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  • 09/09/10--12:34: Obama's Hawaii House
  • Filed under: , ,

    Take a look inside the "Winter White House" -- the Obama family's cold weather getaway!

    For the last two years President Barack Obama and the first family spent their winter holidays away from the icy chill and rough-and-tumble political environment of Washington, D.C. They packed their bathing suits, boarded Air Force One and headed to the scenic, sunny and serene eastern shore of Oahu, about 20 minutes outside of the hustle and bustle of Honolulu, HI.

    Marco Garcia, AP

    Rather than a Five Star resort, the first family opted to lease The Plantation Estate at Paradise Point, a casual but luxurious five-bedroom, 3 1/2-bathroom private home perfectly situated on the sands of low key Kailua Bay where, as it turns out, the president used to swim with his grandfather as a child. The walled and gated getaway sits on 4 1/2 ocean-front acres in an upscale, gated community and offers the Obama family the utmost in comfort, privacy and security. While online rental listings for the property show that the secluded and comfortably luxurious estate goes for anywhere from $3,000 to $6,000 per night, we've got a peek inside that we're offering for free.,feedConfig,localizationConfig,entry&id=930478&pid=930477&uts=1283972613

    Obamas Hawaii House

    The house is guarded by seven-feet-tall lava rock walls and an electronically controlled gate, which slides open to a large motor court (Perfect for private comings and goings by the first family). A vine-covered pergola marks the entry from the motor court into a lushly landscaped and paparazzi-proof inner courtyard, where the first family can enjoy some peace and quiet: Hawaiian style.

    Obamas Hawaii House

    The estate includes almost 5,000 square feet of interior space and another 2,000 square feet of covered lanais. The main living area is a gigantic great room with soaring peaked ceiling with exposed beams and trusses, sand colored marble floors, and walls of windows on two sides that open the room to the interior courtyard and the ocean views at the back of the house.

    Obamas Hawaii House

    Just off the great room's dining area is a colossal kitchen where a private chef whipped up meals for the Obamas. The kitchen includes all the bells and whistles expected in a multi-million dollar vacation getaway including top-grade stainless steel appliances, granite counter tops, a huge work island, a massive walk-in pantry and a large "L" shaped breakfast counter where Sasha and Malia probably ate their morning cereal.

    Obamas Hawaii House

    A state-of-the-art media room has plenty of seating for all the Obamas -- plus a few Secret Service agents -- and a built-in entertainment center, complete with a 60-inch flat-screen television with speakers hidden behind laser-carved wooden mahogany leaves.

    Obamas Hawaii House

    The master suite includes a large bedroom and sitting area with a wall of windows that slide open to the backyard and ocean view. There's also a large walk-in closet and a spa-style bathroom with a separate shower, twin vanities and a huge spa tub that sits on a raised platform. The view from the large window beside it? A direct look out onto Kailua Beach, one of Oahu's premiere stretches of sand.

    Obamas Hawaii House

    There are two additional bedroom suites, each with private bath. One of which opens into the covered porch that wraps around the interior courtyard, the other has a private lanai surrounded by a tall lava rock wall and planted with thick tropical foliage for perfect privacy. Previous reports reveal that Sasha and Malia share one of these bedrooms. Wonder which one they chose...

    Obamas Hawaii House

    The first lady's favorite spot for reading is reported to be the deep covered lanai off of the living/dining room. It's fitted with a built-in wet bar and television, neither of which compare to the views of the wide rolling lawn that stretches out towards the Kailua Bay, the Mokulua Islands and the Ko'olau Mountain Range.

    Obamas Hawaii House

    All beaches in Hawaii are considered public lands by state law, so when the Obamas want a little pap-free time at the beach, they hop in their blacked-out SUVs and head down to a nearby Marine base where a private beach ensures that no photos of them in their bathing suits will make it into the tabloids, papers or on the evening news.

    Obamas Hawaii House

    And when the family doesn't feel like schlepping to the Marine base beach, there's a lagoon-style swimming pool in the villa's very private inner courtyard with rock-scaping, resort-style landscaping and eight water falls including one that spills dramatically into the spa.

    Obamas Hawaii House

    A couple of covered lanais and an outdoor dining pavilion surround the swimming pool and encourage the easy breezy indoor-outdoor lifestyle Hawaii is famous for.

    Obamas Hawaii House

    For more information on renting the Winter White House, check out The Plantation Estate at Paradise Point.


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  • 09/09/10--12:34: Design Influence: Wood
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    Got wood on the brain? With so many varieties of types, stains and finishes, it's often hard to envision which wood works best in your space. Our ShelterPop designers tracked down furniture maker and artisan Michael Hennessy to give us the 411 on creating the perfect wood finish -- by doing it yourself!

    To Stain: Michael prefers a foam brush when working with wood stain, as it's simple to dispose of when finished. Simply brush the stain into the grain, let sit for a moment, then wipe down with a dry cloth.
    To Wax: Rub wax into the wood in a circular motion with a dry cloth and wipe into the grain. Let dry for 15 minutes, then return to the piece and wipe down for a nice shine.
    To Dye: Paint the dye onto the wood generously and let dry. Two coats may be necessary when working with dye.

    Michael's trick of the trade? Furniture created from solid wood lasts much longer, so consider investing in a quality piece. An easy way to tell if a piece is created with solid wood is to check the end grain, where you should see the wood's internal pattern.

    Thanks, Michael!

    Our experts Maria Greenlaw and Suzanne Caldwell are partners in Design House, a personalized design service that's been a feature in Southampton, New York for over 23 years. Maria is a Cornell University graduate with a BS in Interior and Product Design, and Suzanne, an Allied Member of ASID, has a design degree from Harrington Institute in Chicago.


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    If you have microfiber upholstery, don't assume it's completely stain resistant. Find out from the experts how to clean and care for your fabric.

    Many of us buy furniture upholstered in microfiber because we believe it's an indestructible armor for our sofas and chairs -- after all, it's used in many commercial settings, like restaurants, hotels and offices. With all of the promises of this fabric, it may seem like you'll never have to endure another stained, pulled or tired-looking couch again. But then, if you're like me, you douse a stained microfiber cushion with water and realize that water rings have taken the place of the stain. Isn't it supposed to be, um, perfect?

    There are dozens of articles on the Internet about how to clean microfiber upholstery, but you'll be hard pressed to find an actual expert on the subject. So we turned to the professionals at Calico Corners, the home upholstery fabric retailer, and Toray, the inventors of Ultrasuede, the original microfiber fabric, for answers.

    Here's what we learned about these fabrics: Not all of them are created equally.

    microfiber fabricMicrofiber upholstered furniture is gorgeous, like this chair in Sensuede from Calico Corners, but the fabric is not perfect. Photo: Calico Corners

    "As with many products, there's cheap microfiber upholstery, and there's elegant, more expensive microfiber that looks like suede," says Jan Jessup, spokesperson for Calico Corners, which sells Sensuede microfiber for $24.99 a yard. "Sensuede cleans beautifully with just a little dish soap and a sponge, as I can personally attest to." Jessup's dining room chairs are covered in Sensuede, and she says she's cleaned everything from chocolate cake to dog slobber off of them. "These chairs still look brand new."

    It turns out that microfiber is a generic term; not everyone who buys microfiber-upholstered furniture has the same luck. "We've heard all of the horror stories about microfiber fabrics gone bad," says Helen Brier, a sales and marketing manager at Toray's Ultrasuede division. Not surprisingly, Brier says that you want to make sure that your furniture is upholstered in Ultrasuede, or another high-performance microfiber, which is a non-woven rather than a woven fabric. "That is the key difference between microfiber fabrics," she says.

