May 31, 2012

Curb appeal

Summer is here! Make the front (or sides) of your home inviting and beautiful. Keep the look or change seasonally. here are some ideas to get started.

  • Container gardens provide color even if your yard is paved.  Large pots filled with bright or fragrant flowers can transform your front yard. Install a simple drip-irrigation system to make containers easier to maintain.

  • Many small homes are lost in the landscaping. Use an ornamental arbor(free standing is OK) or fence to call attention to the house and mark the entrance. Remember that white structures stand out against a nonwhite home.

  • Blend natural and artificial elements to give your yard an established, comfortable look. Place boulders near your walkway and use ground covering plants to fill around them. Flowering shrubs, such as azalea and rhododendron soften the look of the stone.

  • Look for features from your home to guide your design. Small trees can echo pillars on a porch. Try a water feature based on the shape of one of your home's architectural elements. Even a small patio can use a ceramic container water feature.

  • Select bold elements that call attention to themselves to help your landscape make a statement. Spiral-pruned junipers flanking the front walk create a sense of grandeur and formality. 

  • Follow nature's lead. Select plants and other landscape materials native to your region. The birds and butterflies your front yard attracts will enchant you and your guests. Incorporate a birdbath or bird feeder in your yard to attract even more birds. You can make or buy a hanging birdbath if you live in a condo or apartment without a yard. 

    1. Transform your front walk into a stylish statement by edging it with easy-care plants such as variegated hosta and boxwood. Can you put a gentle curve in the path?  Choose an interesting material like bricks, flagstone, and pavers which have more character than traditional cement.

      1. Planting colorful bloomers is a surefire way to make your yard feel more welcoming. Use bold, bright hues to create a big impact even if you don't have a lot of space. 

      May 30, 2012

      Outdoor entertaining ideas.

      When you're having an outdoor gathering, making it festive is easy. Follow these tips to get started on creating a wonderful space with ambiance that will last all season.

      1) String lanterns, hung in the trees, add sparkle to backyard gatherings. They work for every summer gathering, adding easy ambience that can stay outside all season.

      2) Have music piped to your area.  You can use your home stereo and position the speakers out the windows or use your smartphone with your media library or on-line sites.

      3) Use your unmatched dishes instead of paper plates.  You won't mind if they break and the meal will be more elegant. Using table linens adds an extra special touch.

      4) Add fresh flowers to your tabletop or buffet. Even an interesting display of seashells, greens, or other 'found' items will create a wonderful vignette.

      5) Make finger foods ahead of time and place them on easy-to replenish trays for carrying back and forth.

      6) Create a goodie bag of take-home extras or favors as a special gift for your guests.

      7) Use wicker baskets or other interesting container - lined with a napkin as needed - for serving breads, desserts and other foods.

      8) Candles provide wonderful ambiance and in a glass hurricane provide a decorative element as well. Flameless candles are fabulous so consider them as well.

      May 29, 2012

      Vaz, vace, vaze? Some ideas to help!

      Need some ideas for the vases you have around the house? If you're like many people, you've received flowers and kept the container. Now, they're in the garage, the kitchen and the's help! 

      Flowers with a twist. If a favorite flower is in season, get some. Rather than fill the base with water, add lemons, plastic grapes (to re-use), polished stones and other items that complement the flower.Make it a centerpiece. By joining a few in differing sizes and colors together, you can create a unique centerpiece whether they are filled or not.

      Get creative with contents. Try filling a glass vase with sea shells or even sand for a beach theme. For fall, try filling them with pinecones. During the holidays, crunched up plastic wrap and cranberries, makes a great display. I love to add seasonal items and dress up clear glass vases with ornaments, holiday greens and more.

      Embellish them. If you want to spice up your vases, don't hesitate to make a few additions. Use acrylic paints to add that final touch to an art glass or glue ceramic beads or shells to the outside of floor vases. Etching is one of the easiest ways to transform a plain glass vase into a custom piece. Wrap with twine, ribbons or even living vines.

      To inspire you....

      Glass cylinders tied with raffia and 'lined'
      with twigs and bamboo

      Etch a design onto a glass
      vase using a stencil pattern.
      See "Etch" How -to blog from Feb.
      Fill base of glass with vine
      and top with acorns and leaves.

      Fill glass cylinders with rocks and
      leave as is, or top with candles.

      My favorite in a seaside home
      year-round. Seashells!

      Cabbage leaves surround the base
      of cut flowers for a clean look.

