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    After the wedding, but before the dream home, this writer and her husband took the plunge and moved back to the homes in which they grew up. How did living with parents this time around stack up? Read on to see...

    Living with parentsThe author and her husband on their wedding day. Meg Perotti, Photographer

    A few months ago, I was planning my wedding from my small one-bedroom apartment in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles. I loved everything about that apartment: The gorgeous crown molding, the original light fixtures from the 30's and especially the dreamy hardwood floors. On days when I felt particularly stressed out or completely uninspired, I would lie flat on the floor and stare at the ceiling. After a few minutes, my mind would clear -- I'd jump up, ready to face whatever challenge confronted me.

    The author's old apartment. Photo: Chris Johnson.

    But after celebrating our wedding in May, and our lease ending on the last day of July, my husband Chris and I sadly moved from that apartment. We had originally moved to LA to be close to my office, but once I started working from home as a freelance writer, it no longer made sense. To make the commute easier on Chris, we decided to move out of the city and back to the suburbs, closer to his office. And as it happened, our moving plans seemed completely serendipitous. A friend's parents had recently inherited a house and planned on renting the one they had been living in. They needed tenants, we needed a place to live. On paper, it sounded heavenly.

    Their three-bedroom house is just a 20 minute drive from Chris' office and we were excited about all the extra space. I'd finally have a proper home office, we would have a formal dining room, living room, family room and best of all, a washer and dryer. After agreeing on a move-in date, around mid-August, we packed up our apartment. But during the move, I'd often crumble into a weepy mess. The apartment was the first place we lived together; it was the first place where we'd felt like real grown-ups. It was in that apartment's living room that he proposed. After living at home and then with a roommate, it was the first place I considered my own.

    Since we planned on moving into the rental house within a few weeks of moving out, we decided to stay with my in-laws, rather than rent a short-term apartment. They live very close to our rental so the commute for Chris wouldn't be bad at all. Plus, I get along with them swimmingly; in fact, my mother-in-law and I didn't butt heads once during the entire wedding planning process! We had quite a few boxes stored at their house, most of our furniture stored in my father's garage and the rest we kept at my grandparents. Thankfully, the three houses are all within a short distance of each other.

    Next stop: Chris' childhood bedroom. Photo: Chris Johnson.

    We set up temporary shop in Chris' childhood room, which had been converted sometime ago into a guest room. Along with our cat, a few office supplies and about four sets of clothes, we made a home as best we could. However, as wonderful as my in-laws are, within a few days, the walls began to close in on us. Among the hiccups: My father-in-law's dog, Max, who is a bit of a hellion. Max regularly and wildly barks at the noisy water heater, the chimes of the clock, the garden sprinklers and television programming he finds offensive. (While he's a tough critic, he inexplicably approves of most SciFi dramas.) We decided it would be in everyone's best interests to keep our cat and the pooch apart, meaning our cat's litter box was kept in the room with us... which smelled just as wonderful as it sounds. While we had brought a few things into the room with us, the things we craved most -- books, favorite pieces of clothing, little mementos of our previously independent lives -- were packed away and spread out piecemeal among the three residences.

    Soon after moving to my in-laws, our our new landlords sent us a very apologetic email explaining that renovation on their new house was delayed and that, unfortunately, our move-in date would need to be pushed back. I fell apart as I read their email, and unfairly lashed out at Chris, crying that at least he was able to leave for work every day. During those days, I'd run unnecessary errands just so I could have my own space. I'd wander the aisles of Target. Or I'd bring my laptop with me to a coffee shop, try to get some work done, then find myself hopelessly distracted by people watching. We needed a change.

    We met my grandparents, who live a few miles from Chris' work, for lunch one weekend; they were planning an epic cross-country road trip that would take them -- and their large dog -- away through October. It was still early August, but they hoped to leave within a few days and needed someone to stop by and pick up the mail. Before we even thought to ask, they invited us to stay at their house until ours was ready. We moved in right away.

    Temporary home #2, the author's grandparents' guest room. Photo: Chris Johnson.

    At first, we stayed in the guest room that I had often stayed in as a little girl. The two of us, our cat and her litter box squeezed into the tiny space. As unromantic as it sounds, we took turns sleeping on the twin daybed, or if we were feeling sporting, we'd play rock-paper-scissors to win the mattress. The unlucky spouse made a bed on the floor and woke up with a smarting backache in the morning. Oddly, the absurdity of the whole situation brought us closer than we'd ever been. For the first time, we experienced the exact frustrations.

    My grandparents delayed their trip first by a few days, then by a few weeks. Late at night, when I felt the most stressed and when everyone else was asleep, I would lie on the wood floor of my grandparents' dining room, hoping for the clarity my apartment's horizontal therapy provided. No such luck. Chris dealt with his stress by spending even more time than usual online. Unsurprisingly, to me anyway, this interest of his lead to an unofficial title around the house: computer guy. He helped my grandparents configure their Wi-Fi settings, hooked up their printer and miraculously repaired their wonky DVD player.

    Returning home after living on your own brings about a whole new set of discoveries. For years, I had fooled myself into believing I knew how to properly load a dishwasher. When cleaning up after dinner one night, my grandmother, gently and sweetly in that tone only grandmothers have mastered, reminded me that bowls need to be stacked a certain way, and plates another. Further, I'd forgotten how much my grandmother enjoys folding laundry. After pulling a load of clothes from the dryer, I'd leave them in a basket to be folded at later date. Or perhaps never. Imagine my complete surprise when I'd come home to find all of our laundry perfectly folded. My thongs and Chris' boxers were always neatly placed at the top of the basket.

    When my grandparents finally hit the open road with their dog in tow, we were able to spread out in the house. Still, we felt stunted. We felt like we were moving backwards. When friends asked about our situation, our explanations were supremely long-winded. We were self-conscious and embarrassed. Right around that time, the New York Times Magazine published its article about 20-somethings. Were we these mooching adults who refused to grow up? On the surface, it certainly seemed that way. After living independently for a few years and getting married, we found ourselves acting like vagabonds between our childhood homes. But now, looking back on it all, I don't regret it. Renting a short-term apartment simply to prove our independence seems about the most immature act of all. Rather than fork over a month's rent to an anonymous leasing company, we divided what we saved by not paying rent and gave it to both sets of families to thank them for their gracious support.

    And now, our transition period has finally come to a close. Last weekend, more than a month after we had expected, we moved into our rental. The living room furniture is eerily, and completely coincidentally set up in the same way it was in our apartment. Sets of glassware, mixing bowls and dinnerware we received as wedding gifts three months ago have finally been unpacked and are now making their homes in our big kitchen. Looking around our new place, we find ourselves beaming. Being without a home to call our own wasn't how we pictured life as newlyweds, but in the end, it was absolutely worth it.

    A view of the new home's floor. Photo: Chris Johnson.

    And in case you're wondering, the home's hardwood floors have me swooning; they're wonderful stress-relievers.


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    How two Brooklyn residents made the best of their weathered, wooden patio space.

    It doesn't happen for many apartment hunters, let alone apartment hunters in New York City, but Molly Berta and Jarrod Gorbel lucked out: They stumbled upon a clean, roomy living space in a great neighborhood that doesn't cost a fortune. But the real draw -- it has an outdoor space that is bigger than a postage stamp. A lot bigger.

    The large, outdoor patio has made Molly, a fashion marketing manager, and her boyfriend Jarrod, a musician, both the envy and most celebrated barbecue hosts among their friends. Their apartment, located in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn, had a slightly rundown outdoor space when they moved in, but it was full of outdoor entertaining potential. Molly quickly devised an inexpensive design strategy, planning a day trip upstate to visit a few thrift stores.

    Jarrod and Molly relaxing on the patio. Photo: Lucy Hamblin

    "I didn't want it to look new and fancy, full of matching clay pots, because the patio itself is bit weathered," Molly says. She decided to work with its worn wooden planks, picket fence and pattern block walls, "instead of against it."

    The end result is a warm, inviting, yet clean and minimal, decidedly rustic space. Molly used vintage canisters, crates and even an old-timey cooler as planters, alongside larger functional pieces, like a chaise lounge and picnic table, that she bought new from West Elm.

