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    One of the cheapest cleaning tools is also one of the most versatile. Do you know all the things your toothbrush is capable of?

    Mary Findley ("Mary Moppins" of has been a career housekeeper for at least a dozen years. She's also the co-author of "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Cleaning" (2005) and wrote a follow-up four years later ("The Complete Idiot's Guide to Green Cleaning"). It's the move-outs for private residences that allow her to do the best work -- and remove every single speck of dirt. About every four to five months at each of her client's homes she arms herself with a toothbrush and does a deep clean.

    clean with a toothbrushPhoto: Getty Images

    Here's are some areas of your home -- make that, 13 -- where a toothbrush will come in handy. In most cases, your favorite cleaning products or simply warm, soapy water over the toothbrush bristles will be enough to do the job.

    1. Edges of the kitchen and bathroom sinks
    "It's those little crevices where dirt goes. Toothbrushes work a lot better than toothpicks, which break off all the time and then get stuck," says Findley.

    2. Sink drain
    To clean out the drain in your bathroom or kitchen sink, simply pour vinegar (which Findley likes as it's less toxic than most other options) down the drain. Next, take your toothbrush and scrub, scrub, scrub until you don't see any more grime lining the drain.

    Photo: Jolie Novak, AOL

    3. Stove and dishwasher knobs
    If you've ever tried to take a sponge and swipe it over the knobs on your kitchen appliances, then you know this just does not work. The goal is to remove all of the dirt, not just some of it. That's where a toothbrush is your friend. It allows you to get under and behind those pesky little knobs, which is actually where dirt builds up, yes?

    Photo: Jolie Novak, AOL

    4. Faucet base
    Mold and mildew can easily collect on the base of a faucet, says Findley. Gently brush the wet bristles of a toothbrush over the base and more will come off than you could have removed using a rag or a sponge.

    5. Linoleum flooring

    Put a blob of toothpaste onto a moist toothbrush and get down on all fours to get stubborn stains out, especially marks made from boots or high heels. "That's the only way I get heel marks off my client's floor," says Findley. Note: Do not try this with hardwood or ceramic-tile flooring, however. The toothpaste could stain and the scrubbing leave nasty-looking marks on the floor.

    6. Lampshade
    Getting dust off a lampshade might require just a swipe with a microfiber cloth, but what about keeping the color pristine? Grab a children's soft toothbrush and gently rub it against the lampshade. "They are wonderful for cleaning the pleats in a pleated lampshade," says Findley.

    7. Framed pictures or art
    Take a small piece of gauze and cover the bristles, says Findley. "That does a good job of cleaning the corners of framed pictures." If you don't cover the bristles you run the risk of scratching -- and forever damaging -- a beautiful frame.

    8. Toilet-seat hinges
    Another tight space that a toothbrush has no problem fitting into.

    9. Wall sockets for light switches
    You're probably already thoroughly cleaning the socket, but what about the little "off" and "on" areas? The bristles on a toothbrush can get the dirt out of those little letters, no problem.

    10. Sliding glass doors
    You know the runners on a shower area's sliding glass doors? They get pretty grimy and they're a pain to clean. Findley suggests that next time you tackle this task with a toothbrush. "Runners get moldy pretty quickly. A toothbrush gets in the corners," she says. "Man, a toothbrush just zips that stuff out of there."

    11. Window frames
    Just like the sliding glass doors, the insides of window frames are prime real estate for collecting mold. Take a toothbrush over the cracks and crevices to do a better cleaning job.

    12. Microwave or stove vents
    Findley takes a rag (she' s really good at chopping up her husband's old T-shirts into 5" by 5" pieces) and gets it slightly wet with a cleaner before throwing it over a toothbrush. This is perfect for cleaning out microwave or stove vents. "You can't spray a cleaner back there because it will burn out the fan," she says.

    13. Refrigerator vents and coils
    Ideally these should be cleaned twice a year. "With the slats in those vents, it's real hard to get a cloth down there," says Findley.

    Read about more surprising ways to clean:
    Weekly Cleaning Tips Put to the Test
    Mint Robot Cleaner: We Tried It, You Win It
    Cleaning Kitchens: Deep Clean Your Kitchen Sink


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    Check out out decor picks inspired by the most glamorous Golden Globe fashions on our Facebook page!


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  • 01/25/11--05:49: At Home With Architects
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    When it comes time to designing their own homes, what do architects create for themselves?

    Architects juggle a myriad of demands with every project: Unusual properties, constrained budgets, difficult contractors, and of course, the client's (sometimes unrealizable) dreams and desires. What happens when the architect is his own client? How does the process change and what can we learn from the homes architects have created for themselves?

    Mark Hutker, a Cape Cod-based architect, has built a home for himself and his family that reveals much about an architects' personal project. Hutker's Falmouth, Massachusetts house was the second home he had created for his family: The first was a small house on Martha's Vineyard that he and his wife had kept building onto slowly. "We learned from making a very small house and adding onto it," he says. This experience made him better prepared to design a house from the ground-up for his brood.

    architects-home Matt HutkerThe exterior view of the back of Hutker's home in Falmouth. Photo: Brian Vanden Brink

    When the family moved to the mainland to be closer to Hutker's new Falmouth office and to ease their children's school commute, Hutker asked real estate brokers to show them all of the unusual and un-sellable properties in the area. Hutker figured what he didn't have in finances he could make up for with his creativity, which led him to two side-by-side lots next to a horse farm listed as needing landfill due to the wetlands at one end of the property. "What was advertised as a deficit, I saw as an asset," says Hutker, who left the wetlands alone and built at the one high, dry corner of the lots.

    The selection of an unusual lot reflects one major difference between the house Hutker designed for himself and one he might design for a client: Budget. Laughs Hutker, "I could never afford the things I tend to design for my clients. As Oscar Wilde once said, 'Necessity is the mother of invention.'" This penny-wise attitude extended to the house itself, which Hutker built with budget in mind.

    architects-home Matt HutkerAn interior view of Hutker's home made from low-cost, no-fuss materials. Photo: Brian Vanden Brink

    Hutker was also able to experiment with techniques that he wouldn't normally try out on a client. For example, the steel beams inside remain unfinished to show the hand of the person who crafted them. Likewise, inexpensive but strong chipboard floor joists wouldn't fly with a client, but stained gray they all but disappear visually in Hutker's home. "I tried to use as many interesting and cost-effective materials to achieve interest, warmth and character," notes Hutker of his approach.

    Hutker also built his home with wear-and-tear in mind. "We resisted granite and shiny materials in favor of materials that will actually start to look better over time with use," says Hutker, whose two children were teens when the house was built.

    When asked if he would change anything now that he has lived in the house for more than six years, Hutker reveals that he made one major alteration shortly after moving into the home: He added central air conditioning. He also admits he'd make the laundry room a little bigger if he were going to re-design today, proving that not everything is perfect, even in an architect's own abode.