      Cut limes thin, add a second
      cylinder inside. Line between & fill
      with water & flowers.
      Orange slices cut to fill a small
      vase. Use in disposal to freshen
      when done!
      Handpaint a vine - freehand is OK.
      Plastic wrap & water
      look like ice. Add cranberries
      and twigs to complete the look.

      Use rocks instead of marbles
      for the base of elegant stems.

      Strips of leftover fabrics can  make
      a unique filler!

      Sand, shells, decorative balls and more
      make great fillers for seaside theme or
      summertime display

      Wind ribbon around cylinders for
      the right look. These were for a shower.

      May 25, 2012

      Three new counter surfaces.

      When you're ready to update your kitchen or bath, check out these three new surfaces and see whether they work for you. 

      Formica Corp. has released IdealEdge decorative edges suitable for curved, clipped or 90-degree corner installations. Offered in two profiles—ogee and bullnose—the new option eliminates the telltale flat edges and brown seams of laminate. The IdealEdge profiles are fabricated as a bevel edge and can curve to cover all sides of countertops, islands and tables. Available in hundreds of Formica laminate colors and patterns, the edge profiles are produced in 12-ft. lengths and are customizable to design specifications.

      Cambria has launched two new designs, Laneshaw (right) and Armitage (left), which capture the natural veining of marble and granite while offering the strength of quartz. Both materials continue the company’s tradition of being named after a location in Wales or England. Like the centuries-old village in northwest England, Laneshaw embraces brown tones, tan and black with subtle hints of white and a touch of gold shimmer. Armitage, named after a canal in England’s West Midlands region, blends black and gray, providing a neutral canvas for random flecks of copper and 

      Radianz Quartz, a division of Samsung, has added four new colors to its growing collection of surface material. The latest hues include Gold Canyon Gray, Midnight Sapphire, Imperial Gray (pictured) and Gentle Gray. Gold Canyon Gray was created to reflect light and luxury, while Midnight Sapphire channels the tranquility of the ocean, and Imperial Gray reflects golden hues, mimicking ancient jewelry. Radianz is comprised of more than 93 percent natural quartz crystals that are blended together with polymers for a smooth high-gloss material that does not require chemical sealing.

      May 24, 2012

      DIY Place mats for Indoors or Out

      Need a uniquely shaped place mat? How about one that has the color you like? Many times I shop for clients and don't see exactly what works for their homes.  That's when I think outside the proverbial box. I like to shop at off-priced stores for items that I can re-purpose or re-configure, so that I don't feel bad if  I make an error. If my idea doesn't pan out for the client, I can always donate my creation to a local charity and I know it will be used.

      For a round table, it's hard to find a place mat that really works. With square plastic mats and an Xacto knife, you can create nearly any shape from any color!  Here, a leaf shape works well with a round or oblong indoor table, and can be brought outdoors to add a touch of color to a picnic table.

      May 23, 2012

      Vessel sink soap dish? yep!

      How's this for simple, ingenious and elegant?  Take a spoon strainer, inexpensive ones bend best,  and create a bend to hook onto your vessel sink.  No more dripping hands to reach over the lip to get to your soap!

      May 22, 2012

      5 ideas to make your outdoor spaces cozy.

      Living outdoors - even in summer - needs to be cozy and comfortable.  Here are 5 great finds to add to your outdoor spaces for light, warmth and just plain great looks!

      1) Lanterns are a safe way to light the outdoors with a fabulous ambiance. With so many finishes, styles and colors available, you can surely find one to suit your style!

      2) An outdoor rug does so much for a space. The color, the ambiance, and the feel underfoot are fantastic.  When you have a covered patio or porch, you can expand your selection to cotton, jute and nylon.  Outdoor rugs are generally polypropylene and tolerate sun and rain well.  

      3) Add an umbrella to serve as a roof!  Even without a table, you can stand an umbrella to give shade, protection from the rain, and a create a cozy corner. My front balcony is small, so I added a tall ceramic planter - plants and all - and set the umbrella post into the soil. It's 2' tall so I have stability even in wind. 

      4) Even a simple plastic chair will feel more comfortable with a pillow. Ideally, pillows used outdoors should be made of a rain and sun resistant polyester fabric, BUT I use regular pillows all the time. Yes, I run out and stash them under the furniture in the rain, but their color, softness and pattern make it worthwhile.

