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    Cardboard Safari trophy head and paper mache head.Photo: Steph Goralnick, Anthropologie.

    Eco trophy heads show their faces. What does the animal lover in you say?

    Forget antler chandeliers. There's a new animal-inspired piece of decor gaining momentum in the design community (and these can be hung without a pang of guilt): animal-free trophies. "Cardboard is a fun alternative to a real trophy, and a sense of humor is a way to lighten the topic," says Chris Jessee, one of the designers at Cardboard Safari, a company selling some of these fresh-feeling trophy heads.

    Appearing in all shapes and materials, each one is an even more creative interpretation than the next. From papier-mâché to recycled cardboard to glittered ceramic, trophy heads are making a comeback as a purely decorative accessory.

    In fact, Cardboard Safari encourages the consumer to interact with their "prize" by assembling it using its slotted construction. You have the freedom to color, paint, glue and decorate your cardboard animal anyway you want.

    After purchasing "Bucky" (above left) from Cardboard Safari, Steph Goralnick, a photographer and graphic designer, shows off her design sense by covering it with vintage maps of Brooklyn. She renamed him Grover. Anthropologie's gazelle (above right) is made from recycled cement bags and paper from old French books. In other words, papier-mâché! It costs $68. Another fun animal trophy designed and manufactured by Cardboard Safari is Eyan the elephant (below). It's their newest animal, made from environmentally friendly cardboard, and costs $58.

    trophy head by cardboard safariPhoto: Cardboard Safari.

    Designers Tony Moxham and Mauricio Paniagua of DFC Mexico set out to make large-scale ceramic heads reflecting the hand-made Mexican ceramic traditions of Cuernavac and ended up with the Disney-esque trophies (below). "For us, it's more of the idea of being able to have a big animal living in your house, even when it may be impossible to own a baby elephant, unicorn or giant kitten," say Moxham.

    The way DFC creates distance between a real trophy head and the idea of it from a design perspective is through un-realistic colors, subject, mythical animals, scale and decoration. Looking at their Glitter Reserve Unicorn ($667, below left) and Baby Elephant ($862, below right) Trophy Heads, I think I can agree.

    Tell us what you think. Can you see these animal-free trophy heads as a purely decorative element?

    Ceramic trophy heads by DFC Mexico.
    DFC Mexico infused their own designs of fantasy and magic resulting in a Disney-esque look to their trophies. Photo: DFC.

    Tell Us!


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    Nick Laham, Getty Images

    We're recommending some of the most Gaga-appropriate Hamptons homes. You listening, Lady?

    Lady Gaga is rich. Actually, she's filthy, stinking rich. Almost overnight, it seems, the sartorially fearless singer went from being an unknown, artsy-fartsy downtown denizen to a world-renowned pop culture icon. According to Forbes magazine the new high-priestess-of-pop earned a toe curling $62M over the last 12 months -- making her one of the highest paid and most powerful performers in all of the land.

    Although her reps deny, deny, deny, the latest scuttlebutt is that Lady Gaga has already leased a house in the Hamptons for the summer. In the event that the downtown diva might want to go from a renter to a homeowner, we decided to help by doing a little real estate legwork for Gaga and found four pricey properties in the Hamptons that could be the key to the lock of her real estate dreams. And hey, Gaga? If you do choose one of these, we'd accept a month-long stay as a proper thank you.,feedConfig,localizationConfig,entry&id=913052&pid=913051&uts=1279721016

    Lady Gaga Houses

    The eccentric and enigmatic Lady Gaga has been looking to spend some of her new-found fortune on new digs more befitting a Lady of her superstar stature. The New York based cynosure tried to buy a $16.5M house in Beverly Hills last year but settled instead for a 6 bedroom and 8 bathroom rental in the posh Bel Air area of Los Angeles for which she's reportedly paying around $25,000 per month.

    Lady Gaga Houses

    Lady Gaga was recently reported to have had a peep at and a poke around a $21,000 per month duplex penthouse apartment at the far western edge of New York City's SoHo neighborhood and, although it's not easy to see Lady Gaga doing anything as mundane as going to the beach, she's also been spotted shopping for a hideaway in the Hamptons. According to reports, Lady Gaga-whose real name is the much less exotic Stefani Germanotta-is looking for something very private and very pricey in a superior south of the Montauk Highway location in the insanely swank even for the Hamptons enclaves of Bridgehampton, Water Mill, and Sagaponack.

    Lady Gaga Houses

    Blow it out of the box, baby. If privacy is what Lady Gaga craves and she's willing to part with a mind-numbing amount of dough, she might want to consider the pretty, pristine, and very private Bridgehampton estate of entertainment mogul turned real estate developer Sandy Gallin that's currently listed with a superstars only asking price of $26.9M.

    Lady Gaga Houses

    The secluded south of the highway estate sprawls across 14 serene acres and includes a fully rehabbed 6,500 square foot, 7 bedroom and 8 bathroom shingled cottage that sits at the tail end a long private driveway. The extensive grounds consist of wide and vast lawns large enough to land a helicopter, an outdoor lounge with fireplace that's shaded by a trellis dripping with wistera, and a swimming pool uniquely set into the shoreline of the property's private pond.

    Lady Gaga Houses

    Sometimes simplicity what is needed to balance the hectic and unforgiving schedule of famous folks like Lady Gaga. In that case, perhaps a simple if insanely expensive ocean front house in Bridgehampton listed at $14.995M is the way to go. The boxy, cedar and glass modern sits high atop a dune with unimpeded and protected 270-degree views up and down the beach.

    Lady Gaga Houses

    The airy contemporary includes 4 bedrooms, 5.5 bathrooms and a loft-like main living space comprised of living room, dining area, and sleek kitchen with adjoining breakfast room wrapped in floor to ceiling windows. A long double infinity edged swimming pool and deck sits between the house and the pool cabana that includes a media room, full bath, spa room, gym and outdoor fireplace.

    Lady Gaga Houses

    Lady Gaga is nothing if not theatrical, so perhaps a mansion oozing with operatic flair seems to be just what she needs. A Water Mill compound owned by acclaimed more-is-better decorator Thomas Britt and listed at $12.5M might be perfect if Lady Gaga's looking for a bit of exceedingly tasteful and yet kinda campy excess.

    Lady Gaga Houses

    There's plenty of room for Lady Gaga's entourage at this 3.2-acre extravaganza that includes a total of 12 bedrooms and 12 bathrooms. There are six bedrooms in the 8,000+ sq. ft. main house, a European villa-style confection with a horizontally striped exterior, while the remainder of the bedrooms are located in the pool house and gigantic guest house that's far larger than the average American home.

    Lady Gaga Houses

    The elegant and elaborate grounds include long swathes of unnaturally green grass, an 80-foot-long reflecting pool, extensive and orderly gardens, a stunning double alley of cherry trees planted in 1966, a party pavilion and not just one but two heated swimming pools. And because every home needs one: A miniature Japanese pagoda.

    Lady Gaga Houses

    Although it might be difficult for Lady Gaga to get around the house in a pair of her signature and suicidally high platform heels, the 'Bioscleave House' in East Hampton is as wonderfully bizarre and conceptually twisted as she is. Designed by maverick Japanese architects Arakawa + Gins and listed at $4M, the sculptural, high-concept, and multi-colored house challenges of the very definition of a house as a haven of comfort and sanctuary.

    Lady Gaga Houses

    Which house would YOU choose for Lady Gaga?

    Want to see more famous homes?
    See Uma Thurman's old NYC digs
    How Clean is Niecy Nash's House?
    Whitney Port's Apartment Feels Like Home
    Or browse through all of our celeb homes


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    When Remodelista sees something they love they don't just pine over it: They find it!

    Last week in Brooklyn Heights, I admired the farmhouse-style ceramic Tag water dispenser at the Iris Cafe, which got me thinking about summer drink dispensers. Here's a few good options to fill with ice, orange and lemon slices, cucumbers, and so on for flavored water all day long.

    Left to right: Water dispenser from Iris Cafe and from

    The Tag Ceramic Drink Dispenser in white holds 42 cups; $109.99 at

    Left to right: Pottery Barn; Artland.

    Pottery Barn's Mason Jar Drink Dispenser holds 1.5 gallons and is 12 inches high; $69.

    Artland Simplicity 2-Gallon Beverage Dispenser with Lid; $59.99 at Amazon.


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    The home and design news for the week of July 19 to 23.

