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    When a Japanese designer couldn't find the simple homewares she desired, she launched her own line.


    A sampling of Fog Linen Work's wares. Photos: Fog Linen Work

    The Source
    Fog Linen Work

    The Goods
    At first glance, you might not be intrigued by Fog Linen Work's line of homewares -- the neutral colors and humble checks aren't exactly attention-grabbers. However, once you've touched and seen these goods in person, you'll know why the design world is crazy for Fog Linen Work: The quality is impeccable. Fog Linen Work was started by Japanese designer Yumiko Sekine, who couldn't find the natural, home textiles she craved. The line consists of napkins, placemats, tablecloths, kitchen towels, aprons and other home-related textiles and accessories.

    The Secret
    Made from high-quality materials like raw linen from Lithuania, the integrity of the materials makes Fog Linen Work's pieces long-lasting. Their simple, natural designs also mean they won't go in or out of fashion. Anyone who appreciates craftsmanship will love Fog Linen Work.

    Things to Know
    You can't order directly from Fog Linen Work (at least not yet), and you'll have to go to Tokyo to visit their shop. However, several retailers carry their wares, including Design Within Reach, Horne, Haus Interior and Terrain. Also, the name and size of each product is stamped on many of their linens, but the stamp washes away with use. We're dying to see the company's 'Around Linen' series in which they profile some of their favorite designers, who work with linen, like Erica Tanov and Lotta Jansdotter.

    Don't be surprised if you start seeing Fog Linen Work's products in more U.S. outlets. We recently spied them at the New York Gift Show exhibiting as a wholesaler for the first time.

    he Fog Linen Work shop in Tokyo, Japan. Photo: Fog Linen Work

     

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    Accent chairs can make an otherwise low-key room pop -- but no need to shell out for one that matches your decor. It's a quick and fun DIY job!

    Does anyone really need an accent chair? Probably not. But as someone who often hosts crowded dinners at my modest table-for-eight, I can say that they're more often useful than not. And even when there aren't extra guests, my accent chair serves as a purse rest, designated shoe-removal spot and yes, on occasion, the much-needed boost to reach the top shelf in my kitchen.

    Amy Preiser


    Another bonus: Unlike a sofa, or curtains, this is one piece of furniture you don't have to be sensible about. I mean, it's right there in the name: An accent chair can't be boring. No neutrals welcome here.

    Even though this is a great DIY project for beginners, I took on this particular chair with my dad, a seasoned contractor. He's the one that found the chair in a client's basement, the last remaining piece from an abused dining set. He's also the one that did the less-glamorous steps: Sanding the wood and painting it with primer so it would evenly soak up the paint. (Note: Don't tell my dad this, but when I revamp chairs on my own, I often skip these steps. You can too, if you're willing to do quickie touch-ups for paint chips.)

    Next came the best part: The creative decisions. I found this wacky ikat scrap of fabric and gold trim at one of my favorite hometown stores: The Long Beach Depot for Creative Reuse, where even the name is inspiring, and owner Lisa kindly weighed in on paint colors for the chair. 75 cents later, we were off to Lowes, where I zeroed in on Valspar's Autumn Fire, and bought a pint for $8.

    Back at home, we turned the chair upside-down to unscrew the seat, and put the new fabric right over the old, securing the edges with a staple gun and using fabric glue for the trim. As for the chair, once my dad prepped it for painting, we gave it two coats of Autumn Fire, followed by three coats of lacquer. Once it dried, we screwed the seat back in and spent the rest of the day bragging about our makeover.

    The chair stayed at my parents' home, where it now offsets their beige guest room with the light blue comforter and white bookshelves. Needless to say, it was a room in need of an accent. Now, whenever guests arrive, their first question is about the chair: Where did you get that? And just like that, the accent chair reveals an extra utility -- a conversation starter.

     

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    Don't be fooled: this simple ottoman is so much more. Photo: Tony Lopez/Courtesy of Castro Convertibles



    This convertible ottoman may just be the smartest piece of furniture around.

    After a 10-year hiatus, the family-owned Castro Convertibles (of Castro Convertibles Sofa fame) is relaunching the brand for the next generation of space-saving furniture seekers. First up? The new Convertible Ottoman ($499, including shipping for a limited time) converts into a single 75-inch long bed, sized just right for a child or adult to sleep on.

    "It's so versatile," says Bernadette Castro, daughter of Bernard Castro, who founded the company in 1931. "It starts out as an attractive ottoman with a slipcover that you can use as a coffee table or extra seating during a party. Then, in a few minutes, you'll have a bed for overnight guests." It's available in chocolate brown or taupe, shown above.

    It's comfy too. The ottoman comes with a five-inch thick Castropedic mattress that's supported by wooden slats, so your guests (or your snoring bed mate) feel nothing but mattress.

    To transform the ottoman, first you take off the removable slipcover -- then simply pull out the bed. Want a visual? Just as she appeared as a little girl in the company's first television commercials, Bernadette has passed the torch to her granddaughters. The duo is now starring in the company's new ads and how-to videos online, demonstrating how easy it is to use the ottoman.

    Bernadette Castro's granddaughters appear in Castro Convertibles new how-to videos on the company's website. Photo: Tony Lopez/Courtesy of Castro Convertibles

    In a time when we're all either downsizing or just trying to make the most out of the space we do have, we're happy to welcome back Castro Convertibles' clever solutions!

    Looking for more storage solutions? Here's a roundup of some great storage beds.

     

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    Looking to stage your own bedroom makeover? Take the opportunity to.create a space that's sexy -- without being cheesy. There's no rose petals or satin sheets in this bedroom makeover but can promise that these ideas will make your master bedroom feel more like a destination rather than just another room in the house.

