The Latest Trends in Man Caves

Everybody needs their own space from time to time. For men, the “man cave” has long been a place to retreat to when a little time with the boys is on the agenda. But man caves don’t have to be dungeon-like when it comes to their design and ambiance. Today’s man cave is much more sophisticated and stylish, not to mention a lot more convenient.

Here are the latest trends in man caves that will rival other rooms in the house.

Soundproofing

Think of all the noise that can be potentially made in a man cave: the deep bass from the stereo blasted on full volume, the roaring sound from the in-home theater, or the fellows hooting and hollering as they’re playing a round of pool or enjoying the football game.

Whatever the source of the noise, the rest of the home doesn’t have to hear a peep thanks to the soundproofed walls that are becoming more customary with man caves. Men can make as much noise as they want without having to worry about bothering the rest of the family.

Technologically Driven

This one might sound like a no-brainer considering how much technology has taken over virtually every aspect of our lives. That said, technology is a mainstay with man caves, powering up and operating just about every component of the space.

The surround sound system, media devices, appliances, gaming console, lighting, temperature, and just about anything else that’s connected to the electrical panel can be controlled by the touch of a button on your smartphone or other hand-held device.

Full Kitchens

Refrigerators are a given in man caves; after all, where else will the beer be kept cold and ready when the boys arrive? But today’s man cave calls for a lot more than just a bar fridge: today, you’ll be seeing more and more full kitchens taking over these male-dominated spaces.

Joining the fridge will be a dishwasher, microwave, counter space, cabinets, and maybe even an oven and stove top. If there’s access to the backyard from the man cave, a BBQ right outside the door is also called for.

Plenty of Light

When you think of a man cave, you probably conjure up images of a dark and sometimes gloomy atmosphere. But today’s modern man cave welcomes a lot more light to offset the lack of window space.

Designers are outfitting these space with layers of different types of light fixtures to create a brighter area. From pot lights, to pendat lamps, to wall sconces and beyond, ample lighting is in high demand for today’s man cave.

Stylish Accessories

Who says man caves should only be decorated in sports memorabilia? The sophisticated man cave of today is all decked out in stylish and often glamorous accessories, such as wall art, glass and metal sculptures, luxurious window treatments, and rich upholstery.

Man caves aren’t always the first room that homeowners typically hire interior designers for, but they’re becoming increasingly focused on as far as upping the style factor is concerned.

Closet Caves

If there’s no room in the house that can be dedicated to a man cave, you might want to turn to some closet space. When it comes to the modern man cave, sometimes size doesn’t really count.

While this might sound absurd, consider the Carrie Bradshaw closets that women have been swooning over since Sex and the City first took the world of television by storm. If women can hang out in their opulent walk-in closets, there’s no reason why men can’t have their own version of the same thing.

Bar Sheds

When the space indoors is completely maxed out, there’s always the outdoors to consider when it comes to building a man cave. One of the rising trends for this type of space is what’s been affectionately dubbed the “bar shed,” which is pretty much what it sounds like – a shed that’s been converted (or built from the ground up) into a bar.

Simply add a bar area, stock it with your favorite spirits and beer, outfit it with a few comfy bar stools, install a wall-mounted TV and some lighting, and voilà: a bar shed that the boys will love to hang out in.

The Bottom Line

Today’s man cave needs a lot more than just a randomly-placed sofa and TV. These days, man caves are much more design-focused. By implementing any one of the above trends, you might just entice other occupants of the home to want to hang out there too!

Possible Tax Breaks For California Renters

With housing prices being as high as they are in California – especially in certain centers such as the San Francisco Bay Area – many residents of the state are choosing to rent. Since the 1950s, the homeownership rate in California has dropped below the national rate. Between 2006 and 2014, the number of renter-occupied units jumped by approximately 850,000.

But even rent prices can be pretty hefty: the median rent for a 2-bedroom unit in L.A. is $2,700, while San Francisco’s median rent for a 1-bedroom is a whopping $3,370.

That said, there are certain tax breaks that California’s renters may be able to take advantage of if eligible, which can help to ease the burden of the cost of renting and put a few bucks back in their pockets.

