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    Beach-chic decor isn't just for summer. Here's how to decorate with the style all year long.

    As summer fades and warm weather turns crisp, many of us turn to heavier fabrics, deeper colors and darker woods to keep us cozy at home. But coastal style is becoming increasingly popular as a year-round decorating style, and if it's the style you prefer, it's a fairly simple one to achieve.

    Of course, there are many different ways to achieve the look. There's the "classic" beach cottage style, which has an ultra casual feel. The super modern beach retreat -- think Miami Beach modernism. And then there's something in the middle, a look we like to call modern coastal, or beach chic.

    beach chicWide-planked floors and solid linen upholstery are just a couple must-haves for the Coastal Chic look. A no-no? Covering your space with an abundance of shells and other beach finds. A few assorted vases serving as a sculpture-like display, like this one, are all it takes. Photo: Tim Clarke Interior Design

    This style takes the casual air of the classic beach cottage and merges it with a more refined, higher-end aesthetic -- without being too minimal or overly modern. Interior designer Tim Clarke, a Santa Monica-based designer whose work has appeared in Coastal Living, In Style and House Beautiful, is the master of this look. "I love how easy it is to live in the relaxed elegance of these interiors," he says. "They provide a break from the stresses of today's fast-paced lifestyle in an oasis that fosters togetherness and warmth without sacrificing modernity and style." (And many of his clients -- Sally Field, Matthew Perry, Ben Stiller and Portia de Rossi, to name a few -- turn to Clarke to achieve just that.)

    So if you're not his typical wealthy or celeb clientele, how can you make the look your own? Just follow this mini lesson in modern coastal style:

    beach chicKeep bright colors at bay (pun intended). Have your color palette be inspired by sand and sea, then add in a mixture of new and found objects for that "effortless" look. Photo: Tim Clarke Interior Design

    Clarke would define coastal chic as borrowed from the clean lines and well-thought-out simplicity of modern design but softened with organic shapes and textures. Expect vintage pieces, locally-sourced materials and objects and a soothing, muted color palette inspired by the colors of the beach and sea.

    Typical Beach Chic People: Laid back, easy going, young families with a variety of interests, from sports to art. They're active people who love being outside and who enjoy the company of good friends and family.

    How to Get the Look: Juxtapose sleek organic textures and time-worn antiques with high-style modern. Anchor rooms with solid neutral, natural fiber upholstery in pure classic forms, layered with an eclectic mix of vintage fabric pillows and hand-printed linen. Walls should be painted a chalky, matte-finish in neutral colors inspired by nature. Bring in interesting one-of-a kind found objects as accessories and vintage lighting. And fill spaces with collections of photography, paintings and drawings -- some expensive and well-known and some local (unknown and affordable) artists all hung together on a wall.

    beach chicMuted colors are common in Clarke's interiors -- but they're far from boring. He adds interest by weaving in natural elements, shapely objects and subtle pops of nature-inspired color. Photo: Tim Clarke Interior Design

    Must-Haves: A chunky woven abaca rug on a wide-plank french oak floor and horizontal, matte-painted tongue and groove paneled walls. Washed Belgian linen-covered upholstery in solid colors with a slick painted coffee table and a few organic printed pillows. Then toss in a few shells chosen for their individual beauty and display them as sculptures.

    Massive amounts of shells all over the place, like they were purchased in bulk! And too many beach-themed decorative pieces, like faux-painted framed signs that say "To The Beach" or "Beach House" in coordinated colors. Also stay away from items that are overly nautical or red-white-and-blue, as well as Caribbean-inspired color schemes.

    Looking for more design inspiration? Check out our Decorating Styles 101 series:
    -Decorating Styles 101: Equestrian Style
    -Decorating Styles 101: Cowboy Chic

    Still have beaches on the brain? Check out these great pieces from other AOL sites:
    America's Best Beach TownsDIY Design: How to Make a Beach Bag


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    In honor of the ultra-chic patterned bedding in the ShelterPop-curated Gilt sale, we're showing you how to create a room around eye-catching sheets and duvets.

    Patterned BeddingGilt / AOL

    Patterned bedding is one of the easiest ways to create a personalized, fun bedroom. But what about the rest of the pieces in the room? Inspired by the dreamy, patterned bedding in our Gilt sale (where all the items in the above image are available!), we asked Sarasota, FL-based interior designer Lindsay Milner of A Design Story for some ideas on keeping a room from getting too overwhelming.

    -Keep the rest solid: "Don't let all be patterned bedding -- throw in some solid sheets and throw pillows to ground your comforter. This is an easy way to tone things down right away."

    -Consider an opposing pattern: "With patterned bedding, your bed becomes a focal point. So be cognizant of other patterns and colors you place around the room. If you have striped bedding, add in polka dots, flowers or other geometric patterns into the space. Better to be interesting than matchy-matchy."

    -Want more pattern? Keep it small: "Rugs and drapes should be neutral or in a delicate pattern."

    -Stay within the color family: "If you're going to add in other patterned items, see that they have similar colors, and focus on accessories like window shades, artwork and throw blankets."

    As for those products above -- you can find them at the ShelterPop-curated Gilt sale, which lasts from Wednesday, October 6 at noon to Saturday, October 9 at midnight.

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

    ShelterPop Gilt SaleThe so-stylish logos of some of our favorite bloggers.

    See what these bloggers have to say about the ShelterPop + Gilt sale!

    The ladies of Rue Magazine -- Design Love Fest, The City Sage, Plush Palate, Live Creating Yourself and Sacramento Street.

    Apartment 34

    Design Blahg

    So Haute

    Effortless Style


    Haven & Home

    The Adventures of Tartanscot / Scot Meacham Wood Design

    The Neo-Traditionalist

    And check back later for more...


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  • 10/06/10--12:16: Can I Borrow Your Address?
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    With a house swap, you can "try on" a different home (and parachute into another life) for a week.

    For Nicole Frank, exchanging homes is something of a family tradition. After her first house swap experience when she was eight years old (she got to visit Colonial Williamsburg, while another family stayed at her family's country house in Connecticut), Nicole has continued to swap houses as an adult, listing her one-bedroom Manhattan apartment on online house swap club,, regularly.

    "My mother was an actress and toured the United States for four years as a cast member in 'The Sound of Music,'" says Nicole, the mother of two young children. "Sleeping in an endless string of hotel rooms and having to eat every meal in a restaurant really started to get to her, so I began arranging homes for her to stay in for every town she visited."

    house swapChannel your inner movie star at this Malibu home. Photo:

    Suddenly, Nicole explains, her mother felt like she had a real home, complete with a kitchen, laundry facilities and often use of the home exchangers' car. "After I visited some of the gorgeous homes she used for free and met a few of the kind people she swapped with, I started to get into house swapping myself," says Nicole, who has since done more than 50 swaps, including a six-week European tour for her honeymoon. "In that time we never spent a single Euro on hotels. Instead, we used swap homes for one to three weeks per city."

    Eventually Nicole started her own home exchange blog, Nicole I. Frank's Home Exchange Travels, as an outlet to share her advice about swapping homes through popular web sites, like, which was featured in the 2006 romantic comedy "The Holiday." But the way house swapping is portrayed in the movie -- a spontaneous arrangement by two people desperate for a last minute vacation -- is a bit different than real life. "It often takes several weeks or months to iron out the details and agree to swap homes," says Nicole, which is why most people's initial hesitations about home exchanging are usually resolved early on.

    A snapshot of the kitchen in Nicole's NYC apartment. Photo:

    "By the time you have searched, selected, contacted and communicated with your exchange partner, they have become someone you know and trust long before you actually exchange homes," says Keghan Hurst, director of PR and marketing for

    Here's how it works: According to, you simply click on the country or state where you want to visit, take a look at the available listings and pick one that looks appealing. From there, you can send a privacy-protected email to the listing directly from the site, so the details are worked out privately between you and the listing party.

    Of course, if you want to list your own home, you'll get inquiries from members all around the world. For most sites, there is a monthly or annual fee to list your home.

