25 May 2016

Stylish Shade Ideas for Your Patio

What’s more fun than an afternoon backyard barbeque, cocktails al fresco or a fancy garden party? Unless you’re fortunate enough to pick cloudy days for all your outdoor gatherings, you’ll need to find a source of shade to protect your guests from the effects of the scorching summer sun. 

Not to worry, there are plenty of stylish solutions for creating cooling shade for your patio, backyard or pool deck. Keep your friends and family cool and out of the sun’s harmful rays with these super shady ideas!

This is probably the cheapest sun blocker around. Patio umbrellas range in size from 5 feet up to 12 feet in diameter. Umbrellas are perfect to protect small seating or dining areas and can be set up anywhere and on any surface.

Many models can be had for $100 or less. They’re highly portable so they can follow the party anywhere. Umbrellas come in a wide variety of colors and patterns to coordinate with your outdoor decor. You can also choose from different styles and like cantilever, market and parasol.

A pergola is typically made from wood and attaches to the house like a patio cover or can be freestanding like a gazebo. This traditional Italian design consists of four structural columns and a roof system of beams and cross rafters that help block the sun while keeping the roof open.

Pergolas create architectural interest unlike other common patio structures. For a classic look, plant trailing vines at the base of the columns. The greenery will create additional shade and a garden-like environment.

Gazebos date back to ancient Egypt and are round or octagonal in shape. They feature a conical roof, floorboards and side railing. Traditional gazebos are permanent structures made from wood or metal, however portable versions are now available that consist of a fabric canopy over a metal armature.

Like a freestanding pergola, a gazebo is the ideal addition to your landscapes. In a garden, gazebos make a lovely focal point and are perfect for taking in the surrounding views while offering shade from the sun. 

Retractable Awning
Retractable awnings are weather proof fabric shades attached to the side of a house. They can either be opened via a manual crank or motorized system. They are designed to cover a large area to keep the entire patio shaded.

The lateral arm design creates a flat or slightly angled fabric “roof” that can be outfitted with a drop valance to shield guests from intense late afternoon sun. These awnings not only protect your outdoor furniture from the effects of the sun, they can also protect your indoor upholstery and flooring. Like umbrella fabric, you can choose from many different colors and designs.

Sail Shade

This type of outdoor shade is based on the design of a ship’s sail. Sail shades are durable high-density mesh fabric shapes stretched between three or four anchor points. They provide a dramatic and sculptural way to shade your outdoor entertaining area.

Choose between triangles or squares in different shapes and colors to create a stylishly modern outdoor space. They can block up to 95 percent of the sun’s harmful UV rays and lower the temperature around 15 degrees. Sail shade installation can range from a weekend DIY project to a job best handled by professionals.


19 May 2016

Color Cache | Gray

It seems gray has become the go-to neutral. We thought this color trend would eventually ebb but it seems to have taken on a life of its own. There are a few reasons it has staying power: It’s more sophisticated than say, beige, it adds depth to pastels and gray is the perfect foil for bright colors. Add a little or a lot to a room to create an elegant and timeless palette.

Understanding Gray
Gray is one of the most misunderstood colors in the decorating world. While on the surface it may seem unemotional and boring, gray is actually confident, reliable and composed. But it can be transformed into an exciting hue depending on its particular undertones. Add black and gray becomes dramatic. A little blue will give it a cool, icy feel. A dash of pink will heat things up.

Decorating with Gray
If you’ve decided to commit to gray, you have to decide which gray you want. Getting the right shade of gray can be a tricky process. If your room has blues and greens, you definitely want to avoid a warm gray. Conversely, a room with red, orange and yellow accents will look decidedly off with cool gray walls.

Opt for flat gray paint instead of a sheen unless you want your room to look like an industrial shipping container. Even though some designers are going with an easy-clean eggshell finish for busy family households, flat gray paint will actually hide flaws nicely.

