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    Would you believe that vanilla is the most-preferred home scent? We reached out to a panel of "experts" to find out why.

    According to Mintel Research News, 44% of air freshener users say they choose vanilla-scented air fresheners most of the time, making it the most popular fragrance choice for the home. But why? We hit up the usual -- and some unusual -- suspects to get the scoop.

    vanilla-scent-homeTammy Hanratty, Corbis

    "I find it so ironic that the word vanilla is often used to describe something bland and boring," says Jacqui Snow, creator and foodie behind The Recipe Diva. "The scent of vanilla is so powerful in its ability to immediately evoke feelings of warmth and comfort -- it's proven to have a calming effect. While honest and simple, it's definitely not boring."

    And Caitlin Creer of Caitlin Creer Interiors in Salt Lake City, Utah, agrees. "Vanilla makes me think of the holidays and baking cookies as a child," says Creer, who typically leans toward grapefruit or pine, but opts for vanilla when the holidays roll around. "Everyone loves to come home to the smell of vanilla. It definitely completes the ambiance of a warm home with a roaring fire."

    Self-proclaimed vanilla purists can't convince everyone to jump on the sweet-smelling bandwagon. "You can't deny the popularity of vanilla," say Gretchen Hollingsworth, the owner of Paddywax Candle Company. "It definitely appeals to a wide audience, but we don't offer it because it's already available from so many other candle companies. We're kind of known for our imaginative blends, so we're constantly challenging ourselves to come up with unexpected ideas, and vanilla is already a home-scent staple."

    And personally, Hollingsworth isn't even a fan. "I'm probably one of the few people who's not that into vanilla," she says. "It's too sweet and I prefer crisp, greener fragrances. To me, it's just, well, vanilla."

    As for this writer, I'm a devoted member of the Church of Vanilla, and I'd gladly cover every inch of my home with vanilla frosting if it wasn't so darn sticky! Like Snow, who admits that she avoids burning vanilla candles when she's hungry for fear she might actually start lapping up the burning wax, I can't resist the sweet icing-inspired goodness of a vanilla candle or air freshener. My cousin Charlie Flynn, 11, understands where I'm coming from.

    "If I could eat one thing forever it would be a big bowl of sugar," Charlie admits. "Hot fudge, whip cream, rainbow sprinkles -- all on top of vanilla ice cream. It's my favorite food. It's pretty much the most awesome thing ever."

    I couldn't have said it better myself. Yep, with vanilla on top. We're living in one sweet world.

    Not sold on sweet? Check out the Top 5 Serene Bedroom Scents or learn how to create your own personal scent blend.

     

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  • 01/01/11--20:52: Alarm Clocks We Love
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    Here's a New Year's Resolution for you: Get a better night's sleep and give your cell phone a rest. Wake up to a good old-fashioned alarm clock this year. Your nightstand will love its new look!

    It's not news that cell phones may be bad for you. There's the risk of brain cancer from holding the device up to your ear, the threat of "thermal injury" that comes with placing it in your pocket, and now a similar worry, that sleeping with a cell next to your bed or worse, under your pillow, could have a dangerous effect on your well being.


    alarm-clocksPhoto: Getty

    This latest fear stems from a large-scale study by the World Health Organization earlier this year that found a possible link between certain types of brain tumors and heavy cell phone use. And while that may be the worst-case-scenario for the two-thirds of us who keep our phones by our beds at night, there are a few other reasons why it isn't a good idea.

    Many of us aren't sleeping as good. Sleep deprivation is said to be caused by the light coming off of your phone (especially blue ones) or from the interactivity involved in using it. Both can delay our natural sleep time and throw off our body's circadian rhythm, researchers say. That in turn leads to morning grogginess, not being able to remember certain things and possibly even gaining weight. Yikes!

    What's tricky is that for every cautionary tale we hear about the effect our cell phone has on our sleep, there are five more cases for how awesomely convenient they are. True as it may be, nothing beats a good night's sleep. That's why we're giving our cell phones some time to rest. Instead, try waking up to one of these good old-fashioned alarm clocks.

    Here are a few that are sure to bring you sweeter dreams. Night night!


    Alarm Clocks

    Clockwise from top left:
    The vintage-looking Moonbeam clock, $39.50, L.L. Bean, was designed in the 50s, but it's been updated with an LED light instead of the traditional bell sound. Getting the buzzer on this Laser Target alarm clock to stop blaring, $13.75, Amazon, requires a sharp eye, a little concentration and a straight shot at the target on top. Instead of hitting "snooze" on Rock Pedro Gomes' "Sleepy" clock, price not listed, Yanko Design, spin it on the nightstand. What's old is new again with the Bomba alarm clock, $72, Little Clock Shop, which features retro flipping numbers inside a clear modern shell. If you need more than a little coaxing to get you up, the Sonic Bomb clock, $38.95, Sonic Alert, has a bed-shaking attachment that you can slip under your pillow. While the Back In Time clocks, $40, High Fashion Home, won't give you another eight hours of beauty rest, they do offer a glimpse of a bygone era. Mornings are complicated enough without a super technical alarm clock. Keep it simple with this media edition Alba clock, $148, Furni. Behind the domed lens of Newgate's Bubble clock, $40, Burke Decor, is a classic way to rise and shine.

    For more old-fashioned inspiration, check out these ShelterPop stories:
    A Kitchen Makeover That Recalls the Past
    Home Economics: The Modern Day Joys of Old School Homemaking
    Design Drool: A Return to Don Draper

     

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    If there's ever a time of year to get all glitz-and-glammed up, New Year's Eve is it. We aren't just talking about your outfit either.

    Yes, Christmas decorations are still up, and maybe even that DIY centerpiece you spent hours making for Thanksgiving, but New Year's Eve deserves a little something special.

    We scoured our favorite magazines and websites for ideas and found gleaming, New-Year's Eve inspiration at every turn. Most of them require little more than a quick update of your existing holiday decor, so it's easy to get in on the festivities, even if you aren't playing host.

    If you're resolving to reduce, reuse and recycle in the coming year, then these decorations are a good (not to mention gorgeous) way to start. Leave it to Martha Stewart to fashion a glistening set of streamers out of leftover wrapping paper, left. On the right, she created a clever countdown to midnight by arranging an assortment of old clocks on top of a fireplace mantel. These clocks are all set the same, but you could match timepieces to your favorite cities and extend the festivities beyond the midnight hour.

    New Year's Eve Decor by RuePhoto: Feather Love Photography for Rue Magazine

    Whether it's Christmas or New Year's, the ladies over at Rue magazine know how to throw a holiday party. Their November/December issue feature "Jingle Girl Rock" isn't just a study in retro revelry, we spotted some cute ideas for transitional holiday decor too. Take this bead and bauble filled martini glass, for example. It could fancy up a New Year's display just as easily as it did for their Christmas affair.

    New Year's Eve Decor by LonnyPhoto. Lonny

    Take a page from Lonny's December book on how a holiday table is done. The red snow-printed napkins and gilded flatware are Christmas all the way, but it's the confetti-inspired tablecloth that takes this spread through to the new year. Use a festive tablecloth that compliments your wares without overwhelming them, Lonny says. Or, copy their look to a T with Schumacher's Hiro fabric in black and white.

    There's something magical about a perfectly-timed, cascading mass of confetti. Pair it with a birthday party relic -- the piñata -- or give it some personalized flair by printing familiar faces on one side. It's instant table decor and entertainment for your guests. Craft your own confetti the way Martha Stewart did here, right, or leave it to the pros, like the duo at ConfettiSystem, whose hand-cut assortment is stuffed inside their made-to-order piñatas, left. As if those weren't enough to make us drool, ConfettiSystem can whip up matching blindfolds out of silk charmeuse and metallic leather, too.