    Non-woven and woven microfiber fabrics are manufactured using different processes. The non-woven fabrics, such as Ultrasuede, are more pricey than run-of-the-mill microfiber fabrics. If you already have your furniture in place, but you don't know if you have a woven or non-woven microfiber product, there is a way to tell, says Brier. First of all, if the piece is a moderately-priced piece of furniture, it is most likely woven. Non-woven microfiber is quite pricey. If you unzip a cushion, check to see if the fabric has a backing because wovens are backed for strength, says Brier. Woven, or knitted microfiber fabric, is manufactured by "sanding" the surface, which creates that sueded look, says Brier. "You've already purchased a fabric that is damaged," she says.

    "Also, when examined closely by the eye, and perhaps some rubbing back and forth with the fingertips, you'll see an orthogonal grid beneath the sueded surface," says Chadney Spencer, an associate in the international marketing and sales division at Toray.

    When you purchase a microfiber fabric or piece of furniture, ask if it's non-woven or woven because it does make a difference when it comes to spot cleaning and wear.

    Sensuede at Calico Corners comes in a variety of colors. Photo: Calico Corners

    Can You Wash Microfiber?
    Pricey non-woven microfiber is considered high performance for a reason. The research and technology that goes into making the fabric is proprietary. And you definitely pay for the convenience because Ultrasuede is washable, even in the washing machine on a gentle cycle; it can be tossed in the dryer on a low setting, too, says Brier. There is a microfiber cleaning primer on Ultrasuede's site that is handy to keep for wovens as well (minus the washing machine tip).

    One of my microfiber sofas came with a tag that cautioned me to never remove the cushion covers for washing, and that steam or other cleaners may shrink the fabric. Translation: You have a lower-quality woven microfiber product because some cleaning services may "destroy the backing of the fabric."

    Cleaning Stains From Microfiber Upholstery
    "Non-woven microfiber is 100 percent polyester, and it has no threads for stains to attach to, so when liquid spills onto it, it will pool," says Brier of Ultrasuede. However, woven fabrics may easily absorb liquids, but they can be spot cleaned with tender, loving care.

    I've had good luck so far with my less expensive woven microfiber furniture (and I have kids and pets). One tag informed me that "water-based cleaning agents or foam may be used for cleaning." I have no idea what that means, but I have dabbed fresh stains out with a spritz of water on a towel, then dried the spot with another towel. So far, so good.

    microfiber smiley face
    Owning a microfiber sofa can make us happy - when a stain comes out easily. Photo: Silent(e), Flickr

    If there is an old, dried stain, flake it off with a white paper towel. Then, use the tiniest dab of dish detergent and a drop of water to dab the residue. (I've read many reader comments on various blogs who are loyal to using Dawn detergent on microfiber upholstery, but I use what I have in the house at the time.) Next, dry with a regular terry towel, and the stain should be removed. I've tried this on chocolate, and it works.

    I've even used Mr. Clean's Magic Eraser on a small pen mark -- rubbing it out ever so gently -- and it did not, amazingly, damage the surface of my woven fabric. Though I haven't tried this tip, I have heard that using a tiny dot of rubbing alcohol will remove an ink stain on any type of microfiber upholstery. One caveat: too much cleaning in one spot may make a woven microfiber product look "bald" over time.

    There are microfiber furniture cleaning kits, such as the Guardsman solvent-free brand, which guarantee the fabric will look new again. But always test the product first on a hidden part of your fabric, just in case it doesn't work.

    Handling Odors
    Removing stains is one thing, but what about odors? Baking soda to the rescue. It works well on any type of microfiber, but it's especially effective on woven fabrics that can't be washed. Sprinkle it on the smelly spot, leave it on overnight, brush off the next day, and the odor should be gone.

    For more cleaning tips, check out some of ShelterPop's best tips: Dos and Don'ts of Cleaning Your Tub, Dos and Don'ts of Cleaning Hardwood Floors, and How to Clean Up After Pets.


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  • 09/10/10--09:08: The Modern-Day General Store
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    A general store may seem old-fashioned, but these timeless shops are making a comeback.

    In recent years, many shops have opened as "general stores," from Labour and Wait in London to General Home Store in East Hampton. In Brooklyn, New York alone, there are several, including Moon River Chattel, Brook Farm General Store, Annie's Blue Ribbon and Brooklyn General Store.

    Brook Farm General StoreCast iron skillets are just the type of classic, simple objects stocked by the "new" general stores. Photo: Brook Farm General Store

    These idealized versions of old time-y general stores are filled with classic, humble goods: Mason jars, linen aprons, industrial light fixtures. However, these shops are a far cry from the stores from which they draw their inspiration -- you won't find any hardware supplies or livestock feed here. Nor are they theme-park versions of general stores of the past. These shops offer a contemporary spin on the stores of old.

    We love the rise of these "new" stores, but we were curious what was behind the trend. In an age when there are specialty stores for every imaginable niche and much larger "general" stores like Target and Walmart, what is the draw of a small shop billing itself as a general store? It's certainly not the convenience or the price, so what is it?

    Labour and WaitLondon's Labour and Wait is a treasure trove of classic homewares. Photo: Labour and Wait

    The website for Brook Farm General Store in Williamsburg, Brooklyn sums up the contents of its shop, and the new general store movement, well, "From the most humble scrub brush to the most luxurious linen sheets, all of our products are useful, simple and timeless." This idea of timeless pieces that will last for a long time may be increasingly appealing to consumers who are faced with trends and new technological devices that become obsolete within a few years time.

    The New General Store Pop-Up ShopTricia Foley's pop-up The New General Store in the Hamptons was a huge success. Photo: Tricia Foley

    A well-edited selection may also be a part of the draw of the "new" general store, according to Sarah Londsale, an editor at "Having a limited selection of goods that you know have been carefully chosen is immensely appealing," says Londsale. "At a certain point, it is tiresome to have to choose between a huge selection of the same type of product. The general store is the antithesis of this with its edited selection of goods."

    Designer and author, Tricia Foley, echoes Londsale's sentiment that the "new" general store trend may be indicative of the uniformity of the retail shopping scene. A general store entrepreneur herself, Foley says that people still ask her about her store, The Bellport General Store, a retro-styled shop, which was open from 1993-96. The continued interest prompted her to create a "pop-up," or temporary store, The New General Store, in the Hamptons this summer (and in her own backyard the year prior). These pop-up general stores have been such a success that Foley plans to begin selling her merchandise online this fall.

    "I think that people love the idea of hand-selected merchandise, both classics and vintage goods, as a balance for the big-box stores," says Foley, of the trend. "I also think that going to a wonderful environment as a destination or ritual (like Saturday morning shopping) becomes important in these times."

    In the end, the popularity of these new general stores may have more to do with the people and the experience than the things they sell. Londsale notes, "There's a sense of community about a small store where you get to know the owner. Just like a farmer's market, people enjoy the familiarity and sense of community that a small store offers."

    Brook Farm General StoreWhether it's the perfect dish towel or a sublime soap, a few hand-selected items are appealing to consumers. Photo: Brook Farm General Store


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  • 09/10/10--12:11: Weekly Link Love
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    Autumnal rooms, British tiles and a massage chair that's easy on the eyes....What we're lusting over in the blogosphere this week.