For a crisp, tailored look consider bright white trim, crown and base molding to accent your gray walls. If you think stark white is too harsh, choose a white with a touch of gray like White Dove OC-17 by Benjamin Moore.

Gray is reminiscent of shadow, so you’ll want to include lots of natural and artificial illumination. Use gray in a room that has plenty of windows. Make sure you also brighten things up with a combination of ambient, access and task lighting with table lamps, chandeliers, floor lamps and sconces. Layered lighting brightens the gray and creates a flattering effect.

 Emily May via Flicker

11 May 2016

5 Easiest and Tastiest Herbs to Grow

Stop paying high prices for packages of fresh herbs at the grocery store when you can easily grow them at home. Stake out a small patch of ground in your backyard, plant a container garden or tend a few pots on your kitchen windowsill. Fresh herbs are chocked full of nutrients and flavor to perk up your favorite recipes. Grow herbs for use in everyday recipes and dry them for winter soups and stews. It's easy to start a herb garden with these popular varieties.

1. Parsley
Parsley is one of the most common herbs used in cooking. The two main types are curly and flat leaf parsley. Curly parsley is familiar as a garnish and has a very pronounced flavor when used in cooking. Flat leaf or Italian parsley has a subdued flavor and is used in sauces, salads and soup. Plant your parsley in well-drained, loamy soil for optimum results. Easy-to-grow parsley thrives in directly sunlight, but tolerates partial shade.

2. Mint
Mint is an easy growing perennial used in variety of recipes or as a flavoring and garnish for drinks. Mint prefers moist soil and partial shade. However, once the plants are established, little care is required to maintain this hardy herb. Mint will overtake your garden if left unattended, so it is recommended to use mint as a container plant.

3. Thyme
Thyme is a pungent herb featured in meat and poultry recipes. Thyme is happy in your outdoor herb garden or in a container. Plant creeping thyme in your landscape beds an alternative ground cover. Thyme is not particular about soil or nutrients. Just provide the plants with a well-drained, general purpose potting soil and plenty of sun.

4. Basil
Basil is an annual herb notably used in Italian dishes. This herb is available in dozens of cultivars. Common sweet basil has a spicy flavor with notes of licorice and pepper. Basil is a relatively tall plant, growing 1 to 2 feet tall, and is at home in the garden or a terracotta pot in a sunny corner of your kitchen. Plant basil in rich potting soil and maintain a high level of moisture, but don't overwater. Start basil from seed in the kitchen or purchase a plant from the garden center. Harvest leaves often to promote abundant foliage.

5. Rosemary
Rosemary is a fragrant, attractive addition to your landscape. Purchase low-growing or upright rosemary plants. Plant your rosemary outdoors in containers or in the ground as shrubs. Rosemary is ideal as an aromatic ground cover. In the spring, rosemary produces sweet-smelling, diminutive blue flowers that are quite attractive to bees. Purchase bagged potting soil or amend your landscape soil with potting soil. Place rosemary plants in a sunny location and water liberally when the soil becomes dry. Rosemary is a hardy plant that stands up to frost, but it will not survive a hard freeze.

If you want to cultivate your own herb garden, you can either start it from seed or purchase small plants from the local nursery or home improvement center. Whichever way you choose, you will thoroughly enjoy growing and harvesting these herbs for your culinary endeavors.

04 May 2016

Design Crush | What the Heck Is Shiplap?

Shiplap is the rustic building material that’s got everyone buzzing these days. If you’re not lucky enough to have it hiding behind your drywall, you can purchase shiplap pine board from the local home improvement center and recreate a room à la HGTV’s Fixer Upper. Whether you choose the real deal, MDF or a trompe l’oeil version, shiplap will add texture and character to any wall surface indoors or out.

So, what the heck is shiplap?

Shiplap is horizontal wood plank paneling originally used in buildings like storage sheds, barns or even camp homes. It’s typically made from pine or cedar and features a rabbet along one edge and a slot along the other so the boards overlap slightly and fit together to create a seamless look.