    Photo: Fresh Home

    This turquoise table was designed by the editors of Fresh Home magazine to celebrate the trifecta of holiday fetes -- Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Eve. Its modern palette easily accommodates all three, so you only need to change out the accessories to update the look. For New Year's Eve, far right, they've ditched the plaid and opted for a monochromatic, blue palette instead. On top of the "catwalk" (a piece of wood wrapped in fabric and set atop embellished cans), clocks and champagne flutes send a happy new year message all on their own while a handful of Hershey's Kisses stand in for the real thing.

    New Year's Eve Decor by Amy AtlasPhoto: Etsy

    Nothing says celebration like a few bottles of bubbly. And if you're planning on keeping it simple this year, it may be all the adornment you need. These are jazzed up with printable labels from Anders Ruff Custom Designs on Etsy. Wrap a few, raise a glass and usher in 2011 in style.

    Cheers!

     

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    Yes, I have an e-reader. But my bookshelf isn't going anywhere.

    I could tell you that I chose my e-reader based on its screen quality or the extra-long battery life. But I'd be lying.I made my decision to buy Barnes & Noble's Nook over Amazon's Kindle based on one thing: Possible covers. The Nook is sold alongside Lilly Pulitzer and Kate Spade covers that look like old-fashioned book cloth.

    e-reader-bookshelfThe author's Nook on her bookshelf. Which of these things is not like the other? Photo: Amy Preiser

    It may not make much sense: If I'm purchasing a device to keep me away from paper and ink books, why should I care so much about the cover material? (Which for the record is cotton canvas.) But my connection to the familiar feel of a cloth case -- similar to the size, shape and material of a traditional book -- goes deeper. I've loved books ever since I got my first library card at four years-old. I misspelled my own name and covered the mistake by doodling a flower; even then I was conscious of aesthetics.

    e-reader-bookshelfThe author's bookshelf (and chair of unshelved books). Photo: Amy Preiser

    When my boyfriend and I moved in together, one of the most fraught transitions was the combining of the bookshelves. It was our first order of business upon unpacking the boxes. Oh, yes! Those boxes that we groaned carrying into the U-Haul, out of the U-Haul and around the narrow hallways.

    We stacked our books together in the new shelf in a totally democratic way -- by color. But the bookshelf took on a life of its own as we started to get more comfortable in the apartment. Books were taken out and put back in new places, new books found their way in via generous friends and boxes on the street marked "Take me!" The shelf filled up with vertical filing and then horizontal stacking began. And know what? It looked better than it did when everything was neat. It looked like people lived here, people who used the bookshelf as something other than a display case.

    Because each spine, whether it's neatly tucked away or haphazardly stacked on a chair, also stands for a story aside from the one inside. The autographed Salman Rushdie novel, my boyfriend's beloved collection of bright blue, dog-eared travel books, my father's favorite book about American History that I still haven't returned after six years of borrowing (and still, not reading). They're all there. They all remind me of accomplishments. Each urges me to do new things and nags me about unfinished business.

    But the bookshelf doesn't just serve as my own well of sentimentality, it's a point of connection. It's the spot that people are drawn to upon entering the apartment. We all call teapots and chandeliers "conversation pieces," but the bookshelf is the real deal. When my new neighbors moved to the building, we sparked a friendship based on the fact that we had a dozen books in common. Party guests have made fun of my collection of "The Babysitters Club" books (What? They're sentimental). When a friend tells me they're itching to rearrange their living room, I'm quick to hand them "The Comfortable Home"; if they're looking to shake up their repertoire of recipes, I'll hand them "A Homemade Life." Feeling like they have the most dysfunctional family on earth? Try "This is Where I Leave You." In a way, my bookshelf is also my own little pharmacy. Though like a shady pharmacist I do hoard the best things for myself: There's no way I'm giving out my new, cherished copy of Maira Kalman's "And the Pursuit of Happiness."

    e-reader-bookshelfThe author and her e-reader in the Jonathan Adler Peace/Love case.

    Technically, my e-reader has the same ability. It can hold 1,500 e-books and has a "Lend-Me" feature, which lets me zap those e-books to friends for a two-week borrowing period. But my e-reader is new; I only have six book so far, and how's anyone supposed to know what I'm reading when it's always hiding behind my adorable Jonathan Adler Peace/Love case? While there are obvious benefits to hiding your reading material from the outside world --- "Babysitters Club," anyone? -- it's also a shame to miss out on the spontaneous conversation that can spring from it. Even as I read through the e-book version of what was perhaps 2010's buzziest book, Jonathan Franzen's "Freedom," not a single person, friend, neighbor, boyfriend made a peep.

    In a piece for Slate, Mark Oppenheimer makes a case against the e-reader because of this disconnect, citing the sentimentality of the paperbacks that he and his wife traded early on and the old girlfriend who was seduced by his bookshelf. I have another thing to add to his list: Books have the unique characteristic of being both journey and prize: Once you make it through a novel, you have the object to file on your bookshelf as a sort of trophy. E-books just don't lend the same fanfare. When you get to page 1,400 of the hardcover version of "War and Peace," you get to slam the heavy thing shut and celebrate. With the e-book, it takes you to the "About the Author page" and then you aren't able to click ahead anymore. Hardly very satisfying.

    Then again, anyone who's ever carried the hardcover "War and Peace" in their backpack can attest to the e-book's advantage. Not to mention the fact that the e-book of War and Peace costs nine dollars less than the paper version. On the Nook, if you're trying to remember a specific quote from the book you can use the "Search" feature and find it within minutes. There's also a button to look up words in a dictionary that I'll admit is responsible for the fact that I now know the definition of "eminently." These advantages have surely contributed to the fact that e-reader users buy and read more books. Amazon says over three times as many and my personal reading frequency has increased four-fold. As a true book lover, shouldn't I care more about the amount of books read than the aesthetics of those books on my bookshelf?

    Yes, yes, I do. But don't tell my bookshelf. Because I swear that things aren't over between the two of us.

    The last two e-books I read were by authors that were already well-represented on my bookshelf. And know what? Neither of the stories were as good as the ones that are still filed away by color. So I'm putting down my e-reader for a few days to revisit "Don't Get Too Comfortable" and "Then We All Came to an End." Once I finish them, I'll place them back on the bookshelf, near the front, so people can comment on them, ask to borrow them or just admire or insult my taste.

    I don't mind being judged by my covers. In fact, sometimes that's exactly what I want.

    What do you think? Do you love the convenience of the e-reader? Hate the whole idea? Sound off on our facebook page!

    Don't miss these great stories on ShelterPop:
    Living Naked at Home for a Week
    When Mom Steps Down as Holiday Host
    My Eco-Guilt
    Fixing Grandma's Mixer Changed My Life

     

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    Kids will go crazy for these over-the-top-beds (our nine-year-old guest columnist did). Parents? They'll balk at the price tags.

    Many of us dreamed of the perfect childhood bedroom -- toys, color, magic. But very few ever imagined being able to climb into an intergalactic battleship or get beauty sleep in a fashion show runway bed! My nine-year-old daughter, Sadie, took a look at some of the most elaborate fantasy beds available at Posh Tots and she could not believe her eyes. So we asked Sadie to kindly play guest columnist and give us a kid's take on these over the top beds. She thought it would be cool to walk the catwalk to sleep in the Fashionista bed and giddyup on into a Lone Star bed like a cowgirl. She voted the English Tudor Cottage bed "best for sleepovers."