    Keep in mind that less-than-perfect experiences may come with the territory. "Once I didn't get interior photos of an apartment in Paris, and when I arrived I found it was someone's 1980's-style bachelor pad," says Nicole. "It was clean, but it had tired shag carpet, a saggy futon and icky burlap wallpaper. It was functional but pretty depressing."

    Then again, with some searching, you might find your dream apartment in, say, San Francisco or Auckland.

    You can swap your home for this cute-as-a-button English cottage in Devon, England. Photo:

    For successful swaps, provides plenty of tips on their FAQ page, but the most important tip is a basic one: Do your homework before swapping your house with a stranger. "Good communication can minimize misplaced expectations," says Keghan. And for some added help, even has templates on their site of contracts and agreement letters to map out the terms of your house swap agreement. Home exchange insurance is also available through

    Says Nicole: "It's much more interesting to live the way people really live in the places you visit. I'd much rather be in an adobe house in the Southwest or a Victorian house in San Francisco than a hotel room that is identical in both places."

    house swapYes, this Brazil condo could be yours -- views and all. Photo:

    Have you ever exchanged homes? Are you interested? Share your thoughts with us on Facebook.

    Looking for more info on house swaps (or other swaps)? Check out these great stories from other AOL sites:
    House-Swapping for Vacations (or please pass the 600-count sheets)
    How to Host a Sip 'n' Swap Party

    Swap This: Top 5 Sites For Bartering
    Seed Swap!


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    In honor of the classic solid bedding in the ShelterPop-curated Gilt sale, we're showing you how to create a room around solid sheets and duvets.

    Solid BeddingGilt / AOL

    Bedding can so often set the tone for the entire room. But just because you've decided on classic solid bedding, it doesn't mean that you're destined to have a dull, plain room. Inspired by the simple, sleek bedding in our Gilt sale (where all the items in the above image are available!), we asked Raleigh, NC-based interior decorator Jamie Meares of Furbish Studio Studio and the blog I Suwannee to share her favorite ways to punch up a room with solid bedding.

    -Consider the head and foot of the bed: "Pick two coordinating fabrics that you'll use for the headboard and a plush end of bed bench. The solid sheets will allow the eye a resting point between the two dynamic pieces. With solid bedding, you have a great opportunity to use a real statement fabric for an upholstered headboard. Think bold, big geometric, or a black and white floral with a bright contrasting welt."

    -Focus on accents: "An old Kilim or Dhurrie under the bed will warm up a crisp white duvet. And for your bedside table, look for lamps with interesting patterns -- think ginger jars, intricate geometric patterns or interesting color combinations. Even though the accessories punch things up, you've still got a calming anchor in the middle of the room."

    -Look to the windows: "Use pattern around the perimeter. Fabrics with large pattern repeats look amazing as big full panels at the bedroom windows."

    -Don't skimp on art: "When the major elements in a room are solids, you have the perfect opportunity to show off vibrant art. Think big! Oversize abstracts with punches of color, a series of interesting color photographs blown up for impact or large framed panels of your favorite fabric or wallpaper wallpaper."

    -Consider wallpaper: "A clean non-fussy bed will allow a gorgeous wallpaper to be the star of the room."

    Thanks, Jamie! And note to readers in the Raleigh area: You should also consider heading over to Furbish on October 16th for their accessory swap party!

    As for those products above -- you can find them at the ShelterPop-curated Gilt sale, which lasts from Wednesday, October 6 at noon to Saturday, October 9 at midnight. And as a bonus, we asked a dozen of our favorite blogs to weigh in on how they'd use the Gilt items in their home. Check back on Thursday and Friday to get a peek.

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

    ShelterPop Gilt SaleThe so-stylish logos of some of our favorite bloggers.

    See what these bloggers have to say about the ShelterPop + Gilt sale!

    The ladies of Rue Magazine -- Design Love Fest, The City Sage, Plush Palate, Live Creating Yourself and Sacramento Street.

    Apartment 34

    Design Blahg

    So Haute

    Effortless Style


    Haven & Home

    The Adventures of Tartanscot / Scot Meacham Wood Design

    The Neo-Traditionalist

    Nest by Tamara

    ABCD Design Sketch Book

    The Decorista

    Pattern Pulp


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    When her boyfriend moved in, this writer learned to sacrifice space and even a little bit of style. Here's how she did it.

    I should have been satisfied when my boyfriend agreed to get rid of his forest-green pleather couch -- with matching love seat! -- before we started living together. But I wasn't. I'd finally gotten my apartment just the way I wanted it. It was a carefully curated nest of thrifted furniture and vintage Pyrex. Every room was perfect. For me.

    living togetherSo happy living together: The author and her boyfriend. Photo courtesy of Emily Farris.

    But I loved my boyfriend, so I knew that if we were going to be living together, I'd have to at least pretend to love his stuff (save for those hideous couches). I just wasn't prepared for how much of it he'd have.

    The night before he moved in, he drove some things over: seven African masks of varying sizes, at least 30 nearly-empty condiments for the fridge and concert posters. So many concert posters. The posters weren't framed, but the Coors Light mirror he brought was.

    I tried to incorporate the masks. One worked on the mantle, and another, surprisingly, rounded out a wall where I'd hung two owl prints. This is easy, I thought. And that part was.

    Living TogetherFlickr user: The Truth About

    On Saturday morning, he started bringing over the big things: the pressed plywood desk, a dresser that might be cute if it were painted and had new pulls and, of course, his bike, which he leaned up against mine in the foyer. I silently freaked out. My turquoise, three-speed vintage bicycle with a basket was part of the decor. His mountain bike, on the other hand, was an eyesore.

    Throughout our talks about living together, I had considered the idea of turning over my office -- a big beautiful space off of the living room. It's the largest room in the apartment with three windows, a sizable closet and a beautiful pocket door that, when open, transforms my living room into a huge living room-office. I always kept the idea as a back-up plan, but kept quiet since I worked from home and really, really loved that room.

    As I surveyed the design damage, I knew I had to make a choice: give up my decor or give up some personal space.

    The next day, I rearranged. I got rid of some clothes, moved my desk into the tiny storage room off of the kitchen that I'd been using as an extra closet/dressing room, and decided to give him a room of his own. I enthusiastically sold it to him as a "man cave," his own space to do whatever he wanted. There's probably even enough space in there for his ugly couches. But I'll never tell him that. And even without them, I keep the pocket door closed when he's not around. It took a bit of trial and error but I feel like I've figured it out how to make it work.

    Here, the 10 things I've learned:

    1. It's no longer "my" apartment.
    As soon as I invited my boyfriend to move in, my home became our home. So as much as I'd like to, I don't get to call all of the shots anymore. If he wants to hang a poster from the best Phish concert of his life, I'll help him find a place to get it framed.

    2. Still, compromise isn't always the best idea.
    The apartment doesn't need to be an equal mishmash of both our things. His Kansas U football flag wouldn't look good near my vintage mirrors -- even he knows that. Instead, he gets a room of his own, at least until we can move into a home that we can decorate from scratch. I might tidy up if we have company coming over but other than that, I gave up all control over that space. And I was happy to do so.

    3. I can satisfy my need to shop by suggesting we go and buy things we both like.
    I wasn't about to let my boyfriend put his ugly halogen lamp behind the couch, even though he says that my vintage lamp doesn't give him enough light for reading. "Why don't we go shopping for one we both like?" I asked. "One that has style and functionality." It worked!

    4. I give him chores he'll do well.
    I learned very early on that there's no point in asking my boyfriend to clean the kitchen. Sure, he'll do it. He'll even do it without complaining (and to the best of his ability). But his idea of a clean kitchen and my idea of a clean kitchen are very, very different. I could take the time to show him how to clean my way, or I could just do it myself. Instead of kitchen duty, he takes the trash out, takes stuff to the recycling station and waters the plants. He also kills and disposes all bugs that enter our home. Sometimes I even ask him to do my laundry, when he's already doing his own, that is.

