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    budget-decorating skyline furnitureWhat's not to love about Skyline Furniture's modern upholstered pieces? Photos: Skyline Furniture

    Skyline Furniture, a 60-year-old furniture manufacturer, is many retailers' best-kept secret -- and a budget decorating dream.

    The Source
    Skyline Furniture

    The Goods
    What do Walmart, Target, Urban Outfitters, JCPenney, CSN Stores and Garnet Hill all have in common? They're all vendors of Skyline Furniture's affordable home furnishings. The family owned and operated business was founded in 1948 and continues to manufacture furniture "to the trade" today. Much of the company's furnishings are still made here in the U.S.A. -- a rarity in this day and age -- though Skyline has expanded to the import business, as well. The look of their pieces is clean-lined, often with modern silhouettes and contemporary-looking upholstery.

    skyline-furnitureAdditional examples of Skyline's pieces. Photos: Skyline Furniture

    The Secret
    Skyline isn't a name brand you can ask for in a store. In fact, their goods rarely make it into stores. Instead, Skyline's furniture is sold online. In fact, Skyline's furnishings are appealing to retailers because they are easily shipped directly to customers via UPS or FedEx. Skyline says that most pieces ship within two weeks and some ship as soon as 48 hours. (For those of us who have waited months for a sofa to arrive, the timeline is nothing short of miraculous.)

    Things to Know
    While you can't buy directly from Skyline, you may start recognizing their wares once you take a look at their site. Some vendors never mention Skyline by name, while others, like CSN Stores, will let you browse by brand. Also worth noting: While they are family-run, Skyline is a big business. In an average week the company ships out about 2,000 piece of furniture!

    Want to know more of our Secret Sources? Read on:
    Secret Source: Vintage Bathroom
    Secret Source: MUJI
    Secret Source: Jayson Home & Garden


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    What's a man to do when his ties, sneakers and T-shirts are a jumbled mess inside his closet? Read on for tips on how to spruce up a man closet.

    Move over, man cave, the "man closet" is the new male-only space inside a house. And don't expect rows of shelves for all of his fancy shoes -- Men want different things in a closet than women do, says designer Lisa Adams of LA Closet Design, her custom-closet business and online boutique.

    Light and bright, this closet, designed by Lisa Adams, is a delightful departure from the dark, dank closets in many homes. Photo: LA Closet Design

    Men seek a no-fuss tone. Where a woman's closet might be cute and feminine and have dainty features and design touches, men care most about space; they like their closets walk-in big. And they appreciate gadgets like safes, bars (a refrigerator, breakfast station or coffee maker), and charging stations -- all designed to make their morning rush to the office and evening wind down easier. "Men tend to be the ones that are the risk takers in terms of design," says Adams, shown below.

    man-closetThe closet designing diva -- Lisa Adams of LA Closet Design -- inside a man's closet she designed. Photo: LA Closet Design

    And she's enjoyed creating closets for them. For the 7th annual Esquire Design House in Hollywood Hills, California, last fall, Adams created two closets -- a 150-square-foot man closet attached to the master-bedroom suite and a "weekend girlfriend" closet. Relying on dark, straight-grained wood, satin-nickel accents and cream-colored accessories, the man closet is the kind of space that gets women drooling too. Think: Crocodile-leather walls, pull-out cases with glass tops to store jewelry and sunglasses, cubby-holes for sweaters, ties tucked into a hanging display case. Adams also added hanging rods with integral lighting, to avoid fumbling around in the dark for a specific shirt or pair of slacks.

    man-closet Lisa Adams designed this glitsy and sophisticated yet practical man closet for the Esquire Design House last fall. Photo: LA Closet Design

    Still, most men don't need this many bells and whistles to feel good about their closet. "Most men want organization -- a place for everything," she says. When Adams designed her boyfriend's closet, she gave him lots of places to keep things. "It is organized and functional. I believe he feels good every morning getting dressed and feeling like he starts off the day organized and in a positive state of mind," she says.

    Think your partner would appreciate a man closet? Here's how to help him outfit one:

    1. Synchronize
    Change out all of the hangers to achieve a monochromatic, slick look. It doesn't matter if the hangers are wooden or metal. But definitely "get rid of the dry-cleaning hangers," says Adams. "Just changing that spruces it up."

    2. Charging Stations
    These days we carry a LOT of hand-held electronics each time we leave the house -- iPod, e-reader, digital camera, etc. With all of this comes the responsibilty of keeping everything juiced up. Add a charging station to your man's closet and he won't be disappointed. It doesn't have to be high-end, just a flat area near an outlet with enough plugs for a good charge. Adams loves the Stelton x-92 Super Charger XL, the BlueLounge "The Sanctuary" or the Kikkerland Charging Station. If there isn't an outlet in the closet, then this brand-new wireless charger is perfect.

    man-closetEverything in its place. Isn't that how a closet should be? (And proof that a neat closet can be squeezed into a tight space.) Photo: LA Closet Design

    3. Ties and Belts
    Invest in a tie and belt organizer. It could be flat (where ties and belts are folded or rolled inside a pull-out drawer), a cubby-hole (stores like IKEA and The Container Store sell quality stand-alone cubicles that work perfectly, everything from wire mesh to bamboo wood), or wall-mounted, depending on the space available. You can also make your own tie or belt organizer, like this one on Etsy made with a bulletin board and mismatched drawer knobs.

    4. Donate
    Guys are packrats when it comes to old clothes. Periodically go through the closet and look for items that are rarely, if ever, worn. If the item hasn't been worn in the last 12 months, then into the Goodwill box it goes!

    5. Add Scent
    The easiest way to reinvigorate a closet is to apply a scent. Adams likes cedar or eucalyptus, which are masculine alternatives to lavender, which many women use to perfume their closets. (Very few men are going to feel at home in a closet that smells like a garden...) There's no need to light a candle or scoop potpourri into a bowl, however. Sachets tossed into the drawers will do the trick.

    6. Lighting Options
    Men love back lighting, says Adams. It's also helps men find their way around the closet. (If you've ever woken up to a flash of bright light in the bedroom, thanks to your sweetheart's earlier wake-up time, then you know that dim lighting is a lifesaver.)

    And while women love, love, love the look of a chandelier, that's not going to bode well for men. "Men like simple, more masculine-looking light fixtures," says Adams, such as in-cabinetry lighting recessed into shelves and integrated into hanging rods. "Soffit lighting and dimmers adds mood and interest in men's closets," she says.

    7. Deck the Walls
    The easiest way to revitalize a closet is to paint the interior walls or apply a textural element. Whether it's a pop of tangerine or a subdued platinum grey, it's yet another opportunity to personalize.

    Want to read more about closet organization?
    Corral Your Clutter with Wire Shelving Systems
    California Closets and Peter Walsh's Mega-Makeover
    Five Things You Can Do (Today!) to Organize Your Closet

    Have man caves on the brain? Check out this video.


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    Shane Reilly of Decorati shares her new video series "Shane's Studio" and give us a behind-the-scenes look at the studios of our favorite designers. Ready for some major design envy via Skype? Come on in...

    Come with me as I drop into the design office of Amanda Nisbet to see what she's working on. We'll learn about two current a projects, the inspiration behind her new lighting products, as well as how does she do all that amazing color?! If you like colorful interiors, you will learn some tips and trends from one of today's leading designers.

    What are your favorite colors to decorate with? Weigh in on our Facebook page!

    Shane Reilly, the Founder and CEO of is sharing the wealth of information imparted to her by the country's top manufacturers, artisans, and designers in her new video series Shane's Studio. Check out the website or check back on ShelterPop for more of Shane's great interviews!


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    Don't save your timeless blue and white china for the table. Here are creative ideas for elevating your pieces from dishes to decor.

