Employee Spotlight: Ashley Hansen

This month’s employee spotlight features Interior Designer and Remodeling Pro, Ashley Hansen. Ashley has been with Castle for almost 10 years. Prior to joining Castle’s Design Team, Ashley worked at Design Within Reach, a high end furniture store. The year before that she worked for Hanson Builders, a new construction builder, and Northern Home Furniture & Design in Fargo ND.

Designing and crafting is something that has been ingrained into Ashley’s character through the influence of family and friends. The concept of DIY (do-it-yourself) was taught to her early on. From years of practicing this whether it be sewing clothes, sewing her comforter, making art, or upholstering furniture she developed a passion for design.

Ashley recognizes that designers are given a great responsibility and opportunity to redefine quality. Interior Design is an outlet in which she is able to share this belief knowing how the layout, selections and aesthetic appearance of a space can truly impact people. Therefore she truly enjoys the opportunity to build relationships with clients and help them form solutions which consider both form and function and best accommodate their lifestyle.

Beyond work she likes to get outside as much as possible and is typically up for doing anything active. Some of her favorites are snowboarding, walking, rollerblading, and exploring the city via bike. A special appreciation for NE drives her to investigate the local spots unique to the area.

 

Our marketing team sat down with Ashley to get to know her a little more, here’s what she had to say:

What are three fun facts about you?

  1. For the past 7+ years I have been working on my own home renovations. I have had my hands involved in constructing most of the projects.
  2. Last year I participated in a June biking event which is to bike to Duluth and back in two days. It requires peddling about 175 miles a day.
  3. A goal of mine, for this year, is to learn how to swim well.

 

Why did you choose this profession?

Since birth it is something I have grown to be familiar with. My dad and many relatives are in the industry. This is likely why I thrived in project based classes versus other academics.

 

Can you share an industry related piece of advice for upcoming designers?

Aim for longevity. Longevity with the designs you create, relationships, employment, and daily decisions made.

 

What inspires you?

People. There is something that can be learned from every single person. Learning a person’s unique interests, goals, motives, and circumstances is what I want to design for.

 

What is the best advice you have received?

To not be so hard on myself. Something I constantly need to remind myself of.

 

Can you share your favorite quote?

“Love is the most durable power in the world.”

  • Martin Luther King JR in his novel “The Strength To Love By” .

 

Do you have a favorite spot or place to go in the Twin Cities / surrounding area?
A few of my favorite places in the city are; Hidden Beach on a hot summer day, On top of Gold Medal Park Hill when it is filled with people, the Minneapolis Farmers Market and biking through downtown Minneapolis at night.
When you’re not working, what do you do to unwind?
It depends. Often I do something active outside. That often helps me clear my head and destress. On rare occasions I need to turn my thoughts off even more and watch something on Netflix.
Next month, meet Office Manager Christie Rose!

Remodeling Before the Holidays?

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, full of frosted windowpanes and smells of cinnamon and peppermint wafting from the kitchen. Most people tend to conjure up these images of a warm and comforting home for the holiday season for a good reason. The house is where you host parties, bake cookies and gather for gift-giving.

 

This holiday season, it’s time to rejuvenate your living spaces to create the best environment for splendid, festive events. Remodeling before the holidays is ideal, but you need the proper preparation and information before diving in. Discover the benefits of remodeling before the holidays and how best to prepare your mind, home and family for the journey.

The Best Remodeling Time of the Year

If your first thought is the holidays are too busy for remodeling, think again. For one thing, the end of the calendar year has the benefit of owning all the savings up until this point. Furthermore, low mortgage rates allow many homeowners to refinance more easily. Money is always an essential factor, so take advantage of bonuses or unused savings for your projects.

 

The winter months are also a notoriously slow contracting season compared to the rest of the year. This means a contractor will have more time and energy to devote to your project. Their edges may be sharper, fixtures more secure and time estimates slashed to record times. Suppliers are also slowing down for the year, so materials are cheaper than during the busy summer months.

 

A holiday remodeling job assures you can enjoy a warm, cozy and rejuvenated house just in time for festive parties and present-opening mornings. Making the home picture-perfect and insulated for the coming cold is the best of both worlds.

Possible Renovations For Your List

Renovations can be as simple as a fresh coat of paint or new flooring across multiple rooms. Discover what options may be the best for you and your family this year.