    5. One does not always learn from example.
    I like the living room a certain way. The ottoman, coffee table and arm chair are perfectly parallel to the couch. But every time my boyfriend would sit down with a sandwich and beer to watch TV, he'd pull the table closer, and change around the ottoman and the chair. For weeks, I would put everything back exactly where it went when he was done, but still, he never did. Then, one night, when he moved the chair, I cringed. "What?," he asked? I told him I'm a little neurotic about the way the furniture was arranged. He said it didn't make sense to him the way it was, but he didn't mind putting it back when he was done if I didn't mind him moving it to suit his TV-watching needs.

    6. I need to wash my sheets more often.
    My boyfriend sweats more than I do and sheds more than I do. 'Nuff said.

    7. Same goes for the bathroom.

    8. Just because we don't love all of the same things, doesn't mean we don't love some of the same things.
    I had a record player set up before my boyfriend moved in, but since then, our vinyl collection has doubled. It's something we're both proud of and excited about, and it's become a focal point of the living room -- which works perfectly with my vintage style.

    9. A home that looks lived-in usually is, and that's a good thing.
    Since my boyfriend moved in, my apartment is a little messier. There are more music magazines scattered on the coffee table, more towels hanging in the bathroom and more dishes in the sink. But I'd rather be living together in a messy apartment than in a clean one alone.

    10. My relationship is more important than my apartment.
    I love my apartment and will work hard to keep it looking the way I want it -- especially because I want it to be a place for my relationship to grow. But if at any point my desire for design becomes more important to me than my relationship, it's time to reevaluate my relationship (and my priorities).

    Readers -- what sacrifices have you made when living with another person? Any other tips you'd like to add to this list? Weigh in on our Facebook page!


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  • 10/07/10--18:00: Window Treatment Ideas
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    A primer on all of our favorite window treatment ideas and options -- from choosing fabrics and styles to customizing the ready-made.,feedConfig,localizationConfig,entry&id=936364&pid=936363&uts=1285355999

    Windows That Wow

    When deciding on living room window treatments, the first thing you need to ask yourself is what you want from the space around your window. Do you simply want a pretty frame (like stationary panels), or do you need serious light-filtering (as with a Roman shade)? Do you want layers of interest and textural contrast, or something modern and streamlined? Do you want lots of color to create a focal point, or a low-key blended-in look?

    Windows That Wow

    "Roman shades can work everywhere," says Mandy McClure, owner of Quality Custom Designs in South Georgia. McClure, who runs the business with her mother and aunt, sells her custom designs on Etsy. Roman shades are always among her most popular designs -- probably because they're so flexible. Dress them up with silk and beads, or choose a pretty cotton print. Roman shades raise and lower easily (McClure even makes kid-safe cordless ones), so they have full functionality. Backing them with blackout lining (an option McClure always recommends) really helps to filter the light and protect furniture from fading.

    Windows That Wow

    Relaxed Roman shades are different from regular Roman shades because they lay fixed in a slouchy, "relaxed" fold over the window. They aren't generally designed to be raised and lowered frequently, since it takes patience to continually adjust the gathers. "They're particularly good over wooden blinds," she says. Relaxed Romans are perfect for more casual living spaces.

    Windows That Wow

    "Of all the valances, I really love Kingstons, because they never look dated the way swags and balloon shades can," McClure says. Like Relaxed Romans, Kingstons (or other valances) look best when layered top of a functional treatment (like blinds or shutters). Kingstons can either be sophisticated, as in a longer treatment made from silk or decorator-weight fabric, or easy and casual, made from a regular-weight cotton. They're a little dressier than Relaxed Romans, though it all really hinges on fabric choices.

    Windows That Wow

    Panels have always been traditional favorites (though many panels are more for framing than for function.) When choosing fabric for your panels, remember to pay attention to the repeat: a print that's too large can feel overwhelming, but one that is too small won't pop. If you're going solid, an easy way to add visual interest is to add contrast stripes. You could even piece in some stripes to ready-made panels.

    Windows That Wow

    beautifully, and even the faux silk -- which is less expensive -- looks good," she says. Silk also looks great puddled on the floor. But with so many great quilting-weight fabrics out there now (from designers like Amy Butler, Michael Miller, and Joel Dewberry), it's hard to resist the pull of cottons. One thing to keep in mind: blackout lining helps any fabric (even a less-expensive cotton) hang much nicer.

    Windows That Wow

    Panels can frame a window (and be completely static), or be fully operational. Simple, streamlined panels with no frills hung flush with the window are ideal for a minimalist, modern space. Simple layers of sheer panels are another great way to get that more modern look.

    Windows That Wow

    There are no rules about how high to hang your window treatments, or how far away from the window to place them. In general, hang your panels higher if you want to add height to a window, and extend them further over on each side of the window if you want a space to look larger.

    Windows That Wow

    If you don't want to go the custom route, there are plenty of ready-made treatments available. Jennifer Neill, who runs the blog Hope Studios, will often start her search for the perfect drapery in the ready-made department. Panels not wide enough? No problem. "I often buy extra panels of something I like, cut them up the middle and sew them back together again," says Neill, who designs window treatments for her home and owns a framing shop in Pittsburgh. See her tutorial on how to customize here.

    "Hot gluing trim to a ready-made is a great way to customize it," says Neill. It's also the perfect way to add length. You can layer trim, such as beaded trim over a wide ribbon, or a tassel trim on top of a textured coordinating trim. "If you put something like that on a ready-made, people will think that it's custom," she says.

    Windows That Wow


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  • 10/08/10--08:26: Fashion-Inspired Rooms
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    Fashionable rooms inspired by off-the-runway looks.

    What do you call a room that's inspired by an on-the-runway look? A fashion room, of course! We love the give and take between interior design and fashion design so we're especially loving these high-fashion rooms that the CasaSugar gals paired with fantastic Chris Benz outfits. We're only sharing two of our favorites, but to see more, check out the rest of the article on CasaSugar.

    One of my favorite forces of 2011 Spring New York Fashion Week was Chris Benz. Chris doesn't do reserved. His designs are always eye-catching yet incredibly wearable, and his Spring/Summer 2011 collection was no exception. The collection was vibrant and fun with '60s-inspired florals, neon greens and sharp cerulean blues, elegant draping, towering heels, and ladylike shapes. Come April, I know I'll still be coveting it all. I thought I'd translate some of my favorite looks from the collection into some equally crave-worthy interior spaces. Check them out and tell me which is your fave.
    An exotic wrap cardigan bursting with sunny yellow and fire engine red over soft, feminine, layered pleats could only be matched by this warm, multipatterned, South African living room from Elle Decoration South Africa.

    A busy '60s-inspired print is foiled by noisy bathroom tiles, cleanly tailored pants mimic a single solid wall, and a cozy knit sweater resonates with hanging towels.

    Want more CasaSugar goodies?
    Rob Lowe's Dream Home in Architectural Digest Is Where Everybody Wants to Go

    10 Inspired Stencils for Your Home

    Or learn more about fashion designer Chris Benz from our sister site, StyleList!


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    With big name designer lines, HSN is making stylish home decor more affordable than ever. Here, a sneak peek at the newest products and personalities.

    Here at ShelterPop, we're huge fans of anyone that promotes fun, accessible design. That's why we're super excited about HSN's newest collaboration, Happy Chic by Jonathan Adler, which will launch on October 11th and 12th on HSN and

    We already knew HSN was bringing out the big names, but their upcoming Home Design Event makes it clear that they've made a serious commitment to well-loved designers and their signature colors and patterns. It seems that they're no longer satisfied with getting their products into the homes of current HSN devotees -- they're curating collections that are coveted by serious design-philes as well.

    In addition to Adler, designers like Colin Cowie, Nate Berkus and Hutton Wilkinson have all added new accessories to their current lines with the network. If you can't wait to see what's new, you're in luck -- we have a sneak peek!

    hsn home design event Jonathan Adler Pop Striped Bud Vases $49.95 for set. Photo: HSN

    Jonathan Adler
    Interior designer, potter and all around groovy man-about-town Jonathan Adler is known for his knack for combining modern shapes with bright, fun colors and patterns. Anything he touches -- whether it be a horse-shaped lamp or a fuchsia arm chair -- seems to radiate a happy, light-hearted glow. As stated in a manifesto on his company's website, "We believe that your home should make you happy," and his new Happy Chic collection for HSN does just that.

