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    Meet "Mr. Christmas" and several other homeowners responsible for the most illuminating (and illuminated!) over-the-top Christmas decorations in the country.

    There are only a handful of occasions when it's perfectly acceptable -- no, encouraged -- to leave your taste at home and bring on the tacky! Yep, 'tis the season for gawdy lawn ornaments, and lucky for you we've picked out a few of the best over-the-top Christmas displays in the country.

    (Love Christmas Lights? Check out the video at Holidash.)

    Here's what their creators have to say about why they do it, how many lights they use, and just how much their electric bill is every December.

    best-christmas-lightsTraffic is jammed along 34th Street in Baltimore as revelers take in the street of lights. Photo: Cory Brown, Flickr


    Christmas Street, Baltimore, Maryland

    "I could live on a dead-end street in the middle of the desert, and I'd still be doing this," says Bob Hosier, one of the original residents behind the "Christmas Street" tradition in the Hampden neighborhood of Baltimore, Maryland.

    Hosier and his wife of 28 years, Darlene Hughes, started the annual decorating extravaganza in 1982 at the 34th Street rowhouse that Darlene grew up in. Today, nearly all of the residents of the 700 block of West 34th Street, or "Christmas Street", bust out their best holiday decorations, creating a street of lights so bright it can probably be seen from outer space. Think: Hundreds of thousands of lights, menorahs, snow globes, wreaths, life-size Santa figurines and Grinches, a hubcap Christmas tree and a bicycle-wheel snowman -- oh, and did we mention that there are also crabs pulling a sled? (The crab is Maryland's mascot.)

    It's only fitting that a display that lights up like the Las Vegas strip would draw a crowd -- and inspire a traffic jam. Insiders warn that the 34th Street traffic can be bumper to bumper around Christmas time. Pedestrians crowd the sidewalks and streets, dodging cars and the occasional tour bus that rolls through the neighborhood to check out the world class lights.

    best-christmas-lightsThe exterior of Bob and Raquel Cox's house lit up at night. Photo: Bob & Raquel Cox

    Steel City Christmas, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

    Forget lighting up the neighborhood! Some Christmas-light enthusiasts draw a crowd with just one over-the-top home.

    Take Bob and Raquel Cox. They started decorating their home at 1736 Beryl Street in 2004 as a gift to their baby daughter, Alyvia. "We just wanted to put up a few strings for our daughter who loved Christmas lights," says Bob, 29. "But the more we put up, the more she liked it."

    Now six years old, Alyvia and her three year old sister Demetria still love the lights, as do the residents in and around the Pittsburgh area. Located in a cul-de-sac, the Cox home draws crowds of holiday enthusiasts who walk through the impressive light display. In the last few years, it has been expanded to include light-filled Christmas trees, archways, candy cane walkways and towers of twinkling snowflakes, among other things. In 2006, the Coxes began using a computer to set their lights to the soundtrack of holiday music.

    Decorating their home for Christmas has become a year-round hobby. "The most lights we put up was last year at 265,000, but we downsized a little this year to only 150,000 lights," says Bob, who underwent back surgery over the summer, which kept him from dedicating as much time to the display. "We have a ton of lights in storage (somewhere around 500,000), and next year we plan on putting all of them up for our most extreme year yet." Rage on, Christmas warrior!


    Dyker Heights, Brooklyn, New York

    "Every Christmas, the Dyker Heights neighborhood turns into a sea of lights," says Tony Muia, owner and operator of A Slice of Brooklyn Bus Tours. As the story goes, Lucy Spata, the "Lucy" behind the "Lucy's Sausage & Peppers" started the trend of extreme decorating in the neighborhood. "I grew up with this," says Spata, a longtime Dyker Heights resident in the New York Daily News. "My mom was a fanatic, so some of it is her stuff to keep her memory alive." She begins putting the decorations, which include illuminated angels and large wooden soldiers, up in early November, and she keeps everything up until January.

    When Spata first began decorating her home in the 1980s with hundreds of four-foot soldier figurines, reindeer and angels "in honor of her mother who loved angels," says Muia, the neighborhood complained about the crowds drawn by her displays. "If you don't like it," she told them, "Move!"

    best-christmas-lightsA drive through Brooklyn's Dyker Heights neighborhood is an enlightening experience. Photo: Tony Muia/A Slice of Brooklyn Bus Tours

    And so the neighborhood joined in on the fun, and now, more than two decades later, everyone's getting in on the action, including local decorators and landscape artists. "Companies that were light on work in the winter realized that homeowners would gladly hire someone to help them deck out their home for the Dyker Heights display," says Muia. "Many residents have professionals come out to decorate, and then store the decorations until it's time to put them up again next year."

    About two dozen homes along 84th Street and 12th Avenue in Brooklyn participate, decking their houses and lawns in thousands of lights, gigantic Santas, reindeers and elves, for a top-of-the-line Christmas driving tour. (Insider tip: Park your car a few streets away and walk -- driving through the display can take forever.)

    best-christmas-lightsResidents of Dyker Heights aren't afraid to go bright on Christmas. Photo: Tony Muia/A Slice of Brooklyn Bus Tours


    The Hyatt Family's Extreme Christmas Home, Fort Lauderdale, Florida
    The Hyatt's home at 11201 NW 14th Street in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, has been drawing crowds for five years. "My husband and I have been decorating our homes together since we got married back in 1990, but we bought this house specifically because we knew we could create a great Christmas display here," says Kathy Hyatt, 44. "My husband Mark's family always decorated the inside and outside of their house while he was growing up here in south Florida, and now he's carrying on that tradition. My family, on the other hand, was only able to put up a small tree, so it's been fun for me to learn how to decorate and build the display."

    best-christmas-lightsTeam Hyatt's masterpiece in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Photo: Michael Zimmerman Photography

    To complete their extravagant, the Hyatts start planning for the set up and power issues back in July. (Their electric bills for the month of December typically run about $1,000 more than an average month.) In August, they start preparing the property, tackling projects like painting the house, trimming the trees and hedges, and power washing the roof and driveway. In September, the decorations start going up. "This production is really all about the lights, which take a ton of time to get up," says Mark, who covers the home's exterior and roof entirely in green and white lights; he covers the foyer with lights and disco balls. "Let's just say it takes a lot of juice to get this going."

    best-christmas-lightsTeam Hyatt takes their job decorating their home seriously. Photo: Courtesy of Kathy Hyatt

    And this year, they say, will be the best yet. Drawing on ideas they gleaned from Christmas conventions (yes, there is such a thing), trips to Disney World and holiday movies, the Hyatt Extreme Christmas is becoming a true holiday experience. After journeying along the "lollipop walkway" where you pass a 20-foot ferris wheel and a 30-foot tree of lights -- complete with 21,000 lights -- you duck into Santa's Workshop. Continue through the Land of Snow White, Playful Penquins, Winter Wonderland, Disney and Loony Tune Wonderland, a life-size display of Santa taking off into the air and a nativity scene. This year they also added M&M characters and a 24-foot mega sign of lights that says, "Believe in the magic of Christmas."

    Tacky Light Tour, Richmond, Virginia
    Spanning across multiple neighborhoods in Richmond, Virginia, the Tacky Light Tour is a driving tour, designed to make it easy for holiday enthusiasts to find the craziest lights in town. Local residents can register their own home on the site to be included in the tour (there are 80 this year). Fair warning: Your home needs to boast at least 20,000 lights to be worthy of such an honor. Each listing provides a wealth of information, including the number of lights, the number of animated displays, the number of inflatable displays, the hours that the lights are turned on, and the number of years that home has been on the Christmas Tacky Light Tour.
    According to the creator of the tour, Matt Burgess, one of the most popular homes on display is Frank Hudak's -- aka Mr. Christmas (shown below) -- "Christmas House," located at 2300 Wistar Court. Featured on TLC's "Crazy Christmas Lights" show, the house has been a Richmond holiday legend for decades. "There are two reasons Frank's house is so popular," says Burgess. "First of all, Frank typically dresses up for and greets tourists each night. Secondly, he was one of the first homeowners to broadcast a live radio signal from his home featuring his favorite Christmas tunes -- he sometimes even pauses the music to speak on-air."

    best-christmas-lightsFrank Hudak (aka Mr. Christmas) with Matt Burgess, founder of TackyLightTour.com Photo: Tacky Light Tour

    What makes this particular holiday display so amazing is the house is literally dripping in lights, from the trees to the roof. Plus, every tree is trimmed with oversized ornaments and twinkling snowflakes. And the tacky doesn't stop there, oh no. The lawn is entirely covered in plastic figurines, from reindeers to penguins -- even woodland creatures like squirrels can be found mingling with angels and toy soldiers. The yard also includes a stable, a guardhouse, a church, candy canes and a multi-colored star, most of which were created in Hudak's own workshop. No wonder they call him "Mr. Christmas!"

