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    Anyone planning a kitchen renovation will appreciate this free design advice.

    Help Me! I'm getting ready to take on a budget kitchen renovation. I know what surfaces and appliances I love, but I'm lost when it comes to space planning and functionality.

    Home Rescue: Interior designer Larry Duggan, principal of LD Design in New York City, knows a thing or two about kitchen design. To help ensure your exciting project doesn't turn into a layout nightmare, follow Duggan's five tips for effective kitchen planning.

    free kitchen designPhoto: Alamy Images



    1. Make a plan. Designing the layout is the most important step in kitchen design. The placement of the sink, range (or cooktop and oven) and the refrigerator should form a triangle of more or less equal distances. Zone your kitchen according to functions - i.e. cooking, storage, food preparation, eating and clean-up. Don't forget areas for your morning coffee, surfing the net, dining alone or entertaining the whole family at Thanksgiving.

    2. Consider how the kitchen relates to surrounding rooms. Kitchens are the social center of the home, so a smart layout will help integrate it into the living/dining room space. All this interconnectedness means that everything is in plain sight, so being clean and neat is essential. It also means that when choosing colors and materials you will need to coordinate with the connecting rooms.

    3. Lighting should be layered. Use task lights (think LED) under the wall cabinets and surface-mounted lights for general or ambient light. Recessed lights can be cold, austere and unflattering. The same goes for fluorescent lights. And don't forget to install dimmer switches!

    4. Open yourself to the outdoors. If it's possible and your budget allows, consider installing a new, larger window, which can visually expand the room, providing views and natural light.

    5. Choose your appliances carefully for function, size and aesthetics. They can be a focal point or disappear behind custom cabinetry. Stainless steel is still the preferred finish in upscale kitchens.

    For more great ShelterPop stories, don't miss:
    Hallway Decorating Ideas: Five Ways to Brighten Up Your Hallway
    International Home and Housewares Show 2011
    Nursery Ideas: Unique Baby Mobile

     

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    Inspired by tasty candy and yummy cookies, this sweet furniture is a treat without any of the sugar! Here are calorie-free ways to indulge your sweet tooth.

    Your kitchen isn't the only place to find a sugary treat. Indulge in some sweet furnishings. Here are three pieces that will transform your home into a real life Candyland!



    Sweet Design #1: Fortune Cookie Chair
    Designer Po Shun Leong crafted this lucky piece of sweet furniture from a sheet of plywood. But when you look at this stool, you will be thinking more about cookies than wood. The color even looks like a fortune cookie. Now if only they came with a fortune inside...





    Sweet Design #2: Candy Mat
    Love those sweet little Valentine's Day hearts? Well now you can enjoy them all year long, thanks to Urban Outfitters. This Trump L'oeil Floor Mat is covered in sugary messages like "real love" and "sweet thing." Place it at a door to welcome guests with love.


    sweet furniture


    Sweet Design #3: Ice Cream Bench
    Ever come home after running errands on a humid summer day feeling sticky and exhausted? Plop down on this Ice Cream Bench, a life-size sandwich straight from the ice cream truck. Jellio has lots of treat-inspired furniture (Cupcake chair, anyone?!). But this bench reminds us of those good ol' summer days. The velvet vanilla and canvas wafers sweeten up any room.

    For more yummy ideas, check out Bed and Breakfast and these candy-colored retros fridges!

     

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    Grab your coffee. It's time for our celebrity home of the day. Today's pick: Anjelica Huston's architectural marvel.

    Anjelica Huston just reduced her 3 bedroom, 3.5 bathroom in Venice, California. The home, a very unique architectural gem, was built in 1994 and originally listed at $18 million before being reduced to $16.8 million. Think that's a steep price for a 3 bedroom? Don't be fooled. The house is nearly 14,000 square feet.

    angelica-huston-housePhoto: Samir Hussein, Getty Images | As Seen on Realtor.com


    Let's take a look. Thanks to our friends at Realtor.com, we have these stunning photos. Enjoy!

    The boxy modern exterior of the home might leave some traditionalists skeptical. But once inside, you will see there are design features to wow anyone's style.


    The open layout of the living/dining area is ideal for family gatherings. Talk about plenty of seating! What caught our eye -- the high arcs of the ceiling, which makes for a dynamic space.