    "(The vintage pieces) looked like they had already survived 10 winters in New York, so I thought they could handle a few more," she says.

    Here's the patio before she began the makeover. It didn't look like an obvious place to hang out, but Molly had a vision.

    A look at the old patio. Photo: Molly Berta

    And here's a view of the new patio. Now that's a transformation! It's easy to see why Molly and Jarrod are the envy of all of their friends. Molly let the rustic charm of the patio work for her, adding lights and lanterns along the aging fence and arranging lots of fresh greenery around the perimeter.

    "I wanted it to look and feel inviting, relaxing and BBQ ready," she says. But she had to do it on a budget, so she incorporated many things she already owned. Take the vintage tricycle she found a few years ago in Austin, TX; it's now a decorative prop on the patio, adding some depth and character to one of the deck's corners.

    Photo: Lucy Hamblin

    No need to buy new chairs. These yellow and green, heavy-duty plastic chairs were left behind by the previous tenant. Molly cleaned them up and mixed them with the other colorful furnishings.

    She also strung Christmas lights around the deck's perimeter for easy, day-to-night transitions. It wouldn't be an outdoor space without greenery, so Molly added lots of it. "I get all of my plants from this store called Graceful Gardens in Williamsburg," she says. "They always have plants I've never seen before and original floral designs." Figuring out which plants will survive year-round outdoors is tricky, she says. Right now, there are lots of succulents and tomato plants.

    After a summer of outdoor parties, Molly isn't retiring inside anytime soon. Time for a fire pit and some marshmellow roasting!

    Photos by Lucy Hamblin


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    We gave the Mint robot cleaner a spin in some dusty hardwood floors -- see what we thought and enter to win one! (Plus: See how it got me out of doing laundry!)

    A view of a brand new Mint and the bottom of the one I tried. Photos: Mint/Amy Preiser, AOL

    When my editor asked me to try out a new floor-cleaning robot, I came back with a full list of other requests: calorie-free donuts, a complete home makeover from Nate Berkus and a unicorn to ride to work. Then I found out that she was serious: The Mint robot was in our office, waiting for a trial run. As it so happened, my hardwood floors were embarrassingly filthy.

    After charging the Mint for 16 hours, I set up the "North Star" -- a little black box with a light that directs the Mint -- in the middle of the room as instructed. I popped a Swiffer dry cloth onto the bottom of the robot and set it to go. It sang six tones, lit up and started making its way around the room.

    As soon as the Mint took off, I got a thrill. Was this robot going to clean my entire floor? What else could I convince it to do? Right then, it hit the edge of my rug, and I watched cautiously. It stopped, the lights blinking, like it was thinking. It moved along a couple inches and bumped into the edge again. More thinking. Then it seemed to understand. It zipped alongside the rug's edge and then moved on the the next "stripe" of floor. It ran quietly, a bonus for my downstairs neighbors, occasionally bumping into sofa legs or the rug. Most impressively, it even weaseled itself between the four rolling legs of the computer chair and cleaned under the desk. It never slammed into anything, just hit it gently, thoughtfully blinked its lights, then tried a different approach. At one point, when it kept running into my purse on the floor, I felt bad for it. "I shouldn't have left that there, little guy," I said to the Mint. "How were you supposed to know?"

    Yes, I talked to the Mint. And yes, I predict that you would do the same. It's cute, it's petite, it got underneath the bottom bar of my kitchen island. How could I not talk to it? I had to thank it.

    By the time it finished, the bottom of the Swiffer cloth looked the way it did when I used the Swiffer on my own -- grotesque. It's possible that it was filthier. Next, I decided to try a Swiffer wet cloth on the Mint, so I borrowed one from my neighbor. When I explained that the cloth was not for me but for a sweet little robot that was tidying up, he came in to watch and brought the unofficial mayor of our apartment building, his unbelievably cute dog, Rumpy.

    There's Rumpy, Mr. Mayor himself. Photo:Philip Ficks

    Now, Rumpy, in the interest of full disclosure, may have already had it out for the Mint. See, he has been known to pop over to clean my floor so perhaps he was just jealous. But when he saw the Mint making its way across the room, lights blinking, he started barking. So a word to pet owners -- even the sweetest animals may dislike the Mint. It's an activity best left for times while they're out of the house.

    Once my floors were freshly cleaned, the apartment had that artificial-fresh scent of Swiffer wet wipes. And since I'd cleared off the coffee table and washed the dishes while the Mint worked its magic, the apartment looked, to an untrained eye, clean. So clean that my boyfriend, upon arriving home, thanked me for cleaning and volunteered to do laundry.

    And suddenly the hidden benefit of the Mint became clear: It won't just clean your floors. With some careful fibbing and strategic tidying up, you can use its powers to convince your kids/spouse/roommate into taking on extra chores.

    Now: Dying to win your own Mint?

    To enter, tell us: What chore would you most want to outsource to a robot? Or if you can't wait to win, you can head over to Mint's website and pick one up yourself!

    * To enter, leave a confirmed comment below telling us what chore you'd most like to outsource to a robot.
    * The comment must be left before 5pm EST on Friday, October 1, 2010.
    * You may enter only once.
    * Two winners will be selected in a random drawing.
    * Each winner will receive Mint's Autonomous Wet/Dry Mop. (valued at $250.)
    * 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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    If your drain is backed up, here's how to get the water flowing.

    Sure, now the home-care market is permeated with cleaning solutions. But there was a time when we relied on good ol' fashioned elbow grease and know-how when it came to 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 third installment is the ultimate gross-factor: declogging drains.

    cleaning clogged drainsGet that water running in no time. Photo: Flickr, kamienok

    The Problem: Clogged drains
    At some point, it happens to everyone, more often to those of us with long, full locks. Bathtub drains get clogged with hair and soap scum; kitchen drains get clogged with food debris. So what can you do to get things flowing again?

    Old Solution: Baking Soda Cocktail
    I recently chatted with a friend's grandmother about this pesky drain problem (a common one in my household), and she handed over a "time-tested" recipe for your own at-home drain cleaner. "Dran-NO," she told me. "This is better for your lungs and easy to do."

    Here's how to make her concoction: Mix together 1 cup of baking soda, 1 cup of salt and 1/4 cup of cream of tartar in a glass or plastic sealable container. Stir until mixed. Measure about a quarter cup of the mixed powder and pour into your clogged drain. Pour two cups of boiling water into the drain, and let stand for about an hour, then run fresh water from the tap.

    This, of course, caused another problem for me: I don't keep cream of tartar on hand. But I did purchase some for the occasion, and the solution did its magic.

    However, being a woman who likes to have options, I wanted to try another time-tested solution. Lucky for me, a friend was experiencing the same problem and volunteered to be my test case.

    If you, too, don't have any cream of tartar in your cupboards, you can also try dumping 1/2 cup of baking soda down your drain, followed by a half cup of white vinegar. Cover the drain (if you don't have a drain cover, you can use a small bowl or plate), and let the mixture stand for 5 to 10 minutes. Finally, pour a pot of boiling water down the drain. Apparently the baking soda and vinegar dissolve fatty acids, allowing the clog to wash down the drain.

    This second option worked as well, though did not have the same lasting effects as option one did (my friend and I compared drainage ability a week later). Perhaps she has thicker hair or more stubborn soap than I? Either way, it's good to know there's a natural solution that works.

    New Solution: Store-bought drain cleaners. Drano and Liquid Plumr are the two most recognized labels when it comes to store-bought drain cleaners. I've used both, and in all honesty, couldn't tell you which one works more effectively (thus, purchase the best priced).

    These solutions are very cut-and-dry; pour half of the bottle over slight clogs and a full bottle over stubborn ones, let sit for 15 to 30 minutes, then run hot water to clear the drain. If you prefer store-bought cleaners, the thicker versions are best for super tough clogs. Whether thick or thin, the downfall is that they have a strong, headache-inducing smell. And unless your bathroom is well ventilated, that odor can't be good for your health.

    The Verdict: We vote for home-made drain cleaners. Although the store-bought cleaners work great and save you the hassle of mixing your own solutions, the fumes are harsh for your health, and the health of those around you. We'd vote for the natural option -- keep your drains and air a happy place.