Property Tax Deductions

Some states let renters apply for tax credits that are made for rent payments, and luckily, California happens to be one of them. Renters are able to take advantage of a renter’s credit of $60, or $120 if filing jointly.

In order to take advantage of this credit, specific criteria must be met, including the following:

  • Be a California resident for the tax year.
  • Rent was paid for at least half of the year for real estate located in the state of California.
  • The property in question was the principal residence.
  • The property rented out is not exempt from property tax in California.
  • The renter was not claimed as a dependent by someone else living in the same property for more than half of the year.
  • The renter was not exempted from homeowner’s property tax throughout the tax year (including the spouse).
  • The adjusted gross income must be $39,062 or less if filing as single, or filing separately from a spouse if married; or, income must be $78,125 or less if married and filing jointly, as an eligible widow or widower, or as head of household.

While $60 or $120 isn’t exactly a whole lot of money, it can certainly add up over the years when filing your taxes.

The California renter’s credit was actually suspended for a few years between 1993 and 1997 but was then reinstated as of January 1, 1998 thanks to Assembly Bill 2797. The credit is nonrefundable, and you’re required to have a tax liability to claim.

Property Loss Deductions

Like a regular owner-occupied home, anything can happen, including fires, damage from natural disasters, vandalism, theft, and other mishaps. While your landlord is technically responsible for insuring the actual structure of the property, you should have your own insurance policy that covers the loss or damage of any of your personal property. Should anything occur, you would be able to file a claim and get reimbursed for any financial loss suffered as a result of any negative situations.

As a renter, you may also be eligible to deduct your property losses as a result of any of the above-mentioned scenarios, as long as the reimbursements haven’t already been made by your insurance provider. It’s either one or the other.

Home Office Deductions

If you run a business from home, you may be able to make certain deductions associated with a home office, even if you don’t own the property. Expenses that are associated with your business can be deducted from both your state and federal taxes.

This is definitely a situation that should be sorted out with an accountant or tax specialist as home office deductions can often be complex. For instance, if only a portion of the property is being used for your business, you will have to get exact measurements of the area of that specific space.

The amount of the rent that can be deducted must be represented by the part of the property that’s being used for your business. It should also reflect a prorated component of any utilities that are paid that go strictly towards the operation of your business from home, including electricity, gas, and water. You’re also allowed to deduct renter’s insurance as well.

It’s important that the portion of the home that you deduct from your taxes is only used for running your business. The deduction is then calculated by using the percentage of the space used for your business from the whole property square footage, after which this percentage of the rent can be deducted from your taxes.

You might also be able to write off any expenses related to your vehicle if it’s used for your business. Two methods can be used, including the Standard Mileage Rate Method or Actual Expense Method. Either method will require that you closely track your mileage as related to business trips and keep it separate from any personal mileage.

The Bottom Line

While homeowners have a few more tax deductions that they can claim compared to renters, there are still some ways for tenants to put some money back in their pockets. It’s important to speak with a tax specialist or accountant who is well versed in the realm of taxes – especially when it comes to deductions eligible for renters – in order to claim the maximum amount and prevent leaving money on the table after paying Uncle Sam.

Top-Ranked Workplaces in California

There are plenty of awesome companies out there to work for, and Californians have the great benefit of having many of them headquartered right here in the Golden State. From unlimited time off work to on-site play facilities, the following companies have amazing perks that make them some of the top-ranked workplaces in California.

Google

Headquartered in Mountain View, CA, Google is easily one of the best-known companies across the globe and just happens to be one of the best places to work for too. The online search engine giant has been known to offer its employees all sorts of little benefits that go a long way. Google really takes a big step forward in caring for the health of all of its nearly 62,000 employees, offering things such as virtual doctor consultations, prepared organic meals, free fitness classes, nap pods, and even breast-cancer screenings.

The little bonuses don’t end there. Employees can even take advantage of on-site hair salons, oil changes, bike repairs, and laundry facilities. The list of perks is seemingly unending, giving employees something to look forward to when they get ready for work every day.

Cooley

Cooley is an international law firm with headquarters in Palo Alto, CA, and offices scattered in other U.S. cities, including San Diego, Boston, New York, and Washington, D.C. Cooley partners up with all sorts of technological-based companies, including the likes of Google and Facebook, to provide innovative solutions.