    Can't get enough Christmas lights? Check out
    these over-the-top displays.

     

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    Just like blown-up Santas and tinsel-covered trees, ugly sweaters are the ultimate symbol of Christmas kitsch -- which we sometimes love. In fact, we didn't have to look far to realize that the fashion faux pas is cropping up in all manner of Christmas decor, too.

    You're likely to find tacky holiday decorations decking the halls of a home near you, but in case your neighbor is Martha Stewart, we've rounded up some of the oddest and, in some cases, creepiest holiday decorations we could find. (And trust us, there were many to choose from!)

    Here are our favorite ugly decorations of the season:




    The Ugly Sweater Ornament
    For starters, there's the most obvious incarnation of the ugly Christmas sweater -- a shrunk-down ornament version. It has everything an adult-size prototype is notorious for, minus the dirty looks and guilt trip you get for not wearing it. It's only $3 -- so maybe it's worth the chuckle you'll have every time you spy it on the Christmas tree.


    Evergreen Alternatives
    We're all about going green, but not if it means replacing a real evergreen tree with these recycled wine bottle and wood scraps. Yuck! We also spotted this beer bottle tree in our travels and, no, it was not at a trailer park.



    Upside Down Trees
    The sunny rooms these trees are set up in may be their only saving grace. On their own, they're a literal attempt to turn the classic symbol of Christmas on its head, but doing so turned out to be way more quirky than cool.



    Nostalgic No-Nos
    Who can deny the nostalgic charm of the Charlie Brown Christmas Special and "A Christmas Story" marathon we've come to expect every year? This sad little tree and string of leg-lamp lights are sure to garner a few laughs from holiday guests. Just make sure they're laughing with you and not at you.



    Inflatable FruitcakePhoto: McPhee.com


    Not-So-Edible Arrangement

    Holiday fruitcake gets a bad rap as it is, but try setting your table with this blow-up version (above) and brace yourself for a collective round of boos.

    The pranksters selling it also make the red and green, bacon-themed wrapping paper (below), which might escape our worst-of-the-season list if only it were scratch and sniff.

    Bacon Wrapping PaperPhoto: McPhee.com

    Creepy Christmas Decor Papier Mache NoelPhoto: Etsy.com


    Christmas Day of the Dead?

    The weather outside isn't the only thing that's frightful this holiday season. These Christmas-meets-Halloween decorations are too. A papier maché "NOEL" seems to mimic the look of tombstones (above) while the otherwise angelic characters below are channeling their dark (or better yet, dead) side.


    Creepy Christmas Decor Skeleton OrnamentsPhotos: Etsy.com

    For more great holiday content, don't miss the stories on Holidash!

     

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    Think you know everything there is to know about winter gardening? Think again. Our expert dispels four of the most common myths.

    Perhaps the most common winter gardening myth is that there is no gardening in winter! During the dark, cold months your garden is a living thing. Winter reveals its structure and provides an opportunity for reflection, planning and a great deal of enjoyment. So forget what you think you knew about gardening in winter and then get your gloves ready.

    winter-gardening-mythsRoof garden in winter. Photo: Marie Viljoen

    Winter Gardening Myth #1: Mulch keeps plants warm.

    Not actually.

    The purpose of fall-applied mulch in areas with freezing winters is to keep the temperature around your plants as steady as possible. It is not the cold but the freeze-thaw cycle that kills plants: On warmer days, the soil heats up, then thaws. The moisture in the plants' roots expands. Then a cold snap during the night freezes them again. This vicious cycle can eventually burst the roots and kill a plant. Applying 2-4 inches of mulch around your plants helps reduce the fluctuation of temperature that damages roots. So really, mulch keeps plants cold, not warm!

    When applying mulch, avoid covering the crowns of plants or they could rot when snow melts or when it rains and water collects around them. If your garden is filled with leaves after the fall, consider leaving them be. The natural leaf litter acts as perfectly good mulch. Or you can always try my favorite mulch: Compost, homemade or bought. Compost will break down slowly over winter and actively add nutrients to the soil.

    Winter Gardening Myth #2: You never water in winter.

    If it is a sunny, over-40-degree day, there is every reason to water. This is especially true of container and roof gardens where plants cannot draw on surrounding soil moisture to the same extent as those in an in-ground garden. Roof and terrace gardens, and those on exposed sites subject to a lot of wind, which desiccates plants, making them lose moisture through their leaves. You should water in the morning to allow the roots to absorb water during the warmer day, before the next freeze. Also bear in mind that small pots will lose moisture much more rapidly than larger ones. You should give them a drink more often.

    winter-gardening-mythsEdgeworthia papyrifera. Photo: Marie Viljoen


    Winter Gardening Myth #3: 'Winter Flowers' is a contradiction.

    Not necessarily. November belongs to the beautiful fall-blooming camellias. Camellias such as "Fairweather Favorite," "Winter Snowman," "Winter's Beauty," "Winter's Interlude," "Winter's Rose" and "Winter's Moonlight" have demonstrated hardiness down to -20'F (Zone 5b). To find what zone you live in, visit the USDA Plant Hardiness Map.

    Protection from wind (against a wall is ideal) and some morning sunlight are recommended for happy camellias. For more about very hardy camellia cultivars visit the International Camellia Society.

    The name winter hazel says it all. Hybrid Oriental witch hazels will bloom through a snow fall, early in the year. Their yellow or red streamers are a stunning sight against a white background and arrive just when we think we cannot take another week of winter. Hamamelis x intermedia "Pallida" has pale yellow, sweetly scented (perfume in winter!) flowers which open in mid winter, from January -- February. "Jelena" has stunning burned orange flowers and blooms at the same time. "Arnold Promise" has bright yellow blooms which open a little later, from February -- March.

    Edgeworthia papyrifera
    is still a weird and wonderful plant to many gardeners. In summer it looks tropical and in late winter it opens pale yellow flowers from its downy buds. Their scent is heavenly. This is a plant that would like one of those drinks of water on a warmer winter day: Its natural habitat is wood- and stream-side. I have had success with Edgeworthia in Zone 7, though on paper it is only hardy to Zone 8.

    Bear in mind that our climate is changing faster than the maps are updated. You might be able to experiment with a plant that theoretically grows only one Zone higher than where you live.

    winter-gardening-mythsGaultheria procumbers. Photo: Marie Viljoen


    Winter Gardening Myth #4: The winter garden is a boring garden.

    Three words: grasses, evergreens, texture (we have already covered flowers!).

    Grasses are at their most sculptural in the winter. Instead of cutting them back in the fall keep them tall until early spring.

    Evergreens: think outside the boxwood. Gaultheria procumbens (wintergreen) is a native groundcover whose red berries persist through the snow. Skimmia japonica is a low shrub with white flowers and scarlet fruit. Daphne odora 'Aureomarginata' has pretty variegated leaves and then blooms sweetly in late winter. Mahonia x media's pointed holly leaves soften beneath late winter flower clusters.

    Texture is revealed in winter. Choose your trees for what they look like undressed. Stewartias and crepe myrtles both have sinuous limbs and silky, tactile bark. Paper birch (Betula papyrifera) has gorgeous, peeling bark. Pine and firs needles bristle beneath smooth snow. The electric lavender berries of Callicarpa americana persist well into winter and also make a fragrant baking spice.

    Life is short and winter is long. We should make the most of every season in the garden, even the cold one.

    Winter GardeningCallicarpa americana. Photo: Marie Viljoen

     

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  • 12/24/10--20:51: Decoupage a Wall
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    Looking for a new way to jazz up your walls? Decoupaging is a fun and easy choice.

     

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    Whose house is this?

    An over-sized outdoor chessboard sits on the Malibu, California estate of this Oscar winning actor. He was recently nixed from a small part in a big movie -- a part he hoped would restart the engines of his fast-fading career. Who is he? See more hints below.

