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    Tweeting away. Photo: Jolie Novak, AOL.

    What's better than curling up for Design Star on Sunday nights? Tweeting about it with ShelterPop!

    Quick: What are your plans for Sunday night? (We're talking 10p/9c). If you're undecided, ShelterPop invites you to join our Twitter party with one of our favorite ShelterPop writers Jaime Derringer! (You also may know her from her amazing blog Design Milk. She'll be watching the new episode of Design Star on HGTV and piping up about everything from our favorite rooms to the contestants' cringe-worthy all the moments that make us go OMG, LOL or oh no they didn't! (That's ONTD for those new to Twitter's 140-character limit!)

    Here's the scoop: Tune in to Design Star this Sunday, August 15 at 10p/9c on HGTV and keep your laptop or phone nearby for easy Twitter access. Follow us at or see our opinions retweeted at We'll be gabbing with the hilarious Heather Armstrong of so you know we'll bring our A-game... And we hope you do too! If you'd like to join in, use the hashtag #designstar and raise your voice (you know your comments are too good to only be shared with roommates and pets.)

    If you're a newbie to the show, you still have time to catch up before Sunday -- you can watch past episodes, get expert tips, rate designs and learn more about the contestants at Design Star's site.

    To help you get as pumped as we are, we're giving away the HGTV swag you see in the photo above -- umbrellas, tees, iPhone cases, beach towels, mugs and travel mugs. To win a prize pack with one of each of the goodies, leave us a comment about who you're rooting for (or if you haven't started watching -- what other HGTV shows you love.)

    Hope to see -- err, tweet -- you there!


    * To enter, leave a confirmed comment below telling us who you're rooting for on HGTV Design Star OR your favorite HGTV show.
    * The comment must be left before 5pm EST on Tuesday, July 17, 2010.
    * You may enter only once.
    * One winner will be selected in a random drawing.
    * One winner will each receive a HGTV prize pack including one of each of the following: umbrella, tee, iPhone case, beach towel, mug and travel mug. Value: $45.
    * Open to legal residents of the 50 United States, the District of Columbia and Canada (excluding Quebec) who are 18 and older.
    * Click here for complete Official Rules. Winners will be notified by email, so be sure to provide a valid email address!


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  • 08/12/10--10:14: Summer Savory
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    Marie Viljoen

    Summer savory deserves more attention.

    I have been growing summer savory (Satureja hortensis) for three years. After the first flowering I never had to buy another plant, as it self seeds very easily and pops up all over my container garden. In May, I identify the seedlings, decide how many I want to keep, and weed the rest out ruthlessly. In mid-summer it makes pretty little white flowers which are irresistible to bees.

    Summer savory in June. Photo: Marie Viljoen

    For a flavor-popping herb sauce for grilled portobello mushrooms, chop a whole cup of fresh savory leaves -- you can use the tender stalks, too; add a crushed clove of garlic, and cook both very gently in about four tablespoons of butter. After five minutes, add a squeeze of lemon juice, cook another minute or so for it to caramelize a bit, and pour over grilled mushrooms just before eating. Try this sauce dribbled over a good steak, or over toasted pieces of sourdough bread, too, as an unconventional snack with drinks. Otherwise use summer savory as you might thyme: inside a roasting chicken, chopped up with some lemon zest as a fresh herb rub for ribs (in winter I use the seeds as part of a rub), or underneath a roasting leg of lamb.

    Three stages of chicken paprikash. Photo: Marie Viljoen

    Recently, when looking up summer savory's botanical name, I learned that this a favored herb in eastern Europe, featured prominently in Hungarian, Romanian and Bulgarian cooking. Ever since, I've included a few sprigs in my chicken paprikash recipe, taught to me by an ex-Hussar, in his late 80's. He did not use borsikafű in his recipe, but it is an excellent addition.

    In late October, I collect what remains of my savory plants and dry them in the oven at a gentle 200 degrees. Then I strip the seeds and leaves to keep in a clean mason jar through the winter. I'm not much into dried herbs, but I fell in love with this one's intense, optimistic flavor and I include it in everything from those rubs for pork ribs to a table seasoning of the seeds, with salt and pepper. It has become an indispensable part of my culinary arsenal.

    Summer savory seeds. Photo: Marie Viljoen

    As with most herbs, summer savory wants full sun, six hours or more, and well-drained soil. It's a small plant, rounding out at about eight inches. One plant is not enough as the leaves are less concentrated than those of thyme, for instance, so at least three are necessary for regular use. After your first season, it'll be multiplying like rabbits.

    This useful herb is not always available at nurseries, though it deserves to be, so you might have to buy your summer savory seeds online.


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    Learn how to live more fully in your space with this smart advice on "Right-Sizing" your home.

    Northwest Arm Press

    Remember Goldilocks? She was a bit of a voyeur, who had an interest, oh...maybe an obsession, with looking inside other people's homes. In fact, she was so enamored with one particular cottage that she barged on in, even though no one was home. The harmless trespasser explored the entire house. She tasted the food, tested the furniture, even slept in a bed. And while some things did not suit her one bit, Goldilocks discovered that other things were "just right."

    Gale Steves, lifestyle observer, former magazine editor, and author, is also curious, and has been on a similar path of figuring out what's right and what's not in the American home. Steves' research methods, however, are different. She knocked on the doors of 300 family members, friends and friends of friends, and asked a bunch of questions pertaining to lifestyle wants and needs. She synthesized her findings into a book she titled "Right-Sizing Your Home: How to Make Your House Fit Your Lifestyle."