 

Do you need more space to bake cookies or places for people to rest their drinks? A kitchen remodel is a popular option because everyone wants a gorgeous open space for people to chat and eat comfortably. For a kitchen remodel, consider:

 

  • Installing sturdy and aesthetic countertops.
  • Creating an island to place grazing boards like charcuterie or wine flights.
  • Refreshing cabinets to store ingredients for large meals and leave countertops clear.

 

A recreation room remodel offers opportunities for people to watch holiday movies together, play card games or even set up sleeping areas for extended visits. To revamp basements, spare rooms and attics for festive fun, try:

 

  • Updating flooring for a more comfortable space.
  • Adding tables for game nights.
  • Investing in a pull-out couch.

 

Finally, the entryway is the first impression of a house. Most likely, guests will be shuffling in from the cold and need a place to store their coats and boots. Keeping this area organized and decorated promises a lovely welcome to your home. This year, invest in:

 

  • A fresh coat of paint.
  • Closet expansions for more coat storage.
  • Mats or rugs on the front porch for wiping off snow.

 

You may also consider renovating your windows. During this time of year, people always have their windows closed, but this traps moisture inside the home. To maintain healthy humidity and prevent frozen windows, watch what activities increase moisture in the house, like showering, washing dishes and boiling water. If humidity or window frost worsens, you can always call a contractor to inspect your home’s insulation or heating system.

Holiday Renovations to Avoid

Keep in mind that tackling some projects at another time of year might be best. Room additions take the longest to complete and are a complex undertaking. If you are wary of delays, you may want to hold this project for the upcoming year.

 

Outside renovations like porches and roofs are not advisable projects, either. Because winter weather is so unpredictable, supplies could be long delayed or contractors may take longer to maneuver around heavy snowfall. However, undertaking this task may be fine if your region does not experience icy weather.

How to Prepare and Make Arrangements

It’s time to dig deep into the preparation and arrangements you will need to kickstart this renovation process. In no time, your home will be roaring with life and laughter.

1. Check Your List Twice

Before starting, reflect on how much time you have to dedicate to this project. Flip through your calendar and see which events or gatherings are already popping up. If you have the time, mark down milestones for each stage of the process to help keep you and your contractor on track.

 

You will also want to employ a budget after getting estimates from the contractor. Have a 10% buffer in this budget and communicate with any partners if a gift-giving budget needs shifting. Check out renovation budget calculators for a deep dive into your project specs.

2. Arrange Temporary Housing

If you opt for a more in-depth renovation, temporary housing might be an option to explore. Living at home while contractors are working requires extra effort into setting up barriers every morning and tearing them down every night. With no people in the house, the contractors can keep this prep installed until they are done.

 

Research local temporary rental homes and apartments — it could feel like a festive winter vacation. Family and friends may be in the giving spirit and allow you to stay for a week or two as well. Always offer to host them back once the renovations are complete.

3. Decorate Elsewhere

Ensure your decorations are not in the way of power tools and heavy boots. Imagine getting a glob of paint on an heirloom ornament! This year, designate other spots for your delicate and ornate decorations until the coast is clear.

4. Expect Snow and Stalling

Because it is in the midst of the winter, there is a likely chance the weather may halt renovations. Overall, 23% of road delays stem from snow, ice and fog. Even if you live in a warmer climate, supplies may be shipping on icy roads or foggy skies. Leave time in your milestone schedule to accommodate dangerous roads and snowy streets.

5. Have a Backup Plan

Coordinate with friends and family to have a backup plan if renovations exceed time estimates. If this does become a reality, there will be no worry on any end of this project. It might even give you a well-deserved break from juggling decorating, cooking and managing renovations.

 

If the kitchen is off-limits for your party, you can find other options, like hosting a potluck or hiring a catering company. This year, stay prepared to stay cheery.

6. Cover and Clean

After the renovations are finally done, you still have some cleaning to do to make sure your home is safe and ready for guests. Before the project even starts, ensure the ventilation is monitored and the furniture is covered with a tarp. Have an open conversation with your contractor about safety measures as well.

 

After the contractor leaves, commit a deep-dive cleaning ritual with these steps:

 

  • Sweep and vacuum all surfaces. Dust and other particles could fly through the air to different rooms.
  • Mop and disinfect all floors and doors.
  • Vacuum upholstery.
  • Sanitize bathrooms and kitchens.
  • Dust ducts, vents and light fixtures.
  • Remove any debris left over from the contracting team.
  • Invest in an air purifier or air out the house by opening the windows.

