-aligned, so I took it apart and reassembled it anew. Now it's close to perfect. WayFair refunded a lot of our money for this order because of all the issues. So in the end we got a stellar deal for a great sectional.Sadly going with online furniture purchases you never know what you’re going to get. While this sectional looks great it turned out to be not very comfortable. Luckily this was easily remedied with a couple of throw pillows that can be used for support. Also some parts were miss-aligned, so I took it apart and reassembled it anew. Now it’s close to perfect. WayFair refunded a lot of our money for this order because of all the issues. So in the end we got a stellar deal for a great sectional.

Master bedroom is almost finished. We used the curtains from our apartment living room. These were color perfect for our red theme. Some nice abstract art above the headboard. And a pair of good looking modern lamps. We have Hue bulbs in these, so they take on different colors depending on the mood.Master bedroom is almost finished. We used the curtains from our apartment living room. These were color perfect for our red theme. Some nice abstract art above the headboard. And a pair of good looking modern lamps. We have Hue bulbs in these, so they take on different colors depending on the mood.

Mounted this massive IKEA mirror from our apartment in our master bedroom. Same concept as TVs -- just need to find the studs for it not to fall down along with the wall.Mounted this massive IKEA mirror from our apartment in our master bedroom. Same concept as TVs — just need to find the studs for it not to fall down along with the wall.

And another wall of our bedroom. Some modern abstract art in red and black. The metals plates are custom hand made pieces of art.And another wall of our bedroom. Some modern abstract art in red and black. The metals plates are custom hand made pieces of art.

And the final version of our closet. Came out really functional and good looking. Since this picture was taken we've replaced the bedding set, but there are no pictures of that yet.And the final version of our closet. Came out really functional and good looking. Since this picture was taken we’ve replaced the bedding set, but there are no pictures of that yet.

Anna's room is also taking shape. We've put up the curtains from our apartment bedroom. It matches her theme well. And there is a small portion of her zoo on the wall.Anna’s room is also taking shape. We’ve put up the curtains from our apartment bedroom. It matches her theme well. And there is a small portion of her zoo on the wall.

We got a new set of space themed curtains for Aaron's room. His whole room is space themed.We got a new set of space themed curtains for Aaron’s room. His whole room is space themed.

And then he got a desk. This one also came from WayFair, but we have zero complains. Its price was good, the desk is nice. Anna has got the same one, only in white.And then he got a desk. This one also came from WayFair, but we have zero complains. Its price was good, the desk is nice. Anna has got the same one, only in white.

Our patio is starting to take form. Unrestored chair and a new fire pit.Our patio is starting to take form. Unrestored chair and a new fire pit.

Now we acquired some furniture. Arosha has actually talked us into this set. He paid for his armchair and its ottoman with his own money. We added some tables, chairs and a loveseat.Now we acquired some furniture. Arosha has actually talked us into this set. He paid for his armchair and its ottoman with his own money. We added some tables, chairs and a loveseat.

Our porch is also fully stocked. We got quite an expensive aluminum and teak set from a local Patio.com location. We were contemplating about getting a full wooden set, but are happy with our decision. It spent a winter outdoors and looks as good as new.Our porch is also fully stocked. We got quite an expensive aluminum and teak set from a local Patio.com location. We were contemplating about getting a full wooden set, but are happy with our decision. It spent a winter outdoors and looks as good as new.

We had an empty corner in the living room, so we decided to put a pair of abstract looking shelves into it. We have a lot of trinkets, mementoes and other things to display to make this room cozier. It came out nice.We had an empty corner in the living room, so we decided to put a pair of abstract looking shelves into it. We have a lot of trinkets, mementoes and other things to display to make this room cozier. It came out nice.

We can write a novel about getting this table. It started with us ordering a dining room set from WayFair for over $4,000. It kept getting delivered only partially and with broken parts. The veneer turned out to be paper thin. We decided to go with WayFair after going through a multitude of stores and not finding anything we liked. We can write a novel about getting this table. It started with us ordering a dining room set from WayFair for over $4,000. It kept getting delivered only partially and with broken parts. The veneer turned out to be paper thin. We decided to go with WayFair after going through a multitude of stores and not finding anything we liked.