    "Right-Sizing" is a user-friendly, interactive book with the intention of guiding readers toward living more fully in their own homes. Since moving isn't always the best answer -- especially now in times of economic insecurity, Steves says that "Right-sizing is about the art of 're'". She is on a mission to help homeowners rediscover, reinvent and rearrange their homes to accommodate their present lifestyle. Right-sizing doesn't necessarily require a radical renovation or spending mucho bucks. It does call for an attitude adjustment, a little bit of sweat and ingenuity.

    Though the exact details and aesthetics of right-sizing will vary per household, Steves detected a collective conscience. People in all sorts of homes, grand and modest, shared similar frustrations and desires. They wanted more storage, less clutter and for their space to function more efficiently.

    Right-sizing may be as simple as moving the furniture around. It can be about converting the function of a room or about creating several areas in a single space. It may mean adding a few electrical outlets or designing a storage system. Right-sizing not only works for restructuring what's already there, it is also a valuable approach to a new building project. However it's embraced, Steves aims to guide people toward living more fully in their own homes. Here, her top five rooms that are ripe for right-sizing -- and photos of how beautiful the solution can look.

    The Problem: The mantra "Bigger is Better!" isn't working out in the kitchen because the cook is wiped out from all that running around before the meal is even served.
    The Solution: Decrease energy expenditure and increase efficiency by modeling the cooking area after the methodical restaurant-style chef's line where food service and prep areas are sensibly related. Add purpose to wasteful expanses of floor by introducing a second island, an eat-in table, or additional counter space.

    KraftMaid Cabinets


    The Problem: Existing floor plans and pushy realtors insist that a formal dining room is still the right thing to have even though home entertaining style has become more casual.
    The Solution: Reevaluate the dining room and look to diversify its purpose. The dining room can, for example, double as a home office whereas the table becomes a roomy desk and a wall of cabinetry can store china and linens, as well as books, files and equipment.

    Courtesy of KraftMaid Cabinets


    The Problem: The over-scaled proportions of the family room are not conducive to comfy and cozy living.
    The Solution: Manage the space. Rework the furniture and accessories to create different areas. A sectional is a great way to carve out a niche while securing plenty of seating. Area rugs also help define sections and will help buffer noise. Enhance the relaxed mood with ambient lighting rather than spotty overheads.

    Interior Design: Alison Spear


    The Problem: Clutter makes the bedroom feel less like a sanctuary and more like a penitentiary.
    The Solution: Rediscover the open and airy vibe by first weeding out unworn clothes and dust collectors. Think about expanding the closet to make a dressing room and then move the heavy furnishings like dressers and chests into that space. A smaller but less cluttered bedroom could be the ticket to a more peaceful room.

    Courtesy: Stanley Furniture


    The Problem
    : What was mistaken for luxury in the bath -- his and her stylish pedestal sinks, for example -- has ended up forfeiting precious space for toiletries.
    The Solution: Reclaim space for essentials by swapping out freestanding pedestals for above-counter bowls that can accommodate a countertop. Mineral tones lend that spa luxury feeling.

    Interior Design: Alison Spear


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    Electrolux Bio Fridge Full ViewFlickr, Electrolux Design Lab

    This fridge of the future redefines cool.

    We've come a long way since the days of the old "ice box". In fact, this version, created by industrial designer Yuriy Dmitriev for the 2010 Electrolux Design Competition, doesn't require ice or cool air to chill your food at all. Instead, items are individually cooled by a non-sticky biopolymer gel that surrounds each one when shoved inside. The gel, which absorbs heat and transforms it into a cooling light (luminescence), creates a separate pod for each product with the ability to identify the item's optimal temperature and keep it from being contaminated by surrounding odors.

    The Bio Robot refrigerator, as it's called, is four times smaller than current models, since the updated design has done away with doors, drawers, and a motor. That means that 90 percent of the surface area can be used for its primary purpose of keeping your edibles cold. (Or double as a cooling bed on these sweltering summer days? Just saying.)

    Electrolux Bio Fridge CloseFlickr, Electrolux Design Lab

    Because of its door-less, drawer-less design, the Bio Robot can also be hung at any orientation -- vertically, horizontally or even on the ceiling -- and it puts your groceries in plain sight.

    The goal of this year's competition was to create an appliance for an urban home in the year 2050, but we're hoping to see this refreshing idea on the market a lot sooner than that!


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    Photos: Courtesy of Jamie Meares and eBay

    Blogworld it-gal Jamie Meares has made her mark on Raleigh, NC with a shop and interior decorating business. Now, fans rejoice as she launches her online shop.

    When life closes a door, it opens a window. It's a fitting cliché if we're talking interiors -- particularly a nailhead-trimmed door and well-dressed window. Such is the story of how we found Jamie Meares. In early 2009 when Domino folded, the New York Times ran a piece on the many devastated fans and introduced us all to Meares, a blogger who won our hearts with her all-too-familiar magazine ritual: "I would get my 100-calorie M&M's and my hot cup of tea and my Domino and go through the whole thing cover to cover."

    We followed her blog, I Suwannee, obsessively through 2009 as she prepared for the launch of Furbish Studio, her shop/interior design business. Now that it's an Elle Decor-approved destination, we're delighted to celebrate the news that starting this week Furbish is shopable online.