    Take a peek at other homes architects have designed for themselves:

    architects-home Glass HouseThe interior of Philip Johnson's legendary Glass House. Photo: Eirik Johnson/National Trust

    A famed example of an architect's home, Philip Johnson's Glass House is a prime example of an architect trying experimental ideas out on his own home. With an all-glass exterior and no interior walls, the Glass House was nothing short of revolutionary when it was completed in 1949. Imagine Johnson trying to convince a client to build a house with virtually no privacy. This modern icon might never have been built!

    architects-home Frank GehryAn exterior view of Frank Gehry's Santa Monica home. Photo:

    Back in 1978, before he'd become a "starchitect," Frank Gehry renovated a Santa Monica bungalow for himself and his family. Looking at its deconstructionist exterior you'd never guess that Gehry left much of the Dutch colonial-style home's exterior alone, building his cutting-edge design work around the original house.

    architects-home Anne FougeronA view from the patio looking into the kitchen of Anne Fougeron's home. Photo: Fougeron Architects

    Architect Anne Fougeron's San Francisco home remodel added glass walls to allow light into the space creating the feeling of a glass box. Like Hutker and Johnson, Fougeron created a space that took maximum advantage of natural light -- without breaking the bank.

    architects-home Steven EhrlichEhrlich Architects' principal designed a house for himself that combines indoor and outdoor spaces in a revolutionary way. Photo: Grey Crawford

    Like many architect, Steven Ehrlich used his own Venice Beach home home as an opportunity to experiment. Large glass doors pivot and slide open on three sides of the house -- effectively dissolving the barrier between indoors and out. Ehrlich also experimented the materials he used, and like Hutker, he was drawn to using raw, honest materials -- like Trex decking in lieu of exterior cladding -- that his clients might not have approved for their own projects.

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

    Check out this video to learn how to design like an architect!


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    What to do when your $20 million penthouse just won't sell? Bring in a home stager, like Derek Jeter. Or just steal the best ideas from here.

    Back in September, New York Yankee star Derek Jeter put his 5,425-square-foot corner Manhattan penthouse on the market. The photos showed a pretty space, but it was very, very blank. And since there have been no takers, he's going for round two with a little bit of help from lamps, rugs and more of the home stager's go-to items.

    If you're having trouble selling your home, why not try out some of these ideas? We're not promising that you'll get $20 million out of it, but it's worth a try...

    derek-jeter-homeCourtesy photo | Al Bello, Getty Images (inset)

    Home Staging Tip 1: Show symmetry by the bed. A nightstand on each side is key for feng shui and the dual lamps add to the symmetrical look (and help distract from the bare walls).

    derek-jeter-homeCourtesy photo

    Home Staging Tip 2: Add dimension with mirrors. A strategically placed mirror can maximize a view, as it does here, or make a small room appear bigger.

    derek-jeter-homeCourtesy photo

    Home Staging Tip 3: Stay neutral. Use colors and design elements that don't scream "look at me!" You want the space to speak, not the furnishings. Good staging isn't necessarily gorgeous design, it allows potential buyers to be able to picture themselves -- and their stuff -- in the home.

    derek-jeter-homeCourtesy photo

    Home Staging Tip 4: De-clutter. Derek Jeter didn't have to worry about this one since his apartment was empty but removing personal items and clutter is key -- especially in the kitchen, where everyone wants more room.

    derek-jeter-homeCourtesy photo

    Home Staging Tip 5: Get creative with space. Show potential buyers how to best use spaces. This slip of an office is a practical use of the room, especially in workaholic New York. You can guess that at this location a home office might be more appealing to buyers than, say, a playroom.

    Courtesy photo

    Home Staging Tip 6: Go floral. A sprinkling of fresh flowers can add an element of luxury, especially in the bedrooms and bathrooms.

    derek-jeter-homeCourtesy photo

    Home Staging Tip 7: Clear sightlines and let the architecture speak. A large chandelier here would distract from the stunning views, which are the apartment's best feature.

    derek-jeter-homeCourtesy photo

    Home Staging Tip 8: Play up the positives. The dining area is breathtaking not just for the skyline views but for its capacity for a 14-seat table. Let the buyers imagine the grand possibilities for your home.

    derek-jeter-homeCourtesy photo

    Home Staging Tip 9: Long, narrow rooms and those with few walls can lead to layout challenges. When in doubt, add a conversation area. Here a leather sofa shows the space's potential.

    derek-jeter-homeCourtesy photo

    Home Staging Tip 10: Have fun. Formal spaces have fallen out of favor while most of us congregate in great rooms. Here a pool table and arcade table show potential owners how much fun the space can be. Can't you picture yourself hosting a pool tournament with the Chrysler Building looking on?

    Read more great ShelterPop stories:
    Wallpaper Trends 2011: What's Fresh, New and Fun
    Pattern of the Year 2011: Honeycomb!
    Decor That Says Something
    Fashion-Inspired Rooms

    For more on staging check out this video!


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  • 01/25/11--05:49: DIY Stationery
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    Looking for stationery that's chic, unique and, yes, cheap enough to send to everyone you know? We've got the perfect DIY project for you.

    Printing your own gift tags, stationery or postcards can be a great way to personalize your communication. After all, email is so very...cold. So here's one idea to get you started from Christine Schmidt's book "Print Workshop" with Pin-Prick Stationery.

    diy-stationery- print workshop pin-prick stationery
    Pin-prick stationery is so easy, it can be done right before you leave for a party! Photo: Douglas Adesko

    Clever Point
    Pin-prick stationery is so easy -- and so playful! Why not make some of your own? Fast and perfect for crafting dummies, this printing method gives cool relief texture to paper through embossing (pressing in) and debossing (pressing out). We even included a "Hello" and "Bon Voyage" template (see below) that you can enlarge or decrease to fit your stationery.

    - Photocopy of a template or your own artwork
    - Pencil
    - Blank stationery cards and envelope
    - Cardboard
    - Pushpin

    Print these out (below).
    diy-stationery- print workshop
    diy-stationery- print workshop

    DIY-Craft-Projects diy-stationery- print workshop

    1. Hold the template or artwork copy up to a sunlit window and trace with pencil.
    2. Place the unfolded card face down on cardboard (A) and place the template, pencil-side up, on the card.
    3. Holding the pushpin with your thumb and pointer finger, press it through the lines in the template (B).
    4. Repeat until you have traced the template with pinholes.
    Tip: If you find your template or card is moving around, secure it to the cardboard with drafting tape.

    And you're done. Sophistication and savvy in less than an hour!

    diy-stationery print workshop
    Pin-Prick Stationery reprinted from the book Print Workshop by Christine Schmidt. Copyright (C) 2010 by Christine Schmidt. Photographs copyright (C) 2010 by Douglas Adesko. Published by Potter Craft, a division of Random House, Inc.

    Need more design inspiration? Check out our story on Fashion Designers' closets.


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    You asked: "We're investing in good-quality upholstery, and we want it to last. Maintenance-wise, are there things to consider before we buy? And how should we protect our investment once we get it home?"

    ....Mitchell Gold & Bob Williams answer:

    We know it's not the sexiest subject when you're thinking about Style and Design, so we commend you on your foresight. If your goal is to create a beautiful room like the one shown here-and keep it looking good for years-a little planning and minimal maintenance really will makes a difference.

    upholstery cleaning upholstery maintenanceThe Comfortable Home, Clarkson Potter

    Start at the store
    Chose fabrics and leathers based on how you live and how much maintenance you're willing to do. For instance, a family with young children might find life more relaxing with an easy-clean microfiber faux suede, which has a soft feel and comes in many colors. They could complement this with a rich-looking already-broken-in leather with some distressing so there's no worries about making the first mark. A good store sales associate can guide you in identifying options.

    Avoid the sun
    All upholstery-fabric or leather-must be kept out of direct sun as much as possible or it will fade. Get in the habit of closing curtains or blinds when you go out. Consider sun-filtering window coverings in rooms you want to keep light filled.

