Friday, July 21, 2017

Home Decorating Tips for the Fashion-Obsessed

Can’t resist a deal on Michael Kors shoes, bags, shirts…or anything? We love to help homeowners celebrate their individual sense of style all throughout their home. If your love of fashion has reached a new level, consider some of these tips for weaving your aesthetic and personality into every room of your home.

Play With Texture and Color

When it comes to creating the perfect outfit, you probably consider every element and how it will all work together. From shine to ruffles, lace, and mesh, textures are essential to consider when creating an aesthetic. Ruffles and lace cue a romantic or blush vibe, while sleek lines may sing classic beauty. The same rules go for decor. Have fun, and make bold choices!

Vary textures when choosing your textiles. Ruffled comforters are great for a cozy, fluffy bedspread, while industrial accents—like concrete, metal, and piping—offer a unique and masculine sense of style. A plush rug balances the soft with something more substantial and grounding, and sheer curtains allow in plenty of natural light for a romantic, airy atmosphere. Work with these textures to create the perfect equilibrium.

Color works the same way. Choose your color palette for each room before you get started— searching through Pinterest or artists’ websites for color combinations is a great way to see your options before you put paint to the wall. Or, swing by the paint sample section of a home improvement store. Use fun pops of color in your textiles and smaller accents like lamps and hardware, and incorporate those various textures. It will all come together to create the perfect ensemble.

Accessorize Like a Fashionista

Longing for a bright and cheerful sunroom, but a romantic, calming bedroom? Use lighting to your advantage to create the perfect ambiance. Vary your lighting solutions to incorporate tabletop lamps, floor lamps, lanterns, track lighting, spotlighting, or anything else that helps you express your room’s story. You can even play with color and texture through your lampshades.

When it comes to accessories, use them sparingly but strategically. Anything that inspires you and coordinates with your color palette is fair game—from knickknacks to baskets, table runners, throw pillows, pictures frames, and more. Make sure not to overcrowd tables and mantels, which can cause a cluttered feeling that may elicit anxiety. Just like fashion, sometimes less can be more!

Decorate with Fashion Icons

You probably have a list of your top-five favorite celebrities of all time. Or maybe it’s fashion designers who have impacted your style and aspirations. Whether you’re inspired by a brand or product, Hollywood icon, or new fashion line, using your inspiration as artwork will weave in your passion throughout your home.

If you simply love Prada, go for some vintage advertising posters to display in your dressing room. Then incorporate some modern or avant-garde art that makes you want to shop ‘til you drop.

You can even use your fashion accessories to decorate. Perhaps you love your designer shoes so much, you want to display them on a shelf by color. Go for it! When you’re a true fashionista, your whole home is your closet, so have fun and stay creative!

Danielle Hegedus is an Atlanta based writer and home windows expert. She is a regular contributor to Modernize windows, as she loves writing about stylish window repair options as well as for a variety of lifestyle and home design websites. Danielle recently finished her first cookbook, in collaboration with Chef, Kamal Grant for Atlanta's beloved, Sublime Doughnuts.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

How to Choose a Home Decor Style that Matches Your Personality

How to Choose a Home Decor Style that Matches Your Personality
Kaitlin Krull

Finding the right design style for your home is an essential part of the decorating process. But with dozens of styles to choose from, choosing one that suits you and your family can feel like an impossible task. Whether you’re laid-back or super organized, trend-conscious or traditional, matching your home decor style to your personality will help you to feel more comfortable with your surroundings. Here are a few top tips to help you choose the right home design style for you—whatever your personality may be.

If you enjoy reading fashion and design magazines regularly and like to keep up to date with the latest trends, a home that is on the cutting edge of design style is one for you. Scour the internet for the newest and most popular decor tips and choose pieces that will make your friends and neighbors know that you understand style. As far as popular decor styles go, industrial homes with raw, unfinished wood pieces and metal accents or ultra-modern and high-tech living spaces are bang on trend.

There’s nothing wrong with knowing what you like and sticking with it time and again. If your personality is less focused on finding new and exciting things and more about keeping with tradition, a classic design style would probably be best for your home. Traditional homes are both comfortable and well organized, which gives them a homey and pleasant atmosphere. Stick with neutral color schemes and timeless fabrics and patterns to make your home’s decor relevant for years to come.

For some people, rules are made to be broken. If organization and tradition just aren’t your thing, choose a bold and unique design style that matches your outlook on life. Go retro with a mid-century modern home, upcycle vintage pieces for an eclectic look, or embrace bohemian style with tie-dyed fabrics and mismatched patterns. The sky’s the limit for a free-spirited homeowner, so choose decorative accents and color schemes that speak to you and bring you joy.