    Look up! The ceiling in this living room stands out, and the exposed beaming adds architectural interest. The view? Who wouldn't want to sit on the couch and be at the beach at the same time?


    We admit, this looks more like a SoHo gallery than a home. The rectangular podiums display statues, and a red spiral staircase adds a pop of color to an otherwise white-washed space.


    The lap pool gets sun and shade, thanks to the tree growing out of the patio. It's picture-perfect, with columns and an archway beckoning us in.


    This lush green patio is a zen-like outdoor escape. We love the chiminea and the unfinished wood furniture. Makes the space feel like a secret getaway!

    For more celebrity homes on the market, check out Dr. Phil's Mediterranean-style house and Charlize Theron's beach bungalow!

     

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    Neat freak? Live in a big house? I bet you still have drawers jammed with so much stuff that it's hard to close them. Here's why our drawers get full, how to organize them, and ultimately, break the cycle.

    Open a drawer, any drawer, and it begins: the futile sorting of a vast sea of mate-less socks, or the sight in a kitchen drawer of not one, but five, cherry pitters. No wonder we're always struggling for more drawer space. We have too much stuff, and we're always jamming that stuff into drawers. Either we're filling them until they can't shut, or we need crowbars to pry them open.

    Photo: Corbis



    We spoke to Sam Gosling, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, and Erica "The Spacialist" Ecker, a NYC-based professional organizer, to find out why many of us live in hoarder mode -- and how we can break clutter cycle.

    WHY DO WE DO IT?
    Well, for several reasons.

    Ecker believes our drawers get jam-packed simply because we make conscious decisions to avoid editing their contents. "It's much easier to go do something else more enjoyable than to sit down and sort out a messy dresser, says Ecker. And as we continue to put off these necessary edits (while accumulating more things over time) drawers will naturally overfill.

    And what about the notion of seeming like we're fated to repeat this collecting/overstuffin/editing behavior time and again? Hold on to your hat. We may just be. Gosling maintains that the items we keep hanging around in our personal spaces serve three fixed functions, which ultimately say a ton about who we are (total twist-tie junkies, perhaps?).

    1. Identity claims. These items are "the statements we make to ourselves -- and others -- about the person we are in order to feel like ourselves. We tend to hold onto these things long after they have functional use," says Gosling.
    Example: A home office file cabinet chock-full of report cards and medals from your winningest hockey intramurals.

    2. Feeling regulators. "We keep them around because they get us pumped up, help us concentrate and make us think of happy times," Gosling says. They make us feel secure, relaxed and comfortable.
    Example: A closet drawer filled with every moth-eaten sweater you wore throughout the 8th grade.

    3. Behavioral residue. This echoes Ecker's idea that we're not deliberately overstuffing our drawers, but that the mess is just "an unintended consequence of our day-to-day actions" -- just "a byproduct of our lives."
    Example: All the weird cooking gadgets we dump into our kitchen island.

    WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT IT?
    If many of us are pre-wired for lives bursting with disordered drawers, can our time here be made more manageable?

    Yes, according to Ecker. And thank goodness for gurus like her. Ecker's number-one editing rule of thumb? "The things you keep in drawers should always reflect your current lifestyle, and there should a little extra breathing room in them for more things you'll add later -- as far as two years down the road, ideally," she says. Sound too far outside your comfort zone? Just think about how tedious and time consuming any repeat edits will be.

    And speaking of comfort zones, Ecker warns against pushing yourself too far, lest your drawers snap right back into a shambles. "Embrace your laziest self. It'll produce your best system," she says. "Some clients won't ever fold their shirts. Fine. Then throw them in a drawer unfolded. At least they're all in there together." Those clients certainly know their limits but are able make Ecker's systems work for them.

    When Ecker is hired to revamp drawers she frequently uses the following tactics, all of which she says can work for nearly anyone, regardless of his/her organizational awareness.

    o. Assign the "most valuable real estate" to the items you use most often. Meaning: The stack of guest quilts taking up space in your linen closet? Keep one or two handy, and relegate the rest to the attic, please. Everything you use on a daily basis should be easy to locate, and within immediate reach.

    o. Set up clear divisions of space. These will help you take advantage of every inch of a drawer. Drawer dividers help corral bras, tights, socks, shapewear and underwear and enable you to see exactly what you have. Shallow and deep drawer organizers are good solutions in junk drawers, when odds and ends don't match and things tend to get thrown in willy-nilly.

    o. Store like items with like items. Workout clothing gets one drawer. Underthings do as well. Don't mix pants with shirts. Make a rubber-band ball; stow loose paper clips in one compartment, next to your stapler and letter opener. Your toothbrush, floss and toothpaste go in the same area, too.

    o. Install hooks once drawers are stuffed to the gills. Use walls, the backs of cabinet and closet doors and any other spaces that are being underutilized. (Hooks work exceptionally well for kids and men, too, who often find the "putting things in drawers" concept challenging.)