    Vacuum and fluff
    All cushions, poly-filled, down blend, or all down-need regular fluffing. How much is a matter of cushion type and use, with down blend needing more than poly, but not as much as all down. And although "regular" does depend on use, all upholstery benefits from weekly vacuuming and fluffing. In addition, flipping and rotating cushions every few months will even out wear and fading.

    Stay on top of spills
    Blot immediately with a clean white cloth, and don't rub--it might alter a fabric's texture. When you buy upholstery, ask what the fabric's "spot" cleaning code is so you have the right type of cleaner on hand (for example, water-based or water-free), and test it in an inconspicuous spot before you use it.

    upholstery cleaning upholstery maintenanceThe Comfortable Home, Clarkson Potter

    Create a smart setup
    Have places for people to put down drinks and food conveniently. We plan for a side or cocktail table near every seat, and if we're using an ottoman as a cocktail table, we'll put a tray on it to have a steady spot to set something.

    Let a professional do it
    Have cloth upholstery professionally cleaned every 12 to 24 months. With slipcovered upholstery, verify when you buy it if slipcovers are machine washable or dry cleanable; improper cleaning can cause them to shrink or lose their shape. And always clean all pieces at once to avoid color variations.

    Know when less is more
    With leather upholstery, don't use detergents, polishes, preservers, or even saddle soap. They all remove leather's natural oils. Simply dust or vacuum, and blot stains with distilled water if needed.

    Want more of Mitchell & Bob's great advice? Check out:
    Small-Space Living Room Seating

    Expert Q&A: Warm-Weather Spruce Ups for the Living Room


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  • 01/25/11--05:49: Classic Clean

  • The Classic Clean kitchen is timeless, simple and pure. The key expressions of a classic clean style are lightness, straight lines and sensible organization. IKEA's white and birch cabinets with "soft-close" drawers are sturdy without feeling heavy. And light stone countertops enhance the clean lines in your kitchen and reflect light that is both comfortable and warm. For the ultimate in organizational excellence, RATIONELL modular interior organizers are easy to install and fully customizable to fit your needs. To open up more surface area, use IKEA's GRUNTAL stainless steel wall system to lift accessories off the counter and add contrast to the light cabinets. The perfect lighting for a classic clean kitchen is soft and smooth like the IKEA PS pendant lamps. With all of these elements combined, your kitchen will continue to feel clean, simple, and new for years to come..

    If your style is Classic Clean, IKEA has the kitchen for you.

    For more IKEA product information, click here.


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    Concentrating a few items of the same hue in one spot is a great way to link an accent color throughout your home -- or showcase your favorite color.

    I'm obsessed with turquoise. But I haven't always been.

    If you'd asked me what I thought about the blue-green hue when I was in college, I would have told you it was a color best reserved for old ladies' jewelry collections and Southwestern motifs that, as far as I was concerned, could stay in the Southwest.

    turquoise-roomsOne of our favorite rooms in the house to inject some turquoise: The bathroom! Alamy

    But a few years ago, a little turquoise vase caught my eye at a garage sale. It was only a dollar, so I took it home and put it on my bookshelf. On a trip to IKEA a few months later, I found a flower pot that was a lot bigger and just a little darker. Since it was only two dollars, I couldn't resist. And because everything looks better in threes, I picked up a smaller, lighter flower pot not long after that.

    turquoise-roomsMore stunning turquoise bathrooms. Photos: Alamy

    Before I knew it, I had become my grandmother. I had little turquoise accents all over my apartment (including my wardrobe). And then big ones. After I painted my kitchen cabinets turquoise, I decided I wanted it to really pop in the rest of my rooms. So on a small bookcase in a little corner of my living room, I arranged all of my turquoise and turquoise-ish books along with some of my favorite turquoise trinkets. I had created a concentration of turquoise -- just in time for Pantone to name it Color of the Year. (Yes, I felt very cool.)

    turquoise-roomsThe famed Room 606 at the Royal Hotel Copenhagen. Photo: Apartment Therapy

    "Turquoise is one of those colors that's incredibly intense; it pops," says Brad Wheeler, an interior designer at Urban Dwellings Design in Kansas City, MO. "It already lends itself to being a great accent, and sprucing up a space."

    If you're using lots of turquoise pieces in one area, Wheeler suggests breaking up the monotony by placing them on an interesting architectural feature, like a bookcase that's (you guessed it) not turquoise.

    Here are a few of my favorite turquoise concentrations from Flickr.

    turquoise-roomsPhoto credit: Flickr/Twin72

    I collect vintage Pyrex (including all of the above patterns), so of course, this collection of vinage Pyrex baking dishes, mixng bowls and refrigerator boxes caught my attention.

    turquoise-roomsPhoto credit: Flickr/Karin A.

    This tabletop collection beautifully layers different shades of turquoise with different shapes and textures of glass containers.

    This sophisticated collection combines my favorite geeky design element, a globe, with an antique map and other vintage pieces, as well as Liberty of London for Target lampshades.

    turquoise-roomsPhoto credit: Flickr/monkeysox

    This thrifted, behind-the-couch collection combines traditional Southwestern style with modern design. The front-right piece is a replica of the iconic Robert Indiana LOVE sculpture.

    The turquoise collections add much-needed color to this beautiful, bright and airy room. And because the colors are similar, the antique glass works wonderfully with the mid-century dining room furniture.

    For more great stories, don't miss:
    Color Diary: Turquoise & Poppy
    Pantone Unveils Color of the Year: Turquoise is Sooo 2010!
    Turquoise in the Bedroom


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    "We have an extra room that is overflowing with 'stuff'....but there's no place for guests to stay over!" - Christina Schmidt

    The Schmidts

    When they moved into their first home, the Schmidts knew just how they'd use two of the three bedrooms. But the third one soon became a catchall for extra furniture and housewares, banishing out-of-town guests to the living room during overnight stays. They now want to give guests a space of their own and finally put that extra bedroom to use.

    Enter Minute Makeover guru, Bob Richter. His first -- and perhaps biggest -- challenge is the room's awkward shape. Its narrow layout and the unconventional placement of the door make it difficult to place the bed.

    Instead of arranging it under the window (where guests may feel a draft or lay directly in the path of the morning sun), Richter places it along the room's back wall, across from the door.

    To give the room a focal point (and a punch of color and style), he uses bedding with a modern floral design in a bright shade of red and cream.

    In addition to bedding, Richter's trick for cozying up a space is to give guests a spot to stash their belongings. In a small space like this, extra furniture isn't feasible, so he's opted for a headboard with storage instead.

    Richter left the Schmidts' guests a final welcoming touch -- a basket of goodies, including fresh towels and toiletries. Thoughtful...and decorative. Perfect!

    The Schmidts' spare room is now a cozy enclave for family and friends.

    To see what products we used from our sponsor IKEA, scroll over the pieces in the video! Or check out this list for all the goods.


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    Get to know our talented guest judges -- an incredible group of designers, bloggers and all-around design gurus.

    Clockwise from top left: Amy Lau, Eddie Ross, Grace Bonney, Jaime Derringer, Jaithan Kochar, Jason Oliver Nixon, John Loecke, Joy Cho.

    Amy Lau founded her interiors firm Amy Lau Design in 2001. A graduate of Sotheby's Fine and Decorative Arts graduate program, Amy also serves as an independent adviser to collectors of 20th Century decorative arts. Amy is also co-founder of the prestigious Design Miami fair, which assembles significant galleries specializing in design from the post-war period to the present. Amy's work has been featured in LUXE magazine, Metropolitan Home, ELLE DECOR and The New York Times. Her firm's current initiatives include a collection of contemporary curtains and upholstery textiles to be manufactured by S. Harris - Fabricut and a wallpaper collection for Maya Romanoff's 40th Anniversary.

