The Best Season in Our Town

October 14, 2013

Todd Abrams, CLM publisher and editor, and his wife, Rena

Our favorite season is the fall – crisp bright days seem to bring not only beautiful colors, but also the change of attitude and energy we need to get things done. While there wasn’t too much to complain about in this summer’s
weather, we’re still ready for the changes that come with the change of season. It always seems that autumn is a great time to take on the things we have been putting off through those months when we were too busy enjoying summer activities. Enhancements for our homes we want to have ready for the Holidays, things we need to have done outside before it gets too cold, changes to help us live healthier and more efficiently, and also indulging some desires that we’ve been putting off.

The premise and promise of COUNTY LIVING MAGAZINE is that it is where you can learn about products and services to enhance your home, health and lifestyle, and also to discover some wonderful destinations within driving distance, for enjoyable fall weekend getaways.

Please let us know what you have discovered, or other topics you would like to recommend to readers in these pages. To share your thoughts, find more resources, print or forward articles, you can visit our website,, or email me at

Enjoy the season!
Todd Abrams

Having a home that works can add years to your life, and enhance the quality of your life.

Extend-Your-HealthThe goal is to remodel or build a new home that will be a great place for anyone to live for the rest of their life.

In 1997, my physical condition was degenerating to the point that I had a very difficult time walking. A friend suggested that true power was not in doing everything in life but rather becoming the CEO of one’s life. From that profound comment, I created the possibility of a life that worked without compromise no matter the circumstances.

In 2002, I renovated my first home without limits with my wife Mary and moved into it. From the stand that all people should live in homes that work, HDC Homes Without Limits was born. It is an expression of my life, the vehicle for me to make a difference for anyone who wants to live a life without regrets. I am committed that all people live in a physical environment that supports a full and extraordinary life. Everyone that visits one of my homes loves their beauty and functionality. [click to continue…]

A traditional kitchen remodeling can be a costly, messy and lengthy project. Tearing out and replacing cabinets and countertops can inconvenience your family for weeks — leaving you without a kitchen, and with a house full of dust. Thankfully, there is another option.

Kitchen makeover specialists give your kitchen beautiful new cabinets, countertops and backsplashes in just a few short days.

The best part is they can remodel without any tear-out or demolition, meaning little dust and mess, and you are not filling landfills with old cabinets and countertops. This is possible through high quality countertop and cabinet refacing—an innovative and green approach that can cut costs and give you a fabulous new kitchen in no time at all. [click to continue…]

Imagine your living room with no lights – or worse, lit by a giant floodlight. You wouldn’t enjoy spending time there after dark. The same scenario is true for your outdoor spaces.

Landscape architects agree..If you’re not drawn to linger in your backyard when the sun goes down, outdoor lighting can make an amazing difference. And with all the effort and investment you have in your outdoor spaces, it’s a shame for them go to waste lovely evening after lovely evening – especially when quality outdoor lighting is so affordable.

Landscape architects agree that outdoor lighting is a critical element in any outdoor space design. A carefully planned lightscape will rescue your yard from the blackness, transforming it into an enchanting retreat. Your family and guests will be tempted to linger in the luminous comfort of your private outdoor wonderland.

For the most part, outdoor lighting should be subtle, wrapping you in a warm glow, almost as if by candlelight. But working surfaces should be lit quite differently. Outdoor cooking areas usually benefit from downlighting that illuminates the working surfaces, but not the cook. On patios, decks, gazebos and other areas where guests gather, care should be taken to assure that no light shines in guests’ eyes. [click to continue…]

You may need a Consumer Advocate on Your Side. They work for you, not the insurance company.

Blown Shingles?A Consumer Advocate works for you, the home or business owner. They give you a voice in the claims process by properly assessing and making you aware of the true condition of your home’s exterior, prior to your filing a claim. They also offer assistance that has proven successful when you believe the insurance company may have missed damage, or if you believe they have devalued or minimized your claim.

Homeowners in the St. Louis area are certainly aware of the severe weather we experienced last year and again just a few months ago. The most recent storms were reported throughout St. Louis County, St. Charles County, Franklin County and Jefferson County. It is important to understand that damage to homes and businesses is not always obvious and may not be easily detected by the average homeowner.

Hailstorms and damaging winds can be very localized, with some homes in a neighborhood damaged while others are not. Factors such as wind direction and roof pitch determine how much damage is sustained by exposed surfaces of homes – roofs, siding, gutters and downspouts, screens and air conditioning units. The size of hailstones and whether they make direct impact or glancing blows also are factors. [click to continue…]

OutdoorFurnIf your outdoor or patio furniture has strapping, slings or cushions that are worn, stretched or faded, you don’t have to spend the money for new furniture. Instead you can select your own fabric or vinyl strapping for a new custom look that will give you many more years of use and save the cost of new.