    We know that unless you hire a professional organizer, some of these tasks may still seem daunting. Realize that the only solution to a successful edit isn't a weekend-long free-for-all.

    "Take it slow and steady," says Ecker. She happily told us that "30 minutes after work, there, and two hours on a Saturday, there," produce the same results as a 12-hour marathon. "Plus," she adds, "You won't burn out or resent the process either." Hopefully. Good luck and god speed, organizers.

    For more great ShelterPop stories, don't miss:
    Brighten Up Your Hallway
    Rescue Your Recycling Area
    How to Organize a Closet: The Fun Way

     

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    Forget looking in the mirror. Check yourself out in every room with these custom decor finds.

    We can all probably think of some awful personalized home items -- photos on mouse pads or snow globes anyone? So we can understand your hesitation in decorating your home with items featuring...well, yourself. But we found several tasteful (and super cool!) ways to incorporate your favorite family photos into your home. Turns out that your face can personalize just about anything, from your kitchen to your office!

    Photo: Pearl Bell


    Custom decor for your...kitchen!
    Artist Pearl Bell customizes plates and cup & saucer sets with any images you provide. Her work fuses charcoal pencil-like drawings with bursts of color to produce really fun, personal tableware. Customized items can be ordered online, just upload the picture you want featured. Her passion is drawing faces, so you know her work is stellar! Her stock collection is full of amazing, expressive visages worth scoping out.



    Custom decor for your...table!
    Your face can be made of glass, thanks to artist Christopher Jagmin. His collection features all kinds of expressive words and letters, but we love these two-tone silhouettes. Customized, of course! Just send your picture to him and he hand-paints the image onto glass. The bold color and silhouette detail makes his artwork a customized home decor must!




    Your face as customized stationary
    Hanna Nation is the designer behind GADABOUT, a brand offering custom designs for web and branding. We're crazy about GADABOUT's stationary -- which has stock prints ready to order -- but also customizes cards with images, including faces. Nation illustrates the logo to create your ideal image. Talk about self branding! Customized home office paper is a personal gift to treat yourself to for a birthday, graduation or promotion!



    custom decor


    Custom design a handkerchief with your face!
    Artist Shabd Simon-Alexander has a website full of delicate, water-color scarves and an extensive list of high-end retailers. But only online can you get one of his custom embroidered items. Perfect as a wedding, birthday, or anniversary gift, Simon-Alexander's handkerchiefs are hand-embroidered based on an image supplied by the customer. Depending on what his clients want, they can supply him with a handkerchief, or just provide him with a style preference. Either way, the custom artwork is a one-of-a-kind gift or decor item. We love the idea of framing these handkerchiefs as art.

    For more great stories on ShelterPop, don't miss:
    Hallway Decorating Ideas: Five Ways to Brighten Up Your Hallway
    International Home and Housewares Show 2011
    Nursery Ideas: Unique Baby Mobile

     

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    Audrey Hepburn curled up on a clawfoot tub sofa in "Breakfast at Tiffany's" -- and you can too, thanks to this fun DIY project.

    Check out this story about an unusual DIY sofa from our friends at CasaSugar!

    diy curtains

    Inspired by Holly Golightly's unforgettable sofa in "Breakfast at Tiffany's," one Côté Maison reader decided to take matters into his own hands and DIY a clawfoot tub sofa for himself. He began by sawing off the sides of the tub, and then sanded down the edges for safety.

     

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  • 03/29/11--14:48: A Colorful Kitchen Makeover
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    A kitchen goes from brown and blah to bright and whoa...all while maintaining its original 1950's-style charm.

