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    Our no-fuss guide to planting the perfect indoor container garden.

    With summer over, many of us are winding down work in the garden. But just because the temps are dropping doesn't mean you have to drop your gardening habit. A one-pot garden offers an easy fix: As long as you have access to a single container and a good amount of of natural light, you can still enjoy homegrown herbs and plants in the comfort of your own home.

    Here's everything you need to know to get growing.

    Photo: Getty

    1. Select a Container
    Plastic containers and ceramic pots are good choices (plastic retains moisture best), but you'll need to drill several holes in the bottom of whichever one you choose for adequate drainage. (Remember to place a plastic tray underneath to catch the water.) Wooden boxes look great and won't overheat your soil, but keep in mind that some species of wood are more susceptible to rot than others (redwood and cedar are relatively rot resistant).

    Also, remember to avoid wood treated with creosote or other toxic compounds since the vapors can damage your plants. And if you're going to use a pot that you've used before, make sure you clean it out to kill any possible diseases that could carry from plant to plant.

    2. Water, But Not Too Much
    Every plant is different when it comes to how much water it needs, but there are a few basic pointers for watering indoor plants. First, wet the soil thoroughly, allowing the water to drain out of the bottom of the pot. (How much you water and how often depends on the type of plant, so read the info on the seed packet or ask a professional before watering.)

    Second: Don't over water! If your soil is consistently too wet, it will lead to problems with the roots, and the leaves will yellow because of low oxygen. Over time you will develop a sense of how much and how frequently you need to water your indoor garden. If you are just starting out and feel uncertain, try using a moisture meter, which you stick into the soil to gauge if the plant needs more water.

    You'll also need to think about humidity. If you live in a colder climate and regularly have the heat on, the air in your home can dry out plants quickly. To remedy this, you may need to increase watering or even consider using a humidifer in the room where your plants reside. Another option: Put high-need plants (think bonsai or orchids) on a humidity tray.

    3. Sunny Rooms Are Best
    Sunlight is an essential thing to consider when choosing plant types for your indoor garden, since many plants will need more light than your home's windows can provide. Select plants that require medium to low light, unless you plan on supplying the plant with artificial lighting. If you're concerned that your plant isn't getting enough light, look for small leaves, thin stems and a yellow color to the plant, which are indicators of sickness. Another tip: No matter what type of plant you choose, its leaves will literally grow toward the light or windows, so you should rotate the plant to promote an even, upright growth.

    4. Keep the Temperature Just Right

    Even though you're indoors, don't forget to take temperature into consideration when it comes to your plants. As a general rule, houseplants like temperatures between 65 to 75 degrees during the day, with temps 10 to 15 degrees cooler at night. While a temperature range of 10 degrees warmer or cooler will not harm the plants, a rapid change in temperature can cause damage.

    5. Feed Them Food
    In a container garden, you want to make sure your planting mixture drains quickly (so as to not drown the plants), but retains enough moisture to keep the roots wet. For the perfect one-pot planting mix, purchase a good quality potting mix or make your own from equal parts of sand, loam garden soil and peat moss.

    Most container gardeners have found that a "soilless" potting mix works best. In addition to draining quickly, "soilless" mixes are lightweight and free from soil-borne diseases and weed seeds. When you add your mix to your container, leave a 2-inch space before the top of the container to keep the pot from overflowing.

    Ready to get started on your own one-pot garden? Click here for a list of the easiest plants to grow indoors.

    For more indoor planting ideas, check out these stories from ShelterPop:
    The Plant Doctor's Tips for an Indoor Herb Garden
    Houseplants for Beginners
    Plant Shelf Decor: Build a Botanical Wonderland
    The Best Indoor Plants

     

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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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    Roll call! Beat neighborhood vandals to the punch by (artfully!) toilet-papering your own house.

    As a Brooklyn resident, I can attest that when Brooklyn Home Company design cohorts Lyndsay Caleo and Fitzhugh Karol opened up their Park Slope brownstone to New York Magazine last spring, an audible gush rippled through the borough. The century old exposed beam ceiling! That vintage Sears fireplace! Those Verner Panton dining chairs!

    The place was divine. But there was one small touch in the bathroom that got so many people's attention.

    The Cappellini medicine cabinet set off a frenzy of bloggers seeking their own small piece of Red Cross-inspired décor. My personal gurgle of awe came not from the design smart ready-mades, but from the couple's ingenuity in integrating them so seamlessly into their home. Sure the medicine cabinet's top notch, but enhancing the space with a toilet paper display -- now that's genius.

    And it got us wondering: How else can you decorate with toilet paper?

    Having a great piece to build upon definitely helps bump toilet paper display into art design, but here are a few more ways to advance TP from a bathroom stronghold to a decorative adventure. Yes, we actually researched this -- and you'll never believe what we found!

    Who knew that toilet paper had so many uses?

    Photos: Grant K. Gibson


    Own your throne

    Interior designer Grant K. Gibson showcases his winnings with style, while keeping his back stock classy. The lesson: Pick a signature object and use it to enhance your own TP display.



    Photo: poaa


    Streamline style and substance
    Integrating baskets and oversized vases can streamline an overflow of TP supply with ease, but if you're looking to kick it up a notch, arrange several rolls into pyramid-inspired stacks or display them on a cross-shaped toilet paper holder.




    Think big, build bigger
    Sure, an unwrapped six-pack of toilet paper is a great start, but several six-packs of toilet paper can help create a fortress. Gary Hutton and Timothy Gemmill designed this sculptural take on a toilet paper display for art collector Chara Schreyer's pied-a-terre at the Four Seasons Residences in San Francisco. Above, a simpler take on the concept -- a small pyramid of paper.



    Photo: Renova Online

    Keep it colorful
    Black TP might have once been declared black the new "it" variety, but I can't stop looking at these eye-popping fuchsia and turquoise rolls. If you're considering a TP art installation at your place, consider mixing up the shades.



    Photo: Wedding Bee

    Don't forget the cardboard tubes
    All good TP décor must come to an end eventually, but you can apply those cardboard inserts to other projects. Design*sponge leads the way with their DIY on TP wall display, but from party poppers (shown above) to eco-art installations, these everyday discards have the versatility to keep the TP craze rolling.



     

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    We asked the experts for their take on manners, cocktails and everything in between!

    Hosting friends and family at home can be tons of fun, but sometimes it's hard to know where to begin. Celebrations come in all shapes and sizes, so to help us navigate what it means to entertain today, we asked experts to share their top tips.

