Saturday, August 30, 2008

Home is the Most Important Place in the World

I am crazy about IKEA’s new ad campaign - Home is the Most Important Place in the World, especially since it is exactly what I believe, build my life and my business around. The photography of the campaign as always is spectacular, and love that some of the images are of “trailers”.

So besides the possibility of it being someone’s most important place in the world, what is a trailer? My definition is that it’s probably one of the most misused terms in regards to housing, and technically describes a recreational vehicle more than a manufactured home. Today's manufactured housing is not made to be moved once it is in place, and should be set on a permanent foundation.

Trailer parks and house trailers became popular in the 1950’s when people who’s lifestyles were more mobile were looking for a way to take their homes with them. A hybrid of a travel trailer, these original units were inexpensive and in 1956 technology made it possible to build a 10ft wide unit offering the homeowner more space, and making the unit more spacious for spending longer periods of time in. A “trailer” was typically a home that could be pulled buy a car or truck, but the mobile homes that became popular in the 60’s had to be pulled by a professional truck company.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. The winds of Katrina brought a new version of the trailer into our lives - the FEMA trailer. They were everywhere in the news, and it was our government’s answer on how to house the people who had lost their homes. The manufactured housing and recreational vehicle companies stepped up and did everything possible to provide the homes - it was a time in my life I’ll never forget. I worked with Patriot Homes to furnish 2,500 homes, and I only hope that whoever received them is enjoying them.

Now two years later there is a lot of discussion about Formaldehyde in the FEMA trailers, but the homes that they are discussing aren’t to my knowledge the manufactured homes, but the recreational vehicles. Just another example of how much difference a name can make.

I love trailers - that’s why I’m the Trailer Diva. But my idea of the ultimate trailer is an Aluminum bullet from the 60’s that I have lovingly restored, not a manufactured home. My dream manufactured home will be the one that is on some land in Arizona - stay tuned!

My Name is Sam

I’ve had some really frustrating technology days lately -because I had to have an iPhone (which I love) I’m using AT&T for my internet provider and other services. To say there customer service is non-existent is an understatement - I’ve been waiting here all day for a tech guy to come and fix my service yet again. The appointment was for 8am and still no calls or tech.

I’m getting better at fixing things myself - a skill that I have no interest in but it’s out of necessity, and after messing with things for awhile I realized my new modem isn’t working. Funny - the old one that they told me wasn’t working started right up when I tried it so we seem to have a temporary solution, but now my brand new HP printer refuses to work.

The logical next step seemed to be to go to the HP website and see if I could find a solution, no luck there so I called the 800 customer service number. After having to call back 15 times because when I talked to “Sam” - each time a different person and each time “Sam” either couldn’t comprehend English or I got disconnected, I realized that HP really wasn’t interested in keeping me as a customer and that Sam must have been the code word for “we’ll just string them along until they get tired of calling.”

I’ll never buy another HP product and will use them as an example of how lack of customer service can kill a company. How you treat your customers after the sale is as important as the product or service you are providing, and a bad experience can undermine all of the things that you are doing right. The next time you are in the market for something, keep in mind how you will be treated after the purchase and if their customer support is handled locally or farmed out overseas.

It's a Kodak World

Sometimes things just happen for a reason, and today was one of those days. A perfect Spring day with colors that in Texas we only get to enjoy a few weeks a year, my Homearama house that I'm designing for @Home Builders just keeps getting better, and there was a great article about Kodak and the digital age in the NY Times.

I was busy updating one of my blogs last night and came across an entry that I had written about Hewlett Packard and my frustration with the printers I had purchased from them and their disinterest in customers, customer service and the quality of their product. Hey - they are HP and they own the market - why should they care?

So here is the story about Kodak and how they are really focusing their business to compete in the digital age and I couldn't agree more. Here is a company that understands what customers look to them for - images - and they are taking that into new areas that they haven't been competitive in before. It was a eureka moment for me - my point and shoot digital camera is a Kodak that I turned my camera snobby nose up at when it was recommended to me and now I can't imagine life without it. This Lifestylist® is going to turn these five lousy expensive HP printers that I got talked into and that"Sam" can't seem to get to work into planters and go out to check out a brand that is as all American as the town that it is headquartered in.

Vacationing at Home

With gas prices what they are, why not invest your vacation dollars into your own backyard? Prices have dropped on many items that can make your own home into a resort, and it’s a vacation your family can then enjoy all year long.

This home features a spectacular indoor / outdoor fireplace that is beautiful as well as functional. By screening in the porch area and using pavers for the flooring this will end up being one of the most used rooms in the house. The furniture was a vintage set that was taken to an auto body company and painted using auto paint. The result is one that will last for years and is very cost-effective. To tie into current color trends we went to Pier1 Imports and found some great colorful cushions and an outdoor area rug to complete the look.

Manufactured Housing is also tapping into the outdoor living trend, and Patriot Homes now offers some new models that come complete with outdoor areas that are ready to go as soon as the homes are delivered. Patriot Homes of Alabama showcased two homes at the Tunica show this year - one with a screened porch area that was large enough to house a bar and seating area, and another with a built-in sink and prep area, covered porch and optional grill. This area could have an additional deck area added on-site, but as offered there is lots of room for even the largest parties.

When considering an outdoor oasis of your own, keep in mind the following considerations:
*Utilities: Be sure that you have adequate water, electrical and gas if you'll need it for your new area. If this is something you'll have to add it can really drive up the costs.
*Screening: If you are in an area that tends to have lots of bugs you may want to think about screening in your new area to make it more comfortable all year long.
*Size Matters: Be sure when you are planing your space that there is room for whatever seating you plan on using as well as room to walk around. One of the mistakes I see the most is porches that aren't wide enough when you add traditional seating.

Sadly traveling especially flying is no longer the enjoyable experience it used to be, so relieve the stress and enjoy your own back yard.