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    green bedroomOkay, so you can't get your bedroom this green, but here are tips to make it feel like you're sleeping at a fresh-air resort. Photo: Sanctu, Flickr

    Your bedroom may look beautiful, but is it a health hazard? Find out how to sleep well without inhaling toxins.

    I'll admit that I never quite thought about an eco-friendly bedroom. Green means saving money on electric and water bills in the kitchen and bath -- but bedrooms? Well, yes. Green means taking care of toxicity issues throughout your home. "The bedroom is not the place to ignore when it comes to environmentally-conscious decisions," says eco-expert Sophie Uliano, author of book and blog, Gorgeously Green. "After all, we spend half our life with our head buried in our pillow." Here, she offers tips on how to get a healthier night's sleep.

    Ditch air fresheners and candles
    While you shouldn't use commercial air fresheners, Uliano warns, "You can't be sure that so-called natural products don't have damaging phthalates in them, either." If we can't use air fresheners, how do we handle musty closets? By putting baking soda and borax together in a cardboard shoebox with holes punched into the top (tape the shoebox shut) and place it in a corner of the closet to get rid of the damp smell.

    The best air freshener, besides fresh air, is a pure essential oil. She shares a recipe for linen spray: Put two tablespoons of vodka in a spray bottle, add distilled water, leaving one and a half inches from the top of the bottle, and then add one teaspoon of lavender and one teaspoon of lemongrass essential oils for a fresh scent. Spray over linens, and don't forget to spray the hamper every so often.

    Even those candles touted as green typically contain artificial essential oils, says Uliano. "You'll know they do because essential oils have a subtle fragrance rather than one that knocks you over," she explains. Beeswax candles are healthy and economical alternatives that even those who suffer from allergies and asthma can live with.

    Invest in wool bedding
    The most important investments for your bedroom -- and your home -- are the mattress, pillow and comforter, says Uliano. There are fire retardants in everything, the green diva adds, but these chemicals can be dangerous. She strongly recommends organic wool bedding which naturally retards flames, dust mites and mold. Uliano shares a resource she found, Holy Lamb Organics, for organic wool bedding. "Once you buy wool bedding, you will never need to buy it again," she adds about the material's lasting quality.

    We wondered if wool wouldn't be scratchy or hot for sleeping? "I have an organic wool comforter that I use in different temperatures," says Uliano. "It keeps me warm in cool weather, but it is not suffocating." To maintain a wool comforter, hang it over a clothes line or lay it flat to let the sun dry and air it out. "Do as the Europeans do and hang it over a balcony, then beat it with a broom to clean it," suggests Uliano. "Never bring it to the dry cleaners."

    Choose -- then wash -- sheets wisely
    According to many reports, including those from the California Energy Commission and the EPA, formaldehyde is a known carcinogen. It's not just found in furniture, it is added to items such as sheets, bedspreads and curtains, in order to decrease wrinkles. If you don't wash new sheets, you'll be sleeping on and inhaling formaldehyde. Your best bet? Flannel, knit and of course, organic cotton sheets. But Uliano doesn't stop there. "Stop buying white linens for the bedroom because to keep them white, you will need to use bleach or laundry detergent with phosphates," she says. "Whiteners create an optical illusion -- your whites will actually have a slightly blue tint, which gives the perception of being white." Next time you shop for sheets and towels, buy neutral colors so you won't have to rely on harsh detergents to keep them looking good.

    Buy antique or real wood furniture
    This is a health, not decorating issue. Uliano never buys anything made with particleboard and pressboard -- material used to construct inexpensive composite wood furniture and kitchen cabinets, which can be found on the backs of bedroom dressers, desks and closet organizers. This material can emit formaldehyde for years, and you don't want to inhale that while sleeping. Instead, she haunts thrift and antique stores, but she offers this advice: Make sure you buy real wood furniture, and nothing with a smooth plastic finish or top because that's may be a sign of lurking particleboard.

    Clean up naturally
    The recipes for natural cleaners can make your head spin, but Uliano has simplified it. Her suggestion: Wash interior windows with club soda and a rag. To spot clean your bedroom carpet, use inexpensive, eco-friendly borax. Her favorite cleaning trick: Blot the stain, pour a bit of ice water on it, sprinkle on borax, put a damp rag over it, massage the rag into the stain, blot with clean rags and repeat until the stain is gone. Uliano believes there's no need for harsh cleaning chemicals in the bedroom.

    The bottom line? Don't panic if you have "wrinkle-free" sheets, particle-board furniture, aromatic candles, cans of air freshener and nothing wool in your room besides your winter coat. Make changes gradually, replacing your bedding and furniture as needed and cleaning with natural solutions right away, and you'll sleep and wake up to a healthier home.

     

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  • 08/26/10--12:24: Why Won't My Garden Grow?
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    English wildflower gardenIf only I could see this English wildflower garden from my back window. Photo: Sideshow Bruce, Flickr

    It seems that everyone has a green thumb -- except for this wilted writer.

    If I stand at my kitchen window and squint, I can almost see my dream garden come alive. It's a romantic, quaint English wildflower garden scene that creates a tranquil vista, with colorful untamed blooms of primroses, peonies, geraniums and foxglove swaying in the breeze. But if I open my eyes a bit, what I really see are weeds. You see, I have a black thumb.

    I've always had it, yet I've tried for years to get it to go green, so I can have my lovely wildflower garden. In my first house, I cultivated a small raised bed, threw in the mixed wildflower seeds and up came dozens of prickly, aggressive, super tall and heavy-headed coneflowers that whacked me in the face every time I went near them. I moved on to a new house and a fresh start with a yard that receives loads of sun and has rich, nutritious soil. But nothing I plant grows.

    About 15 years ago, I decided to help my dream along by hiring two women who advertised their expertise in English garden design. They planted, I watered, I waited. Nothing grew. While I waited, I managed to kill a healthy tomato plant that a neighbor gave us. At the same time, a friend from Manhattan who had a way with plants gave me a cutting of morning glories, which she swore would bloom without problem. I saw one purple flower -- about a decade ago -- and now the vines, which are impossible to fully remove, are strangling my bushes.

    I realized that wildflowers, as easy as they should be to grow, weren't working for me. So, of all things, I tried roses. I stapled lattice to the house, used Miracle Grow, picked bugs off the plants and finally had climbing pink roses. But then due to an ancient property line issue, we had a landscape company move the driveway and dig up our front lawn (and yes, my roses). They made up for the transgression by planting easy things for me to maintain -- lilacs, perennials, things that others could easily keep thriving. Under my watch these "easy" plants went anemic -- and I swear I watered.

    I've tried my hand at impatiens, possibly the simplest flower to maintain. But after a disaster (too much Miracle Grow?), they became leggy and died. I remembered my mom telling me that no one can mess up planting bulbs, so I tried. But I accidentally planted some of them upside down. Laugh if you must.

    At this point, you'd think that I would have given up. Instead, I've persevered. I've read Gardening For Dummies. I've read Landscaping For Dummies. Do you know that I still can't remember the difference between annuals and perennials?

    All of this frustrates me. After all, I am a nurturing, compassionate mom, wife and friend and, heck, I'm a former hospice volunteer. So what if the rest of the world can grow flowers and I can't? I've had the joy of watching other living, breathing things grow and blossom in the presence of my tender, loving care and patience. I have a colorful, aromatic garden of a different sort filled with the beauty of children and the fragrance of my cooking talents.

    As for flowers, they elude me. But that's why there are florists: So I can enjoy the fruits of someone else's labor of love.

     

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    Kevin Sharkey reveals his influences to ShelterPop. Photos: Martha Stewart Living

    Martha's right-hand man, Kevin Sharkey, invites us into his apartment renovation and decoration. Plus, one lucky winner will get a virtual color consultation from Kevin himself!

    For the last year, we've been following Kevin Sharkey's apartment overhaul in the pages of Martha Stewart Living and on his Home Design blog. As Senior Vice President and Executive Editorial Director, Decorating, and Executive Creative Director, Merchandising for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (whew, is that one long title!), Kevin knows a thing or two about decorating a home -- and he does it with a level of precision and perfection that Martha herself is sure to appreciate.

    The full reveal of Kevin's glam digs in New York City's West Village appear in the September issue of Martha Stewart Living, and there are photos of the "big reveal" on MarthaStewart.com. The occasion of the reveal is so momentous that this is the first time anyone has ever appeared on the cover of Martha Stewart Living with Martha! ShelterPop caught up with Kevin to find out what influenced his design choices for the new apartment.

    While some of his influences -- like the spectacular Hudson River views -- were obvious, others -- like a 1970s Faye Dunaway film -- were a surprise. Here are Kevin's five biggest influences (other than Martha, of course) for decorating his apartment:

    Photos: Left: The Eyes of Laura Mars image, 1978, Columbia Pictures, Corporation; right: Paul Costello, Martha Stewart Living

    The Eyes of Laura Mars
    The 1978 thriller, The Eyes of Laura Mars, starring Faye Dunaway as Laura Mars is a surprising source of inspiration. "The character's New York penthouse is gorgeously understated," says Kevin. "The monotone palette and wall-to-wall carpet was incredibly sumptuous while maintaining a refined restraint. I kept coming back to it when making choices for the apartment -- like painting the entire space one color." You can see that Kevin's own pad is decked out with a similarly refined restraint of color.

    Tip: Mimic Kevin's living space above with his caramel-like color choice 'Heath' or opt for a gray like 'Sharkey Gray' (named after Kevin himself!) both from Martha Stewart Living Paints at The Home Depot.

    Photos: Left: Guillaume De Laubier; right: Paul Costello, Martha Stewart Living

    Karl Lagerfeld
    We all find designer Karl Lagerfeld inspiring, but Kevin took a cue from Lagerfeld's decor sense. "I saw a photo of the private dining room at Chanel in Paris (outfitted, of course, by designer Karl Lagerfeld), and I was struck by the clever use of mirrors," says Kevin of the room, above left. "Mr. Lagerfeld had taken what was a traditional room and given it an architectural feel with a simple, reflective material. I recreated the look on one wall of my living room. Not only do the mirrors reflect the Hudson River, but they transform the view into art."