    No $47K fantasy bed for Sadie -- instead, a more modest all-IKEA loft bed and decor. Photo: Jolie Novak, AOL


    http://xml.channel.aol.com/xmlpublisher/fetch.v2.xml?option=expand_relative_urls&dataUrlNodes=uiConfig,feedConfig,localizationConfig,entry&id=967185&pid=967184&uts=1293741339
    http://www.aolcdn.com/ke/media_gallery/v1/ke_media_gallery_wrapper.swf

    Fantasy Themed Beds for Posh Tots!

    "Is that a bed??!!" said Sadie. "Woahhhh." Before picking this totally Cinderalla-esque extravaganza for your child, remember it needs a lot of space (it's six-feet diameter not counting the steps).

    Price: $47,000

    Fantasy Themed Beds for Posh Tots!

    "That is soooo cool. When I used to be into Cinderella, if I had this bed," said Sadie. "I would wake up every morning and pretend I was a princess. I would feel like I was sleeping in my royal chamber." No, not a bunk bead. That's a balcony for your little princess to hold court from.

    Price: $47,000

    Fantasy Themed Beds for Posh Tots!

    "Oh wowww I want that so badly because it is huge and fashiony," said Sadie. "It looks cool with all of the lights!I would put my clothes over the mannequins when they are turned off. I love the chandelier and the mural because it looks like models on a runway." A bed and a runway and a set of murals to finish the entire room.
    Price: "Available Upon Request"

    Fantasy Themed Beds for Posh Tots!

    "It is cool because it has a TV," said Sadie. "But it doesn't look that comfortable. It is hard to even see where you would sleep."

    Price: "Available Upon Request"

    Fantasy Themed Beds for Posh Tots!

    "Oh look! American Girl dolls Felicity and Elizabeth! And it looks like Molly up top too! I really want it," said Sadie. "It has windows and you can play in it like it's your house or your own American Girl doll's house! How do you get these to fit in your room?" The answer, Ms. Sadie, is good design. The entire thing comes delivered in pieces that will fit through a 30-inch doorway.
    Price: $14,450

    Fantasy Themed Beds for Posh Tots!

    "Oh that's cool! It even has a slide! I wish I had that," said Sadie. "But I would need a whole new room design." Real bamboo, real thatching, but artificial leaves (so they will stay green).

    Price: $16,000

    Fantasy Themed Beds for Posh Tots!

    "This doesn't look the best," said Sadie. "It is more for toddlers and it is kind of plain compared to the others and not really that exciting." Maybe, but it's perfect for playing Pirates of The Carribean!

    Price: $3,000

    Fantasy Themed Beds for Posh Tots!

    "Is that a bed?? It is really not actually a bed, but it looks cool. I still wouldn't want it because it doesn't' seem that interesting to me," said Sadie. It's not actually a bed. The lighthouse tower is storage and an entertainment unit. (See the TV midway up?) And the small house is a laundry hamper. The bigger house unit is four-drawer dresser.
    Price: $16,150

    Fantasy Themed Beds for Posh Tots!

    "Wow, that is a horse stable? This would be my dream! I love to horseback ride. I would pretend to grab my saddle and head off to the barn at 6 am!" Perfect for any cowgirl or cowboy, but PoshTots says this bed is currently "out of stock."

    Price: $3,900.00

    Fantasy Themed Beds for Posh Tots!

     

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    Trends come and go and quite often come back again, but do you know which ones define your home's style? Take this quiz to find out whether your decor is a throwback to yesteryear, a study in modern design or a predictor of what's to come.

    http://xml.channel.aol.com/xmlpublisher/fetch.v2.xml?option=expand_relative_urls&dataUrlNodes=moreQuizzes&id=967742&pid=967741&uts=1293056881
    http://www.aolcdn.com/ke/personality_quiz/personalityquiz.swf

     

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    When you're living with disabilities, a simple household task -- like mopping the floor -- can seem overwhelming. But as our writer has learned first-hand, it doesn't need to be. Here are her top cleaning tips.

    I never gave much thought to housecleaning when I was younger. I cleaned my room (sometimes) and that was about it. But with adulthood comes new adult responsibilities, and on the top of most people's "adult responsibility" list is cleaning. The house, car, garage...you name it. The cleaning, like pesky grocery lists, can go on and on and on. And if you're physically disabled, a simple household task can seem overwhelming. But as I've learned first-hand -- I was born with Freeman-Sheldon Syndrome, a bone and muscular disorder -- it doesn't need to be. I consulted the experts and combed the best products to make things a bit easier:

    cleaning tips living with disabilities Melissa BlakeThe author cleaning her home. Photo: Courtesy of Melissa Blake.

    Modify Your Home
    The first step is making sure your home is fit for you. When my family moved into a new house in 2003, we made sure it was fully accessible. We had two ramps installed: One off the patio and one off the garage. We made sure the island in the kitchen was at a height that I could reach. And we "road tested" all the corners and room entryways to make sure I could maneuver my wheelchair easily.

    The same goes for housecleaning, says Kelly Rouba, author of "Juvenile Arthritis: The Ultimate Teen Guide," who also suffers from the chronic condition. "If one can get around better and reach things more easily, that will make it easier and faster to clean!" This could involve lower countertops, more easily accessible appliances or wider doors.

    Use the Right Tools

    There are cleaning tools that can make house cleaning easier. Years ago, a family friend gave us a gripper and I've found it to be a lifesaver ever since. Whenever I drop something, all I have to do is use the little claws of my gripper to pick it up. Also, I've outfitted my wheelchair with a basket. This makes it easy to carry items around the house. For example, when I'm doing the laundry, I can put all the clothes in my basket, which saves making multiple trips back and forth. It helps to have everything in one place. Also, make sure you use items with long, extended arms or swivel heads that keep you from having to bend over.

    Swiffer makes a Wet Jet that allows you to clean your floor without the hassle of a bucket or a mop. And iRobot makes the Roomba robot vacuum, which does all the vacuuming for you.

    cleaning tips living with disabilities Roomba Wet Jet SwifferTwo products the author recommends: Swiffer Wet Jet and Roomba. Photo: Swiffer; iRobot.


    Teresa Ward, owner of a Long Island cleaning service, emphasizes thinking of how cleaning supplies can be used in a unique way to make things easier. A sponge mop isn't just for floors, she says. You can use it to wipe down your shower walls and even clean windows. The kitchen sink can substitute as a mop bucket, so you don't have to bend down to rinse out the mop or pick up a heavy bucket filled with water. Baby wipes can be used to wipe up sticky, dirty counters and are easier to remove from their containers than traditional kitchen wipes.

    Take It Easy

    Make sure you pace yourself, is one thing all the experts advise. Do housework in small doses. Pick one room, say the kitchen, and just focus on that one for a day. The next day, you can move on to another room, say the bathroom. So it may take longer (things always take me a bit longer), but remember that it's not a race. It's OK to do what feels right for you. Ward recommends doing the most important items first and working down the list from there. "You know your limits," says Ward. "Make adjustments to your surroundings to make your home more manageable to clean at your own pace."

    Ask for Help
    No, this doesn't mean you're a weak person. It means you're a wise person who knows when you need help. Even if it's only a little help, friends and family will be more than willing to pitch in. If not, consider hiring a professional organizer who can provide tips for making this process easier based on your specific needs. They come to your home and help you develop an individualized plan of attack that is suited just for you.

    And remember that making adjustments to your daily living can be stressful. Just do what you can and try not to overdo it. So whatever your plan of attack, always remember that you're the best judge of you.