    Party Prep
    Anna Post, a great-great granddaughter of etiquette and entertaining guru Emily Post, says the secret to a successful party is planning. "I can't stress it enough," she says. "Planning ahead allows you to become a guest at your own event. If you're running around at the last minute, you miss out on spending quality time with your guests."

    Post, who co-wrote the recent book Emily Post's Great Get-Togethers with her sister Lizzie, recommends creating a detailed timeline as far out from your date as possible. On this list should be everything from menu-planning, shopping -- all the way up to getting dressed the day of! "Do as much as possible beforehand, so when it's party time, you're ready to go. And work in one extra hour. I don't know anyone who couldn't use that extra time right before a party," she says.

    Photo: Oh Happy Day


    Entertaining and food expert Jeanne Benedict agrees. "No one ever wants to turn into a 'Hostzilla,' so do as much as you can ahead of time. Even though you're likely to shop for your fresh ingredients right before the event, make a list so you know exactly what you need and work that shopping time into your schedule." And she says, don't try to be perfect.

    "I always say, know what you do best and let yourself off the hook for the rest," she says. "If you're a star in the kitchen, put your energy into the meal. Crafty? Then make a killer centerpiece. Use your talents to help you shine."

    A relaxed host is able to tend to guests, rather than being holed up in the kitchen for the entire party. When we wrote about Jordan Ferney's rooftop party, we were smitten with her sense of style. But the vibe captured in her photos was just as seductive -- the relaxed feel of the party seemed to reflect the laid-back style of the host.

    Star designer David Stark shared the recipe for this blood orange, fennel and black olive salad with Design*Sponge. Photo: Design*Sponge

    A Modern Menu
    When planning what to serve, keep the focus on your talents -- and on your guests. David Stark, New York-based event producer and author of the recently released David Stark Design, always serves a delicious entree during a dinner party, but often skips a sit-down appetizer. "I leave out treats to nibble on before we sit so that my guests are in control of how much they truly want to eat before sitting down to the main meal. Plus, it takes the pressure off of preparing lots of courses."

    If a sit-down meal seems overwhelming, go for a buffet instead. "Invite friends over for an open-house type cocktail party," suggests Stark. "I love the idea of having a buffet set up with all kinds of yummy appetizers that can be combined into a gracious meal."

    Need some inspiration? Turn to the past, says Benedict. "I usually reinvent recipes from vintage cookbooks with new ingredients." For example, Benedict recently served her party guests rosemary-infused marshmallows. "An unlikely flavor pairing maybe, but they were a hit!"

    In addition to your menu, cocktails are sure to be at the top of your to-do list. While signature drinks seem to be a popular trend, our experts actually suggest a more casual, personal approach.

    "If you're just starting to stock your bar, I suggest having at least three bottles of liquor at home, such as vodka, gin and scotch," says Post. "But really, I think it depends on knowing your guests' tastes. For me, my friends and I love champagne, cava and prosecco dressed up with something special like elderflower liquor."

    Stark has a similar approach. "I like to have a slim array of options to keep it simple for me and my guests," he says. Instead of signature cocktails, which can sometimes be tedious to put together, Stark stocks up on the basics: beer, wine, prosecco, vodka and scotch, as well as a variety of mixers, fresh citrus and olives to provide plenty of mixing opportunities for his guests.

    Party expert Jeanne Benedict scooped up these dollar-bin martini shakers and transformed them into pretty flower displays (left) for a Mad Men premier party; At right, she surprised guests with rosemary-infused marshmellows. Photo: Jeanne Benedict


    Décor Do's
    Dressing up your party can be another challenge, especially when it comes to your table. "I find the old ideas of matchy-matchy table settings to be quite boring, actually," says Stark. "I am much more interested in eclectic collections of tableware that have been gathered over time, layering china (a salad plate over a charger from a different set, for instance) is much like layering an outfit when getting dressed."

    And what about the notion of one grand centerpiece? "The single floral centerpiece is by no means the rule of thumb," he says. "I create multi-leveled still-lifes that combine flowers, containers, candles, fruits and objects to great effect." Putting the effort into such details lets your guests know just how much you care.

    "I'm a big believer in giving your guests some 'wow,' says Benedict. "Always give your party some personality, infuse it with what inspires you. The better your party looks and feels, the better time your guests will have."

    David Stark groups an uneven amount of flowers in interesting vessels to create an out of the ordinary centerpiece (left), while he used candlelight as an easy way to set the mood for a festive gathering (right). Photo: David Stark Design

    Want more party tips? We've got 'em.

    Mitchell Gold and Bob Williams shared some of their favorite party tips with us, while HGTV stars recently dished on wine and design.

     

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    Decor modeled on simplicity and the surrounding landscape.

    I'm not one to lust after the sort of beach that would attract volleyball players and sunbathers. I prefer a quiet stretch of sand that feels like it's on the edge of the universe. Tofino, a laid-back surfer town on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada, is that stretch of sand, and the nearby Wickaninnish Inn -- with its rustic, woodsy style -- mimics the landscape.

    Located on Chesterton Beach, which is so beautiful that it attracts vacationers even during winter, the 75-room hotel has panoramic views of the rugged beach from every single room. And the decor is major eye-candy -- soothing, relaxing, the kind of spot you want to retreat to for days at a time.

    The Wickaninnish InnThe Wickaninnish Inn, located on Chesterton Beach, attracts visitors to its wild and serene landscape. Photo: Wickaninnish Inn

    Inside the suites, walls are painted a very neutral mint green or butter yellow. Plenty of mirrors and windows let in light and highlight the Inn's best asset -- its world class views. Even if you aren't standing directly on the shoreline, you feel as if it is within arm's reach.

    This seems to be a conscious decision. If you choose neutral-colored linens, furnishings and decorative accessories, you keep the emphasis on the room's external surroundings, no matter where you live. In your own home, you might consider what materials are within the nearby landscape and use them to drive a room's design and color palette.

    The Beach Comber suite, on the left, and the Double Premiere Suite, on the right. Photo: The Wickaninnish Inn

    Inside the 900-square-foot Canopy Suite, there's a bit of whimsy tied into the luxurious decor. Tree branches artfully configured over the bed -- combined with white, flowing fabric -- might make you feel like you're sleeping outdoors. Flat rocks under the bathroom vanity reminds me of wading into the wild and mysterious Pacific Ocean.

    The Wickaninnish InnThe Wickaninnish Inn's Canopy Suite adds little luxuries throughout -- and with the same panoramic views as the rest of the inn. Photo: The Wickaninnish Inn

    The Wickaninnish Inn is a great example of taking a beachside setting and keeping the focus on the beach. The decor is simple, not busy, not like many so-called beachy hotels. Salt in the ocean air, the serene blue waters and perfume of pine inspires this property, and it may just inspire you.