    Who isn't drawn to decorating with blue-and-white china? Its classic colors are soothing, representing the sky and sea and its ornate designs can make any room feel warmer and more homey. Plus, the dishes themselves have such a rich history, they have become a true classic among many countries and cultures. (And they're influencing room design as well.)

    The china originated in China's Tang Dynasty in the 14th century when artisans began making white porcelain, then decorating it with intricate designs using cobalt oxide, a blue pigment.

    decorating-with-blue-and-whiteBlue and white is one of the most popular color combos used in kitchens across America. Photo: Country Living, Of Spring and Summer

    In the 16th century, Delftware, a later version of the Japanese original, was born in the Netherlands. Potters, inspired by pricey porcelain, began coating their clay wares in a tin-glaze, which gave the pieces the look of porcelain without the high price tag. And the English proudly boast ownership of Wedgewood and Jasperware, all classics we covet here too in the U.S.

    Today, there are many variations, but all come back to that striking blue and white color combo.

    Vintage, modern or reproduction, no matter what your blue-and-white dish collection is worth, we guarantee you are very proud of it. So much so, in fact, that you'd much rather put it on display rather than pack it away. To help inspire you, we found some fresh, fun and inspiring ways to shine a spotlight on your blue and white dishes.

    decorating-with-blue-and-whitePlate hangers are inexpensive and an easy way to create an artful display of your favorite dishes. Photo: Design*Sponge, Martha Stewart Living

    Expand to the Bedroom and Living Room
    Everyone thinks to hang plate collections in the dining room and kitchen but think about other rooms in your home where you might showcase your collection. One of Design*Sponge's editors Amy Merrick has a collection of blue and white dishes over her bed, while designer John Loecke created a simple yet interesting "backsplash" using an assortment of dishes for the stove in this Midwest colonial home (see image below).

    decorating-with-blue-and-whitePhoto: John Loecke

    Rather than filling the space above a fireplace with an expected mirror or piece of art, why not arrange your beloved collection as the editors at Martha Stewart Living did here. It's a guaranteed conversation starter.

    Plates can also be the perfect size to dress up those small, odd-shaped areas in the home, such as above a window. We love this idea (third photo in the slideshow) from Country Living. The homeowner simply lined up her blue and white dishes above her windows.

    An Excuse to Bring Out the Blue and White
    The next time you're creating a centerpiece or floral display, work in your collection. How gorgeous is the contrast of this pink Hyacinth arrangement (top photo) against the blue-and-white pieces from London blogger Of Spring and Summer.

    Of course actually using your plates during a dinner party is a fabulous idea too. To set her table, blogger Rose Garden Romantic layered a few mismatched ones and topped them off with a vintage birthday greeting postcard. So sweet!

    Make Cool Stuff With 'Em
    Sometimes a piece of our beloved collection chips, falls out of favor or you simply find a treasure that is not quite food safe. If that's the case, we say get creative like these sellers on Etsy.

    How clever is blogger and stylist extraordinaire Sweet Paul? He suggests painting half of a piece of pottery all white to give it a modern spin.

    ShabbyNChic transformed a blue-and-white dish into a beautiful cupcake stand by attaching a glass candle holder. To do this at home, we'd recommend using a strong glue such as a clear epoxy glue.

    Lastly, Louanacreations turned a beautiful blue wine glass upside down and married it with a plate and pretty beads for a gorgeous display piece.

    Take It Out of the Kitchen
    Of course, if you love your collection, then put it to use! But instead of just using it, say, as your everyday dinnerware, get creative. We love the idea of taking a blue and white tea cup saucer into the bathroom to use as a soap dish. A dessert plate placed on a bedroom nightstand or vanity can easily hold jewelry and remind you each and every day just how much you adore your collection.

    Ready to add to your collection? Royal Delft Pottery in the Netherlands is one of the last producers of authentic Delft earthenware and offers personalization to plates and more.

    Looking for something a little more tongue-in-cheek? We have a crush on Lovegrove & Repucci's New York Delftware. The clever designers used iconic New York symbols such as graffiti, taxicabs and hot dog carts to modernize the Dutch-style pottery.

    For more modern blue and white dish designs, we appreciated this roundup from Apartment Therapy.

    For more about decorating with collections, check out:
    The Beauty of Mason Jars
    Flea Market Finds Done Right

    Here's a video with tips on how to decorate with collections.


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  • 02/20/11--12:55: Design Drool: Wood Wallpaper
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    This wood-inspired wallpaper takes sustainable design to a whole new level.

    How cool is this wood wallpaper made from real scrapwood? Created by Dutch designer Piet Hein Eek, the wallpaper actually emulates real planks of wood -- from patterns of monotone espresso-toned boards to criss-crossed, beach-inspired planks in hues like beige, blue, gray and ivory.


    Piet Hein Eek first developed an interest in old materials after restoring a cupboard for his sister. After replacing the cupboard's old wood with newer materials, he realized that he liked the look of the vintage wood better. He began creating scrapwood-inspired art and furniture. Since then, his work has been sold in numerous galleries worldwide and exhibited in venues such as the Museum of Modern Art and the Milan Furniture Fair.

    But now, for the first time, his artwork is being mass produced in the form of wallpaper, making it available to a wider audience. Made in Holland, the heavy duty FSC-certified paper is available in six different wood plank types and patterns, and it will retain it's color -- even after washing! It may not have the full dimensionality of real scraps of wood (it's just photos of wood printed in super high resolution), but it will bring that same nostalgic cabin feel that wood brings to a space. You can order a 30-foot roll of the wallpaper here.


    Looking for more wall-art inspiration?
    Unusual, Off-the-Wall Wallpaper
    Wallpaper Trends 2011: New, Fresh and Fun Designs

    Here's another great wallpaper idea. Check out this video:


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    Boring old bathrooms get a fresh face, courtesy of three stylish designers. Let the renovation-envy begin!

    Who doesn't fantasize about making their bathroom a spa-like, luxurious retreat? If you're embarking on a bathroom renovation or just dreaming of one, here is some eye candy to get you started.

    Bella Mancini didn't waste any time improving her outdated master bath. Photos: Bella Mancini Designs

    Bathroom Renovation #1: Bella Mancini Designs, Bella Mancini
    Interior designer Bella Mancini and her husband purchased a 1971 Cape Cod style home and spent three months turning the entire home into a shingled-style cottage that would befit its beach community surroundings in Long Island, New York.

    The master bathroom especially needed some help -- so all of the tired, faded finishes were quickly tossed out to make room for a whole new look.

    The completed space is fresh and airy thanks to a soothing gray wall color and white finishes. The white beadboard paneling adds extra architectural interest -- and is easy enough to install yourself. And the seemingly-floating double sink console tops off the space with the perfect farmhouse-chic touch.

    Luckily this outdated bath still had good bones, so all it needed was a hefty superficial refresher to achieve this new look. Photo: Dawn Bennett

    Bathroom Renovation #2: Splice Design, Dawn Bennett
    When architect Dawn Bennett and her husband landed a classic two-story Colonial built in 1969, they also found themselves with a vintage pink and blue bath. Obviously, the modernist couple wanted a revamp.

    "We're slowly turning our Colonial into something that's not so, well, Colonial," Bennett says.

    The first place of attack? The master bathroom. Bennett couldn't bear a second spent in the space in its original state -- blue tile, pink laminate counter, ornate Asian wallpaper. But budget was tight, so they decided to stay within the existing footprint and gut everything inside to save some bucks.

    Because the architecture of their home is on the traditional side, they stuck with materials that matched -- Venetino marble, white subway tile, American walnut. But they applied them in modern ways to fit their aesthetic without being out of place in their classic home.