    Feinedinge line ALiCEFeinedinge through decor8

    Austrian ceramist Sandra Haischberger's latest collection of porcelain from her Feinedinge line, ALiCE, is almost as beautiful as the space where she sells it. When can we move in? [Decor8]

    Is the summer REALLY over? For those who are ready for comfy throws and a roaring fireplace, here are a couple of great autumn-ready rooms for inspiration. [Habitually Chic]

    And for those who just can't let go of those last sunny rays, this (dare we say...perfect?) beach house will give you your fix. [House of Turquoise]

    Here's a British idea that we think could be a smashing success here in the US: Handmade tiles printed with vintage postcards and advertisements (or if you like, custom tiles with your own mementos). Swoon! [Please Sir]

    We couldn't be more inspired by CasaSugar's latest inspiration series on the Man Booker Prize shortlist -- even if you can't judge a book by its cover, you can certainly dream up home ideas from it. [CasaSugar]

    Can't afford a new stainless steel fridge? The folks at Design Sponge have figured out a genius AND practical way to make an old fridge look new and err, cool. [Design*Sponge]

    New online magazine Standard doesn't have to use words like eco-friendly, green, fair-trade or organic to describe the products in their stories. Why? Every single thing featured in the magazine always is. Naturally! [Apartment Therapy]

    I mean, finally. A massage chair that doesn't look like it's going to torture you. [The New York Times]

    Proof that kindergarten art class paid off -- this striking light fixture was created with our favorite elementary school basics: String and glue. [The Stir]


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    Iman is hoping to bring fabric to your home. Photo: CasaSugar

    Fashion Week draws big names to home design, and Thom Filicia is betting on bedding. It's all in this week's home news.

    Internationally reknowned model, mom, beauty industry mogul and wife-of-David-Bowie Iman can add another accomplishment to her resume -- fabric designer. Her new collection, Iman Home, is as graceful and globally-chic as the lady herself.

    The Thom Filicia home takeover continues, this time in a collaboration with Welspun USA on bed and bath ensembles.

    Karim Rashid, who has designed a snazzy new home soda maker for SodaStream, talks about his desire to redesign numerous boring-looking home goods in a ShelterPop exclusive.

    Fabric designer Kevin O'Brien has teamed up with Capel Rugs in an effort to bring fashion to the floor.

    Laura Ashley comes to the kitchen table in a new licensing deal with Best Brands Consumer Products.

    That kitchen could be getting a little crowded as artist and author Debbie Mumm also enters the room in a deal with Town & Country Living.

    Live from New York, it's QVC! During Fashion Week, the channel is opening its first pop-up store in the city, offering the latest for your house and home.

    Also during Fashion Week, designers Elie Tahari, Nicole Miller and Diane Von Furstenburg, among others, are partnering with interior designers and decorating five condominiums for a good cause. And ever wonder what's inside a fashion designer's closet? Take a look.

    Do you believe in magic? Macy's does, with its new ad campaign starring Martha Stewart and other celeb types.

    Bloomingdale's is trying to woo young consumers; its latest home book is emphasizing "country to city" themes. Yes, that is an Airstream trailer in the catalog!

    We want to crawl back in bed just thinking about this: Mattress Firm is introducing beds with heating and cooling units!

    Wallpaper magazine's twin peaks: planning more coverage of Italy and bringing director David Lynch in as a guest editor.

    Speaking of Italy, Brangelina just plunked down $40 million on a fixer-upper vacation home near Verona.


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    What to do when the weather turns cold and it's time to bid farewell to your favorite outdoor decor? Bring it inside, of course! The following video shows you how:

    Why not incorporate a few of these outdoor materials into your home this winter?:
    STONE: Place stone sculptures around a fireplace or in a foyer for a bold statement in your entryway.
    METAL: For an industrial aesthetic, re-purpose an outdoor zinc table into your living room as a coffee table, or try a pair of metal birdcages for a touch of whimsy.
    WOOD: Driftwood planters make lovely sculptures when placed inside your home and add a touch of organic, weathered and rustic charm to your decor.
    PLANTS: Bring your favorite topiary or moss installation indoors to breathe life into your space all winter long!

    For more outdoor finds that can double as indoor beauties, check out a few of our favorite garden-friendly retailers!:
    -Mecox Gardens
    -Smith & Hawken for Target

    Our experts Maria Greenlaw and Suzanne Caldwell are partners in Design House, a personalized design service that's been a feature in Southampton, New York for over 23 years. Maria is a Cornell University graduate with a BS in Interior and Product Design, and Suzanne, an Allied Member of ASID, has a design degree from Harrington Institute in Chicago.

    No reason to bid farewell to your favorite outdoor decor just because it's chilly out: Bring it inside, of course!


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  • 09/13/10--05:49: Perennial Fall Flowers
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    Fall is coming: Just say no to mums!

    I jest, sort of. I actually like chrysanthemums, especially when they are allowed to naturalize elegantly. And I love the season that they have come to embody. What I dislike is the fall monoculture of artificial-looking, forced balls that suddenly pop up in otherwise barren seas of mulch or stuck like petrified pom-poms in between the shrubs. It's as if fall arrives and we all rush like lemmings to the nearest box store chanting, "Must have mums! Must have mums!"

    There are alternatives, and it is a shame not to plant them.

    Stanley Park in September, Vancouver, B.C: Penstemon, Verbena bonariensis, Helianthus and Verbascum. Photo: Marie Viljoen

    Let's have a few mums, and leave them to develop their natural forms and bloom all by themselves the following year when the cool crisp weather tells them that it's time. There are other flowers -- gorgeous and unusual -- that are primed to bloom at exactly the same time. They are perennials, meaning that by planting them we are more resourceful than when planting mum-balls that are yanked out after a few weeks. Plus, these perennials provide more interest and contrast in our gardens than the row of conformist, rigid lumps of mass-produced...mums.

    Here is a list of twelve exciting perennials for fall. Some are well-known and several are quite under-represented in our gardens.

    A is for Acidanthera, Actaea, Allium, Anemone and Aster!

    Acidanthera or peacock flower. Photo: Marie Viljoen

    I have written about Acidanthera bicolor (Abyssinian gladiolus, peacock flower) before, in a post about fragrance in the garden, but it bears repeating that this highly-scented geophyte (a plant that grows from underground bulbs, tuber, corm, etc.), blooms in the fall. Grown from small, round corms planted in spring or even early summer, the tall sword-shaped leaves are followed in mid-fall by long slender stems and stunning, stop-in-your-tracks white flowers with burgundy throats. As evening draws in, their scent is drawn out. They smell delicious. Best in full sun they can tolerate morning or afternoon shade, too.

    Marie photographing Actaea racemosa "Atropurpurea". Photo: Vincent Mounier

    I still think of Actaea as Cimicifuga, but it has been reclassified. Actaea racemosa "Atropurpurea" (referring to its purple leaves and stems). Pictured above, it is known by the common names bugbane, black snakeroot and black cohosh. This particular cultivar blooms later than regular bugbane, starting around late August and flowering fluffily into September. It is a regal plant growing up to six feet tall, softened by white spires rising from the dark stems. It is perfect for a woodland garden with dappled sunlight. It performs very well in sun sun too, as long as it has plenty of moisture, making it a versatile fall flower.

    Allium taquetii. Photo: Marie Viljoen

    One does not think of alliums blooming in the fall. At least I did not until I met the Korean Allium taquetii, blooming on the North Fork of Long Island in September at Jim and Joanne Glover's wholesale nursery, Glover Perennials. Since then I have used it for late-season punctuation and rhythm in a naturalistic roof-garden planting that included calamintha and agastache (also nice, late bloomers, by the way). It requires full sun, good drainage and does not mind drying out a little.