     

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    Troubled starlet Lindsay Lohan checks out of rehab; into new Venice, CA loft home. Reportedly, her ex/next door neighbor is not happy.

    Just yesterday Lindsay Lohan tweeted "Today is the first day of the rest of my life," as she left the Betty Ford rehab center. And now, she's got the real estate to prove it. Lohan is renting a $7,100 a month loft home in the more low-key than luxe area of Venice Beach.

    Photo: Amy Graves, WireImage / Courtesy photo



    Think $7,100 in rent sounds like a lot? Consider this: A month of inpatient treatment at Betty Ford can run over $27,000, and Lohan has been there for over three months. So the $7,100 in rent for a 3,100 square foot home could feel like a bargain.

    An added bonus (or maybe it's bad news?) Lohan is right next door to ex-girlfriend Samantha Ronson. While Ronson visited Lohan in jail, there have been no reports of any contact since. According to Perez Hilton, Ronson isn't exactly thrilled about the move. The DJ was seen shaking her head and saying "Trust me, this wasn't planned!"

    http://xml.channel.aol.com/xmlpublisher/fetch.v2.xml?option=expand_relative_urls&dataUrlNodes=uiConfig,feedConfig,localizationConfig,entry&id=969737&pid=969736&uts=1294156933
    http://www.aolcdn.com/ke/media_gallery/v1/ke_media_gallery_wrapper.swf

    Lindsey Lohan's New Venice Beach Pad

    The three-floor home is ultra-modern and flooded with light.

    Lindsey Lohan's New Venice Beach Pad

    The home has four bedrooms -- wonder which one Lohan will adopt as her own?

    Lindsey Lohan's New Venice Beach Pad

    A cheerful open space with plenty of beachy white and wood.

    Lindsey Lohan's New Venice Beach Pad

    We're sure Lohan will redecorate the place to fit her tastes but we're kind of crazy about this wild painting with the super relaxing chair.

    Lindsey Lohan's New Venice Beach Pad

    Yes, this home is just blocks from the beach, but a cozy fire always improves an atmosphere -- even in sunny California!

    Lindsey Lohan's New Venice Beach Pad

    Blue tile, dual sinks and a major tub.

    Lindsey Lohan's New Venice Beach Pad

    This one has more of a spa-like feel. But still -- dual sinks! Wonder who will be brushing their teeth next to Lohan.

    Lindsey Lohan's New Venice Beach Pad

    White subway tile, a drop-in sink and shiny wood cabinets make for a simple, lovely kitchen.

    Lindsey Lohan's New Venice Beach Pad

     

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    Little Fockers is the number one movie in America -- so why not take a hint from one of the movie's bold decorating ideas? We've got a round-up of striped tablecloths that would make the Fockers proud.

    Check out this great story from our friends at CasaSugar!


    There's no doubt that Little Fockers is bringing cheer to theaters around the country, but what's brightening my day in the film is the vibrantly striped tablecloth at the Focker dinner party!

    striped-tableclothIMDB via CasaSugar

    Many families tend to use deep hues in the Winter, but I'm all for introducing sunny colors to warm up a cold room. If something seasonal is what you're after, a big holiday turkey or honey-baked ham will certainly do the trick! The Missoni Home Karl Tabletop Collection ($41-$225) is my favorite; you can make it more wintry or summery depending on what colored accents you use elsewhere on the table. Here are a few more picks for you:


    striped-tableclothUnica, Macys, Pottery Barn.


    Clockwise from top left:

    Karl tabletop collection by Missoni Home, $41-$225, Unica.

    Rainbow Burst table linens by Fiesta, $22-$50, Macys.

    Dhurrie Stripe table runner, $30, Pottery Barn.

    striped-tableclothUnica, Velocity, Crate & Barrel, World Market, Neiman Marcus.



    Clockwise from top left:

    Ian placemats and napkins by Missoni Home, $90-$109, Unica.

    Wood Planks placemat by Paper Cloud, $24, Velocity.

    Set of 4 Holiday Stripe Napkins,$6 Crate & Barrel.

    Monterey Stripe Runner, $12-$25, World Market.

    Border Stripe table linens, $28-$100, Neiman Marcus.

    Want to see more great CasaSugar content? Check out these stories:
    How to Paint Your Kitchen Cabinets
    Would You Ever Try a Mail-Order Decorating Service?

     

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    A look at some of the wackiest, most unique bathrooms around.

    We've inspired you with beautiful staircases and helped you overcome your fear of black walls. Now it's time to grab a glass of wine, draw up a hot bath and sink deep into these inspirational, odd -- and sometimes wacky -- bathrooms. These powder rooms are the kind that you either love or hate, so unusual that you can't stop looking at them.

    beautiful-bathroomsPod living taken to the extreme. Photos: FitzSimmons Architects

    This bathroom is where Flaming Lips' frontman Wayne Coyne heads to relax. Coyne's cocoon-like bathroom by FitzSimmons Architects has smooth, rounded futuristic walls covered in reflective mosaic tiles.

    beautiful-bathroomsThere are no secrets in this house. Photos: aat+ Architects


    This multi-story apartment in Tokyo by aat+ Architects is perfect for the voyeur. What's even more unique than the glass walls is the fact that the bathroom is suspended above living space like a loft.

    beautiful-bathroomsPhotos: Grey Crawford (left) and Lonny (right)

    On the left: Bonus points if you can guess the designer of this gilded bathroom. If you guessed Kelly Wearstler, you're right! Not only does she always take her designs over the edge, but she's able to instantly make you feel something specific. In this case, it's the feeling of stepping back into the 1970s.

    On the right: Featured in Lonny's December/January issue, this bathroom by Jenna Lyons of J.Crew reiterates the same point I just mentioned: taking one element and just exaggerating it makes a big impact. By stretching the stripe from ceiling to floor and even over shelves and moldings, this bathroom is bangin'.

    beautiful-bathroomsI can't imagine getting out of this tub is much fun... Photo: Hooked on Houses

    When I said unusual, I meant it. Remember when you were small enough to get bathed in the sink? Oh boy. Yes, this one is one of those bathrooms that we just can't believe exists. A tub the same height as the vanity sink makes it kind of challenging when you and your partner need to brush your teeth at the same time: "Honey, just use the tub!"

    beautiful-bathroomsA little texture never hurt anyone. Photos: Design to Inspire

    Design to Inspire reader Mina of the blog La Résidence! redid her bathroom and took it to a whole new level of cool by covering everything with penny tiles similar to Wayne Coyne's bathroom shown above. This just goes to show you how adding a little extra of one material can make a significant impact on your design.

    beautiful-bathroomsExpose yourself to nature. Photo: Kanner Architects

    I don't know what kind of climate you live in, but I wouldn't mind living wherever this house is. Today it's 19 degrees outside, but I'm dreaming of a bathroom with a removable glass wall that opens up into nature. Like this one, by Kanner Architects.

    beautiful-bathroomsEnjoy a true back-to-nature experience. Photos: Mary Jane's Farm

    Idaho-based Mary Jane's Farm bed & breakfast takes the Kanner Architects concept one step further. Their bathroom is located completely outside -- in nature. If you're looking to vacation in the great outdoors, be sure to check out their bed & breakfast.

    beautiful-bathroomsPhotos: Robert Pelletier for Canadian House & Home (left) and Colleen Duffley for Elle Decor (right)


    On the left: Designed by Ana Borallo and Jean-Michel Gavreau, this bathroom is part-nightclub part-aquarium. From the futuristic pod-like shower ("beam me up, Scotty") and the lighted sink and counter, I almost expect fish to start swimming by.