    "As with all my designs, Happy Chic is a versatile collection meant to be mixed and matched," says Jonathan. And he hopes this line, which is much more affordable than the items found in his shops, will resonate with new customers and old. "There is no place chicer than HSN!" he says.

    hsn home design eventNate Berkus Knitted Decorative Pillow $34.95, Nate Berkus Uptown Plaid Sheet Set $79.95 for full. Photo: HSN

    Nate Berkus
    According to designer and, ahem, new talk-show host Nate Berkus, "a well designed home is one that feels thoughtful, layered and assembled over time." We can clearly see that in the new accessories he's added to his collection, which have a classic, will-stay-stylish-forever feel to them.

    And expect each product to add a healthy dose of coziness to your home. "I love this time of year," says Berkus. "There's a chill to the air that means it's time to put that throw in the linen closet to good use. This season, I was inspired by a classic pattern, plaid."

    We're inspired by his attitude and think the chunky knit blankets, plaid sheets and timeless striped duvet will make the colder months a little more bearable.

    hsn home design eventColin Cowie Chic Sequin Pillow Set $59.95, Photos: HSN

    Colin Cowie
    Style guru, interior designer and event planner Colin Cowie is one of the most in demand designers, with a client list that includes Jennifer Lopez, Tom Cruise and Oprah -- needless to say, this is a man who understands the demands of a diva. And his newest collection for HSN captures it perfectly, with sophisticated accessories that literally dazzle. Look at those sequins!

    "While I have a love and respect for the classics, I always challenge myself to find that 'wild card' to take any given design from ordinary to extraordinary," he says. "Whether a pop of an unexpected, vibrant color, or a traditional pattern overscaled and made new -- I love to create over-the-top, fabulous products." We love your attitude, Mr. Cowie. Now, can we grab one of those pillows?

    hsn home design eventHutton Wilkinson Ruched Throw $59.95. Photos: HSN

    Hutton Wilkinson
    If you weren't impressed by Colin's client list, check out Hutton Wilkinson's devotees: Doris Duke, Sophia Loren and even Saudi royalty clamor for his talents. When he was a young designer, he apprenticed under design icon Tony Duquette, which lead to a business partnership, and eventually, after Duquette's passing, ownership of his trademarked name.

    While Hutton continues to create luxurious, glamorous jewelry and home accessories under the name Tony Duquette, his own home decor line with HSN will really hit the spot. Could that throw be any more luxe? For "more is more" taste, Wilkinson's collection -- like all of HSN's product lines -- is refreshingly easy on the wallet.

    Want more HSN goodies? Get the scoop from our sister sites!
    Glamour and HSN Collaborate on Glamour Jewelry Collection
    Mariah Carey To Sell On HSN
    Mary J. Blige Breaks HSN Record With 'My Life'


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  • 10/08/10--10:30: Chairs For a Cause
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    These chairs really stand up to cancer: Proceeds from their auction go to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

    In honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, 20 top female designers partnered with SUITE New York as part of their Pink Wishbone Project to create custom cushions for 20 pink Hans Wegner Wishbone Chairs. The chairs and cushions are being auctioned off on from now until October 28, 2010. One hundred percent of the proceeds will benefit the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BRCF), and it's safe to say that 100% of the designs are downright inspired.

    While Hans Wegner passed away in 2007, we think the Danish designer would have been pleased with the hyper-modern takes on his iconic 1949 chair. After all, he did say, "A chair is to have no backside. It should be beautiful from all sides and angles." (We think these fit the bill.)

    Pink Wishbone ProjectKelly Behun (left) and Emma Jane Pilkington (right). Photos: SUITE New York

    This is what I call a "twofur": two for the price of one! First, you get the personal satisfaction of helping fund cancer research and secondly, you can get your hands on a one-of-a-kind piece of design history. The Hans Wegner Wishbone chair is a design classic in itself -- even owning a rare pink version would be a treat. Add a custom cushion by a leading designer, and these sweet seats will no doubt fetch a pretty penny.

    Pink Wishbone ProjectSara Rotman (left) and Julie Hillman (right). Photos: SUITE New York

    The 20 designers covered just about every trend, material and inspiration. From the more demure (needlepoint from Emma Jane Pilkington) to the outrageous (A sea urchin-inspired pom-pom from Sara Rotman), these chairs are brimming with whimsy and glamour. Other notable designers who've lent their talents: Bunny Williams, a 30-year design veteran, Sheila Bridges, the mind behind the brilliant Harlem Toile, and the hyper-chic Lulu de Kwiatkowski, whose fabrics have been everywhere from Sex and the City to House Beautiful.

    And if you've always wanted to own something shiny and gold from Kelly Wearstler, now's the time!

    Pink Wishbone ProjectKelly Wearstler (left) and Tori Golub (right). Photos: SUITE New York

    But if you don't score one of these charity chairs, you can still get a pink Wishbone chair at SUITE New York -- they'll be sold exclusively for the next year. And you can feel good about this purchase too -- 20% of the proceeds go to BRCF.

    See the whole set of chairs on Charitybuzz.

    For more on breast cancer awareness month, check out our sister sites
    Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Shop for a Cause

    Breast Cancer Awareness Month: TV Characters Who Fought the Disease


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  • 10/09/10--20:43: Weekly Link Love
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    Designer dollhouses, pretty purple rooms and moving back in with mom and dad... What we're lusting over in the blogosphere this week.

    Oh House Beautiful, you did us proud. Photo: Curbed.

    Six shelter magazine + six empty dollhouses + limitless creativity = Curbed's brilliant Operation Dollhouse. Check out what some of our favorite magazine editors did with the challenge. [Curbed]

    West Elm teamed up with students at the Pratt Institute -- one of top spots to study sustainable design -- to create a chic line of sustainable office furniture. Words to describe the collection so far include "effortlessly chic", "versatile", "thoughtfully made" and "vintage industrial." We say: MUST HAVE. [The Inside Source]

    What does your dream home look like? The editors of The Frisky visualize their would-be perfect pads. [The Frisky]

    Not interested in the orange and black decorations at a drugstore near you? Check out a much more chic Halloween option: Festive lace! [CasaSugar]

    Vanilla Ice -- Professional DIYer? Amazingly, it's true. The former rapper has found himself -- and snagged a show on the DIY Network! -- thanks to his home improvement projects. [DIY Life]

    After losing her job, a 20-something writer packs up her belongings (and yes, pride) to move back home. [Lemondrop]

    A purple-phobic design lover finds room that don't make her crazy. Should we try this with beige? [Apartment Therapy]

    And the award for best green product goes to....Anttila! This modern, Finland-based company uses birch bark to create stunning wall decor, trays and even a light fitting. [The Editor at Large]


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    As one writer discovers, there are downfalls to living too close to your neighbors.

    I love my neighbors. Yet some days I ponder building a 10-foot wall between our back yards. It's not so I can sunbathe in the nude or talk about them behind their backs. My boyfriend and I just want a little more privacy.

    You see, we're sort of over our neighbors.

    Our teeny backyard in Milwaukee -- about 30 feet by 100 feet, quite large by urban standards -- is separated from neighbors on both sides only by a cyclone fence. What this means is that whether we like it or not we are privy to a.) Milwaukee Brewers games on the radio, b.) puppy training, c.) screaming kids and d.) the usage of power tools. (To be fair, I'm sure our neighbors aren't crazy about our al-fresco dinners or the way we yell to each other across the yard or through the house windows.)

    In my circle of friends we love to get together on summer nights to eat and drink wine, laugh and catch up. Backyards are the perfect place to do this. But I leave the hosting to those with bigger backyards than ours, in part, because how do you tell your guests to "keep it down" without ruining the fun?