    Check out more in our Old vs New series:
    Cleaning red wine stains
    Testing scruff mark removers


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  • 09/28/10--14:07: Fall Trends 2010
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    Bold color, sexy pleating and shimmery accessories -- Yes, please! A look at this season's top trends for the home.

    Fall is officially here and that means it's finally time to say goodbye to summer and give our homes a little autumn pick-me-up. Can't wait to find out what the new trends will be? Us either, so we asked Sabrina Soto, HGTV designer and Target's newest Style Expert for Home and Estela Lugo, trend expert for Trend Bible, to break down what's hot and how to bring it home.

    "Great colors for fall this year are gray, lime green, coral, turquoise and espresso brown," says Soto. "Gray could be a classic, neutral foundation for a room, while the brighter hues will bring warmth to the space and add great pops of color."

    Crafted from aniline top-grade leather, the Eddie Accent Chair pops in this on-trend peacock color, $1199. Photo: ZGallerie

    Trend Bible is also forecasting bright, bold unexpected colors. In addition to the colors mentioned above, Lugo predicts we'll also be embracing lively tones of red, orange, yellow and rich dark blues. "These colors are getting noticed again as homeowners continue to bring a vibrant, uplifting mood back into their homes," she says.

    Case in point: At the recent New York International Gift Fair, Lugo spotted lots of quirky, colorful accessories such as patchwork quilts and pillows in bold color combinations. She points to the beautiful hand-blocked prints of John Robshaw's bedding collection as an example. She also noticed lots of mixing and matching of patterns, almost as if we're all ready to dive in and do things our own way.

    "Design is going away from the idea of expected, perfect interiors and more about individuality," says Lugo. "The items we're choosing for our homes, especially the colors we're selecting are really more about how we relate to our homes than what a specific trend is."

    John Robshaw's new collection is an example of the bold colors emerging in bedding. Photo: John Robshaw

    That's good news for those of us not ready for these fall brights. But if you're aching to bring home a touch of glamour, try accessories in pale subdued colors such as pink and gray mixed with deeper shades of dusty plum. "There is a heavy influence from Paris this year," says Lugo. "You'll see a lot softer, feminine touches to help us all hunker down for the season."
    Of course, softer doesn't mean somber -- expect shimmery items to wake things up a bit, like a bold mirror or a sparkly chandelier.

    "Another big trend is lucite," says Soto. "For example, a lamp base made of lucite adds a bit of glamour to any room and the best part is that you can find it at affordable prices." Soto directed us to Target's assortment of mix-and-match Lucite lamp bases.

    Fashion will continue to play a big role in home this season too. Sexy pleating was the rage on the runways earlier this year and at the recent Spring 2011 shows, and we're expecting it to emerge in home decor as well. Look for origami-inspired pleating on pillows and bedding. Zippers and studs will continue to make an appearance. Oh, and say goodbye to those crisp black silhouette patterns, says Lugo. "Shapes are morphing; they're becoming more organic, softer and a little more undone as we all start craving more handcrafted goods in our homes."

    Photo: Walmart, Target

    There's one fall trend that never seems to go away and that's bringing nature indoors for that finishing touch. "Flower arrangements using hydrangeas, burnt orange calla lilies, seed pods, burgundy roses and pumpkins all help to create a cozy fall setting," says Soto. "As the season progresses, welcome in cinnamon- or pumpkin-scented candles and create centerpieces made of gourds too."

    We hope we've inspired you as you make the transition from summer to fall in your home. For even more tips with Sabrina, check out this video shot by the crew at a recent Target event in New York City.


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    Fantasize about having a glamorous friend across the pond that lets you stay with them whenever you like? OK, this is the next best thing: Interior Designer David Carter opens up his guest rooms (for a fee, yes, but not a huge one) to travelers. We're only sharing six of our favorite photos, but to see more, check out the rest of the article on CasaSugar.

    When I'm visiting a city, and busy spending my days in museums and shopping areas and my nights at the theater and the finest restaurants around, I don't need a hotel with a pool, gym, driving range, and 24-hour room service. All I ask for is a comfortable bed and stylish décor.

    That's why the next time I take a trip to London, I'll be staying at 40 Winks, the new luxe-for-less boutique hotel owned by celebrated British interior designer David Carter. For Carter, it is no home away from home, but his actual residence.

    Located in trendy East London, the home/hotel is a historic, four-story Queen Anne townhouse that was built in 1717. Carter used to rent out the space for fashion photo shoots, but recently opened up two of his beautiful guest bedrooms for overnight stays.

    Boldly, romantically, and fantastically decorated in his signature glamorous and witty style, the rooms run only £90-£140 ($139-$217) a night and include a Continental breakfast and an expansive freestanding tub, a kitchen, and garden access. Take a look at photos below and then book your stay! Rooms go fast!

    More goodies from CasaSugar
    Home Away From Home: El Cosmico
    5 Extraordinary Places to Hang a Chandelier


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  • 09/29/10--12:34: Sewing Up Modernity
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    How to make a modern American quilt? Don't follow any rules. Photo: Denyse Schmidt Quilts

    With a younger generation taking on the timeless craft, quilts are getting a fresh new face.

    Quilting's making a comeback.

    That's right, in this fast-paced, technology-based world we live in, where BBMing on a Friday night is the new version of getting up close and personal, people are craving a little piece of old-fashioned Americana in their homes. Enter the modern American quilt, which is undergoing a major makeover thanks to young quilters looking to bring a contemporary vibe to this time-honored art form.

    "There has been something of a do-it-yourself revolution in recent years, which has certainly had an impact on the quilting world," says Denyse Schmidt, master quilter and owner of Denyse Schmidt Quilts in Bridgeport, Connecticut. "Suddenly this craft has been embraced by a new generation, and there's so much more available now, largely due to the internet community."

    But the trend isn't limited to a rogue group of sewing enthusiasts; quilts with fresh patterns and unexpected colors, like those designed by Schmidt, are selling at mainstream retailers, like The Land of Nod and Pottery Barn. Designer Angela Adams, whose "Modern Comfort" quilts are sold at Macy's, is also melding together past and present in her work. She tries to make quilts that you and your grandmother will appreciate. "Quilts have a great history of story telling and function," she says. "They instantly make you feel nostalgic, and I hope that the fun colors and patterns of our quilts remind people of their grandparents -- but also of fresh modern inspirations."

    Denise Schmidt (left) is making quilting feel new again with her modern take on the classic American quilt (right).Photo: Denyse Schmidt Quilts

    At one time quilting guilds were relegated to groups of women sitting around a table in small towns, but now there are resources like the Modern Quilt Guild, an online community for quilters nationwide, and quilting circles like NYCMetroModQuilters, which is bringing a new generation of quilters together in Manhattan. "The whole idea has kind of exploded," says Schmidt. "Now it's all about people sharing their projects and patterns and ideas virtually. It's very interesting to watch this melding of a very traditional craft with today's modern technology."

    Women have expressed themselves through quilting for centuries. In Colonial times, while most women were busy spinning, weaving and making clothing, women of the wealthier class prided themselves on their fine quilting of whole-cloth quilts. Meanwhile, African American women developed their own distinctive style of quilting, known as story quilts. With the industrial revolution came the development of textiles being manufactured on a large scale, making commercial fabrics affordable for almost every family. In 1856, when the Singer company started offering an installment payment plan, nearly everyone could afford a sewing machine, and that brought quilting into even more homes.

    Thinking of taking on the quilting challenge? Schmidt says don't worry too much about color, and don't get hung up about choosing fabrics. "Also, think about starting small," she says. "I think what's most daunting about a quilting project is the scale of it. On a smaller-scale project you'll learn the necessary techniques, but finish more quickly, which is always encouraging."

    Above all else, relax, and enjoy the simplicity of the craft; modern-day quilting is meant to take you away from your Blackberry and iPhone. "Quilts really resonate in a world where we drive through the bank without having to speak to anyone; where we text and email rather than catching up over the phone," says Schmidt. "It's nice to have something that feels like an actual person was behind it - something handmade. It reminds us of our past."

    Two of the colorful quilt sets designed by Angela Adams for Macy's. Photo: Angela Adams


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  • 09/29/10--12:34: The House That Fashion Built
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    Fashion's biggest names are celebrated in a new show house in New York City.