And once we placed a WayFair order we went to IKEA and saw the above pictured set. We were disappointed because it looked great, the wood was solid, the leather chairs were really a good match for our whole overall look and the price was a fraction of WayFair's set. In the end after another failed delivery attempt we canceled our order for a full refund. And promptly ordered this set. Couldn't be happier. And we added a pair of wooden chairs in the same color for bigger capacity.And once we placed a WayFair order we went to IKEA and saw the above pictured set. We were disappointed because it looked great, the wood was solid, the leather chairs were really a good match for our whole overall look and the price was a fraction of WayFair’s set. In the end after another failed delivery attempt we canceled our order for a full refund. And promptly ordered this set. Couldn’t be happier. And we added a pair of wooden chairs in the same color for bigger capacity.

To finish the room off we ordered a pair of mirrors finished in the same color of wood. Also from IKEA. These can be seen on this photo and the one above. We were originally thinking of putting a rectangular mirror on that wall, but when we saw these we liked the idea of a pair of them much more. It came out well.To finish the room off we ordered a pair of mirrors finished in the same color of wood. Also from IKEA. These can be seen on this photo and the one above. We were originally thinking of putting a rectangular mirror on that wall, but when we saw these we liked the idea of a pair of them much more. It came out well.

Then my office got a new desk in gray and all new hardware. A pair of 27 inch 5K monitors powered by a brand new 2018 15" MacBook Pro with pretty much maxed out specs.Then my office got a new desk in gray and all new hardware. A pair of 27 inch 5K monitors powered by a brand new 2018 15″ MacBook Pro with pretty much maxed out specs.

This is a draft of the office back wall. I had a book full of National Park posters for years, but never got around to ordering frames and putting them up on the wall. We picked out some of the best looking ones from some of the parks we've been to. But I hated the wall color of the office. It was so boring.This is a draft of the office back wall. I had a book full of National Park posters for years, but never got around to ordering frames and putting them up on the wall. We picked out some of the best looking ones from some of the parks we’ve been to. But I hated the wall color of the office. It was so boring.

So we had an opportunity to solve two problems. When we were buying the house we realized that one of the garages was too small to fit a full size car. And we had an extra foot or two in the office. So we moved the wall. This one we hired a contractor to do.So we had an opportunity to solve two problems. When we were buying the house we realized that one of the garages was too small to fit a full size car. And we had an extra foot or two in the office. So we moved the wall. This one we hired a contractor to do.

Now our garage can comfortably fit both of our cars. We are so happy we've made a decision to do this. This made winter so much easier to handle.Now our garage can comfortably fit both of our cars. We are so happy we’ve made a decision to do this. This made winter so much easier to handle.

We took this chance and repainted the office. For some reason I wanted to have orange teal theme for a long time. I think it came out great. Very cozy. Love it.We took this chance and repainted the office. For some reason I wanted to have orange teal theme for a long time. I think it came out great. Very cozy. Love it.

This is the other side of the office and my setup. I took this chance and attached a color Hue LED strip that I had laying around behind the desk. And I finally broke down and bought myself Steelcase Gesture chair. And the shelf in the corners serves as home for our relic collection of DVDs.This is the other side of the office and my setup. I took this chance and attached a color Hue LED strip that I had laying around behind the desk. And I finally broke down and bought myself Steelcase Gesture chair. And the shelf in the corners serves as home for our relic collection of DVDs.

And our living room got curtains! We love curtains. They fully transform the rooms. Alёna's mom searched all the stores in Minsk and sent us a ton of pictures. We picked the ones we liked. She had them sized and prepared and sent a full set to us as a gift. We love how cozy our living room became.And our living room got curtains! We love curtains. They fully transform the rooms. Alёna’s mom searched all the stores in Minsk and sent us a ton of pictures. We picked the ones we liked. She had them sized and prepared and sent a full set to us as a gift. We love how cozy our living room became.