    On the right:
    Designed by Barry Dixon, this bathroom feels almost like you've crawled inside of a sea creature. Cavern-like and full of texture and color, it reminds me of souvenirs you find in beach towns, such as shell-covered lamps or vases.

    beautiful-bathroomsLook up! Photos: Oorbee Roy


    Oorbee Roy of OM Home's tiny bathroom was redesigned to fit their needs. Incorporating Indian folk art Alpona, Oorbee created an artistic space that takes all the focus off the washer/dryer and small quarters. By drawing the focus to an unexpected element -- in this case a patterned mural in a surprising place -- you can retrain the eye and mind to focus on the positive aspects of a space.

     

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    The superstar's California home is glamorous, sophisticated and surprisingly understated.

    We're happy to report that Veranda magazine, now overseen by the ever-talented Dara Caponigro, keeps getting better and better. Case in point: Veranda shared a sneak peek of their January/February issue with ShelterPop and boy, were we wowed. The issue's coverline "American Glamour Now!" is a nod to all the homes in the issue, but the highlight is the stunning story on Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony's California home.

    j-lo-home verandaJ. Lo's glam style doesn't stop on the red carpet; Veranda magazine tours her home in their Jan./Feb. issue. Photos: Veranda (left), Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage (right)


    While J. Lo's personal style often errs towards the sparkling and synthetic, her home is an oasis of low-key, natural charm -- with a few hints of sparkle. Designed by interior designer Michelle Workman, the space is sophisticated and glamorous without being showy.

    "It's sort of Jennifer in a nutshell," says Workman. "She has a romantic streak. Jennifer wanted to go modern and streamlined but retain the sophistication and stylishness. It's tastefully glamorous, like Jennifer herself."

    Here's a peek at some of what you'll find in Veranda:

    j-lo-home verandaThis polished space is a glamorous spot for J. Lo to entertain. Photo: Laura Resen/Veranda

    Soft gray-blue walls are the perfect backdrop for feminine furnishings in Lopez's living room. We love how Workman and Lopez have mixed varying neutral tones with metallic finishes for a fresh look.


    j-lo-home verandaThis corner of Jennifer Lopez's kitchen is as elegant as her living room. Photo: Laura Resen/Veranda

    The cool toned palette continues in the kitchen area where built-in cabinets are painted to match the walls. Elegantly upholstered dining chairs surround a black pedestal table for a chic place to eat a quick bite -- though with her svelte figure, we doubt Lopez is eating too many of those gigantic red velvet cupcakes on the table.


    j-lo-home verandaJennifer Lopez's bedroom is a sweet retreat. Photo: Laura Resen/Veranda

    Cast in soft, feminine tones of peaches and cream, the bedroom looks more J. Lo than Marc Anthony to us. Designer Michelle Workman says, "We wanted it to be graceful, with just enough sparkle."

    Want to see more of this gorgeous home?
    Pick up a copy of the Jan/Feb issue of Veranda, which features additional photos of J.Lo's home.

    Go inside more celebrity homes:
    - Bristol Palin's Arizona home
    - Celebrity Bedrooms Have Us Drooling
    - Cheap Chic Ideas From Gwyneth's House

     

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    Paintable papers, metallic prints and more trends coming to a wall near you.

    We all know that wallpaper can add instant glamour and warmth to any room, but homeowners used it timidly in 2010. Expect that to change in 2011. "People are finally moving away from just a feature wall and are once again wallpapering two, three and four walls in a room," says David Klaus at Graham & Brown wallpaper company.

    Fewer accent walls and more fully papered rooms are cropping up in homes and magazine spreads as of late, along with a handful of "mini trends" in wallpaper design that we've rounded up here. While we started to see some of these trends at the end of 2010, experts bet they'll pick up even more steam in the months to come.

    Here, a look at wallpaper trends to inspire you.

    design-trends-wallpaper-2011 PaintablePhotos: Grandin Road; Graham & Brown

    Paintable Papers
    It's the perfect hybrid between painting a wall and wallpapering it, and for the non-commital decorators among us, more brands are turning out the totally customizable, textured designs. Graham & Brown, for instance, recently launched a collection called "Jana", right, a geometric print that can be both painted and washed (hello, sophisticated kid's room). Grandin Road's "Beadboard Paintable Wallpaper," left, gives the illusion of beadboard trim, minus the costly woodworking.

    These clever wallcoverings aren't just the work of high-end wallpaper designers either. Big box stores like Target and Home Depot, who carries over thirty designs including Martha Stewart's collection, stock them.


    design-trends-wallpaper-2011 tone on tonePhotos: Ferm Living

    Tone-on-Tone & Metallic

    If 2010 was the year of large scale patterns, a wide range of colors and quirky, highly individualized designs (like Beware the Moon's Ostrich collection), then 2011 is definitely dialing it back a bit, says Christiana Coop, co-owner of Hygge & West and the U.S. rep for Ferm Living.

    Think subtly bold designs, such as the textured, paintable ones we mentioned earlier, as well as tone-on-tone patterns and shiny metallics, above. Hygge & West has a great example in the works by Pattern People, slated to debut in February. It features enameled black-on-black with a metallic finish and comes in three designs -- Forest Floor, Flower Chains and Underwater World.

    design-trends-wallpaper-2011 Graham & Brown hand drawnPhotos: Graham & Brown

    Hand-painted vs. Machine Made
    Maybe it's a result of the slow home movement or the overall affinity for handmade design that we've seen in recent years, but the trends in wallpaper are following suit. Graham & Brown's new Elixir collection is hand-drawn and features more classic patterns than modern ones, like florals and geometrics, above. All Hygge & West papers are made using a traditional screen printed technique, for example, rendering a more hand-painted feel. "I think the quality of the design with screen printing is higher than digital printing, plus it creates texture and feels warmer," Coop says.

    Our current, albeit made-in-2010 obsession? This Petal Pusher design by Oh Joy!


    Wallpaper Trends by Windsor Smith for House Beautiful design-trends-wallpaper-2011 hand drawnPhotos: House Beautiful

    Fabric and Wallpaper Combos
    This is a trend I picked up on while perusing the first glossies of the new year. Interior designer Windsor Smith used Bennison's Roses wallpaper and then covered the home's dining chairs in an identical fabric, in a feature for House Beautiful magazine, above. Interiors magazine's January 2011 issue features the same technique by designers Silvia Oliveira and Daniela Martins who matched window treatments with wallpaper in a bedroom they outfitted in Brazil.

     

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    Not just for college dorms rooms, prep style is here to stay.

    "Looking, acting and ultimately being Prep is not restricted to an elite minority lucky enough to attend prestigious private schools, just because an ancestor or two happened to arrive on the Mayflower." - The Official Preppy Handbook

    In the three decades since The Official Preppy Handbook was published a lot has changed, but the hallmarks of prep style are as appealing today as they were in 1980. In fact, the preppy look is undergoing a bit of a revival, and one of the original authors of the Preppy Handbook has just released a new tome, True Prep: It's A Whole New Old World. With the boarding school aesthetic back in vogue, ShelterPop decided to examine decorating in a preppy style.

    preppy-homeYou can't get much preppier than plaid on plain. Photo: Laura Fenton


    Being preppy is more than just a sartorial statement, it's a way of life. However, you don't have to join the country club to co-opt a preppy vibe for your home. Prep decor is based on classic, timeless pieces - think Chesterfield sofas and club chairs. It's also about a specific set of cultural references that relate to the proverbial "old boy network."