    Back in 2010, Cindy Black, the Austin-based architect behind Hello Kitchen, got to work on an 1959 kitchen rehab. While leaky pipes and outdated cabinets made a top-to-bottom overhaul a no-brainer, her clients wanted to preserve the original 50's vibe. So just how did Black rise to the challenge? She took it from kitsch to chic with a whole lot of color.

    color-kitchen-makeoverPre-colorful kitchen makeover. Photo: Valarie L. Campbell via Hello Kitchen

    A very Brady kitchen -- everything from the charred-coffee color to the structure of the old cabinetry weighed the space down. The room was too heavy and uninviting, especially for eating or entertaining. Countertop clutter also left much to be desired. And those bright aqua countertops...not the best way to bring brights into your space.



    Enter Hello Kitchen to make it all better. All-white appliances reflect light brilliantly -- and when combined with the brushed aluminum backsplash and stainless-steel sink, still give the space that retro feel the clients wanted. The stunning custom European-style cabinetry (by RubyAnne Designs) and open shelving brighten up the space. Look below: Is this the same room?



    Staying true to her clients' obvious affinity for ultramarine, Cindy even manages to pay homage to turquoise in the remodel. Here it is making a strong comeback in those kitchen drawers (below).

    Since one of the homeowner uses a wheelchair, accessibility was first and foremost in the new design. We love how the shelving is thoughtfully anchored on the wall, not the floor, as not to get in the way. And notice how the 10-inch toe kick beneath the base cabinetry really looks like a cosmetic choice, even though it's there so that the chair can pull flush against counters. Ultimately, the makeover preserved the integrity of the kitchen's footprint -- everything is basically laid out the same way, yet it's all so, so magnificently different.

    Want to see the next kitchen makeover? Check out: Decorate With Food: The Most Delicious Way to Makeover Your Kitchen or New Wife, New Kitchen.

     

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    Time for your morning coffee and a virtual tour of our celebrity home of the day. Today: Kelly Clarkson's house.

    Kelly Clarkson is selling her Nashville, Tennessee house -- well, trying to anyway. The 5-bedroom, 6-bathroom home, has recently been reduced from almost $1.5 million to $1.399 million. Hopefully that will help this Southern belle sell, but until then let's sneak a peak. (Our friends at Realtor.com have the keys.)


    We'd love to pull up to this inviting home at the end of the day. It looks so far away from the hustle and bustle. (Taking up its own acre of land will do that.) Bonus: The stone front and red door give the upscale home a cottage-y feel.


    The Southern charm comes right through the front door and settles inside. This living room has amazing hardwood floors. Even as a larger space, the room feels inviting and cozy. And like any great celeb home, the place has amazing windows.


    The exterior stone finds a home inside inside and surrounds the built-in bookshelves. The combination of wood and stone gives the whole room a rustic feel that's made more modern with the sassy zebra-print rug.


    Clearly this house has a killer backyard. The greenery looks so lush and inviting! But what if the evenings get buggy? No problem, just hang out on the screened-in porch! Time for a barbecue, perhaps?

    Love looking at celebrity homes and want more? Check out Anjelica Huston's house and Dr. Phil's house!

     

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    Our writer was frugal long before it became fashionable. Here's why she's reconsidering her money saving ways.

    Walk into the Goodwill in Westport, Connecticut (known for its upscale clothing and furniture), and you'll find many well-heeled customers searching for bargains. As various media have reported, frugal is the new black. But here's the rub: I may have chronic frugal fatigue. Sometimes, I get so tired of trying to save money.

    frugal fatigueFeeling done with bargains? Photo: Getty RF.


    I'm allowed to be tired. After spending impulsively throughout my 20's, I turned into a frugal homeowner and have stayed that way for years. Though I'm not a candidate for the new TLC show,"Extreme Couponing" my copy of The Tightwad Gazette is dog-eared and I am known as the hand-me down queen in my circle of friends. Yes, I hang laundry on a clothesline in my backyard to save on electricity. I even chronicle tightwad living in an affluent town on my blog, Two Frugal Fairfielders. Clearly, my penny-pinching parents brought me up to be frugal-minded. But is there a downside to all this economizing?

    My husband, Steve, insists that I clarify: "We are frugal, not cheap," he told me. "I don't mind spending money, but I hate wasting money."

    Maybe that's true, but there are times when I feel tired of being frugal. Here's why:

    1. Being frugal can be frustrating.
    It is frustrating not to be able to just write a spur-of-the-minute check for a new kitchen, sofa, siding...the list goes on. It's all about delayed gratification, which can get tiring. Sometimes I want things when I want things.

