Sunshine brings lighting expert to Boulder and eventually to open business

Cheryl Gaiser loves light – inside and out.

It’s Colorado’s 300 days of the sunlight a year that brought her to Boulder from one of the rainiest states in the union 14 years ago. And it was her love of creating light indoors – a family tradition – that led her to open a lighting studio.

Cheryl, Jack Rietveld and Rhonda Wade established Inlighten Studios 10 years ago in October on the west end of Pearl Street. After Jack passed away a few years back, Rhonda took over as president to oversee operations, allowing Gaiser to remain vice president and handle the sales end of business.

“My family has been in lighting for over 60 years, and I’ve been doing it for more than 30,” she says. “I really do like being in front. I used to sell to people just like me. It keeps me in an industry I’ve grown up in and I really do enjoy it.”

Just three years ago, Cheryl and Rhonda moved the business to its current location at 5345 Arapahoe Road, Unit 4. They’ve also diversified, expanding their services and products into commercial work, as the residential lighting business began slumping with the housing market and economy.

“During the housing crunch we went after more commercial business and landed that, and that has kept us afloat,” Cheryl says.

Inlighten Studios works with designers, architects and contractors to fulfill the homeowners' lighting needs, she says.

“When you walk in, our first question is, ‘What is the application? Where do you plan on using this?’” Cheryl says, noting any employee can then help customers determine the right lighting. “Every employee who has worked here has had to go through the American Lighting Association course and passed it.”

For Cheryl, who has spent much of her life in the South, Boulder has been an adjustment, especially to the cold. But it offers plenty of outdoor activities in which she participates wholeheartedly. And between her business and the sun, she never lacks for light.

“It’s worth it for the sun for me,” she says. “I love it here.”

For more information about Inlighten Studios, call (303) 449-9899 or visit

State appliance rebates starting soon

If you plan on buying a new appliance or two this year, you've picked the right time.

The state of Colorado is tentatively scheduled to implement a mail-in rebate program to help residents replace older, inefficient appliances with ENERGY STAR® qualified appliances in March. The program will continue until the state runs out of the more than $4.7 million set aside for the rebate.

Eligible products include:
• Refrigerators
• Clothes washers
• Dishwashers
• Gas storage water heaters
• Gas, tankless water heaters
• Gas furnaces
• Gas boilers

Check with state officials for information on proper recycling or disposal of appliances. For more information about this and other rebates, visit

Boulder happiest, healthiest city in the U.S., according to study

If you’re looking to escape your worries and find happiness, you’re living in the right place.

According to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, which interviewed more than 353,000 Americans last year, Boulder is home to the healthiest, happiest people in the nation.

In fact, most of the highest-scoring cities were in the West – such as Boulder, which topped the list. On the other end of the spectrum, most of the lowest-scoring cities were in the South, such as Huntington, W.Va., which ranked last out of the 162 large and mid-sized cities in the study, according to an article about the study in USA Today.

The study asked individuals to assess their jobs, finances, physical health, emotional state of mind and communities to provide a city-by-city portrait of the nation’s mood and a potential tool for policymakers, the article says.

Of the 10 cities that scored best on “life evaluation” – assessments of life now and expectations in five years – nine of them are home to institutions that supposedly provide some buffer from recession - a major university, a big military installation or a state capitol.

Boulder was the only Colorado city ranked among the top 10, although the three others on the list were among the top 60. Four cities from California, two in Utah and one in Hawaii all represented the West in the top 10. Only the Holland, Mich., and Washington, D.C., metro areas are located in the Eastern or Central time zones, according to USA Today.

The majority of the bottom 10 cities are in economically embattled regions: three are in the Alleghenies and three in the Rust Belt. Only Shreveport, La., and Modesto, Calif., are west of the Mississippi.

Besides its mountainous setting, with a greenbelt of public lands circling the city, Boulder’s jobless rate of 5.7 percent, compared with the national 9.7 percent, may help its residents remain happy and healthy, according to the article.

Here’s a look at how Colorado cities fared in the study:

Smaller remodeling projects generate the most returns for homeowners

If you’re considering doing some remodeling of your home, beware that, according to Remodeling magazine’s 2009 Cost Vs. Value Report, you’re not likely to recoup 100 percent of your investment upon selling your home with nearly any project.

However, the report shows that smaller midrange projects, such as adding a wood deck (80 percent), replacing the front entry with a steel door (128.9 percent) or remodeling the attic into a bedroom (83.1 percent), will get the most returns in the Mountain states, including Colorado.

The projects generating the smallest returns, in contrast, include a home office remodel (48.1 percent) and a sun
room addition (50.7 percent). Among the upscale projects, replacing siding with fiber-cement products generated the highest returns (83.5 percent), while homeowners adding on a master suite recovered only 55.7 percent of their investment.

Here’s a look at some of the different remodeling projects, their costs, their resale value and the cost recouped, according to the 2009 Cost vs. Value Report:

Survey shows prices, sales activity improving in existing-home market

The National Association of Realtors reported strong gains in existing-home sales as well as rising prices in many metro areas during the fourth quarter of 2009.

The NAR’s latest surveys showed that sales increased from the third quarter of 2009 to the fourth in 48 states and the District of Columbia, with 32 states experiencing double-digit gains. And all but three states saw double-digit annual increases.

Total national existing-home sales, including single-family and condos, jumped 13.9 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.03 million in the fourth quarter from 5.29 million in the third quarter, and are 27.2 percent above the 4.74 million-unit level in the fourth quarter of 2008. Distressed property accounted for 32 percent of fourth quarter transactions, down from 37 percent a year earlier, according to the NAR.

Colorado saw an increase in sales of existing homes including single-family, condos and co-ops of 15.1 percent from the third quarter to the fourth, and a 10.3 percent increase from the fourth quarter of 2008 to the fourth quarter of last year.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says the first-time home buyer tax credit was the dominant factor in the upswing.

“The surge in home sales was driven by buyers responding strongly to the tax credit combined with record low mortgage interest rates,” he says. “With inventory levels trending down over the past 18 months, we expect broadly balanced housing market conditions in much of the country by late spring with more areas showing higher prices.”

In the fourth quarter, 67 out of 151 metropolitan statistical areas reported higher median existing single-family home prices in comparison with the fourth quarter of 2008, including 16 with double-digit increases; one was unchanged and 84 metros had price declines. In the third quarter only 30 MSAs showed annual price increases and 123 areas were down.

In Colorado, Boulder saw a 3.2 percent year-over-year increase, while Colorado Springs prices increased 1.5 percent and Denver-Aurora’s 11.2 percent.

The national median existing single-family price was $172,900, which is 4.1 percent below the fourth quarter of 2008; the median is where half sold for more and half sold for less. “This is the smallest price decline in over two years, with the most recent monthly data showing a broad stabilization in home prices,” Yun says.

“Because buyers are taking on long-term fixed rate mortgages, avoiding adjustable-rate products, and trying to stay well within their budgets, the price recovery process appears durable,” he says.