    Tip: For a budget recreation of Kevin's look, consider hanging full-length, frameless mirrors horizontally on your walls.

    Photos: Left top: Courtesy of Kevin Sharkey; left bottom: Pearl River; right: Paul Costello, Martha Stewart Living.

    A Bento Box
    "Believe it or not, a Japanese bento box was the inspiration behind my bed," notes Kevin of his sleek bedroom furnishings. "Originally, I had a regular bed, which made sense with the high ceilings. But then I thought, 'I am just going to go for it,' and selected a platform bed with meticulously fitted bed coverings. My bedroom served as my living room for a time so that may have had a lot to do with the final outcome. I couldn't be happier."

    Tip: For a similar stream-lined platform bed, try West Elm's Chunky Wood Bed Frame in the Chocolate finish.

    Photos: Left: Julius Shulman, Richard Neutra and the the search for Modern Architecture (2005, Rizzoli); right: Paul Costello, Martha Stewart Living.

    Palm Springs
    As timeless as the mid-century design it is known for, Palm Springs' abundance of tropical foliage inspired Kevin. "Martha and I visited Palm Springs recently, and I was struck by the dramatic foliage I saw there," Kevin reveals. "I wanted there to be a living presence (other than me) in the apartment, so I decided to go big when choosing houseplants. My 8-foot Cutleaf Philodendron in the living room is a striking statement."

    Tip: Kevin reveals that Martha Stewart Living's deputy gardening editor Tom Bielaczyc taught Kevin how to shine up foliage with a half water/half milk solution!

    Photos: Left: Julius Shulman, A Constructed View: The Architectural Photography of Julius Shulman (1994, Rizzoli); right: Paul Costello, Martha Stewart Living.

    The View
    It should come as no surprise that a home's locale influences its design (as architectural photographer Julius Shulman gracefully demonstrates in the photo, above left). Says Kevin, "Because my apartment is in a glass tower overlooking the Hudson River, I really wanted it to be about the spectacular views. To ensure that, I selected lower-scaled furniture. This allows myself and guests to feel that sense of expansiveness -- almost like you are standing on a boat."

    Tip: Whether your view is a dramatic cityscape like Kevin's or a humble, country scene, be sure to consider what lies beyond your windows when planning your decor.

    And now, about that paint...

    We're crazy for Kevin's apartment, but we also wondered how he settled on the perfect color -- after all, this is a man who is not only an all-around expert on interior design but a total master of color, having played a major part in creating the Martha Stewart Living paint line at Home Depot (all 280 colors!). How'd he decide?

    "When I chose a color during my apartment renovation, I followed the guidelines that we always pass on to our readers at Martha Stewart Living," he says. First, choose a color family and paint several swatches on the wall. Then observe the colors in all changing lights of day, and pick the color that works best with the space. "Fortunately, my apartment has no shortage of natural light, so when I put a variety of shades on the wall the change was dramatic. I settled on Heath from the Martha Stewart Living Paint line at The Home Depot. It's a great neutral-complex, warm and a good backdrop for the rest of the apartment."

    Don't you wish you get get his expert opinion on your home? We figured. So we asked Kevin to give one lucky winner a personal color consultation via email, and he generously obliged. Plus, The Home Depot will give the winner a $25 gift certificate to buy a gallon of Martha Stewart Living paint.

    Here's how to win: Tell us what room in your home is due for a paint makeover! The winner will be contacted and asked to submit a photo for Kevin to review -- and your photo and Kevin's tips may appear on ShelterPop!

    CONTEST RULES
    * To enter, leave a confirmed comment below telling us what room in your home is due for a paint makeover.
    * The comment must be left before 5pm EST on Friday, September 3, 2010.
    * You may enter only once.
    * One winner will be selected in a random drawing.
    * One winner will receive a $25 Home Depot gift card (valued at $25) and a chance to submit a photo of their home for Kevin Sharkey to review and offer a personal color consultation over email. The photo and consultation may appear on ShelterPop with permission from the homeowner.
    * 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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    Domino/Condé Nast

    ShelterPop tracks down the talent behind the beloved, now-shuttered, interior design magazine.

    Domino, long may it rest in peace, was a favorite (if not the favorite) shelter magazine of the design world in the U.S. When it shuttered its doors in 2009, interior designers, bloggers, editors and photographers were devastated. At the time, back issues were rumored to be selling for hundreds of dollars on eBay.

    However, Domino hasn't completely died. The online decoration magazine Lonny, founded by former Domino market assistant Michelle Adams, was hailed as the second coming of Domino. Meanwhile, Brides.com satisfied some of our craving for our beloved Domino by bringing its archives back online (thank you Brides.com!). But, to be truthful, we miss having a magazine to hold. With recent news of former Domino editors getting back into the print magazine game, we decided to track down the creative team behind our former favorite mag. Here's what we turned up:

    Power Players

    Early this spring, Hearst shook up the leadership of three of its publications, moving House Beautiful editor-in-chief Stephen Drucker to Town & Country, advancing style director Newell Turner to the top spot at House Beautiful, while editor-in-chief Lisa Newsom left Veranda to become an editor-at-large for Hearst, which opened up a spot for a new editor at Veranda. We were all positively thrilled when we heard that Domino's style director Dara Caponigro was stepping in as Editor-in-Chief. Admittedly, we were less-thrilled when one of our own bloggers, Eugenia Santiesteban, was hired at Veranda by her old boss (we miss you Eugenia!), though we are excited to see what Dara and Eugenia have up their sleeves.

    Two months back, Ad Age broke the news that Domino's editor-in-chief Deborah Needleman had been tapped to oversee, "an additional weekly section of leisure and lifestyle content" for the Wall Street Journal's Saturday edition. This leaves only one of the women at the top of the Domino masthead, creative director Sara Ruffin Costello, without a new publication. While there were rumors that Sara could end up in the recently vacant position of editor at ELLE Decor, the recent appointment of Michael Boodro to the top of the magazine's masthead killed that notion.

    The three women who made Domino so special: (from left) Deborah Needleman, Dara Caponigro and Sara Ruffin Costello. Photos: Condé Nast, Veranda, Paul Costello

    Where else have Domino editors landed?
    Savvy Julia Noran, president and site director of The Editor At Large, scooped up Domino's editor-at-large Tom Delevan and market editor Allison Hall as approving editors for her newly launched The Editor At Large site. Meanwhile, Hall is also working as the style editor for the online retailer One Kings Lane. Former Domino decoration editor Tori Mellot has also contributed to the The Editor At Large and can be found blogging for the British interior design site, MyDeco.com. Rita Konig, editor-at-large for Domino, has been blogging for The New York Times' The Moment blog. Whew, holy interwebs and blogosphere -- print really must be dying.

    Martha Stewart's publications have also been the beneficiaries of Domino's demise. Last spring, Mediabistro reported that senior editor Ruth Altchek had been hired on by Martha Stewart Living. Domino style editor Kim Ficaro is working as a prop stylist, and she is listed as the contributing prop stylist for Everyday Food, a Martha-owned publication. We've spotted the byline of Cynthia Kling -- another Domino contributing editor -- in the most recent issue of Whole Living magazine. We've also spied the work of Paul Costello, a frequent Domino contributor and husband of Sara Ruffin Costello, in a recent issues of MSL.

    Wherever they have ended up, we hope the spirit of Domino lives on for many years to come. And if there are any former Domino editors out there who want to blog for ShelterPop, drop us a line!

     

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    Michael Boodro takes the helm at Elle Decor. Photo: Elle Decor


    Michael Boodro gets a sweet new gig. Plus, an old favorite announces a return. It's all in this week's home news.

    The Bombay Company
    is back
    : Bringing its globally inspired goods back to our world.

    Elle Decor gets a new head honcho: Michael Boodro takes over the top spot. Got us thinking about what ever happened to those talented Domino editors?

    Celebrity designer Thom Filicia has teamed up with Soicher Marin on a new art collection.

    Upscale case goods and upholstery maker Lorts Manufacturing teams up with Atlanta interior designer Christy Dillard on a new line of furniture.

    Springs Global and environmental designer Sami Hayek join forces
    for a new design company focusing on furnishings and accessories.

    Simmons gets a little "haute" in the bedroom with its new sleep set -- and at 10,000 bucks, a little expensive too! And if you thought $10,000 for a sleep set was up there, how about $100,000 for an aquarium?

    Black & Decker aims to make gardening a whole lot easier with a technological assist.

    Overstock.com has gotten into the private sales site side of things with Eziba.com, specializing in home decor products.

    Restoration Hardware's north-of-the-border expansion continues with its latest store in Canada.

    Interior design social networking site AvaLiving.com is helping homeowners get that particular look just right.

    Remember back when everyone in the cable TV industry just got along? A new battle might leave about 2.5 million people out of the loop on catching Martha Stewart's Hallmark moments.











     

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  • 08/27/10--10:34: Weekly Link Love
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    Photo: HGTV

    Inspired color palettes, wallpaper designed by an 8-year-old (that you'll actually want) and design for drinkers...check out this week's web picks!

    Warning! Erica Domesek of P.S. I Made This's uber-organized craft closet will make you feel slightly not worthy. It's AH-mazing. [Casa Sugar]

    We're in love with Design Star winner and new host Emily Henderson's boho-chic-eclectic style. Get ready to swoon after checking out her fave 17 designs from her own portfolio. [HGTV]

    If you're in need of anything drink related, who better to shop with than a professional mixologist? Author and cocktail-maker (shaker?) Jason Rowan shops for the best libation accompaniments. [The New York Times]

    Design Sponge's 'Before & Afters' make us want to be proactive about transforming Grandma's old dresser into something extra fab. This week's installment includes a sofa reupholstered in the freshest fabric we've seen in ages. Must. Have. Now. [Design Sponge]

    After such a rainy week in the northeast, color inspiration from water makes perfect sense. [Kris's Color Stripes]

    It's always refreshing to see the world from a child's point of view. This sailboat wallpaper designed by an 8-year-old is surprisingly cool, and makes us long for sunny days on the shore. [Remodelista]

    When we imagine Berlin, we think gray. SO WRONG! If you've never been, Michele Coppin's colorful observations will inspire you to head over on the next flight, and then decorate a room with these unexpected colors. [Live in Full Color]

    We want every single rockin' accessory seen here for our own homes. [sfgirlbybay]

     

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    Corbis

    As bedbugs spread across New York City, one Brooklyn apartment dweller recounts the battle he fought (and lost) against these nasty, relentless critters.