     

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    A Belgian schoolhouse is converted into a playful destination for a vacation.

    Exterior La ClasseThe exterior of La Classe reveals its formidable architecture. Photo: Anne and Jean-Luc Laloux

    Leave it to a pair of photographers to transform an old school house into the ultimate vacation rental. Vacationers in France enjoy a system of holiday home rentals called gîtes; these rental properties are furnished for groups and set up so that renters can prepare their own meals. Gîtes, typically rustic group accommodations, are usually basic, rural accommodations, but architectural photographers, Anne and Jean-Luc Laloux decided they'd take this notion to the next level by creating a luxurious country retreat in Belgium.

    Frequent travelers, Anne and Jean-Luc Laloux describe themselves as always in "search of exceptional homes designed by the best contemporary architects." Their travels inspired this design-loving, globetrotting duo to try their own hands at creating a luxury vacation rental property. Turns out, they're renovators of the highest echelon, as evidenced by La Classe, a former village school that has been transformed into a village gem.

    Stairwell La ClasseMedicine balls sit at the base of the stairwell -- an allusion to gym classes of years past. Photo: Anne and Jean-Luc Laloux

    Situated in a picturesque section of Belgium, La Classe houses up to 21 people in its 7-bedroom, 7-bathroom expanse. While the former schoolhouse has been transformed into comfy living quarters, the building's educational past shows through: Gym class medicine balls adorn a hallway, school chairs hang as decor on the wall of the dining room, vintage educational posters decorate bedrooms. The Lalouxs have even titled each room after an area of study: Geography, Anatomy and Mathematics are three of the rooms' names

    Dining Room La ClasseGuests can dine cafeteria style at this long table. Photo: Anne and Jean-Luc Laloux

    As architectural photographers, Anne and Jean-Luc Laloux have paid respect to the building's excellent bones and dramatic architecture. The design is playful yet sophisticated, with touches like chalkboard-painted walls reading as cutting-edge design, not a leftover classroom detail.

    Bunk room La ClasseIn the "Anatomy" room, vintage anatomy posters are one of the only decorations. Photos: Anne and Jean-Luc Laloux

    With space for 21 people, the Lalouxs are billing La Classe as a perfect spot for a work retreat. Just the idea of spending a weekend at this stunning former schoolhouse has all your ShelterPop editors day-dreaming of working over a long weekend.

    Meeting room La ClasseA meeting room is furnished with a mix of vintage and contemporary pieces. Photo: Anne and Jean-Luc Laloux

    Want to read about more unusual places to lay your head? Check out these posts:
    - A Hotel Made of Trash -- Really!
    - Treehouse Hotels

     

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    Love the products in Scott Delman's Minute Makeover videos? Here's how to get the look at home!

    In the kitchen:


    Finley Dinnerware, $7-$9 per piece, Crate & Barrel.
    Sturdy stoneware gets flair from a spiral green glaze in a clean coupe shape, courtesy of he Portugeuse artisans that crafted these beauties. Sound too precious? No fear, they're dishwasher and microwave safe.

    Athena Ledge Shelf by Magellan/Woodland Products, $30 for a set of three, Amazon.com.
    The perfect platform for your favorite photos, these shelves have elegant edges and a deep ledge to keep all your keepsakes safe and prominently displayed. Plus, the keyhole installation and accompanying hardware makes these a cinch to install.

    In Scott's bedroom:


    Octagon Jacquard Duvet Cover and Shams, $99 for Queen and $29 for each Euro Sham, West Elm.
    Made of pure cotton voile, this dramatic but fun bedding is also super user friendly: It's machine washable, reversible and easy to change out, thanks to button closures on the duvet and an envelope closure on the shams.

     

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    "Help make my kitchen a comfortable space for me and my 6-year-old daughter to share a meal."
    -- Scott Delman





    THE HOMEOWNER

    Scott Delman and his 6-year-old daughter Maya

    BEFORE
    This kitchen gets the job done when it comes to cooking, but thanks to a narrow space and no seating area, it acts as more of a passing through point -- not the cozy haven it has the potential to be. Right now, he and Maya share meals on the living room couch. Sure, it's comfy, but not ideal. It puts the sofa at risk for spills and it doesn't allow for father-daughter quality time over dinner.

    Enter Bob Richter, a professional interior designer with makeover-minute magic. He brought in a rectangular Meltorp dining table that not only fits the space perfectly, but looks like it takes up even less room thanks to its light color. Next up: Decorative but sturdy Ingolf chairs that get a major pop from Majvor seat cushions. Notice how they match the curtain? And yes, that bold numerical print that is playful enough for Maya yet still hits a more grown-up typographic trend that Scott can appreciate. A plain white frame polishes off the look. (See what we meant about Bob bringing the magic?)

    Now for those photos on top of the fridge: Would we suggest getting rid of Maya's adorable face? No way. Instead, Bob popped them into uniform Lucite frames and put them on shelf moldings.

    Since they're no longer eating on the sofa, they're due for a major tabletop upgrade: This vibrant and well-made dinnerware is just the thing. You'll see here in the placemats that nature-inspired color palette Scott loves so much. Add in a lamp in a bright color and some personal accents and now we're cooking.

    AFTER
    Scott and Maya have a designated meal spot -- perfect for winding down together after a long day, or sharing breakfast on a weekend morning.

    THE GOODS
    To see what IKEA products were used, scroll over the pieces in the video and to learn more about the other products in the video, check out our shopping guide!