    Eddie Ross began his career working in television, first as a food editor on "Martha Stewart Living" and later as associate design director for all in-house production at Food Network. After working as an editor at House Beautiful and appearing on season two of Bravo's "Top Design," Eddie co-founded lifestyle company Eddie Ross with partner Jaithan Kochar. Since then, Eddie has been featured in Woman's Day, on HGTV and has created campaigns for clients like Lowe's, Gracious Home and Carleton V.

    Grace Bonney is the editor and founder of Design*Sponge, which has been called a "Martha Stewart Living for the Millennials" by The New York Times. Grace has worked as a contributing editor at Domino and CRAFT magazine, and previously as style editor of HGTV's Ideas Magazine. She also runs a national series of meetups for women running design-based businesses called the D*S Biz Lady Series and hosts an annual D*S Scholarship to support up-and-coming art and design students.

    Jaime Derringer is editor and publisher of the Milk sites: Design Milk (modern design) and Dog Milk (modern dogs). Flagship site Design Milk originally began as a collection of Jaime's favorite internet finds and soon branched out beyond home decor to art, architecture, and technology. In addition to penning her Milk sites, Jaime has been a ShelterPop contributor since 2009.

    Jaithan Kochar is a writer and designer, working closely with partner Eddie Ross in every aspect of their Connecticut-based design and creative media consultancy, Eddie Ross. With degrees in psychology from Stanford University and interior architecture from the Rhode Island School of Design, Jaithan seeks to create narrative environments -- a room, a window, a memory, a story -- that elicit a multi-sensory, emotional experience of place.

    Jason Oliver Nixon is the global lifestyle editor at Delta Sky magazine (and the former editor in chief and editorial director of Gotham, Hamptons, Los Angeles Confidential and Aspen Peak magazines). Jason has since teamed up with partner John Loecke to focus on yet another of his passions: Interior design. Together, they run John Loecke Inc. and pen the blog Demystifying Design.

    Joy Deangdeelert Cho is a graphic designer and blogger who worked with numerous fashion clients before launching her own business, Oh Joy! in 2005. She now designs textiles, packaging and branding for clients in the fashion and food industries. Joy consults other creative businesses through her Rx program, and sells her stationery, home office and wallpaper line nationwide. She has authored the Oh Joy! design blog since 2005 and her food blog, Oh Joy Eats since 2009. Her first book, Creative, Inc., a book about becoming a freelance creative talent, was recently released this fall. Joy is located in Los Angeles, CA.

    John Loecke has been working in the design field for eleven years, opened his namesake New York City firm in 2000. He's been named one of America's Top 25 Young Designers by House Beautiful magazine and his projects have been featured in numerous publications including Domino, O at Home and Better Homes & Gardens. His work can also be seen on the HGTV television series "Small Space, Big Style." He and his partner Jason Oliver Nixon now run Demystifying Design and John Loecke Inc., a New York-based design firm.

    Want to learn more about the SCAD ShelterPop Design Challenge?
    - Learn more about the project and vote for your favorite!
    - Meet the students behind the winning designs

    And tell us why you chose your favorite product on our Facebook page!


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    Characterized by clean-lines, neutral palettes, nature-inspired textures and no-fuss accents, contemporary style is all about simplicity. Last week, we focused on traditional style. Next Wedneday we'll offer tips on decorating an eclectic living room.

    Contemporary design -- not to be confused with modern, which leans more toward the austere and minimalist -- is really more a back-to-basics approach.

    contemporary-living-roomMultiple seating arrangements -- uniform in height and style but varying in color -- add warmth and hospitality to a contemporary living space. Photo: Shane Reilly

    Think simple lines and uncomplicated shapes and patterns. Fabrics (wool, linen), rather than ornate appointments and bold colors on walls, bring in texture and warmth. So before you go with the Royal Flush, take heed: "Too often, people rely on paint as a standalone tool, which is often a big mistake. It's just one of many ways to contemporize a space, and it should always work in concert with everything else," says Shane Reilly, an interior designer and founder of Think of the room as a composition in color: Start first by choosing a palette -- not a wall color -- and go from there.

    When choosing furniture, focus on the sofa. Since it's the largest piece in the room, it's the biggest style indicator -- it sets the tone. "Invest the majority of your budget there," says Reilly. "And steer clear of sofas with rounded, wing-like arms and skirted bases. Choose one with straight, angular arms (or no arms at all), a linear back and a tailored base."

    Since most contemporary sofas tend to be extra-deep and closer to the floor -- 14 to 16 inches versus the standard 18 in most sofas -- the rest of the room's pieces should also be of comparable height. Consider the Bantam sofa in Alabaster Honey, $1980, Design Within Reach (shown above).

    contemporary-living-roomA soft-top ottoman is used as a clever alternative to a standard wooden coffee table, inviting guests to take a seat when space gets tight. Photo: Margot Hartford

    "The most successful contemporary layout omits inessential items, stresses comfort and hones in on how people truly live today," says Reilly. "The living room should be an adaptable space. It's where we relax, work -- even eat." Today, Reilly says that furniture and accessories in quintessentially contemporary spaces are smaller in number because they've actually gotten larger in scale.

    "With this scheme, it's not about over-decorating; it's about having fewer, edited down pieces that become really important as a result. To make boxy lines feel cozier, she says, "invite conversation and drop an occasional chair into the mix. If it's small enough, it can even touch the couch." And forget the ho-hum 'coffee-table-in-front-of-the-sofa' setup; try an upholstered ottoman instead. "It's a warm touch, because guests can actually sit on it in a pinch, unlike a coffee table," she adds.

    Although lighting is one of the most important features of a space, it's often what people think of least. "It shouldn't be an afterthought. A poorly-lit living room with zero decorative lighting at eye-level feels just like an airport," says Reilly. She sets the mood with clean-lined fixtures that feel heavy and substantial. Lamps made with unusual (slate, stone), often organic (cork, driftwood) materials and techniques (oxidized alloy) are engaging above all else, and they're really essential in making the contemporary living room come together. "Just choose something interesting," says Reilly. "It doesn't have to be expensive."

    For more living room decorating inspiration, don't miss:
    Why We Love Country Style Now
    New Home Technology Products Will Dress Up Your Living Room
    Decorating a Fireplace Mantel: 5 Easy Ideas

    Check this video out for a modern living room makeover!


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    Put the plasma on the perfect pedestal.

    This past holiday season flat screen TVs were a hot ticket item. I took advantage and upgraded my old TV to a nice new, ultra-thin one myself. Whether you upgraded from another flat screen or an older model, you might be in search of a new TV stand that complements your TV's ultra-slim profile. Gone are the days of oversized, bulky entertainment centers, especially if your TV is 2 inches thick.

    So what's out there in the TV stand market? I went on the hunt and found an excellent variety of stands, one of which is sure to be the perfect pedestal.

    Flat Screen TV Stands

    Photos, clockwise, from top left: Cost Plus World Market, Pottery Barn, Room & Board, Macy's

    From top left, clockwise: The top of this Duplex Slanted Media Storage is perfectly sized for flat screens, but the lower tier fits all your electronic components, plus some books and doo-dads. $130 at Cost Plus World Market.