    Target is ready to help you beat the holiday traffic, plus here's your chance to show you can decorate your home in '60s chic à la Mad Men. Read on to find out more in this week's home news.

    Ready to do some holiday shopping? How about in July? Target's got you covered with its first "Back in Black Friday" online sales event happening today.

    You probably weren't expecting ShelterPop to do a sports report, but professional athletes have to live somewhere, right? Arguably, the biggest star in the NBA, LeBron James, is house-hunting in his new town, Miami.

    Discount retailer Marshalls is heading north of the border in 2011 with stores slated to open in Canada.

    Robb & Stucky Interiors has been dealt a major design project, partnering with the CityCenter in Las Vegas.

    Design Within Reach is ready to help you do some renovations, Don Draper style, with its new Mad Men contest.

    Getting in on the summer blockbuster game, textiles licensee Character World is expecting an influx of interest in its Toy Story line of duvet covers and beds when the third movie in the franchise hits the U.K.

    IKEA is trying to do its part with its home textiles lines by promoting sustainability. This after the big news that they're also phasing out all incandescent bulbs by 2011.

    Iman Home (and yes, it's that Iman) is on the way from P/K Lifestyles with the line featuring 15 decorative fabrics.

    An Internet star may be born as Canvas has launched a new website.


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  • 07/27/10--03:07: Weekly Link Love
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    Trend-watching, closet-organizing and the best movie homes....What we're lusting over in the blogosphere this week.

    Why should indoor furniture get all the skirts and tufts -- Katie found some girly ottomans made of...cast stone! Brilliant. [the neo-traditionalist]

    Magazine editors take note: Shayna, our go-to trend-whisperer, is calling out sumi-ink drawings in July which means you should expect to see them just about everywhere come Winter. [Pattern Pulp]

    Our fave spot for design sass takes on the futon, calls it "like a couch's second cousin's half-brother's roommate." We prefer deadbeat uncle, but same idea. [Design Blahg]

    Why are green roofs cooler than the rest? Here's 13 reasons. [The Daily Green]

    Think you have a hard-to-tame closet? Quick, cheap DIY organizing tips to the rescue! (Save your money for more clothes.) [Stylelist]

    Itching to get a glimpse at the 2011 IKEA catalog? (Don't act like you're not.) CasaSugar got a peek and they're sharing the love. We're feeling more organized already... [CasaSugar]

    Just what we need on a Friday -- a refreshing mix of turquoise and orange. Ahh! [Bright Bazaar]

    Swoon-alert! Just try not to daydream while browsing through Jennie's round-up of movie set homes that look good enough to move right into. And yes, the house from It's Complicated is included. [The Stir]

    Being on a cash-budget doesn't mean you need budget style. Jenny found you'll-never-guess-the-price pieces at Walmart & IKEA. Bravo! [Little Green Notebook]


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    The lavender 'Spot Light' rug is inspired by the Rockwell Group's work in theater and set design. Photos: Bennett Raglin/ (left) and The Rug Company (right)

    The Rug Company debuts rugs by architect and designer David Rockwell.

    David Rockwell, the super-star designer, architect and founder of The Rockwell Group, responsible for the set design for the Academy Awards and countless restaurant and hotel interiors including Nobu and the W Hotel in New York, can add rug designer to his long list of accomplishments. The U.K.-based The Rug Company recently unveiled a collection of hand-knotted rugs designed by David Rockwell.

    In addition to the five rugs, the collection includes a cushion and a wall-hanging. All the items use traditional Tibetan craftsmanship to create the very contemporary, graphic designs.

    Rockwell is just one of the many A-list designers to partner with The Rug Company. Eva Ziesel, Tom Dixon and Kelly Wearstler are some others who have recently created floor coverings for the brand. Unlike other designers who have many products under their name, this is one of Rockwell's only product introductions.

    Gold/Silver Rings rugs are made from a silk and wool blend with varying pile heights. Photos: The Rug Company

    When speaking of the line to Home Furnishing News, Rockwell said, "I'm not a product person. And I'm not necessarily a shopper. But I love surfaces and light." Whether he's a product person or not, we're excited to see Rockwell's vision translated into a product available to the masses (if only the very wealthy masses).

    The Kaleidescope pattern was inspired by Rockwell's personal collection of kaleidescopes, which he has amassed over 20 year's time. This rug is also available in a 'rose' colorway upon request. Photos: The Rug Company


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  • 07/27/10--03:07: Decorating an Empty Room
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    The homeowner has a couple of pieces of art and an area rug to decorate his dining room -- but where to go from here? Photo: Jess Rawlins

    Starting from scratch? Here are some tips on getting the decor just right.

    I've been working in the home decor arena for a bazillion years (OK, seven), and I couldn't begin to count the amount of times that family members, friends, friends-of-friends and restaurant delivery guys have asked me for decorating advice. I'm happy to help because frankly there's nothing I love more than waxing poetic on the topic of paint colors, area rugs and accessories. Plus, I appreciate how overwhelming it can be to design a space -- especially one from scratch.

    My friend Jess recently emailed me with a design dilemma that is fairly common among new homeowners. Her boyfriend bought his first home but felt a bit overwhelmed when it came to decorating all those empty rooms. When you buy your first house, you want to get it just right.

    With the exception of a few basic furnishings he brought with him from his previous rental, the home has been sitting stagnant for a few months. No better time than now to get the ball rolling.

    Here's what I told him:

    1. When you're overwhelmed by a large project, start small. Focus on one room at a time. Once you tackle one small space, it'll motivate you to move onto the next. For Jess, I opted to start with the dining room, a small but important space since he was eager to entertain friends and family.

    2. Don't feel pigeonholed by current pieces of furniture -- or fixtures. Having an oriental rug and floral still-life artwork doesn't mean you have to decorate the entire room with the same scheme. Shop for items that you love and don't limit yourself to one design genre -- there's always a way to make it work.

    Dining table, Chairs, Chandelier courtesy of: Z Gallerie; Vases courtesy of World Market.

    When it comes to selecting furnishings, err on the side of neutral. Paint, textiles and accessories can always add the extra color or pattern that you desire. When you tire of them or want a new look, they're much easier to swap out than a 400 pound dining table or an expensive set of chairs.

    Here's an example -- seen above. For Jess's dining room, I opted for a a statesman-like wood dining table (on the traditional side, but not frilly) with a modern set of hyacinth chairs. And unless you find yourself attached to the standard fixtures that come with the house (see the chandelier in Jess's house at top), I'd swap it out with something more original. The light fixture in a formal dining room should always have an element of "wow" -- so I selected the glamorous Boulevard Chandelier from Z Gallerie. It kicks the formality up a notch. (Like what you see above? It's the Manchester Dining Table, $1,499; Hyacinth Chair, $99; and Boulevard Chandelier, $400 all at Z Gallerie. Metallic Finish Terra Cotta Vases, $30 and $40, World Market.)

    photo: Chairs top to bottom: High Fashion Home,, World Market; Console from Wisteria; Lamps from Lamps Plus; Bowl from Crate & Barrel.

    4. In a dining room, never have a full set of the same chairs (yawn). Make a room look more thoughtful by adding a couple of chairs with a contrasting shape and/or upholstery, and place them at the heads of the table. To pair with the casual hyacinth chairs shown above, my top choice would be this understated wing chair (above, top). The formality contrasts in such a cool way with the side chairs. It's always great to add in two arm chairs to break up the monotony of all those side chairs (the middle chair is another option), but you could also bring in pops of color, such as the red slipper chair shown. (Like what you see? From top, it's the Sylvia Arm Chair, $582, High Fashion Home; Soho Cream Arm Chair in Linen, $230,; Lauren Upholstered Dining Chair set of 2, $200, World Market)

    5. Space plan before you shop! Too often I hear of people heading out blindly to their local home goods store and purchasing what they think they need. ("Dining table; check. Chairs; check. China cabinet; check.") There's no such thing as a universal prescription for each room; decide first what you need and second what you have space for. You can always find something to improvise with if the "prescribed" item (such as a china cabinet) won't fit. In Jess's dining room, a large dining table doesn't leave too much extra space for a hefty china cabinet or full-sized buffet table, so I found a console table that could double as a buffett (seen above, at right). It has extra shelves for fancy glassware and drawers for special-occasion flatware. (Like what you see? It's the Tiered Marble Top Console, $899, Wisteria; Uttermost Jelani Buffet Lamp, $192, Lamps Plus; Agave Bowl, $67, Crate & Barrel.)