     

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    "My bedroom walls have off-centered molding and no matter where I put my bed, it looks wrong!"
    -- Scott Delman





    THE HOMEOWNER

    Scott Delman and his 6-year-old daughter Maya

    BEFORE
    Can you have too much of a good thing? In the case of molding -- yes, you certainly can. Scott knows first hand how difficult a room full of molding can be. Where does the bed go? Do you work with it, or against it? And how do you balance the blue-and-white color palette?

    Enter our Minute Makeover guru, Bob Richter, who's never met moldings he couldn't tame. He played off of the architectural details by bringing in IKEA's Trondheim bed frame with its clean white lines and placing it in the corner to provide the room with some much-needed balance. (And the Sultan Fossing mattress keeps things comfy).

    And now for the color pop: Don't be scared, Scott, but Bob choose orange as the accent color -- boy does it accent! Interestingly, a geometric pattern works with the lines of the molding. The room gets another dash of white -- this time, in the form of the low-key Lack wall shelf that serves as a space-saving bedside table for his Textur table lamp and Vikis alarm clock.

    And because walls cannot live on moldings alone, Bob brought in a calming seascape from a local flea market to add warmth and personality.

    AFTER
    Scott has a cool, relaxing spot to rest his head -- and a stylishly masculine room to wake up to every morning.

    THE GOODS
    To see what IKEA products were used, scroll over the pieces in the video and to learn more about the other products in the video, check out our shopping guide!

     

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  • 09/19/10--01:09: How to Pack Like the Pros
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    The smartest way to pack a box and other must-read moving tips.

    I've moved many times, sometimes using professional movers and other times with a little help from my friends (bribing them with pizza works wonders). I love using the pros because it exponentially simplifies one of the more stressful events in life. The cost, however, can be tough to justify.

    pack like the prosReady to start anew? Be sure your stuff makes the trip safely. Photo: Getty Images


    The problem is, whenever I pack my own boxes, something always breaks in the move. The last time that I moved, I wondered: How would the pros do it? So I went looking for some answers, and it turns out that it's not only how you pack but what you're packing with.

    Invest in the right packing materials
    .
    Frank Sinopoli of Ranger Moving Systems suggests purchasing a lot of small cardboard boxes rather than a few big ones. "Many people will get the biggest box they can find and put all of their stuff in it," he says. "They don't think about the person who is going to have to carry the carton. If you're going to pack a box, don't expect someone else to move it if you can't move it." I'm guilty on this one.

    There are also specialty boxes that Frank suggests considering. First, china cartons, which are thicker, reinforced corrugated cardboard boxes, help protect your fragile items. Also, wardrobe boxes are a great investment because they are basically portable closets. These boxes have a rod for hanging items so your clothes never have to leave their hangers. If you've ever had to pack hangers before or unpack bags full of wrinkled clothing then you know what a lifesaver these boxes can be.

    You can also purchase mirror and picture boxes, lamp boxes and even mattress bags to protect your bed from the inside of that dirty moving truck or the elements (if you're strapping it to your car's roof).

    Don't forget the packing paper!
    When it comes to protecting your breakables, Frank recommends going with packing paper rather than bubble wrap. Packing paper, which you can purchase at a moving truck rental facility, is a thin protective paper that when crumpled "becomes springy and soft and absorbs the impact," Frank explains. He uses this paper on all of the valuables he packs, from dishware to vases to figurines. Frank said that you can use newspaper in place of packing paper as an alternative, but warns that black newsprint tends to rub off on items, as well as your hands, so it can be a bit messy.

    How to pack a box
    When it comes to actually packing your boxes, there is a tried-and-tested method employed by movers that you can also use. Frank explains that you should always pack the heaviest stuff on the bottom, which makes your box sturdy.

    packing a moving boxThere is a proper way to pack moving boxes. Photo: Corbis

    When Frank's team starts packing a box, they first take a bunch of packing paper, scrunch it up and throw it in the bottom of the box to create a base. It's a shock absorber in case the truck hits a bump or pothole on the way to your new home.

    Next, wrap your valuables using the packing paper. If you're wrapping glassware, Frank suggests creating a layer of paper around the stem. This will even out the width of the glass, making it sturdier. For figurines, he recommends wrapping the body so that the packing paper is taking the weight, not the figurine.

    When it comes to dishes, Frank creates one solid bundle. To do so, lay paper on a table, then place a dish on top. Next, fold the paper over the dish, placing another dish on that and repeat for each plate. Finish it off by wrapping the entire stack together. Then, place it in your box as one solid piece.

    So how many items go into a box? Space usage is one of the most problematic packing issues. Frank calls it "balloon packing," or packing a few items in a box and closing it up. There's a better way, he says. "Try to get as many items in the carton as you can because you want it to be a strong, sturdy carton. If that carton is sturdy, it will protect the things inside as well as those that are loaded on top of it." If you can't fit more items in your box but it still has holes, place crumpled packing paper into those crevices to protect the surrounding items. You can also pack soft goods with fragile items.

    A final tip that Frank stresses to all of his movers: "Don't look for a fragile sticker on the box. Assume that the box is fragile, and you move it as such."

    Do you know
    what to ask before you move in? Find out!

     

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  • 09/19/10--01:09: Color Diary: Gray
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    Notes and snippets for people who love decorating with color. Today, why this modern neutral is turning heads in the design world.

    Whether it's a calming dove gray or a much more dramatic charcoal, we can't get enough of this go-to color. Neither can interior designer Mary Nolte, owner of Mary Nolte Designs and Kaleidoscope Color Consulting. Nolte has been tracking the emergence of gray and is bringing it into many of her clients' homes. "I absolutely love the way gray looks. It's part of my favorite color combination actually, which is black, white, red and gray," says Nolte. "Gray, like beige, can go in so many directions."

