Thursday, June 30, 2016

The 10 most luxurious and expensive bathtubs in the world

The history of mankind bathing in self-made containers goes back nearly 6000 years to the Indus Valley in India, where archeologists have found copper water pipes within the ruins of a palace. In ancient Crete 3000 years later, the wealthiest Greeks bathed in pedestal tubs made of hardened pottery and almost 5 feet long. The Roman Empire took the indulgent ritual of bathing to new levels from 500 BC to 455 AD with lead and bronze popes, marble fixtures, and luxurious bathhouses.

In early 20th century U.S., the plumbing systems were sorely lacking, with only 1% of homes enjoying indoor plumbing as late as 1921. Most people still used outhouses, and it wasn’t until the housing boom post WWII that most houses had bathtubs – usually claw foot tubs at first.

We’ve come a long way, as these days almost every home has multiple bathtubs and showers as well. But luxury home builders, designers, and owners are getting back to the therapeutic and regenerative powers of bathing, with high-end bath tubs that are sure to impress.

To celebrate the art and aesthetics of bathing, here are the top 10 luxurious and most expensive bathtubs in the world:

10. EAGO  by Blue Bath
Price: $4,699
This 6’ long ultra-modern bathtub delivers all of the amenities and luxury of more expensive tubs, but easy to install and at a price that’s reasonable for the average luxury homeowner. The EAGO even has a TV screen on board!

9. Le Cob Glass Bathtub
Price: $34,000
Designed by Joseph Licciardi, this unique minimalist tub is made of transparent glass, acrylic and metals, and curved to match the contours of the body. One side of the tub is slightly lower to crate an infinity pool effect, with a sheet of water cascading down into a bed of pebbles.

8. Diamond Bathtub
Price: $39,000
It took designer Lori Garner three years to complete this iconic work of bathing art, with the outer layer alone highlighting 45,000 individually-arranged Swarovski crystals. With some custom overhead lighting, these crystals will reflect and refract in a million distinct patterns and colors, creating a unique visual experience.

7. Kallista Archeo Copper Bathtub
Price: $67,557
This tub may appear modest at only 5 foot long and 2.5 feet wide, but it was actually designed by the same people who refurbished the Statue of Liberty’s torch. This solid copper bathing vessel can hold 71 gallons of water and emulates the look of ancient Greek bathtubs.

6. Serenity Bathtub
Price: $76,658
Only two feet long, this Serenity Bathtub is constructed from bronze, with gold and silver embedded stones. Only a small number of these limited editions tubs were ever made, ensuring they are luxury collector’s items.

5. Baldi Amethyst Bathtub
Price: $122,000
Following the trend of custom carved gemstones in the luxury home world, this tub is carved entirely from pristine amethyst, with 24K gold legs. You can even purchase matching amethyst lotion dispensers, soap dishes, and other accouterment.

4. Baldi Malachite Bathtub
Price: $222,000
This exquisite tub was made by iconic designer Luca Bojola, built entirely from fine turquoise malachite with 24K gold legs. Legend has it that the Malachite crystal emits energies that protect children, but you don’t need to be superstitious to enjoy this elegant crystal vessel.

3. Baldi Rock Crystal Bathtub
Price: $790,310
Another notable tub by the Italian interiors firm, Luca Bojola for Baldi, only three of these Rock Crystal tubs were ever made. Each one spans more than 8 feet and was carved from a 10-ton Amazonian crystal, then garnished with diamonds for good measure.

2. Golden Bathtub – Price: $990,000
The first tub to reach the near-million dollar mark, the legendary Golden Bathtub was first commissioned by the Kominato Hotel in Japan, where it was available for select high-end guests. Weighing in at more than 175 pounds, made from pure gold and carefully guarded by security, it would seem that it was immovable, yet the Golden Bathtub was stolen from the Kominato Hotel in 2007, and still no arrests or even leads exist.

1. Le Grand Queen
With a nearly two million-dollar price tag, the Le Grand Queen is considered the most expensive bathtub ever produced. Designer Simon Krapf carved the Le Grand Queen from 10 tons of a rare gemstone called Caijou, thought to have mythical healing properties, with a shape inspired by a traditional Indonesian canoe. Caijou is so precious and rare that Krapf kept the source of their mine a secret, even when it was purchased by an anonymous Arab buyer at the Dubai International Jewelry Festival for $1.7 million.