While keeping tabs on the family budget may not be everyone’s favorite pastime, some of us are just better at handling money than others. If you enjoy organizing your life, finances included, you’ll be happy to know that several trendy home design styles will be right up your street. For example, Scandinavian furniture and decor pieces are inexpensive, popular, and functional for virtually every home. It is possible to blend a comfortable Scandi design style with modern minimalism (think clean lines, metal, and glass) without breaking the bank, so why not try something new with classy, minimalist decor?

Budgets and functional pieces are all well and good, but sometimes a splurge or two is all we need to feel at home in our home. If you enjoy the finer things in life, a luxurious Hollywood Glam style home is a perfect choice for you. Although a home with glam decor features may sometimes seem over the top, you know what you like and deserve to be happy in your home. Choose lush, supersoft fabrics and large, shiny decorative accents to finish off your space—and don’t be afraid to embrace a monochromatic color scheme.

The true romantics among us believe that happiness is the only truly important thing in life. If you want your home to be happy and comfortable above all else, a rustic home decor style will tick all the right boxes. Rustic homes are traditionally rural country-style buildings with open fires and large, cozy furniture. However, home design trends over the last few years have made rustic decor current again by injecting the traditional log cabin look with an urban, industrial flair. If you want to be on top of the latest trends, then feel free to mix these two popular styles.

Home design is all about trial and error, so don’t be discouraged if your home doesn’t fit your standards immediately. If, after reading these tips, you still can’t choose the right decor style for your home, don’t despair. Mix and match any of these styles—and more—to suit your own personal tastes, and watch your home evolve in a natural and beautiful way.

About the Author:

Kaitlin Krull is a writer and mom of two girls living the expat life. She enjoys writing for the HVAC installation experts at Modernize with the goal of empowering homeowners with the expert guidance and educational tools they need to take on home remodel projects with confidence.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Are Hardwood Floors Easier to Maintain Than Carpeted Floors?

With today's busy lifestyles, most people are opting for home furnishings and materials that are easy to care for while maintaining their beauty for longer periods of time. This is especially true when choosing flooring options because floors take on so much daily wear from walking to spills to pet stains. If you are looking at choosing hardwood floors or carpeted floors, they require very different types of care to keep them looking their best.

Daily Maintenance

All manners of dirt and grime make it onto your floors every day, and so they need to be cleaned frequently. Hardwood floors and carpeted floors are relatively easy to keep up with on a daily basis. The amount of maintenance your floors require whether you choose hardwood or carpet does depend on your lifestyle, health needs, and habits.

Hardwood floors should be swept often using a broom or a dust mop. A microfiber style dust mop head works especially well at picking up dirt, crumbs, and pet hair is lightweight and is a quick process. Mopping is recommended in high-traffic areas about once or twice a week, and less frequently in lighter traffic rooms. To mop hardwood floors, you can use a quarter of a cup of mild dishwashing soap with a gallon of warm water or a cleaner recommended by the manufacturer. Just make sure the mop is only slightly damp because standing water can cause damage to even sealed hardwood floors.

Maintaining a carpeted floor is not difficult, but it can be labor-intensive. Carpets hold more allergens, dirt, and odor-causing materials, so frequent vacuuming is necessary. If you suffer from allergies, you many need to vacuum carpets in high-traffic areas daily. Also, carpets are susceptible to stains from pets, food, and tracked-in dirt, so spot-cleaning stains using a manufacturer recommended treatment will be necessary at times.

Long-Term Maintenance

To keep your floors looking fantastic for years to come, you will need to do more than the basic daily maintenance and cleaning. Hardwood floors and carpeting will both require more intensive treatments to keep them looking good. Depending on lifestyle and traffic, the frequency of deep cleaning or repairing your floors will vary.

Hardwood floors can last for generations with the proper care. While hardwood can sustain damage such as warping from liquid, scratches, dents, and dings, this damage can be fixed rather than needing to be replaced. Sanding and refinishing the damaged area is fairly inexpensive and can a weekend fix. Entire rooms can also be sanded and refinished, though that is more time consuming and labor intensive. However, this is easier and cheaper than having to replace an entire floor.

Carpet has a much shorter lifespan due to wear from traffic, stains, and odors. If damage such as unraveling, rips, or matting occurs, it generally cannot be repaired, and the carpet will have to be replaced. Having the carpets professionally steam cleaned on an annual basis will help keep your carpets looking newer for longer periods and can remove allergens, smells, and even set-in stains.

Jessica Kane is a writer for GoHardwood, a premier flooring company that sells first-rate, quality hardwood flooring products for less.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Regency Shop Ball Clock

It finally arrived, the Ball Clock I ordered from Regency Shop. I made a mistake having it delivered to my home in Laredo Texas and asking a friend to bring it to our vacation home in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Their drive down was delayed a week, but everyone arrived safely today including the mid-century clock wrapped in a way that protects the clock in its travels. We were excited to unwrap our purchase.