The other side of the living room. Our patio furniture is spending a winter in our living room. In fact, we liked it so much that in the spring we ordered an actual furniture set to take its place. And we finally started hanging some paintings on the walls.The other side of the living room. Our patio furniture is spending a winter in our living room. In fact, we liked it so much that in the spring we ordered an actual furniture set to take its place. And we finally started hanging some paintings on the walls.

Then winter came. We finally had a chance to use our wood burning fireplace. We had the chimney cleaned and a pair of caps installed on top. For some reasons the house had none.Then winter came. We finally had a chance to use our wood burning fireplace. We had the chimney cleaned and a pair of caps installed on top. For some reasons the house had none.

Then we went to Italy in November and brought back a set of handmade Venetian masks to put above our fireplace. We also got a really nice looking, funky, modern lamp for our family room. It was a bit expensive, but we think it was worth it.Then we went to Italy in November and brought back a set of handmade Venetian masks to put above our fireplace. We also got a really nice looking, funky, modern lamp for our family room. It was a bit expensive, but we think it was worth it.

We ended up doing some modifications to the fireplace on the chimney guy recommendations. We added one inch thick metal backplate to reflect the heat into the room and we added a vertical grate so the wood burns agains that backplate.We ended up doing some modifications to the fireplace on the chimney guy recommendations. We added one inch thick metal backplate to reflect the heat into the room and we added a vertical grate so the wood burns agains that backplate.

We donated some money to a local boy scout group and they in turn sent us this wreath. We put a hook into the wall between our garages and put the wreath up for the duration of the winter.We donated some money to a local boy scout group and they in turn sent us this wreath. We put a hook into the wall between our garages and put the wreath up for the duration of the winter.

Then some snow started falling. We had a very mild winter. Alёna did most of the driveway cleaning herself, with a shovel. We only had to use a plow once. We're getting a snowblower for our next winter.Then some snow started falling. We had a very mild winter. Alёna did most of the driveway cleaning herself, with a shovel. We only had to use a plow once. We’re getting a snowblower for our next winter.

When we started getting our heating bills we decided that we need to make a bunch of improvements. I installed our first smart thermostat. Then we added another heating zone. Alёna taped up all old windows in the bedrooms and family room.When we started getting our heating bills we decided that we need to make a bunch of improvements. I installed our first smart thermostat. Then we added another heating zone. Alёna taped up all old windows in the bedrooms and family room.

Arosha and I got Nanoleaf light panels as gifts for New Year. We put Arosha's up on January first. And also finally hung a map of the world that we had up in our apartment. And there is a Venetian mask of moon and sun that he bought in Venice.Arosha and I got Nanoleaf light panels as gifts for New Year. We put Arosha’s up on January first. And also finally hung a map of the world that we had up in our apartment. And there is a Venetian mask of moon and sun that he bought in Venice.

It took me a while to figure out the pattern for my Nanoleaf. I tried a bunch with stencils and settled on this arrow that I like quite a bit.It took me a while to figure out the pattern for my Nanoleaf. I tried a bunch with stencils and settled on this arrow that I like quite a bit.

It came out great. I have it light up along with the strip behind the desk when I walk into the office.It came out great. I have it light up along with the strip behind the desk when I walk into the office.

The parents gave us a pair of vases from their collection. We really liked them because they really matched our family room color theme of orange and blue or teal. They also later brought a very modern looking plate from one of their vacations. We replaced our tulip vase with that plate.The parents gave us a pair of vases from their collection. We really liked them because they really matched our family room color theme of orange and blue or teal. They also later brought a very modern looking plate from one of their vacations. We replaced our tulip vase with that plate.