Its lawyers are spread out across the globe, including in Europe and Asia, and are provided with all sorts of niceties that any employee would be lucky to get from their employer. For starters, lawyers with Cooley are credited for volunteered hours in the same way that they’re credited for the paid hours worked. Partners are not only paid out based on how much business they generate for the company, but also for the contribution they provide. To make things a little fun, Cooley hosts outdoor movie nights, family Halloween parties, and even video game dance festivities.

Intuit

The business and financial software firm is behind the development of some of the most popular accounting and tax tools out there, including QuickBooks and TurboTax. In addition to the amazing products they develop, Intuit can also boast being one of the best places to work for in California.

Headquartered in Mountain View, CA, the company lets its employees take 10% of their work time to spend on their own projects, regardless of whether or not they’re associated with their specific jobs at Intuit. Employees are also granted eight weeks of paternal leave, a huge hike from its previous two weeks, giving parents a lot more time off to spend with their children.

Cornerstone OnDemand

Cornerstone OnDemand is a cloud-based solutions provider that helps organizations tap into the potential of their workforces. Based out of Santa Monica, CA, Cornerstone OnDemand offers its employees all sorts of programs that make working here great.

The company offers unique perks such as company-wide wine clubs, diving clubs, tech meet-ups, and women’s groups. There are also Bring Your Parents To Work Days in addition to the more traditional Bring Your Kid To Work days, as well as learning and leadership programs. The company is also very big on work-life balance and rewards its staff with unlimited paid time off, sabbaticals, and three weeks of time off to volunteer.

VMware

The Palo Alto, CA-based company develops virtualization software, and although the firm’s fundamentals lie with technology, it is highly successful in staying grounded to nature and fostering an environment that nurtures a person’s wellness. VMware is perched on a sprawling 105-acre campus that’s sprinkled with over 1,500 trees. There’s also an on-site fitness facility that offers a “mindfulness” class, as well as yoga, tai-chi, and meditation classes.

To further care for the well-being of its employees, VMware even allows its employees to partake in a 5-week stress management course that’s geared towards alleviating any feelings of anxiety or apprehension that may be related to their jobs or any other outside source.

Cadence

Headquartered in San Jose, CA, Cadence provides its employees with a number of little extras that go a long way at making work enjoyable and rewarding. A developer of products that are used in all sorts of electronic gadgets, Cadence boasts an incredibly low turnover rate with nearly half of its staff on payroll for over a decade.

The reasons for sticking around are tough to give up: the pay is high, the culture is innovative, and employees can even tap into on-site massages, dry cleaning, and even gift wrapping services – just in time for the holiday season.

Patagonia

The Ventura, CA-based company manufactures products geared towards outdoors sports, such as climbing, skiing, snowboarding, surfing, trail running, fly fishing, and paddling, among others. The employees who are part of the design and development of these products love the time off they’re allotted each day to dedicate to any type of extracurricular activity they choose, be it to catch some waves, hike for an hour or two, take a course, or even pick up their kids from school.

There are even on-site childcare services, paid environmental internships, company ski trips, and even covered health insurance premiums. And to top it all off, Patagonia has even implemented a 9/80 Work Week, which involves shutting down the office every other Friday and giving all employees an extra long weekend a couple of times a month.

Activision Blizzard

The manufacturer of huge entertainment franchises, including the likes of Call of Duty, makes work enjoyable for all of its employees. Based out of Santa Monica, CA, Activision Blizzard sounds as fun as its name. 

Employees are given the opportunity to enjoy their creations and are encouraged to wear their favorite costumes and participate in the company-wide squirt gun battle. The company has also implemented a program to encourage women to be part of a traditionally male-dominated industry by setting up groups that give a voice to women.

The Bottom Line

Work doesn’t have to be mentally draining or unrewarding, and these companies certainly strive to do the opposite. The unique perks offered by the above-mentioned firms make going into work enjoyable and make work-life balance easy.

9 Simple Hacks to Creating a Less Wasteful House

You’d be amazed – or even disappointed – at how much waste your home might be responsible for creating. In fact, the average American produces about 4.4. pounds of garbage every single day, which amounts to over 700,000 tons of trash produced daily based on the national population.