Apple Tree Custom Sewing specializes in renewing fine outdoor furniture by custom-making new strapping, slings and upholstered cushions. They have hundreds of fabrics to choose from or you can bring in your own. They will pick up your furniture and bring it back ready for summer with a whole new look.

Many of the leading outdoor furniture stores in St. Louis rely on Apple Tree Custom Sewing for their repairs. With over 30 years experience, their expert sewing technicians can provide complete sewing repairs as well as custom designs made to your personal specifications. Don’t wait until spring, when you’ll want to use your outdoor furniture – take advantage of their off-season special pricing now.

Apple Tree Custom Sewing
5116 Hampton Avenue
St. Louis, Missouri 63109

Three years ago, the world’s most famous swimmer teamed up with Master Spas to develop a namesake line of swim spas.

PhelpsIt all began when he and his coach Bob Bowman needed a swim spa in which the 6-foot-4 athlete could comfortably work out. He needed a deeper and longer model and more powerful propulsion to swim against.

The result is The Signature, a custom model 10 inches deeper and 18 inches longer, with propulsion 40% greater than any model Master Spas had ever made before. “The swim spa supplements what we are doing in the pool,” Phelps said. After workouts, he likes to soak in the hot tub area of the spa.

Michael appreciates the passion and enthusiasm of the people at Master Spas. In partnership with the Michael Phelps Swim School, Master Spas has opened the first Michael Phelps Performance Center in Saco, Maine. It houses four of his Signature Swim Spas with overhead and underwater cameras. Swimmers of all levels can work on the finer points of their strokes and then watch themselves on film.

The Michael Phelps Signature Swim Spas by Master Spas provide continuous current and water temperature for a more comfortable, “endless” swim, year round. Resistance is adjustable, allowing swimmers of varying skills to customize the flow. The full range of motion, lack of impact and controlled temperature make the swim spa ideal for fitness exercises, jogging in place, using a kickboard, or rowing kit with resistance bands.

A therapeutic spa massage improves circulation, relieves joints, soothes aching muscles and melts away tension. The Xtreme Therapy Seat wraps you in comfort while delivering hydrothermal therapy with its unique jets. An optional surround sound system allows you to enjoy music through the water. Michael Phelps Signature Swim Spas comfortably accommodate more people than a standard spa. One person can swim while others enjoy a relaxing tub. All models are designed for both indoor and outdoor use.

The exclusive dealer for Master Spas and Michael Phelps Signature Swim Spas in St. Louis is Spas and More! LLC with over 130 Swim Spas currently installed. As they say, “We put the Aaaahh in Spa.” Their luxurious new 7,400 square foot showroom at the Taubman Prestige Outlets Mall in Chesterfield has over 25 hot tubs, spas and swim spas on display.
Spas and More! stocks a complete line of parts and supplies to support Master Spas and other brands. Service personnel are factory trained on all products they sell. They are the bi-state’s only Certified Spa Dealer by Spasearch Magazine and are a BBB Accredited Business.

You can visit their new showroom at Taubman Prestige Outlets Mall in Chesterfield, Suite 171 from 10am to 9pm Monday through Saturday, and 10am to 6pm on Sunday. Phone is 636-489-3809. Their showroom in Sunset Hills at 10957 Gravois Road is off Highway 30 and Rahning Road, one mile west of 270. Hours there are 11am-5pm Monday, Tuesday, Friday and Saturday. They can be reached at 314-843-7727. Website is clm

“Our dream outdoor space is now just two steps away from our kitchen door.”

Untitled-1“Ever since we moved to the St. Louis area four years ago, we wanted to create a great cooking and entertainment area in our back yard. We love to cook, be outdoors, and entertain friends and family, and had a very good idea of exactly what
we wanted.”

But this Wildwood family started to give up on having their dream outdoor room. They spoke with three different reputable builders over a three year period, each of whom said it either couldn’t be done how they wanted or it would cost almost as much as their house.

“Despite the fact that they were very competent and respected builders with great references, they either could not envision the look and openness we wanted, or they couldn’t see how to build it the way we wanted. It was clear that our project would be something they had never done before and I was not comfortable with that, and I sensed the builders weren’t either!” They were even going to draw up plans to build a cabin on their lake property just to create the outdoor space they wanted!

The family was about to give up on having an outdoor space added to their home when they saw pictures of Heartlands Building Company’s work in this magazine. The entire family had the same reaction: “That’s the room we want!” After meeting with Larry Brost of Heartlands, and seeing their previous work, they knew Heartlands could build the outdoor living space they wanted the way they wanted. “The fact that Heartlands specializes in outdoor rooms clearly showed. We were so confident we had the right builder, we signed the contract in less than a week.”