Your Future — A Warm, Inviting Home

Keep your holidays cheery and bright with these inviting renovations to your home. Take a moment and imagine the twinkling lights, toasty nights and laughter pealing across the room. These images can all be a reality with the proper planning and renovation of your holiday home.

How Your Family Can Benefit from a Small Addition of a Nursery

A white baby crib with an elephant toy and a cloud lamp above it.

 

How Your Family Can Benefit from a Small Addition of a Nursery

 

If you plan to expand your family or already have kids, congratulations! The joy our little ones bring to the world is truly one-of-a-kind. That being said, having children does require some planning. You need to arrange your finances differently, make arrangements for preschool and school, and so on. One crucial thing your children will need is also space to play and grow. Adding a nursery to your home is a great way to provide them with that. We know that it may not be straightforward, as it does require some money and an extra room, but it’s completely worth it. Here’s a list of why we believe your family can benefit from a small addition of a nursery.

Improving the quality of your sleep

When you have a new baby in the family, it’s natural to want to spend as much time as possible with them. This is why many parents choose to put the crib in their own bedroom. It’s also very convenient, as you can easily reach your child if you need to. However, there are a few downsides to that.

 

You are probably prepared to lose some sleep when you have a baby, and it’s completely normal. Still, having your infant sleep in the same bedroom as you can increase the frequency you wake up. Furthermore, you’ll have to be careful not to make noises in the bedroom when the baby is asleep, and you aren’t.

However, the addition of a nursery can help you get well-rested, allowing you to care for your baby better. You can hire a team of professionals to help you with the renovations. After that, add a baby monitor to your bedroom and the nursery, and you’re all set!

Your baby will also sleep better

Different studies have shown that babies that sleep in the nursery instead of their parent’s room sleep for longer consecutive periods of time. There are many factors to this. They get used to the routine and the peace while sleeping. Also, as weird as it may sound, babies can smell their mothers. If they can feel their mother’s presence, they are more likely to ask for her and interrupt the sleep cycle. Your baby will learn to soothe themselves back to sleep if they wake up for no reason. This is very important for sleep training, and the sooner you start, the better!

 

A well-rested baby is a happy baby.

Decreasing the clutter

Babies need a tremendous amount of stuff. A crib, a feeding chair, a changing table, and a whole bunch of toys are only some of them. This can make quite a mess in your home, and let’s face it; you probably won’t have time to go around cleaning all day. Making an addition to your house in the form of a nursery can help with all that.

 

Having a nursery gives you a place to store everything baby-related. When ordering furniture, consider getting some extra storage to decrease clutter. You will need space for diapers, toys, baby clothes, and everything. So, it will be very useful later, whether it’s shelves, boxes, or cupboards. To make the process less stressful, get your nursery furniture on time and get help to set it up efficiently. This way, you won’t have to wonder if you’ll have the time to set up a nursery.

Making an addition of a nursery to your house can help you reduce clutter in your home.

 

Encouraging your children’s independence

Babies learn from the day they’re born. Even though it may not seem like it, they pick up on behavioral patterns which reflect in some way later on. Developing independence is no exception to this. Putting away a part of your budget for a nursery can help here. Getting your children used to sleeping in a separate room from the early days is beneficial in multiple ways.

 

Many kids have a hard time when they get too old to sleep in their parent’s bedrooms. They may feel unsafe spending the night in the room alone, especially if they’re an only child. This is not the end of the world, as they’ll grow out of it eventually. However, you can avoid it by letting them sleep in a nursery from day one. This way, they’ll already be used to it, and it’s hardly ever going to be a problem.

 

Of course, you want to make sure your child wants to spend time in their room. You can get a professional designer to help make the nursery child-friendly. They have enough experience to know what type of interiors children like and feel comfortable in. Also, if your child’s a bit older, you can include them in the even better process.

 Allowing a child to sleep on their own can help them be more independent later on.

It doesn’t have to be a nursery forever

A room you’ve added to your house doesn’t have to serve that one specific purpose forever. A space that’s now a nursery will become a children’s room later. However, it can also be so many different things.