    Preppy style often relies on inherited family heirlooms and other vintage or antique furnishings -- the best preppy interiors evolve over time. However, you can create a prep space from scratch. Case in point: Interior designer Jack Levy created prep-tastic rooms for the American Fashion: Designers At The Aldyn show house last year. The rooms (above and below) featured plaid, a staple of preppy decor.


    preppy-homePhoto: Laura Fenton



    Both rooms by Levy employ a red, pine green and royal blue palette -- three colors that are crisp and classic preppy staples. You'll also note a stack of vintage trucks in lieu of a coffee table. Wall-mounted antlers would be at home in many preppy homes, while the brass light fixtures in the hall and behind the sofa are pitch perfect examples of preppy style.

    Get the look for your own home with these Andover-worthy pieces:


    preppy-homePhotos: Restoration Hardware (left), Jonathan Adler (top right), Pottery Barn (bottom right)

    While a true prep would have inherited a treasure trove of WASP-y furnishings, you can fake the look with other people's hand-me-downs or store-bought replicas of family heirlooms. A leather Chesterfield style sofa and a worn kilim rug set the stage for a collection of needlepoint pillows -- all of which you can buy new or scour eBay and Craigslist for.

    Kensington Leather Sofas, $3180 to $9995, Restoration Hardware
    Talitha Needlepoint Pillow, $165, Jonathan Adler
    Vintage Found Kilim Rugs, $799.00 - $3,299.00, Pottery Barn

    preppy-homePhotos: Ralph Lauren (left), Tiffany & Co. (top right), Kate Spade (bottom right)

    The preppy life is all about lifestyle, so accessorize. Mimic the preppy life with a well-appointed bar (you can decant cheap bourbon into a fancy decanter and no one will be the wiser). Challenge friends to a bridge tournament with these Tiffany & Co. playing cards (a steal at only $30), and stock up on your collection of vintage board games.

    Leather-and-Crystal Decanter, $395, Ralph Lauren
    Tiffany playing cards, $30, Tiffany & Co.
    Gin Rummy Glasses, $100, Kate Spade


    preppy-homePhotos (clockwise from top left): Woolrich, Zappos, L.L. Bean, New Yorker, eBay

    They might just seem like everyday accessories to you but objects like a Hudson's Bay blanket and an L. L. Bean tote immediately give your pad preppy credit. So let your The New Yorkers pile up on the coffee table and leave your Wellies by the back door with your tennis rackets and skis, the true signs of prep.

    Hudson's Bay Multi Wool 6 Point Queen, $349, Woolrich
    Hunter Original, $125, Zappos.com
    Boat and Tote Bags, $18 to $31, L.L. Bean
    One-year subscription, $40, The New Yorker
    Vintage sports memorabilia, eBay.com


    Read on for more of ShelterPop's Decorating Styles 101 series:
    - Decorating Styles 101: The New Industrial Design
    - Decorating Styles 101: A Comfy and Casual Home

     

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    The ubiquitous EXPEDIT bookcase isn't just practical -- it inspires good design.

    Last year, we took a look at IKEA's most popular bookcase -- the Billy -- and were amazed at the cool designs created from that simple white shelving unit. Now, we're going to explore the EXPEDIT - the squarely symmetrical bookcase that always seems to pop up in arty rooms, from record collectors to crafters.

    IKEA EXPEDIT HacksAdd some flair behind the scenes. Photo: Yvestown


    Nothing dresses up a bookshelf like a pop of color or pattern behind all those books. Who wants to look at your boring old wall, anyway? Yvonne of Yvestown wanted her EXPEDIT to be a bit more exciting, so she pinned some retro wallpaper behind the backless shelving unit for an instant pimp-out. Any wallpaper or fabric will work in this instance.

    If you want to paint behind it, you can trace around the bookcase and paint about a half-inch inside your tracing. When the bookcase is against the wall, the color will show through.


    IKEA EXPEDIT HacksCan you spot the EXPEDIT? Photo: IKEA Fans

    This impressive hack was created by John Gidding. Yes -- that John Gidding from HGTV's Curb Appeal: The Block. He decorated two EXPEDIT bookcases with custom top and side pieces. First, he designed it with Rhino and AutoCAD and then used a CNC machine to mill the custom pieces out.


    IKEA EXPEDIT HacksTurn the bookshelf on its side. Photo: Kevin Mercer


    Kevin Mercer of Largemammal created a desk out of his EXPEDIT bookcase and a VIKA FURUSKOG table top. He needed a decent-sized work space that also contained storage. Hacking the two pieces together created an instant desk with the necessary storage he needed, all for about $110.

    "I didn't want to spend much because it was going to live in my basement print studio," says Mercer. "It's hard to make something look nice when it sits next to a furnace and water heater, but this does the job nicely. I don't feel bad putting daily wear and tear on it, and it provides a little order amongst the chaos of a screen printing studio."

    IKEA EXPEDIT HacksAh, drink in the versatility! Photos: IKEA Hacker


    No room for a wine cart or a bar? No problem! If you're big on entertaining but not big on space -- this is the solution for you. Think like an urban planner and go vertical. Two IKEA Hacker fans turn the EXPEDIT into a fancy wine bar! Adding wine glass holders and even a divider to hold wine bottles, the skinny EXPEDIT can be turned into a space-saving beverage station.


    IKEA EXPEDIT HacksA beautiful -- and functional -- "after." Photo: Tess and Patrick, Flickr

    Tess and Patrick bought their IKEA EXPEDIT storage unit back in 2007, when it looked like this. However, after realizing they had difference needs, instead of buying a new unit, they decided to re-structure their old one. Disassembling it, they hacked, painted and reassembled it in an entirely different configuration. The only newly purchased pieces were wooden plants and MDF board for the end pieces.

    Also, check out this post about adding legs to your IKEA EXPEDIT.

    Got IKEA fever?
    - If You Love IKEA, You'll Love...
    - My Love Affair with IKEA

     

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    My boyfriend and I live in the house he bought with his ex. I love the house, but I don't love the memory of her living there.

    Each morning I wake up in a bungalow my boyfriend bought with another woman.

    I won't lie: I'm a jealous person, and living in this house has made me even more jealous. At times, it actually got kind of ugly.

    After moving in two years ago, I became obsessed with the idea that his first love - a woman I had never met and who he was no longer in contact with - had shared this space too. She had slept in my bedroom, parked her car in the garage and prepared dinner for my boyfriend, Tony, in the same kitchen.

    living-with-divorce-cohabitationThe writer and her boyfriend in the backyard of their home. Photo: Courtesy of Kristine Hansen


    Even though she moved out 10 years ago, there are reminders of her everywhere: I'd find junk mail addressed to her in our mailbox. Sometimes I even imagined their lives together in the house -- If I closed my eyes, I could see them walking into the house for the first time (it was during an Open House, where Tony says he knew right then and there, like love at first sight, it was the house). Later, they might have toasted flutes of sparkling wine after ripping up the carpeting and finding gleaming hardwood underneath. It got to the point where I couldn't even take a bubble bath without thinking about how she had once relaxed in that tub too.

    When Tony asked me to move in with him a couple of years ago, I wasn't thrilled with the idea of living in a house that he'd shared with his ex-wife. But I was living in a one bedroom apartment with a strict no dogs policy; Tony had a 14 -year-old Golden Retriever/Border Collie mix named Augie. Plus, I worked at home. Even if the dog wasn't an issue, where would I fit a home office space?