    Imagine your favorite fashion designers' styles transformed into high-style interiors in a luxurious Manhattan high-rise -- that's essentially what the recently opened American Fashion: Designers At The Aldyn is. American Fashion is a show house to benefit the Council of Fashion Designers of America Foundation (CFDA), and it's a doozy of a design destination.

    Inspired by the recent publication of American Fashion Designers at Home (Assouline), which highlights the homes of more than 100 members of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, the CFDA decided to bring the spirit of the book to life at the Aldyn. Interior designers like Jonathan Adler, Jennifer Agus and Kerry Delrose, among others, were each tasked with translating a fashion designer's style into a 3-dimensional living space.

    From rooms inspired by today's top designers, like CFDA president Diane von Furstenberg and Elie Tahari, to spaces that were sparked by fashion legends like Halston, the show house is packed with style.

    Shall we take a peek inside?

    Edith Head RoomThis space is pretty and polished just like designer Edith Head's costumes. Photo: Laura Fenton

    Edith Head by Last Detail
    This navy-walled living room was inspired by Edith Head, a costume designer who worked on more than a thousand films (including a long-time collaboration with Alfred Hitchcock) and dressed nearly every star of her day, including the elegant Grace Kelly. Designer Carey Karlan of Last Detail says she wanted to translate Edith Head's old Hollywood vibe into the present day with luxe upholstery, feminine furnishings and touches of metallic throughout the space.

    Elie Tahari RoomNow this is a bachelor pad we can get on-board with. Photo: Laura Fenton

    Elie Tahari with Malcom James Kutner
    Malcom James Kutner created a mini bachelor pad for Elie Tahari, complete with a bedroom, dressing room and study. Kutner chose the sleek chairs and side table seen in the study above to reflect Tahari's love of mid-century design - natural, but with a sexy, urban edge. The Nan Golden photographs above the chairs and a Bert Stern photograph of Marilyn Monroe in the bedroom were pulled from Tahari's personal collection.

    Jeffrey BanksEat your heart out Ralph Lauren, this plaid's for Jeffrey Banks. Photo: Laura Fenton

    Jeffrey Banks with Jack Levy Design
    When you walk into the two rooms by Jack Levy, inspired by designer Jeffrey Banks, you were assaulted with plaids. However, the plaid-on-plaid-on-plaid is a natural fit for designer Jeffrey Banks, who is known for his classic menswear and is co-author of the book Tartan: Romancing the Plaid (Rizzoli). From plaid garments in the closet to checked upholstery to a bed dressed in four different tartan prints, Levy wasn't shy with his use of pattern. However, Levy manages to make it work by opting for furniture pieces with simple, clean lines; deep-hued wall colors like the green above help ground the mad-for-plaid aesthetic.

    Ceil Chapman RoomDesigner Arden Stephenson discovered she had a personal connection to her chosen designer. Photo: Laura Fenton

    Ceil Chapman by ARDEN Interior Architecture & Design
    When Arden Stephenson of ARDEN Interior Architecture & Design chose Ceil Chapman as her inspiration, she knew nothing about the mid-century dress designer who created frocks for both Gloria Vanderbilt and Marilyn Monroe. However, Stephenson quickly discovered that her own mother had worn a Ceil Chapman dress to her rehearsal dinner (the dress and a photo of Stephenson's mother were both in the room). The luscious fabrics and the feminine details reflect Chapman's style, which is often credited with bringing femininity back to women's fashion in post-war America.

    Claire McCardell RoomThis purple boudoir celebrates a mid-century fashion legend: Claire McCardell. Photo: Laura Fenton

    Claire McCardell by Eric Hilton Ltd.
    Another lesser-known designer who was highlighted at the show house was Claire McCardell, whom Eric Hilton chose for both her personal strength and her contributions to the fashion world. Hilton noted that McCardell was the first woman to graduate from Parson's in 1928; in the 1940s she essentially launched ready-to-wear in the States (our very own Coco Chanel, if you will). Hilton's tribute to McCardell focused on a rich palette of purples that alludes to the mid-century era and subtle nods to her accomplishments as a working woman, including a desk primed for work with an office staple from a bygone time: An ashtray.

    DVF RoomZebra and cheetah together? We're sure DVF approves. Photo: Laura Fenton

    Diane von Furstenberg with Delrose Design Group
    In a few instances, you could enter a room and immediately know for whom it was designed - Diane von Furstenberg's bold loft space was exactly this kind of interior. Designer Kerry Delrose of Delrose Design Group used many of von Furstenberg's signature prints, which appeared on her Rug Company rugs, upholstery from her forthcoming fabric line and bed linens from her bedding collection, which launches in 2011. Delrose even used von Furstenberg's own travel photos as wall art - some snaps from a recent trip to Thailand appear above the sofa.

    Liz Lange RoomWe knew this Liz Lange room was the work of Jonathan Adler at a glance. Photo: Laura Fenton

    Liz Lange with Jonathan Adler
    In a reversal of the instantly recognizable fashion name, the interior designer's hand was readily apparent in Jonathan Adler's room for Liz Lange. The child's room, filled with pieces from Adler's new Jonathan Adler Junior line, was a fitting tribute to Lange, who is known for completely changing the maternity wear industry with her chic designs. Adler and Lange also share a love of all things playful and colorful, as is evidenced by this happy-chic room.

    Nicole Miller roomThe 1960s live on in this study inspired by Nicole Miller. Photo: Laura Fenton

    Nicole Miller with Jennifer Garrigues and Diana El Daher
    Designer Jennifer Garrigues was channeling Carnaby Street of late 1960s London when she designed this mod study. Both Garrigues and Nicole Miller share a fascination of the "swinging sixties," which is the era in which Miller came of age. While heavily influenced by the past, the room also alludes to Miller's own designs, which are feminine and colorful with a bit of a sexy edge.

    Alabama Chanin RoomSalvaged and recycled materials made their way into this tribute to Alabama Chanin. Photo: Laura Fenton

    Alabama Chanin with Agus Interiors
    The minute you discover that this quietly chic room was inspired by Nathalie Chanin and her Alabama Chanin studio, you think, "Of course!" The space reflects Chanin's Southern style and incorporates the same eco-friendly, natural and recycled materials that she uses in her fashion designs. In fact, designer Jen Agus of Agus Interiors even convinced Chanin to share some of her signature recycled t-shirt fabric to upholster a day bed (not shown). While Agus admits she wasn't very familiar with Chanin before their collaboration, Agus has managed to create a pitch-perfect tribute to one of fashion's most unique names.

    We loved this house, but we're also thinking about:

    -How much you can do in the kitchen with a can of paint
    -How clean is your home? Take our quiz
    -Where the best flea markets are


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    Set amid the Colorado Rockies, this historic hotel inspired Stephen King's "The Shining" -- but that's just one of its many ghost stories.

    THE STYLE: Built in 1909 by F.O. Stanley, inventor of the Stanley Steamer, the hotel is a sprawling turn-of-the-century estate set within Estes Park. It's a grand example of Georgian Revival architecture -- particularly in its bell tower, which offers a panoramic view of the surrounding mountains. Inside, the grand staircase has four different types of spindles, each symbolizing one of the four seasons.

    THE GHOSTS: King stayed once in room 217 -- one of the most famous rooms in the hotel -- and encountered ghosts during his visit, including a pair of "spirit children" in a hallway on the fourth floor. The estate's Concert Hall is believed home to two spirits: Lucy, the ghost of a homeless woman who moved into the hotel after arguing with her parents; and Paul, a maintenance man who had a heart attack in 2005 while shoveling snow. Room 401 -- the former nanny's lounge -- is believed haunted by a man who sometimes appears, then opens and closes the doors. Guests have heard Flora Stanley's piano mysteriously playing and sometimes music inexplicably drifts from the MacGregor Ballroom.


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    Some of the prices at this Park Avenue antiques and art show are over the top, but it's still fun to look. Plus, our readers get a discount on admission to the show.

    Last night, the 2010 AVENUE Antiques & Art at the Armory opened its doors for a "first look" preview of more than 60 exhibitors. The show is a collection of art and antiques that span centuries, from the 1700s to the present day, and some of the vendors traveled to New York from as far away as Turkey to display their wares.