    The Wickaninnish InnThere's no need for framed art inside the living room of the Chesterman Beach Loft Suite. The neighboring beach takes care of that, framed within a large picture window. Photo: The Wickaninnish Inn

     

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    A mid-century Mexican retreat is brought back to life in Acapulco -- by going back in time.

    Back in its heyday, Acapulco was a glamorous vacation destination, and the Hotel Boca Chica was at the center of the city's resort scene. The mid-century hotel even served as a backdrop for the 1963 musical comedy Fun in Acapulco starring none other than Elvis Presley himself. (And even though Mad Men's Don Draper never made it to Acapulco in a recent episode, it's clear that it was the destination of the period.)

    Don't be fooled, this isn't a vintage postcard, it's a brand new hotel with roots in the 1950s. Photo: Grupo Habita

    Today, it's hard to imagine that this picture-perfect hotel overlooking a pristine Acapulco Bay (above) was ever anything but chic, but in the intervening decades, the Hotel Boca Chica fell into disrepair as Acapulco also declined. However, the 1950s relic has recently re-opened under the new ownership of Fernando Romero and Grupo Habita, a boutique hotel group with several other properties in Mexico. Frida Exobedo and José Rojas oversaw the hotel's architectural and interior renovations.

    Jean Prouvé chairs and a mid-century styled rope and wood seat straddle the line between retro and contemporary. Photo: Grupo Habita

    The task of renovating the rundown hotel was no small feat, José Rojas told Interior Design magazine. "The kitchen was full of cats, and the rooms were dark and creepy," he says. But as his partner Frida Escobedo notes, "The building itself was amazing." All the work of opening up the rooms and reclaiming balconies and outdoor spaces has paid off, considering Travel + Leisure named the Hotel Boca Chica one of the "45 Best New Hotels of 2010."

    The new Hotel Boca Chica is every bit as glamorous as its 1950s predecessor, and many of the hotel's original design elements remain intact, from the amoeba-shaped pool to the retro steel sign out front. While the exterior retains much of its vintage charm, the interiors are a sly mix of contemporary furnishings that allude to the hotel's past without seeming like a set piece from another era. The balance between old and new is so well done that Wallpaper magazine described the new look as one that "marries the old world charm of the original hotel with a sharpened sense of contemporary style."

    Is it 1960 or 2010? These interiors make it hard to tell. Photo: Grupo Habita

    Situated on Acapulco Bay, the hotel has a decidedly tropical feeling, which is reinforced by details like potted palms and other tropical plants, the open concrete lattice work and a traditional thatched roof palapa covering the hotel's restaurant.

    The amoeba-shaped pool has a 1950s vibe. Photo: Grupo Habita

    The traditional-style Mexican palapa with a high, thatched roof looks out at both the hotel's pool and the cove beyond. Pops of red and black give the outdoor furnishings a bit of an edge without breaking from the mellow tropical vibe.

    A shady place to lie in a hammock: What could be better? Photo: Grupo Habita

    The Terrace Bar features custom-made sun shades in both concrete and wood with a decidedly mid-century look. All these details and the designers careful mix of old and new add up to a hotel that Don Draper would surely have been glad to pay a visit to.

    Daydreaming of tropical escapes? Read on for more warm-weather interiors:
    - Betsey Johnson's Mexican Casitas
    - Trend Spotting: Tropical Decor

     

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    Notes and snippets for people who love decorating with color. Today, a challenge: Can we design a room around the colors in a fabric?

    Last time I wrote a Color Diary post, I was inspired by a photograph. This time, inspiration comes in the form of a fabric. After talking with interior designers recently for a different article, I noticed that many of them begin their design with a single piece. Sometimes they work from a paint color, other times from a sofa but quite often a fabric is the center of the design from which all other decisions are made. That idea appeals to me because when I find something I truly love, I notice that other things that I place around it seem to complement or frame it. Finding that one must-have item can lead to inspiration for an entire room.

    marimekko ruutukaava fabricThe inspiration for my design. Photo: Marimekko

    I chose Marimekko's Ruutukaava fabric designed by Maija Louekari because the fabric has a hand-drawn feeling. The angles of the design are hard, which is a great contrast to the fact that it is on soft, cotton fabric. The imperfect, hand-created classic patterns are lined up to make stripes almost reminiscent of a city-scape. Even though the chosen colors are simple red, white and blue, the fabric doesn't look very Americana and the colors feel almost like the Martha Stewart-esque poppy and turquoise we've noticed as a color trend. While the black and white patterns are dominating, the red seems to pop out. I'd like to take all of these elements and bring them into a room.

    My room needs to have a soft feeling but also include hard angles, classic patterns, a handmade element and incorporate black, white, blue and red. Let's see if I can pull it off.

    marimekko fabric inspired room



    First, I wanted a very solid base. In looking at the Marimekko fabric, there appears to be small striped patterns as well as an overall striped pattern. I chose the STOCKHOLM RAND Rug, $179 to $299 at IKEA, which has small stripes that join together to create a larger striped pattern.

    I also wanted to bring in chevron stripes, so I decided to do so with pillows. I would have loved to use this pillow from Madeline Weinrib, but it's way out of my budget. Instead, I'm going with a pair of Chevron pillows, $25 each, from Etsy seller milkandcookiesCanada.

    For the main attraction, I went with the Jackson Sofa in china blue linen, $1,900 to $5,400, from Williams-Sonoma because I felt that it fit well in both traditional and modern decor. Plus, the soft back cushions give it a more imperfect, lived-in look than a tight-back or ultra-modern sofa. The light blue is neutral enough to use for a large piece while still bringing color into the room. I also like the idea of linen fabric because it has a nice weave, similar to the hatch pattern in the inspiration fabric.

    I love the tall, armless look of the Cayenne Chair in red, $169, Home Decorators Collection -- a pair of these will add the perfect red pop on either side of the room.

    As an accent, I chose this Hayworth Cube Side Table, $170 at Pier 1 Imports, because the antique silver finish has a traditional feeling but the cube shape is very modern. It reminds me of the larger grid patterns from the fabric.

    As a central feature, I chose the Chloe Round Wood Coffee Table because the softness of the top contrasts nicely with all of the angular furniture -- perfect! Available for $150 at Target.

    The unassuming look of the Holtkoetter Bernie Series Floor Lamp in antique brass, $491, Amazon, makes for the perfect reading lamp in the room. It's long, thin shade and pipe-like neck are reminiscent of the tall, thin columns in the inspiration fabric.