    And it combines well with numerous colors, like blue, green, even yellow, making it a perfect neutral.

    Yellow and gray make the perfect pair. Photo: Apartment Therapy

    One color combo that has recently caught Nolte's eye is gray and yellow. "The colors together are just so fresh and trendy," she says. "I really love how they play off one another." She loves it so much that when Nolte helped her sister decorate her East Hampton, New York home, she introduced chartreuse to liven-up the gray-based living room.

    While yellow dominates the happy space shown above, found in a house tour on Apartment Therapy, the gray in the upholstered table and file cabinet ground the palette in a subtle way.

    In addition to using this hot hue in accessories, Nolte is using darker shades like charcoal on living room and bedroom walls. "A dark gray wall can be really dramatic," she says. If you're a little bit cautious but still want to try it at home, she suggests painting a smaller room, such as a bathroom, especially if you have marble or tiles with some gray in them already. "That way, it's less of a commitment," she says, "but it gives you the opportunity to really play around."

    Keep an eye out for gray-colored flooring too. Some designers are staining floors in different shades of gray. "It gives natural wood a nice, sophisticated update," she says.

    Consider pairing gray with other neutrals, like white and tan, as shown in this bedroom at the Crosby Street Hotel in Manhattan. The result is a beautiful, soothing color scheme that you'll want to replicate in every room.

    When paired with white and tan, gray is soothing. Photo: Crosby Street Hotel

     

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    Larger-than-life LEGO buildings are on display at the National Building Museum in Washington, DC.

    Photo: Katherine Frey, The Washington Post via Getty Images


    Step inside DC's awe-inspiring National Building Museum, and you'll feel as if you're gazing out upon some of the world's most magnificent skylines. But these stunning structures aren't made from concrete and steel. Nope, they're made from one of the most beloved childhood toys. You guessed it - LEGOs.

    The mastermind behind the LEGO Architecture: Towering Ambition exhibit is Adam Reed Tucker, a trained architect and longtime LEGO enthusiast. He began experimenting with LEGOs as a medium for his art back in 2003, and the result is nothing short of spectacular: 15 famous buildings made entirely from LEGO bricks.

    As part of the exhibit, you can see Dubai's Burj Khalifa (left) and the proposed Chicago Spire (right). Photos: Courtesy of Adam Reed Tucker


    "Like many kids, this was a hobby of mine that started when I was in grade school, but I eventually grew out of it," says Adam. "My passion for building and design continued though, and once I was a professional architect I realized that I was bored with designing solely on the computer." Soon Adam found himself looking for a new avenue for creating, especially after the events of September 11, 2001.

    Adam Reed Tucker standing with LEGO models of the Chicago skyline, including the John Hancock building (fourth from left). Photo: Courtesy of Adam Reed Tucker

    "I wanted to find a way to teach people more about the design, engineering and construction that goes into a building, particularly skyscrapers, which can be intimidating," says Adam. "Going back to my childhood interest, the LEGO brick was the perfect approachable medium to use to build these structures and explain their design."

    Buildings, from far left to far right: Fallingwater by Frank Lloyd Wright, Trump Tower Chicago, Burj Khalifa, Shanghai's Jin Mao Tower, Empire State Building. Photos: Courtesy of Adam Reed Tucker

    Plastic piece by plastic piece, Adam (one of only 11 LEGO Certified Professionals in the world) started to create large-scale models of some of the world's most recognized structures, including the Empire State Building, the World Trade Center (Tower 1), Trump Tower, St. Louis' Gateway Arch and Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater. The simple construction of the LEGO gives viewers a closer look at familiar buildings. Plus, they can walk right up to the models to get a closer look at the complexity of each building.

    "The goal is to provide people with a greater understanding and appreciation of the architecture and design through the use of a medium which everyone is familiar with," says Adam.

    Tucker's interpretation of the famous Gateway Arch in St. Louis. Photo: Courtesy of Adam Reed Tucker


    All of the 15 structures in the exhibit were built over the past four years, including a large model of The White House, which is still a work in progress. (It will be completed by Adam on return trips to the National Building Museum throughout the next year.) The exhibit runs through September 2011.


    An incomplete LEGO version of The White House. Photo: Kevin Wolf, AP Images for The LEGO(R) Group

    Love LEGOs? We love this LEGO kitchen, this LEGO iconic bench and this building, which set the record for the tallest building made of LEGOs.

     

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  • 09/19/10--01:09: Modern Chef

  • Are you a modern chef in need of a kitchen suitable for your gastro-masterpieces? For a sleek, modern kitchen, IKEA has what you need from stainless steel appliances to magnetic spice racks and kitchen shelving. But nothing stands out more than the cabinets and drawers like IKEA's AKURUM cabinet system and ABSTRAKT panels. These panels come in high gloss white and grey - but for a big impression, go with red.

    For more IKEA product information, click here.

     

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  • 09/19/10--01:09: On the Hunt: Designer Tiles
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    Say goodbye to boring tile -- and say hello to style in a square.

    Ever since Mibo's tile tattoos hit the US, having a humdrum kitchen back splash or an uninspired shower stall suddenly became inexcusable. At $16 to $18 for six heavy duty tile stickers in an assortment of fun retro prints that are water-resilient yet magically residue-free, renters and homeowners alike could finally experiment without any risk of damage.

    Since then, tiles have come a long way -- both with decals and the real deal, bursting from the background with bold, show-stealing prints that can shape an entire space. Whether you're looking for a quick change or a more permanent tile shape up, here are some of the most eye-catching tiles to whip up your wall design.