      5) Even if your outdoor space is surrounded by trees, an expansive lawn, or hedges, adding plants and planters provides another touch of color, style and personality that can make your space look fabulous.  For traditional home, O love iron and ceramic urn style planters in varying heights. In cottage a beach homes, I opt for aged cedar, crisp glazed ceramics, and moss-enhanced terracotta.  Add an obelisk and you can grow a vine to add a wall of green even on a balcony!

      May 21, 2012

      5 Unique storage spaces for kitchens.

      Check out these client inspired storage solutions.

      Pop up outlet bar.

      Wine storage room under the kitchen.

      A pop up stool in a toe kick storage drawer.

      Stainless pop out drawer for paper towels.
      Indoor or outdoor kitchen!
      An easy addition to existing cabinets
      for awesome storage & function.

      May 18, 2012

      How green are you?

      Sure, you turn off the tap when you brush your teeth and recycle the Sunday paper. That’s a good start. But other ­everyday habits may have a bigger impact on the environment than you think. take our quiz to find out what else you can do to make the world a greener place.

      1. On average, how fast do you drive on the highway?
      (a) 55 mph     (b) 65 mph     (c) 75 mph

      2. When your vehicle needs a bath, do you:
      (a) Grab the hose and a bucket and do it yourself                       (b) Go to a car wash

      3. What type of driver are you?
      (a) Aggressive      (b) Calm and collected      (c) Somewhere in between

      4. It’s lunchtime and you’re craving a fast-food burger. Do you:
      (a) Order at the drive-through       (b) Park and head inside to place your order

      5. Grilling season is almost here! This summer, you'll be throwing your burgers and brats onto:
      (a) An electric grill        (b) A charcoal grill       (c) A gas grill

      6. You’re hosting a cookout and need to stock up on beer. At the store, you fill your cart with:
      (a) Cans        (b) Bottles        (c) A keg

      7. Okay, you’ve had enough burgers and barbecue. It’s time for a healthy dinner: salmon. At the fish counter, you choose:
      (a) Atlantic      (b) Wild caught from Washington, Oregon, or California  (c) Neither; you buy canned

      8. Now let’s head over to the produce section. With fruits and vegetables, you look for this label:
      (a) Organic         (b) Locally grown         (c) I don’t look at labels

      9. Your spouse cooked dinner, so you’re on dish duty. Do you:
      (a) Wash everything by hand    (b) Rinse off food, then load the dishwasher   (c)  Go straight into the dishwasher

      10. After mowing the lawn, what do you do with the clippings?
      (a) Leave them in the yard      (b) Bag them and put them out by the curb

      11 When a lightbulb in your house burns out, you replace it with: 
      (a) An incandescent lightbulb    (b) A compact fluorescent lightbulb (CFL)    (c) A light-emitting diode (LED) bulb

      12. You’re cleaning out the medicine cabinet and find a bunch of expired medications. Do you:
      (a) Flush them down the toilet  (b) Toss them out but recycle the container   (c) Return them to the pharmacy 

      1. (a) 2 points; (b) 1; (c) 0. Fuel efficiency decreases rapidly at speeds above 60 mph, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. For every 5 mph you drive over 60, you pay an ­additional 31 cents a gallon. 

      2. (a) 0; (b) 1. Washing your car at home creates a toxic brew of oil, gasoline, and detergent that enters storm drains and flows directly into rivers, lakes, and streams. Most professional car washes use recycled water and drain their H2O into a sewer system, so sludge gets treated before reentering nature; they use 60% less water.

      3. (a) 0; (b) 2; (c) 1. Aggressive acceleration, speeding, and hard braking at traffic lights or stop signs can deflate your highway gas mileage by up to 33 percent, according to the EPA. 

      4. (a) 0; (b) 1.  Idling for 10 seconds or longer burns more gas than restarting the engine, according to the Environmental Defense Fund. 

      5. (a) 0; (b) 1; (c) 2. According to a study from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, when in use for one hour, a gas grill emits 5.6 pounds of carbon dioxide, and charcoal 11 pounds; an electric grill doesn’t emit CO2 ­directly but accounts for a whopping 15 pounds owing to the production and transmission of electricity. 

      6. (a) 1; (b) 0; (c) 2.  For big ­bashes, buying a keg and serving beer in reusable cups ­creates the least waste.  Aluminum is the next-best choice—it’s lightweight and easily recycled, landing back on shelves in 60 days or less. Glass, while also recyclable, is heavier, which means more fuel is needed to transport it. 

      7. (a) 0; (b) 1; (c) 2.    Canned salmon comes mainly from wild Alaskan waters; many salmon from other U.S. states are considered endangered or threatened. And “Atlantic” usually means “farmed,” a process that uses chemicals and unsustainable fishing practices. 