The tight seal created by the panel design made it perfect for siding that could withstand the elements and didn’t require much upkeep. Shiplap was also used for interior walls in pre-war homes, but in most cases was subsequently covered in drywall to give rooms a more contemporary appearance.

 White shiplap walls are perfect for a gender-neutral nursery from The Mountain View Cottage.

Studio McGee creates an indoor-outdoor feel for the mudroom with shiplap walls.

 Original unfinished shiplap in this Houston residence courtesy of Martha Turner at Sotheby's.

 Lamps Plus shows us that shiplap also works beautifully in damp areas like the master bath.

 Sarah at All Things With Purpose did this great faux shiplap backsplash with vinyl flooring planks.

 Decorpad goes against the grain to prove shiplap can be installed vertically.

 The Wicker House teaches you how to create super easy shiplap with paint and a pencil.

 Shiplap in a minimal Hamptons bedroom from Remodelista.


28 April 2016

Quick Clicks | Warm Weather Finds

Hard to believe it's almost time for grass mowing, lazy summer afternoons and backyard grilling. If you're enjoying warmer weather, no doubt you've already hit the stores for outdoor decor inspiration. If you're still in the grip of spring's chill, don't give up hope--we're here to lift you out of the cold weather doldrums. Feast your eyes on these fabulous finds and remember...warm temps and loads of sunshine are right around the corner!

Arabesque Square Outdoor Pillow Crate and Barrel $35.00 | Bordeaux Planter, Tall Gardener's Supply Co. $115.00 | Nouveau Stripe Tablecloth Bed Bath and Beyond $7.99 - $14.99 | Threshold Harper Metal Patio Bistro Set Target $184.00 | Safavieh Quatrefoil Garden Stool Goedeker's $137.99 | California Umbrella 9 ft Home Depot $41.72 | Khadir Metal Garden Bench by Bungalow Rose Wayfair 245.99 | Tidal Beverage Dispenser Frontgate $79.50 | Certified International Barcelona by Jennifer Brinley 8-pc. Beverage Set Kohl's 54.99 | Wicker String Chair At Home $59.99 | Summer Stripes Beverage Tub with Stand Personal Creations $69.99 | Andros Outdoor Rug Multi One Kings Lane $19.00 - $399.00

20 April 2016

Understanding Different Curtain Rod Styles

A rod is key to hanging most types of standard curtains and drapery. Depending which style you choose, curtains typically attach by way of rings, carriers, loops or pockets. Curtain rods run the gamut of styles and prices, from inexpensive expansion rods to custom length decorative poles. With the wide variety of options available, there is certainly a rod style perfectly suited to your curtains.

The category of conventional curtain rods consists of wood or metal poles in varying diameters. Retailers offer conventional wooden poles in standard lengths as well as adjustable length metal rods. Ready-made conventional rods often come as part of a set with matching wall brackets, finials and rings. Specialty manufacturers make custom curtain rods based on a client’s exact specifications. Custom curtain rods cost considerably more than ready-made, but afford a homeowner the ability to create the perfect design, finish and configuration.

Your grandmother’s style of curtain rod may be the modern solution for covering large window openings. The versatile traverse rod can be ceiling or wall mounted and spans vast expanses of window with ease. Commonly used with pinch-pleated curtains or sheers outfitted with drapery pins, traverse rods consist of a metal track with carriers. The drapery hooks insert into a small hole at the bottom of each carrier. Traverse rods feature either one-way or two-way open and close with the pull of a cord or the click of a remote.

Swing Arm
Swing arm rods work in certain applications where other styles of curtain rods will not. They are easily identifiable in that they attach to only one side of a window and operate on a hinge. The rod or arm slides into a bracket mounted to the wall. The arm swings over the window opening like a fabric door. A set of swing arm curtain rods dressed with sheers creates a stylish cover for French doors. Consider swing arm rods for door sidelights and narrow windows, as well.