    Their favorite part of the makeover? "An oval sink from WetStyle is large enough to accommodate two faucets and allows us to stand side by side while brushing our teeth," Bennett says. "Plus, it was more cost-effective than buying two sinks (and, consequently, two mirrors). And it's definitely more unique."

    The "before" version of Natalia Smith's master bathroom isn't awful -- but use the slider tool to see the after! Photo: Natalia Smith

    Bathroom Renovation #3: Idée Chic Designs, Natalia Smith
    The owners of this bathroom live outside Seattle with their kids and parents. So they called on called on designer Natalia Smith to turn the bathroom into a functional relaxation retreat.

    On their wish list: A double vanity, large soaking tub, walk-in shower and a spacious feel that maximized the lake view. Because the old 222-square-foot space had little worth saving, Smith gutted the interior and worked from scratch to create a secluded getaway for the couple, and help up the value of their home. She worked within the existing bones of the room, but managed to extend the floorplan by two feet into the bedroom, giving it that open feel. The end result is a 246-square-foot multi-functional space that covers all their needs -- vanity, bath, shower and lake-view relaxation area.

    Since the husband and wife had such different tastes, Smith gave them a little bit of everything. Her final design features a mix of seven different tiles (from porcelain and pebbles on the floor to glass and ceramic on the walls), two different wallpapers and three wood finishes.

    "Mixing materials, finishes and textures is a great way to merge two different desired aesthetics into one," Smith says. "If you find the right balance, you can achieve a tranquil, harmonious space that pleases all palettes involved. The ultimate goal is to have something worth admiring everywhere you look." (We think she achived it.)

    This makeover resulted in a warm-hued retreat complete with lake-view window seat to relax and read. Photo: Roger Turk

    Check out this bathroom renovation video from our partner!

    Inspired to get to work on your bathroom? Check out these stories from our sister site DIY Life!

    How to Tile a Shower
    Should You Refinish a Vintage Tub?
    Perpetual Remodeling Syndrome: Bathroom makeover


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  • 02/23/11--06:36: Green Kitchen Makeover
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    A green kitchen makeover that's environmentally -- and design -- friendly.

    Eco chic! We love this green kitchen redo by HGTV designer Lauren Lake. Before, the kitchen was a pretty clear example of 70s design waaay past its prime. Now, it's a cozy yet sleek functional space.

    Lauren first knocked out a cramped wall, instantly creating an airy, party-friendly kitchen/dining room combo. She then installed eco-conscious bamboo cabinetry, Energy Star appliances, recycled countertops and a natural Marmoleum floor. All this great, green kitchen design while sticking to a budget -- Lauren held fast to hers at just under $40K.

    The eco superstars in this redo are definitely the vibrant recycled backsplash tiles; installing JUST those in a kitchen would brighten up the whole space. An excellent option if you want the look without the full pricetag.

    Or is you're looking for a full kitchen re-do on a smaller budget, check out Before and After: A $500 Kitchen Makeover.


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    Enough restless nights and cramped necks in the morning! We've got expert tips for buying the best pillows for all you tummy, side and back sleepers -- and yes, snorers and sweat-ers too.

    I spend a lot of nights in hotel rooms when traveling for work, but even with all the pillows I've slept with, I have no clue what to buy for my own bed. From plushy down to foam inserts, I'm completely stuck. So I turned to the experts to find out what pillows are best and what are some dos and don'ts when shopping for the perfect pillow.

    best pillow

    "Looking for pillows sounds fun on the one hand, but it's also annoying and aggravating," says Sherry Solomon, of 22 Bond St. in Los Angeles, which is where celebrities like Sheryl Crow turn for bedroom-focused design advice.

    There are some general rules to consider when buying a pillow. For one, shop at a store with a bed that's set up. Then you can try out pillows on an actual bed, says Kristi Witt, an interior decorator in San Francisco. Jeffrey Gornstein, founder of in Newark, N.J, suggests that you don't buy a pillow that someone else recommends since he predicts you'll be disappointed. "Pillows are a very personal preference," he says.

    Be wary of latex coverings. Low-quality latex often omits an odor and clumps up very quickly, cautions Lauri Ward, an eco-focused designer in Manhattan. She suggests investing in your pillows like you do bedding. (A pillowcase with a smooth feel also helps; those with a 300-thread-count or higher, she says, help decrease the appearance of facial wrinkles in the morning.)

    Best Pillows for... Side Sleepers
    What to Look For: Pillows that are firm, not soft. A memory-foam pillow accommodates for twists and turns throughout the night (common with side sleepers) and also protects the neck and shoulders from cramping.
    Tips: If memory-foam isn't for you, try a pillow with a high quality latex cover. Don't pass over body pillows too. "A body pillow is a good idea," says Witt, "and it is also okay to sleep with a couple of pillows if you are a side sleeper, such as hugging a pillow or placing one between your legs."

    Best Pillows for... Back Sleepers
    What to Look For: The danger for those who sleep on their back is that the neck can easily be too high or too low. Pillows that allow the back of the head to comfortably sink into the pillow are perfect. It's even better if there is a defined indentation. "Something that's really lofty and firm," says Witt, will suffice. Wedge a bolster or pillow underneath the knees, advises Gornstein, to improve circulation.
    Tips: Pillows made from contoured-memory foam allow the neck to comfortably rest under a raised portion of the pillow. "They're good for a back sleeper because they need the neck support," says Ward. Or, they say, go with a down pillow that has lots of down filling (more than the average down pillow; while in the store, if you can quickly reshape the pillow, then you have found one with lots of down). This gives you a lot to play with in terms of reaching your ideal comfort.

    Best Pillows for... Stomach Sleepers
    What to Look For: A flat pillow, or any pillow that does not have defined elevation, so that you are not forced to sleep at odd, uncomfortable angles.
    Best Pillows: This is the most versatile sleeping position when it comes to pillows. That said, Ward advises her clients who sleep on their stomachs to go with the flattest pillow they can find, so that the body remains comfortable all night long. Lying on an upward angle, the result of sleeping on an elevated pillow, may result in pain. Ward particularly likes Pacific Coast pillows for their quality feather and down inserts.
    Tips: "I can just imagine somebody's head sinking into the pillow in comfort," says Witt. Just be careful, she says, not to buy a pillow that is too lofty. It will likely cause neck discomfort.

    Best Pillows for... Sweaty Sleepers
    What to Look For: Outside of sleeping positions, there are sleeping quirks. If you tend to perspire while you sleep, seek out a temperature-regulated pillow, which Gornstein calls the hottest aspect in pillows right now (no pun intended).
    Tips: ISO-Cool pillows -- offered in a variety of designs and fillings -- are one such option. Ward likes pillows featuring Cool Max fabric (from a variety of manufacturers); they wick moisture away from the pillow very quickly.

    Best Pillows for... Readers
    What to Look For: For reading in bed, Ward suggests buckwheat neckrolls (filled with buckwheat hulls), perfect for tucking under your lower back while sitting up. (Because buckwheat pillows tend to make noise when shifted around, they aren't a preferred option while sleeping, especially for light sleepers, says Witt.)
    Tips: Wedge pillows or lumbar pillows also provide extra back support while reading in bed.

    Best Pillows for... Snorers (And Those That Live With Them!)
    What to Look For: If you have a partner who snores - or doesn't like the fact that you do - did you know there are actually pillows that can give you a better night's rest?
    Best Pillows: Brookstone offers the Anti-Snore pillow, which has been clinically tested and is essentially a supportive memory-foam pillow that is adaptable to all sleeping positions. Otherwise, a firm pillow that enables the throat to fully open while asleep will often put an end to the snoring, says Ward.

    Don't Forget the Cover
    All of the experts we spoke with recommend using a pillow cover underneath the pillowcase. It provides a buffer against dirt and dust mites and gives the pillow a longer life. However, don't choose a heavy cover to go over a down pillow because it can crush the filling sooner.