    While the prices at this show may be staggering (think four, five and six digits), most people don't come to shop. They come looking for inspiration. Booth after booth features art, furniture and decorative objects that are a feast for the eyes. If you're lucky, one of the knowledgeable dealers might share a nugget or two of information about their particular area. While your humble reporter felt a little out of place amongst the svelte, Upper East siders walking the aisles, she did get a chance to view some very fine art and antiques.

    Here's a quick tour of some exhibitors who caught our eye:

    t Il Segno Del Tempo S.R.L.Il Segno Del Tempo S.R.L.'s booth. Photo: Laura Fenton

    At first glance, the wares at Il Segno Del Tempo S.R.L. seem like the props from one of Tim Burton's more obscure films. But after speaking with Pierre Luigi, one of the owners of Il Segno Del Tempo, I came to realize that each dummy, industrial cog and fake mushroom had a story. The impressive wheels above are actually maquettes of machine parts; a painter would have used the mannequin resting atop.

    Jeff R. Bridgman American AntiquesAmerican flags from Jeff R. Bridgman American Antiques, Ltd. Photo: Laura Fenton

    Jeff R. Bridgman American Antiques, Ltd. held one of the center booths and was adorned almost exclusively in antique American flags. A folk art dealer for many years, Bidgman took an interest in Old Glory and has been collecting, conserving and framing these beauties ever since. According to a representative from Jeff R. Bridgman American Antiques, the flags each have such unique designs because they were often hand-sewn and the American Flag had no set pattern until the 20th century.

    Lynda Willauer Antiques boothLynda Willauer says Swedish art is where the bargains can be had. Photo: Laura Fenton

    Lynda Willauer Antiques from Nantucket, MA filled their booth with a stunning mix of antique porcelain, including an impressive display of Majolica pottery, furniture and art. While I was entranced by the dishes, Willauer called attention to the art on display in her booth, noting that they were showing works of Swedish painters; they are relatively affordable in relation to French, American and English art. But a bargain is all relative, isn't it? The oil of the cows above was listed at $4,400.

    Papillon Gallery boothArt from the 1920s from Papillon Gallery. Photo: Laura Fenton

    The Los Angeles-based Papillon Gallery perked up our painterly interests with a booth filled with School of Paris figurative paintings. The Jozsa Jaritz "Portrait d'Homme," at left, was a standout piece in a space filled with charming and accomplished paintings from the late 19th and early 20th century.

    Yew Tree House AntiquesShips ahoy, matey! This boat's for sale! Photo: Laura Fenton

    You couldn't miss the large-scale model of a clipper ship, which dates from the 1870s, at Yew Tree House Antiques. Mixed in amongst the 17th- and 18th-century antique furnishings were a collection of carved, wooden flying fish from Pitcairn Island, which is where the mutineers from the Mutiny on the Bounty wound up -- the mutineers sold them as souvenirs to visitors on the island from the late 19th century until the 1930s.

    Hamshere Gallery BoothBow wow, WOW: These dog paintings are amazing! Photo: Laura Fenton

    If you happened to be on the hunt for an oil painting of your dog's breed, Hamshere Gallery was ready with a menagerie of breeds painted in handsome hues. Their profusion of hounds should come as no surprise as the gallery bills themselves as "specialists in canine and sporting antiques." While we're partial to rescue mutts from the pound, these purebred stunners won our heart.

    Haynes Fine Art of Broadway boothA rose by another other name. Photo: Laura Fenton

    Haynes Fine Art of Broadway was a source of tasteful oil canvases in gilded frames. We were drawn to two simple paintings form the early 20th century, one by Cecil Kennedy (left) and the other by Harold Clayton (right). Sadly for me, these pretty floral portraits cost more than a bouquet a week for the next ten years.

    Antique American Wicker boothEven the outdoors has its antiques. Photo: Laura Fenton

    Antique American Wicker deals in exactly what you would expect: American-made wicker from decades past. I spied a Park Avenue matron taking a rest in one of the antique rattan chairs - a luxury I wouldn't have dared try out myself.

    ShelterPop Special: 2010 AVENUE Antiques & Art at the Armory is offering ShelterPop readers a 50% discount on tickets to Antiques and Art at the Armory, located at the Park Avenue Armory, 643 Park Avenue, New York, New York.

    Antiques & Art at the Armory Show Hours:

    Thursday, September 30 11:00 am-7:30 pm
    Friday, October 1 11:00 am-7:30 pm
    Saturday, October 2 11:00 am-7:30 pm
    Sunday, October 3 11:00 am-5:30 pm

    Mention discount code DBLOG to receive 50% off the $20 entry fee. Tickets can be purchased at


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    A high-end Miami realtor upgrades her 1930s-era kitchen to look more like the glamorous properties she sells.

    Colin McGuire for AOL

    The song of shame played on and on in her head: "You sell houses and just look at your kitchen!" Though Esther Percal's home was delightfully Old Florida, her kitchen was dreadfully outdated, cramped and stingy on storage. It seemed ironic that Esther -- a savvy Miami realtor, partner in the posh vintage modern shop Las Tias and consummate dinner party host -- had such a lackluster kitchen.

    The house was built in 1930 by Miami architect Russell Pancoast, and is a prime example of historic Mediterranean Revival architecture. Among the desirable features original to the house -- cathedral beamed ceilings, colorful Malibu tiles and a wraparound patio of Florida keystone,a natural stone cut from coral. The one downfall was a tiny kitchen divided in two parts -- a poorly functioning work area and a claustrophobic butler's pantry.

    Esther moved into this home 20 years ago, and was finally ready to take on the renovation fifteen years later. Her goal was to design a new kitchen that "felt original and respectful to the architectural style of the house." She had gleaned many decorating ideas from some of the million-dollar properties she sold and adapted some of these to her 180-square-foot kitchen. She wanted to open up the space and was adamant about including a variety of surfaces, colors and a gas stove. She traded her $400 scratch-n-dent Sears stove up for a Viking. To this day Esther, a passionate cook, has only kind words to say about the humbler one.

    The re-do took a little over six months to complete. She moved out during the process, returning to a transformed space that functions terrifically and looks swell. With much of the butler pantry now converted to a wet bar, Esther needed to create alternative storage. She utilized the high proportions of the room and built tall cabinets. She relegated unaesthetic items such as foodstuffs, spices and small appliances behind solid doors. She used glass and chicken wire-faced cabinets to show off prettier things like swanky barware and antique china.

    Esther's housemates are Pearl, a fluffy Samoyed, and Caramelo, a golden retriever/Samoyed mix. Seydie, her housekeeper of fifteen years, is also around most days. After hours of showing properties and/or minding the store, Esther winds down by exercising her culinary skills. These days when friends come, she warmly welcomes them into her kitchen. Of course, having the bar tucked just inside, is an added bonus.


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  • 10/02/10--00:07: A View With a Room
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    You can visit a lighthouse on your next vacation, or you can sleep in one. We choose the latter.

    Given the opportunity, would you stay overnight in a hotel that was a lighthouse? Yep, we would too. With their long-running tradition of guiding ships through the night for more than two centuries, American lighthouses offer a unique experience for visitors, complete with historic appeal, stunning surroundings -- even a murder mystery or two!

    "Most of our guests come to experience the history of the lighthouse or because they're on a quest to see as many lighthouses as possible," says Jeff and Linda Gamble, the owners of the Big Bay Lighthouse Bed & Breakfast in Big Bay, Michigan. "But some make the trip simply because of the movie 'Anatomy of a Murder,' which was filmed in the area." Leave it to Jimmy Stewart to draw crowds to a tiny Michigan town from as far away as Singapore and South America!

    But lighthouses draw us in for another reason -- they give us a strong sense of place and fuel the imagination. They're also just a really cool place to spend a night.

    A shot of the exterior of the Big Bay Point Lighthouse. Photo: Larry Myhre, Flickr

    "Sturdily built, lighthouses provide the comforts of home in an otherwise inhospitable location," says Patrick Landewe, another lighthouse keeper, living at the Saugerties Lighthouse overlooking the Hudson River in Saugerties, New York. "Staying overnight at a lighthouse fulfills fantasies that many people have about the life of the lighthouse keeper."