    As for accessories, I wanted to keep it simple. Since I saved on pillows, I splurged on this Grid Vase (OK, maybe more than a splurge) for $500 at Unica Home, so I paired it with an inexpensive grid bowl for $19 from Amazon. Then, I topped it all off with a great print of a black-and-white Jackson Pollock painting, $28 unframed from Art.com, to bring in a more organic, hand-drawn feel.

    Do you have a fabric that you'd like us to design a room around? Leave us a comment and a link, and we might just give you some free design advice.

     

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  • 09/21/10--13:41: Secret Source: Serena & Lily
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    Look as if you've traveled the world to decorate your home with this sophisticated line of goods.

    Serena & Lily unique home furnishingsSerena & Lily have countless beautiful finds. The Belgian Club chair, Chakki stool and assorted euro shams are just a few. Photo: Serena & Lily

    The Source
    Serena & Lily

    The Goods
    Vibrant and soothing colors, dynamic and classic patterns, modern and traditional shapes -- this boutique has it all. Everything that you need to furnish your home in eclectic style can be found perusing their seemingly endless collection. Heck, they even have their own low-VOC paint line!

    The Secret
    Textile designer and artist Serena Dugan teamed up with Lily Kanter, a corporate refugee turned baby boutique owner, in 2003 with the intention of creating fresh, colorful children's spaces. Under the name Serena & Lily they soon debuted 14 bedding sets and 30 fabric patterns that brought a fresh look to baby nurseries. But their love of unique and inspired decors didn't stop there, eventually expanding to carry everything from upholstered beds to ceramic lamps and dhurrie rugs -- and even fabulous bedding that's stylish enough to be found in the home of a Kardashian. The fashionable duo is inspired by worldly travels, unexpected colors and patterns and reinvented classics, so expect to find products that reflect that.

    Things to Know
    If you especially love one-of-a-kind goods, check out their bazaar sales, which feature a slew of unique finds from around the world. Check back randomly (or sign up for their emails).

    Also good to know? Co-founder Lily Kanter was on a mission to inspire kids to change the world, and thus the World Repair Kit took form. It's a fun book for kids that provides facts, inspiration and tools that empower them to make the world a better place -- it may not be decor related, but it's pretty cool if you ask us.

    Want to be more in the know? Check out more of our Secret Sources.

     

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    Does "fall flowers" sound like an oxymoron? Even though we associate blooms with the warmer months they thrive in, there's no reason you can't lend your home a cozy autumnal flair with some seasonal arrangements. We're only sharing four of our favorite ideas, but to see more of these gorgeous fall flowers, check out the rest of the article on CasaSugar.



    While Summer's floral bounty is rather astounding, there's something even more special about Autumn blooms. Perhaps it's the end of the flower-growing season that makes picking and arranging these bouquets so sweet. Or, it could be that cozy Fall homes look just that much better when they're dotted with Autumn-appropriate, flower-filled vases. Check out my tips for making the most of Fall flowers.

    On the left: Dahlias, a quintessential Fall flower, are a perfect choice for this season.

    On the right: Don't underestimate the power of a single blossom. If you don't have a bud vase, use a cup instead. These tarnished silver vessels have an antiqued, nostalgic feel to them that's perfect for Autumn.


    On the left: Who says Fall flowers have to be relegated to . . . flowers? Try cutting succulents and displaying them on a mantel in several small vases.

    On the right: Display blooms in gourd-shaped vases that mimic the vegetal bounty of the season.

    More goodies from CasaSugar
    DIY: A Pretty Autumn Coat Rack
    Exclusive Interview with Haus Interiors' Nina Freudenberger

     

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    With these glass panels, doodling on the walls isn't discouraged -- it's required.

    Looking for a way to let your kids make their mark on your walls without, well, destroying your home in the process? Check out this brilliant new product from Skyline Design, a company dedicated to providing eco-friendly decorative glass for the home.

    The Kids Glass collection combines color and imagination in the form of clear panels of safety glass (the same glass used in car windows, designed to withstand shattering) with patterns printed on the back. Originally designed to entertain kids in hospitals and day cares, Kids Glass can be drawn on with regular marker, which then cleans up easily with window cleaner or a chalkboard eraser.

    Pretty enough to serve as a stand-alone work of art, the animal-themed print from Kids Glass is a hit with adults and children alike. Photo: Skyline Design

    "We wanted to create and offer a product to preoccupy, distract, educate and entertain children who might be nervous in unfamiliar settings," says Deborah Newmark, creative director at Skyline Design. "The response has been amazing from both children and adults. It seems no one's too old to play."

    The pieces of glass, which can be customized to suit your needs but typically come in 3-by-7-foot panels, can be mounted on walls, used as a room divider or even placed on a kitchen table. Plus, there are 11 different patterns to choose from, including animals, flowers and a sea-life motif.

    It's the perfect addition to a children's playroom or bedroom. You'll never worry about them writing on the walls again.

    For more kids room decorating ideas:
    -Kids Room, Nothing Kid-Like About It

     

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    No struggling to set up a tent here -- these yurts offer glamping at its best.

    There are many of us who love the idea of camping, but actually doing it -- well, that's another story. Sleeping under the stars, listening to a crackling fire and toasting up s'mores are the stuff of dreams, but who wants to set up a complicated tent, swat away the bugs and sleep on a cold wet ground? Not us.

    What's a nature lover to do when she wants to get out of town for some fresh air but doesn't want to skimp on style? She flies to the Hoopoe Yurt Hotel in Andalucia, Spain, of course.

    Sit a spell on the hotel's Turkish-style pergola. Photo: Hoopoe Yurt Hotel


    The hotel, run by married couple Ed and Henrietta Hunt, opened in 2005, but the story doesn't start there. Before the couple married, Ed cleared out his savings by buying the gorgeous olive and cork tree-covered land where the hotel is now situated. He wanted to build an inexpensive home to live in and had heard of yurts through a friend that knew Paul King, one of the original yurt makers in England. So, he built a yurt house, married is wife and they've since had two daughters -- Florence, 5, and Isla, 3.

    They also grew a business. The hotel now has five guest yurts along with a fantastic pool surrounded by a pergola with comfy Turkish-style seating and a big dining table. "Originally, we lived in three yurts around a pretty courtyard with an olive tree in the center, and guests would come to our home for breakfast and dinner," says Henrietta. "Now we serve breakfast and dinner around the pool, with food grown here and from surrounding local land. At the moment I'm doing the cooking, which I love!" The Hunt family lives up the hill from the hotel in five interconnected yurts.