    Mibo's Tile Tattoos mask unsightly tiles. Photo: 2Jane


    Mibo Tile Tattoos

    Mibo's easy adhesive wall tiles helped elevate tile art to a must have for all spaces; $16 to $18 for six, 4 to 6" tile decals, tons of fun prints.




    Five patterns of tile sticker available from the Scandinavian Design Center. Photos: Scandinavian Design Center

    Scandinavian Design Center Tile Stickers
    The only problem with the Scandinavian Design Center's line of tile stickers is deciding which one(s) to choose. Their "Inga," "Anges," "Harry" and "Rut" lines are available in one of 4 great colors for $5 for an 8 pack, while their "Anna" summer line comes as a mixture of two prints in light green and pale pink for $17 -- either way your tiles are in for a treat.


    Two examples of the tile decals by Sticview at work in the bath and the living room. Photos: Sticviews

    Sticviews Tile Decals
    Sure, Sticviews has a winning selection of wall decals to choose from, but why not use their site to custom design your own? Upload an image, pick your size, shape and materials, and Sticviews will do everything but apply the decals to your tiles for you. Pricing varies.




    Lotta Kuhlhorn's apple decals are sure to bring a smile to your face. Photos: Lotta Kuhlhorn

    Lotta Kuhlhorn "Apple" Tile Stickers
    Independent Swedish design star Lotta Kuhlhorn knows how make a space pop. Each pack of her iconic apple motif tile stickers is available in one of three colors, all guaranteed to make giving your wall a fruit fix; $16 for five of the same-colored stickers.


    Cheerful ceramic tiles add a whimsical touch to your home. Photos: Bodie and Fou

    Bodie and Fou Ceramic Tiles
    If my walls could talk, I would want them to speak only through Bodie and Fou's tiles. Build a wall around one tile style, or simply use one as a coaster, a piece of art or a thoughtful gift. Whatever the use, these tiles are bound to bring a smile to your face; $27 each.



    A textile designer turns her talent to tiles; here are two of the patterns by Paula Smail. Photos: Modwalls

    Henry Road for Modwalls Glass Tiles
    Modwalls collaboration with Henry Road textile designer Paula Smail has created stunning home tiling that makes wallpapered accent walls seem shamefully ordinary; $37/square foot of glass tiles. Be warned, you'll want to re-tile everything you own.



    Architecture and design magazine Dwell tries its hand at tiles. Photos: Heath Ceramics

    Heath Ceramics "Dwell Patterns"
    The unveiling of Heath Ceramic's partnership with Dwell hit me with the same gut-jerk reaction as the baby pictures of Shiloh Jolie-Pitt. "Wow," I thought, "that tile has some parents that know what they're doing." Pricing varies from $24 to $48/square foot, depending on the size, shape and complexity of the tile design.




    A cheeky spin on the notion of a tile "tattoo." Photo: Modwalls

    Modwalls "Lush" Glass Tile "Tattoos"
    Taking tile tattoos down to their ink-drawn origins, nothing says heartbreaker quite like Modwall's tile tat of "Mom" mixed with shower scum; $3.57 each.

     

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    You know paper shredders are important for preventing identity theft, but who knew they could look so great?

    When it comes to seasonal spruce-ups, spring cleaning gets all the love. But if you ignore fall, you're missing out on the perfect opportunity to organize your home and make it the type of place where you'll feel comfy crawling under a throw blanket and popping in a DVD. So in the interest of helping you get streamlined for fall, we're running giveaways that will upgrade your basics.

    Today's giveaway is a Black & Decker paper shredder. But oh no, not just any old black box paper shredder -- we're talking the most design-savvy shredders we've seen, machines that can actually be an asset to a desk's overall look.



    The iShred looks like all sorts of fun things -- a megaphone, a space-age transportation device and even a teensy bit like Eero Saarinen's iconic table base. It stands at 27.5 inches tall, and there are even non-aesthetic perks to the sleek design -- the fluted bottom half makes it easy to empty, and the thin slot has no exposed blades for extra safety. Interested in the actual technical info on this? It shreds six sheets at a time and also shreds credit cards, staples (yes, staples!), receipts for too-expensive throw pillows and pesky to-do lists.

    If that's a little too much flair for you, we've also got the Identity Theft Buster -- a smaller machine that looks more like a typical shredder except for its lipstick-red color. This one powers through 20 sheets at a time, as well as all the other pesky things that invade your mail like CDs (and like the iShred, credit cards and staples). Because it's so petite, you can even pop it on your desk and glance at it to get all the benefits of the color red -- increased energy, enthusiasm, action and confidence. Whew!


    To enter, tell us: What's your favorite part of fall? (And let us know which one you want to win!) Or if you can't wait to win, you can find out where to buy Black & Decker shredders and pick one up yourself!

    * To enter, leave a confirmed comment below telling us your favorite part about fall (and which shredder you want to win).
    * The comment must be left before 5pm EST on Friday, September 24, 2010.
    * You may enter only once.
    * Two winners will be selected in a random drawing.
    * Each winner will receive a Black & Decker shredder -- the iShred or the Identity Theft Buster (valued at $130 and $100.)
    * 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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    From trash to treasure: Check out these ingenious ways to turn an ordinary bottle into extraordinary art.

    Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. Repurpose. It's a message that after many years has (finally!) been ingrained in most of our minds ... separate the trash from the paper, the plastic, the metal and glass. Do it for your life, do it for your planet.