    For more on the ins and outs of creating a cozy, comfy bedroom read:
    How to Green and Detox Your Bedroom
    Tips from Ice Hotels: How to Warm Up A Cold Bedroom
    A Grown-Up Bedroom Makeover

    If the thought of new pillows gets you in the mood for a full bedroom makeover, check out our video:


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  • 02/23/11--06:36: Beautiful Headboard Ideas
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    Longing for a bedroom that packs a dramatic punch? Look no further than these whimsical headboard ideas.

    When it comes to headboards, it's easy to think your options are limited: rich wooden sleigh styles, vintage-inspired wrought iron, cozy quilted pieces in neutral hues -- where's the sense of surprise? But we've discovered how to make a headboard beautiful, and it doesn't involve undertaking a complicated DIY project. Think: Fresh colors, patterns and scale.

    headboard ideasPhoto: Z Gallerie

    "I definitely think upholstered headboards are going to continue to be popular in 2011, but we'll be seeing them in a lot of different patterns and textures, as well as varying heights," says Caitlin Creer of Caitlin Creer Interiors in Salt Lake City. "They'll also be paired with wild patterns for pillows and bedding."

    Another up-and-coming trend: Unexpected twists on traditional favorites. "We're seeing classic wood finishes, carved and sculpted into intricate designs and patterns -- not just the wood slabs that have been popular for years," adds Creer. "These shapes and curves add an architectural feeling to a bedroom and create a real sense of artistry and fantasy."

    Just flip through the pages of ELLE Decor and House Beautiful, and it's plain to see she's right -- over-the-top headboards once reserved for boutique hotels and glossy magazine spreads are making their way into the home. Here are a few of our favorites:

    A little bit elegant, a little bit "Alice in Wonderland," this towering bed (shown above) from Z Gallerie combines modern architecture with comfortable textures and a touch of childish whimsy. I mean, who wouldn't love to climb into that big bedroom sanctuary and stay awhile? (Nina Bed from Z Gallerie; from $1,399.)

    A twist on the expected upholstered headboard that's been popular for years, we love these nature-inspired styles from Holley & Gill and this crocheted masterpiece, featured on A Lovely Thing. Paired with simple bedding and furniture, these designs will add instant character and interest to your bedroom.

    headboard ideasPhoto: Elle Decor

    Nothing says "happily ever after" like a canopy bed, but sometimes the four-poster canopy style bed can be a little overwhelming for your space. Instead, think about incorporating a canopy headboard into your bedroom -- we love this DIY piece featured on

    An old-fashioned take on a popular style, these wooden headboards from Anthropologie showcase hand-carved details that make them feel like one-of-a-kind pieces, vintage pieces. We love the romantic feel they'll bring to your bedroom, without taking the feminine feel over the top. (Coralie Bed and Gate Headboard from Anthropologie; $1,998 & $1,348)

    For more headboard inspiration, check out these stories:
    Beautiful Living: Colorful Headboards
    IY Headboards to Inspire Your Dreams
    iane von Furstenberg Turns Hotel Decorator

    Want more bedroom inspiration? Here's a beachy bedroom makeover.


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    The classic blue and white china pattern is popping up on more than just tabletops -- we're seeing blue and white rooms inspired by them.

    We've been doting on blue-and-white porcelain recently, the scenic, floral and sometimes animal-print wares that made their way from ancient China to the Netherlands to tabletops across the U.S.

    And perhaps it's our keen sense of how the ornate pieces are being used nowadays that's caused us to take note of a rising trend along the way -- blue and white patterns being used on walls and bedding and floor coverings, too.

    Here are some of the prettiest china-inspired rooms we've seen.

    blue-and-white-roomsPhoto: Elle Decor

    Elle Decor featured this de Gournay wallpaper in a recent issue. It's the classic blue and white palette, in reverse.

    While many early motifs were largely inspired by Islamic decorations, including Persian and Arabic script, patterns later evolved into more scenic themes out of Europe and China. Modern variations have been cropping up in wallpapers, right, and bedding, left, their blue coloring totally living up to its calming reputation (even despite the busy prints).

    blue-and-white-roomsPhotos: Country Living

    Floral and pastoral designs, in shades of blue and white, seem to be a favorite of Country Living magazine who piled them on in a monochromatic bedroom, left, and on a daybed in the home of actor Tony Shaloub, right.

    The designer of this master bedroom featured in House Beautiful magazine, left, calls his choice of wallpaper a "souped-up, major toile in a very sharp blue." Though we've seen the pattern reincarnated in a multitude of shades, blue and white is one of the original color schemes. A large-scale version is woven into a rug, right, and grounded by a crisp white dining set and a band of blue accessories.

    Don't miss our story on the timeless appeal of blue and white dishes, plus fun crafts to make with them!

    And here's a video about how to use color in home decorating.


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  • 02/23/11--06:36: How to NOT Get on "Hoarders"
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    Our writer watched six straight hours of the A&E show "Hoaders" -- but not without coming out with seven solid tips on how to avoid getting on the show. (and yes, a cleaner home herself).

    We've all watched and drooled over the standard roster of beautiful homes offered up by HGTV. You've had apartment envy, you've felt superior to so-called "property virgins" and you've rolled your eyes at Candice Olson's drapey concoctions that look like they belong in the library in Beauty & the Beast. But the one thing that makes your heart skip a beat, fuels your superiority complex and motivates you to clean out your closets like nothing else is A&E's Hoarders.

    Because really -- you can't feel bad about your cluttered desk when some old lady from Des Moines can't even get out from underneath the 493 mountainous stacks of scrapbooking supplies and income tax papers from the Carter Administration (she's "Buried Alive" as they like to say).

    But after watching six terrifying hours of Hoarders last weekend, I had to take action. I went on a cleaning spree and took my desk from "borderline hoarder" to "soullessly minimalist."

    Take a look:

    hoardersPre-"Hoarders" marathon. Photo: Amanda Waas.

    Unsent thank you notes, unread magazines, unpaid bills, unwatched Netflix discs - if this desk had a name it would be "Failure," as it serves as a daily reminder of all of the things I've failed to keep up with, probably because I'm too busy sitting on my couch and watching TV instead of acting like a responsible adult.

    hoardersPost-"Hoarders" marathon. Photo: Amanda Waas.

    And here's afterwards. So clean, and all it took was six hours of my life that I'll never get back spent watching people in gas masks haul a lifetime of someone's possessions out of a house and into a dumpster.

    How can you avoid both becoming a hoarder and traumatizing yourself with an entire Saturday's worth of frightening television?

    Follow these simple rules:

    You'll Never Be on "Hoarders" if you.... Let it go.
    Wilson Phillips may have encouraged you to hold on for one more day, but it's time to get over it. It's the one major rule espoused by cardigan-wearing, uptight closet organizers and obsessive compulsives alike -- if you haven't used it in six months, you don't need it.

    You'll Never Be on "Hoarders" if you.... Watch out for accidental hoarding.
    Say you liked cows when you were eight-years-old for some reason. Man, you were really into those cows back then, but then you did what every child does with their odd obsessions: you grew out of it. Unfortunately, no one seemed to notice. Twenty years later, it has become your "thing." Every gift you receive is cow-themed. You shower behind a cow-printed shower curtain and drink coffee out of a cow-printed mug that says something stupid like, "I need coffee to get me moo-ving." You've started questioning yourself. "Maybe I do like cows," you say to yourself. You don't. Get rid of the tchotchkes and send a bulletin to your loved ones: No. more. cows.