    Japanese anemones. Photo: Marie Viljoen

    Japanese anemones are the Audrey Hepburns of the fall garden. Planted en masse or as highlights in semi-shaded areas, they are bursts of late season brightness and grace, perfectly poised on willowy stems. They make gorgeous cut flowers, too. Look for the white anemones "Honorine Joubert" and "Whirlwind"; for pale pink splashes, try "Alice", "Königin Char­lotte," or "Bressingham Glow", a ruffled deep-pink flower that blooms through October. These fall anemones need humus-rich soil and plenty of moisture.

    Frost aster. Photo: Marie Viljoen

    You might think, "Hang on, aren't asters as ubiquitous as mums?" Yes and no. Asters lend themselves to naturalizing, yet can also be forced into unnatural blue balls, come Halloween. Take your pick. Aster pilosus (frost aster), above, is a white native aster which, once established, forms mounds of billowing little flowers right into October. It needs full sun and well drained soil -- it even prefers some drought. A similar white aster is heath aster, or Symphyotrichum ericoides.

    Begonia grandis "Alba". Photo: Marie Viljoen

    B is for begonia, of course. Not that begonia...this begonia: Begonia grandis, or hardy begonia. That's right, you plant it this year, and it comes back next year. It starts to flower in August and continues through September and sometimes later. It has sturdy, sappy rose-colored stems and the veins in its heart-shaped leaves are painted to match. Just like its lowly warm climate annual cousins -- so overused in institutional plantings -- it prefers shade, humus-rich soiland does not like to dry out. Plant in groups of three or more, in pots on your terrace or balcony in cooler spots. Begonia grandis ssp evansiana has pink flowers.

    C is for Ceratostigma and Colchicum:

    Ceratostigma plumbaginoides. Photo: Marie Viljoen

    Bring on the blue! Ceratostigma plumbaginoides, or plumbago, is one of the truest blues I know. We are conditioned to think of fall in shades of orange, yellow and brown. Yet blue is a true fall color, as we will see. Ceratostigma is a sun lover. It likes a lot of it and does not mind dry feet. Rock gardens or rock walls are excellent sites for this spiller and it is an excellent container plant. In addition to its startling flowers, which bloom for months, its leaves turn red as fall progresses.

    Colchicum autumnale. Photo: Marie Viljoen

    Colchicum autumnale
    , or fall crocus. When they bloom, they remind me of land-locked waterlilies. The leaves appear in spring and are large and glossy. Then they die back for a dormant summer so that by autumn you've forgotten about them -- that is when the beautiful flowers appear, as if by magic. It is best planted within other ground covers so their foliage helps support the flowers, which tend to flop in the rain. The above combination with lamb's ears (Stachys byzantina) is a lovely one. Colchicum need full sun and sufficient moisture. Warning: colchicum contains colchicine, a highly toxic alkaloid that can be fatal if ingested (though it used in medicines). This is not a plant for a toddler's garden...

    G is for Gentian and Geranium...

    Gentiana scabra "True Blue". Photo: Marie Viljoen

    Gentiana scabra "True Blue" is one of the most startling and beautiful plants I know. Talk about gentian blue...It forms dense mats with clusters of uptilted bell flowers with speckled throats, of an electric blue that draws me, at least, like a hungry bee. They are hard to propagate, but easy to grow once established and are the antithesis of the tense, rusty mums of year, after year, after year. Full sun and superb drainage are required. Good for paths and rock gardens.

    Geranium "Rozanne". Photo: Marie Viljoen

    Geranium "Rozanne" is my of my favorite perennial geraniums, as it just keeps going. Its first good flush of blooms is in springtime, summer sees continued flowering, but once cooler weather arrives in September, a new spurt of blooming returns. Planting this geranium near paths makes the most of its gently mounded form and lets it creep amongst other perennials, sending its sprays of intensely lilac flowers up in unexpected places. If you cut it back to about three or four inches in summer, new growth will be less leggy and will produce just as many flowers. It needs full sun.

    Helianthus angustifolius. Photo: Mare Viljoen

    H is for Helianthus angustifolius, or swamp sunflower -- hard to miss in full bloom. Depending on the cultivar, this native plant will range from three to six feet tall and will be covered in a riot of golden daisy heads. It is a reassuringly fall-friendly yellow and is perfect for a meadow garden, planted with grasses, solidago and asters. They can also be used in a more traditional perennial border. As its common name implies, it likes moisture, but still needs good drainage and plenty of sun.

    Rabdosia longituba. Photo: myu-myu on Flickr

    R is for Rabdosia longituba, which took me by surprise three years ago when I first encountered it and decided to mass it in the dry shade area of a Japanese garden. By summer's end, the plants reached beyond my waist. (44 inches!). And in October they burst into delicate, blue flowers in airy panicles. This plant requires light shade, can stand drying out, and needs space to spread.

    I could go on -- solidago for sun, toad lily for shade, cyclamen for dry shade under trees, helenium for meadows and borders, agastache and calamintha for the fall herb garden...Spring does not corner the market in beautiful flowers. Visit your local nurseries and see what they have in stock, or ask for an alternative to the trusty mums. Ahead of the Big Freeze, fall should be a last fling of floral abundance.


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    Lights, camera, flashback! Incorporating the beloved retro film into your decor is a snap with these ideas.

    Polaroid is on the brink of re-releasing its Classic Instant camera, a fun new spin on the boxy vintage model featuring sleek curves, bright colors and the kind of instant gratification digital cams have spoiled us with. Thanks to the collaborative dream team of Urban Outfitters and The Impossible Project, Polaroid's production plant for Integral Instant film has not only been saved but is on deck for a full revival by the year's end (featuring Lady Gaga as Creative Director). In the meantime, whether you decide to dust off your older Polaroid and give it life with a new pack of instant film or pre-order the newer model due out late 2010, here are five things you can do the minute you get snapping.

    Start documenting
    Forget Facebook, forget Twitter, forget your blog (at least for the moment). Start creating things that actually exist in a tangible world. Look to filmmaker Jamie Livingston's "Photo of the Day" Project as an inspiring chronology of 18 years dedicated to shooting a daily Polaroid, right up until his death in 1997.

    Send a little love
    Did you know you can send a Polaroid in the mail the same as a postcard? Just make sure it's stamped and marked with a legible address and get mailing. For inspiration, check out Trendhunter magazine's cheeky takes on Polaroid postcards or Papermash's très Français collection.

    Get personal
    I wouldn't typically endorse a photo mug or season-by-season vanity calendar, but when it's done with Polaroids, the concept suddenly feels cool. These 70s inspired Polaroid coasters prove that personalized products no longer belong exclusively on grandparents gear and "baby's first" apparel, but on your coffee table -- today. Polaroid studio helps you get going.

    Create wall art
    Since most landlords have restrictions on painting and putting holes in the walls of rented spaces, a Polaroid art display is a great solution to creating walls with personality. When applied with easy peel adhesives, there will be no renter's remorse.

    Retro-shape your digitals

    For those who can't bare to not go digital, applications like Poladroid transform digital images into Polaroid-like pictures, making it look like you were snapping with style when everyone else was freaking out about where to get actual Polaroid film in 2008.

    And above all: Shake a Polaroid picture. Ok, so this may or may not involve actual Polaroid film, but at least it will produce a camera-ready grin.

    Need more design inspiration? Check out our story on Fashion Designers' closets.