We ended up putting glass doors on our fireplace. The problem was that we had to leave the flue open for the night after the fire in the evening. So by morning all the warm air would get sucked out and replaced by cold air. Now we can close the glass doors while the fire is still simmering. And some modern art. Although we just replaced this one for a bigger one from the same artist.We ended up putting glass doors on our fireplace. The problem was that we had to leave the flue open for the night after the fire in the evening. So by morning all the warm air would get sucked out and replaced by cold air. Now we can close the glass doors while the fire is still simmering. And some modern art. Although we just replaced this one for a bigger one from the same artist.

Anna's got a storage shelves from IKEA Kallax series. Arosha's got the same thing, but in different color. We placed his one horizontally and filled it with different looking containers.Anna’s got storage shelves from IKEA Kallax series. Arosha’s got the same thing, but in different color. We placed his one horizontally and filled it with different looking containers.

Our living room and kitchen spot lights are filled with Phillips Hue color bulbs. We had a bunch of themes programmed for the top floor. Our living room and kitchen spot lights are filled with Phillips Hue color bulbs. We had a bunch of themes programmed for the top floor.

There is an orange teal one, fire mood one that consists of red orange and yellow tones and there is a theme called Daughter's Wow. It's pink and purple, naturally.There is an orange teal one, fire mood one that consists of red orange and yellow tones and there is a theme called Daughter’s Wow. It’s pink and purple, naturally.

At this point we have all walls decorating with paintings. My dad has a pretty good collection and he's been giving us a lot of them. Some we put into the storage, and some go up on the walls. We keep shifting them around from time to time. We also acquired a nice orange teal pot for our plant that used to fit in a tea cup.At this point we have all walls decorated with paintings. My dad has a pretty good collection and he’s been giving us a lot of them. Some we put into the storage, and some go up on the walls. We keep shifting them around from time to time. We also acquired a nice orange teal pot for our plant that used to fit in a tea cup.

I brought some of my prints I had in the office at work. They are not cheap to make, but I never had a place to hang them at home. Now our hallway seemed like a perfect place.I brought some of my prints I had in the office at work. They are not cheap to make, but I never had a place to hang them at home. Now our hallway seemed like a perfect place.

Then we printed a pair of square ones -- my photographs of lighthouses from Cape Cod. This goes really well with our hallway and our black-gray and white theme of the bathroom.Then we printed a pair of square ones — my photographs of lighthouses from Cape Cod. This goes really well with our hallway and our black-gray and white theme of the bathroom.

We added a small mail and key shelf by the entrance door. And we added some shoe shelves inside the closet by the same door. And the paintings that are pictured here we've already replaced with a different one.We added a small mail and key shelf by the entrance door. And we added some shoe shelves inside the closet by the same door. And the paintings that are pictured here we’ve already replaced with a different one.

And when you enter the house you see these. Although we've already replaced the bottom one. The one above the stairs we're keeping. It has this Russian feel to it that it seems appropriate. Plus it's very lright, in case it falls down.And when you enter the house you see these. Although we’ve already replaced the bottom one. The one above the stairs we’re keeping. It has this Russian feel to it that it seems appropriate. Plus it’s very light, in case it falls down.

More art in the corner. Our family room lamp with Hue bulbs in Orange Teal mode and our smart diffuser in teal.More art in the corner. Our family room lamp with Hue bulbs in Orange Teal mode and our smart diffuser in teal.

Tripple Hue switches by the bathroom entrance. The actual switches are inside the the bathroom behind the door. This a more convenient place to control them.Tripple Hue switches by the bathroom entrance. The actual switches are inside the the bathroom behind the door. This a more convenient place to control them.

Our play room is kind of visible from the street, especially when kids play inside with lights on. Alёna's mom did another major search and we went with this gray purple theme throughout our play and guest rooms. Privacy curtains. Nice for when the guests are staying overnight as well.Our play room is kind of visible from the street, especially when kids play inside with lights on. Alёna’s mom did another major search and we went with this gray purple theme throughout our play and guest rooms. Privacy curtains. Nice for when the guests are staying overnight as well.