    You'll Never Be on "Hoarders" if you.... Leave emotions out of it.
    You may have loved that t-shirt you word to the last day of middle school, but you don't need to carry it around for the rest of your life like Jewish guilt, especially if you don't get any use out of it. It's great to hold onto a necklace from your grandmother you'll actually wear or a painting your father bought during his "bohemian" phase, but if the so-called cherished item is shoved in the back of your closet, you shouldn't hold onto it. Remember: Memories are in your head, not on a shirt that has the signatures of a bunch of thirteen-year-olds from Buffalo, New York.

    You'll Never Be on "Hoarders" if you.... Recognize when things may be getting out of control.
    If anyone has ever referred to you as "one beanie baby away from a nervous breakdown," you may want to start downsizing. Ask a friend or family member to come over and help you decide what to trash and what to keep. It's always good to get the opinion of an impartial party, mainly because they don't have any irrational attachments to that old ashtray you've been saving.

    You'll Never Be on "Hoarders" if you.... Note the distinction between being a hoarder and being a collector.
    There's a fine, fine line between being a hoarder and being a collector. How can you tell the difference? As with everything in life, it usually comes down to money. A book of valuable stamps is a collection. 400 styrofoam egg cartons is not. Recognize the difference.

    You'll Never Be on "Hoarders" if you.... Get hip to technology.
    Face the facts -- it's only a matter of time before Apple comes up with a microchip you implant into your head that allows you to watch a live stream of Corrina, Corrina, or whatever awful movie on cable to this week. So, with DVDs on the cusp of going the way of the dinosaurs, you probably don't need to hang onto those old VHS tapes. Same goes for CDs. Yes, listening to music on vinyl makes you seem interesting and old school, but no one is going to be impressed if you pull out your CD collection -- especially since it contains so much BBMak. Hold onto your favorites and get rid of the rest. And if you ever get nostalgic, I hear LFO's debut (only?) album is really cheap on iTunes.

    You'll Never Be on "Hoarders" if you.... Purge Often.
    No, this isn't a tip for people with modeling contracts -- the more often you go through your things and get rid of stuff, the less daunting it will be. And the more self-righteous you can act about it.

    Feel better? I know I do.

    Now go clean out under that sofa-bed. It's getting gross under there.

    Check our more storage and cleaning advice:
    Even Candles Have An Expiration Date

    Cleaning-Obsessed Celebrities
    Shout Color Catcher Review: Laundry Game Changer?


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    Travelers who appreciate architecture, art and shopping for home decor will love these four fun destinations for design lovers.

    Travel for Design to: Annapolis, Maryland
    Forbes magazine described Annapolis as "perhaps the East's most romantic town." We'd add prettiest too. Miles of sailboats line the harbor and we love that every business hangs a pretty flower basket outside their stores on May Day. Annapolis resident Susan Steckland runs the visitors center and loves the energy in the bayfront town. "Annapolis is a very inviting city," she says. "There are four centuries of architecture in a 21st Century town."

    travel for designAOL

    There are more 18th Century brick buildings here than anywhere in the country. "It's like a museum without walls," she says. Meticulously restored Georgian, Green Revival and Victorian buildings are marked with historic plaques. Especially impressive is Paca House and Garden, an 18th-century Georgian mansion during the upheaval of the American Revolution, which is open to the public.

    There are 25 art galleries and even more shops to browse downtown. Don't miss Evergreen Antiques (69 Maryland Avenue; 410-216-9067 ), Scarlet Letter Antiques (48 Maryland Avenue; 410-268-3331), and Aurora Gallery (67 Maryland Avenue; 410 263-9150). Blue Crab Antiques (108 Annapolis Street; 443-949-7055) has over 1700 items from around the world including nautical antiques and taxidermy fish and is located in a quaint section of 1920's wooden cottages within the West Annapolis Art and Antique District. Affordable temptations can be excavated at the specialty stores and Annapolis Antiques and Consignment Mall (20 Riverview Avenue; 410-266-5550).

    Travel for Design to: La Conner, Washington
    This waterfront village nestled between the San Juan Islands and Cascade Mountains was founded in the late 1860's and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. With only 850 residents, the town is so small that there are no stop lights ― or chain restaurants.

    "It has many plusses," says Doreen Hendrickson, 80, a La Conner resident. "It's so close to so many things. I can walk four blocks to the water for espresso."

    travel for designConnie Coleman

    There are many Victorian houses to marvel at as you walk through town, as well as the City Contemporary, constructed of glass and steel with metal roofs. "The newer eco-friendly homes are 'Northwestern Contemporary,'" says real estate broker Jean Groesbeck. "Not big McMansions, but built on divided lots by people embracing nature with wood, stone and bamboo flooring." There are beautiful homes on the beach too: Old cabins in the family for years and, on the big bluffs, multi-million-dollar estates with gorgeous views.

    travel for designCorbis Images

    The idyllic picture heightens as float planes lift sightseers, from the channel running through town, to gaze at miles of spectacular daffodils in March, and again in April, when brilliant tulips bloom. A rotating sculpture exhibit lines the streets of historic downtown year round. From April to June, the La Conner Quilt and Textile Museum (703 South 2nd Street; 360 466-4288) is featuring a "Hardware" exhibit, and in the Fall, the museum hosts a Quilt Fest, featuring hundreds of quilts, workshops and presentations.

    Art lovers will be delighted by a June art auction at the Museum of Northwestern Art, aka MoNA (121 South 1st Street; 360-466-4446) and with Family Art Days (FAD), one Saturday every month during the school year. La Conner's galleries promote artists from the state of Washington. Stop by Earthenworks Gallery (713 1st Street; 360-466-4422), voted a Top 25 Retailer of American Craft. Caravan Gallery (619 South 1st Street; 360 466-4808) sells imported items such as masks, artifacts and textiles, and Courtyard Gallery (107 South 1st Street; 360 466-1200) specializes in outdoor furniture, fountains and sculpture.

    When you've had your fill of galleries, visit eclectic shops like Mary Davis Lighting (402 East Morris Street; 360-466-3495) and Nasty Jack's Antiques (103 East Morris Street; 360 466-3209) where you will find affordable items for every taste and budget: English and American furniture, a myriad of vintage and nostalgic items, thousands of Life Magazines (1936-1972), and 300 fun advertising signs.

    Travel for Design to: Sedona, Arizona
    Sedona, Arizona's terra-cotta landscape, red sandstone cliffs and wind-shaped towers inspire another realm of magic. Its timeless, iconic stature and earthly masses (with 8 vortexes including Bell Rock and Cathedral Rock) stir the imagination. Indeed, USA Weekend voted the town #1 Most Beautiful Place in America.

    travel for designSedona Chamber of Commerce

    Sedona's appealing adobe-brick-homes, accented by chile-pepper-ristras hanging from rough-hewn beams, are as irresistible as the Native American art adorning the smooth Kiva fireplaces. Fortunately, the intriguing Hopi Kachinas, Navajo Sandpaintings and Pueblo Pottery are highlighted at premiere galleries ― along with 200 other fascinating local artists.

    Turquoise Tortoise Gallery (431 HWY179; 928-282-2262) displays everything from huge alabaster sculpture and authentic war shirts, while Lanning Gallery (431HWY 179 #A1-2; 928 282 -2262) offers classic and contemporary pieces. The Sedona Gallery Association collaborates with extraordinary exhibits and private studio tours, like the First Friday Gallery Tour on the first Friday of every month.

    Sedona resident Heather Hermen recommends Saddlerock Barn Consignments (82 Saddlerock Circle; 928-282-1112), a barn that's loaded with "amazing treasures." "Everyone goes there for fine art and home decor. A piece for the patio, a really cool loveseat for the condo. There are even estate sales," she says. High-end furnishings can be found at at Designs West (6101 HWY 179; 928 203-9899) and Blackmarr's Furniture and Interiors (109 HWY 179; 928 282-5848 ). At Mexidona Importers Ltd (1670 U.S. 89 Alternate; 928 282-0858), there are Mexican style wrought iron and pewter.

    travel for designSedona Chamber of Commerce

    Hermen also recommends Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village, known as the "art and soul of Sedona." Tlaquepaque translates as "the best of everything." Expect to find 40 galleries and stores like Kuivato Glass Gallery (336 HWY 179, Suite B-125; 928 282-1212). "The impact of Kuivato's amazing glass art and jewelry is breathtaking," says Hermen.