    Hints:

    He roomed with Academy Award winning actor Geoffrey Rush in college.

    He owns an entire island in Fiji.

    His career box office receipts are well over two billion bucks.

    He turned down the role of "The Terminator."

    He is just one child shy of a baseball team.


    What about you?


    Want the answer? Get it here!

     

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  • 12/24/10--20:51: Link Love: Christmas Edition
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    Confessions of holiday window dressers, Martha Stewart on The Simpsons and an $11 million Christmas tree. These are the stories we've been reading -- and the links we've been clicking -- in the week before Christmas.

    It's hard to believe, but Christmas Eve is here. We hope that all of you will be enjoying the weekend with the ones you love -- no matter what your beliefs or where you are in the world. Here at ShelterPop, we plan to take some time to relax, drink some cocoa, eat some Christmas cookies and share time with our friends and family. We'll see you next week, but in the meantime, here are some links to put you in the yuletide spirit.

    christmas-ideasMartha and the Rockettes: Now, that's what we call a Christmas present. Photo: Amanda Schwab/Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia


    Get merry with Martha: Watch the New York City Rockettes' appearance on The Martha Stewart Show -- no, Martha doesn't join the kick line, but it's still great. As a bonus, keep watching for Martha's behind-the-scenes tour of the decorating at Radio City Music Hall. Better still, have a laugh and tune-in to Martha's guest appearance on "The Simpsons."

    This year event designer extraordinaire David Stark teamed up with InStyle magazine to decorate the State Department's Diplomatic Reception Rooms -- Capitol Hill never looked so good. If Hillary hasn't invited you for a meeting, you can get a taste of Stark's style at West Elm, with whom he has created a line of holiday decorations.

    christmas-ideasPhotos: Nicole Gerulat (left), Megan Reardon/NotMartha.org (right)/RealSimple.com


    RealSimple.com's 14 Creative Homemade Holiday Gift Ideas from DIYers and bloggers is full of great ideas you could make year-round; notMartha's Warm and Fuzzy Felt Mugs was a particular favorite.

    Window dressers confess: Charlie Baker tells The New York Times about the windows he designed for Hermès, and David Hoey describes the work that went into his holiday windows and his new limited edition book, Windows at Bergdorf Goodman.

    Gawker reported a United Arab Emirates hotel unveiled a 40-foot fake tree decorated with jewelry valued at "over 11 million dollars," and ShelterPop editors' jaws dropped, especially when we saw how unremarkable it was.

    We're in love with Jordan Ferney's simple and stunning Christmas wrapping ideas. Whether you prefer preppy or luxe, you might find some last-minute wrapping inspiration on her blog Oh Happy Day.

    These three Christmas recipes had our mouths watering: Little Brown Pen's Chocolate Crinkles, Melissa Clark's Butterscotch Scotch Eggnog and The Runaway Spoon's Fig and Blue Cheese Savouries on Food 52.

    Our hearts melted for these 8 Great DIY Wreaths rounded up by ApartmentTherapy's San Francisco edition.

    We're bookmarking these gift guides aimed at guys for all of our future man-centric gift giving:
    - AC's Guide for Guys on Design*Sponge is funny and honest -- what do guys really want? Video Games and gadgets.

    - Adorable Joanna Goddard's Your Beloved Husband Who Makes Peppery Eggs, Sings The Rolling Stones To Your Baby And Can Always Make You Laugh Gift Guide

    - Papernstitch's Handmade Gifts For Men reveals some surprisingly sophisticated options.

    This one's just for giggles: Dogs in Antlers! 30 Amazing Holiday Pet Costumes on iVillage.

     

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    Whether it's advice about how to get out a tough stain or a heartwarming story of a couple falling in love over Christmas lights, ShelterPop's has covered them all this holiday season. Here's a roundup of our favorite Christmas stories.

    I'll be eating chocolate croissants off of my mother's holiday dishes Christmas morning. I love these dishes -- each one has a painted scene of a home decorated with lights in what looks like snowy Vermont on the front. The plates aren't fancy. I think my mom picked them up at a garage sale years ago. But they make me happy. (As does this miniature gingerbread house I saw online today by the creative folks over at PetitPlat Food Art.)


    That's what the holiday season is all about -- happiness, the simple joys of being home together with family and friends, breaking out the Christmas dishes, and decorating the mantel with something glittery. We had lots of happy stories on ShelterPop this Christmas season -- and all year long. After all, that's our motto: Happy homes make happy people.

    And happy homes make for happy holidays.

    Merry Christmas!

    xoxo
    Brooke and Amy
    ShelterPop Editors


    Here are our favorite ShelterPop Christmas stories:

    Britney Spears is a superstar, mother-of-two gazillionaire. Oh, and she loves Christmas lights. Check out what she did to her California home. Magic!

    Our writer dreamed of meeting a man who takes Christmas decorating as seriously as she does. Then she met 'Captain Christmas' and he changed her life forever. Here's their story.

    Tired of bringing a pointsettia for the host of every holiday party you attend. Think outside the pot, and check out these ideas for other winter flowers and plants to give as gifts.

    Our writer hasn't gone home
    for Christmas in years. She loves her family, but she doesn't love spending Christmas with them.

    Dozens of staffers at Aol came together to decorate a life-size gingerbread house to rival Neiman Marcus's crazy-expensive version. The result: One sweet little (big!) house. Then we shipped the gingerbread house to St. Jude Children's Hopsital, and the children went crazy for it.

    Tinsel is tacky, difficult to hang on a tree and can kill small animals. Still, one writer won't decorate her tree without it. Here's why she's defending tinsel.

    Think your neighborhood has the best Christmas lights? Check out these houses first. A look at the best Christmas lights in America.

    With the Ugly Christmas Sweater becoming an ironic Christmas party tradition, we asked ourselves: What is equivalent tacky-chic item in home decor? Here's a look at the ugliest Christmas decor around.

     

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    With more than 134,000 iPhone apps in existence, would you able to pick just one favorite? We asked our most well-connected friends and contributors to do just that. There is indeed an app for everything, it seems.

    By now, the catchphrase is everywhere: "Yeah, there's an app for that." In fact, the current number of iPhone applications (last we checked) is about 134,000 and counting! There are apps for choosing paint colors, measuring building materials, achieving a perfectly straight line -- anything a homeowner could possibly need (or want). But home-based apps are just the tip of the iceberg. You can make restaurant reservations, find out the name of the song you're listening to, buy a new house -- in fact, we're not sure what you can't do on your iPhone, iPad or laptop these days.


    Clock Pro HD, iTunes App storeClock Pro HD app. Photo: iTunes App Store

    We asked some of ShelterPop's most well-connected friends and contributors -- and those of our sister site, DIY Life -- to name their absolute favorite apps of 2010, design-related, DIY-related or otherwise. Some couldn't pick just one -- in fact, one of our friends picked three! You may want to check out these apps, if you haven't already.

    BOB WILLIAMS, designer and cofounder of Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams
    I love Clock Pro HD for traveling. It has an alarm, so I don't have to trust the hotels for a wakeup call. Plus, it has a world clock, so if I'm overseas, I know what time it is there and at home. It also has a stopwatch, so I can time the distance from my home to my final destination: 40 hours and 36 minutes is the record to date.


    MITCHELL GOLD, designer and cofounder of Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams
    Open Table: My mother's idea of a cookbook. (Joke spoiler: it's an online restaurant reservation app!)


    Craigslist Pro app, Ben Color Capture appCraig's List app; Ben Color Capture app. Photos: iTunes App Store (2)

    KRISTAN CUNNINGHAM, host and designer on HGTV's Design on a Dime
    Being a connoisseur of all things old, decorative and one of a kind, I am, of course, a Craigslist junkie. By now I think most everyone in the U.S. is familiar with this great online classifieds community (and now it's even gone international). So how unbelievably stoked was I when I found the Craigslist Pro app?! I mean, it displays the pics right with the search results, so you don't have to click on every coffee table -- just the ones that you might actually be interested in. Now the only danger is... I CAN'T STOP!


    GRACE BONNEY of Design*Sponge
    As for design-related apps, I love Ben Color Capture; anything you see can be scanned and instantly matched with a paint color -- perfect! But if I'm going to keep it real, my favorite would be Angry Birds, the game. Sometimes my brain requires a little mindless entertainment.