    An outside view of the hotel's Afghani yurt.Photo: Hoopoe Yurt Hotel

    Right now you might be asking yourself, what is a yurt exactly? According to Dictionary.com, a yurt is "a tent-like dwelling of the Mongol and Turkic peoples of central Asia, consisting of a cylindrical wall of poles in a lattice arrangement with a conical roof of poles, both covered by felt or skins." Sounds rustic, but the Hunts have managed to turn these structures into rooms that rival the most luxurious and expensive around the world.

    The yurts at the Hoopoe are from Afghanistan, Mongolia and England. They are built by Ed and decorated by Henrietta, who has a background in interior design. "Everything on site has been designed and built by the two of us. Together, we have the skills needed to set up and run the hotel," says Henrietta. "Of course, there were all sorts of things we learned along the way, such as looking after pools and solar power." The whole camp runs on solar power.

    Step inside the Mongolian yurt. Husband and wife team Ed and Henrietta have built and designed the yurts themselves.Photo: Hoopoe Yurt Hotel

    It was Henrietta's job to define the hotel's overall look and design. "I have always collected antique fabrics wherever I have traveled," she says, "and I have now been able to use them in the yurts. I've also picked out other accessories from trips to Morocco and Turkey." Although the five yurts -- the Afghani, the Mongolian, the Safari, the Jaipur and the Maimani -- are named after one of their features, Henrietta likes to mix and match furniture and accessories from all over to create the perfect look for each one.

    "The Afghani yurt is from Afghanistan, and the Mongolian yurt is from Mongolia, but the Safari yurt was actually made in England," she says. "I decorated it in earthy tones with cowhide tables and gazelle skin rugs, hence the name." The Maimani is named after the large kelim, which is the centerpiece of the yurt, and comes from a village called Maimani in Afghanistan, while the Jaipur yurt has a striking bedspread from Rajasthan, as well as other bits and pieces from India. Other items are sourced locally, "although they can be hard to find in rural Andalucia," says Henrietta.


    An interior view of the Mongolian yurt.Photo: Hoopoe Yurt Hotel

    Surprisingly, decorating a yurt is a lot like decorating a regular home, but with one obvious limitation -- the round shape!

    "Because yurts are round, you cannot have anything square or rectangular that is too large, as you cannot sit it flat against the wall. But you can get around it by having a lovely bit of furniture at the end of the bed instead!," says Henrietta. "We are as comfortable in our yurts as we would be in any house."

    You can see why -- the style is very homey.


    An interior view of the Jaipur yurt.Photo: Hoopoe Yurt Hotel


    Besides travel, the Hunts' design inspiration comes from the the land itself; they value nature-inspired products. All of the glasses are handmade from recycled glass, and all the crockery is handmade as well. "We try to use as many natural products as we can," she says.

    The pool area is the perfect place to laze away an afternoon. And while the yurts are beautiful, the landscape is the real draw. Says Henrietta: "We are lucky in that we have a beautiful bit of land that provides the perfect setting."


    Take a dip. The pool blends in with the hotel's surroundings.Photo: Hoopoe Yurt Hotel

     

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    Who needs designers when you can design home products yourself?

    When Cafepress first launched, I squealed with excitement -- a service that offers the opportunity for you to print your very own t-shirt design and you don't need to order 100? Awesome! Cafepress gave birth to a long line of other companies that jumped on the customization bandwagon.


    custom wallpaper and window shadesWant a better view? Give yourself a custom ocean view with print-on-demand window shades. Photo: OrangePiel


    The trend of creating your own products is rapidly becoming one of the most popular businesses on the Internet. You can get everything from a light switch to a coffee table to kitchen cabinets (down to the door pulls!) made with a picture of your kid on it. You can create wallpaper, fabric, canvas artwork and even murals and window shades from your very own designs. These custom print-on-demand companies are ubiquitous and they'll help you put your stamp on just about anything.

    If you're a young designer looking to make it in the virtual world, you can join up with companies like Shapeways ("passionate about creating") or Ponoko ("the world's easiest making system") that help you create, market and sell your own products. You don't even need a manufacturer anymore.

    custom designsA lamp from Ponoko (left) and custom cabinet pulls from Ghost Nest (right).

    But customization isn't just a product trend; it's the new way of the world. In the age of social media and networking, we all have a profile and a voice. The Internet has enabled us to join just about any discussion, make comments on everything and share information with a single click. We all want to leave our fingerprint. As Arianna Huffington said at a recent conference, "Self-expression is the new entertainment."

    Home goods have joined the conversation, inviting consumers to get just about anything customized and shipped to their front door. Surely, this begs the question: Is designing your own products a good thing? Well, I say yes and no. I enjoy the experience of shopping because I like to browse through all of the options and choose the one that best suits me. But if I have the option to create something that only I will have, then that means I can have exactly what I want instead of the closest thing in a pre-ordained selection. What's not to love, right?

    Sometimes the idea of designing it yourself is cooler than actually doing it.

    But when it comes to major purchases, like kitchen cabinets, wallpaper or coffee tables, I'm just not confident enough in my artistic abilities to design pieces myself. I usually spend more time fidgeting around trying to create the exact look I want only to either get frustrated and give up or browse through the website's existing designs. I'm just not a designer.

    For the majority of us, the real benefit of these websites is that they attract designers who join, create and then sell their custom creations. Even if I don't produce a design from scratch, I still have the opportunity to support a young designer -- and order a piece I love.

    For more custom ideas, check out our post on the do's and dont's of custom framing.

     

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    Living seaside never looked so good.

    Ever dream of living near the beach? You'd wake to the sound of crashing waves and seagulls in the distance. A gentle sea breeze would caress your cheek as you sip your morning coffee on your deck, gazing at the sea beyond your back lawn.

    Take in Pacific Ocean views from the home's deck, complete with outdoor furnishings cushioned with Sunbrella fabrics. Photo: Lisa Romerein, Coastal Living


    A gal can dream, right? But those dreams are much easier to envision when you have the help of Coastal Living magazine's Ultimate Beach House.

    Located in Seabrook, Washington, which is located between Seattle and Portland, Oregon, the project focuses on sustainable building and design practices. And with a dramatic view overlooking the Pacific Ocean, you'll have an even greater appreciation for Mother Nature.

    If you're near the Pacific Northwest, the home is available for touring until October 31. Tickets are $10; proceeds benefit the Pacific Beach Elementary School. Or wait for the October issue of Coastal Living to hit stands for the full tour. Until then, here's a little teaser to aid in your daydreaming.


    Photo: Lisa Romerein, Coastal Living

    Forget ultra-modern urban kitchens. This space has all that the home chef needs without overwhelming the space with unnecessary appliances or extra stainless steel touches. It's all about the basics in a coastal home, and this space achieves it with light wood, woven blinds and soothing gray. And the floors are plenty durable for sandy feet!