If you've enjoyed these bathtubs, look for part two of this blog where we introduce 10 luxurious bathtubs you can afford to put in any home! 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

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Monday, June 20, 2016

Sacramento's Most Distinguished, Stately and Iconic Buildings.

1. Bank of the West Tower
Bank of the West Tower is a 25-story high-rise that stands 397 feet high, also known as Five Hundred Capitol Mall, or The Pantheon. Spanning 433,508-square-feet, it includes a stunning 5-story atrium and lobby, retail on the first floor, offices, a 2-level penthouse restaurant/meeting area, and 10 levels of parking garage with 800 spaces. Construction started in 2007 under the watch of architect E.M. Kado & Associates, and developer Tsakopoulos Investments, and the Bank of the West Tower accepted its first tenant on May 26, 2009.

2. Wells Fargo Center
At 423 feet, The Wells Fargo Center in downtown Sacramento wins the honor of tallest building in the capital city of California. This 30-floor office building encompasses more than 500,000 square feet since it opened in 1992. The Wells Fargo Center actually occupies a whole city block, about 2.3 acres, and is highlighted by a stunning five-story interior atrium made from granite, marble, and glass, as well as the ground floor Wells Fargo History Museum. Architect Hellmuth, Obata and Kassabaum (HOK) and developers William Wilson & Associates and Crocker Properties redefined the Sacramento landscape with the Wells Fargo Center.

3. California Governor's Mansion
Between 1903 and 1967, the Historic Governor’s Mansion was home to thirteen governors starting with George Pardee (including Ronald Reagan, but only for four months), and just started housing its fourteenth governor in 2015 when Jerry Brown moved in. Originally built in 1877 in the Second Empire-Italianate Victorian for local hardware merchant Albert Gallatin, it holds thirty rooms in its thirty stories, as well as a historic park for its grounds, and is on the list of California Historic Landmarks and the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.

4. Crocker Art Museum
The name may have changed from the E. B. Crocker Art Gallery to the Crocker Art Gallery, but this iconic museum still entertains, educates, and enlightens Sacramento art lovers. “The Crocker” is actually the longest continuously operating art museum in the western United States, and number 59 on the list of Best Museums in the entire United States. Located at 2016 O Street, the Crocker Art Museum building was built in 1877 by architects Seth Babson and Charles Gwathmey in Victorian Italianate and Classic Contemporary motif. With all of that distinguished history, the Crocker Art Museum is worth visiting not just for what’s inside, but the building, itself.

5. Esquire Tower
One of the more recent additions to the Sacramento skyline, the Esquire Tower, also called Esquire Plaza, went up in 1999, and features 22 floors and 248,416 square feet of office space, as well as the Esquire IMAX Theater, and a restaurant for good measure, with a height of 322 feet. It’s no wonder the Esquire Tower is ranked number ten on the on the list of Famous Sacramento Buildings & Structures.

6. John T. Greene House
If you’ve driven past McKinley Park on H Street in East Sacramento, you’ve probably noticed a stunning and expansive American Craftsman Bungalow home with wood shingles, handsome green trim, and a stone base. In fact, that’s the John T. Green House, built in 1925 by Pasadena architects Greene & Greene for Sacramento developer John T. Greene, who coincidentally was of no relation to his architectural team. The home was built based on the dimensions of the Golden Rectangle, an ancient law of proportion. No matter what the influence, the home remains one of Sacramento’s proudest structures, and now on the National Register of Historic Places in Sacramento County.

7. Pony Express Terminal
The history of California may not be the oldest, but it is certainly filled with epic events, amazing stories and colorful characters, and many of those are reflected in the Pony Express Terminal in Sacramento. Also known as the B. F. Hastings Bank Building, this building was the furthest western point of the legendary Pony Express mail system when it opened on January 1, 1852. It also served as the first location of the California Supreme Court. These days, the Pony Express Terminal still stands as part of the Old Sacramento State Historic Park, a National Historic Landmark District, featuring the second Gold Rush museum along with the Wells Fargo Center. Interestingly, the Pony Express has two separate addresses depending on whom you ask, with the NRHP listing it at 1006 2nd St. and HABS claiming it's at 128-132 J Street.