    It started with an apartment.
    In 2008, I moved into an apartment in Brooklyn with two of my friends from college. We were all 24 at the time and, together, had miraculously amassed enough stuff to fill an apartment -- furniture, a flat screen TV, a Nintendo Wii, an Xbox. We were living the lives our inner 15-year-olds had always wanted. It was a really great time in my life. In fact, up until that point, I had been pretty fortunate. And it is because of that good fortune that I can say the following with absolute certainty: Getting bed bugs is the worst thing that has ever happened to me.

    Just the process leading up to figuring out that I had bedbugs was agonizing. My roommates and I had been in the apartment for about six months without incident. Then one summer morning, I woke up with a bug bite. It was a deep magenta-colored bug bite that seemed to itch a great deal more than most, but I assumed it was from a mosquito. Then about a week later I woke up with four more insanely-itchy bites. I began to suspect I might have bedbugs.

    I brought it up to my roommates, but neither of them had been bitten. We also hadn't moved any new furniture into the apartment or done any of the things that normally bring in bedbugs. They were unconvinced. Over the next week, I got more bites. I said, "Guys, I really think we have bedbugs!" They still did not believe me. To their credit, their dismissiveness was not, in fact, naïve denial. But to explain that, I'm going to have to give you a little backstory.

    A few months earlier, I slept with a stranger.
    So, I started to do that thing you do after sleeping with a stranger -- freak out about your reproductive health when you see something even remotely abnormal. And I had found something abnormal. It was a bump. And in my brain, "bump" translated to "herpes." The bump was technically only on my upper thigh, but nevertheless it was enough for my herpes freakout to carry on full-speed ahead. In a panic, I made an emergency doctor's appointment with a female physician that I had never met. I arrived at the clinic and showed her my bump. She responded in the single most comforting way I have ever been condescended to. "Honey, that's an ingrown hair." I was healthy and herpes-less.

    So, when I said to my roommates, "Guys, I really think we have bed bugs," they came back with, "Yeah...you also just thought you had herpes!" Their skepticism was well placed. I am nuts.

    In the course of the next month, I kept getting more bites and my roommates continued to insist I was a lunatic. I was in a constant state of full body itch, but I could not convince anyone of what I was increasingly more sure of -- there were bedbugs not only in my room, but in the whole apartment. I tried sleeping on the couch in the living room and then showing my roommates the bites I got from that, but it was to no avail. They, after all, weren't getting bitten. What I would later find out is that bedbugs simply tend to bite some, and not others. And for those who do get bitten, they sometimes don't have significant reactions to those bites. My two roommates had apparently fallen into one of those categories. At the time, though, I did not have the proper knowledge at my disposal to make a case.

    And then I found evidence.
    This whole time, I had been searching for bedbugs all over the apartment, but I couldn't find any. I was starting to doubt myself. Maybe I just had hives. But then finally I found one. I was in bed. I had taken to sleeping with the lights on -- and I saw him crawling up the wall. This is when I first learned the most terrifying things about bedbugs. They do not die. I smashed the bug against the wall with my thumb. When I released he kept walking. I scooped him off the wall with a piece of paper, put him on my desk and pounded him repeatedly with a book. He still wasn't dead. I wrapped him in plastic wrap, stomped on him with my foot and then put a shot glass over him. The next morning he was still moving. I showed him to my roommates. I now had proof, at least.

    For over a month I had been in a constant state of panic, anticipating the next round of bites. It was actually a relief to finally know what was going on for sure and to be able to convince everyone that I wasn't completely insane. That relief, however, was short lived.

    We began a three week extermination process.
    All of our clothes had to be washed, dried on high heat and put into sealed garbage bags. I took the extra step of washing all my clothes in commercial grade antiseptic. All of our furniture had to be moved two feet from the walls. All of our drapes, pictures, and posters had to be taken down. Then, once a week for three weeks, our entire apartment was sprayed and covered in a thick layer of white insecticidal powder. And while we were told we were allowed to vacuum it up each time after three days, we thought it best to just leave it there -- really make sure those bugs were dead. We were also told that we could actually live in the apartment during the whole ordeal, but it seemed unwise to try to sleep in a place steeped in poison. My roommates started staying at their girlfriends' places. I had fallen out of touch with the girl I'd been dating, so I had to stay with my friend, Joe.

    That was a tough sell, by the way. "Hey Joe, my apartment is infested with bugs that ruin your life. They can live in just about anything and are notorious for spreading rapidly. Mind if I bring over a bag of clothes that were just in that apartment and stay at your place?" I convinced Joe I would take extraordinary precautions to somehow not spread the bedbugs, and he was nice enough to lend me a spot on his couch. It was scary for him, though. "Can I get bedbugs from you if we drink out of the same glass? What if we accidentally touch?" He had to watch me obsessively scratch the multitude of remaining bites for three weeks while he wondered, "What if it happens to me?"

    Finally, the three weeks were up. My roommates and I returned to our apartment and vacuumed up the layer of powder that coated every horizontal surface. My two-month long panic attack was at an end. Or so I thought.

    Two weeks later, I woke up with another bite.
    As I said, they don't die. I completely lost my mind. I threw away my bed, my dresser, my night stand, my desk, my posters, my chair, most of my clothes, pictures of my family, and even my TV. Not that I could afford to replace those things -- I certainly couldn't -- but I just couldn't bear to keep them. Logically, I knew that there was no way the bedbugs had somehow infested my family photos or TV, but I knew I was leaving that apartment forever, and I couldn't stand even the embryo of a thought that I might bring them to a new place. I took my remaining clothes to a laundromat, bought new garbage bags, and made plans to go back to Joe's. By the time I got to his apartment, the only things I owned were two garbage bags full of laundry that smelled like Listerine, a laptop, an iPod, and one final deep magenta bite on my leg that I couldn't stop staring at.

    My roommates and I broke our lease and split up to find new apartments. Not wanting to further impose on Joe for the duration of a lengthy New York City apartment search, I took to sleeping at a different friend's place every few nights. I carried my two garbage bags of clothes from one place to another.

    Then, one Monday I had a day off from work. I really had no place to go, but I didn't want to ask the friend who's place I was staying at to just hang around in his apartment alone all day. I was going to be staying at a different place that night, so I picked up my laptop, iPod and two bags of clothes and I started walking aimlessly around Brooklyn. By this point, I was so depressed that I had pretty much given up on maintaining any level of respectable personal appearance. I was wearing a ripped tie-dye shirt and a swimsuit. I looked homeless, and in fact, I was.

    I made my way to a park and found a nice patch of grass to lay down to take a nap on. Just as I was about to doze off I heard someone yell my name. My eyes bolted open. Standing over me was a girl I had known in college. I hadn't seen her in three years.

    "Noah? What...are you doing?"

    There was no efficient way to explain why I was sleeping in a park in the middle of the day on a Monday, surrounded by garbage bags. I decided I'd start at the beginning. "Well," I said, "A few months ago I thought I had herpes..."

    Noah spent six months trying the patience of college friends, crashing at their apartment, until he found a new apartment in Brooklyn. He's been living there bedbug free ever since. He tries to keep sane during the current bedbug outbreak sweeping New York City. About a month ago, he found what turned out to be a mosquito bite. His roommate had to talk him out of moving. Noah still refuses to sit on subway benches or walk on the same side of the street as a discarded mattress. He has yet to replace all of his belongings. More than anything, he just wants his corduroy blazer back, but realizes the potential karmic repercussions of reenacting any part of of his pre-bedbug life.

     

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    An example of a classic blue porch ceiling. Photo: iLoveButter/Flickr

    Notes and snippets for people who love decorating with color. Today, the history behind the tradition of painting porch ceilings blue.

    We all love the look of a sprawling front porch or cozy screened-in sunroom off the back of our home, but how can we spruce up this space in a subtle way? Homeowners have been adding a touch of blue paint to their porch ceilings for decades -- and it's not just for a pop of color.

    In the South Carolina Lowcountry (where this trend first began), a turquoise, periwinkle or powder blue porch ceiling is said to extend daylight as dusk begins to fall, and many even believe that it helps keep bugs away. However, in the past the main reason people chose pale blues over other hues was to ward off evil spirits, better known as "haints" -- seriously! Hence the reason southerners refer to any pale blue shade used on a house as "Haint Blue."

    Where did this ritual come from? Known as the Gullah or Geechee people, the originators of the Haint Blue tradition were descendants of slaves who worked on plantations in South Carolina and Georgia. They were well known for keeping their African heritage alive through passing on stories and the beliefs of their ancestors, including a fear of haunts or haints. The Gullah people believed that these spirits couldn't cross water, so they began creating a mixture of lime, milk and other pigments and used it to paint around every opening into their home. By doing this, they thought that the haints, confused by the watery pigments, would be tricked into thinking they couldn't enter.

    Today, this tradition extends far beyond the southern states, bringing a unique pop of color to many of America's porches.

    Like the idea, but not sure which hue to choose? Check out a few popular choices for porches:



    Clockwise from far left: Aegean Blue, Martha Stewart Living for Home Depot; Artesian Well, Martha Stewart Living for Home Depot; Caribbean Breeze, Benjamin Moore; Constellation, Benjamin Moore;

     

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    Our favorite places for antiquing, thrifting and finding all things vintage.

    Those of us with a soft spot for nostalgia or a pirate's-level enthusiasm for buried treasures know there are few greater joys than whiling away a Sunday at an overstuffed flea market. If it weren't for these indoor and outdoor bazaars brimming with vintage finds, my sister and I would have a lot less to brag about. (Her most recent gem: a collection of 50s-era table lighters found at the Long Beach Antique and Collectibles Market. Mine: A faux-Victorian nightstand made in the 70s, scored at New York City's Chelsea Flea Market.)