 

When your kids get older, you may want to change it into a home office or an art studio. And you know what? You’ll have extra room for that! It’s always better to have a little extra space than to have less than you need. We’re sure you’ll have some great ideas for using it.

Conclusion

Like everything else, there are different opinions on whether the addition of a nursery is necessary. Some parents prefer keeping the child close to them during all times of day (and night). While that’s fair reasoning, we believe there are many benefits to setting up a nursery. Some are purely aesthetic, such as reducing the amount of stuff you have lying around your home. For example, improving the quality of your and your baby’s sleep will significantly affect the quality of your life. Either way, the decision is yours. The best thing you can do is get informed to make the best one for you and your family.

Home Improvements

Everything You Need to Know About Making Home Improvements

As a homeowner, you have the chance to make your forever home one of a kind. Making home improvements can be exciting, tedious, and at times, difficult to navigate. As long as you have a plan, stay organized, and trust the team who will be working on the home project, you’ll be set up for success.

Below are some things you’ll want to consider throughout the whole home improvement journey.

 

Decide the Size of the Project

To start, you’ll want to figure out how big of a project you want to take on. Some more grand projects to consider would be adding onto your home if you are looking to grow your family or want more space. As you brainstorm, you may think about remodeling your kitchen, updating an older bathroom, bedroom, and living space, or creating a finished basement and attic. Some smaller maintenance projects to consider could be tasks such as painting, getting new furniture, updating appliances, installing new windows, or sprucing up your home’s curb appeal – the projects are endless.

The size of the project will directly affect how long it’ll take for everything to be finished. Getting an idea of the timeline of your project can help you feel organized and on track when it comes to making future plans.

Once you have an idea of your project scope, you’ll be able to develop a wishlist of your wants and needs for your new space. This list will be a perfect starting point when chatting with your designers and contractors, once you choose which ones you want to work with.

Interview Multiple Service Providers

After you figure out what you are looking for, you’ll want to consider getting a variety of quotes from multiple vendors. Taking this extra step will help you become more familiar with the team you’ll be working with for the next few weeks or months.

During this time, you’ll want to look at contractors, interior and remodeling designers, and the suppliers’ previous work. This way, you can see if it meshes well with the style you’re envisioning.

Some questions you’ll also want to consider asking your project team could be:

  1. How dedicated are you and your team? How much time and energy do you put into your work? How long does it take your team to complete a project?
  2. What will the sound level be?
  3. What are your expectations for payments? What are your project estimates?
  4. How will you clean up at the end of each workday? Do we need to rent a dumpster?
  5. What steps will you take to protect my property?
  6. What do you expect the timeline of completion will be?

 

As you continue these conversations, you’ll also want to discuss various licensing, registrations, permits, approvals, and inspections that’ll be needed and expected throughout the home improvement process.

 

Figure Out Costs Associated with Projects

With any home improvement project comes a cost. Depending on the scale of the project, your costs and financial options can vary. You’ll want to keep in mind all the costs associated with home improvement projects so you can lay out your budget accordingly. Some costs to keep in mind would be the cost of designers and contractors, supplies, appliances, installations, rentals, removals, and repairs.

Since you’ve spoken with different contractors and interior designers at this point in the process, you’ve most likely received estimates and plans. From here, you can then develop a financial plan to keep your finances on track.

If you’re taking on smaller updates throughout your home, you can compare using cash upfront with a credit card. For medium to larger projects that are more cosmetic than structural, you might look into a personal line of credit or personal loan and learn about how both could support your payments. For larger-scale projects such as changing the layout and structure of your home, adding on a master bedroom, or expanding your main living area, it may be worth investigating a second mortgage or a HELOC. As always, speak with your bank and contractors to see what options will work best for you and your projects.

Also, don’t forget to make sure you leave extra room in your budget. There’s always a chance that something unexpected could happen so leaving room to take on those extra instances.

 

Prepare for Unexpected Situations

Throughout your home remodel, keep in mind that there may be some unexpected issues that could arise. Some examples you may want to be prepared for could include delayed product shipping, natural disasters which could affect the project timeline, and low staffing issues. Bigger situations such as discovering water and mold damage, or finding foundational issues, could make the costs of your home upgrades go up. If these damages are found, the project may also be prolonged.