    Even though there are times when I'm ready to splurge, self-control is a characteristic that ensures success in life, according to behavioral experts and the often-cited article in The New Yorker. I have trained myself to have self control. And waiting really does pay off. It took us two years to renovate our basement because Steve did it himself, but we paid a quarter of what contractors would have charged us.

    2. Being frugal means tons of research.
    You're looking to buy something that costs the least but is of the highest quality, so of course it's going to take a lot of research.

    Even though it can get tiresome to go on a time-consuming product hunt, my friend Aimee, a former teacher and stay-at-home mom, argues that it pays off in the long run. "You have to plan purchases," she says. "Sometimes I regret those in-the-moment purchases." Me, too. But sometimes, I just want to buy something.

    3. Being frugal means you never have the latest, greatest gadgets that everyone else has.
    My friends have iPads and iPhones. Me, not so much. One of these days I'm going to go out and just splurge on a high tech device for myself. I'm tired of looking over other people's shoulders and admiring theirs even though I know the high monthly costs.

    Still, being frugal can sometimes lead you to cool tech gadgets. My neighbor Melissa made a decision to cut back on cable costs by getting rid of all of the extra channels; In its place she purchased a Roku player for $59, which allows her to watch streaming TV programs. A small investment for bigger savings. That's smart.

    4. Being frugal means never getting to buy name brands.
    When you need it fast, brand name stores are typically too expensive. I'm tired of not being able to pop right into stores I want. Lucky for me, there are bargain stores with beautiful deals. Otherwise, I'd get really frustrated.

    5. Being frugal means you are often envious of not-so-frugal friends.
    There are benefits of knowing not-so-frugal people. They can make you feel okay about letting loose and buying an expensive Mrs. Meyer's cleaning solution when it's not on sale (gasp!). Or, they can put things in perspective when you hear they bought the expensive patio set that you wanted...but they put theirs on a credit card.


    For more great stories on ShelterPop, don't miss:
    Quiz: How Clean is Your Home?
    How to NOT Get on "Hoarders"
    Maximize Space in a Big Kitchen

     

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    You're a spender, he's a saver. He leaves the toilet seat up, you forget the dry cleaning. And you're driving each other crazy. Nip the tension with advice from top relationship experts.

    Whether you're married, dating or somewhere in between, if you're living together chances are you and your partner have had a few tense conversations about each others bad habits. From the household budget and chores to carving out a little "me" time, no doubt these issues can be some of the hardest to deal with.

    Photo: jupiterimages


    Conflict at Home #1: Money
    "With each new stage in their relationship, couples reach a deeper level of intimacy," explains Christine Arylo, relationship expert and author of Choosing Me Before We. "It can be threatening because you are letting someone in. As a result, we tend to put up our defenses, and it comes out in icky ways, such as arguing over whose turn it is to take out the trash or how you'll spend your savings."

    The biggest trigger of them all? Money. "It's the number one issue that breaks couples up," says Ian Kerner, sex and relationship counselor and New York Times best-selling author. "It's something that has to be discussed but fairly. We all come into a relationship with all sorts of habits. Some of us are frugal; some of us love to spend. Either way, it's crucial to constructively express your money values to one another."

    Kerner's top advice? Take a proactive approach. If you've noticed your bank account taking a dip from dining out way too much, reign it in! Instead of discussing where you'll be eating, call your partner and say here's what I'm cooking tonight or send them a grocery list suggesting they shop and you'll cook.

    "Rather than arguing about your issue, do something tangible to make the change," says Kerner.

    Arylo agrees and stresses the importance of focusing on one issue at a time. "Our feelings about money usually stem from fear, the fear that if we run out we can't survive," she says. "So when something negative happens, our fears bubble up and we tend to project them onto our partners."

    To counter that, Arylo suggests tackling issues specifically rather than piling on other points. Need to discuss the bills not being paid on time? Talk about that one issue and take your feelings out of it too. "It's important to remember that whatever the dilemma is, it's not a direct reflection of his love for you," she says. "Once you love someone you're always in love. It's more about his habits and issues with money."