    Lucky for us, there is an impressive number of lighthouse hotels peppering the country's coastlines, so you can stay in one too. Here, we round up some of our favorite lighthouse hotels.

    1. Big Bay Point Lighthouse (above)
    Located along the shoreline of Lake Superior in Big Bay, Michigan, this red-brick lighthouse has guided sailors for more than a century. The romantic hotel features seven guest rooms with their own private bathrooms, a common living room, library and even a sauna. Guests at Big Bay Point enjoy all of the conveniences of a modern atmosphere, with the exception of individual televisions and phones, and have access to the 120-foot-tall lighthouse lantern where they can admire the surrounding forests. Here, you can ski, snowshoe, hike or simply sit before the fireplace in the living room and enjoy the quiet. Rates range from $137 to $209 for the largest rooms, which come complete with gas fireplaces.

    Pigeon Point Lighthouse in Pescadero, California. Photo: rkramer62, Flickr

    2. Pigeon Point Lighthouse
    In case you needed another reason to visit northern California, here's one: the lighthouse at Pigeon's Point. It's nothing short of breathtaking. Perched at the top of a 35-foot ocean cliff in Pescadero, California (fifty miles south of San Francisco), the Pigeon Point Lighthouse is one of the tallest in the nation, standing at 115 feet. Although the tower has been closed since 2002, the oceanside views are reason enough to make the trip. Plus, the four Coast Guard family houses on the property provide hostel-style accommodations for budget-minded travelers, so it's light on the pocketbook, too. Shared rooms are set up like gender-specific dorms, but you do have the option to pay for a private room. The common areas include a lounge area; outdoor patio with a barbecue; a fire pit with Adirondack chairs; and three self-service kitchens where guests can cook and eat their own meals. Rates range from $23 for shared rooms (childrens' rates are less), to $111 for a private family-style room.

    Heceta Head Lighthouse is on the coast of Oregon. Photo: puliarf, Flickr

    3. Heceta Head Lighthouse
    A prominent point on the west coast since 1894, the Heceta Head Lighthouse stands 205 feet tall and creates a beam of light visible from up to 21 miles off shore -- the brightest light on Oregon's coast. The old Keeper's House-turned-bed and breakfast welcomes tourists year round. But beware of the Lady in Gray, the ghost of a mother who allegedly walks the lighthouse's halls searching for her daughter who supposedly drowned in the local estuary. This romantic B&B features six bedrooms boasting cozy down comforters, antique furnishings and complimentary robes. Amenities include a fully equipped guest kitchen; intimate parlors with gorgeous ocean views and fireplaces; and a fenced lawn for croquet or bocci ball. Rates range from TK.

    Stay on an island in San Francisco Bay at East Brother Light Station. Photo: Telstar Logistics, Flickr

    4. East Brother Light Station
    When visiting the East Brother Light Station, getting there is half the fun. You have to take a private boat to a small island in the San Francisco Bay. Once you arrive, you'll be welcomed with a champagne reception and a tour of the island, where you'll learn about the lighthouse's 136-year history while taking in stunning views of the San Francisco skyline. Accommodations include five uniquely decorated bedrooms (four of which are in the actual lighthouse tower) that are all named for their different view. Visitors also have access to the tower's lantern room and widow's walk, which offers 360-degree views of the bay. Rates range from $295 to $415 per night.

    At Saugerties Lighthouse in Saugerties, New York, you can look out on views of the Hudson River. Photo: O's World of Photos, Flickr

    5. Saugerties Lighthouse
    At first, the Saugerties Lighthouse may look less than impressive. Located on a man-made stone island, the lighthouse can only be accessed one way: by walking a half-mile trail that floods at high tide. But, once you're there, we promise it will be worth the trip. Offering views of the Hudson River and the Catskills, the picturesque hotel offers access to the light tower year-round for its guests. The B&B includes two cozy upstairs bedrooms with a shared first-floor bathroom. Breakfast is provided for visitors, but you'll have the opportunity to enjoy the local restaurants for lunch and dinner. Or take advantage of the inn's kitchen and make a meal to enjoy in the comfort of your private bedroom. Rates start at $200 per night.

    Browns Point Light Station is in the Puget Sound. Photo: Ian Agrimis, Flickr

    6. Browns Point Light Station
    Taking a turn from the traditional lighthouse style, this unique art deco-style structure was completed in the 1930s and is still operated by the Coast Guard in Puget Sound. Visitors sleep in the lightkeeper's cottage, but it's not all rest and relaxation at Browns Point -- renters are asked to help raise the flag, keep a log of visitors and open the facilities to tourists for a few hours on Saturdays. Although the lighthouse itself is closed to the public, you can head down to the basement of the cottage to explore the hands-on museum or ring the original 1903 fog bell in the pump house. Accommodations include three bedrooms with a shared bathroom; a kitchen; living room and music parlor, all furnished with antique decor. Rates range from $124 a night, and $500 to $800 for weekly rentals.

    Looking for more unique accommodations?
    Take a look at the UK's sexiest airport hotel!
    Or find out which hotel chains go the extra mile when it comes to guest fitness.


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    In 1892, a woman named Kate Morgan checked into the Hotel Del Coronado... and never checked out.

    THE STYLE: This beachfront hotel in Coronado, Calif., built in 1888 in the Queen Anne style, features Victorian-type turrets and towers, as well as striking red roofs. Its famous Crown Room features an Oregon sugar pine ceiling and crown-shaped chandeliers designed by L. Frank Baum, who wrote the Wizard of Oz books.

    THE GHOST: The hotel's most infamous room once hosted Kate Morgan, a beautiful and mysterious woman who committed suicide while staying at the hotel in November 1892. Nearly a century and a quarter later, guests who stay in Kate's room still report paranormal activity, such as inexplicable breezes and noises, glasses suddenly breaking, or covers ripped off the bed in the night. The gift shop, established in 1888, is also a nexus of ghostly occurrences. Merchandise has been seen falling -- and in some cases, flying -- off the shelves.

    Now that you have Halloween on the brain...

    Check out these pumpkin projects
    See how Halloween's bouncing back from the recession!


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  • 10/02/10--09:21: Weekly Link Love
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    Inspiration from celebrity outfits, a peek at the Palin house and scrabble furniture...What we're lusting over in the blogosphere this week.

    6th Street Design SchoolLoving this inspiration board! Photo: 6th Street Design School

    Don't call us nosy, but we love sneaking peeks at other people's offices. And Kirsten's is so bright and fun, we kind of want to bring our laptops over to Utah and work from there. [6th Street Design School]

    Heather wrote about Jeremiah Goodman's stunning interior paintings -- and then got to meet the man himself! Our favorite chic coincidence: They both live on the 18th floor of their buildings! [Habitually Chic]

    A good reminder that there's more than one way to say "Home sweet home". [Apartment Therapy]

    What good eyes she has! Sheri spies an interesting decor element in Sarah Palin's Home: A moose lightswitch cover. Hm. See the other things she noticed. [The Stir]

    A cheerful, sophisticated illustration by Caitlin McGauley reminds us that orange goes with florals, leopard and just about everything else we love. [Lonny]

    Juliette Lewis: Decor icon? OK, maybe not to the untrained eye but the Casa gals built an eclectic, adorable room around a dress the actress wore. [CasaSugar]

    Have you seen the very manly Esquire Home Collection? Sarah takes a good hard look and comes up with the ten commandments of masculine style. "Though shall only travel with brown -- preferably leather -- accoutrements." [Curbed]

    What better way to remind yourself that everything is going to be OK than with this lovely print? [The Frisky]

    Joy and Janet poke fun at the Scrabble furniture, but we'll admit: We're jealous. [the mogg blogg]

    This handmade party makes us want to...OK, you guessed it, throw a rockin' handmade party. Want to come? Happy weekend! [poppytalk]


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    Why not dress up the trash? We're giving away an adorable wastebasket!

    Jolie Novak, AOL

    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 Macbeth Collection wastebasket in the adorable Capri Monaco print. At 12" tall, it's the perfect height to slide under your desk for a little oh-hello-there! when you lean down to toss old papers. Or, tuck it in the bathroom corner to add some bright orange and paisley to a room that's otherwise usually pretty white. We can't promise that it will make taking out the trash more enjoyable, or that you'll be more likely to toss out more of the gum wrappers at the bottom of your purse, but we will say this: We've never smiled at a plain black trashcan, but this cutie makes us grin.