    6. Plan, paint, then purchase.
    It's always easiest to paint without any furnishings in your way -- but you don't want to select a random paint color; it's better to know exactly what will furnish the space and then choose a color accordingly. This is when starting from scratch gives you the upper hand in achieving the perfectly pulled together space. Plan your shopping list, select and paint your walls, then move in all your furnishings. Take a deep breath and continue on to the next room...


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    Photo: Laura Fenton

    The recently eliminated HGTV Design Star contestant Nina Ferrer opens up about her experience on the show.

    If you were to watch any of the five episodes of HGTV Design Star that Nina Ferrer appeared in, you might be wary of the supposedly back-stabbing and controlling designer in person.

    When we were asked to guest tweet episode four of HGTV Design Star, we almost couldn't believe just how tough people were on Ferrer. We were curious: Do people just love to hate her? And so, we kept an eye on episode five tweets and to no one's surprise, the Ferrer hate-fest continued: @goaliemom31 was flat-out psyched she was sent packing: "Ding, dong Nina's gone!" #DesignStar, while @seemomsmile said: "Thought both designs were blah. So glad The Nina Show is OVER!" #DesignStar. There was even a "Bye Nina" hash tag, used to mark posts about Ferrer getting booted.

    However, when the opportunity arose, your ShelterPop editors couldn't resist the chance to meet Ferrer face-to-face and hear what she had to say about her experience on HGTV Design Star.

    Ferrer and I met in her neighborhood in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn at Lola's Boutique, a women's clothing store selling what might be considered "boho chic" wares. Ferrer chose the location because she's slated to give the shop's interiors a facelift as one of her first post-HGTV Design Star projects. For someone who just finished a stint on national television, this was a decidedly humble and low-key meeting place.

    Darling Chaci and Nicolino. Photo: Laura Fenton.

    Ferrer brought her two chihuahuas, Chachi and Nicolino, to our meeting -- and she couldn't have picked a better ice breaker: They were incredibly sweet and adorable, and they obviously love their owner. Ferrer showed up in a t-shirt and leggings, looking like she'd recently spent a few days at the beach; she was lively and laughed easily.

    After spending an hour with her talking about the show and her background as a designer, I can't help but think she was unfairly cast as the villain in the first five episodes of HGTV Design Star. Ferrer reminds me of other women I know who are serious about their careers, the ones who are driven and focused almost to a fault. She's got a big personality, she's confident and she's tough. Nina Ferrer isn't a witch, she's just a New Yorker. And as a fellow New Yorker, I'll say I enjoyed meeting her and hearing her side of the story. Here's what she had to say:

    What did you find most challenging about appearing on HGTV Design Star?
    Honestly, the most challenging thing was to be away from my dogs! [Laughs] I'm used to stress and deadlines, so that was the easy part. What was surprising, though, was that I went into the competition with blinders on, and I thought I was going to be this fierce competitor. Then I became friends with these people. How do you throw people under the bus and be competitive with people you're actually friends with? For example, Stacey and I shared a room, but on every episode, it looks like we're the worst of enemies in the challenges. Yes, sometimes we were, but every night we would still laugh our asses off. We were really good friends because it's two separate things.

    Were there certain things about the way the show was edited that surprised you?
    It's not really what they showed [that surprised me], it's what they didn't show. I have to admit, the parts that they showed, that's part of my personality: You can't just make that up out of thin air. However, maybe it's the sentence before, or your laughter after, it's the joke that leads up to that line that they don't show. Sure, I do have a strong personality, but I'm a total goofball: I laugh and I make people laugh.

    You say that they couldn't make things up out of thin air, but did you suspect that the producers were going to paint you as a villain?
    I knew that I had a very strong personality, a kind of leadership-type personality. And I guessed that if out of everyone, if anyone was going to be the villain, it was going to be me. It was no secret that I went on the show with the intention to win: I'm very focused, and I'm very serious about design.

    It's a reality show, you know what you're in for when you sign up, but after a while, it's like, "C'mon, I'm not that mean." It's funny, me and my friends laugh about it. It's like, "Oh my god, you really said that!" But I said that at another time when it made sense, when it didn't sound so mean.

    What are some of the things that made you laugh when you had the chance to see them on TV?
    Definitely the firefighter episode when we broke up into teams. There was one point when I say, "I'm glad I'm not on that team; that's the crazy people team." And that quote is from something else. I was laughing hysterically because I'm like: I wouldn't say that about that team in that moment! It didn't make any sense. So I'm laughing, and my family is looking at me like, "Why would you say that? That's not nice!"

    People have written some mean things about you on blogs and Twitter. How do you deal with that?
    Honestly, it doesn't hurt my feelings; it doesn't bother me at all. I read it, and I laugh because I have a strong personality, and with a strong personality comes confidence. You have to have a thick skin. Design-Star-Nina is not Nina Ferrer, it's like two different people. They've condensed my personality down to twelve minutes out of sixty minutes. I'm not twelve minutes: I'm a lot more than that.

    What do you feel like you learned from the experience?
    I don't know: I learned so much about myself in such a short amount of time. I always thought that I was a competitor, but I think that I'm more of a people person than a competitor. I went in so fierce and so strong, and if you noticed, through the episodes, I kind of got soft because I didn't want to be that mean person, because I'm not. That's kind of the way you have to be in competition and it opened my eyes to that.

    What was you favorite part?
    Definitely the people. I felt like I was in college and summer camp all over again. I mean you're with eleven other people that want the same thing that you want, who have a similar background to you, and they've all got big personalities. So you put us all together: Of course there's going to be drama, you're going to laugh, you're going to have so much fun because you are so similar.

    Did you guys all hang out together when you weren't working on your challenges?
    Yes, we all lived together, there was no place else to go. We generally all congregated in the living room and hung out -- and we became friends. I mean, I cried when Dan left, I cried when I thought Alex was going home and I cried when Tera left because these people become your family, they become your support system.

    You said you wouldn't change anything that you did on HGTV Design Star, but would you actually do it again?
    Oh my god: Everyone should go on a reality show. [Laughs] It is so much fun!

    All right, the big question: What are you planning to do next?
    I'm currently working on a large residential home in the French style, but the [homeowner] is into modern, as well. It's going to be something that's really chic and fun, because he wants some fun, unexpected moments. And then this store [indicating Lola's Boutique]: The reason why I chose this location is because something like this is a great challenge. I'm also looking at contracts for a restaurant and a bar.

    What is your dream project?
    I would love another retail store. I'd love a women's clothing store, with cool vintage clothes, in a really hip spot, maybe in L.A. because I love L.A. so much. When fashion and design merge together, it's just awesome.

    What does your apartment look like?
    I think that I would classify it as bohemian chic [laughs]. It's my personal style. I have wooden screens from India, a coffee table from Bali. My table is imported from Italy, and I have the first sofa I bought for my first apartment.

    I have this really cool vintage mirror -- it's really gaudy. When I was fifteen, my best friend called me and said, "I have this thing in my yard for you, but you have to come and get it." I'm like, "What does this jerk have for me?" and it was this huge mirror, and I've had it ever since. You have to have pieces like that in your house, things that touch a moment in your heart. It was garbage, but it's my garbage now. All my walls are white because I have bold, colorful paintings, and my bedroom happens to have a purple wall: I'm a Pisces, purple is my favorite color. (Ed note: Even Nina's nails were painted purple.)

    But tell us: Do you have any murals?
    [Laughs] I don't have a mural! I don't think I'd ever painted a mural before I got on this show!

    A glimpse at Nina's mural-less apartment. Photos: Nina Ferrer.

    What do you think, guys -- does Ferrer sound like she did on the show? Would you want to meet her in person?


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    Charlie Schuck, Getty Images

    Cleaning experts share the secrets of a spic and span tub.

    Sure, it's the last thing you want to spend your Saturday doing but at some point, it's inevitably time to tackle that dreaded task of (dum, dum, dum, dummm...) cleaning the bath tub.

    To help you through the painful process, we asked a few cleaning experts to tell us the most important things to consider when cleaning the tub.

    Before you start, try this:

    -Run a hand-held vacuum or dry microfiber towel over the tub surface before applying any cleaning products. Bath tubs are often filled with lots of dust and hair -- gross factor -- and this will prep the tub for cleaning.