    Photos: Courtesy of Jamie Meares

    "Going from a blog to a store was scary and exciting, but also sort of epic. I'm not familiar with anyone else who did it quite like this," she explains. But with the fear and excitement comes some major perks -- like getting to be her own boss, a super-short commute (two minutes!), choosing her co-workers and of course, having her dog Rowdy, the unofficial Furbish mascot, at work every day. There's also a bit of wonder in it all. "I love doing those tiny bits of magic everyday that makes me shriek," she confesses.

    Photos: Courtesy of Jamie Meares

    Followers of I Suwannee know that Jamie's a mean eBay shopper. She frequently rounds up favorites and readers will snap them up ASAP. What does she plug into that eBay search box the most? Hollywood Regency and Vegetable-Dyed Kilim. And as for her eBay finds that get revamped into heirloom-quality pieces -- those specs are a little harder to nail down. "They must have interesting lines, be useful and be structurally sound," she explains. When it comes time to update them, her plan of attack is pretty spur of the moment. "It's usually a game-time decision. I have 50 million paint colors staring at me and when it's go time, one will speak up." (Sounds like she was right about that magic.)

    Photos: Courtesy of Jamie Meares

    Jaime's picks are always so spot on, and we're delighted to showcase them over at The Inside Source later today. But we had to ask her -- with all the success, has there ever been an eBay let down? "I bought a dog leash for Rowdy on eBay last week... and lost it yesterday." Can't win 'em all.

    Check out our past collaborations with The Inside Source.


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  • 08/12/10--17:15: Framing Pictures
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    Enhance your favorite photos by framing them in beautiful and creative ways.


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    Martha Camarillo, Contour by Getty Images

    Elizabeth Gilbert is the author of two New York Times bestsellers about her travels, but her real passion is décor.

    You probably know Elizabeth Gilbert as the woman who took that awesome trip around the world, wrote about it, suffered loss, found love and is now a household name. While all of this is true, there are indeed times when Liz enjoys being at home -- in New Jersey, with her husband José Nunes. Today the story of her bestselling memoir Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia (Viking Adult, 2006) arrives in movie theaters. Julia Roberts takes on the part of Liz and her romantic love interest, "Felipe", who is actually José, is played by Javier Bardem.

    One pull that Liz and José have for New Jersey is their import business, which they started in 2007 from the ground up. (José was already working as an importer and knew the nuts and bolts of the business.) Called Two Buttons, the 2,200-square-foot warehouse in Frenchtown, NJ, displays their keen interest in world travel and exotic cultures as demonstrated through the furniture, art, jewelry, craft, antiques and more that they have picked up in South East Asia. Many tell stories about a country's culture, as they are gifts someone traditionally receives for a wedding or birth.

    Silk scarves, Buddhas, hand-painted masks, Tibetan singing bowls, bracelets and necklaces carved from indigenous objects, rugs, pottery, furniture, paintings, you name it. It's the result of this couple's passion for trekking the globe -- and trying to understand each culture.

    And all of their finds are for sale at the warehouse. Soon, an online marketplace will debut at

    Why the name Two Buttons? While in Laos a priest told them that they had so much love for life that they could be happy with just two buttons in their pockets.

    We caught up with Liz last week and talked about what "home" means to her.

    ShelterPop: How are some of the objects you've acquired while traveling displayed in your home?

    Liz Gilbert: Let's see... We have a whole heap of stone buddhas in our garden (which is good for the lazy gardener -- ie: me -- because statues jazz things up and fill in holes, while also, of course, adding to a sense of serenity. We have a traditional Balinese bridal couple -- very old and carved of wood -- in our bedroom. (These wooden statues are meant to bring abundance to a marriage.) And I have a small stone "Boundary God" statue from Sulawesi Indonesia right here on my desk, next to my laptop, reminding me not to say "yes" to everything!

    A display of scarves and a Shiva in Liz Gilbert's store. Photo: Two Buttons: Importer of the World's Wonders

    SP: Can you describe a time when you were acquiring objects for Two Buttons and either you (or you and José) just knew that this was something you had to have?

    Liz: There was a day when we were wandering around Bali and we spotted these two giant wooden, brightly colored statues of horses, right outside a rickety, old door of a hidden antiques shop. It turned out the horses were from the island of Lombok, and they are called "circumcision ponies." Young boys are carried through town on these horses when it's time for their circumcision ceremony, which usually happens around the age of six or seven. (One only hopes they don't also have to ride the horses home -- poor kids.) The objects were so beautiful, so odd, and the story was so fascinating that we had to buy them. (We have one in our house, too -- the cats like to sleep on it.)

    SP: What are some tips you have for Shelterpop readers in how to incorporate "global" decor into a room? At times these pieces, while extremely beautiful and inspiring, might be a totally different style than what's in the rest of the room or the house.

    Liz: I've never really believed in the "matchy-matchy" style of decoration. I think houses are so much more interesting and eclectic when you mix up all sorts of styles together. We have traditional Asian objects in our home, sitting right next to folksy American antiques that I inherited from my mom, and throw pillows from Target. Somehow it all works, because what those objects all have in common is that I love them. Each one has a story that helps to tell the story of my life, and each one is beautiful in a different way. And if you're going to be looking at something, touching something or using something every single day -- it should be beautiful, and it should be loved. What it doesn't have to be is expensive.

    SP: How does running Two Buttons fuel your wanderlust and your love for travel?