    This one's a splurge, but I fell in love with the wheelbarrow detail on this Glasgow Media Stand, $1100, Pottery Barn.

    The beautiful Odori Cabinet, $1700, from Room and Board is a budget buster but, inspired by Japanese mizuya kitchen cabinets, it is handcrafted from Chinese hardwood and will last you longer than your TV (and probably the TV after that one, too).

    The Metro Wall Unit, $800, from Macy's is a complete entertainment center but the sleek framed backless design makes it feel open and airy.

    Flat Screen TV Stands

    Photos, clockwise, from top left: Target, Best Buy, Pier 1 Imports, Target

    On the left, top and bottom: This one's for the movie lover. You would never know it from the outside, but this austere transitional style TV console houses hundreds of your favorite DVDs, CDs and books. $330, Target.

    On the right, top: The simple Pinnacle Design TV Stand, $200, Best Buy.

    On the right, bottom: The Media Stand, $249, Pier1 Imports has a little Asian flair.

    If you're looking for something a little more on the modern side, here are a few options:

    Flat Screen TV Stands

    Photos: CB2, IKEA

    On the left: The Chill Media Console, $300, CB2, is a simple, low-profile unit that gives you just enough storage without taking up a lot of room.

    On the right: The BESTÅ/ FRAMSTÅ TV combination, $290, is now available in a lighter color at IKEA and can accommodate a TV up to 60" and has a simple wooden back with storage underneath. With a wide range of BESTÅ and FRAMSTÅ modular pieces, you can create a custom home theater that is perfect for your space.

    Flat Screen TV Stands

    Photos: JCPenney,

    On the left: The Preston TV Stand, $300, from JCPenney, could be called a TV chest since it is higher than the traditional TV stand height, making it perfect for bedrooms.

    On the right: Mid-century modern lovers take note of the Sitcom Furniture Roslyn Buffet, $600, It ain't cheap, but if you're going for that mid-century look, then put this one on your list.

    Flat Screen TV Stands

    Photos: Overstock, Omni Mount

    On the left: The Windham Espresso Media Stand, $330, Overstock, is a modular-style tiered stand, very simple looking with storage drawers cubbies.

    On the right: The Omni Mount LED P75, $250, is a low-profile wall mount that you can actually install inside your wall so that the TV is perfectly flush with the wall.

    If you're looking for a new flatscreen TV, check out our sister site DIY Life's guide to the new TVs from CES 2011!

    Go On the Hunt with ShelterPop:
    On the Hunt: Eco-Friendly Lighting
    On the Hunt: Designer Tiles
    On the Hunt: Smart Storage Beds


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    If your kitchen is due for a quickie makeover, start with the obvious: Food! Food art, that is. Here are five of our favorite ideas.

    Check out this great story from our friends at CasaSugar!

    Lately I've been looking to integrate some artwork into my kitchen, which is the sparest room in my apartment. Considering the number of empty walls in my kitchen, I decided to go temporarily for some affordable, themed prints related to eating and drinking until I can splurge on original pieces. There's so much to choose from - especially since food and drink are a favorite subject of many - so I had a hard time narrowing it down. Here are five of my favorites!

    kitchen-artAmy Stevens via CasaSugar

    Amy Stevens's Confections (adorned) #14 photograph ($20 and up) showcases an elaborately concocted homemade cake with an exuberantly imperfect design - we can't all be Martha Stewart.

    kitchen-artBlu Lima; via CasaSugar

    Marie Antoinette had no idea how many artists she would inspire when she famously said, "Let them eat cake." If you have a sweet tooth, then Blu Lima's hand-screened Let Them Eat Cake print ($14) is for you.

    Deb of the much-followed cooking blog Smitten Kitchen sells prints of her mouthwatering photos in a range of sizes and finishes (under $100 to $300). This bundled asparagus photo is one of my favorites.

    kitchen-artGordana Adamovic-Mladenovic via CasaSugar

    Photographer Gordana Adamovic-Mladenovic's rich still-life photographs, like her Pomegranate Photo ($20), are salivatingly beautiful.

    kitchen-artKeep Calm Gallery via CasaSugar

    Truman's catchphrase "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen" makes its way onto a hand-pulled screen print ($29) that's perfect for a serious chef.

    Want to see the other five picks? Check out the full gallery on CasaSugar. Or see some of our other favorite stories...
    Building a Mansion on Skid Row: Crazy, Insensitive, or Perfectly OK?

    10 Coffee Table Topper Ideas


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    Ever noticed that mattresses are marked down at the same time every year? Well, so are power tools and cookware. Here's a month by month guide to great deals.

    When it comes to shopping for home goods, the key to getting the most bang for your buck is simple -- plan ahead. So, to help our ShelterPop readers do just that, we spoke with the experts at Consumer Reports to find out the best times of the year to find great deals on particular items for your home.

    best-time-to-buyPhoto: Getty | Alamy

    "We compile our list by speaking with our testers, who know their products manufacturing cycles, and our own in house market research division, which can also track pricing," says Amanda Walker, senior project editor at Consumer Reports. They also speak with industry groups like the Consumer Electronics Association and the National Home Furnishing Association to find out why some things go on sale when they do.

    Sales are often triggered by manufacturing or seasonal cycles. For example, indoor furniture tends to go on sale some time after the furniture shows in High Point, North Carolina, which take place two times a year in April and October. "When you see snow blowers on sale in August and September," she says. "It's a good bet that stores are trying to cut rates on older inventory."

    Keep in mind that none of these tips are set in stone. "Over the years we've seen a trend of items going on sale at the same time each year, but that can change at any time," explains Walker. "Most of this depends on the retailers' inventories; if one store manages to sell their entire grill inventory one year, there will be no sale."

    But just because there's no sale, doesn't mean you can't get a great deal. "Three words for you: negotiate, negotiate, negotiate," says Walker. "In-store shoppers should go when retailers are less busy, like the early morning or late in the day on weekdays, so salespeople won't be in as big a rush. Ask for a better price, but always be polite. If they won't budge, ask to speak with a manager who is authorized to negotiate."

    Are you ready to get your shop on? Follow this calendar for the best times to buy.

    best-time-to-buyPhoto: Doozzi Photography, Alamy

    (January - March)
    Early in the year is the time for White Sales: unbeatable sales on sheets, pillows and other linens, with price cuts as high as 50 percent. Also look for cheap electronics left over from the holiday rush and even "open box" reductions on high-tech gifts that were opened and then returned. And once the weather starts to take a turn for the better, showrooms will be chomping at the bit to clear out some space for their new outdoor furniture displays, which means a good chunk of their indoor furniture will go on sale.

    Keep your eyes peeled for great deals on:
    Indoor furniture
    TVs and small consumer electronics

    best-time-to-buyPhoto: Alamy

    (April - June)
    Tax season brings specials on home office furniture and supplies, like computers. Another great use for that tax refund? Home improvement and lawn-maintenance items. Then, once Mother's and Father's Day roll around, you'll see specials on home appliances and guy-friendly items, like lawn mowers.

    Keep your eyes peeled for great deals on:
    Lawn Mowers
    Cordless phones
    Indoor furniture

    best-time-to-buyPhoto: shopics, Alamy

    (July - September)
    In preparation for the nation's biggest furniture trade show (the High Point Market), mid-summer is a great time to scope out major clearance sales from high-end furniture and accessories dealers. (Also look for "public" shopping days at local design centers and showrooms that usually cater to design professionals.) Once the weather starts to cool off, you'll also find deals on air conditioners and gas grills, as well as snow blowers and other winter-specific items that most people aren't thinking about yet.