    From the coast of California to the borough of Brooklyn, these are the best places to find your new favorite things.


    The Biggest: Texas Antique Weekend, from Fayetteville to Carmine, TX


    Everything is bigger in Texas, and its premiere flea market is no exception. Texas Antique Weekend is a twice-yearly chain of shows that spans over 30 acres along Highway 237, at a midpoint between Houston and Austin. In April and October of every year, vendors from all over the country showcase items like Majolica ceramics, mid-century holiday decorations, small Victorian items, ranch oak furniture and basically everything else in between.

    Stan Williams
    , author of The Find: The Housing Works Book of Decorating with Thrift Shop Treasures, Flea Market Objects, and Vintage Details (Clarkson Potter; 2009) puts Texas Antique Weekend at the top of his personal list and described it this way: "If you want big, expensive items, they're there. If you want junk, it's there. It really has everything." Because of its massive size, diverse spread, and semi-annual schedule, there is no such thing as a casual visit to the Texas Antique Weekend. Whether you're a devout or amateur thrifter, make a shopping holiday out of it. Check the show's website for maps, events, dealer list, restaurants and lodging info.




    The Most Picturesque: Alameda Point Antiques and Collectibles Faire, Alameda, CA

    Because of its stringent vendor rules (all items for sale must be at least twenty years old), and the scarcity of quality antiques shows in the Bay Area, the Alameda Point Antiques and Collectibles Faire draws a regular crowd of high-end antique dealers and serious collectors. The show's co-founder and organizer, Alan Michaan, even stresses that it shouldn't be called a mere flea market. But that shouldn't scare off the casual shopper; there are still plenty of bargains to be made among its 800 booths of vintage stereos, 60s-mod dining room furniture, classic Barbie dolls, and of course, much more.

    "You can find something for one dollar or one thousand dollars," says Michaan, who also runs a nearby estate sale and auction in conjunction with the monthly show. The Alameda Point Antiques and Collectibles Faire is situated on a postcard-perfect stretch of the San Francisco Bay, on a former naval base's landing strip. The faire and estate sales take place the first Sunday of every month, rain or shine, even on holidays such as Easter, and the auction previews happen the following Tuesday and Wednesday.




    The Most Fun: Long Beach Outdoor Antique and Collectible Market, Long Beach, CA

    Right in the heart of Southern California's patio-living culture (nearly smack-dab between Los Angeles and Orange County), the Long Beach Outdoor Antique and Collectible Market (mentioned earlier) hosts a huge assortment of outdoor furniture, garden ceramics and statuary. Lynn and Donald Moger have managed the show, which takes place once a month at Veterans' Stadium, since 1982, and they also enforce a 20-year rule, so you know the bounty of Fiestaware and 50s-era Pyrex bowls aren't recent reproductions.

    Lynn is most proud of the creativity her show inspires, and she says that she's seen "an old railroad cart purchased for use as a coffee table and vintage file cabinets converted into a bedroom dresser." One of its best perks? "Real restrooms!" The Long Beach Outdoor Antique and Collectible Market takes place the third Sunday of every month, rain or shine. Because of its sunny beach side location and popular beer vendors, the show has a decidedly street fair feel, and locals come by each week just to walk around and soak up the sea breeze.




    The Coolest Newcomer: Brooklyn Flea, Brooklyn, NY

    As the borough continues to rival and perhaps surpass Manhattan as a real estate hotbed and cultural epicenter, Brooklynites need a quality flea market of their own. After opening in 2008, the Brooklyn Flea has become the preeminent spot to score vintage furniture, décor, clothing and handmade goods. Last winter, the show expanded to include two weekly events: one is outdoors in the Fort Greene section of Brooklyn, the other is inside a former Brooklyn bank built in the 1920s. The historic landmark, known as One Hanson, has limestone and marble interiors, intricate mosaics and is a marvel in itself.

    "It has these beautiful, vast aisles you can get lost in. You might even forget where you are," says Brooklyn Flea's co-founder and organizer, Eric Demby. If you don't walk away with the perfect art deco vanity, you will leave with a full stomach. Food is a major focal point of the Brooklyn Flea, and you'll find one of the best smattering of tacos, cupcakes, lobster rolls, cannoli and Asian-inspired hot dogs in the country.




    Honorable Mention: Treasure Mart, Ann Arbor, MI

    Rather than wait until the region is sufficiently thawed-out to hold an outdoor flea market, the Ann Arbor-Detroit area is home to a year-round, three-story emporium of vintage goods. Not technically a flea market by design but thoroughly so in spirit, the Treasure Mart contains 8,500 square feet of delightfully curated and highly organized mid-century home furnishings, vintage clothing, costume jewelry, ceramics, dishware, and loads of small, inexpensive kitsch. Housed in a historic building that was once a mid-19th century planing mill, the Treasure Mart also has an outdoor area full of vintage patio furniture spanning a few decades. Visit TreasureMart.Wordpress.com for more details.

     

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    One Kings Lane's Susan Feldman.

    A fashion exec turned decor aficionado invites us into her California home.

    Although she spent most of her career in fashion, Susan Feldman, co-founder of the online daily sample sale One Kings Lane, was always interested in home decor. "My kids would beg me to stop dragging them to home stores!" she says. When Feldman moved from the New York City apartment she shared with her husband and their three kids to a large, 1936 Hollywood Hills home -- the first real house Feldman had lived in since college -- she became fascinated with decorating it. "There is such a different sense and feel being in a home, rather than an apartment," she says. "I had so much fun thinking about entertaining and decorating all the different rooms."

    However, shopping in Los Angeles proved to be a frustrating experience. "There are amazing stores in L.A., but you have to stop at so many different places to find what you're looking for, and spend countless hours hunting for accessories and furniture online," says Feldman. It was actually this experience, combined with observations of online fashion sample sales like Gilt Group, that got Feldman wondering if this business model could work for the home market.

    In 2008, Feldman partnered up with Alison Gelb Pincus, whose background in marketing and branding was the perfect match to Feldman's extensive knowledge of retail, to start One Kings Lane. The members-only site (anyone can join!) showcases furniture and accessories for the home, with everything at least 50 percent off of the retail price."Everyone wins," says Feldman. "Brands get rid of overstock...and the customer gets fantastic, interesting, beautiful items for a great price."

    Before she started One Kings Lane, Feldman was renovating and decorating her house in the more traditional way -- by going to lots of local shops, markets and integrating items from her old apartment. Here, a tour of the understated, glamorous and sophisticated house she calls home.

    Feldman likes to keep her home mostly neutral, with pops of bright color, as seen in this teal console. Photo: Susan Feldman

    "We took out a marble floor in the entryway and replaced it with a dark, stained ebony wood," she says. The furniture and accessories came from a mix of places -- the teal console is from a local Asian marketplace, the chair is from a shop on Melrose Avenue, and the artwork is by none other than Feldman's father. "My father, Arthur Krakower, was such an inspiration," says Feldman. "He had a long career in retail and real estate but decided to follow his dream to study and make art. He got his MFA at 80!"



    Feldman and her husband love to entertain in the living room, especially during the holidays. Photo: Susan Feldman

    Feldman had help designing the living room from her friend Kenneth Brown, who is well known from his show "Redesign" on HGTV. "We also worked together to develop a line for QVC," she says. When it comes to color, Feldman's philosophy is that you must feel good and look good surrounded by it. "I love the colors in this room," says Feldman. "If you look good wearing certain shades, it makes sense to live within them." Her favorite piece in the room? The coffee table that she and Brown designed together.



    Feldman considers herself a "hi-low" shopper -- lots of her tabletop accessories are from Target. Photo: Susan Feldman.

    Feldman adored her dining room in New York City, but the contemporary B&B Italia chairs that she loved so much didn't work in her California house. Instead, she went with linen and vintage fabric covered chairs found at a local shop. One contemporary piece that she absolutely could not part with from her NYC digs was the lighting fixture from Moss. "I was obsessed with that piece and had to have it," says Feldman. "It somehow works. The light from the sunroom hits the crystals in a really beautiful way." One unexpected purchase was the console. "We found it at a sidewalk sale. It was originally old country pine, but we refinished it so it worked well in the room."



    Feldman admits that she has an obsession -- chairs. These blue ones were from her NYC apartment. Photo: Susan Feldman

    "This is the room people gravitate towards when they come over," says Feldman. The relaxed vibe comes not only from the comfortable couches and warm colors but also from all of the personal items on the shelves and walls. "We've had a lot of exciting things happen in our family these past years. Weddings, graduations, you name it. We're very lucky and this wall reflects those achievements." Posters from her dad's art shows, photos of family and friends, and various newspaper articles cover what Feldman calls a "living wall." "This is where we come as a family to relax, watch TV and talk," she says.



    Susan Feldman

    This is where Feldman and her family eat most of their meals. "We love to cook (although the kitchen is currently being renovated), and we eat here almost every night," she says. It's also where she and her family get comfortable to hang out with the dogs and read. "The orange fixture was the most controversial item in the house," says Feldman. "It was a big decision to add something so bright, but I love it and think it's a great focal point." The Thomas Lavin table and Barbara Barry chairs echo the home's Hollywood regency style.

    Susan Feldman

    Speaking of the dogs, check out the painting on top of the bureau. Susan's husband, Bob, is a huge dog lover so she commissioned artist Pia Ledy to paint a portrait of their two pups. Aww.



    Susan Feldman

    Feldman's love of neutrals continues in the bedroom, along with her philosophy that living with colors that make you look good is a necessity. "In the bedroom, more than any other room, you definitely need to look good!" she jokes. "The colors are relaxing and the neutral background makes switching up the bedding and pillows easy." The "Every Day I Love You" pillow from SugarBoo and drawings by her dad make this room comfortable and sweet.