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  • 09/13/10--12:34: Design Influence: Wicker
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    When it comes to a child-friendly, easy-to-maintain and warm solution for your home, think wicker! Even though it's commonly used outdoors, wicker is the perfect material to brighten up your favorite interior room -- and is more versatile than you think. Watch how our designers incorporated wicker chairs into a formal dining room:

    Not sure how to get the look in your own home?:
    1. Tie it together. By using wicker placemats with porcelain accents, the mix of formal and informal resonates throughout the table setting.
    2. Bring in balance. Because Nicole's dining room table was on the formal side, a more casual dining chair set is unexpected and fun -- it gives the space balance and the right amount of quirkiness.
    3. Keep it functional. Slipcovers are your friend, even on an easy-to-clean material like wicker. Bonus? You can alter the slipcovers every few months to welcome a new season or trend!

    Long story short? When in doubt, wicker it!

    Our experts Maria Greenlaw and Suzanne Caldwell are partners in Design House, a personalized design service that's been a feature in Southampton, New York for over 23 years. Maria is a Cornell University graduate with a BS in Interior and Product Design, and Suzanne, an Allied Member of ASID, has a design degree from Harrington Institute in Chicago.


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    Notes and snippets for people who love decorating with color. Today, we explore the meaning behind a red front door.

    We all know that a red front door adds instant curb appeal, but what does a red front door symbolize? A lot, actually.

    It's hard to pin down a specific origin of the red front door, but after a little research we traced the tradition back to Biblical times. As history goes, Hebrew slaves were instructed to paint their doors red to protect their first born from the angel of death. (Yikes!) Many churches also painted their doors red, with the belief that once you passed through it you were protected from evil. And in early American times, if a family had a red front door, travelers passing through by horse and buggy would know that a home was a safe place to stop and stay.

    According to the principles of Feng Shui, a red door symbolizes "welcome." Photo: The Feng Shui Society

    Perhaps more importantly than its historical meaning, though, is the fact that, according to the principles of Feng Shui, a red door is supposed to create a welcoming energy in your home. And the most exciting meaning: In Scotland, a red door means "mortgage-free," since homeowners used to paint their front doors to announce to the world that they'd paid off their home.

    Tell us: Would you paint your door red? Have a red front door? Share your photos with us on Facebook.

    For more ideas on decorating with red, check out these posts:
    Decorating With Red
    5 Ways to Decorate With Red
    Decorating With Red and Pink


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    Make that dated wall treatment disappear in a day.

    Wood-paneled walls may be synonymous with interior design from the 1970s but that doesn't mean you won't find them in homes today. If your walls are still covered with wood paneling and you're ready for a change, we've got a plan for you.

    You could remove it. But that's risky. To start, you don't know what lies behind it. There are reasons why people install wood paneling in the first place, and often times it's to cover up damaged walls (or no walls at all). Sometimes wood paneling is hung over studs, so you'll be unpleasantly surprised to find nothing beneath it. If hanging drywall isn't in the cards, our advice to you: Try wallpaper! (Yup, you can wallpaper over wood paneling.)

    wood panelingLearn how to update paneling as if it were never there. Photo: Jaime Derringer

    The process is actually quite simple, but there are a few extra steps to prepare the wall before you hang the paper. We asked the experts over at Ferm Living to give us tips on getting it right and then I went ahead and tried it myself.

    First, I hit up my local hardware store and got some wood paneling -- I don't actually have wood paneling at home, so this was the next best thing. Then, I ordered wallpaper liner which will be used to smooth out the grooves in the paneling, creating a fresh, flat surface to work with.

    Ferm Living's Christiana Coop explains, "Be sure to purchase extra heavy duty wallpaper liner in order to have the appropriate stiffness to truly hide the gaps between the wood panels. Wallpaper liner will likely work for gaps up to approximately 1/4-inch but anything larger might need to be filled with spackle." If you're a hardcore DIY-er, you can use spackling compound to completely fill the grooves and then sand them out.

    You can also combine the two methods -- spackle and lightly sand (just enough to make it fairly smooth) and then apply wallpaper liner. Christiana says that spackling the deep grooves will "prevent the potential for poking a hole in the wallpaper in the gaps between the wood."

    Here are Ferm Living's expert steps, which I followed to wallpaper my wood paneling:

    wallpaper over wood panelingRough up the surface. Photo: Jaime Derringer

    1. Prepare the surface. If the wood paneling is glazed/varnished real wood or fake wood with a plasticized finish, this layer needs to be really roughed up with sandpaper to create a new surface with enough friction for the wallpaper paste and wallpaper to adhere. After sanding, rinse with sponge to remove any dust.

    wallpaper over wood panelingApply wall liner. Photo: Jaime Derringer

    2. Apply wallpaper liner. Just remember that the liner is applied the same way as wallpaper but horizontally. If it isn't pre-pasted, use the same wallpaper paste as you will for the wallpaper. We recommend basic premixed wallpaper adhesive (it's available at most hardware stores and usually comes in a big plastic tub). Let dry 48 hours.

    Should you decide to spackle instead, do that first, let dry and then sand the entire surface.

    wallpaper over wood panelingIt really does cover the grooves! Photo: Jaime Derringer

    For the purposes of this article, I did not paper the entire piece of paneling so that you could see how well the liner and paper cover the grooves. The liner I chose specifically states that it should not be used on paneling or walls with grooves deeper than 1/4 inch.

    wallpaper over wood panelingPrepare your wallpaper. Photo: Jaime Derringer

    3. Hang wallpaper! For the full instructions on how to properly hang wallpaper, view Ferm Living's informative video here.

    wallpaper over wood panelingYou can't see any of the panel lines through the liner and wallpaper. Photo: Jaime Derringer

    If you want a textured look, Christiana says that it is possible to wallpaper into the wood paneling grooves using a squeegee, but there is a potential risk of tearing the wallpaper. She suggests that if you want to achieve this look, cut strips of wallpaper the width of the paneling and leave the grooves unpapered.

    Looking for more unique wallpaper ideas? How about wallpaper in the bathroom or how to make wallpaper stripes and collages.


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  • 09/14/10--11:34: 12 Unusual Uses For Velcro
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    It fastens sneakers and can attach just about anything, but what else can this super tape do?

    Velcro, also known as hook-and-loop tape, is well known for its popularity with everyone from NASA (where it's used to anchor equipment in zero gravity) to dorm rooms (where it takes the place of nails in the wall). But who knew there was an inherent beauty to the material?

    lamp shadeArtist Luis Eslava used Velcro to create lacey lampshades. Photo: Luis Eslava Studio

    Artist Luis Eslava's stylish lampshades (above) prove that Velcro can make some pretty cool decor -- and that's only one of the many why-didn't-I-think-of-that? uses for Velcro. While you might not be up for re-creating Eslava's chic light fixture, I can promise you this: After reading this story, you'll have a whole new appreciation for the spikey-sticky stuff.

    1. Make stress-free window treatments
    Hanging window treatments is no picnic, but Velcro can make the job easier. Cindy Cummins of DIY Style blog uses Velcro to attach lightweight window treatments to high or odd-shaped windows. "Our design workshop, Creative Chicks, is in an older building with dormer windows and a window above the door," she says. "Velcro makes it easier to tack up a square panel of fabric or put up temporary valances for privacy."

    2. Attach interior trim easily
    Derrick Slowikowski, product manager at Velcro USA, said some homeowners use Velcro to attach decorative interior trim rather than nailing it in. You don't want your trim to stick out too far, so the best product to use is Ultra-Mate: A strong, low-profile hook-and-loop tape made especially for smooth surfaces. It should keep the trim flush with the wall.