    Then there was the simple fact that I loved Tony's bungalow. It was south of downtown Milwaukee in walking distance to coffee shops and restaurants, Lake Michigan and parks. It had a nice-sized backyard and a basement to store my wine collection. I loved the living room's piano windows with leaded glass and the dining room's built-in buffet. The house had charm and character. Except for this one nagging ex-wife problem, it was perfect.

    living-with-divorce-cohabitationA view of the writer's happy home. Photo: Courtesy of Kristine Hansen


    And so over Memorial Day 2009, we moved my clothes, books, furnishings and more into the house. But the more I arranged my belongings in the house, the more reminders of her I unearthed. While shelving my cookbooks in the pantry next to Tony's cookbooks, a piece of paper slipped out of one of his cookbooks; she had written a dinner menu. On the front page of another cookbook she had inscribed a love letter to Tony. I asked him to remove that page. (He did.) Every morning we used her ibrik (Turkish coffee pot) to boil our water for coffee.

    To be fair, I had brought my own reminders of failed relationships into the house. Two cookbooks that were birthday presents from an ex, a cobalt-blue vase that another ex's step-mother had given to me, CDs purchased at concerts I had been to with other men, and shoe boxes containing photos of these past loves. But this was different -- I was moving into a house with my boyfriend's past.

    Friends told me that over time the house would begin to feel like mine and Tony's, and I worked on letting go of her memory. Some of the asymmetrical pottery urns and mugs she left behind in a dark corner of the basement I considered taking to Goodwill, but in the end decided not to. Over many months, I realized that I didn't have to erase the memory of Tony's ex-wife to feel good about living there. Instead, we needed to fill the home with memories of our own.

    Two years later, Tony and I are settled in, and while I am reminded of his ex at times, I shrug her memory away. I see the house for what it is today: our happy home. And we've decorated it so it reflects our life today.

    We have a Scandinavian basket that we picked up in an antique shop on the way home from a camping trip in our living room. A vintage pewter vase is front and center inside the buffet, the result of our wasting away an hour at another antique store. There are framed photos of us on our vacations and at my brother's wedding. Trinkets from my travels are throughout, from the handmade dolls I bought from an artist in Belize to a framed tile of a ship that I purchased in Ann Arbor, Michigan. While on vacation in Mexico last year, Tony and I bought a piece of folk art (a cat) made in Chiapas. In the bedroom is a lawyer's bookcase left behind by his ex; we painted over it in a shade of light-green.

    Recently an ex-boyfriend contacted me out of the blue to offer me first dibs on his espresso machine and coffee-bean grinder. He was moving to a new apartment and didn't want to lug items he no longer used. Remembering that I have a penchant for good coffee and don't mind tinkering around in the kitchen to make a cappuccino (after all, he and I co-authored The Complete Idiot's Guide to Coffee and Tea!), he offered it to me. I decided to buy it. Never mind that we once used them together in the mornings at his house years ago. Tony didn't blink when I told him. He's just excited that we can move beyond French press coffee.

    Maybe it's because we're in love. Maybe it's because we just love coffee and old houses and spending time together. Either way, our relationship is based on trust, and evidence of our past relationships aren't a threat -- they're just a part of our past now.

    There are always going to be reminders of past relationships in our homes. But what I've learned is that they're just reminders. After all, what matters most is who we are in love with today.

    For more great stories on ShelterPop, don't miss:
    Naked at Home For a Week
    The Case Against Cleaning
    Always the Writer, Never the Client

     

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    Sure a new storage system is great. But a visit from Peter Walsh, courtesy of California Closets? Lifechanging.

    When Pat Murphy of San Francisco won the grand prize in California Closets "Organize This!" contest, she had only two words: "Totally thrilled!" And we don't blame her: In addition to receiving a fabulous new $20,000 built-in, custom storage system Murphy was also treated to a visit from Peter Walsh, host of the new "Enough Already!" show on the Oprah Winfrey Network and author of "Does This Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat?". (You also might remember his great tips for ShelterPop readers on the no-nag way get your family to clean up!)

    Pat Murphy and Peter Walsh celebrating after a job well done. Photo: California Closets



    Murphy, a writer and book editor, works from home and while she is used to having papers, files and old manuscripts around, lately her piles of paper have expanded to include her mother's medical bills and documents pertaining to her father's estate. "Everything ended up in my home office, which also shares space with our guest room," says Murphy. "It was all in one spot. Plus, with the bed eating up most of the guest room, my closets were bursting." After trying to organize her home over the last year and a half, Murphy knew this contest could be the solution she was looking for.

    Use the slider tool to slide up and down to compare the before and after!

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    In addition to the expanding paperwork, Murphy's two cats, Houdini and Moxy, added to the problem. "My cats were constantly seeking a space to perch or lounge, which often ended up being piles of paper," she says. "And of course, if you don't make room for them, they'll do it for you, moving stuff out of the way themselves!" Her cats inspired Murphy's contest entry, which depicted them unhappy with her mess. When the time came for her consultation with Steve Rothgery, designer for California Closets ,she made sure her cats were considered.

    "Steve and the team at California Closets were just great," says Murphy. "No request was too strange for them to take on and that really impressed me. They built planks for the cats to walk on, as well as an organizational unit above my desk, which the cats love to lounge on top of."

    Use the slider tool to slide up and down to compare the before and after!

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    Rothgery and his team also constructed a custom bookcase with roomy pull-out file drawers in the company's Lago Umbrian Oak finish. For her desk area, they constructed a fusion slot-wall, typically used in garages, so that she can swap in and out photos and other bits of inspiration for the various projects she's working on. They also installed a Murphy-style bed that was built into the wall to free up space in the guest room and free up the closets too! "Now when I open up those closets, which hold my wardrobe, I can quickly and easily put together an outfit, rather than struggling to find something to wear," Murphy says. After the storage system installation, Peter Walsh stepped in and worked with Murphy to go through her files, teaching her a few hard lessons on what to keep and what to toss! (She called him a "sweet drill sergeant!") The result is a more manageable system for her mail and paperwork. "When the mail used to come in, I would just plop it into a large basket and let it pile up," says Murphy. "Peter taught me one of his mantras, that cutter is a decision deferred. So now, as soon as the mail comes in, I act on it, separating out what needs to be paid or filed."





    Purging her unwanted stuff also provided Murphy with a sense of community and charity. "This experience forced me to not only decide what I need and don't need, but I was also able to pass along my unwanted items to someone more in need of them," explains Murphy. "For example, through the website Freecycle.org, I sent a cat tree to a family with a disabled cat and I also recently donated some of my old science fiction manuscripts -- which take up a lot of space -- to a museum."

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    Of course, once the project was complete, Murphy was a bit anxious about keeping it all organized. "California Closets designed a beautiful system for me and Peter was enormously helpful, but at first I was terrified to turn my home back to what it used to be -- cluttered," recalls Murphy. "But now I've learned how valuable space really is. Clearing away the clutter has allowed me to not only stay organized but to be more productive and more creative."

     

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    Move over ikat. We're calling the next "it" pattern to be seen on everything from throw pillows to wallpaper.

    Big, bold patterns reigned in 2010. Everything from wallpaper to bedding to upholstery fabric got a dose of color and some large, graphic print, like my personal favorite, chevron. Among them, one pattern did stand out above the rest and staked its claim as 2010's most popular -- ikat.

    The global-inspired pattern is still going strong -- Diane von Fursterburg's incorporated ikat into her new line of fabrics for the home while other designers are featuring it in their ready-to-wear resort collections. But we've been on the lookout for 2011's defining design, and we think another pattern is ready to take the top spot: honeycomb.

    honeycomb-pattern home trends 2011 VanderhurdPhoto: Vanderhurd


    We've had enough honeycomb sightings in catalogs and magazine spreads in recent months to go out on a limb and deem this well-established pattern the one to watch in the new year.