    -Heat the tub approximately 10 degrees above the normal air temperature -- it doubles the effectiveness of alkaline cleansers, says Jacquelyn McGilvray, editor of Fill the tub with a couple of inches of the hottest water from the tap and let it sit for a few minutes. Drain the water, then spray an antibacterial cleanser around the tub. Scrub from top to bottom.

    -Hit the cupboard. White vinegar is one of the best cleaning products for working with tiled walls, say the experts at The New Homemaker. Give the tub area a good steam by running hot water (this will loosen up the dirt), then apply the vinegar directly with a towel, wiping across the surface of your tile. Also soak showerheads in vinegar overnight to remove corrosion or chemical build-up. Warning: Be careful with using vinegar around ceramic tile. If the grout was not sealed properly, the vinegar can etch the grout.

    The right way to scrub:

    -Invest in a tub and tile scrubber with a long handle -- it will save you from a lot of bending, plus it will enable you to get to hard-to-reach places close to the ceiling, McGilvray says.

    -Wipe down bathroom faucets with rubbing alcohol. It will make them shiny and rid the air of nasty odors. McGilvray suggests using hydrogen peroxide for cleaning the metal shower-door tracks.

    -Lemon oil works well for taking soap scum off glass shower doors. Use a squeegee to remove most of the water from the surface then a microfiber towel to dry it off.

    -Don't slack on the rinse. Rinsing the tub and shower walls is the most important step, says McGilvray. The chemicals in cleansers are designed to attract soil and particles, so if you don't completely rinse the cleanser off, dirt is going to stick to it and build up.

    For really stubborn stains:

    -Get down and dirty. Spray oven cleaner (the no-fumes kind) on porcelain and let it sit for an hour or two, McGilvray recommends. Then spray enough water to just wet the area and use a cloth or brush to scrub the surface. Be sure to wear protective gloves.

    Keep up with the grime:

    -Avoid clogged drains and unnecessary tub cleaning in the future by pouring a quarter cup baking soda down the drain weekly, say the experts at The New Homemaker. Rinse thoroughly with hot water.

    -If you're dealing with a shower curtain, don't leave it open after showering. Pull a wet curtain all the way closed so it can fully dry. If you leave it open, the folds are more likely to grow mold. If your vinyl curtain does need a wash, simply throw it in the washing machine with a few towels, a cup of white vinegar and detergent, then air dry, according to McGilvray.

    Need a step-by-step guide?:

    For a basic, overall cleaning, follow these steps from the experts at Seventh Generation to get your tub spick and span:

    1. Spray an earth-friendly tub and tile cleaner (like Seventh Generation Tub and Tile Cleaner?) from top to bottom on a dry tub, and let it sit for five minutes.

    2. Use an abrasive pad or thick sponge or scrub brush to clean from side to side, top to bottom.

    3. Pour water into a small container and wet the sides of the tub.

    4. To clean rust stains or yellow spots, mix baking soda with dish soap to make a paste that has the consistency of tooth paste. Apply to the spots and leave on for 10 minutes. With a pumice stone, rub the paste in a circular motion. Splash with water from a small container to rinse.

    5. If you have mold, directly apply a tub and tile cleaner and let sit for 10 minutes. Clean very firmly with a scrub brush, then splash with water from a small container to rinse.


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    This small urban space with deck access gains extra outdoor exposure with this folding door construction. Photo: Architect Your Home

    In these homes, access to the outdoors isn't optional -- it's a necessity.

    When the weather is nice, you want to enjoy the outdoors as much as possible, right? But what about when you're stuck inside doing those pesky chores? Not a problem if you lived in one of these homes, where enjoying the outdoors is possible even when you're inside.

    Architect Your Home, a company based in London, is familiar with crafting spaces that not only maximize natural light but also establish a seamless transition between the interior and the exterior of their clients' homes. The family of this South London residence (shown above) often used their outdoor space as a play area for their children. So when mom wanted to better keep an eye on them -- with doors closed to keep the cool air out -- these oak bi-fold doors were the perfect solution.

    "There's really a value when it comes to adding a glass wall," says Hugo Tugman, founder of Architect Your Home. "Whether it be a portrait window, bi-fold doors or patio doors, it merges the outdoor space with the indoor space giving the impression of a much larger living area."

    Of course, there's also the obvious benefit of adding easy access to the garden and creating an extended space perfect for summer entertaining. But Tugman says that "even in the winter there are benefits -- a wall of glass will allow light to truly flood in even on the grayest of days."

    Tugman notes, however, that if you're thinking about tackling this sort of architectural project yourself, you might want to think twice. Every state varies, but building regulations may have strict rules regarding the amount of glass that can be used on one residence. So it's best to seek professional help before getting started.

    In the meantime, enjoy these other Architect Your Home projects to get you inspired.

    Even on a dreary day this dining room is flooded with light. Photo: Architect Your Home

    Love gardening and want more access to enjoy your warm-weather hobby? That was the case with these Putney (southwest London) residents. The owners of this home wanted a space where they could casually dine, relax and enjoy a view of their garden. The oak doors (above) were crafted with a bespoke design with a pitched glazed area at the top to allow the maximum amount of light in. When opened, the wide doorway makes you feel as if you're sitting in the garden -- without all those pesky mosquitoes surrounding your every move.

    The young couple that lives in the above home loves entertaining, so a seamless transition between their back yard and dining room was the perfect addition for summer gatherings.

    In Camden (north London), a modern residence got a makeover with a set of 23-foot-long steel bi-fold doors (seen below). When opened, there's no barrier between inside and out, creating an open, airy space. The steel doors are a great option for modern interiors -- especially in a kitchen or dining area where oak or other warm-wood tones wouldn't be the right aesthetic.

    A cozy afternoon spent on the sofa . Photo: Architect Your Home

    In the Highbury neighborhood of London, one couple made the most of an otherwise dark basement space. A panoramic window gained natural light from the outdoors, but to further make the most of their property they added a wall of steel bi-fold doors.

    The previously lifeless basement now serves as a light-filled family room with extra space for entertaining (note the dining table at right and bar kitchen counter center). With immediate access to their back patio, their entertaining space was doubled simply by opening up the wall.

    No access to the outdoors? No worries -- just create your own with a Juliette balcony. Photo: Architect Your Home

    Not all residences -- especially in urban settings -- have the luxury of yard space. But that didn't stop Architect Your Home from finding a solution for these Richmond residences (southwest London). Forget the boring apartment-style windows. In their place, a panoramic window wall with French doors opening to a Juliette balcony gives the impression of more space while opening the room to the outdoors.meantime


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    Art in the home of ReadyMade magazine founder, former editor-in-chief and all-around creative genius, Shoshana Berger. Photo: Gina Provenzano

    Things that make you go "Hmm"...the young and hip equivalent of the religious shrine, this little sanctuary truly does make me wonder. I wonder which key unlocks the truth...I wonder if I can't eat an ice cream sundae every night and not gain any weight...I wonder if world peace is truly attainable...I just wonder...infinitely. And you? What do you wonder?


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  • 07/27/10--12:08: Houseplants for Beginners
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    Getty Images

    Your plants won't need a miracle to grow with these no-fail tips.

    Houseplants, like fresh flowers, add instant life to any room. But if you have a black thumb like I do, that organic energy is short-lived. Inspired by the season's bounty of bright blooms and greenery, I've decided to give gardening another go, but not before I called on an expert for some advice.

    Meet Barbara Pleasant, member of the American Horticultural Society and author of The Complete Houseplant Survival Manual. Pleasant got to the bottom of my houseplant missteps and shared these no-fail tips.

    First things first. You're probably wondering what you should grow. Barbara recommends choosing hardier plants that will recover easily if you forget to water them and are seldom bothered by root rot or insects.

    Some of the best houseplant varieties for novice gardeners are those located "in a spot that pleases them," which might be near a bright window that receives some direct sun or in a spot that receives much less light, perhaps on a tabletop in your living room.

    "Most of the easiest high-light plants are succulents, which are plants that can retain moisture in their leaves," she says. Jade plants, mother-in-law's tongue, kalanchoes, and aloe fit into this category.

    "In more diffuse light, philodendrons are easy to grow and come in a range of sizes and leaf types," she says. "Chinese evergreens require little care and always look good, and many people with no experience are successful with pothos, tricolor dracaena, aspidistra, spider plant, and rubber plants."

    only_point_five, Flickr

    Low light, low moisture varieties are also considered low maintenance, like tricolor dracaena. "They will survive a reasonably high level of neglect," she says.