    Keep your eyes peeled for great deals on:
    Indoor and outdoor furniture
    Air conditioners
    Snow blowers
    Lawn mowers
    Gas grills
    Small consumer electronics

    best-time-to-buyPhoto: James Houck, Alamy

    (October - December)
    The much anticipated holiday season will bring sales and promotions on dining rooms and dinettes around late October and early November. Once we get into December, though, sales drop off since retailers know the public is already pre-disposed to spending during this time. After Christmas, look for major markdowns!

    Keep your eyes peeled for great deals on:
    Gas grills
    Lawn mowers
    Home appliances

    For more shopping inspiration, don't miss:
    ShelterPop's Best Shopping Stories

    Looking for information on specific holiday sales throughout the year? We're here to help. Check out a few of our favorite ShelterPop Sales stories.


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    What you can learn from the luxury beach hotel that's putting an end to Miami Beach's reigning style of white-on-white decor.

    I remember the first time I walked into the Philippe Stark-designed lobby of Miami's Delano Hotel: All I could think was, "Wow, this is Miami," and indeed Stark's aesthetic was mimicked by many other designers. The all-white look reigned supreme for years. However, a newcomer on the scene proves that South Beach can have more than one style.

    The recently opened SoHo Beach House (a private members club, hotel and spa) is a delightful surprise for Miami. The space is decorated in homage to 1940's Cuba and Latin America with gallery walls of eclectic art, dark woods, upholstered club chairs and vintage furnishings. Not only do we love this new hotel for shaking up the Miami design scene, we love it for its easily copied decor ideas. Here are twelve ideas you can borrow from this elite hotel:

    soho-beach-house-decoratingThe SoHo Beach House's lobby. Photo: SoHo Beach House

    Lesson 1: Take a cue from the SoHo Beach House's lobby design: Instead of upholstering sets of chairs in identical fabrics, opt for different hues of one type of yardage.
    Lesson 2: You can never have too many throw pillows. We love the more is more attitude of covering all the lobby's couches with more decorative pillows than convention allows for.

    soho-beach-house-decoratingA desk in the lobby of the SoHo Beach House. Photo: SoHo Beach House

    Lesson 1: Wood paneling adds instant character. An adventurous DIY-er could re-create a similar look to these dark-wooded walls with panels of plywood stained in a dark hue.
    Lesson 2: A gallery wall gives a room major character -- the quirkier the art (skulls, anyone?) the better. Don't worry about getting it "right," this look is all about the haphazard feel.

    soho-beach-house-decoratingHemingway would have felt at home at this subtly Cuban-looking saloon. Photo: SoHo Beach House

    Lesson 1: Light fixtures immediately set the tone for a room. Here, the vintage (or vintage-looking) milk glass pendants give the bar area a retro feel.
    Lesson 2: Tiles aren't just for kitchens and baths. The Mexican tiles in this bar area prove that a tiled floor is chic in many rooms -- especially when sand and salt water are just outside the door!

    soho-beach-house-decoratingThe beach is just steps away from this chic patio. Photo: SoHo Beach House

    Lesson 1: Mix and match dining chairs. A dining table on the SoHo Beach House's patio is surrounded by an eclectic mix of wooden chairs for a funky, boho vibe.
    Lesson 2: Use greenery for privacy. If your yard or patio is prone to prying eyes, consider copying SoHo Beach House's tactic of creating a green screen between your space and the outside world.

    soho-beach-house-decoratingOne of the bayside guest rooms of the hotel. Photos: SoHo Beach House

    Lesson 1: A loveseat is the perfect piece for the foot of the bed, especially in guest rooms, whether it is in a hotel or it's where you plan to house your in-laws when they visit.
    Lesson 2: Beach-y decor doesn't have to mean white-painted and blond wood furniture: Dark wood is a surprising and chic choice, especially when paired with a sea-colored scheme.

    soho-beach-house-decoratingA beach-side guest room is a chic mix of patterns. Photo: SoHo Beach House

    Lesson 1: Don't be afraid to mix patterns. Here, a boldly patterned floor is paired with a large-scale print fabric on the headboard and bed frame for great visual impact
    Lesson 2: If you keep a television in your bedroom, a pedastal TV stand is a chic alternative to the usual console-style table -- it also takes up less floor space and eliminates the hassle of wall-mounting.

    For more drool-worthy hotel spaces, read on:
    - Say Aloha to a Fun Hawaiian Hotel
    - One Night in Paris at the Seven Hotel
    - A Fun Texas Hotel


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    Check out the three finalists in our exciting Design Challenge and vote for your favorite -- you could see the winner in stores next summer!

    ShelterPop has teamed up with the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) to host the first-ever ShelterPop SCAD Design Challenge. SCAD is one of the leading fine arts universities, known for its innovative Working Class Studio, a product development program that encourages students and alumni to bring their designs to market. This contest is a chance for students to flex their design muscles and have their work judged by an esteemed panel of design experts.

    Left to right: Hanging book vase, Recycling bag, balloon vase. Photos: SCAD

    For this contest, a selection of SCAD's Working Class Studio interns were asked to design products that embodied ShelterPop's motto, "Happy homes make happy people." Fifteen ideas were submitted and SCAD and ShelterPop narrowed down the contestants to five top contenders using the following criteria:

    -How well does the product embody ShelterPop's motto, "Happy homes make happy people"?
    -How well does the product solve a problem?
    -Is it something you would buy for your own home?
    -Would it make your life easier?
    -Is it new? Exciting? Innovative?

    Then we called in the experts. ShelterPop and SCAD gathered an expert panel of eight designers, bloggers and interior experts to review and vote on the five student creations using the same criteria for the initial round of judging. We compared the scores from all eight judges and determined the final top three contenders from the SCAD ShelterPop Design Challenge.

    Pick your favorite!

    We want you to pick the one you think most exemplifies ShelterPop's motto: "Happy homes make happy people." We'll announce the winner on Thursday, January 27, 2011 at 5pm, and the winning product will be exhibited at Working Class Studio's booth at the New York International Gift Fair (January 30 to February 3, 2011). The winning student will also return to ShelterPop as a guest blogger!

    May the happiest product win!

    After you vote, read on to learn all about the amazing student-designed pieces, the students themselves and everything else you need to know about the ShelterPop and SCAD Design Challenge.

    (And check back in next week for a video about the whole process!)

    Ready for the full scoop on the top three products?

    Balloon Vases by Corey Green. Photo: SCAD

    Balloon Vases
    Designer: Corey Green
    Major: Industrial design, SCAD Savannah
    Hometown: Yates Center, Kansas

    Humble balloons become clever vases with the help of acrylic frames in Corey Green's design. Acrylic arms extend upward to form the barely-there shape of each vase to hold a balloon. Water and flowers are placed in a balloon, and the more water is used, the heavier and sturdier the vase becomes. Different designs allow for a variety of balloon sizes and shapes. To change the look or mood of the vase, simply change the balloon. And you'll always know when you're due to re-water...the balloon shrivels!

    Expert Opinion: "We love how the designer took inexpensive, accessible balloons and transformed them into very chic household items...and we love that you can switch out the color of the balloons as you wish," say John Loecke and Jason Oliver Nixon of John Loecke Inc. Plus, the design duo adds, "These balloon vases make us happy, and that's what good design should do. "

    Hanging Book Vase by Sami Fox. Photo: SCAD

    Hanging Book Vase
    Designer: Sami Fox
    Major: Graphic design and photography double major, SCAD Savannah
    Hometown: Suffern, New York

    This hand-blown clear glass vase hangs from the pages of an open book, using three finger-like prongs to hold it in place. Sami Fox's design allows users to display flowers and favorite books together for unique vignettes.