    Getty Images

    Since we chose to live in a home in a densely populated hipster 'hood over a suburban house with a huge back lawn, do we have the right to complain? Maybe not, but I like living in the middle of a large city. Within a 15 minute walk, there are six coffee shops, two gourmet grocery stores that pull at my gastronomic heart and a library. We even have two indie performing-arts theaters.

    Yet even with the lattes and library books, there are downfalls to living this close to others. Susan Saegert is a professor of human and organizational development at Vanderbilt University's Peabody College, and she believes that neighbor relationships can be a strain. At her Brooklyn, New York, brownstone, she lives close to her neighbors -- she nods "hello" on occasion to one neighbor and talks frequently with another elderly neighbor who craves more social interaction. In urban areas, she says, there's the perception that even while home alone, "you're around a lot of people all the time," which can be comforting. But introverted people can find this very uncomfortable because they're forced to interact more.

    Still, how many of us have neighbors that we wished would put their house up for sale and disappear quietly into the night?

    While living in the San Francisco Bay area 10 years ago, the occupants in an apartment behind mine left their patio door open. On most nights the sounds of Playstation shoot-'em-up games invaded my patio as I tried to kick back with lemonade and a good book. I was rarely relaxed.

    Yet there are pluses to living close to others."Social engagement is related to good physical and mental health," says Saegert. That's harder to obtain on a cul-de-sac or where the nearest neighbor is a quarter of a mile away.

    Society tells us that we aren't expected to know our neighbors. People come and go if they relocate or trade up. So many of us don't try to get to know our neighbors -- we're left with the friendly nod, but that's about it.

    The first step in determining what kind of relationship you want with your neighbors is to take a wait-and-see approach. Feel it out over a few months. I prefer a comfort zone somewhere between a casual hello and knowing where he or she works.

    "Relationships go more smoothly when you know when people are open to interaction and when they're not," says Saegert. "Socially withdraw so that you don't have to interact a lot even if you're outside at the same time." I like what my neighbors -- a couple -- on one side do, which is to ignore everybody else while gardening, eating or catching up on each other's day. This approach works because it does not create an expectation for conversation.

    Block parties are a great way to allow everyone face time -- but at a time when each person is prepared to socialize. If you don't already have them in your neighborhood consider organizing the first-annual block party. My friend, Karin, who lives in Seattle, recently posted on Facebook that she was rolling out the grill to cook for her neighbors at a block party. How cool is that?

    If you do want to create privacy on a small budget, try hanging plants from an awning on your porch, or arrange your patio furniture near an area of your yard that is not immediately next to an area that your neighbors frequent in their yard. Ornamental grasses with a lot of height are not only beautiful but help buffer noise and also provide a natural fencing.

    Our neighbor, Tom, has the right idea. Last summer he announced that around 150 people would be in his backyard on a certain Saturday night celebrating his wedding anniversary. Before our thoughts turned to getting out of town on that date - because our houses are about seven feet apart - he invited us to the party. We ended up not going and the party wasn't loud at all, but how could we be angry with someone who encouraged us to drop by for a cold beer and meet the party-goers?

    A few nights ago we were eating dinner on the front porch when a voice startled us. It was our neighbor across the street who, until that moment, we only knew as the guy with a wife, a Golden Retriever and a Springer Spaniel. Because he was trying to -- quite literally -- unload a wheelbarrow of dirt, he thought he'd ask the neighbors to see who would bite. We did. And as he was shoveling it into a sunken area of grass in our front yard, we learned that his name is Curt.

    I don't plan to move out of the neighborhood. Instead, I'm waiting impatiently for our newly planted butterfly bush to spike up a few more feet. You'll be happy to know: I have no plans to build that 10-foot-tall fence.

    Want more about neighbors? Check out these great pieces from WalletPop!


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    What's your favorite room? In the first episode of our new series "My Favorite Room," Design*Sponge's Grace Bonney invites us into her Brooklyn apartment to tour her favorite room: Her bedroom! See what makes it so special.

    Check out the "his and hers" sides of the bedroom that Grace shares with her husband Aaron. We're lusting after the framed wallpaper and the one plant she "hasn't been able to kill yet." Of course, you can't buy everything in her room, but she does mention a few sources.

    Bearded Men prints - Ashley G

    Grace's DIY Upholstered headboard

    Paul McCobb desk chair - Scout in Chicago

    Shelves - West Elm

    Wallpaper - Random Geometry by Namo Rococo

    Thanks so much for letting us into your home, Grace!

    Readers, let us know what you think in the comments -- and tell us whose favorite room you'd like to see next!

    And if you're still dreaming of headboards...
    Check out Eric Stromer's videoon designing your own headboard!
    Or see these 5 Dreamy Upholstered Headboards You Can Make Yourself


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    The brand new kate spade new york bedding is affordable, punchy and one sweet dream.

    Handbag label kate spade new york is going to be taking up residence in both fashion and linen closets come 2011 with the launch of a new bedding and bath collection. The items scream "Kate Spade" in all of its sunny, bold-patterned glory.

    I got a sneak peek at the kate spade new york bedding, and it was love at first sight. The affordable price tag doesn't hurt either, with 300-thread-count duvets slated to range from $129 to $179.

    Kate Spade bedding Garden Grove BeddingAs cheerful as the pillow's motto (A Walk in the Park), the "Garden Grove" collection was designed by the same artist who created these postcards for Kate's Paperie. Photo: kate spade new york

    The company has dabbled in bedding in the past, remnants of which I could only find on eBay. (Needless to say, it's a phase they'd like to forget.) But they're considering this the official coming out for kate spade new york Bedding and Bath and plan to debut seven designs in February with names like Heirloom Rose, June Lane and Belle Boulevard.

    The company already has a stake in housewares, including a line of wedding-registry-worthy goods for the tabletop. (And if you already own kate spade new york china in patterns such as Gardner Street, June Lane or Belle Boulevard, you can get all matchy with bedding sets in the same print.)

    Kate Spade bedding Gardner Street BeddingFlip the "Good Morning" pillow in the Gardner Street collection for a sweet sendoff into dreamland. Photo: kate spade new york

    While Kate herself is no longer at the helm (she left the day-to-day operations in 2008), Chief Creative Officer Deborah Lloyd is certainly carrying out the brand's aesthetic.

    "I really went back to the original DNA of the brand for my inspiration -- bright colors, bold graphics and beautiful combinations of the two," she says. "People have been asking us for years to do a full line of kate spade new york bedding and now just felt like the right time."

    Sweet dreams! And tell us: Would you bring kate spade new york Bedding home?

    Kate Spade bedding Heirloom Rose BeddingSunny and bright, Heirloom Rose is the collection's signature set. Photo: kate spade new york

    For more ShelterPop stories on decorating your bedroom, don't miss:
    -A Stylish Makeover for a Guy
    -Makeover Your Dresser on the Cheap

    And get more Kate Spade news from other AOL sites!
    Kate Spade Launches Twirl Fragrance

    Kate Spade Handbags


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  • 10/12/10--10:34: From Backyard to Jungle
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    Our writer tries to turn her patio into a certified wildlife habitat.

    When I first moved into my townhouse in 2007, I loved its small, fenced patio. It was large enough to host an al fresco dinner for two and small enough to keep me from spending weekends mowing the lawn and pulling weeds.

    A few months after I moved in, I discovered that the concrete jungle was depressing.

    I bought a few pots and planted some flowers that helped brighten up the patio a little but something was still missing -- critters. There were no butterflies, birds, bees or frogs. Even the insects scurried across the patio in search of greener pastures. I wanted to provide those greener pastures.

    A full-scale landscaping project wasn't an option. The wires buried under the river rocks made planting trees or digging a garden impossible and, with no lawnmower and three dogs, grass was a bad idea. A limited budget meant it had to be a DIY project. I decided that a container garden was the best choice.

    I started researching the options and came across a National Wildlife Federation (NWF) program that allows outdoor spaces to become certified wildlife habitats. The program was launched in 1973 but has gained the most momentum in the past decade. David Mizejewski, a naturalist and NWF spokesperson, said the number of certified sites jumped from 26,000 to 130,000 in 2010.