    When growing or caring for houseplants, the most important factor to consider is upkeep. Barbara recommends making it part of your weekly to-do list. "Set aside 10 minutes to water your plants, pinch off failing leaves and turn them so that all sides get a turn receiving bright light," she says. As long as you do this once a week, most houseplants will be happy.

    And don't rush them into new pots after purchasing them. "It's better to give a new plant two to three weeks to adjust to its new circumstances before you repot it," she says. "If you repot it as soon as you get it home, disturbing the roots can set the plant back and it will take longer for it to start growing again." She says it's best to slip the plant into a more attractive container before repotting it.

    When choosing a planter, make sure to pick one with at least one drainage hole in the bottom. Size is important, too. "When moving a houseplant to larger pot, it should be only one inch larger in diameter than the old pot," she says.

    If you've struggled with planting, you've probably wrestled with the question: How much water? Barbara says it's important to get to know your plants as individuals; some will need more water than others. "Large plants grown in smallish pots in bright light often need twice as much water as small plants growing in roomy containers in dim light," she says. If you're uncertain if a plant needs watering, tip it slightly to see if it feels heavy or light. "With practice, you can easily tell if a container is unusually moist or dry by checking its weight," she says.

    Add plant food from spring to fall, when houseplants are actively growing. "Most of them rest in the winter, when days are short and light levels are low," she says. Still, adding a little water-soluble plant food to the water is easy, and helps support plants during their periods of active growth.

    I wondered if heat and air conditioning temperatures can affect plants. The answer: yes. Dry heat is tough on houseplants, which will require more watering if the air indoors is dry. "Most houseplants are from tropical climates, so they do better in high temperatures than low ones," she says. "Few houseplants are happy when temperatures drop below 55 degrees F."

    When purchasing a plant, look at individual plants to see if it's healthy. Look at the entire display area, Barbara says, and check to see if the plants appear to have been watered and maintained. Choose a plant with lots of healthy foliage, no spotted or yellow leaves. If you're buying a houseplant with blooms, choose one that is only beginning to flower, she says.
    Some varieties won't live forever. "With many blooming houseplants, for example cyclamen, you might enjoy the plant for two to three months and then ditch it. Most foliage plants are long-terms companions that show new growth from spring to fall, and then they will hit a holding pattern during the winter," she says.

    Don't get discouraged if you're not successful at first. Like anything, gardening indoors takes practice. Says Barbara: "Start small, with only two or three plants, and put them to work bringing life to your rooms. Place a sturdy foliage plant where it can easily be seen as soon as you come in the door -- a classic way to energize the transition from the green world outdoors to your indoor spaces."


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    Libby Langdon shares her paint picks! Photo: Libby Langdon

    Don't stress about picking a paint color -- here's one designer's go-to list.

    When you hear the term "neutral," do you instantly think of boring beige? Well, neutrals don't need to be a snooze, says interior design expert Libby Langdon. Still, there are so many neutral paint swatches that it can be dizzying trying to pick one.

    That's where Libby comes in. We've featured Libby's ideas on ShelterPop before, and we just love her smart tips. So we asked her to choose her top 10 favorite neutral paint colors -- and there's not a beige in sight. But there are some surprises (hint: navy blue?!).

    Here are her 10 favorites:

    1. Calming Pale Blue: "Upward" Sherwin-Williams #6239
    Perfect for a soothing bedroom, this blue doesn't scream little boy's room. "This is the most perfect pale, icy blue color," says Libby. "It looks gorgeous mixed with crisp white and soft tan; it's really beautiful with the washed weathered wood that is so hot right now."

    Libby's perfect palette

    2. All-Time Terrific Tan: "Universal Khaki" Sherwin-Williams #6150
    Don't underestimate tan -- It can instantly add warmth to a room. "This is a wonderful tone of tan that works well in family rooms or living rooms," she says. It's not too dark but it's rich enough that it works in a room where are likely to spend lots of time. "It's also neutral enough to work with all sorts of patterns and colors that you might have on your furniture," she says. "It truly is a universal color.'"

    3. Solid Gold: "Convivial Yellow" Sherwin-Williams #6393
    No sunflowers or butter here -- this yellow is calming and serene. "This is a super color for an entry hall or a kitchen," she says. It also works well in a hallway that connects rooms painted in different colors. "It can tie other colors together," she says. "It's a very soft but beautiful yellow, and it's cheery without being too much." Libby says that it looks great paired with white or black furniture.

    cream bedroom designLibby uses Benjamin Moore's "Natural Cream" to tie this bedroom design together. Photo: Libby Langdon

    4. Serene Cream: "Natural Cream" Benjamin Moore #OC-105
    This cream will look good mixed with just about any color. "It's got enough depth, so you can see the difference between it and white, but it's super soft and pale," she says. "I like it because it doesn't go too gold. It's just nice and neutral." Finally, a cream that makes me feel like I spent all day at the spa. Libby used the color in a bedroom she designed (above) to tie all of the neutral furnishings together.

    5. Go-To Green: "Ancient Marble" Sherwin-Williams #6162
    "Ancient Marble" has a slightly aged appearance -- it feels lived in, like a broken-in pair of jeans. "This is a pretty, soft, barely there sage green," says Libby. "It's subtle and not too overpowering while still being rich in hue." It could work in almost any room, says Libby, but it would look particularly good in a dining room, living room or kitchen. "This color is great against all wood finishes and looks fresh and modern when paired with white," she adds.

    6. Sweet Dark Chocolate: "Black Bean" Sherwin Williams #6006
    Libby says that a rich chocolate brown can add drama and impact to a boring room. In fact, she says this color is the best chocolate shade she's ever used! It's not a traditional neutral, but it works with just about any color. Libby recommends creating one accent wall in this color -- like the wall behind your bed, sofa, or fireplace. "Paint one wall this gorgeous chocolate and paint the other three walls a soft neutral tan or cream. It will add so much spice to your space."

    Libby Langdon bedroom neutral"Upward blue" (above) brings a subtle, relaxing backdrop to a bedroom. Photo: Libby Langdon

    7. Perfect Putty: "Revere Pewter" Benjamin Moore # HC-172
    Don't let the name Pewter scare you, this isn't a metallic. "I adore this color," says Libby. It's a little more modern than a tan, she says, but it's still pale enough to not take over if you are the type who is afraid of color. She particularly likes using it in hallways or kitchens. "It looks incredible against white woodwork and trim," she says.

    8. Gorgeous Gray: "Essential Gray" Sherwin Williams #6002
    Gray might be a trendy color right now, but this one will stand the test of time. "Gray is such a hot hue right now in interior design, and this is a soft and elegant gray that would be perfect in a master bedroom or a living room," she says. "It really shines when you pair it with white crown molding and trim." Libby recommends pairing the light silvery gray with pale mauve, a rich navy blue or a bright yellow.

    9. Libby's All Time Favorite White: "Cotton Balls" Benjamin Moore #2145-70
    "This is my go-to white color." Libby uses this one on all doors, crown moldings and trim, and adds that it's fantastic on cabinetry in kitchens or built-ins. "I love it because it's not a cold, harsh white. It's soft and warm but still definitely a true white. It's a home run every time!"

    10. Classic Navy Blue: "Naval" Sherwin Williams #6244
    "This blue is such a gorgeous color. It adds an air of classic elegance in any room, " says Libby. "Some people might not think of navy blue as a neutral but it is. It looks amazing with everything from aqua to orange to yellow to gray." Libby adds that this shade makes a room feel crisp and clean. She's used it on one wall in a bedroom, and it "immediately added a comfortable and cozy feel. It really pops when it's paired with crisp white as well as rich stained wood finishes."

    See more of Libby's stylish paint suggestions here and on

    Now that you're settled on color, read all about how to pick a paint finish.


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  • 07/28/10--20:08: A House Made Out of Meat?
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    A rendering of the In Vitro Meat House. Photo: Terreform ONE

    A not-so-mad architect-turned-scientist suggests that we could make houses from living tissue. Um, gross.

    In a video of his talk at the TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) Conference from February 2010, Dr. Mitchell Joachim jovially suggests that we could someday build houses out of meat. From anyone else, we'd think this was nothing more than a joke, but coming from the man who is co-founder of the first architectural office to put in a molecular cell biology lab, we wondered just how serious Joachim was. ShelterPop caught up with Joachim recently, and it turns out: He's very serious indeed.