    Photo: Lisa Romerein, Coastal Living

    The retro vibe of this lounging area inspires thoughts of The Beach Boys and some "California Dreamin'" -- a perfect look for a casual beach-side spot. Don't you just want to cuddle up on this cozy sectional, put your feet up on the wicker tables and watch "Gidget Goes Hawaiian"?

    Like coastal style? Check out this house on Washington's Bainbridge Island or these enchanting homes in Alys Beach.

     

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    When friends walk into our kitchen, their jaws often drop. It's our sink.

    Everybody loves our white, wall-mounted farmhouse sink.

    Original to our bungalow, which was built during the early 1920s, the sink and its apron front is in pristine condition and not once have we replaced the faucets. (Which is great because we have no interest in purchasing a new sink.) However, should we have to, I'm comforted to know that there are several options out there that replicate this early-20th century look but with modern updates.

    Here are five farmhouse sinks -- which are essentially deep, wide basins with apron fronts that can either be wall-mounted or installed under-counter -- that I like as much as mine! Be prepared for sticker shock. These sinks cost a pretty penny.

    Kohler farmhouse sinkPhoto: Kohler

    Kohler Gilford Apron-Front Wall-Mount Kitchen Sink, $2,420
    What could be more modern than black? You wouldn't see this in a farmhouse 100 years ago, but we still love this contemporary interpretation of the original design. In addition to black, the sink design comes in eight other colors, all of them neutral, such as biscuit, almond and a light yellow ("sunlight"). One huge basin, almost 9 inches deep, allows for lots of room while washing or rinsing dishes, particularly large pots and pans.


    Rohl Shaws Farmhouse SinkPhoto: Roundtable Forum, Picasa

    Rohl Shaws Original "Fireclay Apron Sink," $1,300
    If you adore a classic, simple look but don't want to roll back your casa's decor a few decades this is the sink for you. With a huge basin and a modern design, it's available in biscuit or white. Bonus: Because it's made from fireclay material, you can clean using abrasive pads and not worry about damaging the sink.


    Photo: Houzer

    Houzer "CopperKuchen Farmhouse Single," $1,845
    Love the look of copper but don't want to overload your home with it? Bring it into the kitchen with one statement piece. This copper sink was hammered by hand, and the absence of a drainboard makes for even cleaner design lines. There's a drain in the middle of the sink's floor.


    Nottingham Brass "Sandford," $1,000
    If this looks like the sink that you may have seen in Grandma's house as a child, that's exactly the point. The sink is porcelain over cast iron, and it mounts to the wall easily. A handy drain-board on the left-hand side offers space to house a drying rack. (This is the class look of our sink!)


    Herbeau farmhouse sinkPhoto: Herbeau

    Herbeau "Luberon Fireclay Double Farmhouse Sink," $2,521
    Available in nine funky finishes, from a Tuscan yellow to a burgundy red, you can customize this sink to fit into any kitchen. Practically speaking, this is a great buy because of the double sinks; it allows you to use one for storing dirty dishes and the other for rinsing fruits and vegetables. Its depth extends 10 inches, which is a little deeper than most farmhouse sinks.

    Don't stop shopping. Take a look at some of our other product hunts: Designer Tiles, Eco-Friendly Cleaning, Placemats.


     

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    ShelterPop's tips and tricks to make your big cleaning day a little easier.

    Housekeeping can be a daunting task, especially on a Saturday morning when your to-do list includes laundry, bathroom cleaning, kitchen maintenance and tidying your kids' rooms -- we won't even talk about the windows that haven't been washed since the Bush Administration. However, there are some simple everyday maneuvers to make your home stay cleaner longer and make your clean-up day easier.


    Photo: Getty Images

    Here are our favorite tips and tricks for "defensive cleaning":
    1. Ask everyone to make his or her bed everyday. Made beds will put everyone in the right mindset for maintaining a tidier, cleaner home.
    2. Stop dirt in its tracks with doormats at each door leading to the outside. Use one inside (soft, cotton) as well as outside (coarse, coir).
    3. Really want to keep dirt out? Ask family members and guests to remove their shoes as soon as they enter the house. It'll prevent dirt from entering day-to-day and will cut down the wear-and-tear on your floors in the long-run.
    4. Another tactic to keep grime outside is to install door sweeps at the bottom of all exterior doors and weatherproofing stripping on windows.
    5. Keep a squeegee in your shower and wipe excess water off the walls and shower door after each shower -- this will prevent hard water deposits and mildew.
    6. Keep a jar of pre-moistened cleaning cloths within easy reach in the bathroom: Wipe down the bathroom sink each evening after your nightly routine.
    7. Neaten at night: Have each family member gather his or her belongings at the end of each day and return them to their proper storage spots -- this will keep clutter from building up.
    8. Don't stop at the dishes: Sweep the kitchen and wipe the counters every evening after you've finished preparing and cleaning up from dinner.
    9. Tackle paper pile-up daily: Shred, recycle or file each piece of mail when it arrives. Recycle newspapers at the end of each day. Create a designated spot for magazines.
    10. Presort laundry: Instead of throwing everything into one hamper, set out separate hampers for white, lights, darks and dry-clean only/delicate items. It'll save time on laundry day.
    Last but not least, divide and conquer: Every family member should be responsible for some part of your home's weekly and monthly cleaning. So make a list of chores and divvy it up among the troops.

    Want more clean home inspiration? Read on:
    - The Dos and Don'ts of Cleaning Your Bath Tub
    - How to Keep the Kids' Bathroom Clean
    - The New Way To Do Your Laundry

     

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    Don't cross out cross stitch -- it's here to stay.

    Back in April, we gushed over a pair of cross-stitched chairs by Johan Lindsten (below). This was just the beginning of a new trend that's slowly emerging: handmade-meets-modern or, in this case, cross stitch meets modern.


    Is modern cross stitch a new trend? Photo: Johan Lindsten


    Cross stitch is a craft that's about 600 to 700 years old and uses an X-shaped stitch on cloth to create designs that can be made into artwork, pillows or accents on clothing or curtains. Now we're seeing this embroidered embellishment on chairs, tables and even bowls!

    cross stitch tableThis tablecloth isn't a cloth at all -- it's steel. Photos: Joanne Warren


    Many of these new pieces (unlike the chairs pictured above) feature less traditional embroidery themes. In fact, many of them don't feature realistic scenes at all. For example, U.K. designer Imogen Luddy was inspired by 16th-century Italian lace for her stainless steel cross-stitch table. It has no thread, just laser-cut cross-shaped holes where thread would have been. Even though it resembles antique lace, it doesn't feel traditional or handmade at all.