The modern clock is 13.5 inches by 13.5 inches and has Beechwood balls of different colors on the ends of brass arms. It fits perfectly in the kitchen like a work of art. The literature describing the clock says it has a quartz movement and carries a 100% satisfaction guarantee. The sturdy design means it will last many years in our Mexican kitchen.

It was everything that Regency Shop said it was and right now you can save $100 off the retail price. I would order again from Regency Shop.

Friday, June 03, 2016

Top Green Home Updates of 2016

There’s a sweet spot where doing good for the environment and saving money intersect. In order to find yourself in the sweet spot when it comes to home improvement, it’s important to know which green updates are worth the investment.

But as we at Modernize know well, sometimes this can be tricky. We’re told to replace older appliances with newer, more efficient ones, but throwing out an appliance that still has a few years left and replacing it with a new model is a waste of resources and money. It can be difficult to confirm that a product really is better for the environment in a market where “green” and “energy efficient” are just empty words slapped onto packaging.

But whether you’re sprucing up your home to sell it, to reduce your carbon footprint, to save money on utilities, or all of the above, here are a few green updates that are definitely not bogus:

Go Solar 

2016 is an amazing year to install a residential solar energy system. The solar investment tax credit (ITC) is currently at 30 percent, but that’s only going to last through 2019. After that, it will drop down to 26 percent. Solar prices have declined steadily over the past several years, which makes it tempting to wait for an even better deal to come along. But with utility rates in many areas fluctuating, acting now may save you money in the long run, so it’s wise to learn more about installing solar in your home sooner rather than later.

Rethink Your Roofing Materials

If your asphalt roof is more than a couple decades old, it’s time to think about replacing it. Asphalt is the most common roofing choice due to its affordability, but there are more energy efficient, eco-friendly, durable, and (let’s face it) aesthetically pleasing options out there. When it comes to metal roofs, you can choose anything from aluminum to copper, but steel is one of the most common and cost-effective options. Rubber, slate, and clay tiles are also kinder to the environment than asphalt—while millions of tons of asphalt end up in landfills every year, many other roofing types can be recycled.

Build a Deck out of Responsibly-Sourced Materials

Wooden decking materials may not seem like a major perpetrator when it comes to environmental harm. But it depends on how the logging company treats the earth. Buying a product from a company that uses pesticides, endangers local wildlife, and clears entire forests means supporting that company’s practices. Instead, look for products that meet the certification standards of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), or considering building your deck from recycled materials like wood waste and recycled plastic.

Install Energy Efficient Windows
You probably already know that insulation is a make-or-break factor when it comes to energy-optimizing your home. But many homeowners are unaware of the impact the windows can have on heat transfer, HVAC performance and, of course, energy savings. If the time has come to select new windows, make sure you understand the performance ratings before you shop, and look for the Energy Star rating, which means it meets established efficiency requirements. You can also look into making your current windows more efficient by caulking, weatherstripping, and applying treatments that reduce heat transfer.

Get a Smart Thermostat

A programmable thermostat can both make your home more comfortable and save you money. It allows you to closely manage the performance of your HVAC system, as well as customize your heating and cooling needs to your schedule. Some types even learn your routine over time and automatically adjust so you don’t even have to think about it.

Revolutionize Your Furnishings

As if avoiding harmful chemicals and practices when choosing our food isn’t enough to think about, the same problems also plague our furnishings. Everything from your throw pillows to your bedframe to the paint on your walls may have a darker backstory than you realize. When you shop for new furnishings, look for pieces made out of sustainable wood and recycled materials. Look for the Greenguard certification, which signifies that a product has low chemical emissions.

If you want to add value to your home and help preserve the environment, the best method with which to approach any update is to look beyond the label and be prepared to research in order to understand what’s truly good for your pocket, your home, and the environment. 

Monday, April 25, 2016

Chicken Footstools

I've seen sofas shaped like cows, and bar stools in Las Vegas shaped like animals. I have never seen footstools shaped like chickens that you can adopt until now. The citygirlfarm, makes handcrafted chicken footstools in Kansas City, Missouri. You can view their website at

The Chicken Little footstools stand 12” tall and weigh about 12 lbs while the Chicken footstools stand 17” tall and weigh about 25 lbs. They take a lot of love and care to make, from casting the bronze for their beaks and feet, turning wood on a lathe to create the egg that forms their body to the detailed fiber work it takes to create their ‘feathers’, all of which are hand-crafted.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

How to Solve the Biggest Problems with Interior Design

Photo via WikiCommons

When you think about interior design, thoughts of beautiful upholstery, decorative wall hangings and more may come to mind. While a thoughtful, effective interior design will improve the look of your space, it also can solve many of the functional challenges that you face in the home. For example, the right design can help you to save energy or can improve storage space. If you are looking for some wonderful design ideas to incorporate into your home, these are some thoughtful options to consider.