    Cool purples and grays mixed with shiny surfaces give Feldman's daughter's room a chic feel. Photo: Susan Feldman

    Feldman's daughter's taste is reflected in Hollywood-regency style furniture, and her love of pink and bears is reflected in the accessories! To the left of her bed (hidden behind the pillow) is a signed photo of Audrey Hepburn. Feldman's great-uncle was a director and choreographer to the stars and gathered an amazing collection of photography throughout the years. When he died, he left the collection to Feldman and her family. Her daughter's fashionista style and Audrey Hepburn obsession made her the lucky recipient of the photograph.



    The backyard is divided into sitting, dining and swimming areas. Photo: Susan Feldman

    For Feldman, one of the biggest differences between living in California and New York City is the space. "In New York, we were able to entertain a few friends at once," she says. "But in California, we can have 30 to 40 people over, and we can sit out together. You just bring over an extra table." They use the pool often, but Feldman admits, "The dogs use it more than we do!"

    There are definite things Feldman misses about New York, notably the convenience. "You can't pop outside to the Korean deli for a snack," she says. But, she says, living in California is worth it.

    Still smitten over this house tour? Come check out another top notch home from our design crush (and Martha Stewart's protogé) Kevin Sharkey! And scroll to the bottom for an amazing opportunity to win a personal color consultation with Kevin!

     

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    Pretty pattern or pretty certain to drive you nuts in a year? Here's how to select the perfect paper.

    Once the road less taken, wallpapering has become increasingly common for the every day homeowner. But if you're new to the world of wallpaper, you're probably wondering: What's the best way to maneuver through the seemingly endless selections to best express your individuality? And once you have the perfect rolls in hand, where should you go from there?

    "Once you've made the commitment to wallpaper, there are a few style questions you need to answer," says Jennifer Sherlock from wallpaper house Graham & Brown. She offers the following tips.

    First, consider the style of the room that you're decorating:

    -If it's romantic, try delicate damasks and florals with fine lines in muted, pastel colors.

    -If it's casual, faux finishes such as beadboard and stucco are simple, casual options. Pairing beadboard wallpaper with organic, flowing floral designs also makes for an at-home, relaxed feel.

    -If it's contemporary/fashion forward, consider bold geometrics with high gloss and metallic accents. Large scale and bold florals also make a high-fashion statement this year.

    -If it's traditional, check out Intricate damasks and stripes, which coordinate perfectly with traditional furnishings and decor.

    Next, figure out how you plan to use the wallpaper in the room. All styles don't work in the same way, right? Here are the various options:

    1. Cover all four walls: A classic, simple stripe design hung horizontally on all four walls gives a fresh contemporary look. Large scale and simple designs will not overwhelm a room, but add a trendy twist.

    2. Feature one wall: Choose a dramatic, bold pattern to highlight an area of a room, such as behind a sofa or bed. Designs with a hint of metallic, mica or gloss will give a classy, glamorous touch.

    3. Wallpaper a Chair Rail: If you are working with a chair rail that divides a wall, it is easy to bring unique interest to it. For a classic look, try paintable beadboard wallpaper for under the chair rail. Above the chair rail, hang a large-scale floral or damask for an updated look. Another interesting way to work with a chair rail is to anchor the wall with a pattern below it, such as dramatic damask wallpaper, and paint a coordinating color above it -- adding wallpaper in this fashion creates a unique element of surprise not often seen in rooms.

    4. Add interest to the ceiling: Get the look of tin ceilings with Graham & Brown's paintable squares. Painted in a classic metallic shade, you can easily achieve a Victorian-style tin ceiling look.

    Once you've nailed down your style, don't forget about the details to ensure perfect paper selection. Photo: Graham & Brown


    Of course, wallpaper isn't as simple as style and placement, so we asked Sherlock to answer the most common questions about choosing wallpaper:

    What is the best choice for backing paper?
    After determining the color and style of the pattern you want, it's best to look for what type of backing the wallpaper has. Wallpaper with a non-woven backing will be fully strippable when you desire a change. Graham & Brown's non-woven patterns are also easy to apply with their "paste-the-wall" technology. "Paste-the-wall" uses non-woven backing paper that does not expand when it gets wet. As it doesn't need to soak, the paste can be applied directly to the wall which cuts decorating time in half, compared to regular wallpapers.

    What should you avoid?
    If you're wallpapering for the first time, avoid very small patterns with offset matches; the designs can be difficult to match up in repeat.

    Is it best to select a flat wallpaper or one with a textured look?
    Choosing a flat or textured design is all about personal style. Textured wallpapers can give a wall some dimension and also do an excellent job in covering imperfections. Some textured wallpapers are paintable for a monochromatic look. The actual patterns of textured wallpapers are generally less detailed than a flat pattern. With flat wallpapers, you have the options of fine detailing in design, and embellishments such as metallic, gloss, or mica effects. In general, textured patterns give a more casual look to a room, whereas flat designs can make a wall more refined. If you have imperfections in your walls, but prefer the look of flat wallpaper, using a wall liner as a base layer can give you the added coverage you need.

    I've seen wallpaper sold as double rolls and single rolls - what's best?
    Double roll and single roll are industry terms; it is easier for the customer to determine how much wallpaper they need if they look at the square foot coverage the roll gives.

    How do you know how much to purchase?

    It's simple! Just follow this guide:
    1. Measure all walls and multiply the width by the height of each wall in feet.
    2. Add all measurements to yield the total square footage.
    3. Deduct for windows, doors and other large openings.
    4. Check the roll label for how much square foot coverage the roll gives and ensure the roll coverage is more than the total wall square footage.
    5. The general rule of thumb is to order one roll extra than what you need. It is best to get it at the same time as the original purchase to ensure the rolls are from the same product run so there is no variation in color. A consumer can ensure this by looking at the batch number. If the batch numbers are the same, then there will be no variation in color. The spare roll is to account for an offset match and mistakes. You can always return unused rolls if they go unused.

    Ready to purchase but not sure where to look?
    Your local design showroom carries pattern books where you can shop through actual samples in person (and many will even let you cut a sample to take home). Here are some great sources for affordable, quality paper online:
    Ballard Designs
    Anthropologie
    Graham and Brown
    Ferm Living
    Tempaper
    2Modern
    Design Public
    Velocity Art & Design

     

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    Summer's bold, bright colors make their way into fall decor.

    Lamps from Crate & BarrelBright and bold, these lamps are an ideal fall accent. Photo: Crate & Barrel



    It has been impossible to not notice the influx of bright, bold colors this summer. Everywhere you look, look-at-me, almost neon shades have burst forth, in fashion, beauty (especially nails) and even in the home. Now that autumn is around the corner, these hot hues have cooled down, but not that much. Expect to see lots of brights, just slightly toned down for the cooler weather. Above: Hoopla Table Lamps, $80 each, Crate and Barrel.

    Victoria Whitbread, director of Whitbread Wilkinson, a company that designs mugs, notebooks and other accessories based on Pantone colors, believes that bright reds and grape-y purples will be popular this fall. "Because our mugs are so small, it's easy to make a strong statement with really bright colors." She also believes that Pantone's 2010 color of the year, turquoise, will continue to stay strong throughout the end of the year and into 2011.

    Being surrounded by computers, cell phones and other technology has caused a bit of a backlash -- it's created a craving for things handmade. "There's a movement towards connecting with nature, folk art and craft, and as a result, rich, bright yarn colors are hot and happening," says Patricia Kositzky, a color specialist for Osh Kosh. "All the colors that you'd see in Native American beading, weaving, and Navajo patterns, like tomato reds, turquoise and sunburst yellows will continue into fall." Another source of inspiration for this trend? Farmers' markets. "Rich saturated vegetable colors are appearing," says Kositzky. "What you see at the farmers' market will provide you with an entire palette of color."

    What's great about bright colors is that they are extremely versatile and can be used in large or small bursts. "It's really up to the individual when it comes to how much or how little bright color is used," says Erika Woelfel, Director of Color at Behr Paint. "If you want to do a bright hue and go big, the best places to do that would be in the kitchen or bathroom. Accent or feature walls are another terrific way to experiment. It's always a good idea to test, test, test the colors you want to try though." Erika's picks for fall include blue-based purple, a bright red, and a grape/violet purple, which all "feel fun and youthful when used with other bright colors but work as great accents for contemporary rooms where there might be an abundance of light, white furnishing."

    Love the look? Check out some of our favorite brightly colored product picks for fall:

    Photos (clockwise from left): CB2, Z Gallerie, MoMA Design, Target

    Scan Persimmon Lounge Chair, $499, CB2
    Rose Pillow in Aubergine, $50, Z Gallerie
    Apple Jar by Huroshi Fujita, $30, MoMA Design Store
    Room Essentials Double Vases, $10 each, Target

    Photos (clockwise from left): CB2, Whitbread Wilkinson, West Elm, The Future Perfect

    Carpenter Lamp, $70, CB2
    Pantone Mug in Grape, $12, Whitbread Wilkinson
    Tripod Table in Saffron, $200, West Elm
    Donna Wilson Leaf Motif Pillow, $115, The Future Perfect

     

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  • 08/31/10--16:44: Secret Source: Worldly Goods
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    By choosing these shops, you're not only infusing your home with multicultural decor, you're also making a difference.

    global goodsScarves woven in a Guatemala cooperative where members are paid fair wages can double as table runners. Photo: Terra Experience


    Many retailers claim to sell home-decor products from far-off nations, but you don't truly know if you are supporting a sustainable business model or a sweatshop-type work environment.

    Fortunately some stores do the digging for us, making it easy to "do the right thing." These eight online destinations specialize in linens, decorative art and even utilitarian items from various cultural pockets of the world. Each company employs a socially-conscious philosophy that ensures the artisans earn a fair wage and supports their indigenous arts.

    Here are some of our favorites:


    1.
    MarketPlace, Handwork of India
    What started as a non-profit, fair-trade organization during the mid-'80s now sells items made in India. You can buy the goods -- which include hand-woven table linens, cushion covers, window treatments, oven mitts and kitchen aprons created by cooperative groups -- online from the comfort of your own home. Many are made using batik block printing, where a design is printed on fabric using wax and a wooden object, then hand-painted by an artisan.