    And when you've had your fill of visual art, take a look at classic cars. On October 6-7, the Arizona Opera League of Northern Arizona (928-284-3034) presents a tour of one-of-a-kind luxury homes with classic cars also on view.

    Travel for Design to: Asheville, North Carolina
    For sheer elegance, be swept away by the "Paris of the South," as Asheville is sometimes called. Here, a grand centerpiece, Biltmore Estate (One Approach Road; 800 411-3812), an 1895 French Renaissance manor, graces 8,000 acres and remains America's largest residence.

    travel for designAsheville Convention & Visitors Bureau

    While Vanderbilt's legacy envelops 250 rooms, Biltmore's Leann Donnelly says, "Only a portion of the 70,000 priceless objects are on view." These include five 16th century tapestries, the 18th century painting 'Chariot of Aurora,' and Napoleon Bonaparte's chess pieces.

    Asheville resident Judy Spivey says there is a plethora of other Asheville gems. In the architectural mix is Douglas D. Ellington's Art Deco buildings, including the high school and Asheville City Hall, but you'll also spy houses in the Neoclassical, Romanesque Revival, Beaux Arts, Gothic and Spanish Renaissance styles.

    Asheville's diverse shopping scene includes 200 local stores and 30 galleries. In the Biltmore Antiques District alone, there are over 75 dealers and 13 shops.

    travel for designAsheville Convention & Visitors Bureau

    Don't skip Antique Tobacco Barn (75 Swannanoa River Road; 828-252-7291), Sweeten Creek Antiques (115 Sweeten Creek Road; 828-277-6100), and Oddfellows Antique Warehouse (124 Swannanoa River Road; 828-350-7800). In the River Arts District you can watch potters, jewelers and other artisans work. That's where you'll find Jonas Gerard Fine Art (240 Clingman Avenue; 828-350-7711). At Ten Thousand Villages (10 College Street; 828-254-8374), Mandy Broderick stocks home decor from developing nations.

    What destinations have you found with great design, beautiful views or top-notch shopping? Share in the comments!

    Looking for more?
    Design Influence: Foreign Travel
    Got Vacation Souvenirs? Use 'Em to Decorate
    Wallpaper* Launches City Guide iPhone Apps
    Travel Souvenirs as Home Decor

    Here's a video about antiquing in Paris.


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    Good dining room decorating ideas are hard to come by. Here's how one homeowner gave hers a super stylish (and super easy) upgrade.

    Check out this great story from our friends at CasaSugar!

    I recently stenciled one wall in our dining room with an ikat pattern stencil I found on Etsy. I made a few other changes to the room like painting the ceiling, adding trim to the drapes, and creating a new vignette over the buffet. The stencil wall made the biggest impact, though. It's amazing how one stenciled wall changed the entire look of the room!

    Here's the before shot:

    dining room decorating ideasPhoto: CasaSugar

    And here's the dramatic after result. Check out Our Fifth House for more details including a stencil tutorial!

    dining room decorating ideasPhoto: CasaSugar

    Need more makeover inspiration, don't miss:
    Man Closet Makeover
    Decorating With Blue and White Dishes: Makeover Inspiration
    Makeover Inspiration: Color in the Kitchen

    Here's a video on a fun makeover.


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    Make my life easy, you say? No problem. First, forget the all-day cleaning sessions. "The Happiest Mom" tells us how to keep our homes clean, organized and happy -- the easy way.

    Meagan Francis, a Michigan mom with five children ranging from 22 months to 13 years, has learned the hard way that keeping a clean, organized home requires staying on top of the small stuff. But she's no tiger mom. Francis, whose new book "The Happiest Mom: 10 Secrets to Enjoying Motherhood" (Weldon Owen, $14.95), believes there's a zen way to approach a chaotic home. She devotes a chapter to offering tips on how to run a smooth household without running yourself into the ground.

    We asked Francis to share her best tips on keeping a clean, organized and orderly home. Whether it's handling chores and tasks in a more efficient manner or ways you can teach the little ones to chip in, she's full of solutions:

    1. Determine 'Stress Triggers'
    When it comes to cleanliness, what spirals us into a frenzied mess - and consequently invites chaos - is different for each person. For some, a sink filled with dirty dishes might invite a panic attack. Others might stress out about stacks of unopened mail. "Focus on the things that give you stress," advises Francis. Throw pillows and blankets strewn across the living room floor drive her bonkers. So does a bathroom counter cluttered with toiletries. "If those two things aren't done right I feel really chaotic and can't relax." Dust and cobwebs? She could care less - and often does not even notice they are there.

    2. Clean Daily
    When the option to clean all day - or even a half day - is on the table, most of us probably find a way to get out of it. Francis can totally relate. Instead, she does a little bit of cleaning each day. "If doesn't have to be a chore if you stay on top of it," she says. She also avoids a Saturday-morning argument before a scheduled cleaning marathon by locking the kids into a routine ahead of time. Because the older boys in her family take out the trash and also do the dishes, there isn't a discussion or fight about doing so -- it's just expected behavior.

    3. Make It Better
    The rule in Francis' house is to never walk out of a room without first making it better. Don't leave dirty dishes on the table or books spread open on the couch or your sweatshirt in a pile on the bathroom floor. Sticking to this mantra eliminates little messes that can pile up around the home while doing normal tasks -- reading, eating or playing, for example.

    4. The After-School Shuffle
    When Francis' four oldest kids come home from school they dump their backpacks down and immediately begin to snack, play games, read or do homework. It's easy for them to forget, until later that night, about important paperwork sent home by the teacher that needs her attention. Now, Francis goes through each backpack within minutes of them barreling through the door. All of it goes in a designated "in-box" on her desk. This way she's aware of what needs to be done and can make the time to do it.

    5. Teach Kids to Clean
    It might be tempting to avoid giving your kids a detailed show about how to clean the house - and just clean it from top to bottom on your own. But the time you invest now can pay off big-time in the long run. "Take the time to make sure they do it correctly," says Francis. "Even though that might take time, it's going to be worth it." When she was pregnant with her fifth child she patiently taught the older kids how to load and unload the dishwasher, as well as operate the washing machine and dryer. This way she could recapture that time for feedings or much-needed rest.

    6. Rearrange Décor for Happiness
    When Francis noticed that her kids weren't reading much -- she looked to her home's layout for answers. Because there wasn't a central storage area for books, paperbacks and hardbound books were collecting underneath each child's bed and in spots throughout the house. So she set up a reading area with comfortable chairs and all of their books on one shelf. "Also, it makes it easy for me to keep an eye on it," she says.

    She also relocated the board games from an upstairs closet, which was difficult for a small child to reach and often resulted in game pieces falling onto the floor. Now they are visible and within reach. "I want to set up the rooms in the way they want to be used," she says.

    7. Purge, Purge, Purge
    Even though Francis is not a recreational shopper, she's amazed at how quickly the rooms in her house can fill up, just from day-to-day activities. "Each time I go through the house I'm amazed at all the stuff I find," she says. Twice a week she searches for rarely-used items to donate, whether it's a book, sweater or bowl. Every little bit counts. And because she has realized that she's happiest in a home that's minimally decorated, it's an important habit to keep.

    Read more about creating a happy and loving living space with kids:
    How to Be Easy to Live With
    Kids Room Decorating Ideas: Project Nursery
    Should Little Boys Play With Kitchens?