Add Etched Glass Doors to Your Study
When study doors are solid, they will block light and can make the space look closed off. However, you may desire privacy in your study and need to keep the doors closed.
Glass doors may allow light to filter in, but they will not give you the privacy you desire. Etched glass is a gorgeous, practical option that resolves this challenge. The etched glass provides privacy in the room when the doors are closed while also allowing light to filter into the space.

Add Upward-Facing Wall Sconces and Lamps
If your ceilings are rather low and you are looking for a way to make your space appear to have more height, installing upward-facing wall sconces is a great idea. An alternative to this is to choose lamps that radiate light upward. When light streams upward, the desired illusion of height is created.

Install Wood Beams in Narrow Rooms
If there are rooms in your home that are long and narrow, you can create the illusion of width by installing wood beams in these rooms. The beams can run lengthwise along the narrowest dimension of the room, and this can play with the eye to create a space that looks wider than it actually is. The wood beams should ideally be a contrasting color from the ceiling for the best results.

Select Window Treatments With Care
Window treatments can be used for everything from promoting privacy to controlling sunlight and improving energy efficiency. Each room may have a different combination of needs that you need to fulfill with your window treatments, and each window treatment type can provide different benefits. While it is critical to select the right type for the space, it is also important to focus on style and how the style impacts the look in the room. Professional design assistance from a window treatment specialist may benefit you.

Place a Focal Point Behind Large Furnishings
Large furnishings can be a focal point in a room, and this can include your bed, a sofa or other large pieces. However, you typically do not want a focal point to be a piece of furniture because this can draw the eye downward. Therefore, placing a focal point on the wall will draw the attention of the eye upward. The wall covering should be large enough so that it balances the weight of the furniture that it is next to.

Use Hanging Shelves and Cabinets When Floor Space is Limited
In many rooms of the home, you may need more storage space than you have available, but it may not be practical to add a shelf or cabinet to the room because of limited floor space. While horizontal space on the floor may be limited, vertical space may not be. Hanging shelves and cabinets can be placed in strategic locations for storage, and if you choose decorative pieces, you can also dress up your room while adding the extra storage you need.

Add Mirrors to Smaller Rooms
In some areas of the home, the rooms may feel closed off and cramped. This may be in a smaller living area that has little windows, a cozy bedroom or even a long, narrow hallway. Many smaller rooms also can feel darker, and a great way to resolve both of these issues is to add mirrors to the walls. An alternative would be to add furnishings that have mirrors on them, such as a mirrored china cabinet in a small dining room.

Install a Decorative Overhead Light in Small Spaces
In many rooms, creating a focal point on the wall is a great idea. However, when a room is small, when a ceiling is low or when you are dealing with a combination of both of these, it may be best to draw attention of the eye upward. A smaller decorative light fixture is a great option because it places a focal point in the upper center of the room.

Interior design is about adding style to the space, and it also can improve many of the functional challenges that you are facing. Take time to pinpoint all of the challenges that you are facing in each room before selecting design ideas to incorporate into your space. This will help you to generate the best results possible.

Mikkie Mills is a Chicago native who loves to save money and help others do the same. When I'm not writing, I'm chasing the little ones around or rock climbing at the local climbing gym." 

Thursday, December 03, 2015

4 Tips to Give Furniture a Rustic Look

Vintage furniture are back, so it is time to visit your grand parents' attic to find a few hidden gems. Many of you might have pieces of furniture that need a little touch in order to look perfect. Here are four tips that can help you in the process.

1. Distressing
You would initially have to start with distressing your furniture. This means you would have to scrape off any old paint that is currently on the piece. You can either use an electric sander or sandpaper to wipe off the paint. You might be required to use a chemical cleaner if the paint is applied quite thickly. Once you are done with the cleaning part, dry the furniture using a rag to remove any dirt that is left.

The next step is to paint the furniture in a manner such that an anti dilutive look is achieved. Do remember that rustic furniture does not have heavy coats of paint and therefore you must dilute the paint. You can choose any kind of paint such as oil based paints or water based paints. Apply the paint by using a rag or brush although a rag results in better effects. Once the first layer is applied allow it to dry off and then apply the second layer. You can add more layers if you want to but do remember that rustic furniture is all about less paint and have a more worn out look. In case you have applied more paint than you want, you can use a sandpaper to wipe off the excess paint.

You can also apply opaque color paint directly and then wipe it off the cloth immediately after applying. This way any excess paint would be removed immediately and you would need to spend less effort and time.

Although this might seem quite obvious, this is nevertheless an important step. If you do not allow the paint to dry off and move to the next step, all your effort would not be realized as the furniture would fail to achieve the desired look. You need to make sure that the furniture item is allowed to dry off in a ventilated area, away from people or pets who might ruin the paint job.