    If you asked Joachim: Why grow houses? He'd answer: Because we can. Joachim and his firm Terreform ONE are well-known for their unusual proposals for creating greener cities. One project, the Fab Tree Hab, proposed grafting trees together to create a home. Now Joachim says we should be thinking about growing homes from meat. "It's an extremely serious idea," said Joachim. However, he admits that your ShelterPop editors weren't wrong to interpret a hint of playfulness in his TED talk. "My delivery is a spoonful of sugar with the medicine," he says. He says that he and his firm Terreform ONE wanted to begin the research and the experiments in order to "ask the right questions" about combining molecular science with architecture.

    A rendering of the Fab Tree Hab. Photo: Terreform ONE

    Joachim reveals that the idea for the In Vitro Meat Habitat came while he was touring the country talking about the Fab Tree Hab. A wise guy heckler in one audience asked him why he didn't make a house out of meat, and it got Joachim thinking. Shortly after, PETA ran a competition to create a consumable item made from test tube meat. Joachim and his colleagues re-interpreted PETA's charge as consumable goods, rather than something you would actually eat. (As Joachim revealed during our conversation, meat grown in a test tube is far from tasty, and he doubts it will ever be used for food.) From these two events the idea for the In Vitro Meat Habitat was born.

    While the idea of a house made up of living tissue is horrifying, no sentient creature is harmed in Joachim's design. "In vitro" means test tube-produced extra cellular matrix derived from pig cells. "At the end of the day, what you get is 100% beef jerky," says Joachim. "We don't intend to keep it alive." As Joachim explains it, the tissue that would make up the walls of the house has no immunological system, no skeletal system or anything else to keep it alive, and once it's exposed to air it would die. So what Joachim proposes is to preserve it and stretch it over a specialized scaffolding to create the structure.

    An actual model of the In Vitro Meat Habitat. Photo: Terreform ONE

    While Joachim and Terreform ONE have created a football-sized model of the In Vitro Meat Habitat (above), a full-scale version is still far from becoming a reality. According to Joachim, while the house would be possible to create, it would cost an enormous amount of money (it currently costs $3,000 just to create a few centimeters of tissue). So don't hold your breath for a beef jerky clad house anytime soon.

    Itching for more green news?
    The Empire State Building gets an exciting energy retrofit
    Upcycle Objects for Flower Displays
    Gallery: The Best Eco-Chic Designers
    Design on a Dime's Kahi Lee Talks Eco-Friendly Design & Recycling Tips
    or see ShelterPop's past coverage of all things IKEA!


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  • 07/28/10--20:08: My Love Affair With IKEA
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    Ana Resende

    From her mid-life vantage point, one style-seeking writer reflects on her two-decade long relationship with IKEA.

    The year was 1990. The place: Elizabeth, N.J.

    At the time I was living with my husband-to-be in a tiny Manhattan pre-war apartment. We were jonesing for a kitchen update, but we didn't want to spend a pretty penny on a dime-size redo. And then one day the IKEA catalog landed in our mailbox, a vision of what our eating space could be. It was most opportune timing. It would be the first time I laid eyes on big blue.

    So off we went to the Elizabeth IKEA, and without much planning, we bought three kitchen cabinets and some shelves. Back in the city, we grabbed a few friends, and we had a more organized and efficient kitchen by that afternoon.
    I think it was love at first sight.

    Up until September 2007, my visits were far and few between. If I happened to rent a car and found myself by Exit 13A of the NJ Turnpike I would get off the highway and visit. If I was traveling in a city that had an IKEA within 20 miles or so, I would make the time to visit. I have been to stores in Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Hicksville, Paramus and Elizabeth. For years, I was convinced that the root of my lust was in IKEA's inaccessibility. I started to believe IKEA was playing hard to get, or maybe I should say, hard to get to.

    I was wrong. Now, I have a store just 30 minutes away from my home in Florida and I visit regularly. Its presence has only made my heart grow fonder. As a mom, a homeowner, and a professional stylist and writer, IKEA is the perfect blend of business and pleasure. I can entertain my kids, get work done, and find ideas for my home. While I am not crazy about the metaphor I am about to use, I am crazy for IKEA. Every trip is like killing two birds -- sometimes more -- with one stone.

    Twenty years later, that true love remains. I still get a familiar rush of giddiness when in proximity. IKEA's good looks and ultra-fair prices have always made my heart go pitter-pat. I'm far from alone: At last count, the official IKEA Facebook page had 92K fans. The number increases daily. People post from all over the world, in multiple languages. The profess adoration, beg for stores to open in their area, and naturally, the vent too.

    Happy anniversary to you, IKEA. Two decades could strain a relationship, but not you and me; we've made quite the team. Here are 10 reasons why our relationship works.

    Style meets function: At left, the Hemnes mirror. At right, a milk glass vase that sits on my kitchen counter, holding straws. It makes me smile everyday.

    1. We share values. High-functioning, stylish living at budget-friendly cost is important to both of us. Your business model is to offer a wide range of choices "at prices so low that as many people as possible can afford them." I couldn't have said it better myself. As a writer, I get my thrills discovering great style that's neither bank-breaking or ball-busting. I still think one of the biggest style bangs for-the-buck is the 65" Hemnes mirror for $99.

    2. You challenge me. I see in you things that I lack in myself. I yearn for simplicity and order, and you are a symbol for what I can be. You represent clean, organized living. Over the years, I've leaned on you for organizational support: magazine holders, Trofast, wire-drawer systems and laundry carts. The results, so far, are optimistic but we have a ways to go.

    I am a fan of this white bedroom. It's pure, breath-taking and glam. Every time I pass this particular display, I imagine myself in this bed. Photo: Ana Resende

    3. You enrich my fantasy life. I've always had decorating dreams; I now call them fantasies. Beyond the décor, I envision the lifestyle that goes with it. I stop in front of this white bedroom of yours and my mind takes off. I am freshly showered, propped up on downy pillows in the Aspelund bed, one leg under a floaty duvet, the other on top. My sweet labradoodle is good company. I am wearing a linen robe, and I am engrossed in a great novel. A soft glow radiates from Fillsta lamp ($29.99) which, of course, is on a dimmer. The bedside table, glimmering with some shiny silver glam, holds a big white mug filled with Darjeeling tea with cream, lightly sweetened. It is quiet. I am content.

    It's no different when I flip through the catalog. It's a page-by-page seduction of how my life could look. Modern, but not sterile, organized but not stiff, colorful yet not chaotic. Two million people receive the IKEA catalog worldwide. It's the world's most distributed free publication. I wonder if those people are fantasizing about you too?

    4. You have faith in humanity.
    When I visit you, I never feel like Big Brother is watching. You aren't policed like other stores. I've never seen anyone reprimanded for unruliness. There seems to be a "Please touch" policy here. People get comfortable -- really comfortable -- in the room settings, and yet the crowd seems to know boundaries. Joseph Roth, director of U.S. public affairs, says, "IKEA is designed to make people feel at home." They "move in", plunk down on mattresses, sink into sofas, run their fingers through shag rugs, and slurp up meatballs. There's an unspoken trust. It's pretty much anything goes. I just love that freedom.

    5. There's very little drama. Some people thrive on the drama in a relationship; I don't. Some people publicize tales of woe about your ready-to-assemble furniture and customer service. Not me. Every now and again, I've had to drill my own holes to make things fit, but that's no biggie. In the long haul, I've had many more rewards than disappointments. The only real "bad date" was with a Malm bed back in 2004. With the lure of plenty of Pinot Grigio and a Mediterranean spread from Whole Foods, a few girlfriends came over to my New York apartment to help me redecorate the bedroom. (It was actually featured in Country Living magazine).I was excited. But after 3 hours, no progress, some profanity, and one head injury, I took a deep breath and said, "Let's pack this up. I guess it just wasn't meant to be." I could have bitched. I chose not to.

    6. I'm in good company. Not that it matters, but when you really like somebody or something, it's nice to know that your peers approve. Many members of the style elite -- editors of glossy shelter publications - are wild about you too. Sarah Gray Miller, editor in chief of Country Living magazine recently bought a boatload of white Rotera lanterns ($5 a piece) to hang from trees at her country house. Patrick Cline, a guy with a great eye and co-founder/director of photography for Lonny Magazine, among other things, has been shopping at the Elizabeth location for years. His most recent acquisition is a brushed steel desk. When he was in Paris recently he scored a vintage gold desk clock to go on top.