We finally bought an actual bed for the guest room. We had our expensive queen size mattress on the floor from our apartment bed. We kept thinking about getting rid of it and replacing it with a sleeper sofa, but then it was too new and too expensive to throw out. So it got a bed.We finally bought an actual bed for the guest room. We had our expensive queen size mattress on the floor from our apartment bed. We kept thinking about getting rid of it and replacing it with a sleeper sofa, but then it was too new and too expensive to throw out. So it got a bed.

And then the bed got a nice purple set that matches the lower floor decor. It also got some art and a vintage lamp with Edison bulb.And then the bed got a nice purple set that matches the lower floor decor. It also got some art and a vintage lamp with Edison bulb.

Once it started to get warm I installed string lights on the porch that we had laying around since the middle of the winter. It was always kind of dark on the porch in the evenings, so we thought this kind of lighting would be very fitting and useful.Once it started to get warm I installed string lights on the porch that we had laying around since the middle of the winter. It was always kind of dark on the porch in the evenings, so we thought this kind of lighting would be very fitting and useful.

We leveled them out along the edge, connected them to a smart plug and put a switch on the door. It makes the place cozier even during daylight.We leveled them out along the edge, connected them to a smart plug and put a switch on the door. It makes the place cozier even during daylight.

Then at some point during the spring we ordered a shed. First step was installing a foundation for it. This was included in the price of the shed.Then at some point during the spring we ordered a shed. First step was installing a foundation for it. This was included in the price of the shed.

Shed itself got delivered on May 1st. But I have a full post about it already. It's been very useful so far. And we built a pathway for it. That took a lot of effort.Shed itself got delivered on May 1st. But I have a full post about it already. It’s been very useful so far. And we built a pathway for it. That took a lot of effort.

We also installed a nice looking privacy film on garage windows. It's main purpose is actually to hide the mess that we have inside the garage. Looks much neater from the outside.We also installed a nice looking privacy film on garage windows. It’s main purpose is actually to hide the mess that we have inside the garage. Looks much neater from the outside.

Then we added a couple of nice details to the porch. We were hunting for some nice plaque to put up for a while. And then WayFair came thought. Nice, rough looking plaque that welcomes people to Gather Here.Then we added a couple of nice details to the porch. We were hunting for some nice plaque to put up for a while. And then WayFair came thought. Nice, rough looking plaque that welcomes people to Gather Here.

Another thing that we found was a box for beer bottle caps. It proclaims that the best beer is an open beer. The season has just started, so it's mostly empty, but we're working on filling it up.Another thing that we found was a box for beer bottle caps. It proclaims that the best beer is an open beer. The season has just started, so it’s mostly empty, but we’re working on filling it up.

Then when the warm days became more frequent we tackled a project of replacing all of our old bedroom windows with a nice, expensive wooden double pane ones. Old ones were horrible and drafty. Single pane glass, crafted of small glass pieces, falling apart.Then when the warm days became more frequent we tackled a project of replacing all of our old bedroom windows with a nice, expensive wooden double pane ones. Old ones were horrible and drafty. Single pane glass, crafted of small glass pieces, falling apart.

Most of the house had new windows, but bedrooms didn't. So we replaced all in all six of them. That was not cheap at all.Most of the house had new windows, but bedrooms didn’t. So we replaced all in all six of them. That was not cheap at all.

As I mentioned before, once our patio furniture returned outside we ordered a nice gray leather and metal set for our living room. Fits the color theme of the room and is very comfrotable. Who would've thought that we would buy furniture from Raymour & Flanigan at some point? But I got us a really good deal on these.As I mentioned before, once our patio furniture returned outside we ordered a nice gray leather and metal set for our living room. Fits the color theme of the room and is very comfrotable. Who would’ve thought that we would ever buy furniture from Raymour & Flanigan at some point? But I got us a really good deal on these and they actually look good.