Continental curtain rods are the unsung heroes of the curtain world. Use these expandable rods to hang rod pocket curtains and valances. Made from enamel-coated metal, the flat profile of the continental rod remains completely concealed beneath gathered and shirred curtain headers. Continental rods range in width from 2 1/2 to 4 inches to accommodate a variety of rod pocket depths. Choose this rod style when looking for an economical method for curtain installation.

Tension rods provide a quick and easy curtain hanging option. These rods remain in place thanks to a spring and screw mechanism that creates pressure between the rod ends and wall. Tension rods adjust in length giving them the ability to fit most average size window openings. Tension rods have no screws or mounting hardware, leaving walls and window frames undamaged. The rubber tipped ends of the rod fit snugly inside a window frame or doorway.

Important Considerations
  • It’s usually best to choose your curtain before your curtain rod. Depending on the length, color, and weight of the curtains, you might go with a thick rod, a thin rod, or a rod in a particular color or finish.
  • For stationary curtain panels, sheers, or valances, use standard curtain rods, sash rods, cafe rods, or tension rods.
  •  For curtains that draw back and forth across a wide expanse of window, use traverse rods.
  •  For a layered treatment, you can install both standard curtain rods and traverse rods or a double rod configuration.
Quinn Dombroski via flickr

14 April 2016

Divine Dining Room Ideas Designed to Delight

Yes, we admit it. We love alliteration. And we love gorgeous dining rooms. Maybe you love to host fabulous dinner parties or are more satisfied setting a casual table for weeknight family dinners. In either case, the dining room should be the heart of your home where family and friends connect.

Sadly, sometimes the dining room loses its identity when saddled with the activities of daily life. Whether overtaken by the kids’ school projects, designated as your home office or recruited to store odds and ends, you can bring your dining room back to its former self by injecting it with a healthy dose of your signature design aesthetic. Use these stylish decorating ideas as a springboard to transform your dining room from drab to delightfully divine!

Don’t Hesitate, Illuminate
One of the main elements critical to a functional and beautiful dining room is proper illumination. Lighting can set a romantic mood or brighten the room for a celebratory event. Use several light sources to create just the right effect. A chandelier or pendant fixture directs light onto the table surface, while recessed fixtures creates visual warmth throughout the space.

Be sure to install dimmer switches on each fixture so you can control the amount of light. For a modern, streamlined look, choose industrial pendants positioned over the table. A sparkling crystal chandelier imparts a touch of elegance to traditional rooms.

Go Green
Add life to your dining room with houseplants. They not only provide color, visual interest and texture—they even purify the air! Plants are one of the most economical ways to spruce up your dining space. Make a big statement with a potted tree such as ficus benjamina, areca palm or fiddle leaf fig.

If your thumb is not of the green variety, use silk imposters that look almost as good as the real deal.  The larger the plant, the higher the price tag, so you may want to stick with smaller versions like popular succulents to create a living, growing centerpiece.

Take a Seat
Think outside the dining room and come up with some unconventional seating ideas. Use an assortment of wooden side chairs and comfortable upholstered chairs at head the table. Or, forgo chairs altogether by turning a corner of small dining room into a cozy banquette. If your dining chairs are a little past their prime, why not reinvent them? Slipcovers are a quick and easy way to completely change the look of any chair.

Make a Statement
Use a combination of complementary colors and variety of patterns to make a bold statement in your dining room. Take a look at the color wheel and pick two colors situated opposite each other. This strategy is the perfect way to create a foolproof color palette. As long as you remain consistent with your two main colors, you can have a ball mixing in patterns at will. Go crazy with geometrics, ikats, florals, stripes and plaids on the walls, dinnerware, upholstery and flooring.

Look Up
When decorating your dining room, don’t forget the ceiling. It’s considered the fifth wall, you know. Detail such as beams, corbels or an intricate ceiling medallion will bring high ceilings down to size and create architecture where there was none. Other ways to create depth and drama include painting the ceiling a deep, rich paint color, applying reflective gold leaf or hanging patterned wallpaper up the walls and onto the ceiling itself.