Once the contract was signed, plans were drawn and Dan, the Heartlands project manager, used 3-D software to let the family see all the details they wanted as well as some features they hadn’t thought of as they were dreamt up. He coordinated with the retaining wall and pool contractors to make sure all aspects of the outdoor area flowed together. “The entire Heartlands team is professional, competent, and experienced. They were so friendly and courteous, they became like part of the family. Unlike most builders we have worked with, they took great pride in keeping the job site clean; never forgetting the site was not just where they work, it’s where we live.”

With the help of a structural engineer, Heartlands was able to limit the number of support posts, creating an “open” covered area between the pool and the lower level of the house. The deck above is low maintenance and environmentally friendly Fibron composite. The custom extruded aluminum railing is strong enough to lean on and wide enough to accommodate guests’ cups and plates. The deck adjoins a stone patio with a big, beautiful stone and brick wood burning fireplace. A decorative concrete counter and cooking area sit between the two. Between the fireplace and the infrared heaters Larry recommended, the family was surprised to find that they could use their outdoor room all winter long.

“Our addition clearly looks like it’s another room of the home, not simply an added on deck or cooking area. We just love the outcome.” You can see more completed Heartlands living spaces at The gallery of projects includes outdoor rooms as well as custom homes, home additions and remodels. To discuss a project at your home, you can call Heartlands for a free in-home consultation or an appointment at their showroom in Chesterfield Valley at 636-728-0003. clm

Relax, Refresh, Rejuvenate

October 12, 2013

A personal, lifestyle-enhancing retreat awaits you when you step into this peace of paradise

Imagine yourself swept up in a daydream, trying to escape the frustrations of the day. You close your eyes and fill your head with thoughts of that favorite vacation to the lake, the ocean or the mountains. The tranquil sounds of nature and the water sooth your soul and instantly melt away all your stress. The memory is so vivid you can actually hear the trickling movement of the water, and dragonflies singing in your ear.

You slowly open your eyes and realize that those sounds of nature are echoing from your own personal aquatic paradise. You look around your yard in amazement at your gorgeous waterfall and flowing stream cascading into the pond below decorated by a variety of luscious aquatic plants. The majestic Koi seem to almost float through the crystal clear water as they eat from your hand. You think to yourself…I am lucky!

Nothing brings people together more than water. Having a professionally designed, eco-friendly, low maintenance water feature installed at your home not only improves the environment, but also your lifestyle. The next time you need a break from the rat race, consider enhancing your life with a custom aquatic paradise of your own.

Nature’s Re-Creations is the area’s leading designer and installer of custom water features. For the last 14 years, they have been committed to high quality design, workmanship and customer satisfaction. Nature’s Re-Creations is nationally recognized as a Certified Aquascape Contractor, Missouri’s first Water Garden Excellence Member, and the first place winner of the North American Pond and Waterfall Building Competition. They were honored by Aquascape with 2012 Artist of the Year.

Nature’s Re-Creations stays on the cutting edge of technology and installation techniques to continually improve their projects and the environment. To discuss your water feature project, you can contact Chris Siewing at 314-220-3841 or check out their portfolio at, or at clm

Periodic treatment preserves & protects

Wooden-RoofsNo other exterior building material compares with wood for its warm, natural look, resilience and versatility. Cedar shake roofs, oak or pine log or cedar walls, down to redwood decks, a wooden home has a distinctive look that improves with age. However, to keep wood exteriors looking their best and prevent deterioration that can lead to costly repairs, it’s important to periodically treat wood surfaces that start to dull or darken with mold, show signs of mildew or have lost protection from the elements.

Wood surfaces that are unprotected degrade from exposure to ultraviolet light from the sun. These harmful rays turn bare wood dark, dull and uneven in color. Rain penetrates the wood, causing it to swell. Then blistering heat from the sun dries it. This cycle can cause wood to warp, splinter and crack. Moisture also can make cedar and other woods conducive to mold and mildew.

Unlike most other building materials, however, wood exteriors can be restored and maintained through proper care and treatment. Preserving wood protects it from moisture and sunlight, and helps it last twice, even three times as long. This extended life makes cedar roofs, wood siding and decks cost-effective building solutions.

The experts at Aspen Touch Cedar Restoration & Installation have more than 25 years of experience in preserving, repairing and replacing wood roofs, natural wood siding and decks on St. Louis’s finest homes. Their restoration process uses a high pressure wash to remove algae, moss and lichen, returning wood to its natural color. Shingles are repaired, replaced and nailed as needed. Finally, a quality sealer/stain is applied. This restoration is also effective for asphalt roofs.
Aspen Touch is also expert in installing new cedar shake roofs, siding and decking. They can help you make informed decisions about preserving the beauty and value of your wood exteriors. You can call them at 636-458-8878, or visit them at clm