    Here's a video about how to organize your pantry.


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    Make your guest room a haven for friends and family with these simple yet stylish decorating ideas.

    Want to fix up that spare room but think it's going to be an expensive hassle? Think again. Designer Taniya Nayak from HGTV has some great guest room decorating ideas that will make your home a comfortable and lovely place for overnight visitors.

    For this guest room, Taniya starts by creating an accent wall with a splash of serious bright paint. Don't worry about getting the expensive stuff, just pick a paint that will give you good coverage. Since frame beds can add bucks to the budget, keep your simple metal frame and create a freestanding headboard that you can change to suit any mood. We think this headboard is inspired: Simple round placemats tacked to the wall create a piece of wall art that anchors the room.

    But what really pulls this room together is the luscious canopy -- made from inexpensive sheers hung from basic ceiling hooks -- that will appeal to the romantic in all of us. The price tag for this room: Under $100. Designing a space that you'll be proud to show off to your friends and family? Priceless.

    For more ideas like this: Minute Makeover: Turning an Extra Room into a Guest Room


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    Designer and tastemaker Diane von Furstenberg is the launch partner for the StyleList Network and releases the new vintage "Diane" collection.

    DVF in her Cloudwalk, Connecticut studio. Photo: Courtesy of DVF.

    We usually leave the fashion coverage to our sister site StyleList but this news is too good not to share: Diane von Furstenberg, our favorite fashion-turned-home designer, is the official launch partner of the StyleList network. Which means you'll see the brand's graphic, colorful ads on the terrific style blogs in the network. (If you haven't already checked out the blogs, we'll suggest the lovely home coverage over on Ramshackle Glam and Song of Style.)

    She's also announced the new vintage "Diane" collection of leather goods, wrap dresses and blouses in classic patterns. We have only one question: When can we see those prints on throw pillows and dinner plates? StyleList has the full scoop, along with iconic photos of the designer throughout the years. This one, of her in her Cloudwalk, Connecticut studio is one of our favorites -- we love how Zen she looks on that beautiful table. "Cloudwalk is where I am totally relaxed," she told StyleList. "It is coziness, warmth, conversation, space to breathe and think ... home."

    Perhaps it may serve as inspiration for the next season of her home collection? Stay tuned...

    Can't get enough DVF?
    Diane von Furstenberg Turns Hotel Decorator

    Diane von Furstenberg Seduces 'Graduate' Prabal Gurung

    And see her walk you through her home collection here:


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    Bestselling author and spiritual teacher Marianne Williamson invited us into her Los Angeles home to talk about how your home can help you lose weight.

    Yes, weight loss can start at the gym or the nutritionist's office, but true commitment and maintenance happens at home. So we weren't surprised to see the home play a large role in Marianne Williamson's "A Course in Weight Loss" -- the book that Oprah called "the miracle we've been waiting for." We called on Williamson to provide more insight into how your home can help you lose weight, and she graciously invited us in.

    Marianne Williamson A course in weight lossWilliamson in her Los Angeles home. All photos: Amy Preiser.

    As expected, her home is a lovely and inviting place -- and it beautifully reflects the principles in "A Course in Weight Loss." There's the altar to love, a prominent and well-used dining table and meaningful heirlooms and souvenirs throughout the rooms.

    "I think that the goal of the book is that you should sit comfortably within your skin," she tells us. "And it's very difficult to sit comfortably in your skin when your external environment is not something you can sit comfortably in."

    Williamson is careful not to advise -- the book is not a do-this-not-that manual. Rather, it's a compilation of the ideas, practices and prayers that have worked for her. Not surprisingly, after reading "A Course in Weight Loss" and hearing her perspective firsthand, we left her home feeling remarkably lighter. Here, we share six of the best ideas for bringing lightness into your own home.

    Lose weight at home by... Establishing an altar.
    In her book, Williamson writes about the struggle to choose love over fear -- the fear that often drives us to overeat.

    "Fear already has an altar," she writes. "It's called your kitchen." So why not carve out a space in your home devoted to love?

    "Every time you visit your altar, it will fortify love's power in your mind," she explains, before going on to list the potential items for your own altar: A journal, a box filled with inspirational quotes, beautiful candlesticks and a bowl of fruit, among other things. Think of all the time spent idling in the kitchen with nervous energy, browsing through the refrigerator. Why not replace that ritual by visiting a space devoted to self-love? With an altar devoted to love and comfort, you have a place to reflect and address your emotions, rather than quiet them by overeating.

    As Williamson writes, "Darn right you're hungry, but not for food."

    On the left, Williamson's own altar, complete with a Buddha from her travels, heirloom candlesticks, a bowl of fruit and a framed photo. On the right, a painting by the artist Mané-Katz -- that was once in the office of Williamson's father -- and a walking stick, an award from the New York Open Center.

    Lose weight at home by... Surrounding yourself with beautiful, comforting objects.
    "I think anything we do to increase the beauty around us is important," says Williamson. And it's clear from seeing her home that she takes this seriously. Rich red walls, art from all over the globe and a particularly stunning sofa hold court in her living room.

    But of course, it's not just about the beauty -- the art has come from meaningful travels and the sofa was her grandmother's.

    "I have things that belonged to my mother and my mother's mother, and now that they're in my home, I feel surrounded by both of them," she says. Because Williamson often travels for work, it's especially important that her home is a haven.

    "My sign is Cancer, so I'm a homebody. When I'm home, I'm really home," she enthuses. "And when surrounded by items from my mother and awards I've been given, I feel like there's a lot of love." It's almost like replacing comfort food with comfort objects -- looking to an inherited lamp or plate, rather than a recipe, to remind you that you're not alone.

    More meaningful items in Williamson's home: A woven platter from Oprah Winfrey, a photograph of a Balinese Priestess by Elizabeth Sunday and family photos -- including her father with Mikhail Gorbachev, right.

    Lose weight at home by... Recognizing the beauty in fresh, healthy food.
    It's so important to pay attention to your food -- not just the calorie counts, but the actual look of it.

    "Beauty in food is no different than beauty on my coffee table," says Williamson. She especially favors the organic, keeping a bowl of tangerines or clementines in her home at all times (and yes, the fact that they make a healthy snack only adds to the beauty).

    "A lot of these unhealthy, chemically-processed foods, they're not beautiful," she says. "The packaging might be beautiful, but when you think about what's in them and how they affect your body... there's no beauty there."

    Lose weight at home by... Slowing down
    We've all been guilty of rushing through a meal -- or a day -- but Williamson warns that the effects of moving too quickly can go deeper.

    "Most of the mistakes I've made in my life happened when I was moving too fast," she confesses. It's especially true for food choices. "Often, unwise eating is accompanied by eating that's too quick, whether it's standing over the sink or just not surrounding yourself with an environment that supports you in calm." While quick eating can feel practical or even enjoyable, the outcome is more negative. It gives you a chemical high that causes even more quick eating and even more food. In the book, Williamson suggests meditation to help you slow down, and even reminds the too-busy-to-try set that meditating "slows down time."

    Looking for more benefits of meditation? It sets off a chain reaction of reducing stress and making it easier to say no to self-destructive urges.

    Lose weight at home by... Sitting at the table for dinner
    One of our favorite lines in "A Course in Weight Loss" begins: "It all starts with a beautiful napkin." Williamson goes on to list all the items needed for a fresh start: A plate, glass, place mat, flatware, candlestick, candles and a piece of music. No paper or plastic allowed, and they all must be new. Even if you already own beautiful tabletop accessories, she's clear: "None of that matters now; you need new ones. For the ones you have belong to the old you," Williamson explains. "You can't build new rituals using tools that represent the old. You will undermine your negative rituals by replacing them with sacred ones."