    3. Affix house numbers, potted plants and statues
    Slowikowski says that Velcro's Extreme is especially made for attaching items to brick and concrete outdoors so the weather doesn't move anything around. He also says you can attach house numbers to the front of your house with this material, which has a special adhesion for rough and porous surfaces. However, Slowikowski warns against submerging Velcro products in water. "The Industrial Strength line is good for outdoor use, it can be splashed with water, but should not be used underwater," he says.

    Forget the nails. You can attach house numbers with Velcro Extreme. Photo: Stewf, Flickr

    4. Easy on, easy off lattice panels
    In my yard, we have a high deck that leads out to the pool and we've attached a panel of lattice beneath it. Thing is, we still need to get under the deck for things like laying gravel and pulling weeds. The perfect solution: We nail up almost all lattice panels around the deck, but leave one Velcro'ed on the top and bottom of the panel so we can quickly remove it to gain access to the area.

    5. Create vertical storage in a closet
    Try this clever idea from Organization Makes Sense: Get a roll of hook-and-loop tape -- one that does not have a sticky back. Cut a piece that's a few inches long and separate the hook part from the loop part. Attach the hook part of the tape to the back of the closet wall either with a staple gun or with nails (you'll want to position it about halfway up the wall). This storage trick comes in handy for stashing, say, rolls of gift wrap upright. Simply use the loop part of the tape to strap the rolls to the wall. You can use this also for umbrellas or loose table leaves.

    6. Hang framed photos on tile backsplash
    If your tiled kitchen backsplash needs a lift (or a cover-up), try a creative route and use hook-and-loop tape to display some lightweight framed photos? They'll look fresh and pretty and will be easy to remove for a quick wipe down.

    7. Give your fridge a new look
    Thrifty Decor Chick perked up the look of her fridge by attaching beadboard to the side it -- (before and after pics below!). The best part? She did it with Velcro. Let's say you simply want to hang things like report cards, photos or to-do lists on your refrigerator door and wait -- stainless steel doors aren't magnetic? Nope. Laura, from the blog, I'm An Organizing Junkie, attached a calendar to a refrigerator with 3M Command Hooks. You can do the same!

    Here's an idea for Velcro: Use it to improve the look of your fridge. Photo: Thrifty Decor Chick

    8. Instant bed canopy
    I wish I'd used Velcro to install the tent-like canopy in my daughter's room like Centsational Girl did. If we were to do it again, I'd put a short strip of sticky backed Velcro on the ceiling and wrap a strip of Velcro around the fabric loop on the canopy, then attach above the bed.

    9. Organize small items
    Teachers often add pieces of adhesive hook-and-loop tape to a desk and to a writing instrument -- follow this school room trick in your own home office or kids' homework areas so no one ever has to search for a pen or pencil again. Use the same trick if you want to keep your television remotes handy, too.

    10. Keep carpets and mats in place
    A clever solution to a common problem: Velcro can keep a rug or runner in a high-traffic area its place. Light-duty Velcro that is especially made with removable adhesive is ideal for attaching to wood.

    11. Key holder
    The Metropolitan Museum of Art used to sell this item, the Clote Velcro Key Holder, which we uncovered on Uncrate, but no longer does. But, take a look at how you can turn this in to a DIY project. Velcro's Display Boards are ideal for this project. Make looped Velcro keychains for keys, and Voila! You have a stylish key holder.

    Never lose those keys again with Velcro. Photo: Uncrate

    12. Decorate a child's room
    Create affordable, 3-D art by hanging a lightweight toy on the wall in a child's room. Take any piece of fabric, basket, stuffed animal or toy and attach it to the wall with Velcro.

    Ever wonder what you could do with baking soda? Check out our story on unusual uses for baking soda.


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    The first step in remaking a dresser: Choose a pretty paint color.

    My search for a dresser to store my fashion accessories, undergarments, socks and T-shirts took on a life of its own. I spent hours -- over the course of a year -- trolling Craigslist. My hopes quickly turned to frustration when I was met with my options: 1970s and 1980s dressers with ornate, carved wood in dark tones. Retailers offered my dream dresser for close to $1,000, but that was out of my budget. As someone well past the college-dorm phases of my life, I wanted an item that was built well and made with good, quality materials (even if this meant I had to revamp it myself).

    benjamin moore cayman blue dresserBefore and after, from left to right. Photo: Kristine Hansen

    Finally, the solution presented itself: My boyfriend offered me his childhood dresser. I took it under one condition -- that I could redo it. Neither one of us could stand looking at it in its current condition. Painted a ghastly, bright red and plastered with beer stickers, the dresser was practically begging for a makeover and so down from the attic it came.

    Now I just had to choose a paint color. I knew that I wanted a light shade of blue, green or gray. Armed with dozens of paint swatches from Future Green, an eco-friendly store in my Milwaukee neighborhood, I studied the swatches. I tried to visualize each shade after two or three coats over the dresser's wood.

    Benjamin Moore Cayman Blue dresserI purchased these drawer pulls on clearance at Anthropologie. Photo: Kristine Hansen

    I settled on Cayman Blue by Benjamin Moore & Co. with American Pride interior latex (a zero-VOC, solvent-free paint). I also considered Costa Rica Blue and Cedar Green, and I'll admit, just like Cayman Blue, I was drawn to them as much as for the names as the colors themselves. Cayman Blue won out, in part, because I immediately recalled -- in vivid detail -- a vacation my boyfriend and I spent on Seven Mile Beach in Grand Cayman. We had pulled our lounge chaises up to the water's edge and listened to the waves crashing. With winter looming back home, we appreciated every minute on that beach.

    I bought one can of paint ($33) and six new drawer pulls from Anthropologie ($4 each on clearance). After two hours of painting, essentially applying two coats, I was happy. I did nothing to perfect the tiny holes and bumps in the dresser because it seemed like authentic shabby chic to me. Total cost of the makeover: $57!

    I love the nostalgic feeling that washes over me when, sleepy-eyed, I open up one of the dresser drawers for a warm pair of socks or my favorite T-shirt. It's the color that inspires me to have a great day, even if it's bitter cold in Wisconsin.


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    Can't afford the built-ins you've been dreaming of? One clever blogger used a little imagination and some IKEA bookshelves to get the look.

    Occasionally, we'll come across a storage solution that makes us think, "That's so smart!" The latest wish-we-thought-of-that solution on our radar comes from blogger Rebecca Orlov of the blog loving. living. small., which is devoted to spaces under 1,000 square feet. (Rebecca also writes for Apartment Therapy.) Rebecca, a small-space dweller herself, recently moved to sunny Los Angeles and she's been chronicling her move in a series of posts on the blog. We were floored when we spotted her innovative use of IKEA's classic Billy bookcases in her living room.

    Look again: Those aren't custom bookcases; they're a bunch of IKEA shelves pushed together. Photo: Rebecca Orlov

    "I knew that I wanted to create built-in units, or the appearance of them, to hold most of my accents, books and decor," says Rebecca. As luck would have it, the Billy bookcase is almost exactly the same height as the windows in the room. "This really allows the space to appear bigger by creating balance with the molding and the curtains on the opposite wall." To create the look, Rebecca bought and assembled four of IKEA's ever-affordable Billy bookcases.

    Rebecca says assembling the four shelves wasn't hard at all -- especially compared to some of IKEA's other, more complex items. Photo: Rebecca Orlov

    After assembling the bookcases according to the directions, Rebecca decided to go her own route and removed their backs to reveal the wall behind, giving the shelves a lighter, airier look. Of her mini IKEA hack, Rebecca says, "I am all for editing actual furniture to make it work for your own small space."