    JEFF LEWIS of
    Jeff Lewis Design, house flipper and star of Bravo's Flipping Out
    My favorite app is Shazam, because I never know who sings the songs I hear at El Pollo Loco. (Jeff is referring to this music app's most unique feature: It can identify a song playing in the background. Pretty cool, right?)


    iTunes app storeInstapaper app. Photo: iTunes App Store

    NEWELL TURNER, Editor-in-Chief, House Beautiful

    Instapaper
    :
    My latest app addiction is Instapaper: it puts all those articles you find on the internet into an easy-to-read format.

    Evernote: I take notes about everything I like. Before apps, I wrote everything on paper or in notebooks. The problem then was that I never had them with me when I needed them. Evernote is a fantastic app for taking all sorts of notes (and photo references!). They're stored conveniently in your iPhone or iPad, or laptop, so they're always on hand when you need them.

    LastPass: Who can remember all their passwords these days? This app is brilliant.


    iHandy level, free iPhone appiHandy Level app. Photo: iTunes App Store

    MATT KNOX, CEO of DiggersList.com
    My favorite DIY iPhone app is: iHandy Level for a couple or reasons. Number one, it's free! And number two,

    I am such an "eyeballer"when it comes to hanging anything up: pictures, whiteboards, wall hangings, et al! I rarely feel like going back to the garage and finding my level, BUT, I pretty much always have my iphone on me. Boom, level problem resolved!


    BRIAN KELSEY of Kelsey On the House
    My absolute favorite app is Time Lapse. It takes a picture of your DIY project every second, every two seconds -- whatever interval of time you need. When you're done it plays back the entire sequence as a movie. I use it all the time to film my own projects; it's great for when I want to demonstrate an hour's worth of ripping up a floor, for example, squashed down to 15 seconds.



     

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    In ShelterPop's new column "Cheap Chic Ideas," we'll tell you how to decorate your home like a celebrities. To kick things off, here's how to spruce up a bedroom like Gwyneth Paltrow:

    gwyneth-paltrow-homePhoto: Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic

    Sure, she's thin, pretty, super-successful (an Oscar!) and her hair always looks awesome, but Gwyneth Paltrow's decorating style isn't out of reach. While most of us would never dare to wear the long, white dress Gwyneth sported at a recent premiere, her cool, white bedroom is another story. In fact, the style of her bedroom is amazingly attainable.

    The master bedroom in Gwyneth Paltrow's Hamptons home is a perfect example of Paltrow's modern-feminine style: It's minimal and cool, yet pretty. The bedroom features lots of white against a backdrop of lavender-gray wallpaper. While the look is feminine, it's not so girly that Paltrow's rocker husband Chris Martin won't feel comfortable catching a few Z's.

    Recreate this chic bedroom at home with the following products and tips:

    gwyneth-paltrow-homePhotos: (left) Graham & Brown, (right) Overstock.com

    1. Style your walls and floors with touches of glamour.
    Wallpaper and a nice area rug set the stage for a luxurious feeling bedroom. Echo the look of the Wook Kim "Feu" wallpaper in Paltrow's bedroom with a less-pricey-but-still-pretty pattern from Graham & Brown. Snag an affordable shag rug to make stepping out of bed each morning a treat for your toes.

    Vintage Flock: The Perfect Taupe, $85/roll, Graham & Brown
    Hand-woven Posh Ivory Shag Wool Rug (8' 6 x 11' 6), $416, Overstock.com

    gwyneth-paltrow-homePhotos: (left) Nate Berkus for HSN, (right) West Elm

    2. Choose furnishings with clean, timeless lines.
    While Gwyneth Paltrow can afford high-end furnishings from Wendell Castle and Usona Home, you can find similar versions of her picks for a fraction of the price. Mimic Paltrow's classic bedroom furnishings with a white, tufted headboard from Nate Berkus and a sleek, white bedside table from West Elm. If you already have furniture you'd like to makeover, consider a fresh coat of glossy, white paint for wooden pieces and a simple slipcover for an upholstered headboard.

    Nate Berkus[TM] Tufted Headboard, $350, HSN.com
    Niche Nightstand, $249, West Elm

    gwyneth-paltrow-homePhotos: (left) JCPenney, (right) Velocity Art & Design

    3. Light it right.
    Gwyneth Paltrow's bedside table is equipped with both a table lamp and a pair of votive candles -- a smart way to ensure she has the right light for whatever mood she's in.

    Crystal Ball Table Lamp by Studio, $90, JCPenney
    Roost Antiqued Mercury Glass Filled Votives, $13 to $18, Velocity Art & Design

    gwyneth-paltrow-homePhotos: Donna Karan Home

    4. Keep bed linens pure white and neat -- and your bed neatly made.
    Paltrow makes her bed with Donna Karan's zen-chic bed linens and so can you. Opt for simple, white linens and a plain quilt to recreate Paltrow's polished, calming look. Plus, be sure to tuck everything in as neatly as Gwyneth does!

    Donna Karan Essentials Puckered Stitch Quilt (white), $140 for full/queen, Donna Karan Home
    DKNY Willow Gathered Knot Decorative Pillow, $50, Donna Karan Home

    5. Clear the clutter.

    The final lesson to be learned about decorating like Gwyneth can be applied to any bedroom no matter what your style. The reason Paltrow's bedroom seems so serene is its lack of clutter. Get rid of the stuff that may be piling up around your bedside. However, don't be too militant about a minimal approach: A few fresh flowers are one accessory that every bedside can enjoy.

    What about you ShelterPop readers? Is there a celebrity that you'd like to decorate like?
    Leave a comment below telling us which celebrity you would like to emulate in your own home. Include a photo of your own home and you may be featured in a future "Cheap Chic Ideas" post.

    Don't miss these stories on ShelterPop:
    - Kitchen Trends to Avoid
    - A Timeless Kitchen Makeover (and it uses white marble countertops!)

     

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    The house isn't fancy, but it's what they dreamed about as kids.

    Tom Vecchione and Tom Baione, best friends since childhood, grew up near one another on Long Island. One of their favorite teachers would often share happy tales of living close to the ocean, and the two childhood friends, who still remain close many years later, began dreaming of one day owning an oceanside home together.

    In 2001 when the two Toms spotted a home for sale on Jones Island, a barrier island off Long Island's south shore, they decided to go for it. While the home's remote and unusual setting attracted them -- it is elevated several feet above the sand and is about a thirty minute drive to the closest store -- it made it challenging to renovate. And it needed renovation.


    cottage-makeover-Tom VecchioneA photo of the house as it stands post-renovation. Photo: Tom Baione

    Originally built in the 1940s (with some renovations completed in the 1950s), the cottage was used by its previous owners only on weekends. The floors and windows were in good shape, but the rest needed help. Vecchione, a New York-based architect and former HGTV Design Star contestant, and Baione, the director of the library at the American Museum of Natural History, knew the cottage needed a facelift.

    Rather than tearing it down and rebuilding from scratch, they decided to work with what was there, since it was the "green" thing to do. Both are proponents of incorporating environmentally friendly ideas into design, and they decided they would use as much salvaged, re-purposed and collected materials as they could find or already owned to make their cottage the perfect vacation getaway.

    Avid collectors of just about everything kitchy and cool, the two had quite a lot to choose from, including antique carriage lanterns, discarded flooring from a neighbor and the bathroom tiles in Vecchione's childhood home. All of it found its way in to the charming cottage by the water, which has become a place to relax and connect with other friends from childhood.

    Below, clockwise from upper left: An exterior shot of the home before the extensive renovation, a view of the porch before it was transformed into the new kitchen, a shot of the old kitchen, and Tom Baione (left) and Tom Vecchione (right).

    cottage-makeover-Tom VecchionePhotos: Tom Baione

    When they bought the house, it had cement tiles on the exterior, which made it look ramshackle. They were worn from years of wear and tear, thanks to the cottage's close proximity to the salt water. The pair treated the exterior to cedar shingles and clapboard, trimmed in crisp white to show off the unique variety of salvaged windows (such as the casement windows in the front of the home, seen above) and elements used to give it its makeover.

    The home greets visitors with a charming front porch and a grand door; they found the door discarded, on a street just off Madison Avenue in New York City. It originally belonged to a majestic brownstone, and now shows off its elaborate details (a large center brass doorknob included) to guests here at the cottage. The blue door perfectly offsets the gorgeously faded dhurrie rugs peeking up from the floors.