    Why it's good to shop here: MarketPlace works with 14 cooperatives in India, which translates to 480 female artisans now being paid fair wages to earn a living using their talents. The company hopes to empower the women by teaching them leadership skills and decision making in the workplace as it relates to keeping the cooperatives running.

    Above: Pink Curtains, $62/pair; Red/Orange Curtains, $32/panel



    2.
    Global Exchange
    While Global Exchange sources goods from many countries, we fell in love with the "Sabrine" pottery from Tunisia. It features a very intense shade of marine blue. Not surprisingly, this northern-most African country is near the Mediterranean Sea, which probably inspired these pieces. Each hand-formed, hand-painted piece is crafted in a studio where the workers receive an ample wage, and they also receive a 13th-month salary in celebration of Ramadan and an additional bonus for Aid al-Adha (a Muslim holiday).

    Why it's good to shop here: All of the vendors that work with Global Exchange receive fair wages.

    Above: 12" Deep Salad Bowl, $48; 15"' Large Serving Platter, $52





    3.
    Flying Daisies, Rwanda
    The women who run this Boulder, Colorado, boutique (Michelle Kranz and Krista Torvik) are artisans themselves, so when it came time to stock the rest of their shop, they chose only worldly goods supported by fair-trade programs in Rwanda. The selection is stunning and ranges from the red and white design in this "Peace" basket to the skilled artistry in the Zebra bookends. By partnering with Azizi Life in Southern Rwanda, a female cooperative, Flying Daisies is able to import some truly unique items for the home.

    Why it's good to shop here: You're supporting two female-owned and operated businesses in Colorado, in addition to the global Fair Trade movement.

    Above: Zebra Wood Bookends, $30/pair; Sisal "Peace" Basket, $22.75





    4.
    Ten Thousand Villages
    Bolivia is among the dozen or so nations in Asia, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East that Ten Thousand Villages supports by purchasing hand-made items from its indigenous residents. In addition to the online marketplace, there are 72 branded stores in U.S. cities, including Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Boston, Seattle and St. Paul, Minn. Always on the lookout for fabulous throws to keep us warm on cooler nights, we fell for these blankets made from soft alpaca fibers by artisans in Katakora, Bolivia. Wouldn't one of these look gorgeous draped over an Adirondack chair on your patio?

    Why it's good to shop here: Immediately after an order is placed, the artisan receives a 50-percent cash advance, and the rest of the payment once the order is shipped. Artisans are guaranteed fair wages and there is a lot of communication between the designers and Ten Thousand Villages' buyers to infuse trend and color information into products.

    Above: Striped Alpaca Blanket, $185





    5. The Hunger Site
    El Salvador is one of the countries whose artisan-made products are featured in the online shop for CharityUSA, which debuted in 1999. This pale-pink hammock is constructed of a breezy, lightweight fabric that's been recycled. It's perfect for lounging in on a weekend afternoon. Inspired by this hammock, we culled a few other outdoor-living products from other nations. From Indonesia, we like this aquatic-inspired wind chime. And making use of candy wrappers, artists in India came up with this clever idea for small woven planters. We think they'd be great for basil or cilantro -- inspiration for pesto or pico de gallo snacks for to munch on on a glorious day.

    Why it's good to shop here: Artisans strive to make goods using recycled items, therefore supporting sustainability in their own communities and decreasing their region's waste supply. They earn fair wages. Each purchase made through the site helps provide food for hungry people around the world through established organizations like Mercy Corps and Feeding America.


    Below: Recycled Cotton Hammock, El Salvador, $50




    global goods
    Photo: Indego Africa


    6.
    Indego Africa
    This 501(c)3 organization works exclusively with female residents in Rwanda who are organized in cooperatives that provide emotional and financial support to the women who make the crafts. Their goal is to lift these women out of poverty. Wine coasters are sewn by the Cococki cooperative from Dutch wax cloth that's characteristic of African textiles, with bold colors and patterns. They're so chic that they're even sold at shops inside the National Textile Museum and U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Plateau baskets are hand-woven from fine-plant thread using needles. Try one as a fruit bowl, a place to hold your house and car keys or hang it on the wall for decoration. The baskets (which each take about seven days to make) are also sold at the Art Institute of Chicago.

    Why it's good to shop here: Before partnering with Indego Africa, many of the participating artists earned less than $1 a day. Now, they earn four times that. Also, 100 percent of the profits are returned to the cooperative of artists.

    Above: Wine Coasters (set of four), Rwanda, $15; Basket, Rwanda, $44




    global goods
    Photo: World of Good


    7. World of Good
    Of all the sites here, this one has the most extensive marketplace, with the goods sourced from just about every country you'd imagine, including Ghana, Brazil, Kenya and Peru. There's a nice mix of contemporary products in bright colors -- such as the pillows and cups -- and also more traditional, neutral shades (see the book stand and wall art). For the Tree of Life wall art, a Haitian artist gave recycled oil drums a second life.

    Why it's good to shop here: Producer profiles beneath each item on the website put a face to the product, in addition to telling their story and artistic visions. Each artist receives 50 percent of the purchase price in pre-financing, and they are encouraged not to use machines and to rely on traditional materials and techniques.

    Above: Pillows, Thailand, $30




    global goods


    8. SERRV
    Constructed from kaisa grass by Dhaka Handcrafts (which employs 3,200 producers and their families in Bangladesh), this set of two baskets works well not just as decorative items but also for storing toys, craft supplies or fashion accessories. There are lots of vases and tabletop accessories sold on SERRV's site but what captivated us was this stunning blue and white pattern on small rice bowls. (We think they'd be cool as snack dishes for a party, too.) The bowls are made by artisans in under-served areas of Vietnam, particularly Ho Chi Minh City as well as mountain cities throughout the country.

    Why it's good to shop here: SERRV offers pre-payments to artists so that their businesses can stay alive, also providing fair wages, encouraging educational opportunities that might further their craft and giving equal rights to women.

    Above: Baskets (set of two), Bangladesh, $25; Rice Bowls (set of four), Vietnam, $38


     

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    Is your home scrubbed top-to-bottom or does a swipe-of-the-hand dusting cut it?

    We all have different concepts of what's really clean. For some, a good clean involves a weekend's worth of to-do lists, buckets of cleaning tools and toothbrush-scrubbed crevices. For others, it means simply tucking loose items under the bed and giving a quick dust with an old sock. So where do you fall on the scrubbing spectrum. Take this quiz to find out.

    http://xml.channel.aol.com/xmlpublisher/fetch.v2.xml?option=expand_relative_urls&dataUrlNodes=moreQuizzes&id=928303&pid=928302&uts=1283285551
    http://www.aolcdn.com/ke/personality_quiz/personalityquiz.swf

     

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    Black clothes, vanilla essence and apple crates...just a few of the unexpected ideas for getting your home ready for fall.

    Two of the tips in action: Wear black and let someone else take things on. Photo: pubmf3, Getty Images.


    It's almost that time again! Leaves change colors, sweaters come out of hiding and your home is begging for a good clean. We asked readers and friends to share their best cleaning and organizing ideas for fall. We've got a baker's dozen of our favorites.

    1. Watch what you wear: "It sounds silly, but wear a dark color when you are cleaning your mirrors. Not only do you look chic and slimmer, but it's easier to see all the shmutz that's still left on the mirror." -Patrick J Hamilton, Ask Patrick

    2. Make it sweeter: "Add a drop or two of a spicy or vanilla essential oil to your furniture polish, and the whole house will smell like a pie baking!" -Deb Kennedy, Retreat Style

    3. Update with color: "I have two sets of bedroom items -- duvet, curtains, lampshades, artwork, rugs, pillows, accessories. For the fall, they are deep reds and oranges, while spring and summer bring blues and whites. When the new season rolls around, I pack these items into a plastic bin, bring out the other season's pieces and replace everything. It takes about an hour or so for a completely "new" room -- it's always so fun and refreshing to change everything out once a year!" -Kristin Tavrides, Bien Living Interior Design

    4. Clear the house: "Kick the kids off to school, the husband off to camp and go crazy cleaning, organizing and throwing all their un-needed junk away!" -Melissa O'Brien

    5. Consider Feng Shui: "Re-connect with earth by attending to indoor plants: Fertilize them after the draining energy of summer, trim off dead material and repot them or loosen up the dirt to give them some breathing room." -Ann Bingley Gallops, Open Spaces

    6. Change the look: "Rearranging a room always leads to cleaning out and decluttering that room! You get a new room feel and it's clean. A win win!" -Julieann Covino, Create Girl

    7. Incorporate fall items into your plan:
    "Get apple crates from the farmer's market to store summer shoes in. Stack them in the closet and voila!" -Gay Giordano, I Dreamed I Saw

    8. Bring in a quick fix: "[Try] clear shoe boxes -- in the closets and out -- [for] shoes, belts, undies, crafts, kitchen stuff, etc. They tidy up stuff in a jiff! (I like these from The Container Store). -Lissa Lowe, Spruce Decor

    9. If you can only do one thing:
    "Clear those cluttered counter tops! Clear and tidy kitchens look cleaner and will provide more space for holiday baking and cooking." - Lindsay Milner, A Design Story

    10. Be ruthless while decluttering:
    "If you haven't worn it the last couple seasons -- donate it! Doing this helps me assess what I have and/or need." -Lee Harris Nicholson, Filmore Clark

    11. We mean really ruthless..,: "Just because it is old, it doesn't mean it's a valuable antique. First ask family members if they want the piece and if it remains...throw it OUT!" -Karen Garrison

    12. And if you really can't bear to part with something, re-use it! "I simply cut old clothes into squares and pop them onto my Swiffer stick. Attach the rag to the bottom and head into the dust. When the shirt has done its work, you can turn it inside out and use the other side. You can kiss those dust bunnies goodbye and throw those rags into the washer for many future uses!" -CasaSugar

    13. When all else fails: "Have someone else do it for you :-)" -- Jayson Branham

    Would you try any of these tips in your own home? What are you doing to prepare for fall? Leave us a comment of share your ideas on facebook or twitter!