At the end of April we went full tilt into landscaping. We were determined to fix backyard and front yard grass that was destroyed by septic install. We bought new top soil, leveled it out, installed irrigation system and seeded it.At the end of April we went full tilt into landscaping. We were determined to fix backyard and front yard grass that was destroyed by septic install. We bought new top soil, leveled it out, installed irrigation system and seeded it.

A month later we have a nice, green backyard and front yard. It took a lot of effort, time and money and it's still not perfect. But it's a huge leap from what it was.A month later we have a nice, green backyard and front yard. It took a lot of effort, time and money and it’s still not perfect. But it’s a huge leap from what it was.

We also cleaned up our side yard. And then we mulched it. And we planned a hydrangea that was gifted to us by my mom.We also cleaned up our side yard. And then we mulched it. And we planned a hydrangea that was gifted to us by my mom.

Our right house bed was empty. Last year we planned two bushes. This year we bought a young spruce and a lilac tree. Spruce was my pick and lilac was Alёna's.Our right house bed was empty. Last year we planned two bushes. This year we bought a young spruce and a lilac tree. Spruce was my pick and lilac was Alёna’s.

And then Alёna removed all the weeds from the beds and we mulched both of them with red mulch.And then Alёna removed all the weeds from the beds and we mulched both of them with red mulch.

And a week later she cleaned up our newly grown hosta. And she put a bunch of red mulch there as well.And a week later she cleaned up our newly grown hosta. And she put a bunch of red mulch there as well.

And here is a chair that I mentioned at the start of the post. At this point it was washed and sanded. Holes were filled in and it was sanded again.And here is a chair that I mentioned at the start of the post. At this point it was washed and sanded. Holes were filled in and it was sanded again.

And here it is reborn in red. We bought a brown one to keep it company. Turns out these things are quite expensive, so I'm glad we saved ours instead of disposing of it.And here it is reborn in red. We bought a brown one to keep it company. Turns out these things are quite expensive, so I’m glad we saved ours instead of disposing of it.

Several weeks ago we invited some friends over. And then we realized that our wide chairs only fit 8 people on the porch. So we acquired a bench from the same set as our dining table. And we got some more pillows for it. It fills out an empty corner nicely and it served us well for larger gatherings.Several weeks ago we invited some friends over. And then we realized that our wide chairs only fit 8 people on the porch. So we acquired a bench from the same set as our dining table. And we got some more pillows for it. It fills out an empty corner nicely and it served us well for larger gatherings.

This is one of the last paintings updates. We got another painting done by one of my dad's known artist friends, so we made space for it in the dining room. Note the light pattern produced by the wall sconces. Pleasant.This is one of the last paintings updates. We got another painting done by one of my dad’s known artist friends, so we made space for it in the dining room. Note the light pattern produced by the wall sconces. Pleasant.

And our last touch so far has been an acquisition of a hammock! We wanted to get it last summer, but somehow never got around to it. It's really nice and kids are loving it.And our last touch so far has been an acquisition of a hammock! We wanted to get it last summer, but somehow never got around to it. It’s really nice and kids are loving it.

On Wednesday we have a crew coming over that is going to remove six dead trees from our lot. These have been bothering us and we don’t want any of them falling on the house during some storm. So that’s going to be a nice thing to get done, although it also will be not cheap.

And thus I conclude a look at some parts of our first year saga of house ownership. It’s been a good year.
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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Bay Ridge Christmas Lights

Christmas lights.We just came back from a nice walk in Bay Ridge. We try to go there every year around Christmas to look at lavish houses and even more lavish decorations and light shows. Now with Arosha around there is even more reason to go.

Arosha tried to kiss all the snowman. Luckily we stopped him in time.Those neighborhoods get as much traffic during these few days as they get throughout the rest of the year. Tons of people cars and beautiful Christmas decorations.

Arosha and lights.We enjoyed our walk even though it was very hard to keep Arosha from climbing onto everyone’s lawn in order to inspect the moving figurines and lights from a closer distance.
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O.o teeth mrgreen neutral -) roll twisted evil crycry cry oops razz mad lol cool -? shock eek sad smile grin