    Liz: Two Buttons has been such a perfect solution for me and my husband, for us to find a way that we can live together, build something sustainable together, and also travel together. Once or twice a year, we have to go out there in the world and discover a host of new wonders. I've also found that there's no better way to really understand a country than to try to do business there. There's something about banging out a deal with somebody -- with a fellow merchant -- that knocks aside all the surface politeness of the usual tourist relationship, and really gets you right down to the reality of another human being.

    The other great thing is that Two Buttons challenges us to find new markets. We've really mastered how to shop in India, Thailand and Indonesia, but lately we've been saying that we need to go to Turkey or Morocco -- to find objects that are different than what we already have, to keep the store fresh and different, month by month. It's always a little scary to throw yourself into a new culture and try to solve the complexities of importing, but it keeps things interesting!

    SP: If you could only take five things with you from your home, what would they be? (Just play along here ... whether it's forced relocation or voluntary downsizing!)

    Liz: OK, setting aside husband, pets, important legal documents and family photos, if I were moving or downsizing, or even just rescuing things from the proverbial burning building, I would run around hastily grabbing art off the walls before I reached for anything else. And I know just what I would save, too -- two paintings by my friend (and local Frenchtown artist) Sandra Flood, a sculpture that my friend the artist Shea Hembrey made me for my birthday last year, a painting by my friend Kate Javens of a bird in flight, and a large collage of encaustic tiles by my friend Christine Chaney. Somehow I feel like everything else (furniture, clothing, rugs, even books) can be replaced -- but a piece of art is unique to the soul of the moment in which it was created, and must be guarded forever!


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    Courtesy of Target

    The home and design news for the week of Aug. 9 to 13.

    A lot of people have been working around the clock -- including us! Take a look at this week's home news.

    The new John Derian for Target Collection will debut in just a few short weeks, but we couldn't wait that long to share a sneak peek of the collection!

    Speaking of first looks, we followed up our preview of the new Veranda magazine with a chat with Dara Caponigro.

    We also announced plans for our next Design Star Twitter party and a free book giveaway. (Will we see you on Twitter this Sunday?)

    Also super-busy: Kathy Ireland, as she opens another window of opportunity.

    And if having one of the year's biggest films wasn't enough, Buzz Lightyear and Woody will soon be seen on a lamp near you.

    Designer Matthew Frederick is partnering with Chelsea House on a new line of art and decorative accessories.

    The home and interiors industries will get a little help in looking ahead as trend forecasting service WGSN offers them a new way of seeing things.

    Housewares execs will be thinking ladies first when they get together for a conference in October.

    If you like Serena & Lily linens and housewares, now's the time to open up your wallets and stock up.

    The Interior Design Society gets ready for its online close-up by signing up with Prepare to see many more stylish faces on the site.

    A garden in San Jose really rose to the occasion, earning the honor of America's Best Rose Garden.

    And Kohl's homewares really worked hard this past quarter.

    The August/September issue of Lonny Magazine came out, with a particularly dreamy feature on Cath Kidston's home.


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  • 08/13/10--09:28: Secret Source: edition20
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    Fontanaarte and Pierre Paulin Editiion 20 Classic designs at the ready. Photos:

    The Source

    The Goods
    Knockoffs are easy to come by, but real-deal 20th-century design is a bit more of a challenge. Here to help: The newly launched site cuts out the leg work involved in locating coveted 20th-century pieces and features a digital library of goods that are still in production today.

    The Secret
    Organization is the key to getting your hands on say, a 1960 "Orange Slice" chair by Pierre Paulin (above right) or a 1964 table lamp by Gae Aulenti for FontanaArte (above, left). With items arranged by product group (armchairs, lamps, table accessories...), theme (Scandinavian, sixties, Art Deco...), style (minimalist, masculine, glam...), designer and manufacturer, edition20 lets you carry out refined searches for specific design classics for purchase or inspiration.

    Things to Know
    All the of the designs, dated between 1900 and 1999, are still being made today under the original license, either by renowned premium vendors or at smaller workshops all over the world. Check out the "top three" most viewed items of the day or the designer bios included with each item to beef up your design savvy.

    The database, which took more than 10 years to assemble, is updated regularly by a team of specialist writers, private collectors and premium vendors.


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    Miguel Flores-Vianna for ELLE DECOR.

    The stars of Will & Grace and Parks and Recreation create a home that's all their own (and nothing like their TV alter egos!)

    The simplest way to describe the home of Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman? It looks nothing like how we'd imagine the homes of their TV alter egos -- Will & Grace's catty Karen and Parks and Recreation's misanthropic Ron. Electric colors anchored by white walls and neutral furnishings keep the West Hollywood duplex feeling friendly, fresh and completely welcoming.

    While it seems like a far cry from their characters' tastes, it captures their real lives perfectly -- a fitting accomplishment for two people so involved in the decorating process. While Mullally took the reins on the project before bringing on designer Ames Ingham, Offerman contributed a few pieces of the wood furniture he builds at his firm devoted to "wood-related merriment", the Offerman Woodshop.

    And while Mullally isn't officially in the interior design business, it may be in her future. "If I had to pick a second career, this would be it," she said. "I felt such a void in my life after finishing this house. We're toying with the idea of Ames hiring me as an assistant."

    Miguel Flores-Vianna for ELLE DECOR.

    Some might argue that white walls can get boring, but these serve as the perfect backdrop for one of the most striking elements of the home -- the art collection. With an unpretentious mix of pieces by Yoko Ono and Grandma Moses, it feels like the kind of gallery wall that was built over time, with each piece carrying its own story. In the breakfast room, above left, the look is intensified by framed pieces mingling with stretched canvases. Meanwhile in the living room, above right, an elegant Michael Eastman photograph holds its own.