Once the paint has dried off, you would now need to seal it with satin polyurethane that would act as a sealant and protect the furniture. However, do not apply the sealer with a rag but rather with a brush to ensure smooth application.

The simple process of whitewashing can allow you to bring a rustic charm to the interior of your room. The process is quite simple and does not require a person to master any specific technique and therefore is a must do it yourself project.

Chris is an experienced interior designer and craftman. Chris regularly writes for Christophe Living. Over the last 4 years, Chris has written numerous articles and is an active forum contributor.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

5 Things to Be Careful About When Buying Antique Furniture

Antique furniture makes a wonderful addition to your home. The look and ambiance created by it are splendid but you need to be careful when buying it. Antique furniture costs more than new pieces and you have to make sure that you are spending your money carefully. Here are 5 things you have to be careful about when buying antique furniture.  

Is It Antique?
A piece of antique furniture will not have the answer written on it. You have to make sure that the furniture you are looking at is really antique. There are fraudulent sellers who pass off new furniture as antique and sell it for more than its value. A careful examination of the furniture shows if it has been around for a century or just a few years. If possible, have an expert determine the exact date of production. Ask the seller himself to tell you about the furniture. If you are doubtful about the authenticity, it is better to keep your wallet in pocket.

Additions or Removal
The furniture should be intact with no additions or removals made later on. Antique furniture has full value if it has been intact throughout its life. Any alterations made to it will reduce the authenticity and design. Everything attached to the furniture including handles, buttons and stands should be original. Otherwise, the furniture won’t be worthy to purchase.

Working Condition
The furniture you’ll buy should be in perfect working condition. Age causes deterioration and wear and tear and you should ensure that there are no such issues with the furniture you’re eyeing to buy. After all, antique furniture is old and it is prone to some wear and tear.

If it’s in good working condition, this means that it has stood the test of time and will last for a while. Scrutinize the antique piece you are yearning to buy.  Find someone who has an eye and knowledge on antique to boost your confidence when buying.

Licensed Dealer
The furniture dealer you are transacting with should be licensed and reliable. There are many fake suppliers who sell bogus antique furniture. You don’t want to lose your hard-earned money to cons. Check the reliability of the dealer before you make the final purchase. Moreover, trusted furniture dealers have the best antique furniture to offer. If you want to buy the best antique furniture, you need to find the best dealer.

Time Period and Style
Find out all you can about the time period and style to which the piece of antique furniture belongs. That way, you can decorate a whole room in the same style and theme. If you already have a themed room in your home, you can find the right antique furniture to go with it. You can adopt a new theme for your sitting room or lounge.

These are 5 things you have to be careful about when buying antique furniture. Make sure you follow these tips so that you can buy the best antique furniture for your home.

Chris has a passion for antique furniture and he writes about his expertise in Christophe Living. When he is not working, Chris enjoys blogging.

Monday, November 23, 2015

How Interior Design Has Helped Define the World We Live In

Through the years, interior design has both taken inspiration from the changing world and offered inspiration in turn. From incorporating new promising technologies to suggesting new intriguing color combinations, designers have partnered with culture to advance innovation and creativity the world over. Some interior designers have become world famous as a result of their impact while others have gone quietly with their legacy largely unrecognized.

Regardless, it has become nearly impossible to separate out culture and the design that defines it — so much so that historians often comment on the interior design customs of different time periods as a matter of routine. In this post, learn more about how interior design is even now helping to define the world we live in today.

Designing Accommodations for World Leaders
Perhaps one of the best known modern interior design artists is Philippe Starck. In 1982, Starck received a commission to design the interior of then-President of France Francois Mitterrand's apartment.

Suffice it to say he has been a recognized world leader in interior design ever since. As well, many of his designs have become incorporated into popular design trends of this century, most especially his chair and stool designs.

Integrating Design Elements from Different Fields
Another way interior design has helped define the culture of each time period is in its efforts to show how different fields complement one another in a design space. For instance, combining
sleek glass doors with flowing neon light tubes, translucent Lucite with minimalist architecture such as Egypt's Karim Rashid has done can take an average space and create an all-inclusive cultural experience.

From advances in lighting and art to developments in music and metals, taking different elements from various fields and bringing them together helps define what that period's culture is really all about.

Finding the Midpoint Where Divergent Materials Can Meet
Architects-turned-designers such as Federico Delrosso are modern masters of making divergent groups of materials work and play well together. By pairing concrete and glass, wood and metal, and other unexpected duos, Delrosso makes his own statement for finding ways to work together, get along and appreciate differences as cultural strengths rather than weaknesses.

This is a particularly important message as the influence of the internet grows and the world it connects begins to feel increasingly smaller and more homogeneous.