    To enter, tell us: What's your favorite decluttering tip? Or if you can't wait to win, you can buy an identical wastebasket directly from Macbeth Collection -- and even get it personalized!

    * To enter, leave a confirmed comment below telling us your favorite decluttering tip.
    * The comment must be left before 5pm EST on Friday, October 8, 2010.
    * You may enter only once.
    * One winner will be selected in a random drawing.
    * One winner will receive a Macbeth Collection waste basket (valued at $52.)
    * 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!

    Looking for more giveaways? AOL Health is giving away USANA nutrition bars and energy drinks!


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    Who says you can't resuscitate a color-deprived living room in a day? We've got some living room color ideas that will only take a little time -- and ingenuity.

    Take a look around your living room. Are you a bit...underwhelmed? Chances are, all the room needs is a quick pick-me-up to regain its this-is-the-room-I'm-proudest-of-please-sit-and-stay-awhile status. And adding color is arguably the quickest and most cost effective way to give your living room the boost it deserves.

    Just check out this room featured on Apartment Therapy -- full of living room color ideas. Nearly all of the color was incorporated through the use of vibrant accessories -- the rug, the wall art, the knick-knacks. Isn't that something you could do in a day? Why, yes.

    We spoke with decorator extraordinaire Eddie Ross about how to incorporate a few living room color ideas into your space, and he gave us five ingenious ideas. Read on for his juicy trade secrets.

    1. Intensify artwork
    Weary of color? No need to go all out for significant impact. Eddie often swaps out staid, white picture frame mats for brightly-hued stunners like an 11-inch by 14-inch pre-cut mat (for an 8 x 10 print) in deep yellow or china red from GoldenStateArt. "Colored mats add sophisticated, understated pops," he says. "You'll find so many fun options that nicely complement something simple -- like a bright turquoise mat for a black-and-white etching -- on a quick trip to Hobby Lobby or Michaels."

    2. Embellish window treatments

    A little ribbon goes a long way. "To add color quickly and inexpensively, buy a yard or two of grosgrain trim from a store like M&J Trimming, and attach it to the bottom edges of existing drapes," says Eddie. "It's a really luxe-looking upgrade and a trick lots of designers use." Use Dritz's Stitch Witchery bonding tape ($3 for 20 yards) to get the job done fast; the heat of an iron is all you'll need to permanently unite two fabrics.

    3. Transform lampshades
    Blah white shades are a dime a dozen. Instead of keeping yours status quo, Eddie suggests buying an affordable cotton shade, like IKEA's Asele ($15), and coating it with latex, spray paint or pretty paper (with spray adhesive). "Pull a vibrant color from the carpet or walls," suggests Eddie. "A black lampshade would look so chic with a Kelly green-painted interior." You might consider adding spray-mounted paper borders along the top and bottom edges for added color and a high-end decorator feel. Eddie shops The Accessory Store for a wider selection of shades and lighting supplies.

    4. Adorn flat surfaces

    One of Eddie's tried and true stylists' secrets involves sprucing up unassuming coffee or end tables. Measure the length and width of each table and order a piece of tempered glass, cut to size, from a professional glasscutter. "People always think it's so expensive, but that's only when you're talking beveled edges and special detailing," he says. OneDayGlass charges about $28 for a clear tempered-glass 2 ½ foot-by-1 ½ foot pane with a standard-seamed edge. From there, you can either create a stunning back-painted glass effect by spray painting just one side of the pane, or simply slide a yard of graphic fabric underneath for a quicker boost. Sharon's Antiques Vintage Fabrics sells kitschy geometrics and 1950s and '60s prints for a song -- from $18 a yard. Eddie puts clear adhesive protector-tabs (about $2 for 20), like the ones found at FactoryDirectCraft, on each corner to ensure glass stays put and doesn't scratch.

    5. Brighten the ceiling
    Sure, anyone can slap a few coats of latex on the walls (or furniture) and call it a day, but there's something much more satisfying -- and clever -- about a room that reserves paint for accents rather than focal points. Eddie likes to save gentle bursts of color for ceilings: "In an all-white room, a very slight tea green, robin's egg blue or pale purple-y orchid color would look just beautiful on the ceiling -- it's using paint in a different way, and it's so unexpected."

    Need more decorating advice? Check out our Decorating Styles 101 series. Or see Lemondrop's take on shabby-chic decorating.


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    A Southern plantation that inspired two centuries of ghost stories: No wonder it's considered one of the most haunted homes in America.

    THE STYLE: The Myrtles was built in 1796 by General David Bradford, leader of the Whisky Rebellion. It was designed in Southern Antebellum style, with neo-classical features and a 120-foot veranda. The 20-room mansion has ornamental ironwork outside and plaster friezes made of clay, Spanish moss and animal hair. The Stirlings, the third family to own the house, added distinctive touches that aimed to keep spirits away, such as French cross glasswork in the doorways and upside-down keyholes.

    THE GHOSTS: The most famous of the Myrtles' many ghost stories is that of Chloe, a slave rumored to be the mistress of the house's second owner, Judge Clark Woodruff. As the story goes, Chloe's earlobe was cut off after she was caught listening to the family's personal business. Enraged, she cooked poisonous oleander leaves into a birthday cake for his oldest daughter. The tainted cake killed two of his children and his wife, Sara. The three Woodruffs, and Chloe, are among the ghosts believed to haunt the mansion. Two generations later, in 1871, William Winter was shot in the chest and died in the house in his wife's arms. Guests still report hearing a woman's voice cry for him at night.

    Now that you have Halloween on the brain...
    Check out these pumpkin projects
    See how Halloween's bouncing back from the recession!


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    What's better than browsing a Gilt sale? Shopping one that's curated by ShelterPop!

    We're so proud and excited to announce that this Wednesday, October 6 at noon EST, the ShelterPop-curated Gilt sale will go live. But you'll want to move fast -- the online sale only lasts through Saturday, October 9 at midnight (or until items sell out)!

    Not familiar with Gilt? It's an invitation-only flash sale website that sells luxury brands at major discounts. If you're not a member, you can sign up today before the sale and get a $10 credit toward your first purchase.

    ShelterPop Gilt SalePhotos: Gilt. Illustration: Jolie Novak, AOL

    For ShelterPop's Gilt sale, we hand-picked retro-chic bedroom décor that fits in with our motto: Happy homes make happy people. You'll see SP's bright and friendly logo on the Gilt sale page and know that we stand behind these products. And yes, we'll be shopping the sale, too. That ottoman is calling out to us...

    Check back on Wednesday and Thursday -- we'll show you how to decorate with some of the products in the sale. Plus, a dozen of our favorite bloggers will also give their personal takes on the pieces.

    Want more about Gilt? Our sister sites StyleList and Luxist have all the latest news.


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  • 10/05/10--09:34: Learning to Love Clutter
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    One writer learns to accept that clutter in her home is evidence of a life well lived.

    I love flipping through the pages of design magazines and imagining life in a space so perfect. Gleaming granite countertops accented with a bowl of lemons and limes, sofas with pillows placed just right and coffee tables perfectly stacked with magazines, topped with a single paperweight.

    clutterJodi Helmer

    I tried to make my home look that way, too. I fluffed the throw pillows and arranged them with care. I dusted the coffee table and stacked the magazines. I didn't have lemons or limes to fill a glass bowl (come to think of it, I don't own a glass bowl), but I cleared the dish rack, stack of mail, dog treats and water bottles from the kitchen counter. The house looked good. With a fresh coat of paint, a few pieces of designer furniture and a bunch of fresh flowers, it might have made a decent shot for a magazine.

    The perfection lasted for five minutes.

    The mail was delivered, and I dropped it on the kitchen counter. I sat on the sofa, messing up the pillows. I picked up magazines and tossed them back in a haphazard pile. I made dinner and left the dishes in the sink.

    I tried using wicker baskets to contain the detritus. I cut back on magazine subscriptions. I bought books on organization and clutter-free living. Nothing worked.