Keeping all of this in mind is a good way to keep yourself grounded if a situation occurs. To ease stress and uncertainty, speak with your contractors and designers about a game plan for when delays occur. If money ends up being tight, consider holding off on some of the more luxurious items and focus on more practical needs until the time is right.

 

Look into Warranties

As you make updates and improvements throughout your home, you’ll want to consider investing in or changing your home warranty policy. A home warranty will protect you from any appliances, HVAC system, plumbing, and electrical issues that could happen around your home. Warranties can alleviate extra costs you may have to make when repairing items around your home.

 

Plan to Purchase Sustainable and High-Quality Products

As you make updates, think long-term. Make sure you are investing your money into high-rated and high-quality items. Look at reviews, get quotes, and speak to multiple retailers to weigh your options. Research is a key component to ensure you are making a smart decision when purchasing products that will last throughout the years. It’s important when making such big changes to your home that you invest in items that have good longevity.

If you are upgrading appliances around your home, make sure you invest in energy-efficient products. Not only are they better for the environment, but they will also be better for your wallet in the long run. Replacing your inefficient items is a great way to ensure you aren’t throwing away unnecessary money and using more home energy than needed.

You’re Ready to Start!

Now that you have all these aspects in mind, you’re ready to get moving on your home improvement project. Keeping all of this in mind while you begin your home remodeling journey, will allow you to feel confident, stress-free, and reassured knowing you did everything you could to prepare.

How to Refresh your kitchen

The kitchen is one of the most used areas in your home. If you’re feeling uninspired while cooking meals within the walls of your current kitchen, now, with the holiday season approaching is the perfect time to create a space you’ll enjoy being in. Whether you’re looking to incorporate a few luxury items into your current kitchen or undergo a full remodel, here are a few tips to help you achieve your dream cooking space.

Upgrade Your Appliances

Upgrading your appliances is a great way to refresh your kitchen while also taking advantage of any new updated appliance features that may be available. Appliance upgrades can help make hosting guests a more enjoyable experience for both parties. For example, installing a double oven has become a popular choice as it allows you to bake more at one time, reducing the amount of time it takes to prepare your food. Take some time to identify what personal aspects of your kitchen are missing. If you and your family enjoy pairing the perfect wine with your meal, consider purchasing a wine fridge to be incorporated into the kitchen. Not only does this add a personalized touch but also ensures it won’t take up unnecessary space in your fridge.

Update the Light Fixtures

The lighting in a room is what creates the ambience of the space. Since the kitchen is a highly trafficked area, installing new light fixtures is a great way to brighten up the room and make it look more inviting. Adding pendant lights to your kitchen gives the space a more creative and luxurious look. Since the kitchen has become an area of the home not only utilized for cooking but also for conversation, installing a light-dimming device will allow you to set the mood of the room throughout the day. When the space is being used for cooking you’ll have the ability to turn the lights on bright and when evening rolls around and individuals have gathered for conversations, you’ll be able to dim the lights to match the appropriate setting.

Open Floor Plan Concept

An open-style floor plan has become widely integrated into homes today. Having this functional design allows you to incorporate all social areas of the space. Not only will remodeling the kitchen into an open floor plan increase conversations among your guests but it will also increase fluidity within the space. Previously, a kitchen was used only for cooking and preparing meals but in more recent years it has become a gathering place. Another great way to accommodate both of these needs is with a movable island, which will provide you with adequate counter space when necessary but can also be moved to the side to allow for the room when hosting. Before deciding on an open-concept kitchen layout, assess its functionality within your home to ensure it will be a positive feature.

Financing Options

Upgrading any part of your home can be costly, so before you begin refreshing your kitchen be sure to have a solid understanding of your budget. For smaller updates to your kitchen, be proactive in looking for store sales to help you save money. Being mindful of popular sale periods and structuring your projects around this time frame can help you get more for less, while also providing you with the opportunity to update appliances to the newest products at a lower cost. If you’re looking to conduct a larger project such as a full renovation, consider looking into a HELOC loan as a resource for additional funds. This kind of loan allows you to safely borrow money as needed for your project and requires you to only pay interest on the money you borrowed. Don’t let the cost of updating your kitchen deter you from taking on this project, refreshing this space can take years off of the appearance of your kitchen while also creating long-term value for your home.

 

Your kitchen plays an integral role in your home as a gathering place for family and friends. Refreshing your kitchen can help elevate you and your guests’ entertainment experience in your home.