    7. We've got an open relationship. When I'm with you, IKEA, I want it all. You make me want to zip home and start decorating all over again -- after stopping for your famous dollar frozen yogurt, sometimes. But the drive home calms me and I remember that my style is eclectic; a mix that includes inherited pieces, flea market finds, and leftovers from photo shoots. I have a soft spot for old velvet crazy quilts, paint-by-number art, and traditional camelback sofas. I could never commit to you exclusively. I'll never be faithful to just one style nor do I have to be. And that is perfectly okay.

    8. You like kids too. You believe that, "play is the basis for how children learn, develop and become who they are." Your store has an authentic child-friendly vibe that encourages exploration and interaction. You've got one of the best free indoor playgrounds. When I say, "Let's go to Ikea", my kids say, "Yay!" because it's always an adventure. My nine-year old likes Smäland, the established supervised play area, but she also finds plenty of amusement throughout the store. She has done cartwheels in the aisles, practiced yoga in the rug area, and sank into pillow bins. I watch other parents minding strollers and sippy cups as their children test out beds, crawl through tents, and hug stuffed animals.

    9. You're kind to the Earth. You've accrued so many accolades over the years. The company is a trailblazer when it comes to social and ethical responsibility, and environmental leadership. That is the ultimate turn-on! Recognition has been given for your efforts to support sustainable forestry and to cut down on greenhouse gases and pollutants. And that's not all. You recently committed to phase out incandescent light bulbs in all stores by 2011.

    Roothie, as she is called, is my daughter Sammi's regular sleeping buddy.

    10. You are simply irresistible... sometimes. "No more stuffed animals!" I told my children, laying down the new house rule. But I never imagined that I would fall under the bewitching spell of a plush kangaroo that was ridiculously soft and cuddly. I should never have picked it up. At 28" high, with big soft front paws, she felt like a small child in my arms. There was even a baby joey in her pouch. I put her back. I picked her up. I put her back. I left. I returned a few days later and bought her. And she lives with our family, happily ever after.

    See what some of our favorite sites think of IKEA...

    Fab IKEA Finds for Under $10
    IKEA's Plastic Solution: A Nickel Per Bag
    Pug Pretty Fabric From IKEA
    IKEA Date Night
    or see ShelterPop's past coverage of all things green!


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  • 07/28/10--20:08: Daily Upper: Weave This Web
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    Inspiration can be found in the most unexpected of places! To the everyday eye, this may just be an aloe plant draped in cobwebs. But imagine how magically this could inspire an interior - think layers of green tiles for a kitchen backsplash, surrounded by white cabinetry and curvy, organic light pendants. All from a measly spider-infested aloe plant!

    Want more Daily Uppers? Get 'em here!


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  • 07/28/10--20:08: Behind the Sofa Ideas
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    The best way to finish off a room -- hide that boring sofa back! Here are three ways to make the space functional and attractive.


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    Lucidio Studio, Getty Images

    It takes a unique mind to perfectly design and decorate a room. We get inside a few interior designer's heads and find out just how they do it.

    Whether economic times are lean or high-flying, not everyone can afford the services of an interior designer. Most of us browse the internet, flip through home magazines, collect paint chips and watch design shows on TV only to feel like we're ready to tackle a room and then realize we're totally not. Decorating can be pretty overwhelming: You have to choose a style, shop for items, create (and stick to) a budget.

    You need to learn to think like an interior designer, which very few of us do.

    To make decorating easier on you, we asked three designers to share some inside info about the decorating process; when they walk into a space, what goes through their minds and where do they begin? How do they come up with a design concept, and most importantly, how do they execute it? Here's what they said:

    First, focus.
    Sandra Oster, a designer for over 25 years and owner of Decorator Tag Sale, always defines the scope of a project first. Think about what you're setting out to do and what you hope to accomplish in the space. She suggests figuring out if it's a redecorating project, a redesign, or a renovation. Then ask yourself: "What room will you be doing, will it lead to more design projects, and/or is it the last room to be redone?" and "What exactly do you want to do?"

    Answering these questions will help you define the project's boundaries and limitations. Then you won't get distracted and grow the project larger than anticipated by tacking on additional tasks that weren't called for in the initial design. If you realize that your scope is quickly getting larger, put a cap on it and try starting small -- it's what designers have to do in order to stay organized and within budget.

    Become a student of the space.
    Sandra says that to think like a designer you need to spend some time thinking about how you currently use the room and how you wish you were using it. Spend a couple of days studying your habits in the room and/or what role the room plays within your home.

    Michelle Salz-Smith, principal interior designer of San Diego-based Studio Surface, recommends taking pictures of the room(s) you are thinking of redoing. "Sometimes when you see a space day-in and day-out you no longer 'see' it," she says. "Viewing it as a picture can really give you perspective and help you see the space as others see it." You can even scan the photos into a computer program or draw directly onto them with a permanent marker to visualize where furniture, artwork or accessories might go.

    Sharing ideas with friends or colleagues is another great way to learn about your own space -- interior designers love to bounce ideas off of each other when it comes to design. "If friends and colleagues do one thing well, they can offer a point of view that's not mine," says Petia Morozov, partner and co-founder of Morozov Alcala Design Laboratory (known as MADLAB) an architecture and urban-design teacher at Columbia University's Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. "I make a point to share design ideas, even though I probably already know if it's worth pursuing by the time it's escaped my mouth. It's good to hear ideas spoken aloud."

    Make an inspiration board.
    Yes, designers really make these, and they do so for good reason. An inspiration board is "a great exercise for a homeowner to determine his or her own style and tastes," says Michelle. She says that photos can work better to describe a design concept to clients than a wordy description, and it will function just as well for you. "There are an abundance of great online blogs and webzines that offer up loads of inspiration that I use daily," says Michelle. "I constantly refer back to my mood boards while selecting and purchasing for a project to stay on track."

    When you make the decision to redo a room in your home, start collecting images that inspire you, even if they're not images of an actual room. Gather photos of your favorite things or events, inspiring textures or colors and even songs that represent the way that you want your room to feel. Also, look through home decorating magazines and websites, and gather rooms or vignettes that you would like your space to look like.

    Michelle recommends that you take a look at how your favorite retailer merchandises its furnishings -- are there vignettes in your favorite catalog that you'd like to replicate in your home? Michelle explains that store displays can be good models for ways to play with scale, texture and color.

    Pin all of your found images together on a cork board or put them in a digital collage -- like Pinterest -- to create your room's inspiration board. Having this as a reference will help you as you move through the design process. If you suddenly feel lost or distracted, like Michelle said, you can look back to your inspiration board to remember your original path.

    use store displays as inspirationFind inspiration at your favorite home furnishings store. I love Hold It Contemporary Home, shown above. Photo: John Dole Photography for Hold It Contemporary Home

    Know your budget.
    Interior decorators cannot begin planning a project until they know the budget, and you shouldn't either. You'll need to be more specific at this point in the planning process. Create a basic floor plan of your space and list the specific pieces you will be purchasing. Then put all of those furnishings into a spreadsheet and determine how much you can spend on each piece. If you need art, a few accessories, bookshelves and seating for a library project, allot a certain amount for each item -- and stick to that budget.

    Sandra asks homeowners to prioritize pieces. Figure out which items are "must-haves" and which ones are "nice-to-haves," and if you're having a hard time fitting it all into your budget, think about what pieces you already have that you can re-purpose or re-work in the space to cut corners. "It doesn't do any good to impulsively drop $500 on a lamp if you then can't afford to finish the rest of the room," she says.

    And now, the fun part.
    An interior designer's job doesn't end here -- in fact, it's just getting started. Using an inspiration board and budget as their guide, they begin to shop, choose paint, accessorize and pull everything together in the room.

    Here are some more tried-and-true tricks of the trade:

    Don't feel overwhelmed -- stick to the colors you love. Photo: Getty Images

    1. Be prepared when shopping for paint.
    Michelle explains that shopping for paint can be one of the most overwhelming parts of your redesign; it is for designers, too. There are so many paint colors to choose from. Michelle says that before you go to the store, "think of the colors you love best, look at the other colors in your home, and look at your home overall and not the room as a separate entity." Designers like to choose paint colors that flow between rooms, especially in a smaller home. "If you use coordinated colors and a unified palette, your home will appear larger and not disjointed," she says.

    Designers love paint testers. It's an easy way to see if you like the color you've picked. If you can't live with it for a couple of days, it's time to choose a different color.