    Miguel Flores-Vianna for ELLE DECOR.

    One of our favorite aspects of the home is the pool, with a host of nooks thanks to its many curves and corners. (Maybe not so practical for swimming laps but so perfect for chatting in the water.) With lush grass and boxwoods all around, one could forget they're in bustling Los Angeles...until they look out beyond and see all of downtown LA swirling in the distance.

    Craving more? Check out the rest of the story and photos (don't miss the low-key cabinetry and high-impact rug in the kitchen!) or better yet, pick up the September issue of ELLE DECOR to see this story, plus all sorts of other amazing pieces, like director Michael Bay's over-the-top home and a stunning piece on op-art patterns that will make you crave a piece of the trend.

    Want more celeb homes?
    Sacha and Isla List Their Midcentury Hollywood Hills Home
    Christie Brinkley Puts Hamptons Home on the Market
    9 Celebs And Their Crazy Extravagant Mansions
    Or check out ShelterPop's past coverage of all celebrity homes!


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    No, that's not the entrance to a boutique hotel in Los Angeles. It's Austin's San Jose Hotel. Photo: Allison V. Smith

    Liz Lambert's Texas modern hotel was once a flea-bitten, junkie-ridden heap.

    I've never been to Austin, but as soon as I set foot in the Texas capital, I'm ready to bunk at the Hotel San Jose. When the now famous hotelier, Liz Lambert, purchased the Hotel San Jose in 1995, most people thought she was nuts to invest in a run-down motel inhabited by junkies and hookers. As Lambert told T: The New York Times Style Magazine, "The place looked empty, but it wasn't. It's just that everyone who stayed there didn't have cars or luggage or come out much during the day." But Lambert saw past the grit and the grime, perhaps imagining the San Jose motel in its original glory as a modern motor court of the 1930s.

    Whatever her vision was, Lambert opted for an unconventional decision to renovate rooms one-by-one, with the rest of the hotel filled with guests. During these years, Lambert manned the front desk -- making friends with the various characters who inhabited the San Jose. Lambert and a team of collaborators slowly transformed the San Jose from a seedy, rundown motel to a chic, modern retreat. By 2008, Lambert was ready to begin an additional wing to the hotel's original 40 rooms. All the while, the South Congress neighborhood surrounding the Hotel San Jose was undergoing its own renaissance.

    At the Hotel San Jose, the mid-century vibe continues outdoors. Photos: Allison V. Smith

    Today, the hotel boasts clean, cool rooms in Lambert's signature Texas-does-mid-century-modern style. Cowhide rugs and hippie-printed bedspreads may be staples of her decor, but these are no cowboy digs: The beds are all made with Frette sheets. Furnishings have been kept minimal and modern, with Eames chairs and other mid-century staples throughout.

    Common areas of the Hotel San Jose. Photos: Allison V. Smith

    The common areas featured poured and polished concrete floors and cooling, white walls. Natural wood and cowhide furnishings give a nod to the Hotel San Jose's Texas locale.

    As minimal as a chic SoHo hotel, but with personality. Photo: Allison V. Smith

    A minimal platform bed is made with white, Frette sheets and an Indian-printed bedspread. A wall-mounted fan and louvered blinds combat Texas's notorious heat.

    A green door gives this room a punch of color. Photo: Allison V. Smith

    A guest bedroom featuring a sitting area has a mid-century butterfly chair for lounging.

    Rock posters allude to the hotel's popularity with musicians. Photos: Allison V. Smith

    Lambert's got a thing for black and white cowhides, and really, who can blame her? They're a classic. Simple, white upholstery on the furniture in these sitting areas let the furniture's modern lines shine.


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  • 08/16/10--23:30: Daily Upper: Fabric Frenzy
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    Photo: Flickr, kimhas8cats

    The shopkeepers of this Mexico furnishings store had to have known what they were doing when they piled these textiles in such a large, seemingly unorganized grouping. It's like a treasure hunt for design lovers. Just envision rifling through all those vivid colors and beautiful patterns - now that's an upper for your afternoon.

    Want more Daily Uppers? Get 'em here!


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    Richard Fleischman for AOL

    Barefoot and baking in St. Paul, Minnesota.

    It's a chilly Friday morning and Christine Hoffman is cranking out pies. Friday is "Pie Day" in the Hoffman house. The oven is on high and the kitchen is toasty warm. Christine's cherry red toes peek out from her cozy woolen leg warmers.

    Now more than ever, Christine spends time in the kitchen. When outside work sources started slowing down last fall, Christine, a color-consultant, visual merchandiser, and HGTV stylist, began to look inside. In her home, especially the kitchen, she found all the inspiration she needed to begin something new. In her heart, she knew she was in the right place.

    Christine started Pies & Aprons, a blog about "keeping a home and everyday joys." While Martha may have paved the way for celebrating domestic achievements, Christine is crafting her own quirky path in the home arts, as she records daily life around the house. Cooking and baking are de rigueur; her photographs alone get the salivary glands excited. Organizing, decorating, crafting and shopping are also on the menu.