    Photo: Getty Images


    Conflict at Home #2: Personal Space
    Same goes for the battle for personal space. "If he likes to shut the door and jam to his music or head out for guys' night once in awhile, it's not a personal vendetta against you," explains Arylo. "Don't take it personal. If it bothers you, most of the time the other person doesn't know the impact they are having on you."

    Kerner agrees. "The best couples are the strongest individuals," he says. "They don't do all things together at all times. It's important to recognize that you both need your personal space both inside the home and out, so plan accordingly." Need suggestions? Sign up for classes or schedule nights out (or in) with your pals and keep each other informed.

    Photo: Getty Images


    Conflict at Home #3: Splitting up the cleaning
    When it comes to the dreaded household chores, make a plan. If one of you feels as if you're carrying the bulk of the burden, sit down and divvy up what needs to get done. Arylo suggests breaking it down by the tasks each person enjoys doing (cooking, walking the dog), what can be outsourced (housecleaning or laundry service) and finally, what just needs to get done no matter what. That way, she says, you'll have clear expectations of one another's responsibilities.

    Kerner has a similar, yet enticing approach to splitting up the chores. "I think making lists and setting up deadlines is great, it keeps you both in check," he says. "And if that doesn't work, I like to introduce something I call chore-play. I've read studies that suggest a woman is more likely to want to have sex with their partner if they help out with the chores." His tip? The next time your partner gets down about his household duties, remind him that chore-play can certainly lead to fore-play later on.


    Conflict at Home #4: Try a peace offering
    Finally, if you're still struggling with your issues, bring home a bouquet of fresh flowers. "Studies have shown that flowers create more love than almost anything else," says Arylo. "When you're in a difficult situation, having fresh flowers around helps to open your heart up and readies you for that dreaded conversation."

    Looking for more great ShelterPop stories? Check out some of our favorites:
    Decorating For Two
    'Til Bed Do Us Part
    Your Biggest Couples Cleaning Fights: Solved!

     

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    Enjoy your morning coffee and take a virtual tour of this celebrity house on the market. Today: The Osbourne family's beach house.

    This just in -- The Osbourne family has their house on the market. The newly listed Malibu property has 5 bedrooms and 5 bathrooms, enough for each family member to have his own. The home is listed for $10 million.

    And thanks to Realtor.com, we have a sneak peek at the famous family's beach house.

    Three stories and all with patios. This brick villa style home is amazing based on the exterior. Our only need is to get inside! A celebrity home staple -- tons of windows -- is staying true with this home. All the french doors and transparent railings makes us wonder what the view from this house must look like! What we know is this: The house's 4,500 square feet is home to walk-in closets, a library, an office, a hot tub, security features (of course) and a beautiful backyard view of the Pacific Ocean.

    To be clear, this is not the house featured on the family's reality show The Osbournes -- that was sold in 2007 to Christina Aguilera. This is their beach house that was previously rented for $40,000 a month...and previously on the market for a whopping $14 million in 2006. Good luck with the dropped price, guys!

    For more celebrity homes, check out Charlize Theron's Malibu beach home and Anjelica Huston's architectural home!

     

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    Need to rest your head someplace fun and comfy? There's an app...er, pillow for that.

    Check out this great story from our friends at If It's Hip, It's Here!

    hipster home

    A ways back I introduced you to the Social Network pillows by Craftsquatch. Twitter fans could tweet about their new Twitter throw pillows, while fans of Mark Zuckerberg could enjoy pillows adorned with the now infamous Facebook logo (see below).


    Now Craftsquatch has done it again with iPhone pillows (see below). The 12" x 12" pillows are 100 percent handmade with soft fluffy fleece and a firm filling so they won't lose their shape. Each pillow is $19.99. Check 'em out.

    hipster homeIf It's Hip It's Here


    For more great ShelterPop stories, don't miss:
    "I Hate It When You.." -- What are your biggest home fights?
    Got Frugal Fatigue? One writer is tired of penny pinching.

     

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    The First Lady did her spring planting already. If you haven't, why not take the opportunity to create a White House-style garden in your own yard? We've got all the details on planting all the fruits and vegetables.