    2. Work your room around one piece.

    Interior designers can look at a swatch of fabric or an outfit and design a room around it. You might try and do the same. "Sometimes the best jumping off point is the least expected," Michelle says. "Don't be afraid to design a bedroom around a duvet cover or a kitchen around that sweet tea towel you found on Etsy." Look back at your inspiration board and see if there is one item or photo that you keep coming back to and make it the catalyst for everything you purchase. It might not be a literal translation of the item, but remember how it makes you feel and try to surround yourself with things in your space that also make you feel that way.

    3. Don't forget the 5th wall.
    Sandra says that if your budget is tight, be sure not to scrimp on "the 5th wall": your floor. Replace a carpet on your wood floors to change the scale of the room or lay a rug on top of a sisal rug for a layered look. Use rugs to define or separate space, too. "Even if you love wall-to-wall carpet, the addition of small patterned rugs can add creativity and flare to your space," she explains.

    update your existing spaceChange your flooring, paint your ceiling and slipcover your chairs for an instant update. Photo: Sandra Oster

    4. Learn how to stretch a dollar.

    Designers often save big by re-using or re-purposing something that their client already has. They go "shopping" in the client's home, and you might try and do the same. Do you have an old chair that you can cover in a new fabric or a table that can be updated with a fresh coat of paint? Your old sofa can even be reupholstered to make it feel like an entirely new piece. Michelle explains that even chopping off arms or swapping out legs can totally revamp a piece. "Repainting wood furniture, re-framing artwork and photos, and recovering pillows with found vintage or flea market fabrics are all ways to save the budget and have fun being creative while designing sustainably," she says.

    And don't forget the accessories. Accessorizing can completely change the look of a room. Sandra says that adding glass vases and collections of items to existing furniture is a great way to instantly redecorate on a budget. For larger design projects, she recommends investing in some great artwork or mirrors. She also relies on cheap art: "Try purchasing posters or reproduction art from museums and framing them with large mats and thin, dark frames. A series on one wall of three artist's posters can make a space feel defined and powerful." If you want your space to appear larger, Sandra says to get mirrors. "Mirrors can be room-openers if positioned to reflect the outdoors or a prominent, designed opposite wall," she adds.

    Remember, what counts is quality over quantity. Michelle recommends purchasing a few expensive pieces rather than a lot of inexpensive items. "I always buy the best that I can afford," she says. "I aim to create looks and spaces that last while looking high-end and collected." Therefore, when you invest money in a few key pieces, it can make all the difference, and then you can spend less on trendy items like accessories, which can be changed out for the seasons.

    5. Take a risk.
    Interior designers love to experiment. If they didn't we might have missed out on some of design's most popular looks in the last couple of decades (Think: Jonathan Adler's "happy chic" home decor). When thinking about your space, push the limits of your comfort zone, even if that means going with a darker neutral rather than a standard beige. "We don't really know what our capacities are until we tease them out of their usual circumstances," says Petia. "I consider every design project an opportunity to give new shape to our daily habits, whether they're how we eat or shop or sleep or mingle."


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    Photos: Courtesy of Elizabeth Bauer; eBay

    This style editor-turned-decor maven splits her time between her jewel box of a store and interior design business. And yes, she still finds time to scour eBay.

    Elizabeth Bauer's passion for interior design took her from Vogue and O at Home to her own design practice and red hot namesake shop, described by fellow designer Heather Clawson as "Paris meets Palm Beach".

    Elizabeth Bauer Design, her cozy-glam West Village shop in New York City, is like a greatest hits collection from Elizabeth's travels (you can take a gal out of magazines, but you can't take the editor's eye away from the gal). With the mix of refurbished antiques and sophisticated wares constantly changing, each visit elicits the thrill of discovering the shop over and over again.

    How does she keep the constant flow of beauty coming in and out? For one, she's committed to keeping things fair. "I don't price to sit on things, I price to sell!" she says. And as for bringing in new pieces regularly? She's a flea market junkie, naming Les Puces, the famous Paris flea market as her number one favorite. "In America, people sometimes think of flea markets as a place for leftover socks and discontinued lipsticks," she says. "But in Paris, it's so big and well-curated, there are actually trends -- design is no different than art, everything comes back around and builds off of each other."

    Photos: Courtesy of Elizabeth Bauer

    It's no surprise that as a master hunter-gatherer, Bauer uses eBay to feed her addition when she can't be scouting in person. "It's a great resource, especially now that I have an iPad and the eBay app," she explains. "There have been so many times when I've missed an item just because I was outbid by a dollar while I was away from my computer. Now the app reminds me which auctions are ending soon."

    Though she's never sold anything on the site, she's a frequent bidder, and like all eBay connoisseurs, she has an arsenal of go-to searches. "I like buying vintage scarves and turning them into pillows, I love searching for Hollywood Regency or vintage barware, or for certain fashion names like vintage YSL or Karl Lagerfeld," she says. She also recommends turning to eBay for her favorite accessories and books. "You can really get anything! And you don't have to pay retail."

    When it comes to art, Bauer offers this advice: "If you're looking to fill your wall with something that makes you happy, by all means go for it! But if you're looking to make an investment, make sure to do your research. If a piece and a price seem too good to be true, they just might be." She's also careful with how much time she spends on the site. "You can't just go on eBay for 10 minutes. It's a problem! Looking for something triggers looking for something else which triggers looking for something else... it's really dangerous."

    Photos: Courtesy of Elizabeth Bauer

    It's true -- just try to click away after browsing through her fantastic picks. We're already lusting over that vintage YSL scarf. Here's hoping it gets a glamorous second life as a pillow! Check out the goods over at The Inside Source.

    And check out our past collaborations with The Inside Source.


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    Seating, seating all around! Photo: Mitchell Gold & Bob Williams

    You asked: "I love to entertain but have a small living room. What type of upholstered furniture can help make a room more comfortable for a (small) crowd?"

    ....Mitchell Gold & Bob Williams answer:

    How about these options?

    Armless sofa: Space-saving footprint, streamlined profile -- and it allows an extra person or two to share it at parties. On nights home alone, add cushy toss pillow for more comfort.

    Sofa alternatives: Try a loveseat or what we call a "sofette" (settee size, but with sofa comfort). Rarely do more than two sit on a sofa, so save some inches and maybe fit another chair or allow more room for circulating. In very tight quarters, a chair and a half can do the trick.

    Modular sectional: Customize it to your room so you don't waste space. Try two armless chairs and a chaise -- great for lounging or perching. Added benefit: modular pieces are easy to get in and out of a room when you move.

    Note: Look for upholstery styles with slim arms, which gives more seating area and appears to take up less space.

    Small-scale chairs. One of our favorite styles: the tub chair. It hugs your back, and lends a curve to a room. Armless chairs are great, of course. And be on the lookout for slim-arm versions of styles like leather club chairs.

    Pull-up chairs. One of these scaled-down seats can be tucked in a corner and pulled into the conversation area when needed. The best ones look petite but sit as comfortably as a full-sized chair.

    Dining chairs. Upholstered or slipcovered chairs can be carried in from the dining room, offering guests great comfort and a good look if you coordinate their fabric with your living room. Or use a space-saving dining chair instead of an occasional chair. And if you use one as a desk chair, it can also be backup living room seating.

    Openwork chair: For example, an iconic mid-century Bertoia wire chair lends a lighter feel. It's a great look... though with limited seating in a room, you may prefer to get in as much upholstered-chair comfort as possible.

    Bench and cube ottomans: Instead of a cocktail table, use upholstered ottomans to gain a few more spots. If they can be storage ottomans, even better.

    Note: Include a few floor cushions and a soft rug for informal seating.

    Whichever upholstery you choose, emphasize your room's intimacy:

    o. Keep it calm with a simple scheme of two or three soft hues.
    o. Put lights on dimmers.
    o. Add mirrors to reflect light and give a more expansive feel.
    o. Think double duty: a combo floor lamp/tray table beside a sofa, a slim console that can be cleared of accessories and used for serving.
    o. Pare down accessories to help guests feel at ease moving about. Create a wall arrangement rather than displaying photos tabletop.

    Reminder: Crucial to compact-space decorating is measuring. Be thorough, including things like doorway widths and windowsill heights. Bring measurements to the store, plus a floor plan and snapshot of your space if possible. If you want measuring backup, some stores will send someone to your home to help insure what you like will fit.


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