    Christine takes the cake as today's relevant, hip hostess, executing the role with thrift, simplicity, and gratitude. Her blog is familiar, inviting, and wholly authentic. Born and bred in the Midwest, she comes from a lineage of cooks, bakers, and candy makers. She recalls Grama Claire pulling peanut brittle and kneading dough, and the clamor around Grama Elsie's fresh cake doughnuts. Christine's father, in fact, is still keeping his famous baked bean recipe a secret.

    Nurturing through nourishment creates comfort and happiness for Christine, and the lucky recipients or her work. "Baking is a great way to celebrate and make people happy," she says. When she began dating Steve, now her husband, she celebrated him with a rhubarb pie on his birthday. Some might say she baked herself into her husband's heart. To this day, Steve is her official taste tester. He is rewarded with a brand new mouthful every Friday.


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    A white base grounds this living room. Photos: Mellisa Ervin Interior Design

    Borrow the easy ideas designer Melissa Ervin used to decorate a South Carolina home in just ten weeks.

    When we first laid eyes on this adorable Mt. Pleasant, SC cottage, we would have never guessed that designer Melissa Ervin transformed its interiors in just ten weeks. The finished results look like they took years to achieve: The house feels grounded in its seaside locale without becoming too beach-y or precious.

    Photo: Melissa Ervin Interior Design

    Here's how Melissa Ervin made this Carolina cottage shine:

    A tight deadline to complete the project didn't mean Ervin was limited to off-the-shelf products from major retailers. Throughout the house, she used a mix of old and new furnishings, which helps soften the look of things while giving the home an easy, lived-in feeling.

    The secret to the house's color palette is a neutral base downstairs and controlled use of color throughout. With the open feeling of the ground floor, Ervin wanted something that would help the space flow together, so she opted for Benjamin Moore's 'Linen White.' The butted board and upholstery were also cast in shades of white, leaving Ervin free to layer in different greens like the curtains (Kathryn M. Ireland fabric) and the dining chairs' upholstery (ESD in Charleston, SC).

    The living and dining room areas feature butted board panels, which Ervin added to the cottage for texture and character. While butted board is a job for a contractor, Ervin notes that you could get the look with beadboard, which you can purchase in sheets from your nearby home improvement center and install yourself - if you're brave enough!

    Ervin re-upholstered the homeowners' existing dining chairs in a bright green fabric. Photo: Melissa Ervin Interior Design

    The maps seen in the dining room (below) show local waterways from the Charleston area. Ervin notes that it's easiest to check in antique stores in the area you are interested in having the maps from. (You can also set up an eBay alert for your desired maps.)

    Bead board and a skirted farmhouse sink give the kitchen a country feel. Photo: Melissa Ervin Interior Design

    When it came time to work on the kitchen, Ervin realized she could not match the stain on the new kitchen floors to the old, existing floors in the living room/dining room area. Instead she opted for a bold, pop of color underfoot. The paint is Martin-Senour's 'Green Leaf 106-4.'

    The unusual artwork (seen above) in the kitchen is a German vintage botanical from the 1960s which would have been used for teaching purposes in European universities. Ervin picked up both the print and the kitchen's lighting fixtures at South Of Market in Atlanta, GA and Charleston, SC, respectively.

    A blue palette and an oyster-embossed mirror allude to the cottage's harbour setting. Photo: Melissa Ervin Interior Design

    In the bedrooms, Ervin introduced more colors; for example, in the bedroom, she worked in tones of blue. When it comes to window treatments, she notes that looks are important, but they do need to function. Says Ervin, "If money is no obstacle, hire the best window fabricator [you can afford] to custom sew your curtains so you can select your fabric and trim." If you're on a budget, she recommends ready-made curtains from Pottery Barn and Restoration Hardware and blinds from Smith & Noble.

    Ervin scored the pagoda chandelier from ESD in Charleston, SC. Photo: Melissa Ervin Interior Design

    In a guest bedroom shades of orange, red and gold add up to one sunny space. While this palette might be too bold for everyday living, using it in a guest room is way to play with color.


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    Jaime Derringer

    We've got you covered. We're building 100+ slideshows and reviews of our favorite booths. Come on in!


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  • 08/17/10--22:26: Daily Upper: Not Too Shanty
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    Photo: Flickr, Malias

    Who knew that a little tin roof shanty could be so vivacious and eye-catching? It's quite the bold color combo for the ordinary home exterior -- but that doesn't mean you color addicts can't have a little dose of eye candy by admiring this photo.

    Want more Daily Uppers? Get 'em here!


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  • 08/17/10--22:26: All About Beds
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    Courtesy of The Comfortable Home (Clarkson Potter 2009)

    You asked: "Is it really important to have a bed frame in terms of style? What about just a metal frame with a bed skirt? What's good in a smaller bedroom to save space?"

    ....Mitchell Gold & Bob Williams answer:

    To us, it's definitely important -- in terms of style, and of comfort, too. For our sense of style, nothing warms up a bedroom like a fabric- or leather-upholstered bed. It gives a room a finished look and more.

    In a room usually dominated by wood, an upholstered bed helps add softness. And not only visually -- it's hard to beat the comfort of leaning against it while watching TV or reading.

    It can also add color...though you may prefer to go more neutral and have your bed linens or decorative pillows provide pop. This insures the room will be easy to update.

    Getting a finished look doesn't require a full bed frame. An upholstered headboard with a bed skirt is an affordable option with similar benefits.

    For an even cleaner look, try an upholstered headboard with upholstered rails at the sides and foot (also called "floating rails"). A foot rail feels lighter and less obtrusive than a footboard and thus is good in smaller rooms where it seems to take up less space.