    Making progress: Rebecca got her shelves assembled, then went to work organizing them. Photo: Rebecca Orlov

    Because the room is small at 13' by 16', Rebecca has treated her "built-ins" like a wall, pushing the couch snug up against the shelves and even hanging a framed picture or two from the shelves. The end result is a tidy, polished wall of shelving that looks like it costs much more than the $240 price tag of four Billy bookcases. Says Rebecca, "I don't think the pics really show how much bigger the room actually feels!"

    The end result is near perfection! Photo: Rebecca Orlov

    Want more clever organizing and storage ideas? Check out these posts:
    - Find More Room In Your Home Office
    - New Uses for an Old Ladder


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  • 09/14/10--11:34: Decorating 101: Butch-Craft
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    When you're decorating with all the things you love, it can be easy to slip into girliness overload. Ruffles? Check. Several shades of pink and/or purple? Check. A floral print? You know it. Which is exactly why we get excited about the Butch-Craft style, as introduced by CasaSugar: It packs major personality and serves as the perfect foil for all the feminine accents we adore.

    You may be familiar with midcentury modern, shabby chic, and minimalist, but have you heard of butch-craft? Butch-craft describes a newly named design aesthetic that will be showcased in the Make Me exhibit at New York's Moss Gallery, beginning Sept. 15. This exhibition introduces new studio works by Kiki Van Eijk, Peter Marigold (a piece from his Palindrome series is shown here), Oscar Magnus Narud, Marcus Tremonto, Joost Vam Bleiswijk, and several other studios and designers.

    Explaining the aesthetic, Moss Gallery founder Murray Moss says,

    "We introduce the term "Butch-Craft" in an effort to articulate a phenomena: that after years of an increasingly accepted yet hard-won broader, more inclusive definition of design, liberated only recently from the once mandatory 'form follows function' credo...Works, both past and present, that overtly resemble 'furniture', executed in wood and iron and steel and stone, are now in fact automatically assumed to contain a narrative, a poetic gesture. Function no longer is presumed to neuter any potential for Art; we accept that addressing a prosaic function doesn't lead necessarily to a prosaic object."

    Mr. Moss's assertion that craft and art are no longer separated, with one judged lesser than the other, is a phenomenon I've been witnessing in the past several years as well. From high-end galleries exhibiting furniture next to canvases to glossy magazines celebrating craftwork, it's a trend that I wholeheartedly approve of. Stop by Moss Gallery this month to tour Make Me. If you do get a chance to explore this exhibit, definitely let me know what you think!

    More goodies from CasaSugar
    Iman Launches Home Fabric Line at NY Fashion Week
    Decorating Ideas to Steal From Serena & Lily's Fall Catalog


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    Melding the styles of a glamorous gal and her rugged husband is difficult -- but not impossible.

    What happens when a country boy falls in love with a city girl? In this video, we sent our ShelterPop designers on a challenge to meld the styles of a glamorous gal and her rugged husband. Borrowing inspiration from our favorite glam/rustic celebrity couple Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban, the Design Influence gals turn an otherwise bland cottage into a city-chic haven for the future newlyweds:

    Want to get the look? Follow the tips below to up the glam factor in a quaint room of your home:
    1. Choose a color scheme. Because we're working with a wide mix of styles and textures, it's always best to maintain a cohesive element in the space. In this video, our designers chose blue and white as the primary color palette and experimented with different shades, tones and hues to create depth.
    2. Don't be afraid to mix textures. By using an antique jar lamp and rattan shade, our designers were able to meld country and city styles into one piece. Get creative and experiment with a wide variety of natural textiles in rugs, window treatments and upholstery.
    3. Choose your battles. When melding two very different styles, emotions are bound to get caught up in the mix. In this video, an oversized plaid futon was kicked to the curb, but a framed image of an animal skull stayed. Choose pieces that have sentimental value or will work well in the new space, but don't feel as if you need to start from scratch. You'll be amazed at how existing furnishings can look brand new when incorporated into a different setting!
    4. When in doubt, accessorize. Sometimes, fresh flowers and a serving tray will tie a room together faster than a coat of paint. Never underestimate the power of styling!

    Ready to get started? Check out ShopStyle for cowhide rugs, Adirondack chairs and cozy ottomans. Happy shopping!

    Our experts Maria Greenlaw and Suzanne Caldwell are partners in Design House, a personalized design service that's been a feature in Southampton, New York for over 23 years. Maria is a Cornell University graduate with a BS in Interior and Product Design, and Suzanne, an Allied Member of ASID, has a design degree from Harrington Institute in Chicago.


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    When it comes to removing red wine stains, what works best: The old school method or the new?

    Sure, now the home-care market is permeated with cleaning solutions. But there was a time, before technology took over, that we relied simply on good ol' fashioned elbow grease and know-how (plus a little help from Mother Nature) for removing red wine stains. We may have newer, more advanced options, but there's something to be said about the methods that have stood the test of time.

    So, we've decided to put old-school cleaning techniques to the ultimate test -- pitting them against high-tech, modern-day cleaning solutions. First up: how to clean spilled red wine.

    Removing Red Wine StainsThe red-wine-weary can relax thanks to these tested remedies for removing wine stains. Photo: Corbis

    The Problem: Red Wine Stains
    It happens to everyone -- even the least clumsy of us: Red wine splatters on the carpet or a hard-to-clean upholstery. For some, the solution is a strict white-wine-only policy at dinner parties. But for those of us red-wine lovers, there's another option: Take the risk that spills might happen, and if they do, have a stain removal technique that works.

    Old Solution: The most commonly discussed remedy for removing red wine stains is club soda. And for good reason: On a fresh wine stain, all I had to do was quickly blot the wine-splattered area with a cloth until it was dry, pour on some club soda, blot and voila -- the stain was gone.

    If you don't have club soda on hand, other old wives tales recommend removing red wine stains by covering the fresh stain with salt, which serves as a sponge-like agent, soaking up the stain. (FYI: This is a great option when you're in the middle of a party -- just cover the stain and deal with it later.)

    The process is as follows: Douse the wet stain with table salt, and get back to your party. You can let the salt sit overnight (common lore recommends a minimum of six hours) and then vacuum. In my trial run, nearly all of the stain vanished, with the exception of a slight pinkish tinge. To tackle that, I did one round of the club soda-blotting technique (above), then added a bit more salt, let it dry and vacuumed again to find no resemblance of the stain.

    For the tougher, set-in stains, you can also try an ammonia-water mixture. If the stain is still wet, blot as much liquid as you can. Mix one tablespoon of ammonia in a cup of warm water, then pour enough onto the stain to cover it (no need to douse it with the full cup if it's a small stain). Let it sit for five to ten minutes, depending on the size of the stain, then blot with a clean towel until the stain is absorbed. You can repeat if necessary -- but one round of this stain-fighter worked miracles on my two-day-old Cabernet catastrophe. Of course, I was left with the stink of ammonia permeating my living room. So I'd only recommend this option as a last resort.

    New Solution: One of the most popular red-wine stain removers on the market today is Wine Away, a solution specifically designed for (you guessed it) removing wine stains: Both fresh and set-in. (FYI: It also works on blood.) It can be found at nearly all large grocery chains, as well as Sur la Table and World Market.

    Thanks to intense stain-fighting ingredients, the stain-removing process is fairly simple. I tried Wine Away both on a fresh stain and one that had set in over night. On the fresh stain, it worked like a magic eraser -- simply blot excess wine with a towel, then spray the stain with Wine Away, let it sit for a few minutes as the stain literally fades before your eyes, then blot with a damp, clean towel.