    The house is small, only 1,100 square feet. There is one bedroom, a sleeping loft in the attic, one bathroom as well as two porches; one has been transformed into the cottage's cheery kitchen (more on that later).

    In the daytime, the pair spend most of their time in kitchen, since they do a lot of entertaining, and by night its time to relax in the living room. "We love to gather here because it reminds us of our summers growing up, spent at Lido and Atlantic Beach, here on Long Island," says Baione.

    The cottage is decorated in shabby chic, beach house style. Accent colors are reminiscent of blue and green sea glass, and mismatched chairs are paired throughout. Walls are painted a crisp white or left the color of natural wood. Even though the space is small, there are numerous windows, so the space is filled with natural light.

    cottage-makeover-Tom VecchionePhoto: Tom Baione

    The open and airy kitchen was originally an outside porch before it was closed in. Vecchione and Baione decided to keep the original flooring as they felt it "shows the life of the place." It also allows the eye to focus on the duo's extensive collection of blue and white china. The pretty collection is happily displayed against the white painted walls. The cupboard was salvaged from a neighbor's trash.

    Another favorite element in the kitchen? There's a cabinet built from a neighbor's discarded floor boards. After cleaning the boards, Baione decided to leave the surface intact as he fell in love with the gorgeous patina. We are very glad he did! The distressed green coloring is perfect for the seaside location.

    cottage-makeover-Tom VecchionePhoto: Tom Baione

    Finally, the front porch is home to another one of our favorite elements. If you look through the first room, off into the back, you'll see a gorgeous stained glass window peeking in. It was rescued from an old apartment building in New York City. It's a sparkling little jewel in this gem of a house.

    Liked what you saw here? Check out this mansion that's gone green!

    Just like in this cottage, the kitchen is one of the most popular rooms to redo in a home. Check out our tips on which trends to avoid.

    Are you a collector, like the homeowners spolighted here? Then check out our guide to the Best Flea Markets in the World.

     

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    In honor of Will & Kate's big day, the Royal Family has banned certain "souvenirs" such as tea towels. But that didn't stop a few creative Brits from coming up with a few of their own ideas...

    Because there's nothing like a big "No!" to inspire artistic souls, the creative kids at KK Outlet, a British design firm, created a set of crockery (that's what the Brits call plates) for the soon-to-be-couple.

    Pictures alone have set off a storm of interest, and the plates aren't even in product yet. If Prince William and Kate Middleton were popping over for a cup of tea, which would you use to serve your crumpets?

    And if you can't get enough of these, check out more royal wedding souvenirs!

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    Quirky Prince William and Kate Middleton Wedding Plates

    Mandatory Credit: Photo by Tim Rooke/Rex / Rex USA

    Quirky Prince William and Kate Middleton Wedding Plates

    "Like" plate by designer Ute Geisler. Plate with spoof Facebook entry for the royal wedding. Detail.Quirky Prince William and Kate Middleton royal wedding commemorative plates by KK Outlet, London, Britain - Dec 2010

    Quirky Prince William and Kate Middleton Wedding Plates

    "Like" plate by designer Ute Geisler. Plate with spoof Facebook entry for the royal wedding. Detail.

    Quirky Prince William and Kate Middleton royal wedding commemorative plates by KK Outlet, London, Britain - Dec 2010

    Quirky Prince William and Kate Middleton Wedding Plates

    Kate's Wedding List

    Quirky Prince William and Kate Middleton royal wedding commemorative plates by KK Outlet, London, Britain - Dec 2010

    Quirky Prince William and Kate Middleton Wedding Plates

    "The Age of Austerity" paper plate by Emma MortonQuirky Prince William and Kate Middleton royal wedding commemorative plates by KK Outlet, London, Britain - Dec 2010

    Quirky Prince William and Kate Middleton Wedding Plates

    "big willie (hearts) babykins" - references the couple's pet names for eachQuirky Prince William and Kate Middleton royal wedding commemorative plates by KK Outlet, London, Britain - Dec 2010

    Quirky Prince William and Kate Middleton Wedding Plates

    "A right royal knees up"Quirky Prince William and Kate Middleton royal wedding commemorative plates by KK Outlet, London, Britain - Dec 2010

    Quirky Prince William and Kate Middleton Wedding Plates

    "Kanye West quote"Quirky Prince William and Kate Middleton royal wedding commemorative plates by KK Outlet, London, Britain - Dec 2010

    Quirky Prince William and Kate Middleton Wedding Plates

    Quirky Prince William and Kate Middleton royal wedding commemorative plates by KK Outlet, London, Britain - Dec 2010

    Quirky Prince William and Kate Middleton Wedding Plates

    "Laser Eyes" by Richard WalkerQuirky Prince William and Kate Middleton royal wedding commemorative plates by KK Outlet, London, Britain - Dec 2010

    Quirky Prince William and Kate Middleton Wedding Plates

     

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    Bristol Palin -- star of "Dancing With The Stars" and daughter of VP-candidate Sarah Palin -- bought a home in Maricopa, Arizona. ShelterPop has the first pictures inside and out!

    No word whether this will be a winter home for the Alaska-native or if Bristol Palin will move to Arizona full-time. Either way she'll have plenty of space to store her dancing shoes. The home is on a 3,900-square-foot property in a community called Cobblestone Farms. The house is five years old and originally sold for $329,560. Bristol got it for much less after it went into foreclosure by a previous owner, fixed up by the next owner, and then resold. Bristol bought it this month for $172,000 in cash.

    Photo: Ray Tamarra, Getty Images / Courtesy photo

    The home has a three-car garage, which means she will definitely have room for a dance studio.

    bristol-palin-buys-arizona-homeCourtesy photo

    The interior was recently remodeled. The lines are clean, and there is plenty of open space and windows. While we're not sure from the picture what color the walls are, it looks like a warm yellow with a green tint. And certainly the table will be replaced quickly with something much bigger for family dinners.

    bristol-palin-buys-arizona-homeCourtesy photo

    Now this is a kitchen the entire Palin-clan can enjoy. It's so big Bristol can invite mom and dad, brother Trig and sister Willow for Thanksgiving dinner next year. Can't you just see the family around the island nibbling snacks?

    bristol-palin-buys-arizona-homeCourtesy photo

    The double sink is nice touch. It gives you plenty of room to spread out in the bathroom. Love the extra cabinets underneath. Storage! Can't ever have enough.

    bristol-palin-buys-arizona-homeCourtesy photo

    The community of Cobblestone Farms isn't gated, and the streets are not covered with cobble stones. But as you can see, the bases of the decorative posts are made of stones. And the views are incredible.

    bristol-palin-buys-arizona-homeCourtesy photo

    Yes, this is the backyard. Arizona is blazing hot most of the year so a green lawn is expensive to keep. Many Arizona residents keep their yard more "desert-like" with gravel or decorative stones.

     

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  • 12/28/10--21:16: On the Hunt: Floor Lamps
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    A floor lamp can add an attractive silhouette to any room, but with so many similar lamps on the market it can be hard to find just-the-right-one. Until now.

    Now that it's getting dark outside so early, we more lighting options than ever. If you're squinting or trying to read by the light of the Christmas tree, it's time to invest in a floor lamp. We've rounded-up a selection of our favorite floor lamps to help brighten your mood -- and home.


    floor lampsPhotos from left to right: Target; IKEA; Walmart.


    On a Budget
    Say goodbye to the college dorm room look -- you know, the infamous halogen-bright torchiere lamp -- and get an affordable, more sophisticated style.

    We like the clean lines of the Room Essentials Floor Stick Lamp, $30, from Target.

    For a slightly more traditional look, the ÅRSTID floor lamp, $40, from IKEA, gives off a soft light perfect for entertaining.

    Another nice traditional style lamp is the Better Homes and Gardens steel lamp, $45, from Walmart. It looks like it costs a lot more than it does.

    floor lampsPhotos, from left: Chiasso, Gecko.



    Think Whimsy

    Smile! You're ready for your close-up with this Spotlight floor lamp, $118, from Chiasso. If they wonder about the Hollywood-style lamp, tell your guests they're being interviewed by Barbara Walters shortly after dessert.

    Need to save space? This conversation piece is a Floor Lamp wall decal, $234, from Gecko. The sconce is "real" (it sticks out from the wall). Very cool. And a bit tricky!

    floor lampsPhotos, from left: Lamps Plus, Home Decorators Collection.