Saving the Planet One Eco-Friendly Design at a Time
Another way that modern interior design is increasingly helping to not just define but save the world we live in today is through incorporating eco-friendly, environmentally sustainable concepts into today's designs. Famous designer Robin Wilson, "designer to the celebrities," is just one such interior designer who is becoming well known for her commitment to using "green" materials sourced from the local communities where she lives and works.

Her own interest in such an endeavor began when she was a child plagued by allergies. Today, she is not just an ambassador to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America but a well-known interior designer who favors soy mattresses, rubber-backed tiles, non-toxic dyes and paints, organic linens and other planet-friendly choices.

Making a Political Statement Through Interior Design
One only has to take a tour of the White House to realize the vastly different preferences and tastes of various United States Presidents. Often termed a "living museum" for this and other reasons, many rooms bear the unique design stamps of both the historical period it was designed in and the reigning leader during that period.

In some sense, historians even view this as a type of "political branding" which helped that President establish and maintain consistency of message and policy during the term(s) served. Here, this view is inclusive of selected colors, rug weaves, furniture, curtains and even personal emblems.

Forecasting the Future Before It Arrives
Finally, interior designers play an increasingly significant role in helping to determine what the future holds in terms of cultural preferences as they play out in color, style and texture. For instance, this year's forecast includes rug types, metals choices, artistic/graphically influenced rugs and textiles, glass treatments and more.

In a similar way to how red carpet couture influences mass marketable fashions, world famous interior designers pave the way for commercial replication of the future's designs one "predicted trend" at a time.

With each of these factors at work through the efforts of each time period's reigning interior designers, the world we live in takes shape around us in color, form, shape, texture and other ways —and is thus preserved for future generations to study and learn from. As well, some facets of our shared past move forward with us as designers reference both the past and the future to create the designs of the present.

Mikkie Mills is a Chicago native who loves to save money and help others do the same. When I'm not writing, I'm chasing the little ones around or rock climbing at the local climbing gym." 

Friday, November 13, 2015

Shut the Front Door: Key Ways to Improve Home Efficiency

When it comes to thinking "green," few things are more important than the doors that lead into the home. In addition to serving as an entryway for the home's occupants and guests, doors almost always serve as an entryway for excess heat or cold air throughout the year. The result is a significant drain on home energy efficiency, increased home heating and cooling costs, and an unnecessarily large carbon footprint in virtually every season. There are some key changes that can be made to combat energy loss through a home's doors and entryways, however, and many of these improvements are cost-effective over the long-term. That's especially true when homeowners consider the long-term cost of energy savings versus the long-term cost of energy waste, just by making a few changes.

1. Low-E Coatings Keep Hot Air Out
One of the most important and impactful changes that can be made to a home's doors is to find glass with a "Low-E" coating on exposed glass. This coating is extremely thin. In fact, it's a microscopic coating that can't be seen, felt or noticed in any significant way. Despite its microscopic nature, however, the presence of a Low-E coating on an interior glass doors windows has a massive impact on how much heat is transmitted into the home from the sun.

The coating works as a UV radiation block, essentially creating a microscopic layer of "cool" glass, even when the door's glass feels hot to the touch after being warmed by the sun all day. Because the Low-E coating is on the interior side of the door's window glass, it actually keeps heat outside. In fact, homeowners might notice that the glass inside the home feels significantly cooler than the glass on the other side of the door. Over time, this lowers home cooling costs in the summer months and reduces the use of air conditioning. This can result in significant energy savings each year, helping the Low-E glass pay for itself in a relatively short period of time.

2. Cracks and Leaks Should Be Found and Blocked
The glass in a door is one of the easiest ways for outdoor weather conditions to significantly impact energy usage, but it's not the only way that doors could be making it harder to control the home's temperature and minimize its use of heating and cooling throughout the year. In fact, one of the biggest sources of energy loss each year is the cracks that often are found throughout the door's trim, molding, and mounting materials. These cracks may not be visible to the naked eye, either because they’re very small or because they're hiding underneath decorative trim. Even so, they're definitely letting outdoor weather conditions into the home and undermining the home's installed heating and cooling systems.

3. Fix Improper Door Hanging and Alignment
Another cause of home energy loss, and one that's easily fixed by a qualified contractor, is a door that has been improperly hung or aligned with the door frame itself. An improperly installed door often angles up, away from the floor, and fits poorly into the doorframe. This means that there will at least be a significant gap toward the floor, which allows cool or hot air to come into the home and waste energy. It also means that, more likely than not, the door is doing damage to the doorframe and creating several gaps on either side of the frame when the door is closed. The solution to this problem is to inspect hinges and mounting hardware after the door has been removed, making adjustments as necessary so that the door closes easily, creates a tight seal between the home's indoor and outdoor spaces, and stops damaging the doorframe in the process.