8. Blue Anchor Building
Sitting at 1400 10th Street in downtown Sacramento, this Spanish Colonial Revival style commercial building is one of Sacramento’s historic landmarks. It was first built by the architects Starks and Flanders in 1931 as part of the California Fruit Exchange, and named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.

9. Sacramento City Library
The Sacramento City Library, located at 828 I Street adjacent to Cesar Chavez Plaza, is also referred to as the Central Branch, and the keystone of the Sacramento Public Library system. Built in 1918 with the help of funding from a Carnegie grant, architect Loring P. Rixford, designed the library to look like a late 19th century Italian Renaissance edifice, as it replaced the existing library that had stood since 1872 only one block west. While the exterior looks the same, the interior has undergone numerous renovations, and in 1992 the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

10. J. Neely Johnson House
While not a household name in Sacramento, the J. Neely Johnson house has a fascinating history. It was first built in 1853 for a horticulturist named William Cozzens who made the journey to California via Panama. Mr. Cozzens started building his house but unfortunately for him, couldn’t pay the construction bill on this Greek Revival-Neoclassical masterpiece, so he lost the house to the court.

The home was then purchased and lived in by the fourth Governor of California,
J. Neely Johnson, and subsequently State Treasurer Selden A. McMeans, and then California Supreme Court Justice David S. Terry. Adding to its mystique, the home’s three prominent owners, Johnson, McMeans and Terry members of the American Party, also called the "Know Nothings" because they conducted meetings in secret – some of them probably in this house.

If you like Sacramento architecture, rest assured that we're far from done! Look for part two and three of this series coming soon, with more great buildings from the capital city.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Rating the Top 15 Outdoor Home Improvements (Part 2)

Making improvements to your back yard is a huge trend that just keeps growing among homeowners, with $6.2 billion yearly invested in outdoor additions and enhancements. But when it comes to adding fun and functional elements to your yard, is it always worth the time, money and aggravation?

In part one of this blog we listed the first seven renovations or projects for homeowners, along with a rating based on the pros, the cons, practicality, enjoyment of use, costs and return on value. Here are the final eight:

8. Outdoor bar
Backyard bars take the outdoor kitchen trend one step further, and can be a huge hit with friends and neighbors at functions. Like many popular outdoor improvements, there are a host of options from simple pop-up DIY kits that are little more than a counter to sit at, to fully functioning professional-grade bars with running water, sink(s), refrigeration, a beer tap, and music, and electrical for music and television. Since those more elaborate bars are a serious investment that may cost you ten thousand dollars or more, it’s important to plan and build do them right, like you would any indoor bar. Make sure the bar height and spacing, stool height, layout of appliances and access to serve drinks behind the bar, etc. are all correct. Likewise, you’ll want to make sure your new bar is protected from the elements, with a canopy or roof of some sort and allowances for rain and cold weather.

Rating: B

9. Swimming pool
Adding a swimming pool to your property isn’t a decision to be taken lightly, as there are huge costs, upkeep and even liability issues to be weighed. Consider the average cost of a swimming pool is well over $40,000 now, and could easily be double that for custom or more elaborate pools, and maintenance could easily cost $2-300 per month or more in chemicals, cleanings, utility costs, etc. Most pool liners need to be replaced every 15 or 20 years, and it could cost $500 each season just to open and close it. Additionally, there are liability issues that may reflect in your insurance premiums, and you’ll want to install a safety fence around your pool. However, that huge investment could all be worth it when your family has a place to slash, play, and keep cool all summer – which could really be three seasons in the Sacramento region. Pools don’t necessarily add value to a home (not near what they cost to install and upkeep, anyway), and some potential buyers might be not want a home with a pool. But if you plan to stay in the home long term, your family will never regret it.