    Straight-up and Stylish
    Something about this National Geographic Floor Lamp, $199, from Lamps Plus, is so dreamy. Maybe it's the fact that it's called the Bali lamp and we need a vacation? The pleated bamboo shade reminds us of island huts. If you're looking for something with a every-so-slight tropical flair, explore this option.

    This Claiborne Floor Lamp, $159, from Home Decorators Collection, is transitional enough for any space. The high-gloss finish is very chic for an added burst of glamor.


    floor lampsPhotos, from left: CB2, Burke Decor.



    Sleek and Chic
    For more modern interiors, a nickel finish with a smooth white shade is just what the doctor ordered. Reminiscent of the iconic Castiglioni arco lamp, this more affordable version is called the Big Dipper Arc Lamp, $199, from CB2.

    If you're looking for something very modern, the Soiree Floor Lamp, $375, from Burke Decor, comes with a lovely, handmade silk shade. The shade is also available in a variety of patterns from faux wood grain to ginkgo leaves. The base is also available in antique bronze.

    floor lampsPhotos, from left: Allmodernlighting.com, Pottery Barn.



    Reading/Task
    It looks like a desk lamp but is big enough to stand on the floor. Anglepoise Type 75 Floor Lamp, $250, from Allmodernlighting.com.

    More on the traditional side is the Newbury Halo Task Lamp, $199, from Pottery Barn. Available in nickel or bronze, the zigzagging neck makes it easier for you to adjust the lamp for the task at hand.

    floor lampsPhoto, from left: Jayson Home & Garden, Stray Dog Designs.



    Splurge
    Yes, it's going to cost you a pretty penny, but it's as shiny as a brand new penny! Porter Brass Lamp, $550, from Jayson Home & Garden.

    This lamp is the definition of the word "whimsical," but I put it in here because it's a budget-buster. Birdie Floor Lamp, $450, Stray Dog Designs.

    For more On the Hunt stories, don't miss:

    On the Hunt: Throws
    On the Hunt: Modern Four Poster Beds
    On the Hunt: Modern Farmhouse Sinks

     

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    We ask designers to choose the warmest, fluffiest and snuggly-est down comforters.

    There's nothing cozier than a warm down comforter on a cold night: The feathers surround you and create a soothing, toasty cocoon. But searching for the right down comforter can be tricky. To take some of the mystery out of the shopping process, we asked home decor experts what kinds of down comforters they use in their own homes. Here's what we found out:

    best down comfortersMake your bed with the bed down comforter. Photo: Alamy


    Down Decor
    Christiane Lemieux, founder and creative director of DwellStudio, says she prefers the comforters made by Down Decor. DwellStudio uses Down Decor's down pillow inserts in their throw pillows and the studio admires the quality of all their products. Lemieux notes that she also appreciates that they are made here in the U.S.A.; in Cincinnati, to be exact.

    High and Low Options
    Decorator Bunny Williams shared picks both high and low. At the very high end, Williams loves the beautiful Quilted Blankets from Casa del Bianco. On the lower-priced side, she is a self-proclaimed fan of The Company Store's Quilted Down Blankets. Her favorite is the Supersize TCS Goose Down Blanket.
    TIP: For ultimate luxury, Williams also adores The Company Store's sheep's wool mattress pads.

    Going Green

    Green-living expert Danny Seo skips feathers for a down-like comforter made entirely out of recycled polyester -- the padding is made from recycled soda bottles. Seo says the hypoallergenic EcoPure Down Alternative Comforter ($80 for full/queen, Kmart) "feels just like down, but makes a strong eco-statement -- and it's not expensive!"

    Warmest Option

    When The Good Housekeeping Research Institute tested down comforters last year, JCPenney beat out the competition with their 5-Star Luxury Down Comforter ($340 to $400, JCPenney). "The full/queen comforter is well-stuffed with 36 ounces of down, which is considered excellent," notes the testing team. However, those who prefer a lighter-weight cover might want to steer clear of this super-warm comforter.

    Cheap-Chic Choice

    None of our experts cited the big blue retailer as a source for down comforters, ShelterPop likes the down comforters from IKEA. They offer a great bang for your buck. The MYSA RÖNN model has a warmth rating of 4 and is a perfect compromise for couples: It's neither too warm, nor too cool.

    Want more bedding advice?

    - Patterned Bedding: Making It Work
    -Solid Bedding: Making It Work
    -The DIY Reel: Choosing the Right Bedding

     

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    With all the crazy-cold weather this year -- post-Christmas blizzard, perhaps -- it might be a good idea to stay inside and celebrate New Year's Eve at home. It's not only warmer, but you can save money and spend quality time -- the last bit of 2010! -- with friend and family.

    So assuming your outfit is planned, let's get started on the bar. We've got the rundown of what you'll need to make sure your New Year's Eve is very merry (and affordable).

    new years at home barClockwise from top left: Party City; World Market; Z Gallerie.

    1. Take Stock:
    Check your stock of liquors and mixers. These will be the bulk of your party costs, so see what you already have and use it. Unless you're inviting ever single one of your Facebook "friends", one bottle each of the most common liquors -- vodka, gin and scotch -- will do. You'll also want on bottle each of the most popular mixers: Soda, tonic, and fruit juice.
    2. Consider a Signature Cocktail:
    We're big fans of having a signature cocktail such as Cranberry Sangria. It simplifies things in so many ways. It cuts down on the cost of buying multiple liquors. It makes serving drinks so much easier. You can keep a pitcher or punch bowl filled and - voila! Also, guests who aren't comfortable creating their own concoctions will be happy to have a pre-made option.
    3. Go Shopping

    Here's your list:

    1. One bottle each of vodka, gin and scotch (if you'd like a mixing bar)
    2. Signature cocktail ingredients (if you'd like one)
    3. A few bottles of champagne or prosecco (for midnight!)
    4. Two beer options, one light and one medium
    5. Club soda and tonic water
    6. Soda mixers such as Coke and ginger ale
    7. Fruit juices such as orange and pomegranate (Tip: decant them into pitchers or tall glass bottles)
    8. Garnishes like lemons, limes, oranges and olives
    4. Put It Together:
    Any small or medium sized table -- a computer desk or kitchen island -- will do. Just clear it off and cover it with a tablecloth or a few yards of fabric. Arrange the bottles on a tray to make the bar look complete.
    If you go with a signature cocktail, mix it before guests arrive and decant it into several clean, empty wine bottles. Remove water each bottle's label with soap and warm. For an extra touch, tie a sign around the neck noting the name of the drink and highlighting some of the ingredients so guests know what they're drinking.
    It may be tempting to pick up an ice bucket, but don't bother. Instead, fill a thick-walled salad bowl with ice and use tongs or a serving spoon to scoop out cubes.
    5. Food:
    Make it easy on yourself and don't plan on serving food that you need to prepare. Begin the party later in the evening and that will ensure guests eat before they arrive. Then you can just put out a few nice bowls filled with nuts, olives, and crackers to nibble on.
    6. Décor:
    If you have the time (and money) to add a few new touches to your home before inviting friends over, here are a few ideas.
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  • 12/30/10--22:52: Retro Bathroom Makeovers
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    Pink, Baby Blue...Avocado? Yes! Make the most of your funky-colored bathroom tile -- without breaking the bank.

    Do you have a green bathroom? And do you think the only solution is to rip everything out and start over? Don't despair, there's hope. ShelterPop explores how to learn to love those unusually tiled spaces from the last century and how to make them work today:

    retro-bathroom-makeoversLearn to love your quirky tile. Photo: Getty Images


    Make it shine. The first step to reviving any vintage bathroom is to give it a thorough, deep cleaning -- and we mean deep. Take a day to really scrub every inch of grout and tile. A Mr. Clean magic eraser will work wonders on the soap scum you thought couldn't be scrubbed off the ancient tub. Wash the walls and windows while you're at it.

    Get gorgeous grout. If your bathroom is looking really shabby, but you don't have the funds for a all new tile, consider re-grouting. You'll be surprised what a huge refresher this can be. Plus, it's a job you can do yourself if you have some time and patience.

    retro-bathroom-makeoversPhoto: Getty Images

    Keep it neat. The easiest way to make your bathroom look great is to get rid of unnecessary clutter. (Beauty product hoarders, we're talking to you!) Note how tidy the bathroom is above: There are not five different kinds of shampoo on the tub's edge and you will not see rolls of toilet paper corralled in a wastebasket. When cleaning out your stash, remember that any unopened products will be welcome at your local women's shelter.