    "Part of the goal of the program is to create a movement; to give people a means of connecting with nature on a daily basis," Mizejewski explains. "There has been a huge spike in participation now that people are realizing it's possible to create natural spaces right outside their back doors."

    It seemed like the perfect solution for me.

    You need the Flash Player to view this. Click here to install.

    I loved the notion of providing habitats for wildlife and making the best choices for the environment all while I made the back patio a more beautiful place to hang out. The inner high-achiever in me loved the idea of being rewarded for the makeover.

    Mizejewski assured me that it was possible to have a small space certified. I reviewed the requirements -- provide food, water, cover and a place for animals to raise babies all while using green gardening practices -- and set to work.

    I tend to pick plants like a child picks candies -- racing through the garden center and exclaiming, "Oooh, I love that shade of pink!" and "These flowers look like old fashioned phonograph horns! I'll take two!" I had to be more careful this time because they needed to provide food for wildlife. Of course, I wanted them to be colorful, too. I picked butterfly bushes and lantana, which are sources of nectar. And, if the number of butterflies and bees circling the plants at the garden center were any indication, it wouldn't take long for critters to find the plants on my patio.

    I immediately hung two birdhouses, a hummingbird feeder and two birdfeeders and installed a makeshift rain barrel to capture rainwater (I'd love a real rain barrel but the homeowners association wouldn't be pleased if I disconnected the downspouts!). Providing a water source was harder.

    In a small space, a large fountain wasn't an option. I wasn't comfortable using a ton of power to keep fountain water re-circulating. At first, I didn't want a birdbath. Aren't birdbaths for old ladies with lots of cats? But then, scouring Internet craft sites for something small and colorful, I found a cute birdbath made from a teacup and saucer attached to a copper pole. I replicated the project at home, filling the saucer with water and the teacup with birdseed, and it's become a popular spot for the neighborhood birds to hang out.

    Truth be told, it took a long time to find the right combination that would allow me to earn certification without looking like a jumbled mess. I did, after all, want to save enough space to be able to sit outside without bumping into bird feeders and fallen logs.

    The effort was worth it.

    Within a week, there was a bluebird nest in one of the birdhouses, a hummingbird perched on the red feeder, butterflies and bees fluttering on the plants and birds nibbling on seed while perched on the edge of the teacup feeders. After three years of looking outside and seeing a concrete wasteland, the patio felt like a mini Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom!

    backyard makeoverJodi Helmer

    I jumped in excitement each time a new bird flew to the feeders. I called my partner at work to report on wildlife sightings. I kept the camera on the kitchen counter to capture the scene. The patio was alive!

    I've even caught the dogs -- the same dogs that used to walk outside, do their business and come right back in -- hanging out on the patio, watching (and sometimes barking) at the birds, staring at the butterflies and avoiding the bees.

    I started spending more time on the patio, too, making dinner on the barbeque, relaxing in the sun with a book or sitting under the umbrella and watching for birds. I even look forward to going outside in the evening to water the plants. Knowing that I have a handful of critters using the blossoms to fill their little bellies made all of the effort worthwhile.

    Still have backyards on the brain?
    Host a Backyard Harvest Party
    Backyard Cottages: Affordable Housing Solution?


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    Rob Lowe opens up his doors to Architectural Digest and shows off his stunning and family-friendly California mansion.

    Check out this great story from our friends at CasaSugar!

    The November issue of Architectural Digest hits newsstands on Tuesday and will mark the last under the direction of Paige Rense Noland, who began her reign as the magazine's editor in chief in 1971. Rob Lowe is the cover of the "People and Places" issue, and inside we're treated to a tour of his sweeping 20-room Georgian-style estate near Santa Barbara, which he shares with wife Sheryl and their two sons.

    Rob Lowe Left to right: Rob at home; Half of the Lowe estate. Photo: Mary E. Nichols, Architectural Digest, via Casa Sugar.

    Here are a few excerpts from the article:

    • Rob on what he wanted in a home: "I've always been to a historic, East Coast American aesthetic. But a house also has to be comfortable, able to withstand the simultaneous traffic of teenagers playing football on the lawn, barbecuing on the patio, me slipping off to write. Our challenge was extrapolating our views on how to live our lives and raise our children into what we need in a home."
    • Sheryl on her husband's hobbies: "Besides sleeping, my husband's favorite things are reading, writing and music. Who else would have a piano bar?"
    • Sheryl on their new home: "Looking through the living room windows from the front door, you see the ocean; from the pool, you see the mountains. Though large, the house has a human scale. It welcomes you."
    • Rob on his dream home: "I always wanted that house where everybody wants to go - full of energy, dogs, music, fun. I wanted our house to be that house, and it is."

    Rob LoweLeft to right: Rob at home; Half of his home. Photo: Mary E. Nichols, Architectural Digest, via Casa Sugar.

    Absolutely stunning! Right? I couldn't imagine a more idyllic home. Head to Architectural Digest to see more photos of Rob's home and read the article. And pick up a copy of the issue for a tour of director Oliver Stone's Manhattan apartment, Las Vegas mogul Steve Wynn's new duplex villa, Yankee pitcher C.C. Sabathia's New Jersey residence, oil legend T. Boone Pickens's Texas ranch, hotelier Jason Pomeranc's renovated midcentury LA home, and more.

    The next issue of Architectural Digest will be the first under the direction of Margaret Russell, the former editor in chief of Elle Decor. Can't wait!

    Want more CasaSugar goodies?
    Stay at Ralph Lauren's Villa
    8 Halloween Tricks and Treats From Sandra Espinet


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  • 10/13/10--11:29: Apple Decor
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    It's apple picking season, so we set our sights on apple decor -- see our favorite ways to incorporate the fruit into your home.

    Aside from just being nutritious and delicious, apples are a super sweet way to welcome fall into your home. To inspire you, we've rounded up a few creative ideas that go beyond simply piling a bunch of apples in a bowl.

    And if you like apple decor, we found some really fun products -- apple fabric, yes please! -- to keep the cheery fruit alive in your home all year long.

    Get Crafty

    Apple Garland
    We love this idea from The Bride's Cafe of stringing up apples to create a festive display that can be used indoors and out. Think about mixing different varieties for a rustic take on apple decor or use all of the same for something simple.

    Glowing Votives
    Apples can easily be transformed into a natural vessel for holding candles. Cut off and scoop out the top portion of the apples, just enough so that a tea light fits comfortably inside. We love lining them up on a table for a quick hit of apple decor, or try them on a fireplace mantel or decorative shelf.

    Delicious Vase
    Another way to use an apple as a decorative element is to completely hollow it out, fill with water and use as a vase for a small, casual arrangement. How pretty would this be on a table for a dinner party?

    Crisp Product Picks

    Handmade Apple Cozie, $12
    This charming knit cozie, crafted in the USA, turns your apple into a sweet display and protects it from bruising too!

    Apple Finial, $11
    For a more subtle touch, top off your favorite lamp with this whimsical apple-shaped finial finished in a warm, antique brass.

    Smith Green Apple Beanbag Chair, $240

    It might be made for tots, but we think this brightly hued 31-inch beanbag chair is great for apple lovers of all ages!

    An Apple A Day Print, $24
    Made from 100 percent recycled paper, this graphic print is a cheery way to remind you and your loved ones how to keep the doctor away!

    Tip Top Fruit Stripe Fabric, $11.95 for a half-yard
    Paired with other happy shapes like the pear and flowers, this cotton/linen blend fabric is perfect for crafty kitchen projects! We'd use it to make place mats, napkins or even a simple table covering.

    Apple Pillows, $50
    Available in three juicy colors (green, pink and red) this cotton pillow (18"H x 14" W) is a modern take on the familiar apple silhouette. Toss on your sofa, bed or anywhere that could use a little fruity pick-me-up.

    Pomme Soaps, $29.50 for four
    Perfect to give as a gift or keep for yourself, this set of four soaps smell and look just like the real thing.