    Some folks don't stop there. I don't know what it is -- a click, a flash, a moment of madness -- but some of us are inspired to the extreme. Here, the bottle is no longer just a discarded drinking vessel; it has been upcycled into art.

    So go ahead, take a look, drink up. Let your creative gears start turning ...


    The Buddhist monks from the Wat Pa Maha Chedi Kaew temple take recycling to the extreme. Photo: Greenupgrader.com

    The Wat Pa Maha Chedi Kaew temple in the Sisaket province of Thailand is made almost entirely of beer bottles -- about one million Heineken and Change beer bottles to be exact. They're held in place with cement. After seeing this, I had only one question: Who drank all that beer?



    At left and top right: The six-gabled house. Bottom right: A view from inside the round tavern, which sits nearby. Photos: The Bottle Houses

    Down a lane in Cap-Egmont on Prince Edward Island, Canada, you will find a little six-gabled house. You might ask, "Is it made from brick?" Nope, guess again. Not wood, not stone, but glass bottles. More than 12,000 to be exact. Edouard Arsenault had a vision and realized it in 1980 with his first glass bottle house. More bottles and several buildings later, a landmark was born. I do hope the furniture is a bit on the softer side.



    Unusual Uses Bottle
    A new take on what to do with all those empties. Photo: Quitor


    Speaking of furniture, pull up a bottle. Oh, I mean a chair. A bottle chair. This chair, seen above, is a fantastic example of imaginative thinking. It's made from green bottles on a curvaceous metal frame. And check out the SIE43 Chair by Polish designer Pawel Grunert on GreenMuze. It was designed in the shape of a flower and fashioned from hundreds of recycled water bottles. Not really the spot to curl up with a good book, but the recycling message is loud and clear.



    Keep wine bottles on and above the table. Photos: Pottery Barn


    Shannon Quimby from Oregon planned a modern take on the chandelier above her dining table using a straight line of empty wine bottles. Three cheers for her ingenuity. Meanwhile, home decor super store Pottery Barn fashioned the elegant light above with green glass wine bottles that twinkle with the evening light, $399.




    A shrine for wine, built by Richard Pim. Photo: Splurch


    This wine enthusiast chose to show his regard for the nectar in a different manner. Richard Pim, who lives in Pembridge, England, loved the way light reflected off an empty wine bottle. It inspired him to build a domed oasis in his garden. The 11-foot structure has four stone arches that lend support to the bottle walls held together with cement.

    In the same vein, Japanese architect Tadao Ando incorporated a bottle wall into the design of Morimoto restaurant in Manhattan. The piece is made from 17,400 half-liter plastic bottles filled with mineral water and LED lights that glimmer with the ambient light.



    Photo: Greg Grant/Felder Rushing

    And who says trees can't get in on the fun? Felder Rushing seems to be preoccupied with the beauty that one can create through the juxtaposition of glass waste and nature. These bottle trees are just divine.

    When you've drank all of the bottles in your wine rack, you can either buy more, or turn the rack and bottles into a clever planter. Sound too taxing? Buy one instead from Collections Etc., $15.

    From wine to wind, through an artist's hands.
    CDChilds's beautiful wind chimes are made from recycled wine bottles, and she sells them for a very reasonable price on Etsy. The clinking of one glass against another in a gentle breeze would certainly be delightful, but you better take it inside if the wind picks up.


    Get lit. An illuminating torch made from a wine bottle. For a different take, pour beverages from your old empties. Photos: Design*Sponge, Greenhouse


    Check out Erik Anderson's industrious use of a gorgeous blue glass bottle to make an outdoor torch. While the execution is exemplary, the proximity to the wood wall is a bit frightening!

    And here's a novel idea: Use wine bottles to serve beverages. Altered a bit from their original state, the frosted or clear carafes and jugs are showstoppers on the table, $43-$55.



    Beer bottle tumblers are a constant reminder of last night's revelry. Photo: Bottlehood/Etsy

    For some additional spins on the bottle (ha!) check out Uncommon Goods, Green Living, Etsy and Viva Terra for clever tableware. Like the Four Seasons glassware ($40, set of 4) with etched seasonal motifs. Or maybe you'd prefer something a bit more casual -- the Sol beer bottle glass set? It's like getting a little Mexican sunshine with every sip. Bottlehood will even turn any of your favorite brews into fabulous tumblers.

    And to think all I do is put my bottles in the recycling bin!

    If you're feeling inspired to recycle, here's what you can make with old books, and take a peek at this hotel made of trash.

    And check out some of our favorite stories from around the web!
    Exclusive Interviews and a Tour of the Showtime House 2010!
    Banter Banners To Set The Mood
    Troubleshoot Your Coffee Grinder
    Money 101: How To Buy Your First Home

     

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    Among the perks in Nicole Kidman's new New York City apartment: Views of the Hudson River and New Jersey skyline...and a sky garage!

    Gabriel Bouys, AFP/Getty Images


    Nicole Kidman's already robust real estate portfolio just got a little fatter. For many years, the alabaster-skinned Oscar-winning actress leased a series of swank New York City apartments, including the SoHo penthouse that Lenny Kravitz just sold to Alicia Keys and Swizz Beatz. Now with a toddler in tow she and her country crooning superstar husband Keith Urban have opted to set down some expensive roots on the isle of Manhattan. According to rumors and reports the Kidman-Urban clan recently signed contracts to purchase a duplex penthouse apartment at a newly built and much ballyhooed building on the far western edge of the arty-farty and upscale Chelsea neighborhood.