    This month, Michelle Obama replanted the White House garden with a whole host of delicious and lovely fruits and vegetables. Not only do we admire her for drawing the nation's attention to gardening, we're grateful to her for creating an easy-to-replicate guide to spring plants.

    white house garden vegetablesMichelle Obama participates in planting with local school children at the White House Kitchen Garden. Photo: Alex Wong, Getty Images


    So whether you have a green thumb, a black thumb or you aren't even sure, we've got you covered: Ivette Soler of The Germinatrix and The Edible Front Yard is kindly walking us through the in's and out's of planting every plant in the 2011 garden -- plus plants featured by Mrs. Obama in the last couple years. Pick one, pick a few, or if you have a massive lawn, we dare you to recreate the whole thing (and yes, send us plenty of photos).

    Starting with: Vegetables. (And then check out our guide to herbs!)
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    White House Garden: Vegetables and Fruit

    Artichokes

    Not only are artichokes delicious, they are one of the coolest plants to grow in any garden! The leaves look prehistoric, like a dinosaur would be chewing on them, and the "choke" is pretty weird. If you don't harvest and eat the choke, it will turn into the most incredible flower ever. In fact, it's a good idea to leave a couple of artichokes on the plant to bloom. Bees love artichoke blossoms, and the more bees you can attract to your garden, the better. It's a good idea to start with baby plants, instead of seeds. Artichoke seedlings can take too long to grow and set their choke. Artichokes get big, so be sure to give them plenty of room, especially if you live in warm climates -- at least 2-1/2 feet in all directions should be enough. Dig in lots of compost and a good amount of organic fertilizer in order to develop those big round chokes; these plants need lots of nourishment. Water it once a week with compost tea, and before you know it you'll have incredible plants that will give you delicious food or amazing flowers!

    White House Garden: Vegetables and Fruit

    Arugula

    If you want to grow something easy, fast, and tasty, you have to try arugula. Arugula is often used in salads, and it tastes good in pasta, too. To grow it, decide on a sunny patch of ground, then sprinkle your seeds on it. Water the seeds into the soil, and in less than two weeks you'll see little sprouts coming up. Arugula grows fast, so you'll have to harvest it quickly; the leaves start tasting bitter if they get too old. A great thing to do is to let some of your arugula plants get tall and flower because those flowers will dry and become seeds. When birds eat the seeds, they'll spread them all over your garden, and you'll have surprise arugula plants next year!

    White House Garden: Vegetables and Fruit

    Beets

    This annual vegetable, with it's dark leaves and magenta stems, is glorious! The iron-rich beet grows best in cool weather, making it an asset for the spring garden. Plant beets as early in the season as possible. They grow best when the temperature is cool and the sun is bright in light, loamy soil. Expect germination within a week to ten days. Be sure to keep an eye on the seedlings; you'll need to thin the leaves so the beets can form sturdy roots! Any time you're handling your home-grown beets, be careful! Beets are bloody and weep a lot, so wear an apron. You can use the leaf trimmings in micro-green salads or saute them with fennel and onions for an earthy taste sensation. Eat the beets themselves roasted with salt and pepper. Or thinly slice the beets, toss in olive oil, salt, pepper and lemon, and bake for an hour. Result: wow-worthy, yummy ruby-colored beet chips.

    White House Garden: Vegetables and Fruit

    Peppers (sweet and hot)

    All peppers are colorful and easy to grow -- the sweet ones are good in stews, salads and all kinds of ethnic foods, and hot peppers make everything taste zippier! There are so many different kinds of peppers to grow you might not know where to start, so why not plant a few different varieties so that you can experiment in the garden and have fun in the kitchen? Peppers are one of those plants that need the weather to be hot before they grow, so you might have to start the seeds inside, or you can buy baby plants at a nursery when warm temperatures roll around. One thing to remember when starting pepper seeds is that if the pepper is one of the spicier varieties, it will take longer to sprout -- maybe buying little plants of the hottest peppers would be a smart idea! When you plant peppers, use good organic compost and a little well-balanced organic fertilizer. After watering, keep peppers not too wet /not too dry for best results.

    White House Garden: Vegetables and Fruit

    Black Kale

    Black Kale has lots of names but my favorite one is Dinosaur Kale. If you haven't had it before, you should try it. It tastes great and is full of important vitamins. Kale is one of those plants that grows in cool weather, so if summers are really hot where you live, plant it either in the fall or in the early spring. It's easy to grow from seeds, or you can get small plants in little pots from a nursery. Be sure you add compost to the hole so the kale can grow fast and strong.