    Another clean modern option: a platform bed. Platforms often have only a mattress on a wood surface or slats instead of a box spring. However, for comfort's sake, we much prefer our platform beds with box springs built into their upholstered bases.

    Also consider:

    Headboard height. A low one can work well under windows or be right for hanging artwork above. And you still get the comfort without overwhelming a small bedroom. Even in a small room, though, you may prefer to go the other way. A tall headboard makes a bed feel grand and gives a room a dramatic focal point. If space is tight, you can use a small pedestal side table as a nightstand and mount lights on the wall.

    Bed shape and style. A simple square Parsons frame is classic and can work with almost any décor. To add pizzazz, choose a "grid-tufted" one (without buttons, so it still feels modern). We also love the sheltering feel of a traditional wing-back, perhaps outlined in nailheads. And we enjoy the curving "garden-gate" types (like the one recently featured in the movie The Kids Are All Right) for the romance they lend a room.

    If you like a footboard, be sure it isn't so high that it blocks the screen if you watch TV in bed. Actually, rather than a footboard, we often recommend an end-of-bed bench. It completes the look, adds additional color or texture, and gives you a place to sit when dressing or set pillows at bedtime.

    Care is no different from other upholstery
    . Use hand vac attachments to vacuum regularly. A lint brush can help with quick touchups. A professional upholstery cleaning service can be brought in when time for a thorough cleaning of your other upholstery.

    From an easy-care viewpoint, with the added benefit of great style and flexibility, don't forget this choice: a slipcovered headboard in a machine-washable fabric.

    And one last benefit we've really come to appreciate about an upholstered bed: It doesn't hurt your legs if you bang up against it getting in and out...


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    Think antibacterial is the way to go? Think again -- see our do's and don'ts for healthy cleaning.

    With zillions of cleaning products on the market (that's just our rough estimate), it can be tough to pinpoint the appropriate options for your household.

    One thing we can all agree on is that purchasing products that aren't harmful to the earth (or your health) is pretty important. So where do you go from there? Eco-friendly products have popped up everywhere. But not every one is really what it seems. Here's a guide to get you through the madness.

    Do take a closer look at the bottle to make sure the manufacturer has fully disclosed all of the ingredients in the product, says Stephen Ashkin, president of The Ashkin Group ("The Green Cleaning Experts"). "Typically if they provide full disclosure that's a sure sign that the manufacturer is more careful when selecting ingredients."

    choose products with a label that contains words like "poisonous," "corrosive" or "flammable." It may seem obvious, but sometimes we overlook this simple tip when searching for a specific product, like oven cleaners or rust removers.

    Do opt for concentrates, Ashkin says. "They reduce the environmental impacts from packaging -- plus they typically save money compared to less concentrated alternatives." Be sure to use only the recommended amounts for dilution.

    Do keep an eye out for products that carry eco-friendly certification like the Environmental Protection Agency's Design for the Environment (DfE) label.

    Do opt for products that call for cold water (labels should state this). "This has a significant environmental benefit by eliminating the heating of water," Ashkin says.

    Don't fret over products that have artificial (read: chemical) fragrances. "Prefer products that are also low in volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are the ingredients, like solvents, that evaporate and can cause respiratory irritation or trigger asthma," Ashkin says.

    Don't obsess over antibacterial agents. "Products (such as hand soaps) with added antibacterial agents are not effective against flu or other viruses," he says. "The Center for Disease Control found that these products seem to offer no more protection compared to good ol' fashion soap and water."

    Do use disinfectants and sanitizers only when and where necessary, Ashkin advises. "And make sure they are used properly as most have to remain on the surface for 5 to 10 minutes to be effective," he adds. "And keep in mind that these are powerful cleaning compounds and, by definition, are toxic because they are designed to kill living organisms."

    Do throw out that bleach jug. It may be an effective sanitizer, but bleach does more harm than good (such as burning eyes or skin, a respiratory irritant, permanently damages fabrics if spilled and is poisonous if ingested).

    Do consider using microfiber cloths with just water or a little detergent for cleaning most surfaces. But make sure the cloths are high quality, says Ashkin, as cheap ones clean no better than cotton. Laundering them properly is also important, so skip fabric softener as it will adversely affect their performance, he advises.

    Do invest in a high-quality vacuum cleaner that is capable of capturing small particles. Check out the Carpet & Rug Institute's Seal of Approval Program for approved products and make sure to use high-filtration filter bags and change the bags when they are only half-full as suction and performance decrease significantly when the bag reaches this point.

    Do go the extra mile and look for cleaning products and tools that are manufactured using recycled components. BISSELL's Little Green compact deep-cleaner is manufactured using a minimum of 50 percent post-consumer recycled plastic. (According to the folks at BISSELL, if every adult in the U.S. purchased a Little Green, it would be like recycling 658 million pounds of plastic -- or 20 million bags of trash.)

    Interesting (gross) facts from the Allery and Asthma Foundation:
    • The air in homes can contain 70 percent as much pollen as outdoor air.
    • Eight in 10 American homes have dust mites.
    • Nearly 10,000 dust mites can live in one square yard of carpet.
    • Six in 10 American homes (even those without pets) have cat or dog dander.


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    A touch of glam takes these nesting tables into the 21st century. Photo: Eddie Ross/The Nest

    Decorating rules soften, and the new modern decorating gets personal.