Create a Narrative
Select a piece that tells a story and make it a focal point in the room. It could be a weathered farmhouse china cabinet, the deal of the century Duncan Phyfe table or your grandmother’s cherished buffet mirror.

If you don’t have any large-scale items to showcase, display your favorite dinnerware, silver or mismatched china for all to see and enjoy. Set the table even if you’re not expecting guests. Hang plates on the wall in a grouping as artwork.

06 April 2016

8 Essential Tools to Create Beautiful Bonsai

Spring has officially sprung so what better time to talk plants? While bonsai may not be a mainstream gardening technique, it is becoming increasingly popular here in the states. If you're serious about becoming an enthusiast of this ancient Japanese art form, proper gardening tools play an important role in even the most basic bonsai creation.

Each bonsai tool performs a specific task related to the shaping and training of these exquisitely beautiful living masterpieces. The sheer number of bonsai tools available makes it difficult to decide which ones to purchase if you’re new to the art form. Luckily, beginning bonsai gardeners need only a few key tools to get started with this fun and rewarding pastime.

Bonsai enthusiasts utilize different types of shears (or scissors) for controlling the growth of tree specimens. Specialized shears come in a range of sizes. Large shears allow the user to prune thick branches from the bonsai, but cannot manage delicate shaping work. Small bud scissors fit into tight spaces to trim delicate growth like leaves and buds.

Concave Pruner
The concave pruner performs an essential function for the bonsai cultivator. This pruner removes branches by creating a depression wound on the trunk or branch of the bonsai. The elongated cut of the concave pruner ensures rapid healing and minimal scarring.

Wire Cutters
Training the growth of bonsai typically involves the aid of wire to properly position the branches and trunk. Standard wire cutting tools work for cutting lengths of wire; however, once in place, specially designed bonsai cutters snip the training wire without causing damage to the tree.

Root Hook
Repotting bonsai requires a gentle touch and the help of a special tool. The root hook or pick easily removes old soil and helps straighten tangled roots. The single prong of the bonsai root hook cleans the root system, causing little bruising and breakage. The root hook features a rounded tip to further lessen damage to the plant.

Jin Pliers
Accomplish advanced techniques of jin and shari (deadwood) on bonsai with a pair of jin pliers. The pliers compress and tear away bark and wood to create the appearance of dead, weathered limbs on the bonsai. Use jin pliers to tie and unwind training wire.

Trunk Splitter
On occasion, bonsai training calls for a heavy-duty tool. Splitters separate the trunk and thick branches along their length to facilitate positioning. The trunk splitter removes wood in layers, making it easier to bend and shape.

Knob Cutter
The half-sphere blades of the knob cutter resemble a parrot’s beak. This design allows the knob cutter to quickly nibble away at unwanted surface wood. The bonsai knob cutter cleanly removes undesirable bumps, knots or raised scarring on branches and trunks with a biting motion. The tool eliminates excess trunk material to ensure the proper fit of bonsai into its container.

Root Cutter
Root cutters do just what their name implies. While other bonsai gardening tools can be used for the job, the thick blades of the root cutter resist damage from stubborn stumps and stones. The root cutter design resembles a branch or trunk splitter with narrow, angled blades.


30 March 2016

Decorating an Old World Style Home Office

When redecorating your office, consider influences from the Old World. If you love color, texture and history why not update your bland workspace by taking cues from classic and time-honored European decor?

Much of Old World design is based on a palette of rich colors, substantial furniture and textural layers. There are many materials and furnishings available to help you achieve the look without breaking the bank. Capture the essence of the old country by adding a few simple touches or tackling a complete home office redesign.

Saturated Colors and Textures
Choose textured stucco, wood paneling or a simple wash of paint and glaze on the walls to achieve the look of an ancient castle or weathered villa. Acceptable wall colors are umbers, grays, browns, creams and golds.