4. Replace Old or Faulty Hardware
An old doorknob could secretly be letting air into the home that produces a significant drain on heating and cooling systems. Old or faulty hardware often gets looser over time, creating cracks and crevices that undermine a home's energy efficiency. The solution is pretty simple: Uninstall old, faulty hardware and opt for a strong, attractive, reinforced doorknob instead. For example, old door hinges can cause home energy efficiency. Installing new sliding door hardware instead of hinges is a simple yet efficient way to improve your home's energy efficiency. New hardware will look great and be just easy to use, but it will block cracks and crevices that old hardware created, providing greater energy savings.

Excellent Opportunities to Conserve Energy and Save Money
It's natural for some cold or hot air to make its way into the home when a door is opened, but homeowners shouldn't expect this air to make it sway through the door's cracks and crevices all day long, every day of the year. By making a few important changes to a home's doors, energy loss can be stopped and real, substantive cost savings can take place. This can have important benefits to a home budget over the long-term, making each change recommended above into a major benefit for the whole family.

Mikkie Mills is a Chicago native who loves to save money and help others do the same. When I'm not writing, I'm chasing the little ones around or rock climbing at the local climbing gym."

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Common Kid Messes and How to Clean Them

New parents are always asking, "Why does my toddler make such a mess?" A better question might be, "How soon can we open a bottle of wine after the kid goes to bed?" Kids are going to make a mess. That's their mission in life at this stage of development. 

You can fight it or embrace the mess. Thankfully, there are plenty of tried-and-true methods for cleaning up the most common of kid messes. This is one blog post you'll definitely want to bookmark!


The hope of every parent is that children find a way to express themselves. This usually starts with a handful of crayons and a coloring book. Good luck with getting the crayons to actually show up on the book. Instead, once a kid learns crayons are for drawing, you can expect those drawings to show up on just about any surface of your home. That includes walls, countertops, floors, televisions and furniture.

Thankfully, crayon makers have heard the cries and answered the call by coming up with washable crayons. At least, that is the theory. Often those crayons will end up on a fabric sofa or carpet. If they aren't wiping up, then blast them with a hair dryer. That will soften the wax for more efficient removal. It's always best to attack the crayon stains as soon as they happen. Of course, snap a picture of the art first.

Spilled Milk

This is nothing to cry over. Actually, spilled milk is only a problem when it gets on fabric. If left to dry, that old milk can create a sour smell. Blot the spill on a carpet. For extra absorption, try lemon juice on the stain but test a small area first to make sure it won’t discolor anything.

Permanent Marker

Permanent marker isn’t so permanent when you know these few tricks. For marker on wood, use toothpaste to get it out. If your child (or you, because we know that’s happened) gets permanent marker on upholstery use rubbing alcohol or non-oily hairspray.

Juice Spills

Just because it comes in a box doesn't mean it won't end up on your rug. As with most messy fabric stains, it is best to blot as opposed to rub. Once the blotting is complete, whatever is left behind can be treated with one quart water, a tablespoon of white vinegar and a teaspoon of laundry detergent. Let the mixture sit on the juice stain for several minutes then rinse with water.

Chewing Gum

Once your child has mastered the concept of chewing gum without swallowing it, they will begin to find other ways to dispose of the confection. That will usually involving putting it in a sibling's hair, on a car seat or in the carpet. When that happens, it's time to break out the ice pack. Freeze the gum and it will be easier to pull up. If there is some residue, then freeze again and use an old toothbrush to scrap it off.


As soon as your kid discovers the simple joy of stickers, you can count on them showing up everywhere. To get them off the things they shouldn't be on, try rubbing them with baby oil or WD-40. That should help with the gluey residue.

A rapid response to these common kid messes is vital. However, sometimes those stains can go unnoticed or you don't have the time to tackle them right away. For a stubborn stain on the carpet you might need to bring in the heavy guns. Professional carpet cleaning extractors will certainly get the job done. They're also easy to rent on an as-needed basis.

Once you tackle those stains and get the kids to bed, you can finally relax with that bottle of wine. Just be sure not to spill any on that clean carpet …

BIO: James works in construction and blogs in his free time at Homey Improvements. He also enjoys hiking, photography, and buying new gadgets. Follow him on Twitter @DIYfolks.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Bring Your Lawn and Garden Into Balance: How to Measure and Correct Soil pH

Since the Neolithic Revolution, which occurred 10,000 years ago or so, human beings have been struggling to help plants grow. Sometimes, this has led to a bountiful harvest. Other times, there has been terrible drought. Even with 10,000 years of experience under our belt, humanity has had a difficult time in farming and gardening. This is largely because there are so many factors interacting at the same time.

Plants require water, sunlight and food – typically in the form of nitrogen. But they require these three elements in precisely balanced quantities, usually formulated by the plant’s evolutionary history in a given environment. Plants from tropical rainforests, for example, will require daily watering, while a cactus may not. We’re all basically familiar with those concepts of ample water and ample sunlight.