    We first spotted the pattern on Elle Decor's December 2010/January 2011 "What's Hot!" pages, which feature this hand embroidered Grand Prisme cushion by Vanderhurd. They liken it to the motifs prevalent during the Ottoman empire; we especially love the pink and lime version called Grand Prisme 6.

    honeycomb-pattern home trends 2011 West ElmPhotos: West Elm

    The designers at West Elm must have been channeling their inner David Hicks when they created their spring 2011 collection. The octagonal pattern that the mid-century designer is known for shows up on a number of new wares, including these Honeycomb napkins, left, and hand-painted Hive vases, right.

    honeycomb-pattern home trends 2011 Heath Ceramics TilePhoto: Heath Ceramics

    Although it's a match made in 2010, the work of Heath Ceramics and Dwell magazine is pressing on into the new year. Their entire collection of architectural tile features geometric shapes reminiscent of a bee hive, but it's the pattern called Honeycomb, above, that most favors the real thing.

    honeycomb-pattern home trends 2011Photo: PSFK.com

    Elle Decor's "it" list for 2011 also includes a visit to the Soho Beach House in Miami, a newly-opened private members club, hotel and spa whose bathrooms feature a honeycomb motif on the walls and floors, above.


    Photo: CB2


    Perhaps it was a predictor of things to come when this bookshelf won the Coup de Coeur award at the 2009 Maison & Objet show in Paris and hit CB2 catalogs in 2010. The Hive Storage Unit let's you build your nest from the floor up with its three honeycomb-shaped shelves that stack on top of one another and stretch as wide as you see fit.

    Want more of-the-moment
    home decor ideas?
    Designer Rugs: Look Who's Making Them Now
    Decor That Says Something
    Fashion-Inspired Rooms
    Wallpaper Trends 2011: What's New, Fresh and Fun

     

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    These eight attractive desk lamps feature eco-friendly LED bulbs.

    Earlier this year IKEA announced it would stop selling traditional incandescent light bulbs by the end of 2010, and new federal mandates that require light bulbs to use 30% less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs do by 2014. At the start of a new year, we wondered about lighting design in 2011 and beyond.

    Will the bulbs of the past become all but extinct? Will designers need to design for the newer, more energy-efficient styles of bulbs like compact flourescent, halogen and LED. Will it change lighting design completely? Yes, and no. Whatever the new law's impact, we're already seeing great promise in the world of eco-friendly lighting design -- in a range of styles. These LED task lamps are prime examples of products that both look good and are energy efficient.

    eco-lightingPhotos: (left) IKEA, (right) West Elm

    Mod-Style
    Just because there's new technology doesn't mean hat designs can't harken back to the past. Both IKEA's clamp spotlight and West Elm's student-designed task lamp would look right at home with your collection of mid-century modern furnishings.

    Left: JANSJÖ Clamp spotlight, $30, IKEA
    Right: Pratt LED Table Lamp, $129, West Elm

    eco-lightingPhotos: (left) Stacks & Stacks, (right) LightingDirect.com

    Sleek and Slender
    One of the beauties of LED bulbs is that they are so small. As a result, designers can create lights that are more slender and sleeker than ever before. Case in point: These two stunners from Adesso and Z-Bar.

    Left: Z-Bar High Power LED Desk Lamp, $165, StacksandStacks.com
    Right: Adesso Modern Radar Desk Lamp, $105, LightingDirect.com

    eco-lightingPhotos: (left) JCPenney, (right) CB2

    Classic-Traditional
    You can stop worrying that all the latest lighting is going to be space-age or contemporary cool: Using the latest LED technology doesn't preclude a more traditional design. Both JCPenney and CB2 are showcasing more traditional looking lamps with LED bulbs.

    Left: Linden Street Task LED Table Lamp, $75 (on sale), JCPenney
    Right: Crane Grellow Desk Lamp, $100, CB2

    eco-lightingPhotos: (left) Design Within Reach, (right) Room & Board

    High Design
    IKEA is not the only one getting into the LED game. Some decidedly high-end designers are trying their hand at designing LED task lamps. Yves Behar's Leaf Lamp and James Irvine's w082t LED Lamp are almost sculptural in their designs. Sadly for us penny-pinchers, they have high art prices to match.

    Left: Irvine w082t LED Lamp, $550, DWR.com
    Right: Yves Behar for Herman Miller(R) Leaf Lamp, $379, RoomandBoard.com

    Want more lighting ideas? Check out these posts:
    - Getting Light Just Right
    - Obsessed: Chandeliers In Unusual Places

     

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    Four new home technologies that will make your home smarter, more relaxing and, yes, better looking.

    At least once a day, we daydream about new home technologies that will improve our lives. So when we heard about the latest home technologies being shown at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, we got all kinds of excited. These products are poised to make just about every room in your home a better place to be. The only downside? They're so new, you won't be seeing them in stores for at least a few more months.

    home-technology-ces-2011Mirror or TV -- why choose? Photos: AOL


    TV/Mirror
    Maybe you hate the look of a big flatscreen TV hanging on your otherwise perfectly-decorated wall. Or maybe you prefer watching your lovely face over "The Office"? Ciil Technologies Mirror TVs not only switch back and forth from, well, a mirror to a TV, but can also do both at once (see how it works, in the photo above, right). The frame around it is an especially nice touch. You may be seeing these in hotels or shops soon, but we'll have to wait to bring one home.




    home-technology-ces-2011Appliances that can be controlled from on-the-go. Genius! Photos: AOL.


    Smart Appliances
    No more calls from the supermarket: "Hey, do we have any carrots?" If you're in yoga class and need to turn down the oven, you can do it in between poses. And if you need to change your washer to a different cycle from a friend's house, no need to rush home. A new line of smart appliances from LG, thanks to THINQ Technology, allows your smart phone to "talk" to the oven, refrigerator or washer and dryer.


    home-technology-ces-2011Don't let those energy costs run up: Track them! Photo: AOL.


    Energy Saver
    When you're on a diet, you monitor calories. When you put your home on an energy diet, you get this EnergyHub. It tracks your energy usage and how much you're paying for electricity at every moment of the day and night. You can even access the data from your computer or smartphone, which helps you know where your energy dollars are going and how to cut back. Plus, it allows you to remotely turn off appliances. Left for work with your alarm radio still blaring? Fixed!


    home-technology-ces-2011A bed that helps you fall asleep. Photo: AOL.


    Massaging Bed
    No quarters necessary. We promise. The Prestige II Memory foam bed from Vivion will massage you to sleep thanks to body-mapping technology and a Brookstone massage system. You can select different modes, like Gentle Vibrations, Wave or Shiatsu-style pulse variations. And yes, there's a remote control and timer, so you won't wake up in the morning with pulses going up and down your back -- unless you want to!

    Want more CES goodies? Check out CrunchGear's awesome coverage (they've even got the scoop on a window-washing robot!)

     

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    The cords are all covered by the Exby viktor Shelves and Ribba picture ledges. So easy, right? The shelving attaches to the wall using Bjarnum connecting brackets and provides a pretty perch for family photos or a collection of lightweight kitchen wares. The Ribba and Sondrum frames he chose not only match the shelves and Tripp storage tins on top of the cabinet, but they also conceal the outlet further.

    The last thing Richter tackled: The assortment of paper bags and boxes that the Blanchards have been using for trash. He brought in three Fibbe bins to do the job and to give the space a more uniform look.

     

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