Add a striking architectural element to your office with rustic ceiling beams of wood or molded foam (at a fraction of the cost of actual wood.) Flooring options include dark, rough-hewn wood plank, wood laminate and tumbled stone tiles. Lay a random tile pattern of large scale tiles in various sizes for an old world look.

Opulent Fabrics
Use textural fabrics in rich colors and patterns for upholstery, drapes and pillows. Chenilles, antiqued silks and damasks will be right at home in your Old World study. Leather upholstery for desk, guest and occasional chairs is the perfect contrast to the rich textures of the textiles. Persian rugs are an authentic choice for this decor and coordinate well with brocade wall tapestries. Or use understated jute or seagrass area rugs to add a modern twist to your Old World vision.

Significant Furniture Pieces
The furniture of old Europe is commonly constructed of iron, rustic woods or fine hardwoods with accents of leather, stone or iron. Select office furniture pieces with character and appear as if they were collected over time, rather than purchased as a matching set. Choose dark, rich wood furniture finishes that coordinate with your architectural elements.

Romantic Accessories and Lighting
A large ceramic urn in the warm colors of a Tuscan sunset add visual interest as a floor accent. Coordinate smaller accessories in shades of red, cobalt, olive green and sunflower yellow--colors found in the hand painted pottery of the region. Opt for leather desk accessories to keep your office design true to it's Old World roots.

Wrought iron chandeliers, sconces and task lighting in rubbed bronze or rust finishes are the best choices to enhance natural light and add warmth to your office. Consider adorning the walls of your office with iron wall grilles, an ornate tapestry, landscape prints, a large antique-look clock and an oversized cork board with a ornate frame.


23 March 2016

Timeless Home Decorating Tips

If you’re tired of chasing the latest home decor trends, why not concentrate on creating timeless design so your home remains stylish for years to come? When you’re in the process of redecorating and want a truly classic look, consider these simple design basics. They’ll work for any room in your home and save you tons of money in the long run. How good is that?

Subtle Trends
Even if you love following current trends (as most of us do), you can still create a timeless look by incorporating a popular pattern and color with throw pillows or even painting an accent wall. These are easy changes to take advantage of trends that tend to come and go and will keep your spaces looking fresh and relevant.

Clean Lines
Whether your house is a Victorian manse or Mid-Century jewel, remember less is best. Minimize clutter on surfaces as well as your furniture layout. You’ll have less to clean and won’t have things blocking traffic flow. In addition, your furniture should work with the scale and proportion of the room. This will prevent spaces from looking overcrowded.

Comfortable Seating
In today’s world, comfortable seating is a must-have. Would you consider a chair timeless if it was so uncomfortable you couldn’t even sit in it? Fill your home with pieces that not only work with your design style but also feel comfy and welcoming.

Natural Light
No matter how many layers of artificial light you use in your home, don’t forget to include El Sol. It is the most flattering of light sources and provides a glow that incandescent fixtures just can’t duplicate. While you want to protect fine rugs and upholstery from sun damage during certain times of day, you’ll want to let in as much natural light as possible to make the most of your timeless decor.

Quality Accessories
Select accessories and art with a discerning eye. No matter your budget, choose the best items you can afford. Buy one or two accessories or pieces of art rather than over-buying just for the sake of filling a space.

Functional Pieces
As trendy as that driftwood coffee table with the glass top might be, does it really make sense when you have a pair of toddlers in the house? It may look great in the magazine and in your living room but something says you’ll be sorry if you give in to form over function. Here’s a timeless decor rule that will never steer you wrong: Buy furniture pieces designed for everyday use that fit your lifestyle.

Practical Storage
Timeless home decor also includes smart storage solutions. You can make it simple or take it over the top. From wall cubbies or a row of handy coat hooks to a custom closet storage system, it is easy to make practical storage components an integral part of your design style.

Color Cues
Find a color palette that suits your personal aesthetic. Fill your space with warm, cozy hues or cool, modern tones. Whichever palette you prefer, your home will look chic regardless of the latest color trends.