The story is different when we start talking about plant food. Many people – even professional farmers and gardeners – are unsure how much nitrogen any given plant should receive. And here’s where things can get even murkier: Adding too much nitrogen in the form of fertilizer can alter the pH levels of your soil, and that can have disastrous consequences for crops and gardens alike.
In a nutshell, the pH level of your soil is how acidic or non-acidic it is. In chemistry terms, high pH means high alkaline, also known as “basic” (the opposite of acid), while a low pH level means the substance is acidic. Citric acid, for example, has a pH level of roughly 2.2. This explains why you pucker when you drink lemon juice. But not everyone knows how to test pH levels in soil.

To be sure, over-fertilizing is not the only way to lower the pH levels of your soil. Much depends on local geology and agricultural activity, in addition to topography, history and other factors. In other words, there are so many variables that sometimes it can be difficult to pin down precisely what might be causing your acidic soil.

Luckily, that doesn’t mean you’re helpless to combat it, especially if you use lime for soil pH control. There are several ways you can decrease the acidity of your soil and restore balance to your garden or fields. This is good, because controlling soil pH is essential for the health of your plants.

James White has a lot more to say on this subject. For more click here.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Rammed Earth: Affordable, and Relatively Unknown

Back in 2009, I wrote a piece about my discovery of construction using Rammed Earth. James White has re-visited the topic in Rammed Earth: Affordable, and Relatively Unknown.

They are comprised not of stone or brick, but of a material called rammed earth. Considering that both structures have been standing for well over 1,000 years, doesn't this process deserve a second look?

Rammed earth is created when clay-rich soil is mixed with lots of water and a natural construction stabilizer. In ancient times, stabilizers often included animal blood, urine, bitumen and even certain plant fibers.
Structures designed with rammed earth can be further reinforced and supported to optimize sustainability. For instance, various timbers can be used to offset heavy weight and offer additional stabilization. In modern day, one only need to substitute cement for those aforementioned stabilizers, and the structure is made exponentially more secure. This new mixture—referred to as cement stabilized rammed earth or CSRE for short—has the same strength ratings as cement. For reference, that means it can withstand about 6,000 psi of pressure.

Read More - See more at:

Thursday, July 16, 2015

5 Creative Ways to Upcycle Pallets for Home Décor

If you’re looking for a unique way to add personal touches to your home décor, look no further than your garage. Many people have a décor gem stored there: pallets. Wood pallets are incredibly versatile and can lend a hand in projects that are DIY-friendly but look professionally done.

Upcycling a wood pallet – or using it for something new – is a great way to recycle used materials.

Here are five creative ways to upcycle pallets for your home décor:

1.    Book Shelf

It seems like there’s never enough space for book lovers to store all their favorite reads. Pallet bookshelves are a great addition to any room, and can be made to be the perfect size for housing and organizing thick novels, magazines or children’s stories. Plus they make a great conversation piece.
2.    Towel Rack

Tired of wet towels on the floor? A pallet towel rack – easily made from one piece of wood sanded down from a pallet – is the perfect solution. You can customize the piece with hooks and a coat of paint to turn it into a truly one-of-a-kind – and functional – part of your bathroom or kitchen.
3.    Coffee Table

Finding the right coffee table for your décor may be as easy as stepping into your garage and grabbing an old pallet. All right, so it may not be quite that easy, but you’ll have a good jumpstart on the materials needed. The project can be as simple or as elaborate as you’d like, but this double-decker pallet coffee table is a perfect meeting point. With enough storage for electronics, magazines and books, you can’t go wrong adding this piece to your home furnishings.
4.    Pallet Wall

For small spaces that could use a little texture, a wall of pallet boards can be just the right touch. The wood can be stained different colors to warm up a cool-toned room, and you can easily add pegs to give it just a little more function for hanging up hand towels, washcloths or even pictures. This project may need a little assistance since an indoor renovation of your walls can be tricky.
5.    Bench
If you’re in need of some additional seating in your living space or outdoors, try putting together a pallet bench. There are so many different styles and types to consider, depending upon how the bench will be used. A pallet bench propped up against a wall in a mudroom, for example, would have no need for a back to be built on, as the wall would support the person using it. A bench outside, though, may need a back, so it’s readily available for lounging. 

Pallets are an excellent asset to have around, as they can be used in many home décor projects. The options are nearly endless. Try tackling one of these five upcycling projects, and bring an old pallet back to life. 

Note from Mike, here in San Miguel, there’s even a very good restaurant whose walls are made from pallets.

BIO: James White works in construction and blogs in his free time at Homey Improvements. He also enjoys hiking, photography, and buying new gadgets. Follow him on Twitter @DIYfolks.