    Life happened, and with it came clutter. Or so it seemed.

    I needed a break from the battle. While the magazines and mail multiplied like dust bunnies, I went on vacation.

    One afternoon, while I was sitting on the deck of my childhood home with my parents, I offered to show them some photos of the grand-dogs, a recent vacation and the new home they have not yet visited. After looking at a few photos, my mom exclaimed, "It's cute and bright...but it's so bare!"

    clutterThe grand-dog, at play. Photo: Jodi Helmer

    I looked at the picture and saw the stack of mail tucked between the trio of flowerpots on the kitchen island and the dog toys strewn across the living room floor. It didn't look bare to me.

    But my mom didn't see the clutter. She noticed that there were no photos on the fireplace mantle. She thought the kitchen countertops were too bare and it bothered her that the gorgeous hand-carved bowl on the dining room table had nothing in it. To my mom, it looked like a house in a magazine, not the place where her daughter lived. She looked at the rooms but didn't see traces of me in them.

    And then I showed her photos of my office.

    "This room looks like it belongs in your house," she said.

    I took a long look at the photo. There were notebooks and papers stacked on the desk, snapshots and cards were tacked all over the corkboard, books were piled in haphazard stacks that threatened to spill out of the bookcase and each wall was covered in art. The room was full.

    I asked my mom why she thought the most cluttered room in the house looked the most like me.

    "It's colorful. I see all of the things you love in there -- pictures of family and friends, art you've collected on your travels, stacks of books, toys that belong to the dogs...It's the one room that looks lived in."

    She had a point: The room wasn't just full, it was also the place where I felt most fulfilled.

    Then it struck me: There is a reason that I do my best work in that space. What I consider clutter isn't clutter at all -- it's a collection of pieces that tell my stories and reveal what is most important to me. The rest of the house could belong to anyone but there was no question that the office was mine.

    It was then that I understood that the things I'd seen as clutter in my childhood home -- the worn cigar box that belonged to my grandfather, a collection of stuffed animals my sister and I loved as kids, ceramic plates and a plastic coin bank -- were the things my mom saved because they told our family stories. As much as I hated to admit it, my mom was right: There is nothing special about a picture perfect room; it's the things we put in those rooms -- the photos, souvenirs and books -- that make a house a home.

    When I returned home later that week, I decided to embrace the clutter. The stuffed squeakers and tennis balls on the living room floor are a reminder to take a break for a game of fetch with the dogs. The cards and invitations that pile up on the kitchen counter are evidence of good times with good friends. And the books and magazines are part occupational hazard and part passion for an afternoon spent reading.

    If the evidence of a life well-lived is in the clutter, I can learn to love it. Thanks, mom.

    Jodi Helmer is the author of The Green Year: 365 Small Things You Can Do to Make a Big Difference.

    Still have clutter on the brain? Check out these great stories from other AOL sites!
    Corral Your Clutter with Wire Shelving Systems

    Clutter Cleaner Tips and News


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    As the mid-century modern revival hits its stride, the best motels across the country are making a stylish comeback -- thanks to some forward-thinking designers.

    Before airline travel was so accessible, families hit the road when it was time for a vacation. Catering to huge numbers of car travelers in the 50s and 60s, restaurants and quirky roadside attractions sprouted up along a newly connected interstate highway system. Everyone needed a place to sleep, and the "motel" was born -- inexpensive, short-term accommodations designed expressly for the traveling motorist.

    best motels postcard innPhoto: Courtesy of The Postcard Inn

    The one- or two-story block-style buildings, with guestroom doors looking over the motel's parking lot, were remarkably useful during the American road trip's heyday. But as the average American joined the jet-set, road trips took a back seat to resort vacations, and many of these mid-century structures were literally left on the side of the road.

    Today, with relatively stable gas prices, the hassle of airline travel and our general tendency to revisit old pastimes, the Great American Road Trip is back. And in tandem with this motoring trend, dilapidated, woebegone motels are getting some fresh face lifts, making way for some of the best motels we've seen.

    "We've seen more young people taking road trips in the past year than ever before," says Doug Kirby, founder of Roadside America. "They share their roadside discoveries and pictures on the web and with their iPhones," he explains, so the popularity of the road trip just keeps on growing.

    Since American road warriors are the new leisure class, there is a breed of boutique motels that have popped up to meet the needs of the sophisticated car traveler. Think: luxurious trimmings, modern hospitality and a commitment to the preservation of the motel's mid-century charm. Let's take a tour of the best motels, shall we?

    best motels the jupiterThe Jupiter is on the edge of downtown Portland, Oregon. Photos: Courtesy of The Jupiter

    The Jupiter, Portland, OR

    A speakeasy called "Sam's Hideaway" once sat on the edge of Portland's downtown area, catering to a handful of local politicians, "with an emphasis on 'discreet'." Next door to Sam's was a seedy motel, so you can imagine both establishments shared a decidedly salacious heyday. When Kelsey Bunker and Tod Breslau, a lawyer and restaurateur, respectively, discovered the motel in the earlier part of this decade, it had long been in a sad state.

    The two business partners worked with local designers, Skylab, and used the motel's original structure to create what is now a party-centric destination for Portland visitors, and a laid-back hangout for locals.

    The 80-room Jupiter pairs clean, minimalist design with splashes of color, and the original parking lot has been transformed into the bamboo-edged "Dream Tent" space, with removable ceiling panels, greenery, loveseats and free WiFi. As for Sam's Hideaway, it's now the Doug Fir Lounge, which pays decorative homage to the Pacific Northwest's forests and serves as a sleek space for live music and Saturday night revelry.

    best motels the postcardThe Postcard Inn, St. Pete Beach, Florida. Photos: Courtesy of The Postcard Inn.

    The Postcard Inn, St. Pete Beach, FL

    When B.R. Guest Restaurants took over an old Travelodge from 1957, they didn't touch any of the building's architecture, but they did raise a ceiling or two to create a bright, airy, surf-themed guest experience at The Postcard Inn On The Beach.

    "It's definitely a more laid-back atmosphere than you'll find at other motels in the area -- the kind of places where the bedspreads in the rooms are the same floral fabric as the curtains," says designer Tara Oxley.

    Oxley was inspired by the local surfing community in St. Pete Beach and worked with local surf photographers to curate the inn's art collection. She also sourced furnishings and décor from local designers as much as she could. All of the genuine mid-century lamps in the rooms and common areas, like the lobby and library, came from Janet's and the Wagon Wheel, two thrift stores in town.

    best motels the acePhotos: Courtesy of The Ace Hotel.

    The Ace Hotel, Palm Springs

    This rundown, 60s-era motel in Palm Springs shared a block of land with a Denny's restaurant and a local dive bar called The Amigo Room before the Ace Hotel group transformed the grounds and turned it into their newest location.

    Now it's more like a resort than a motel, but the The Ace Hotel & Swim Club (a giant pool has been installed in its old parking lot) has tons of original mid-century pieces punctuating its clean and modern redesign. An original terrazzo floor was unearthed when they stripped the diner's linoleum floors, so they shined it up and kept it where it was. And the original vinyl booths -- they're now reupholstered with leather. The refurbished Amigo Room is now the hotel's bar, and since it's been a mainstay watering hole in the area for years, you're likely to see a real local ranch hand saddle up beside you while you're sipping a Kiwi Caphirina at the bar.

    best motels the thunderbirdPhotos: Courtesy of The Thunder Bird.

    The Thunder Bird in Marfa, TX

    As Marfa, Texas becomes one of the country's most important arts and cultural epicenters, it makes sense that one of its older motels would get a careful and stylish redesign.

    This horseshoe-shaped structure is all about light, air and privacy. Original touches like handmade textiles and an international collection of art add warmth and coziness to an otherwise stark and minimal concrete and wood structure. Functional vintage pieces like record players in the rooms, a "vinyl library" and old typewriters pay heed to its mid-century roots, while the cowhide rugs and locally-sourced pecan wood furniture add authentic Texan anchors to its ambiance.

    Here's another mid-century modern motel that has us drooling -- Acapulco's Hotel Boca Chica.

    And now that you've got motels on the brain, check out these great stories from other AOL sites:
    Confessions of a Motel Maid
    It's Time to Reconsider Motel 6


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