    No coffee table eating here -- meals are served at the dining table while the coffee table is reserved for important books. "These spiritual books give off a very different vibration than having, say, the Enquirer laying around," says Williamson.

    Lose weight at home by... Removing temptation.
    Williamson is a grazer -- she eats small portions throughout the day, but that doesn't mean she's immune to temptation.

    "I am as endangered by the presence of too many carbs and chemically-processed foods as anyone," she says. So she's careful to keep these items out of sight and out of mind.

    When we visited her just after the holidays, she had a piece of chocolate cake in her refrigerator, a gift from a friend. And no, she hadn't touched it.

    "There were times in my life when I would look at some food in my home and say 'I can't throw it out, someone spent good money on that!' But if its really bad for you, the idea that there's something good in indulging in it -- it's kind of insane thinking," she says. "Yes, someone may have paid a lot for those sweets. But, well, you're going to pay a lot if you indulge. You pay with your health."

    While going through the contents of your refrigerator or cabinets, ask yourself Williamson's question: "Was buying this an act of self love?" If the answer is no, you know where to throw it.

    Love Williamson's ideas and looking for more? Check out her website. And if you want more ideas on organizing your home for weight loss, check out this 60-second video from our partner.

    And check out these other great organizing stories:
    On the Hunt: Sustainable Storage For Recyclables

    How to Be Easy to Live With

    Quiz: Is Your Home Cluttered?


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    One writer explains why all she wants for her 50th birthday is an updated kitchen, even if her friends think she's a bore.

    I'm getting used to the shocked stares and high-pitched cries of "but why?" from others when I tell them my 50th birthday gift is going to happen in my kitchen: All I want is a kitchen remodel. But I don't care about going on a trip of a lifetime, I don't want a party, and I don't want a new diamond anything. Face or body work -- well, as tempting as that is, I'll pass if I could find my way around a fresh set of cabinets and shiny new countertops. Call me boring or old fashioned, but this is what I want most, and here's why.

    I hate my kitchen. I hate it so much that it makes me want to scream sometimes. It's awful. Just take a look below. See what I mean?

    Soon I'll say goodbye to 1950s hinged cabinets. Photo: Marilyn Syarto

    I dislike sagging body parts, too, but I can live with that for a while. I cannot live, however, with my kitchen for one more minute. Travel, parties, jewelry -- been there, done that, and it's not as much of a priority as it is to gut my kitchen and start fresh.

    I'm in and out of the tiny galley kitchen all day cooking, making kids' lunches, baking snacks for kids and friends, putting on a pot of coffee, feeding the cat. But the reasons why I want a kitchen makeover -- a seemingly unromantic, impersonal gift -- goes deeper than resale values. Maybe you can relate to a reason or two:

    It's Dingy and It's Deteriorating
    Getting a new kitchen is a necessity. The original 1950s cabinets are so old that grime is impregnated on the doors and on the inside shelving. The dirt is impossible to fully remove. The paint, and the wood beneath the paint, is chipping away. And who knows what's between the stove and the wall -- I can't remember the last time I pulled the stove out to clean the cobwebs and wayward corn kernels.

    I've given up on a spic and span kitchen. My white appliances, well, all the years of handling handles and knobs has left grayed shadows that even Mr. Eraser can't make disappear. And there may be bugs. We plan to replace the wallboard and what's behind it, but I'm afraid to see what lives behind the walls once we start demolition. I've seen ants and spiders disappear between the cracks of the cabinets. Oh, and did I mention that my cabinets don't fully close?

    It Makes Me Sad
    I feel sad when I walk into my kitchen even though friends and family try to make me believe that it's a "cheerful" space because it has white cabinets. My shoulders droop, I sigh, and I think, ugh, not this room again. I don't want to go into the kitchen, yet I have to, and that leads me to my next point.

    I Do Less Cooking
    I love to cook but not in this kitchen. Years ago, when my husband and I gave our kitchen a DIY facelift of painted cabinets and a new floor, I took up cooking with a vengeance. It was clean, fresh and inviting. I want to feel that way again. My kids have been asking me to make things like Chinese food and pie, and I don't have room to prep either.

    baking in kitchenEven my daughter feels the pain of trying to bake in a kitchen that lacks counters and storage space. Photo: Marilyn Syarto

    I'm Sick of Writing About Other People's Beautiful Kitchens
    Though I've written about design for longer than I've owned my house, I've never had the pleasure of having a room designed for me by a professional. We are the quintessential DIY family and the thought of spending money for someone else to do the work is...difficult. But, I want to do this for the kitchen, for my family, but mostly for myself. I'm tired of writing about everyone else's beautiful projects and then going back to my icky cook space.

    I'll Prove that Less is More
    We are not enlarging the kitchen's footprint, but we are going to subscribe to my personal philosophy that a small space can be beautiful with quality materials and craftsmanship. I do not believe a bigger kitchen is better; I've seen some large and inefficient kitchens where the cook is so scattered because everything is too spread out, or the space is cold and unwelcoming. I prefer small and efficient, but warm and inviting.

    It's My Space
    The last reason I want a new kitchen for my big birthday is because the kitchen is my domain. It's my room. We have no plans to move for a long time, so why not make it special, comfortable, and pretty for myself and for my family? My kitchen does not reflect my true personality and my creative urges, but that's all about to change.

    Readers, what do you think -- is a new kitchen a fair ask for a birthday present? What room are you dying to remodel? Weigh in on our Facebook page!

    More great ShelterPop stories:
    Lose Weight at Home
    How to Not Get on "Hoarders"
    Kitchen Makeovers: Color in the Kitchen
    Kitchen Island Ideas

    Here's a video about how to organize your kitchen around healthy eating.


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    Why not repurpose items around your home? We've got creative ideas that will make certain pieces work twice as hard.

    From the kitchen to the coat closet, the items you find around your house have more potential than doing just what you bought them for. Why not let dryer sheets double as a sponge or get help cutting tile from wire hangers? The possibilities are endless.

    Learn how windows, skillets, and microwave splatters can be cleaned up with coffee filters:

    For stickier -- and stinkier -- messes, look to your laundry room. Dryer sheets can de-odorize, and one can even work as an impromptu sponge! Check out how in this clip:

    Repainting or reflooring a room? Find your renovation needs fulfilled around the house. See how a wire hanger can help you tile your bathroom:

    And below, a coffee container is the perfect painting tool!

    And for a craftier option, learn how to turn old wine corks into trivets:

    For more helpful cleaning tips, check out How to Clean with Bar Keepers Friend and How to Clean Faster (and Smarter).


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    We've got products you can make at home, tools that won't break your budget and the right way to reach and cleaning those screens.

    Growing up, if window cleaning was on your chore list, it usually meant swiping at a few windows with some newspaper and glass cleaner. But when you're the grown-up, you see all the different steps involved: Getting to the second floor windows, tackling the screens and using eco-friendly (and wallet-friendly) cleaners. No worries, we'ev got you covered -- these videos should answer all your window-cleaning questions.

    To see a lambswool and squeegee method for cleaning glass, watch this video:

    Having trouble reaching second floor windows and want an inexpensive option? Check out this short clip on how to create your own money-saving tool to reach any window:

    If a squeegee is too large to get in between panes of smaller windows, learn how to resize the squeegee (genius!) in a few simple steps:

    Now that you have the tools and methods intact, what solution do you use? While there are many products you can buy at the store, you may prefer a homemade option. Check out this clip and pay attention at the 47 second mark for a window-specific recipe.

    Now that the glass is shining, it's time to get the window screens just as clean. Here's a video showing a method utilizing a baby pool -- yes, a baby pool, in your backyard:

    For more savvy window tips -- and a different view on cleaning with newspaper -- check out Reader Tip: Natural Window-Cleaning Solution and Clean Your Windows with Vinegar and Newspaper.


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