    200 Eleventh Avenue through Celebrity Home Photos


    The stainless steel and terra cotta tile-clad building was designed by starchitect Annabelle Selldorf and its most famous feature is, without question, the private "sky garages." These garages are accessed by driving into a large elevator that lifts the car and its occupants up to a private single car garage space located on the same level as the car owner's deluxe digs. Fancy, right?

    200 Eleventh Avenue through Celebrity Home Photos



    Property records do not yet reflect a sale price, but according to a listing seen on StreetEasy, the two-floor unit measures 3,248 square feet with three bedrooms and three and a half bathrooms -- and was last listed with an asking price of $12.5M. Each of the posh penthouse's rooms has unobstructed views of the Hudson River and the New Jersey skyline.

    200 Eleventh Avenue through Celebrity Home Photos


    The Kidman-Urban condo's primary entry is through a private elevator landing on the top floor that includes a formal living room and an über modern eat-in kitchen that can be concealed or revealed by opening or closing folding teak panels. In addition to a bedroom/study with walk-in closet and private bath, the top level of the duplex has a powder room and two large city view loggias.

    A staircase descends to the lower floor where a dramatic double-height great room with two walls of floor to ceiling windows is flanked by a guest bedroom and bath on one side and the master suite on the other. (In the master suite: River views and a wall of custom-fitted closets and dressing area.) The lavish bathroom is fitted with custom-designed teak cabinetry, imported glazed lava stone counter tops from France, a separate shower and freestanding honed granite soaking tub.

    Kidman and Urban, no strangers to luxe living, also own a major manse in Nashville, TN, a large contemporary crib in the same Beverly Hills neighborhood as Cameron Diaz and Penelope Cruz and a 110-acre country getaway about an hour and half outside of Sydney, Australia. (They also recently acquired a penthouse apartment in the Darling Point neighborhood overlooking the scenic Sydney Harbor.)


    200 Eleventh Avenue through Celebrity Home Photos

     

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  • 09/19/10--01:09: Unusual Uses For Place Mats
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    Unusual uses for placemats
    Who knew? You can use place mats as a wall divider. Photo: Jonathon Fong Style

    Give your place mats a second life with these creative ideas.

    When I'm shopping for decor, I'm consistently drawn to the misfit aisle. You know, those $3.99 clearance bins overflowing with mismatched items like place mats and hand towels. And since I tend to buy stuff like this all the time, one of my favorite pastimes is figuring out what to do with a set of mismatched items.

    Place mats are particularly fun to pull for these types of projects, since you can do so much with them. Next time you come across an odd number of clearance place mats, or maybe just a pair made with a lovely fabric, here are some crafty things you can do with them.

    Wall Decor and Dividers

    With a few packages of clasps and an eye for arrangement, you can transform square or circular place mats into eye-catching wall dividers and displays. Just drill or punch a hole into the top and bottom of each place mat and link them by hanging hooks or clamps to binder rings or fishing swivels.

    Bonus idea: Placed over a clear shower curtain lining, they can double as bathroom decor. Or try waterproof plastic place mats as an outdoor patio or garden wall. Check out your local hardware store or Ball Chain for the supplies you'll need to secure them at top and bottom.


    Unusual Uses for PlacematsCourtesy of: mmmcrafts

    Pillows and Tote Bags
    Fabric place mats offer endless possibilities for decorative textiles. Shop the place mat section of home design stores (online too!) and build your own throw pillow at a fraction of the price by stitching the sides together. If the place mat has a complicated design that would be challenging to line up, consider covering a pillow with a bold, solid case and centering the place mat design for a crisp, eye-catching effect. One crafty blogger used Anthropologie place mats to make the stylish throw pillows to the left.

    Bonus Idea:
    Cute cotton or polyester fabric place mats can make great tote bags too!

    Pops of Color
    When it comes to place mat shapes, who says one size fits all? With a good pair of scissors, plastic or polypropylene place mats can be cut down to all shapes and sizes to make a counter top space more colorful and chic.

    A couple of ideas:
    - Cut out individual pieces of place mat to line the surface around your kitchen sink. Place everyday items like sponges or scrub brushes on top -- the fabric will absorb excess water and you can easily toss it in the washing machine as needed.
    - Skip the boring contact paper and line your cabinets with modern prints.

    Decorative Odds and Ends
    - Transform one sturdy plastic or cork backed-place mat into a whole stack of decorative drink coasters.
    - Size down a plastic place mat into a custom-designer mouse pad.
    - Play with place mats of different shapes, colors and textures to infuse a garden space with different designs beneath standard planter pots.
    - Pick a simple place mat print and frame it with brightly-colored frames for instant wall art -- great for the kitchen!

    Quick Tips for Mastering Place Mat Chic
    - If ordering online, always check the fabric and dimensions of the place mat before purchasing and make sure the fabric matches the project. Cotton fabric place mats are better for bags and pillow covers while plastic, lacquered and polypropylene place mats are better suited for cutting, crafting and cleaning.

    Now, ever wonder what you could do with Velcro? Check out our story on unusual uses for the hook-and-loop tape.

    And check out some of our favorite stories from around the web!
    Exclusive Interviews and a Tour of the Showtime House 2010!
    Banter Banners To Set The Mood
    Troubleshoot Your Coffee Grinder
    Money 101: How To Buy Your First Home

     

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    More pop stars are making their way into the world of home. Plus, home design mags make a comeback.

    It's a big week for new magazines. Design*Sponge announced the debut of Anthology, a brand new (print!) magazine. Then The Neo-Traditionalist broke the news that Lonny Magazine is now available in print -- and they have a too-fantastic new website! And then came the (much-anticipated) launch of Rue Magazine.

    Oh, to be Justin Bieber: He's already the biggest teen on the planet, so what's next? How about a home line?


    new online magazinesImages Courtesy of Anthology; Lonny; Rue.