    If the stain has set in, simply spray the area with Wine Away, let it sit for about five minutes and then blot with an absorbent paper towel or old clean rag. I found it best to place the towel over the stain and stand on it with one foot for 30 seconds (the pressure absorbs better than pushing with one hand). Next, switch to a clean area of the towel and repeat until all the solution -- and the stain -- is absorbed. Never rub or scrub the area. Simply repeat the spray-and-blot process until the stain is gone. (You may have to do this a few times depending on the fibers in the material.) Finally, remove any excess cleaning product by gently blotting with a damp rag.

    The winner: This one comes down to preference. If you're anti-fuss, opt for Wine Away. It's the easiest solution. But if you prefer the natural way of doing things (and have 10 minutes to spare), the alternative works just as well.

    Verdict: We're calling this one a tie.

    Looking for more about removing wine stains? Our sister sites have it covered:
    Home Ec: Remove Tannin-Based Stains

    Go green, save green by making your own cleaning products
    Getting Purse-onal: How to Clean a Handbag at Home - StyleList


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  • 09/15/10--10:53: Map-Inspired Home Decor
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    Inspirations often stem from unexpected places and things. Here, geography gets our design gears turning.

    Most of us had our first geography lesson back in grade school. You may not remember it, but perhaps you recall the curiosity it piqued. Maybe you ran your finger along a map in your social studies textbook and asked: What does it look like there? It it hot or cold? What are the people like? When the teacher pulled down a flat world map, many students stared -- likely because, in an instant, they realized that the world is much bigger than they'd all imagined.

    There is something about maps that get us going. And we couldn't be happier that many designers feel the same -- creating goods that bring this eye-opening inspiration to the home.

    12 frames of world mapEight black frames from Spicher and Company display this map of Venice, making art within art. Photo: Spicher and Company

    Many of us still enjoy looking at (or framing) antique maps, and who isn't a little obsessed with Google Earth or their GPS? Maps don't only inspire us, they help get us from one place to the next. They literally and figuratively transport us.

    "When I was a kid, I pored over issues of National Geographic looking at their maps," says Emily Fischer of Haptic Lab. Maps, she says, are never just about a place -- they're about politics, history and social studies. And that makes them particularly attractive in home decor. They can add texture and color and even inspire the senses. They make you feel something.

    Soft map quilt from Haptic Lab.If you can't be in your favorite place in the world, Haptic Labs can stitch a map of it on a quilt so that you can curl up in your preferred destination. Washington, DC, shown above. Photo: Haptic Lab

    Fischer plays into this nostalgia in her hand-stitched quilts (shown above), featuring maps of particular U.S. cities, including streets and landmarks. She'll even customize a map based on your childhood town or a specific swath stretching from, say, Union Square to Times Square in Manhattan, for example.

    "The quilts are meant to be heirlooms telling stories about places and narrating very personal memories," says Fischer.

    But there are a number of ways to incorporate witty lessons in cartography into your decor. Here are a few of our faves.

    The measure of a good cartographer? Attention to minute details. The design is in the details of this product too. Don't just place any old globe in the study, use your imagination and fill in your own demarcation lines on this chalkboard globe, $450.

    Forget hanging up a map and sticking push pins into all of the places that you've been. With My Scratch Map, you scratch off the areas as you visit, and keep a visual diary of your adventures.

    MapnotesPhoto: Kate Mathis

    A clever take on the classic postcard. Mail a Mapnote ($4 each) featuring various city maps with your handwritten regards on the reverse.

    Step on it, wet it or twist it, you can't destruct Crumpled City Maps printed on Tyvek. Crumpling conveniently into a tiny pouch, it's the perfect material to repurpose into placemats as souvenirs back home.

    Interior designer Sheila Bridges poses in front of a 7' x 9' framed vintage map of New York State. It's one of my favorite images of maps used in a home.

    Check out some of our favorite stories from around the web!
    The Good Bones, Great Pieces ladies tour Brimfield 2010!
    Do You Rent or Own Your Home?
    I Called the Cops on The Roommate From Hell
    New Design Magazine: Anthology!
    12 Yard Fixtures That Make People Think You're an Idiot

    Iman Home Collection: Sneak Peek


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    A splash of color and a long weekend turned a dingy kitchen into my dream kitchen.

    True story: I moved from Brooklyn, NY to Kansas City, MO for an apartment. After sharing tiny spaces with roommates and (shudder) large bugs for nearly nine years, I was lured back to my hometown by real estate. Huge, cheap real estate.

    On a visit to Missouri to promote my cookbook, I happened upon my dream home. Sort of. As I always do when I visit a city, I checked out the real estate on Craigslist, but this time I actually went to look at an apartment. I had no intention of moving, but as soon as I walked through the front door, my heart stopped. The space was perfect with its two bedrooms, office, clawfoot tub, hardwood floors, fireplace and balcony. Well, I should say it was almost perfect; the kitchen was hideous. The cabinets were made of pressed plywood with a dingy white plastic laminate and they had veneer trim that was peeling in every direction. The drawers down below the counter were in better shape, but they were a completely different material and cut than the cabinets up top.

    Emily Farris

    Other food-centric people might have moved on to the next Craigslist listing, but after confirming with the landlord that it was okay to "make improvements" to the kitchen, I signed the lease.

    Still, after I moved in, I avoided that kitchen like the Plague. I kept my dishes in the butler's pantry (did I mention it also had a butler's pantry?) and only used the stove when absolutely necessary. I had ideas of what I wanted to do, but I didn't have the time or the money to do much of anything. Then, one Thursday night (probably after too much coffee and HGTV viewing), I decided the only way I was ever going to get anything done was to take down the cabinet doors right that moment. So I did.

    The next morning, still inspired and more than a little desperate to get my cabinet doors back up, I canceled my weekend plans, put off my work for the day and went to the paint store. I was immediately drawn to a shade of turquoise (my favorite color), Sherwin Williams' Mariner. The friendly paint professional told me that an acrylic-latex would be the best for painting over laminate and that I probably wouldn't need a primer. While at the store, I remembered I also had a small, unopened can of charcoal-colored paint I could use for the structure of the cabinets. I couldn't make the drawers match the doors, but I could at least make everything the same color.

    As soon as I was home, I got to work removing hardware, scrubbing down the cabinets, removing peeling trim, masking the back of the doors and painting. And painting. And painting. And waiting for paint to dry. And painting some more. I only left the house once to get food and wine.

    Emily Farris

    The process was tedious, but pretty much painless. Because I hadn't primed (if I could do it over again, I would), the doors required two coats of paint, but one quart was more than enough to give my kitchen cabinets an extreme makeover. The real fun came when I tried to rehang them on my own. I did it, but not without copious amounts of curse words. (NOTE: If you ever take down your kitchen cabinets, do yourself a favor and get someone to help you put them back up.)

    Once the cabinets were rehung, I got to work rearranging accessories I already owned. By Sunday night, I had my dream kitchen--or as close to it as I'm going to get until Oprah gives me my own show. All it took was a can of paint, a few brushes, a long weekend, and patience. Lots and lots of patience. Oh, and that bottle of wine.

    What to budget if you try this at home:
    $20 (or less) for a quart of thick acrylic-latex paint of your choice
    $12 for a bottle of wine
    $5 brushes and masking tape
    $10 for a small can of a flat accent color if you need it
    $40 for take out, because your kitchen will be pretty much unusable for a weekend
    $87 Total


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