    Expert Opinion: "I would buy this for my own home," notes interior designer Amy Lau. "It is smart, fun, innovative and handmade -- definitely one of a kind."

    Recycling Bags by Tessa Gunnell. Photo: SCAD

    Recycling Bags
    Designer: Tessa Gunnell
    Major: Industrial design, SCAD Savannah
    Hometown: Frederick, Maryland

    Setting up a recycling station can be challenging, but Tessa Gunnell's design makes it easy (and fun!) to organize your cans and bottles. The machine-washable canvas bags hang on the wall from a hole in their funnel-shaped metal tops, which detach from the bags for easy washing. Each bag is color-coded with a pattern that correlates to the recyclables it holds (plastic, glass, paper and/or metal materials) for easy identification.

    Expert Opinion: "These [recycling bags] offer a great solution to recycling for those who don't have a lot of floor space to have bins," says blogger and graphic designer Joy Cho.

    Want to learn more about the SCAD ShelterPop Design Challenge?
    - Meet the students behind the winning designs
    - Meet our SCAD ShelterPop Design Challenge guest judges

    And tell us why you chose your favorite product on our Facebook page!

    Voting begins at 10am EST on Friday, 1/21 and ends at 5pm EST on Thursday, 1/27 (the "Voting Period"). Voting is limited to once per person. At the conclusion of the Voting Period, the submission with the most verified votes will be deemed the winner.

    Any use of agencies or robotic, repetitive, automatic, programmed or similar voting methods or agents will void all votes by that person. In the event that the operation, security, or administration of the voting is impaired in any way for any reason, including, but not limited to fraud, virus, or other technical problem, the Sponsor may, in its sole discretion, suspend the voting to address the impairment and then resume the voting in a manner that best conforms to the spirit of these rules. AOL reserves the right in its sole discretion to disqualify any individual it finds to be tampering with the voting process or the operation of the voting or to be acting in violation of these rules or in an unsportsmanlike or disruptive manner.

    Since you're showing the voting in real-time, you'll also need to include the following disclaimer: Voting results shown should not be deemed as final. All votes are subject to verification.


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    Meet the students behind the top product ideas from the ShelterPop & SCAD Design Challenge.

    When ShelterPop teamed up with the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) for our first ever ShelterPop & SCAD Design Challenge, we asked students in SCAD's interior design programs and Working Class Studio intern program to design products that embodied the ShelterPop motto, "Happy homes make happy people."

    We wanted to learn more about the students behind the designs, so we asked them about their backgrounds and their current inspirations. We also asked everyone to nominate a product in need of a re-design -- and got some very clever answers!

    Read on -- and check back in next week for a video about the whole process!

    Read on to learn more about the these inspiring student designers:

    Corey Green and his Balloon Vases. Photo: SCAD

    Corey Green, Balloon Vases
    Originally from Yates Center, Kansas, Corey Green is an undergraduate industrial design student. Corey pursued a degree in industrial design at SCAD because it affords him the opportunity to merge his creative and technical sides. His design aesthetic draws heavily from his personal experiences with products and his imagination. Corey thinks that the backpack deserves a makeover and would like to change the way people approach it, both practically and stylistically. It should come as no surprise that his current muses are oversized latex balloons in a variety of colors.

    The balloon vases feature silhouetted acrylic arms that extend to form the barely-there shape of a vase, while a balloon stores water and a flower.

    Sami Fox and her Hanging Book Vase. Photo: SCAD

    Sami Fox, Hanging Book Vase
    Sami Fox is pursuing two undergraduate degrees from SCAD, one in graphic design and one in photography. This multi-tasker hails from Suffern, New York. She decided to double major because both programs of study are very hands-on and offer good career opportunities after graduation. When it comes to products already in the marketplace, Sami would love to re-imagine both the suitcase and the everyday stool. She describes her design sensibility as lively and fresh, and she cites grids and anatomy as recent inspirations for her work.

    The book vase is made of hand-blown clear glass with three finger-like prongs that allow it to attach and suspend from the pages of an open book.

    Tessa Gunnell Photo and her Recycling Bags: SCAD

    Tessa Gunnell, Recycling Bags
    Tessa Gunnell is an undergraduate industrial design student from Frederick, Maryland. When Tessa discovered industrial design at SCAD, she was immediately drawn to the program's ability to allow her to marry three-dimensional design with her innate practicality. She describes her design sensibility as a cross between user-centered design and the whimsical. Tessa feels that the bicycle helmet should be turned into something that people want to wear and that doesn't feel incompatible with their style. Patterns from nature are major influences in her work, from the branching forms of a cherry tree to the molecular structure of crystal.

    Hanging recycling bags are easy to wash and feature color-coded patterns correlating to plastic, glass and paper.

    Carla Gunter and her Pet Crate design. Photo: SCAD

    Carla Gunter, Pet Crate
    Alpharetta, Georgia's Carla Gunter kept her graduate studies in interior design close to home at SCAD's Atlanta campus. With a lifelong love of architectural history and an affinity for refurbishing antiques, Carla was naturally drawn to interior design, which allows her to play multiple roles. She believes that she can better the lives of others through the spaces they inhabit. Her design sensibility is a blend of elegant classicism and moody eclecticism. She would like to re-imagine the way bottles are produced and packaged and thinks that the retractable cord hairdryer is a candidate for a serious redesign.

    The pet crate's patterned laser-cut screens make is stylish enough to double as a storage cube.

    Aditi Kumbhat and her Triple Planter design. Photo: SCAD

    Aditi Kumbhat, Triple Planter
    A native of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Aditi Kumbhat traveled far for her undergraduate studies in graphic design at SCAD. Aditi has been interested in graphic design since she was 13, when she was first introduced to the Adobe Creative Suite. Her self-described design sensibility is a cross between "complexity and benign inconsistency." When it comes to the expansive realm of product design, Aditi feels that the electronic toothbrush is due for a makeover. Lately, stained-glass windows have been a source of inspiration in her work.

    The tripe planter is the ultimate space-saver. A trio of removeable funnels fit neatly in a wooden base and provides ample yet compact space for herbs and small houseplants.

    Want to learn more about the SCAD ShelterPop Design Challenge? Read on:
    - Meet our SCAD ShelterPop Design Challenge guest judges
    - View the top three designs and vote for the winner

    And tell us why you chose your favorite product on our Facebook page!


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    To create a comfortable space for guests you'll need just a few basic items, plus a few thoughtful flourishes.

    IKEA's Sultan Hjartdal queen spring mattress suits many sleep styles with its memory foam pillow top. Use it with the Malm bed frame and a headboard that lets guests stash their things out of sight. The matching Malm 3-piece headboard is the ultimate hidden storage solution, featuring shelves that slide neatly behind the bed.

    Finish off the essentials with a pair of pillows, like these Gosa Vädd ones, made for side sleepers, and a Mysa Stra comforter that can be easily washed and dried (or replaced thanks to their inexpensive price tags).

    In a small space, something has to play the starring role and bedding is an easy focal point. West Elm's Sketch Duvet Cover and Shams match their Silk/Velvet throw pillows, shown here in Chili, and add nice contrast to simple Cotton Canvas window panels. An expandable drapery rod works well with larger windows and features a cylindrical finial that matches the room's modern design. The Woven Basket used to store towels and toiletries also has a cylinder shape, but its woven texture and ikat print give it a warmer feel.