     

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    The decoupage artist and retailer's Provincetown, Massachusetts home lets its history show.

    This 1789 home once belonged to a sea captain. Photo: Julia Cumes

    Is it possible to have a crush on someone's house? If so, I must confess to being hopelessly in love with John Derian's homes. Ever since we had our first glimpse into Mr. Derian's interior world in a feature of his home in ELLE Decor in 2006, we've been admiring his style from afar.

    Several years back, Derian expanded beyond his New York City apartment and purchased an 18th century home in Provincetown, Massachusetts. It hadn't been renovated in decades. While many would have gutted the old house, Derian left much of what he found unchanged, and it's a perfect backdrop for his timeless designs and eclectic collection of antique furnishings. We caught up with Derian and asked him to tell us a little about this handsome home.

    This photo reveals several of the vintage wallpapers that remain in the house form the 1930s and 40s. Photo: Julia Cumes

    The home features several sitting rooms, including this casual living space above. Derian says he believes the house was renovated in the 1830's, and the cabinet to the left of the fireplace was likely part of this renovation. The perfectly simple white wingback chair is one of Derian's own designs, the Butterfly Chair.

    Old and new mix seamlessly in Derian's home. Photo: Julia Crumes

    The living room is furnished with a pair of Derian's Cove Sofas (the corner of which can be seen above); they are adorned with John Robshaw's printed pillows. The rustic wooden stool is an item from Derian's shop. Of the old beams that have been cut and shaved to size, Derian says: "I use them everywhere -- outside too!"

    Vintage drawings of crows are a unique display above the couch. Photo: Julia Cumes

    The lines of the couch in this seating area echo the house's 18th century era; the Geranium Sofa is yet another of Derian's own designs.

    Photo: Julia Cumes

    Throughout the house, Derian kept some of the existing wallpapers that date from the 1930s and 40s despite their faded -- and sometimes crumbling -- condition. For example, in this upstairs hallway Derian chose to leave the actual wallpaper fragments hanging. "The wall paper is beautiful it also has an amazing patina on it the color yellow is perfect. I don't like new," says Derian of the decision to keep the paper. "The upstairs peeling walls seem to tell a story -- I couldn't resist." Paired with Derian's pitch perfect furnishing style, these antique papers don't look shabby, rather they create a unique backdrop for the home.

    A pair of mismatched bedside tables and quirky wall art are examples of Derian's eclectic style. Photo: Julia Cumes

    While Derian says he is drawn to furnishings from the 18th and 19th centuries, he gravitates toward texture, color and shape, not an object's lineage. Says Derian, "I am user-friendly and could not be worrying about something too fine." Though he admits there is one table in the house that he loves but thinks is too precious.

    This bright bedspread shines in an otherwise subdued space. Photo: Julia Cumes

    The beautiful bedspread above is by Jeanette Farrier, a former costume designer, who creates bedding and pillow covers from recycled cotton saris. A vintage paper lantern covers an existing overhead light.

    Even the bathrooms exude vintage charm. Photos: Julia Cumes

    In Derian's home, not even the bathrooms are left unfurnished. We love the way he uses an antique table to hold bath products in one bathroom and how a 19th century portrait hangs above the sink where you would expect a mirror in another. When asked about these surprising touches, he says to him it "seemed natural."

    Derian resting on his porch. Photo: Julia Cumes

    While the house may look like it hasn't been touch in nearly a century, Derian put a lot of work into the home. You'd never know it, but the house has all new plumbing and electric throughout. Derian says he couldn't have accomplished this balance of old and new without the help of someome who was sympathetic to his desire to preserve the house. "I was lucky to have a contractor like Deb Paine that was willing to let me leave a lot of the things the way they were," says Derian. And we're certainly glad he did -- the results are stunning.

     

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    When it comes to donating old items, tackling your space once a season can help those in need all year long.

    Tetra Images, Getty

    Spring may be the traditional time for space revamps and clutter overhauls, but taking a more balanced season-by-season approach to your home has year-round benefits. Summer hits a particular high note for families in need, since many folks count on their kids getting at least one meal a day at school. Still, each season brings particular challenges; in fall, families are bracing for cooler weather and need coats, cold-weather shoes, backpacks and school supplies. Taking a day now to sort through those shirts you swore you'd wear this season (but haven't) or deciding whether your kids still need last year's must-have sneakers will clear out your space and help donation centers.

    Tossing all of your give-aways in one donation drop box is better than pitching them to the curb, but donation centers appreciate when you separate and disburse these goods to various charitable groups. It not only spreads the wealth but ensures your belongings are making it into the homes of folks who need help most.

    Here are some easy ways to make donating common household goods time efficient:


    Clothing


    For business attire that you no longer wear, look to Dress for Success, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting self-sufficiency and success for women. Check for the affiliate nearest you to donate all women's professional clothing, including suits, handbags, shoes and accessories in good condition (no casual or men's clothing, please). Or, mark your calendars for the annual Send One Suit weekend in partnership with Dress Barn drop-offs across the country. Note that plus-sized clothing is always in high demand.

    Don't let an old prom dress gather dust in the back of a closet - donate it! DonateMyDress.org helps connect your lightly used prom and special occasion wear with girls in need. Tammy Tibbetts, founder of Donate My Dress, offers a few simple guidelines for what to donate:

    - Dresses in all sizes are welcome, but there often tends to be a shortage of dresses in the smallest and the largest sizes.
    - As for style, dresses from the last 2 to 3 years are best -- no poofy sleeve dresses from the '80s!
    - Bridesmaid dresses can sometimes double as pretty prom dresses, but wedding dresses and flower girl dresses aren't useful for prom.

    For everyday basics The Salvation Army and Goodwill are always great options with the caveat that need varies by season and by region. "Winter coats and sweaters might really be needed at family stores during Minnesota winters, but not so much in Miami," says The Salvation Army's Jennifer Byrd.

    Any and all clothing should be washed or dry-cleaned before donation. If clothing is stained or irreparably worn, consider cutting it up into earth-friendly cleaning rags or using it toward something crafty such as quilts or rag-dolls -- if it's truly too ragged or stained for you to wear, it probably shouldn't be donated.

    Electronics

    The National Center for Electronics Recycling (NCER) is a resource for learning where to donate every electronic, from buyback programs to local electronics recyclers. Says Executive Director Jason Linnell, "It's a win-win situation," he says "it's a win for the environment, and it's a win for those receiving used but working equipment they may not be able to afford."

    Linnell says that when recycling electronics be mindful of data security. Don't assume the charitable group you're donating to will strip the personal information stored on hard drives for you -- ask first. You can always use online tools to erase a hard drive's contents, or simply remove the hard drive and destroy it yourself.

    George Doyle, Getty

    Cell phones

    You can donate phones to Cell Phones for Soldiers, a family-run, 501c3 nonprofit organization that has raised almost $2 million in donations and distributed more than 500,000 prepaid calling cards to soldiers serving overseas. Senior Business Development Manager Sue Koch cannot stress enough that, "It means [so much] to soldiers to hear their loved one's voice: It cannot even compare to email -- it's really a big morale booster."

    In addition to giving calling cards to American troops, Cell Phones for Soldiers sends phones that can be refurbished to developing countries, providing many with their first personal phone. Non-repairable phones are also recycled, recovering raw materials used across the world. To donate your phone, simply print a free mailing label and drop it in the mail, or support the site's cost and ship your own.

    Verizon's HopeLine gives domestic abuse victims phone access and support through donations of used cellphones. With drop-off bins in all Verizon stores plus online mailing labels, there's no excuse for letting unused phones go neglected. If your phone is broken, HopeLine will recycle it and donate the funds back to their domestic abuse support program; if your phone is still salvageable, they will refurbish and donate it to men and women in domestic violence situations.

    Tip:
    Before donating your phone, consider first removing the data from your phone with an easy online data eraser - otherwise both programs will scrub the data for you.

    Tim Boyle, Getty

    Children's Gear

    For gently-worn stuffed animals, children's books and blankets, consider donating to one of Project Night Night's many locations around the country; the group's mission is to help homeless children get a good (and comfy) night's sleep. Their Night Night Packages include like-new stuffed animals, books and blankets assembled in inviting tote bags and distributed for free to regional homeless shelters.

    When it comes to school supplies, Cradles to Crayons, which services the Philadelphia and Boston area, serves as a great example of what to look for and expect. With the kids going back to school, Community Outreach Manager Josh Nespoli encourages donors to think: "When I was a kid getting ready to head back to class, what was I looking for?" Clothing, backpacks and shoes are essential year-round but even more more so as soon as school hits. "Quality is really important -- it's really an issue of self esteem," Nespoli says, encouraging all items to be free of any stains or rips. "We want parents to be proud to give their kids these products, and for the kids to be proud to wear them."

    For larger pieces of baby equipment (strollers, playpens, cribs), check freecycle.org to find someone in your local Freecycle group in need.

    Bikes

    "A bicycle can get someone someplace...like from poverty to self-sufficiency," states the tagline adopted by the Baltimore-Washington area's Bikes for the World program, which has used community driven efforts to help collect and send 40,000 bicycles since 2005.

    Not only is it a great option to donate your bike, but also a "way to get Americans involved in very tangible, rewarding community service for groups," says director Keith Oberg. Bikes must be of good quality and condition and must be submitted with a $10 donation fee to help cover the cost of shipping. If interested in involvement or bringing Bikes for the World to your area, contact the program directly for volunteering and sponsorship opportunities. "We want to empower others to do it as well," Oberg says, "and are always open to lending advice and support."

    For regions in the greater New York and Philadelphia area, Pedals for Progress is another great option for both bicycles and sewing machines, which David Schweidenback, President of Pedals for Progress, describes as "a job in a box." Likewise, donating your bike "is the one thing that can really change lives overseas," Schweidenback says. "It's not a hand out but a hand up -- it enables people to work. It allows people to help themselves." The organization accepts bicycles in repairable condition ("not super rusty or looks like it's been run over with a truck") and must be donated with a $10 shipping fee. All bicycle sizes count, says Scweidenback. "The little bikes get the kids to school; the larger bikes get adults to work."