    Decorating used to mean following specific rules that promised to transform our homes into the drool-worthy ones found in our favorite magazines. Craving country? Look for farmhouse tables, baskets and faded florals. More traditional? Then heavy drapery, fringed pillows and leather club chairs are for you. Follow the rules, buy what you're told and you'll be happy.

    Not so fast. There's a new, modern approach to decorating that's brewing. Design enthusiasts everywhere are leading the way and reinventing the idea of just what modern means to them and loving it.

    "There's definitely a new modern style emerging right now," says blogger and lifestyle expert Eddie Ross."It's this mixing and matching of different styles from different time periods. We're making our own rules rather than having someone else dictate them for us. For so long there's been a certain lack of personalization in design and I think that's where this new approach is coming from."

    Ross finds this freedom of mixing things up and even altering furniture and accessories to fit one's lifestyle to be liberating. "I love the idea of say, taking a traditional-style coffee table and updating it by having a sanded-edge mirror cut to fit the top. That little touch of glamour is just enough to transform an ordinary table into something that I will absolutely adore," says Ross of a recent furniture makeover for The Nest (above), which transformed traditional, hum-drum nesting tables into modern showstoppers.

    Making the most of what you have and embracing current technology and creativity to do so, is a huge part of this new modern revolution says Estela Lugo, owner of, an online home furnishing web site.

    The new modern is all about quality: Well-made and well-desinged pieces like these selections from Photos:

    "I think we've all realized how important it is to embrace what truly makes us happy in our everyday lives," she says. "Whether it's a beautiful lace rug handmade using recycled materials or a functional piece of space-saving furniture (above), to me, the new modern means seeking out well-made, well-designed items that celebrate what's important to me."

    Of course, at the end of the day both agree that to really embrace this new modern style, we have to take the time to get to know ourselves. "Knowing what you like and don't like is half the battle," says Ross. "Once you do, finding what you love is a piece of cake."


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    Left to right: Eloise Goldman and Mitchell Gold of MG+BW; ShelterPop's Senior Editor Allison Mezzafonte; Murray's fromager Beth Griffenhagen; Feng Shui consultant Ken Lauher; Ryan Wassum from Wine Sisterhood. Photo: Sylvester Zawadzki for AOL.

    ShelterPop gathered an A-team of entertaining experts for a wine and cheese soiree. Here's what we learned.

    Last night we gathered some designer and blogger friends for a New York Gift Fair party at the Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams store to mingle and gab over wine and cheese. The MG+BW store felt like the spacious yet terrifically cozy home of a welcoming friend -- with really amazing furniture -- and we were lucky enough to host experts on three of our favorite (yet often misunderstood) entertaining topics: Cheese, wine and Feng Shui. And when we hear good entertaining tips, we can't help but share them right away. Here, some of our favorites from the night.

    When Mitchell Gold & Bob Williams talk, party guests listen. Photo: Sylvester Zawadzki for AOL.

    Beth Griffenhagen, the fromager from Murray's Cheese Shop, taught us that we shouldn't always judge a cheese by its name, explaining that the Cabot Cheddar -- one of the favorite cheeses of the night -- was neither cabot nor cheddar. "It's two boring names, but the cheese is delicious and not at all boring!" The real takeaway for our guests? "The more cheese the better," Erica Reitman of Design Blahg told us this morning. Nicole Dufour DuRocher of Bklyn Contessa agreed enthusiastically: "Especially when it's from Murray's!"

    Ryan Wassum from Wine Sisterhood then followed up with wine tips, reminding us that we should always provide a selection of wines at a party (different people, different tastes) and that you should always have enough on hand. ShelterPop writer Laura Fenton also pointed out that just like with the cheeses, you shouldn't be thrown off by a name. "While we felt a little goofy ordering the PromisQuous White wine, it was actually delicious." (Also on the menu: Monogamy Chardonnay.)

    Guests enjoying the wine and cheese. Photo: Sylvester Zawadzki for AOL.

    Feng Shui consultant Ken Lauher wowed the crowd with easy-to-implement principles -- like ensuring that you have a nightstand on each side of the bed (otherwise your relationship or your work will suffer. Eek!) "I learned that the secret to finding love in NYC is to move your bed away from the wall and to invest in a quality headboard. Who knew it could be that easy?!" said Carla Nikitaidis of CMN PR.

    Other entertaining essentials: Plenty of coasters and cocktail napkins ("I've learned the hard way that those condensation rings are borderline impossible to get ride of," said Lilith Dorko from House Beautiful). And we loved showcasing a mix of "pretend" flowers from Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams with the fresh blooms in bud vases -- an homage to ShelterPop's logo.

    Note the coasters and flowers. Photo: Sylvester Zawadzki for AOL.

    ShelterPop columnists Mitchell Gold and Bob Williams weren't the only friends of ShelterPop there -- we also hosted our beloved Design Influence gals Maria Greenlaw and Suzanne Caldwell of Design House of the Hamptons, coffee table makeover guru and designer Nick Olsen, Kristine Solomon of DIY Life, Rachel Hardage of Real Simple, Jason Oliver Nixon and John Loecke, Amy Wicks from Women's Wear Daily, Julie Raimondi, Amy Elliott and Leigh Crandall of (the team behind bringing the beloved Domino archives online!), Jen Jafarzadeh L'Italien of The Haystack Needle and Shayna Kulik of Pattern Pulp.

    Any favorite entertaining tips of your own? Share them in the comments, on Facebook or Twitter! And make sure to explore our coverage of our 100 favorite booths at the gift show.


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