    Other room-warming accents, including a Salong vase filled with fresh flowers, a Noresund wall mirror and a basket full of waffle weave washcloths and bath towels will have guests feeling right at home.


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    Want to change the look of your kitchen without adding a thing? You're in luck: This brilliant kitchen makeover gets its impact from removing things. Specifically, cabinet doors. Would you try this look at home?

    We've all suffered through poorly designed rentals. And when it comes to the kitchen, makeovers aren't usually the easiest or least expensive option. This renter, Cambria Bold of Apartment Therapy's Re-Nest,was lucky to start with stainless-steel appliances, but the rest of it was a ho-hum, wood-and-white kitchen like we've seen in many a rental. But Bold got creative and livened up the space with a few simple and fantastically budget-friendly changes that transformed the whole room. Here's what she did:

    Use the slider tool to slide left and right to compare the before and after!

    Cabinet Doors
    Removing the cabinet doors is a risky move, but the results here are great. Bold was able to lose the stock cabinet look and brighten things up with her great Fiestaware collection. The resulting look is busy so it's definitely not for everyone. This idea could also work well and appear less busy with matching dishes -- it's the perfect opportunity to show off a prized set. But even with plain white dishes, the major drawback is that you've got to keep the cabinets neat. Forget stashing mismatched mugs in spare corners of this kitchen.

    Looking to remove your cabinet doors? DIY Life has you covered with a step-by-step tutorial....with photos!

    Photo: Cambria Bold for Apartment Therapy

    Cabinet Interiors
    To give the cabinets some sense of continuity, Bold bought yellow and white patterned paper to line the backs of the cabinets -- and not wallpaper, vinyl decals or self-adhesive paper. This is paper bought at a craft store and taped up -- that's it! And the resulting look is great. It hides the ugly wood and brightens up the inside of the cabinets and the room. Plus, the options for customization are endless.

    Because the landlord wouldn't allow her to paint, Bold had to come up with another creative idea for underneath the cabinets. She found great food photos from books and old food magazines and framed them using some matching frames they already had. We love this cheap-chic artwork, especially because it's so easy to change out with the seasons.

    Photo: Cambria Bold for Apartment Therapy

    The major drawback to tackling doorless cabinets is that you've got to commit to staying neat. The dishes and glasses are one thing, but food-filled cabinets are harder to keep cohesive. When shopping you've also got to consider the containers your food comes in.

    Or instead of getting stuck paying a premium for the best-looking packaging, follow Bold's lead and buy some matching plastic and tin containers to hold your dry goods. The jars will give your cabinet texture (and yes, hide Cheetos). Go modern with some sleek, square jars or get vintage with some Ball jars. Even repurposed containers can look cool.

    See more of the full makeover over at Re-Nest!

    Looking for more kitchen makeover ideas?
    A Small Kitchen Makeover

    Minute Makeover: An Easy Eat-In Kitchen

    Minute Makeover: Kitchen Art Ideas

    Minute Makeover: A Can of Paint Transformed My Kitchen

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    In our new column, tastemakers invite us in to the most sacred area of their homes: Where they write or cook, paint or relax. Today, to celebrate the release of her new book "Separate Beds," Elizabeth Buchan draws us into the garden.

    I am looking down into the (smallish) back garden of my London house which is a very important place for us as a family - we sit in it, we eat in it, we garden in it. It's a place where, weather permitting, we instinctively gather.

    elizabeth-buchan-separate-bedsThe author and her garden. Photos: Elizabeth Buchan.

    Despite being mid-winter -- and a bleak one at that -- there is plenty to look at. This is because even if it is one of the populous cities on earth, London's wildlife is thriving. And quite a lot of it appears to have made its way to our small plot of earth. During the span of typing out this sentence, two squirrels have chased each other along a fence, a fox loped onto a garden shed, one small bird and one large pigeon have fought to get at the bird feeder, and the local topcat -- a bully if ever there was one -- is sitting beneath the bird feeder. Hope springs eternal.

    This garden theater is vital for me. Not only does it provide me with visual refreshment between bouts of wrestling with words on a computer screen, but it's also a timely reminder of what life is all about. All too easily garden theatre can turn to high drama if the cat gets a frog or the foxes turn nasty.

    Danger, uncertainty, predatory behaviour...this is the stuff of novels, and it's being played out where I can observe it from my perch at the top of the house.

    It took me ten years to claim a room of my own, and I hole up most days here without fail. If the garden provides a family room, my study is mine alone and I guard it jealously. When I first began writing, the house was filled with babies and a live-in nanny because I was still working full time. There was not a spare inch to be had, and I wrote my first three novels in a corner of the sitting room late at night after the children had been put to bed. Then my third novel, "Consider the Lily," was published, won a prize, sold brilliantly, and I decided to bite the bullet and write full-time. The corner of a room, where I had been writing, was no longer sufficient.

    A game of musical chairs was set in motion. My son moved into the now departed nanny's old room. My daughter moved out of the minute room into which she had been squeezed and into my son's old room, and I -- oh joy -- moved my writing life into my daughter's room.

    It has become the operations center for my life. It is small. It just about accommodates one desk, one bookshelf, a couple of filing cabinets and my chair. That is it. There is no room for grand gestures -- those take place on the screen -- or anything that doesn't have to do with writing. In the winter it is freezing (as I type this I am wrapped in a rug and have a hot-water bottle at my feet). In summer it boils. But, as so many women have yearned for in the past, it is a room of my own.

    I painted it Chinese Imperial Yellow because the colour invigorates me and is suggestive of human history. On the walls, I hung pictures that I picked up over the years, a couple of needlework samplers (I love old needlework) and, just as prized, three Napoleon buttons (hastily manufactured when it was thought Napoleon would occupy the city), which I bought in New Orleans and had framed up on beige silk. Not so long ago, I picked up an antique mirror in the Georgian city of Bath. Unfortunately, the original bevelled glass had been replaced by a modern mirroring, but the midnight blue frame is original and decorated by small gold stucco stars and gold trefoils at the corners. I haven't hung it yet. But I will. I will.

    All of this sounds as if I am in strict control of my writing environment. I have to confess this is not entirely the case. When I begin a book, my study is reasonably ordered because I use the interregnum between books to instigate a major clear-out. But, as I dive deeper and deeper into the novel, piles of books grow like high-rise buildings around my feet. Every so often, I reach down and pluck one from the pile in order to consult it. Invariably, it is replaced in a different mooring which results in chaos when I need it again.

    On top of that, there is day-to-day stuff which I should have filed -- but, when I am writing, filing is the last straw. At the moment, I am staring at a sheath of stuff on top of which lies the annual demand from the Inland Revenue. That cannot be put off.

    But I am very happy in this small kingdom of mine. I have a feeling it understands me, and I think - as far as one can understand buildings which have been around for a long time - I understand it. Anyway, it allows me to spin my stories, and I am deeply grateful. Because I am so happy in it, I know now that to try to write in a place which does not suit you is counter productive.

    Meanwhile, as I plot out Chapter Ten of the work-in-progress, I notice with excitement that the hellebores under the lilac tree in the back garden are coming in to bud.

    elizabeth-buchan-separate-bedsViking Penguin

    For more on Elizabeth, visit Her latest novel, "Separate Beds," is publishing by Viking Penguin.


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