    Limit your palette. If you're stuck with colored tile, painting the walls white is a good idea. White can act as a neutral balance to your bold tile and lighten up a dark space. If you want to add another color into the mix, do so sparingly. The blue bathroom above is accented with just a few hints of lavender.

    Have fun with it.
    If you've got a quirky bathroom, enjoy the freedom it offers you. In this bathroom at left green tiles are matched with a bold, patterned shower curtain and bright yellow walls; striped towels offer another hit of pattern -- but it all works together. Again, the palette is limited, but it isn't shy.

    Make some updates. If you're graced with a bathroom that is decked floor-to-ceiling in one color porcelain, one option is to replace just the sink and toilet and leave the tile and tub intact (like the bathroom below). A white toilet and a simple vanity can freshen up the look of a retro-feeling bath without the hassle of a full renovation. Plus, newer models of toilets are much more water-efficient.

    retro-bathroom-makeoversMatching trim and doors to your tile is a way to keep things simple. Photo: Getty Images

    Embrace the color you have. The bathroom above isn't trying to hide from its minty green tile. The homeowner picked a paint color that's a near match to the tile. The result is a pulled-together look that feels contemporary.

    Keep things consistent.
    Don't try to update with radically modern hardware or fixtures. Take another lesson from the bath above: The sink vanity has vintage-looking faucets, the toilet paper holder and towel holders have classic looks and the new toilet has a decidedly vintage feel.

    Want more bathroom makeover advice?
    Read on:
    - Secret Source: Vintage Bathroom
    -The Dos and Don'ts of: Cleaning Your Bath Tub

     

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    The fire may be delightful, but what about that mishmash of stuff you've arranged on top? Before you get comfy, try these five tips for upgrading your fireplace mantel.

    If you've ever had room envy (guilty!), there's a good chance it was spurred on by the presence of a fireplace. It's the natural focal point in any room and the cozy-comfort we're craving this time of year. For many of us, however, the mantel has simply become a stash spot for family photos and the occasional holiday decor. For designers, on the other hand, it's a blank slate with endless potential to make a room sparkle.

    Taniya Nayak Fireplaces for HGTVTaniya's out-of-the-box mantel decor. Photos: Taniya Nayak


    We asked two designers to share their formula for decorating a fireplace mantel stylishly. From scale of your artwork to items that should never sit on top, here's their best advice.

    Decluttering the Mantel
    "There is no rule" when it comes to how many items to place atop your mantel, says Taniya Nayak, host of HGTV's Destination Design. "Put as many things as you'd like, as long as it tells a story, works with the decor in the rest of your home and doesn't look too cluttered."

    Interior designer Kim Myles, the second winner of HGTV's Design Star, agrees that there's no magic number. For her, it's all about curating the space versus using the mantel as a catch-all for overflow items from your shelves. She recommends using the space to show off something special instead. "Treat whatever you choose to display as a vignette -- a gorgeous collection of Italian glass, a single unique sculpture or a selection of beloved books, for example."

    Does Size Matter?
    It does, Nayak says, and the key is not to dwarf the size of the actual hearth itself. If you are using art, a mirror, or a framed photo, keep it slightly smaller than the opening of the fireplace so that the overall look is not too top heavy.

    Myles actually prefers larger pieces, but recommends keeping the scale to two thirds of the size of the fireplace itself. Her other trick of the trade: Arrange three different size pieces in order from large to small.

    Curating Your Collection
    Nayak loves clusters and layers. Her rule of thumb when clustering is to keep things in groups of three. If you're using candle pillars, for example, try only three.

    When all else fails (of if you're just fresh out of ideas), both designers say that one large mirror is a foolproof choice. "It is clean, simple, and adds depth to the room," Nayak says.

    Myles fancies hers up by choosing one that's vintage, etched or has an unusual shape. "A standard plain frame isn't going to work as hard as it should," she says.

    Be Different and Be You
    Each designer has their signature element for mantel decor and it's just as easy to channel yours. Nayak's favorite is branches. She picks them right out of her yard, spray paints them in a white lacquer (vibrant yellow works well for a Mod room or metallic for a more glam-ornate style). Then she lays them across the mantel or sets them upright in a vase -- anything goes.

    Myles has a thing for collections. She once displayed fifteen Buddha statues that a client had gathered over the years. In other homes she uses fresh flowers. "I love the look of 3 vases in the same color family but of varying heights that are each stuffed with peonies," she says.

    Anything Goes. Or Does It?
    There are lots of things around your home that you can use to deck your mantel, but a flat screen TV should not be one of them, Myles says. "It's just a huge black hole when the TV is off, and it really wastes and opportunity for a charming, individualized display."

    Nayak says to be aware that what's on the mantel is always visible. That means it needs to be at least a little bit cohesive and laid out with some intent (as opposed to dropped there randomly). "Remember that the mantel tends to be a primary focal point in the room and can make quite a statement. So...make a statement!"

    Don't miss these great ShelterPop stories:
    - Ryan Phillipe Selling His Home
    - Gwyneth Paltrow Loves This Furniture Designer
    - Is Oprah Moving?

     

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    Two moms started a home design site that specializes in decorating kids rooms. We love their most recent project: They gave our writer's baby a nursery.

    If you've ever been faced with decorating a baby's or kid's room, you know the feeling: You're so excited to create a whimsical getaway for your little bean, but picking a style and color scheme for the space has left you feeling paralyzed. Do you go with the standard pink or blue? Stripes or polka dots? Modern furniture or classic silhouettes? And once you've decided on a look, how do you find the pieces that you have in mind? Yep, creating a room for a tiny person can actually turn out to be a huge dilemma. Luckily, the ladies behind Project Nursery can help.

    Photo: Courtesy of Little Apple Nursery

    Founded in 2008 by moms, business partners and design enthusiasts Melisa Fluhr and Pamela Ginnochio, Project Nursery, an online resource for moms, is a virtual jackpot of kid-friendly design ideas, from hip finds for the family home to do-it-yourself projects to clever party ideas and to how to create an amazing kid's room on a budget.

    And the Project Nursery empire is growing. Melisa (left) and Pamela (right) recently launched Little Apple Design, which provides clients with their own personalized "e-design" based around a kid's room of their choice. Here's how it works: Simply fill out the detailed questionnaire on the company's website and send over any photos you may have of your existing room. From there, Little Apple Design will custom create an electronic design board of 15 to 20 items, along with a list of product links for you to check out. Costs range from $50 per hour to chat with the designers over the phone to $525 for a customized design board.

    Sound easy? I can tell you from personal experience that it is. As a new mother to a 10-month-old baby boy and the recent owner of a new home, I decided to try out the design service myself (the nice moms at Project Nursery waived their fee). After filling out the questionnaire, here's the design dilemma I submitted to Melisa and Pamela:

    My family and I are about to move into a new townhouse after living in a rented apartment. In the rental, we weren't allowed to paint or hang window treatments, so I'm really looking forward to creating a baby space for my son Sam (10 months old) that I couldn't create in the old place. With that said, we want this new baby room to be somewhat gender neutral so that it can be our next baby's room -- whatever the sex! Also, because our house isn't that big, it's important to me that the room flow with the rest of the home. (In other words, no childish characters on the wall!) Any advice?

    And here's what they came up with!

    Photo: Courtesy of Little Apple Nursery



    In planning Sam's nursery, Melisa and Pamela said their top priority was to ensure that the room was designed with versatility in mind, since we planned to use the room for another baby. If our next child is a girl, the light blue, green and white palette is gender neutral and can easily be brought to the feminine side with pops of pink.

    They also saved us money by working around our existing white Da Vinci Jenny Lind crib, and they picked a rocking chair, changing table and shelving unit in more modern styles so it would flow seamlessly with the other rooms in our home. On the other hand, they did accessorize the space with kid-inspired, easy-to-change items, like tree and bird wall decals and a giraffe growth chart (see more of the room below). Both added a bit of childish whimsy without having to commit to a particular theme.

    The total cost of their suggestions, about $3,000. It's quite a bit more than my husband and I planned to spend, but I definitely got some really great ideas that I do plan to incorporate, like the paint choices, the sheepskin rug, the pennant decal and the bright green floor cushion and shelving units.