Thankfully, many Americans are realizing the errors of their ways and the impact that all this wasteful trash is having on the planet and are taking measures to do something about it. In addition to all the garbage the average American creates every day, they’re also recycling about 1.5 pounds of trash daily.

Recycling is certainly a highly effective way to cut down on household trash, but there are plenty of other ways to create a less wasteful home.

1. Forego Plastic Bags

Perhaps one of the easiest ways to cut down on the amount of waste produced is to start using reusable cloth bags instead of the typical plastic grocery bag. Instead of relying on the bags that the average store provides to carry the goods you purchase, bring your own. More and more stores are encouraging shoppers to do so by actually charging a nominal fee per plastic bag.

All you need to do is store your reusable bags in your car and take them with you every time you hit the shops. They’re even larger and stronger, and therefore better able to carry all those heavy groceries without the risk of them giving out like those thin plastic supermarket bags have been known to do.

2. Start Composting

If you don’t already have your own little vegetable or herb garden, now, is a great time to start. It doesn’t have to be huge, so if your outdoor space doesn’t permit, you can always have a few planters with your favorite veggie plants. To really make your vegetables do well, good soil is key, and you can easily enrich the soil with the addition of some of your household organic waste.

To create healthy soil for your vegetable garden and cut down on kitchen waste at the same time, start composting. Keep a separate container under the sink that’s meant only for specific types of organic waste, including coffee grinds, egg shells, vegetable peels, and others to create a compost that can be regularly added to your vegetable garden soil. 

3. Use Reusable Containers

Forget the plastic Ziploc baggies that are typically used to transport lunches and snacks. Instead, start using reusable containers for your lunch and that of your kids. Better yet, consider investing in glass or stainless steel containers, as these are healthier and won’t emit any chemicals as plastic may do as it starts to break down over time.

Even the food in your pantry should be stored in reusable containers, such as your cereals, pasta, rice, cookies, and so forth. Consider buying in bulk so that the wasteful packaging can be effectively reduced.

4. Ditch the Disposable Plates, Cups, and Cutlery

You might be sick of doing dishes every night, but switching to paper plates and plastic cutlery will just add to the mounting landfill full of non-decomposing substances. Saving time at the sink isn’t worth the impact that all those disposable dishes can have on the environment, so if you’re looking to create a less wasteful home, forget about the paper and plastic and spend a few minutes washing traditional dishware.

5. Switch to Cloth Napkins

Like the paper plates, paper napkins are also wasteful. After one use, they’re garbage. However, switching to something as simple as cloth napkins can help you effectively slash your trash while prettying up your table decor.

6. Unplug

It’s customary for people to leave their coffee makers, toasters, blenders, and other small appliances plugged in 24/7, but why? Unless they’re being used at the moment, there’s really no need to have them plugged in. They’re not being charged like your laptop or smartphone.

Instead, they’re just continuing to draw energy. In fact, the average household uses as much as 10% of energy use from plugged-in appliances that sit idle. Not only can you reduce this wasted energy, you can also save a few bucks on your utility bill just from the simple act of unplugging.

7. Stop Using Plastic Water Bottles

Water bottles are a massive waste of plastic. Instead, get yourself a durable water bottle to use to take your drinks with you wherever you go.

8. Use Old Clothes For Cleaning Rags

Rather than using paper towels to clean and polish, consider using old clothing as rags to clean your home.

9. Cancel All Junk Mail

Like most other households, your mailbox is probably inundated with all sorts of mail, most of which you probably throw out without even looking at it. All that junk mail that’s being tossed in the trash is very wasteful. To cut down, consider calling each of the places that are sending all those flyers and brochures that you don’t need. While this will certainly take some time and can be a bit of a nuisance, it will save on all the clutter and garbage that will just end up filling your trash cans.

The Bottom Line

When it comes to taking care of the earth and being less wasteful, there are always little things that can be done. Adopting a few effective habits can help you create a less wasteful home. All it takes is a handful of changes to make a big difference in your waste production.

Tips For Brightening Up Dark Spaces

Even rooms that are generous in square footage can seem dark. And with the days continuing to shorten and fewer daylight hours available to brighten things up, things can get pretty gloomy indoors.