    Apples in Red Bowl Print, $189
    This artful print has all of the warm colors of autumn and can serve as a reminder of your family's apple-picking adventure.

    Enchanted Apple Candle with Swarovski Crystals, $450

    If you prefer your fruit with a little bling, indulge in this over-the-top apple-scented candle that's encased in more than 2,500 Swarovski crystals.

    As for how to choose actual, edible apples -- we'll leave that up to our friends at KitchenDaily!


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  • 10/14/10--03:48: Flowering Fall Herbs
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    agastacheAgastache 'Black Adder' on my Brooklyn terrace. Photo: Marie Viljoen

    These fall herbs look great and taste even better.

    Not only are Agastache and Calamintha nepeta two of my favorite flowering perennials, they are also culinary herbs. They make gorgeous flowers, and their leaves smell delicious -- the ultimate herb for style and substance.

    Both plants are slow to start in early summer and play dead in spring. But once summer rolls around, they start a show that ends only with frost. Where most perennials give us three to six weeks of bloom, these reward with sixteen. Both make good potted plants or will flourish in-ground.

    Many Agastache species are native to the southwestern United States and northern Mexico, making them a natural choice for hot, dry gardens. As highly adaptable plants, they also respond happily to more water. They grow tall, with striking flowers, making them excellent fillers toward the back of borders. And while their stately spires of flowers are visited by bees, butterflies and even hummingbirds, Agastache are also low on the list of deer's favorite treats.

    agastacheAgastache is bee-friendly. Photo: Marie Viljoen

    should be planted in full sun, in well drained soil, and deadheading spent flower spikes will ensure continued bloom. Thanks to hybridizing, the flowers are rich in color, and their hardiness starts around USDA Zone 6. Although I cut many perennials back in early winter, common wisdom suggests that waiting to cut hybrid Agastache back to three to four inches in early spring helps it survive a tough winter.

    agastacheAgastache 'Ava' is a beautiful pink. Photo: Marie Viljoen

    Agastache foeniculum (anise hyssop) is the hardiest species, reputedly down to USDA Zone 1.

    These Agastache are hardy to Zone 6:

    Agastache 'Blue Fortune' grows to three feet and has fat, pale blue flower spikes and minty-anisey leaves.

    Agastache 'Black Adder' is a beautiful azure-to-lavender blue with minty leaves.

    Agastache 'Ava' is a slow starter after she has been transplanted, but will take off the following year, with deep fuchsia flowers that lure hummingbirds (if you are lucky).

    Agastache 'Painted Lady' has silvery leaves and salmon flowers that make excellent companions for silver foliage or blue flowers. It is a good choice for a dry garden.

    agastacheAgastache 'Painted Lady' is good for xeriscaping. Photo: Rob Harrison, Le Banquet

    In the kitchen, add the bruised leaves and flowers of Agastache to a summer cocktail to offer a hint of minty anise. The youngest, most tender leaves are delicious in an herb salad, along with basil, flat leaf parsley and snipped chives, with a poached egg on top.

    Calamintha NepetaCalamintha Nepeta 'Montrose White' on my terrace. Photo: Marie Viljoen

    On to Calamintha nepeta -- an herb that's native to Europe and is known as lesser calamint. In bloom, it is like a summer snow flurry. Plant it near a path and brushing past it will release an instant tonic-waft of strong peppermint.

    Calamintha can self-seed vigorously: This is very good reason to deadhead, as it stops their wild spread and extends bloom time. They are not considered invasive.

    In garden planting plans, I like to combine it with perennials such Geranium 'Rozanne', which sprawls through the airy white-flowered stems, or at the feet of leggier perennials such as Echinacea or Perovskia, as well as shrubs, such as roses.

    Calamintha NepetaCalamintha nepeta in November in Zone 6. Photo: Marie Viljoen

    Calamintha nepeta
    is famous in Italy, under the name nepitella. It's used for cooking, especially combined with wild mushrooms, artichokes and pork. But use it sparingly, as it has strong flavor. I have also used it as tisane, an herbal tea, before bed, pouring a cup of boiling water onto six stems with leaves and allowing it to steep for five minutes.

    Calamintha nepeta and its subspecies and hybrids need full sun (six hours plus), good drainage and they do not mind drying out a little.

    Planting these two perennial herbs ensures a substantial reward of flowers, scent, flavor and a long season of bloom. I hope you enjoy them!

    Still thinking about herbs? Check out these great articles from our sister sites!
    Make your own herb garden
    Ideas for Using Fresh Herbs
    Spice it up: Health perks of spices and herbs


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    best Flea markets Claudia Strasser Flea MarketPhotos: Claudia Strasser

    Seasoned collector Claudia Strasser shares her picks for the best flea markets in the world.

    The thrill of of a flea market is all about the moment of acquisition -- finding an unbelievable deal or that perfectly restorable piece. We already shared our picks for the top 5 flea markets in the U.S., but we wondered about the rest of the world; surely, there are hundreds of not-to-miss markets abroad. But which are the best?

    We approached blogger and author Claudia Strasser, whose blog, The Paris Apartment, recently became an iPhone app on navigating the best flea markets in Paris, and asked her to share her favorites in Europe and Asia. Not only do these four markets up the ante for even the most seasoned collectors, they offer a close-up of the culture where they're based, and, of course, scores of secondhand wares that you won't find hopping on and off of a tour bus.

    The Underground
    Rome, Italy

    Why it's one of the best flea markets:

    It's a bustling flea market held in a four-story garage. Everyone gets into the spirit and enjoys the festive atmosphere. It's a great place for one-stop shopping; decorators and collectors alike can find something special here. If you're visiting Rome, it's a great diversion from the usual tourist sites. Like all of Rome's markets, this is a great way to see the character of the locals and enjoy a very important part of life with true Roman spirit.

    What you'll find:
    Everything under the sun, including antiques and collectibles, vintage clothing and ephemera, and some new clay and glassware, but "mainly good old Italian vintage furniture and trinkets," Claudia says.

    Claudia's best score to date:
    A small porcelain antique pillbox from the 1800s, signed by the artist. She's used it for pills, but it's also doubled as a catchall for tiny trinkets, rings and a lock of hair.

    The Underground, Via Crispi, 96, Rome, between Piazza del Popolo, Via Sistina and Via Veneto; 2nd Saturday and Sunday of the month, Saturday, 3pm to 8pm; Sunday, 10:30am to 7:30pm; closed in the summer

    best flea markets Rome and Singapore Flea MarkestWho knows when a pair of dice or an initial stamp will come in handy, but they do look lovely en masse. Claudia spotted these on trips to Singapore's Thieves Market (left) and The Underground in Rome (right). Photos: Claudia Strasser

    Sungei Road Thieves Market
    Singapore, Malaysia

    Why it's one of the best flea markets:
    It's the oldest market in Singapore and a striking contrast to the slick feel of most of the shopping in the city. It acquired its name because years ago it was the place to buy stolen goods, everything from cars to gold. The chaotic atmosphere has no pretense, and everyone lets it all hang out. The sellers are loud, crass and want to move merchandise, not discuss it. It also attracts young designers who set up stalls with their own designs. It's the atmosphere of a true bazaar. It's definitely a place to linger and enjoy the spectacle, but when you hone in, you're sure to find a diamond between what looks like junk.

    What you'll find:
    Old ads, postcards, records, vintage clothing, housewares, cameras, old war memorabilia, small furniture, electronics, some new goods, crafts and jewelry.

    Claudia's best score to date:

    Old movie posters and a few hotel ashtrays.

    Sungei Road Thieves Market, Jalan Basar near Bugis MRT station; 1pm to 7pm daily

    best flea markets: London and Paris FleaI see London, I see France -- and plenty of treasures, too. London's Portobello Road (left) and Paris' Clignancourt market (right). Photos: Claudia Strasser

    Marché aux Puces St-Ouen de Clignancourt
    Paris, France

    Why it's one of the best flea markets:
    This is the queen of all markets and pure heaven for flea market lovers. It's truly a city within the city, and with 12 sub-markets and over 3,000 vendors, one of the greatest attractions in Paris. It's a special place that's treasured by the French and considered a historic landmark, dating back more than a century. Dealers take their trade very seriously and work hard to curate their stalls and maintain impeccable collections.