Rating: C+

10. Outdoor kitchen
Outdoor kitchens and entertaining areas are a home improvement trend that keeps getting more popular among buyers and designers, with no signs of retracting. In fact, having a fully functioning cooking space, range, refrigerator, high-end grill (of course!) is more valued by homeowners than ever. Outdoor kitchens are getting bigger, with more features like sinks, garbage disposals, gas hook ups, and ovens. Likewise, the outdoor living experience is expanding with covered dining, lounge, and recreation areas for the family that offer three seasons or more of enjoying dinners and barbecues in the backyard. Simple outdoor kitchens may cost you around $3,000, with more intensive setups running $15,000 or more, but they still offer one of the highest ROIs of any outdoor improvement.

Rating: A

11. Sport court
Are you a family who really enjoys sports and is considering adding a court or playing surface to your yard? Tennis courts, basketball courts, sand volleyball courts, etc. are a great way to encourage athletics among your kids, and give them and their friends and the neighborhood kids a safe, fun place to play and hang out. But with the cost of adding a good quality court pretty high, including lighting, etc., it usually doesn’t make sense from an investment standpoint. It won’t add a lot of tangible value to your home, takes up land that might better used as lawn or garden area, and could even be seen as a liability issue for some potential future homebuyers. But if you have enough space and you know your kids will use it, try adding a universal sport court that allows you to play several sports or activities easily.

Rating: C

12. Hot tub
Did you know that there are about 6.6 million hot tubs in U.S.? Now what percentage of those would you guess get regular use and are maintained correctly? Probably not an encouraging number. Hot tubs take a huge commitment to maintain properly, with balancing PH and chemicals, monthly filter cleanings, and draining and refilling four times a year. That can add up quickly, as well as the bump to energy bills you’ll see. Considering their price tag of $5,000 - $20,000 to purchase a hot tub and get it professional installed, they rarely make sense as an addition that improves your home’s value. So for those homeowners that really do love hot tubs and use and maintain them conscientiously, consider getting a model that will be easy to transport to your next home when you move instead of being left with the buyer.

Rating: C-

13.  Fire pit
When you envision your family enjoying your yard, what do you see? For many people, it will be visions of the whole family sitting around a crackling fire in the backyard on a cool night, mom and dad sipping wine while the kids roast marshmallows, as everyone watches the stars. There is no doubt that fire pits and fireplaces are one of the best ways to enjoy the great outdoors at home. The good news is that there are plenty of options to install them, including portable fire pits for only about $100, DIY models that can be buried or set in your yard, and more decorative models, built with stonework and seating can be had for 1-2 thousand dollars. Larger fireplaces integrate cooking into the outdoor experience, with a larger price tag to match. No matter how much you spend and how elaborate the fire pit design, it will probably be a good investment, considering that fire pits and fireplaces ranked third as the most popular outdoor living features on the landscape architecture survey, and surveys of buyers and homeowners reveal that they add value to a home.

Rating: A-

14. Outdoor audio system
Nothing adds ambience and fun to a barbecue, party or event than great music, and homeowners have plenty of audio options outdoors. While some choose just to place their portable music player outside for the event, the sound quality and reach just isn’t there, and it may even require unsightly and impractical extension cords. Instead, homeowners who want to invest in their entertainment – and improve their home’s value – are setting up specially designed outdoor music systems. From DIY outdoor audio kits for a couple hundred dollars to advanced systems that could run a few thousand dollars, there are plenty of options. There are even good quality speakers that are designed to look like rocks or blend in with the landscape, and can project clearly for up to 30 feet. The key to any system is running the wiring correctly, and protecting the system from the elements. To ensure that your investment pays dividends when it’s time to sell the house, make sure that all wiring and hook ups are universal or easily converted to other sound systems, so the technology won’t become outdated.

Rating: B-

15. Shade trees
This may seem like an after-thought on a list of such grand (and sometimes expensive) outdoor home improvements, but in fact, plating shade trees can significantly increase the value of a property. Shade trees aren’t only beautiful to look at, adding color in the fall and blossoms in the spring, but most importantly, they shield your home from the strongest of rays in the sizzling summer months, protecting that side of the house, making it enjoyable again outdoors, and lowering the temperature of rooms in the midday sun’s path. Even better, shade trees are very cheap and easy to plant yourself when they’re young, or if you wanted a more mature tree that will provide instant relief, some SMUD and other agencies often will plant free shade trees for you to help with energy bills! 

Rating: A+