    Here's what they planned for the room, by the numbers:

    1. Pendant Light, $298, Taley; 2. "Lake Placid" Paint, Benjamin Moore; 3. Little Lion Baby Mobile, $40, Modern Baby Co.; 4. New Garden Tree Wall Decal, Surface Inspired; 5. Custom Alphabet Print, $50, Modern Pop: 6. Ryder Simple Shelving, $59, Pottery Barn Kids; 7. Arm Shell Rocker, $349, Sparkability; 8. KiteLinen Pillow Cover, $35.95,sukanart; 9. Martini Side Table, $129, West Elm; 10. HiyaDresser/Changer, from $845, by Spot on Square; 11. Sheepskin Rug, from $159, West Elm; 12. Sprout Star Crib Sheet, $36, Serena & Lily.




    13. Pennant Decal, $72, Petit Collage;14. Linen Bulletin Board, LG Designs; 15. Hiya Book Shelf, from $549, Spot on Square; 16. Mimi's Frames, $34, Paula Prass; 17. Brady Stripe Window Hardware, from $40, Pottery Barn Kids;18. Suite Ribbon Drapes, from $59, PBteen; 19. Giraffe Growth Chart, $100, Petit Collage; 20. Wild Green Floor Cushion, $75, Boujiandnouna.


    Impressed? So was I. So, why not try it for yourself?

    Looking for other kid-inspired design ideas? Check out a few of our
    ShelterPop favorites:
    Going to Paint a Kids' Room? We Found the Best Colors
    Designing a Home With Baby in Mind
    Seriously Stylish Nurseries

     

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    Next time you spy a must-have Lucite table in a magazine, you'll know where to find it: Here are three shops that specialize in all things Lucite.


    acrylic furnitureThe classic acrylic waterfall table. Photo: Plexi-Craft

    Acrylic furniture is an easy way to punch up a boring room. Not only does it bring a hint of modern to a staid space, it adds an artsy feel too. Whether it's called Perspex, Plexiglas or Lucite, it's all made from the same material -- acrylic glass. If you're on the hunt for clear furnishings, it can be hard to cut through all the bar and club distributors, award makers, podium designers and -- well -- the uglies. Here are three clear winners when it comes to top quality attractive acrylic furniture.

    Plexi-Craft acrylic designsPlexi-Craft creates custom designs

    The Source
    Plexi-Craft

    The Goods
    Anything and Everything. This New York-based fabrication house will take a simple sketch or your dream piece of furniture and make it in plexiglass. From custom headboards, executive desks and even folding chairs, I don' think there's anything Plexi-Craft won't do. In fact, they ask you to challenge them -- right there on their homepage. The prices vary, depending on the complexity of the piece. An average waterfall cocktail table will run you about $325, but something a little more complicated like a butterfly base is closer to $1000.

    The Secret
    Plexi-Craft has been working with plexiglass for over 50 years. I'm sure you won't find too many other furniture makers who can say the same thing about one material. Everything they make is handmade, using no fancy tools other than a band saw.

    Things to Know
    Plexi-Craft offers a large selection of pre-made acrylic pieces ranging from accessories to large furniture pieces, so you don't have to go custom. However, if you have the desire to create something unique, you can do so right from their website. You also have the option of customizing something that they already have. They even offer design assistance at no extra charge, so take them up on it -- they're experts! If you need to touch and feel the quality, you can visit their Long Island showroom.




    Spectrum Limited and Spectrum West acrylic furnitureA selection from Spectrum Limited and Spectrum West


    The Source
    Spectrum Limited and Spectrum West

    The Goods
    If you're looking for high-end acrylic furnishings, then you've landed on the goldmine with the Spectrum family. Just looking at some of their pieces makes me feel like I've spent money. I have seen Spectrum West furniture in person and let me tell you that it's no joke. The acrylic is super-thick and high-quality. Their prices are not for the faint of heart: Their traditional waterfall table starts at $1650 for a small size; a more complicated table might run you over $6,000.

    The Secret
    Spectrum has been creating high-quality acrylic furniture since 1983. Spectrum Limited is their traditional range, and Spectrum West launched not too long ago to fill the need for more modern pieces. Spectrum works with colored acrylic, wood tops, upholstery -- you name it. Each piece is made entirely by hand by skilled craftsmen, and while they don't advertise it, they will entertain custom designs.

    Things to Know
    They do not have their own showroom, but there is a list of retailers located in most major cities on each website. They are going to be launching a new line called Emporium in coming months, which will feature one of a kind, rare pieces ranging from acrylic chandeliers to other mixed medium pieces.


    California Acrylic DesignA selection from California Acrylic Design


    The Source
    California Acrylic Design

    The Goods
    Everything acrylic. California Acrylic Design not only creates trophies, awards, aquariums, podiums and the usual acrylic items -- like waterfall tables (just like the picture up top) starting at $326. They specialize in making custom pieces.

    The Secret
    This is a small company, but if you're local to Los Angeles, you can bet that anybody looking for acrylic furniture will be pointed in their direction.

    Things to Know
    They offer polishing and scratch-buffing services for your existing acrylic furniture. Although they closed their showroom in 2008, they allow customers to stop by their Los Angeles studio to see what they're making.

    Other great sources for acrylic furniture:
    - Acrila
    - Alexandra von Furstenberg
    - Kartell
    - Aaron R. Thomas

     

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  • 12/30/10--22:52: Celebrity Bedrooms
  • Filed under: , , ,

    ELLE DECOR recently shared their favorite 14 stylish bedrooms -- here, our favorite five of the bunch.

    From our friends at ElleDecor.com

    Whether they spend hours in front of the camera or at work devising the latest fashions, every star needs a chic place to recharge after a long day. From Ellen Pompeo's eclectic haven to Cindy Crawford's cozy bedchamber (below), the private spaces of these headliners are as diverse as their talents. Take a peek at the stylish bedrooms of some of ELLE DECOR's favorite celebs.

    celebrity-bedroomsCindy Crawford's bedroom. Photo: Courtesy ElleDecor


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    Celebrity Bedrooms

    Ellen Pompeo:
    Worldly Mix
    Grey's Anatomy star Ellen Pompeo enlisted designer Martyn Lawrence-Bullard to create a well-traveled look for her Hollywood Hills bedroom. Pompeo found the bed at one of her favorite Parisian stores, Caravane Chambre 19, and accessorized it with an antique Egyptian wall hanging, Moroccan-style brass lamps, an Indian throw, and 1950s West African pillows from Hollywood at Home.

    Celebrity Bedrooms

    Cindy Crawford:
    Beauty Sleep
    Model Cindy Crawford enlisted decorator Michael S. Smith to design the Malibu home she shares with husband Rande Gerber. The master bedroom combines traditional elements-a tufted chaise longue, dark woods, and a stone fireplace-with eclectic touches like Moroccan rugs and an embroidered bedcover, resulting in a sophisticated, yet comfortable space.

    Celebrity Bedrooms

    Meg Ryan:
    The Big Sleep
    The light-filled master bedroom of Meg Ryan's home on Martha's Vineyard is all about ease. Vintage linens, simple lighting, and a barnstyle sliding door create a rustic feel. The custom-made bed and trunk were designed by Marsha Russell of Satinwood and made by Herrick & White, and the sconce is by O'Lampia Studio.

    Celebrity Bedrooms

    Alexandra Wentworth and George Stephanopoulos
    Power Nap
    Actress Alexandra Wentworth turned to designer (and old friend) Elizabeth Martin to help her decorate the Washington, D.C., home she shares with Good Morning America cohost George Stephanopoulos. In the master bedroom lively patterns on the armchair and bed pillows add a dose of energy to the room's subdued neutral palette. The curtain fabric is by Nancy Corzine and the armchair is upholstered in a linen by Raoul Textiles.

    Celebrity Bedrooms

    Sarah Jessica Parker:
    Overnight Sensation
    Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick's laid-back Bridgehampton master bedroom mixes crisp white walls, bedding, and curtains with colorful accessories, including an aqua Christopher Spitzmiller lamp and apple-green vintage armchairs. Designer Eric Hughes grounded the room with a sisal rug and hung grommeted IKEA curtain panels for a relaxed, beachy feel.

    Celebrity Bedrooms

    Want to see the rest? Check out the full piece at ELLE DECOR!

     

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