      8. (a) 1; (b) 2; (c) 0.   The average meal can travel 1,500 miles to reach your table. You can cut down on emissions by buying local produce which is ­usually organic or grown with sustainable farming practices. 

      9. (a) 0; (b) 1; (c) 2.    Running a fully loaded dishwasher may use half the energy and one-sixth less ­water than doing dishes by hand, ­according to a study by the University of Bonn in Germany. And research found that prerinsing can waste up to 6,000 gallons of water per household each year. 

      10. (a) 1; (b) 0.   Every year, Americans produce ­millions of tons of leaf and grass ­clippings; some end up in landfills. In most cases, leaving the grass on your lawn is not just greener; as the clippings decompose, they actually make the soil healthier. 

      11. (a) 0; (b) 1; (c) 2.   Super-efficient LED bulbs are expensive—you can end up paying over $20 a pop—but they last three times longer than CFLs and more than 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs. 

      12. (a) 0; (b) 1; (c) 2.    Flushing pills can send them into waterways. ­Recycling the container is a good move, but it’s best to return ­medications to your pharmacist, who will dispose of them properly.


      0–7 points: Pale Green. It’s time to get more eco-conscious. Start small—for instance, by replacing just five regular lightbulbs with low-energy bulbs. When you shop, look for products with minimal packaging (read: less waste), and try to shave one minute off your daily shower—you’ll save up to 1,000 gallons of water each year.

      8–14 points: Bright Green. The planet’s health is on your radar, but it’s not always your top priority. Want to take your good intentions a step further? For better gas mileage, use cruise control whenever possible and ­remove unnecessary weight from the trunk. Install low-flow showerheads and toilets in your bathroom. And buy power strips you can easily switch off when appliances are not in use. 

      15–21 points: Fluorescent Green. For an environmental expert like you, it is easy being green. So share your knowledge. Launch a reusable lunch box campaign at your kid’s school in which you ask parents to replace plastic baggies and forks with washable Tupperware and cutlery. Or start a neighborhood carpool for weekend ­errands—like a trip to the farmers’ market. 

      May 17, 2012

      Got stuff? Here's what to do with some pesky items.

      Spring is still here so cleaning out before you throw open your doors for summer warmth is still a good idea.
      Check out the list if items, what to do with them, and where to take them!  Sometimes a "FREE" box works if set at your curb.

      (1) Worn out linens old towels, sheets and dishtowels. You can only keep so many rags.  If you can sew, there are many options, if not..... a) Bring them to your local animal shelter, b) make a bib for a baby, c) donate to Salvation Army and Goodwill. 

      (2) Outdated cell phones. Delete the data and send off to Cell Phones for Soldiers, bring to Best Buy or Home Depot. Many carriers and charities have their own programs.

      (3) Paid bills.  With all of the digital back-ups, you likely won't need a paper version of statements of old bills from the 1990's. Scan and store the ones you need for IRS backup! Shred and recycle the rest.

      (4) Hangers. Metal hangers can go to your local drycleaner. You can make many things with the wire...check out some on-line projectsO IF you have time.  Goodwill won't take empty ones but Salvation Army takes wooden and plastic ones.

      (5) Extra kitchen gadgets. Don't use that huller you got from someone 5 years ago? Cookie cutters may be useful for many projects, but the rest can be donated so someone else can enjoy a one-purpose tool that you don't use!

      (6) VHS tapes, cassettes, and similar items. Digitize what you want to keep. Do it on-line or through a local service.  Some bookstore and thrift shops take them. Greendisk will recycle them.

      (7) Furniture, sports equipment, yard tools, toys & bikes are best sold at a yard sale.  Craig's list is for home gyms, large bookshelves, and appliances.

      (8) Personal care products. Share with friends, donate to a local church, bring to a shelter, unused things can go to Freecycle, or  empty them and recycle the container!

      (9) Clothes, hobby pasts, dishes, shoes, decor.  Donate or share. A yard sale won't net much so it's often not worth the time. Local charities like Goodwill, Salvation Army, and more (check your neighborhood for animal shelter and church thrift shops, women's and homeless shelters, and those that donate across international borders).

      (10) Books and records. Many libraries have book sale outlets so you may be able to sell first editions at a used bookstore.  Same for vinyl records.  Trade technical books for new editions when possible (used bookshop, college store), donate to an international book donation program in your area, donate to a thrift store, swap with friends, recycle what can be!