    What you'll find:

    Furniture, including mirrored vanities, nightstands, chaise lounges, slipper chairs and antique clothing. French posters, maps, chandeliers, lampshades, dresser accessories, original art, mirrors, frames, old letters, books, ephemera, trunks, jewelry, clothing, silver, beds and decorative objects for tables and walls.

    Claudia's best score to date:
    This is the ultimate candy store to a flea market fanatic. "Each time I visit there's something more incomprehensibly beautiful than the last," Claudia says. Her latest score just arrived at her home in New York -- a chandelier she plans to restore to its original glory.

    Insider tip:
    Veer off the beaten path of rue des Rosiers and head down rue Paul Bert to the back alleys for bargains in Jules Vallès and le Passage. The deeper back you go, the better the prices. You can find everything from high-end authentic antiques from the 1600s in perfect condition to little trinkets for 1 euro. The grungy sections are a far cry from the high end stuff, but that's where the dealers are shopping.

    Metro: PT. de Clignancourt, Friday and Monday, 9 to 1pm; weekends from 9am to 6pm

    best flea marketsThere's a world of flea markets out there. Above, London's Portobello Road flea market. Photo: suvodeb, Flickr

    Portobello Road

    London, England

    Why it's one of the best flea markets:
    It's a European flea market with all the trimmings, and everyone speaks English! Plus, it's full of history, pomp and circumstance, and it has been going since 1870. Along with the antique stalls there are also arcades, restaurants and small shops. And it's impossible not to find something incredible because it's one of the world's largest antiques markets with over 1,000 dealers selling every kind of antique and collectible imaginable.

    What you'll find:

    There are six arcades and markets along Portobello Road with hundreds of dealers selling everything from antique fabrics and quilts to furniture, lamps, clocks, vintage clothing, cameras, miniatures, coins, lace, linens, period costumes, ceramic tiles, door knobs and locks, vintage fashion and accessories, lingerie bags and dresser sets.

    Claudia's best score to date:

    A pair of tiny vintage pink silk, pleated lampshades with a green velvet ribbon trim that were perfect on boudoir lamps, though she's since sold them.

    Insider tip:
    Dealers start selling to each other first so get there early to shop with the pros and get trade prices. Otherwise, most vendors open by 8am, and the market is open the rest of the day till about 4pm.

    Portobello Road and Wesbourne Grove in Notting Hill, every Saturday; shops, farmer and flea market tables open throughout the week and on Fridays

    Want more flea market goodies? Check out these articles from our sister sites!

    Flea Market Finds: Brooklyn
    Flea market Chair Gets a Makeover


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    When your extra room serves as your home office and guest room, here's how to make the most of the space.

    It seems that these days everyone has a dedicated space for work, whether it's a computer desk station or a full-fledged home office complete with bookcases, printer station and file cabinet. These home offices are often located in an extra room or a second or third bedroom in the home.

    Here are a few ways that you can make for a more inviting experience for your guests in what is -- on most days -- your home office:

    extra room closet officeHide your work away to make your guests feel more comfortable. Photo: supershoppertoo, Flickr

    1. Make use of your closet. Turn the guest room closet into an office. When guests arrive, simply close the closet doors or curtain to hide it from sight. Easy as pie.

    2. Have a real piece of furniture for sleeping. An airbed does not make for a comfortable night's sleep. I've slept on one, and I'm sure you have too -- they're great if you're going to camp out on someone's living room floor or trailer, or if you're a teenager. But in a grown-up's guest room, I wouldn't expect to see an airbed. Try to choose a piece of furniture that is as perfect for laying on and thinking through a work problem as it is for guests to snuggle up in.

    extra roomMake your office feel like it's not even there. Photos: Houzz/Martha Stewart

    3. Add built-ins. In the photo above left, the homeowner used built-in furniture and painted it the same color as the walls to make it seamlessly disappear into the background when guest arrive. A very clever solution for an extra room!

    4. Separate the sleep space. In a larger extra room, you can add a curtain track to the ceiling and place a wall of curtains between your office and guest space. An added bonus is that it's a very inexpensive fix and easy to install.

    On the right above, Martha Stewart Living editor Sarah Humphreys installed a similar curtain to hide her kitchen in her small space. The same can apply to your guest room/office. Check out the Martha Stewart DIY project here.

    extra room house to home guest bedroom officeFriends don't let friends sleep on an airbed. Photo: House to Home

    5. Create the bedroom experience. Think about what is important to you in your master bedroom or when sleeping away from home. Does bright light bother you? Add curtains to help block out morning light. Do you need somewhere to place a glass of water and a book? Make sure your guests have a proper nightstand with a reading lamp. Does it get very cold at night? Stock up on an extra comforter or blanket. You don't have to keep these items in the room all year, but keep them handy for easy use. You can even bring in decor right before guests arrive. For example, repurpose a lamp or table from another room, or use a storage ottoman, like in the House to Home image above.

    6. Decorate the walls with artwork, not to-do lists. Writing things on an oversized calendar might seem helpful to you when you're working, but it's not a relaxing sight for your guests. Pictures pinned to a corkboard do not count as artwork. Allow a wall or two for some real framed artwork or paintings. You don't need to invest in anything expensive, maybe a few prints from Etsy, but the theme should be calming. Relaxing artwork will also be beneficial for you to look at while you're working during the week. Surround yourself and your guests with a visual "ahhhhhh."

    For more ideas on your home office:
    - Home Office of the Future?
    - 5 Things You Can D0 (Today!) to Organize Your Home Office
    -Find home office furniture
    -And browse these Home Office Design & Remodeling Ideas


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    Are you the ultimate stain fighter? Or do you have a thing or two to learn? Take this quiz and find out!

    Imagine you're at a party and someone knocks over a glass of red wine onto a white sofa. Do you run over with club soda, or do you stay in the background trying to remember if you're supposed to blot or rub the stain? (You've got to blot!) To prepare you for next time, we've come up with a risk-free way to test your stain remover know-how. Stains, beware! And clumsy party go-ers, no fear. We've got you covered.

    Stain Busters

    If you have the right stain fighter, scrubbing long and hard enough will always do the trick.

    • True
    • False

    Food coloring spills on carpet can be treated with a simple solution of water, detergent and white vinegar.

    • True
    • False

    Using hot water on a fresh red wine spill is the preferred option.

    • True
    • False

    Spilled tea? Which of the following works best to remove the spot?

    • OxyClean
    • Tide To-Go Sticks
    • Vinegar
    • All of the Above

    If you've recently washed a stained piece of fabric and remnants of the stain still appear, you should allow the garment to dry by:

    • Line drying it in full sun
    • Putting it through a delicate cycle in your dryer
    • Neither! Don't let it get dry at all!

    Salt should never be used on stains - it causes them to set!

    • True
    • False

    You've spilled on your favorite throw pillow. But no worries - it's a removable, washable cover! All you need to do is dab some spot remover on it and put it through a wash and dry cycle.

    • True
    • False

    Rubbing alcohol and white vinegar can make a good team.

    • True
    • False

    All stains are essentially the same, there are just multiple ways of treating them.

    • True
    • False

    Permanent market is, sadly, one item that just has no hope of being cleaned up.

    • True
    • False

    Liquid dishwashing detergent will work wonders on the following stain:

    • Ketchup on upholstery
    • Urine in carpeting
    • Blood on upholstery
    • All of the above

    Ballpoint ink stains can be cleaned off upholstery with a simple mixture of water and cleaning solvent.

    • True
    • False

    If a spill doesn't leave a mark - such as light liquids like white grape juice - you shouldn't bother treating the area with a cleaning solution.

    • True
    • False

    The longer you soak a stain, the more likely it will come clean.

    • True
    • False

    If possible, you should always launder an item after you've treated the stain.

    • True
    • False


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