     

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    What it is, why we love it and how you can get it too.

    Clawson found lots of equine inspiration in Elle Decor's recent story featuring the home of fashion designer duo Badgley Mischka. The bedroom is filled with iconic statements such as the nailhead-trimmed leather chaise in front of the bed, navy and white plaid blanket, riding boots and a riding photo on the nightstand. Photo: Elle Decor.


    I've only ridden a horse a few times in my life and have never played polo (how many of us really have?), but I am so in awe of the strong, beautiful and graceful animal and the equestrian lifestyle it represents. The elegance and sophistication of it all is so glamorous that I had to find out how to incorporate some of it into the home. "Equestrian style to me is all about displaying the accoutrements associated with riding or polo," says Heather Clawson, New York City-based interior designer and Habitually Chic blogger. "It can be as simple as placing a pair of riding boots in the entry hall, displaying new or vintage ribbons and trophies won at a horse show or even a plaid blanket thrown over a chair could evoke the feeling."

    Colorful vintage horse show ribbons look best when displayed in a large group, such as assembling them into an open frame. We love how this homeowner mixed in other classic pieces such as the velvet riding helmets. Photo: Country Living.

    As far as the history of equine style, the Brits, with their impeccably-dressed attire for polo matches and fox hunts across the English country side, are certainly a huge source of inspiration. Some of the details culled from the country homes, stables and clubhouses in England include deep, rich paint colors such as burgundy, hunter green, gold and saddle brown, fabrics in houndstooth or tartan plaid and classic furniture detailing such as nailhead trim.

    But you don't have to travel all the way across the pond to achieve this look. American designers continue to embrace this style, reinterpreting it in a more casual way. Clawson directed us to Ralph Lauren Home, where you can find lots of great furniture for the equestrian look. "To make the pieces look more authentic, I would accessorize with vintage and flea market finds. Besides boots and trophies, you could display polo mallets and velvet riding helmets," she says. Taking her advice, we spotted Ralph Lauren Home's Modern Equestrian Dresser. With its mahogany finish and leather-wrapped pulls, it's the perfect way to add a subtle touch of the equestrian life at home. We also love the company's line of fabrics in menswear plaids, checks and pinstripes for pillows and upholstery. Other iconic elements to look for include jockey silks (vintage Hermès scarf anyone?), racing programs and other equine ephemera. However, be mindful of what you choose, based on where you live."Displaying riding boots or saddles look best if you actually ride horses or live on a farm, says Clawson, "But anyone can display beautiful vintage paintings or black and white photos of horses."

    We love the subtlety of this black and white horse photo placed in an entryway. The homeowner is sharing her fondness of the animal without overdoing it. Photo: Country Living.


    If cost is an issue, Clawson has a few tips that can help you get the look for less. "An easy do-it-yourself idea is to frame pages from a book or equestrian calendar. If you are a good photographer, you can frame your own photos of horses at a race track or polo match." Other fresh ways to bring this look home is to seek out more modern interpretations. We love the idea of this faux driftwood horse sculpture in an entryway or this white resin horse head mounted to a living room wall. If you like the look of show ribbons, you can buy them in bulk on auction sites like eBay or if you're crafty, make your own with this easy tutorial.


    This Wall Mounted Horse Head and Faux Driftwood Horse sculpture, both available at Z Gallerie, bring a little bit of equestrian style into your home in a modern way. Photo: Z Gallerie.


    For even more inspiration, Clawson, who recently blogged about this style herself, suggests looking to books and magazines. "To really understand this style, take a look at the book 'Equestrian Style: Home Design, Couture, and Collections from the Eclectic to the Elegant by Vicky Moon'," she says. "Also, recently there was a great spread in Elle Decor magazine of the Kentucky home of fashion designers Mark Badgley and James Mischka. It's perfect for inspiration." It sure is. We love how in their stately-looking library the couple showcase a riding print just above a makeshift bar cart stocked for cocktails. It's the perfect place to relax with a refreshing Mint Julep in hand after an afternoon of riding.


    The addition of a vintage riding print, such as in the library of fashion designers Badgley Mischka, elevates a simple tray topped with bar essentials to a distinguished meeting place. Photo: Elle Decor.

    Do you have a favorite equestrian-inspired decorating idea? Share it with us by leaving a comment.

     

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    Before you start shopping, consider these tips for traversing the material world.

    Richard Nowitz, Getty Image


    Even as a little girl, I appreciated the power of fabrics: Watching The Sound of Music on an almost daily basis, I always went nuts when Maria cut up the curtains from her lavish guest suite to make "play" clothes for the kids. And we're not talking about any old drapes (oh no), but to-die-for window treatments that must have cost a fortune. Drop the scissors, Fraulein, I beg of you!

    I'm not alone in my love of fabric. Whether we consciously think about it or not, the fabrics we choose for our home's furniture use color, pattern and texture to influence our senses and set the tone of any room. For instance, a buttery leather suggests a rich, traditional atmosphere, while a casual cotton or corduroy encourages guests to sink in and stay a while.

    Finding the perfect upholstery for your furniture takes careful consideration from many standpoints: Style, comfort, durability and price -- just to name a few. Consider these tips before marrying fabric with furniture.

    Know The Difference: Naturals vs. Synthetics
    It's important to know that there are two basic forms of fabric: Naturals (fabrics found in nature) and synthetics (fabrics made in test tubes). Both have their pros and cons. Natural fabrics boast added softness and a more organic look, but they can be more susceptible to wear and tear. Synthetic fabrics, on the other hand, can be very durable and resistant to sun damage, but they also tend to feel a bit less luxurious. Because of this, many fabric manufacturers are now creating natural/synthetic blends that pair the strength of one material with the comfort of the other. Microfibers, which usually blend cotton with polyester or wool with acrylics, have become incredibly popular and are often affordable, resist pilling and feel super soft to the touch.

    Pottery Barn fabric swatchesA selection from Pottery Barn's upholstery options. Photos: Pottery Barn

    Choose Color and Pattern
    Whether you're buying a sofa from Pottery Barn or reupholstering an heirloom, you'll have several fabric choices at your disposal. Chances are you'll want to think about the way a fabric looks first.

    o. Lisa Adams of Adams Design, Inc. in Washington, DC, suggests starting with three main colors for your living room. "The easiest and most flexible strategy is to select neutral seating. From there, add pops of color through pillows, curtains and other furnishings." But, if you have your heart set on an attention-grabbing color or pattern for your sofa, fear not. Consider using a lot of white around the room to help balance out this bold choice with a crisp, grounded look.

    o. "Limit yourself to three patterns and a textured solid," says Lisa. This number is small enough to keep things balanced and large enough to avoid the "matchy-matchy" feel. Vary color intensity and the scale (the size of the pattern), so fabrics don't compete with one another.

    Sunbrella fabricsOutdoor fabrics look amazing indoors! Photo: Sunbrella Fabrics

    Remember: Materials Matter
    Even if you've chosen the most durable of fabrics for your home's furniture, you'll still need to plan for how your fabric will "live" in your home. Direct sunlight, heavy traffic and even the dearest of kids can wreak havoc on materials. Here's how to keep them looking as good as new.

    o. For the family sofa, opt for something tough and tightly woven like denim, ultra suede or cotton -- possibly with a hint (say, 20 percent) of polyester. You can even use so-called "outdoor" fabrics like Sunbrella, Duralee and Perennials inside your home.

    o. In general a high thread count equals a more durable fabric. To test the tightness of the weave, hold a generous sample at both ends and flap hard. If the fabric dimples or stretches, move on. Some designers even choose "commercial" fabrics (those approved for use in hotels and restaurants) for families with kids and pets. Try Fabricut for affordable, durable style.

    o. Consider having your upholstery fiber-sealed for stain resistance. Also, rotate cushions regularly to ensure even wear -- and don't be afraid to vacuum fabric. Of all the fabrics, velvet tends to get dusty the most.

    Not crazy for this stripe pattern? Crate & Barrel offers 19 options for upholstery on this sofa. Photo: Crate & Barrel

    Shop With Confidence
    Now that you know what you're looking for, how do you ensure that you're getting the best fabric for your home at a price you can afford? Here's how:

    o. In addition to browsing fabric centers and furniture stores, you can find great fabrics by looking at catalogs, magazines and manufacturer web sites. Some high-end fabrics are only sold "to the trade" (i.e., design professionals). If you see one you love, contact the manufacturer or your closest design center or showroom to check on availability.

    o. Before purchasing a fabric, take swatches home; to get an accurate idea of how they'll look in your space, cut each piece to scale based on how they'll be used in the room. The upholstery fabric should be the biggest swatch, followed by the drapes, table coverings, pillows, etc. Layer all of the pieces on a board to see how they relate. If you select a busy pattern (say, a floral theme by Laura Ashley) request the largest possible swatch to make sure you still like it in high doses.

    o. Major retailers like Crate & Barrel and Ballard Designs offer a wide variety of fabric choices -- far more than you'll see in the catalog or on the sales floor. For an added fee, many retailers will cover your new sofa or chairs with upholstery you purchased elsewhere -- this is called "customer's own material" (or C.O.M. for short). Note that this will usually add to the turnaround time, which averages about six weeks for many manufacturers. If you're in a hurry, ask if the manufacturer or retailer has a "ready-to-ship" line (usually a smaller selection of popular items) for instant gratification.

    o. Fabric prices are based not on durability but on the cost of production. For top-of-the-line manufacturers -- such as Old World Weavers and Brunschwig & Fils -- that includes renting mills in Europe. If upper-echelon upholstery is out of reach, mix more affordable fabrics with touches of the sublime, such as a pillow made from antique French fabric. "And don't rule out the best of the best," says Lisa. "Lately fabric houses like Scalamandré are trying to capture larger market shares with creative fabrics at more reasonable prices."

     

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    Don't be discouraged by what you can't do in a rental -- be inspired! You can make changes and add personality without ruining your walls or upsetting your landlord.

     

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