    Stepping away from the piece, the table gives the illusion that there is a lacy cloth laid atop the surface, but upon closer inspection, it's made of hard steel. The juxtaposition between steel and lace is parallel to industrial and handmade.

    cross stitch stoolsStitch these stools together to create bench seating. Photos: Superfolk

    Irish design studio Superfolk takes a cheeky approach to cross stitch by using it as a means of joining their stools together to form bench seating. In this case, the act of stitching is more functional than it is aesthetic. You can stitch together as many as you want, stretching the bench out to fit your family's needs. The idea of creating your own custom piece using materials supplied by designers is a theme that continues below.

    cross stitch mid-century modern chairsCross stitch your favorite iconic chairs with these patterns. Photos: Tiny Modernist

    Etsy seller Tiny Modernist flips this trend upside-down. Instead of cross stitching on furniture, crafty mom Cheryl McKinnon cross stitches images of furniture. She currently sells the original patterns of her modernist chairs and seating so that you can stitch them yourself.

    Although you're following Cheryl's patterns, you still have the option to customize your creation. You can sew the pattern onto anything you like, whether it's colorful aida cloth, curtains, pillowcases or even an apron. You also have the option of changing up the chair colors if you so desire. Working from a pattern allows you to add a personal element to your piece, which makes it feel custom. Plus, when it's done you have the pride of saying "I made that."

    cross stitch bowlsMake your own bowl using pattern kits. Photos: Industrael

    The stitch-it-yourself theme continues with Italian company Industrael, which sells a series of cross-stitch DIY bowls designed by Guillaume Delvigne and Ionna Vautrin. The bowl is covered with holes like aida cloth, and with the bowl you also purchase the kit of your choice. Each kit comes with thread, a needle, a needle threader and instructions for your chosen pattern.

    For more modern cross stitch, check out these inspiring designs.

     

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    Got a shedding pet? We put three pet hair removal products to the test.

    I have a problem: I'm a pet lover.

    This is an issue because I'm not a big fan of pet hair (who is?), especially when it is constantly covering all of my furniture (with two cats and one dog, it's bound to).

    This isn't a new concept: We all love our pets, but our adoration for these favorite fluffy friends isn't at its finest when we're facing a losing battle with their fur.

    My favorite chair, a hand-me-down from my midcentury-loving grandmother, quickly became my dog's favorite chair. And thus the cats jumped on the bandwagon, too (notice the stealth little ninja in the bottom right corner?). Now my battle against fur-covered upholstery is never ending. Photo: Allison Lind


    So what's the solution? There are countless anti-fur products out there, and it can be overwhelming to maneuver through a seemingly endless aisle of cleaning goods. In an act of fur-fighting desperation, I decided to put three products to the test to see what worked best. Let's see how they held up.

    1. Evercare Pet Hair Lint Rollers
    What it is: We're all familiar with standard lint rollers (especially pet owners). But these babies go beyond the basic and are apparently "especially designed for pets."

    How it works: You can pretty much guess how they work -- simply roll over hair-coated areas and the sticky surface should remove it.

    Our grade: B
    The sticky sheets do their job of picking up fur quite nicely, but you'll find yourself "reloading" new sheets often and tight corners prove difficult. Bed Bath & Beyond sells the Pet Hair Roller (plus two refills) for just $9.99, so it's not a hefty purchase. However, if pet hair is more than a mild problem in your household, you might need to invest in something a bit more powerful.

    Which product will keep your dog's fur from sticking to your couch? Photo: cornfusion, Flickr

    2. Pledge Fabric Sweeper for Pet Hair
    What it is: This hand-held product from Pledge is designed to roll over hair-covered surfaces, picking up hairs as you go and "limiting the waste that comes with using sticky roller sheets."

    How it works: Nearly every time I've hit my local grocery store in the past few months, I've been a devoted purchaser of this new contraption. You simply roll it over the surface, back and forth, as it picks up hair. You do have to go over the same areas at least a couple of times for more stubborn hairs, but it does its job well with minimal effort. It's pretty difficult to get to tight corners, though, because the rollers are about an inch in from the device's sides. I often find myself needing to manually clean those spaces, which can be a bit of a pain.

    Our grade: C
    At around $5 or $6, it's a relatively affordable purchase, considering how well it does its job. My problem? With two cats and a dog that sheds like a maniac, I quickly make my way through the Fabric Sweeper's limited "cargo" space. And once it's filled, that's it. It's only intended for one use (until it's filled) -- then you toss it into the garbage and start anew. Over all, I love this option for every day pet-hair removing. Though I'd love it a whole lot more if I weren't adding to a landfill every time I use a new one.

    Cats love to lounge on the furniture. Photo: Iamcatfurniture, Flickr


    3. Eureka Pet Expert
    What it is: This upright vacuum goes beyond your typical floor-cleaning duties and is designed especially for pet owners, with add-on tools named the Hair Raiser and Pet Power Paw that are advertised as being able to "quickly and easily eliminate pesky pet hair from upholstery, fabric and even clothing."

    How it works: Beyond its excellent vacuuming abilities (and HEPA Filter with odor-absorbing charcoal), the Pet Expert's special tools definitely stand up to stubborn shedding. The Hair Raiser brush (similar to your standard felt lint brush) can be used separate from the vacuum (no power required) and it self cleans -- when it fills with hair, you simply place it into its holster, pull back out, and it's clean again (no need to manually pull off those clumps of caught hair). And when you restart the vacuum, a special function removes discarded hair from the holster into the bagless chamber. The Pet Power Paw, an extended tool from the powered-up vacuum, can be used on upholstery as well (also excellent on stairs, FYI), and picks up even the most stubborn hairs like a dream.

    Our grade: A
    At $99 (through Amazon.com), this multi-tasker carries a bigger price tag than the other pet hair solutions I tested. But when it comes to deep cleaning those furry messes, this tool can tackle the job. If you're on the market for an affordable, high-performing vacuum -- and you have a pet-hair problem -- this is your tool.

    If you own pets, tell us about your best cleaning tip for dog or cat lovers.

    Learn about more cleaning tips for pet lovers here.

     

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    Architectural Digest editor Margaret Russell had this dollhouse delivered to her today. Photo: Michael Grimm for Curbed National

    Nate Berkus makes enemies in the blogosphere, and Curbed sends design editors an oh-so-tiny (but fabulous!) surprise.


    Did you leave a comment telling us why you like fall? If not, hurry because today's the deadline on winning a home shredder!