    The Bombay Company
    's comeback continues in a big way with the launch of a large-scale furniture line. Don't they know smaller is better?

    Could JCPenney become a hot spot for home shopping? The company hopes you think so.

    It looks like some bedbug-related issues could be biting Martha Stewart Living.

    Let's say you want to do some gardening, but don't know how to go about it. And you like video games, too. No worries: Nintendo has you covered!

    And speaking of technological-type things, Wallpaper* has given its iPhone app a makeover.

    Comfort Solutions tries to live up to its name with a new customized bedding program.

     

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  • 09/19/10--01:09: Weekly Link Love
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    A germ-killing countertop, rubber doilies and Diane von Furstenberg's favorite furniture designers..What we're lusting over in the blogosphere this week.

    Jonathan is in the middle of remodeling his ping pong room. We're already smitten with the red walls and striped floors but can't wait for the next step: A zebra-print daybed! (We'll have to keep checking in on this one). [Jonathan Legate]

    Ashlina explores a classic color combo with a spicy inspiration: Kim Kardashian! [The Decorista]

    A kitchen product that neat freaks will covet and their grubbier counterparts will love: A countertop designed to kill bacteria on its own. Goodbye, sponge. [Furniture Fashion]

    Doilies are adorable but hardly practical. To the rescue: Rubber coasters that look like doilies. Much more cocktail party than tea party. [The Frisky]

    Who knew? There are some DIY projects that can actually devalue your home. A good primer on what not to do. [DIY Life]

    What fun! Diane von Furstenberg talks about her favorite furniture designers. See who made the list... [CasaSugar]

    Feel tons of pressure to have a perfect house when you have guests over? So does Sheri. So she's calling for a revolution: The guilt-free dirty-house dinner party! (We're with you.) [The Stir]

    In the market for a wing back chair? You will be, after reading Amy's tribute. Ah, to sink into one right now... [ABCD Design Sketch Book]

    Two almost identical-looking garden stools; two completely different prices. Can you figure out which one is $950 and which is $250? [Los Angeles Times]

    Holy chalkboard paint! Justine of The Elefanta shares her brilliant DIY kitchen backsplash that makes excellent use of chalk and pattern. [Design*Sponge]

    The elegant, neutrals-loving Kate takes on highlighter-bright colors, like a sunshine yellow dress and rainbow rug. Happy weekend! [wit + delight]

     

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    What's next for the design world: Justin Bieber home. We imagine a focus group for the products.

    When we heard about the upcoming Justin Bieber home line we knew immediately that it was destined to be a huge hit. With fans like his, how could he fail? So we thought we'd have a little bit of fun -- imagining what a focus group for the Justin Bieber home line might sound like.

    Justin Bieber Home
    Room, Getty Images. Justin Bieber face: Katy Winn, AP. Photo illustration: Amy Preiser, AOL.



    Focus group director: Thank you everyone for coming to the Justin Bieber home line focus group. Lady Sandra Home Fashions is creating bed, bath and beach products with teen star Justin Bieber. The five of you represent Justin Bieber fans of all ages. You are here today to give us your feedback and opinions on the proposed goods. So we'll just start with some questions. What kind of colors would you like to see in a Justin Bieber bedroom set?

    6-year-old girl: PINK! With sparkles!

    24-year-old woman: I don't think the color is really going to matter if it has Justin Bieber's face all over it. Who would want that?

    15-year-old boy: I would go with something masculine. Justin seems like a guy's guy and I don't think he'd appreciate anything too girly.

    60-year-old-woman:
    Justin's favorite color is purple. He's definitely photographed wearing purple most often. Although he does wear blue from time to time.

    Focus group director: What kind of products would you like included in the bathroom category?

    15- year-old boy: A toothbrush that plays the song Baby while you're brushing. That way you know how long to brush. That would be cool.

    6-year-old girl: Bieber bath toys!

    24-year-old woman: No one else thinks it's weird to have a 15-year-old boy's picture all over your bathroom?

    60-year-old woman: Yeah you're right, but Justin is 16. I think you should have Justin shower curtains. Preferably one of the photos from the February issue of J-14 magazine.

    Focus group director:
    What kind of Justin would you like to see portrayed in the line? "Rock Star Justin," "Laid Back Justin," or "Dreamy Justin"?

    6-year-old girl: I like Justin.

    15-year-old boy: I'd like "Rock Star Justin". But then again, "Laid Back Justin" would be cool, too. Which one do girls like better?

    60-year-old woman: Oh, I just can't choose! Is there a way to have all three Justins on one bed spread? Ooh, I also have some other suggestions. "Hair Flip Justin" and "Pirated-Screen-Shot-of-Upcoming-Episodes-of-CSI-Justin".

    24-year-old woman: ....Wow.

    Focus group director: If you were to choose one Justin Bieber song to design a room around, which would it be and why?

    15-year-old boy: U Smile, because he wrote U instead of you, and that really speaks to my generation.

    24-year-old woman: Well, the only Justin Bieber song I know is Baby, so I guess I'll go with that one.

    60-year-old woman: This is a hard question. I guess I'd have to go with Where Are You Now. You know, the Walmart, Australia and Japan bonus track off of My World 2.0.

    Focus group director:
    Well, thank you all so much for coming. With all of your help I'm sure Justin Bieber will become a design legend, up there with Albert Hadley and George Nakashima!

    Everyone: Who?

    Focus group director: Oh, well, they're like the Usher and Justin Timberlake of design.

    60-year-old woman: Ha! So passé.

    What about you?

     

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