If your space is particularly dark, consider implementing any one of the following tips to lighten and brighten your home, no matter what time of day it is.

Paint the Space in a Light Color

It makes sense that lighter colors tend to create a lighter space. Considering this fact, painting your walls in a light color will have the effect of brightening the room up. The lighter the hue, the better. In fact, white tends to work best for this effect, and it doesn’t have to feel like a doctor’s office when used properly with the right accents.

White is fantastic at reflecting the light that bounces off the surface, which instantly makes the surrounding area look lighter. If a lighter space is what you’re after, the first thing you should do is give your walls a fresh coat of white paint, or another light shade. It’s a fast and cheap way to obtain the effect you’re going for.

Paint the Ceiling White

Just like the walls of a room can make a difference when painted in a light color, so can the ceiling. A dark ceiling can act like a dark cloud hanging over a room and make it feel smaller than it really is. If your ceiling is painted in a color other than white or has some type of natural wood paneling or beams, paint them all white for a uniform look that will immediately lighten and brighten up the space.

Make Smart Use of Mirrors

You can double the amount of natural light that goes into your home by hanging mirrors in strategic spots. Ideally, you’ll want to hang them directly across from your windows so that the natural light coming in bounces off the reflective surface. The more mirrors you hang, the more light reflection you’ll get. Just try not to go overboard, as you don’t want to create a space that’s too overwhelming with reflection.

Use Matte Versus Glossy Paint

While the reflective properties of mirrors work quite well at reflecting light equally across a space and making it appear lighter and brighter, glossy paint can cause too much glare which generates more of a distracting light than a pleasing one. Instead, go for matte paint which is more effective at equally reflecting light in all directions.

Be Strategic With Your Light Fixtures

You obviously need light fixtures in your home to supplement natural light that will be lacking as the sun sets. But how and where you place your light fixtures – as well as the types you include – can make a big difference in how light your space will appear.

To brighten up the room, consider installing various types of fixtures and create a layered effect. For instance, the living room might do well with pot lights scattered across the ceiling, a tall floor lamp in the corner directed upwards to create an “uplighting” effect, table lamps on end tables, and even wall sconces beside the fireplace. In the kitchen, pot lights work well again for overall ambiance, while pendant lamps hanging over the island and under-cabinet lighting provide the perfect task lighting when prepping meals.

Wherever possible, install dimmer switches to provide some flexibility with the amount of light you want to infuse in your space at any given time. 

Go Light With Window Treatments

You might want some privacy at certain times of the day, but thick, opaque drapery can block out all that natural light during times when you really need it. Window curtains that cover up too much of a window can be replaced with less obstructive fabric. Something that’s sheer will let in plenty of light while still offering some level of privacy.

Install New Window Openings

If possible, install new windows in your home. This is especially helpful in rooms that have no windows or are only outfitted with a tiny window that lets a minimal amount of light in.

Obviously, this is a big and expensive job, which sometimes may not even be possible. Speak with an experienced contractor to see what your options are and what type of cost you would incur. Just keep in mind that you could end up saving a bit of money that would otherwise have been spent in electricity needed to power up more artificial lights.

Don’t Block the Windows

From the inside, make sure you don’t have any furniture pieces or large bookshelves blocking the window space. This will do little except limit the amount of light that’s trying to come into your home. The same goes for the outside: any trees or bushes that have become unruly should be trimmed so that the foliage doesn’t block any natural light.

If possible, consider moving any bushes further from the windows. If you are planning on planting new greenery, be mindful of where you’re placing them relative to the windows and the direction of the light coming in.

Give Your Windows a Good Cleaning

This might seems like a no-brainer, but it’s still worth mentioning. If your windows are filthy, they’re not letting in as much light as they should. The dirtier your windows are, the less natural light is coming in. If that’s the case in your home, it’s time to take a power washer to your windows and give them a good polish afterwards to maximize the amount of sunlight that comes in through these openings.

The Bottom Line

Dark spaces are not very inviting or comfortable, and they can make a space seem smaller and tighter than it truly is. Luckily, there are plenty of hacks you can take advantage of to brighten up your space and make it seem lighter, larger, and a pleasure to hang out in.