    The popular Curbed network has expanded from their New York, Hamptons, Los Angeles and San Francisco sites to launch the very smart, very funny Curbed National. Their first project: Operation Dollhouse, which means sending cardboard dollhouses and mini-furniture to the top six shelter magazine editors.

    Fashion designer Donna Karan is teaming up with Lenox on a line of tabletop products.

    Yikes! We're pretty sure Martha didn't see this when she moved over to the Hallmark Channel. It looks like she's taking to Twitter to stem the tide. In other Martha news, actress Helen Mirren says she based her new role as a ruthless secret agent in the film Red on the domestic diva.

    You know at ShelterPop that we like decorating, and we know that you do, too. Count actress Claire Danes as a fan, too, or rather a super-fan. Wonder if she'll pull an Eva Mendes? Eva was out promoting her own home decor brand recently.

    Nate Berkus apparently ticked off a couple of design bloggers this week; he invited dozens of them to his show but didn't make them feel very welcome. (We still love you, Nate!) Still, he's got good taste and shares some wallpaper love with Snooki, or at least with the designers of the "Jersey Shore."

    Who knew you could do so much with wallpaper beside paper your walls? This wallpaper will actually filter the air in your home.

    "Ol' Blue Eyes'" old home recently went on the market, and it looks like he did it his way -- 50 years ago.

    Who figured A.C. Slater from "Saved by the Bell" would put together such a stylish home? We always thought it would've been Lisa Turtle! (Hope those "Saved by the Bell" references didn't date us!)

    Interior design legend Juan Montoya will kick off the fall lecture series at the New York School of Interior Design.

    Ralph Lauren Home's brand Lauren gets a stylish update on beds and beach towels.

    Want to get a touch of Haiti for your home and help the nation in the process? Macy's is launching the Heart of Haiti home accents line.

    Let's say you have a friend who's really into paisley, and EVERYTHING in their house is covered with it. Be a good pal and seek some help for them, TV-style!


     

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  • 09/24/10--13:13: Weekly Link Love
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    Custom pet embroidery, teacher's lounges get a makeover and the official preppy decor staples...What we're lusting over in the blogosphere this week.


    The perfect wall decor for a non-fussy nursery: Murals inspired by iconic children's book illustrations. Blogger/decorative painter Alan pays tribute to The Wind in the Willows' Inga Moore with his own whimsical artwork. [Surface Fragments]

    Wondering where Lady Gaga sleeps? Five designers take a stab at what the star's home should look like. [Curbed National]

    Brilliant decor for well-deserving inhabitants: Public school teachers! CasaSugar talks to Brian Patrick Flynn, the "Décor Demon," about his latest, greatest adventure. [CasaSugar]

    The perfect gift for decor-loving pet-owners: Custom pet embroidery. We are swooning! [The Neo-Traditionalist]

    Jewel-shaped ice cubes: Just what you need to turn a packet of Kool-Aid and a salad bowl into a perfect centerpiece. [The Frisky]

    Icons of preppy decorating, courtesy of Lisa Birnbach, author of The Official Preppy Handbook: Shag rugs, stacks of Domino and high thread-count sheets. Get more in this fun article. [The Washington Post]

    Can you own pretty dishware in a house of toddlers? If anyone knows, it's Design Mom. Check out her three tips to collecting pretty (and baby-proof) pieces. [The Stir]

    Two faves in one place: Helena's fabulous "My Stuff" series spotlights Alaina of Live Creating Yourself and Rue Magazine. (Psst! We love You've Got Mail, too!) [A Diary of Lovely]

    And more blog-on-blog love: Kelley Moore threw a party for the Rue Magazine gals and we're drooling over Erin's photos of the decor. (And, um, her amazing giveaway. Go enter!) [apartment 34]

    A rainbow of rainbow decor, courtesy of Nicole. Happy Friday, friends! [Sketch42]

     

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    Wear those heels proudly -- floor scuff marks can't stand up to these remedies.

    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 for cleaning our homes. 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. Our second installment in this series? How to clean scuff marks.



    The Problem:
    Scuffs happen. And in a busy household they tend to happen everywhere -- and often. I'm a high-heel wearer, and so are countless of my friends, so it seems no matter what I do, my floors are covered in scuff marks. But it doesn't stop there. Somehow my baseboards and walls get covered in marks as well. They may be annoying to clean, but at least it's easy -- whether you opt for the old or new solution.

    Old Solution: Baking soda seems to be the remedy for nearly every pesky problem our ancestors encountered. And it still stands up to the job. Simply mix a smooth paste (think the consistency of toothpaste) of baking soda and water and rub it with a soft cloth directly on the marks. It takes a bit of elbow grease for more stubborn marks, but the technique seems to do the trick.

    An even more interesting remedy for scuffs is a good, old-fashion tennis ball (the standard light green versions; colored options can leave marks of their own). Following directions from a family member, I cut a small X in the top (about a quarter inch) and inserted the top of a broom handle. Using the ball end of the broom, I rubbed some scuffs with the tennis ball. This, too, took some elbow grease -- but it did the job!

    Here are some other techniques that have proven to work:
    o. Lighter fluid: Dampen a soft cloth with lighter fluid and rub onto the scuff marks. Wipe clean with a damp cloth and dry.
    o. WD 40: Spray onto a soft cloth or paper towel and rub the scuff marks gently. Wipe clean with a damp cloth.
    o. Toothpaste: Using firm, circular motions, rub a small amount of toothpaste with a clean cloth onto the marks. Wipe clean with a damp cloth.

    New Solution: You've heard of it -- and probably used it. The Mr. Clean Magic Eraser is the modern multi-tasking remedy for around-the-house touch-ups. And it's especially effective on scuff marks. I used it on my walls and base boards; it did an excellent job on my baseboards, but seemed to take a bit of the sheen off my high gloss-painted walls, so best to stick with flat surfaces. One downfall of the eraser is that as it wears out it leaves little white "eraser" flakes that need to be cleaned up -- but it is, truly, magical when it comes to getting the job done.

    However, best not to use the Eraser on wood floors with a polyurethane finish. Some reviews claim it takes the finish right off. Not too inspired to refinish my floors if this warning is true, I'm just going to take their word for it. You might want to as well.

    The Verdict:
    We vote baking soda. It and the Magic Eraser were about as equally as effective, but baking soda can be used on any surface without concern. Although you do need to clean up after the soda paste, it's a bit easier than the pesky flakes left behind from the Eraser. And because there are so many more uses for the solution (stay tuned!) all you need is to keep a box of baking soda on hand for any cleaning needs and you're set! Plus, you're not adding to the landfill quite as often.

    Check out who won the battle -- old or new -- in the art of removing red wine stains!

     

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