    White House Garden: Vegetables and Fruit

    Blueberries

    Who doesn't LOVE blueberries? They are heavy hitters -- pretty plants that give delicious berries. Anybody can grow them, but here are some rules to follow to get the best, sweetest berries. First, you have to get a variety that is suited to the climate you live in. You should also have a special fertilizer for acid-loving plants. Blueberries grow best in evenly moist soil, so put it in a spot that gets good water, or that you can water regularly. Plant them in soil with lots of compost dug in, and mulch them with leaves, pine needles, or more compost. Even though you want to, you can't let the plants bear fruit the first year -- you have to get rid of the flowers. Being patient will pay off because the second year you'll get lots of big, juicy berries for your cereal, pancakes and muffins!

    White House Garden: Vegetables and Fruit

    Bok Choy

    If you like stir-fry dishes and Asian soups, then bok choy is for you. It is crispy and mild, with a clean, pleasant cabbage flavor. Bok choy doesn't like warm weather -- it prefers early spring and late fall. If it gets too warm, the plant will form flowers and the leaves turn bitter. This is one of the seeds you can start when it is still a little cold out, but to make sure it sprouts, cover it with plastic to keep a tiny bit of warmth around the seeds. Bok choy loves moisture and nice rich soil, so don't skimp on the organic fertilizer. Harvest when they are 8" to 12" high. If you cut them an inch above the base, new little plants will sprout from the cuts! Harvest these plants young, when they are around 4" to 6" tall, before the heat sets in and turns the leaves bitter.

    White House Garden: Vegetables and Fruit

    Broccoli

    This is a yummy cool-season annual that takes a little extra care! Broccoli needs a ton of sun and consistent moist, rich soil. To grow broccoli, plant before the last frost and start indoors. For a second harvest, plant in midsummer. The clusters of edible flowers will be ready during fall to winter. When cutting, place your knife right under where the flower heads split. The remaining stem will spur secondary stems and encourage growth. Broccoli is a great addition to any meal as a side vegetable, or it can be added to pasta dishes and stir-fry.

    White House Garden: Vegetables and Fruit

    White House Garden: Vegetables and Fruit

    White House Garden: Vegetables and Fruit



    Tell us: Would you plant a White House-inspired garden? Weigh in on Facebook!

     

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    The First Lady did her spring planting already -- why not take the opportunity to create a White House-style garden in your own yard? We've got all the details on planting all the herbs.

    This month, Michelle Obama replanted the White House garden with a whole host of delicious and lovely plants. We've already walked you through how to get the fruits and vegetables in your own garden, now onto the herbs!

    white house garden herbsPhoto: Alex Wong, Getty Images


    Ivette Soler of The Germinatrix and The Edible Front Yard is kindly walking us through the in's and out's of planting every herb in the 2011 garden -- plus herbs featured in the last two years by Mrs. Obama.
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    White House Garden: Herbs

    Anise hyssop

    Anise hyssop has another name that will give you a hint to figure out what it tastes like -- licorice mint! Plant it in your garden in bright sun, and soon you'll be able to eat both the leaves and the flowers. Even before the flowers bloom, you can cut the leaves and have your parents help you make some tea with them. When the flowers start blooming, you can use them to make salads look prettier (and you don't have to pick them out before eating).

    White House Garden: Herbs

    Basil and Thai basil

    Yummy basil is used in lots of different kinds of cooking, and there are many kinds of basil plants that look and taste very different. Italian basil has big green leaves that you eat in pasta and on pizzas; other basil varieties have smaller leaves that taste like licorice and cinnamon and are often used in Asian dishes. Growing basils is fun because you can plant a seed and as long as it's hot, it'll grow fast into a little bush that you can use to make all sorts of delicious dishes. Plant basil when it's warm outside, and give it a little bit of organic fertilizer so the leaves can get big and delicious.

    White House Garden: Herbs

    Chamomile

    Chamomile is so pretty, with lots of little white flowers floating on top of tiny leaves. When the flowers dry, the middle of the flower, the yellow part, makes a wonderful sleepytime tea. Chamomile is also a good neighbor plant;; it makes all of the plants next to it healthier, and they won't be bothered as much by bugs. You can give it a little more water than other herbs, but don't go overboard, because chamomile won't grow in soggy soil.

    White House Garden: Herbs

    Chervil

    White House Garden: Herbs

    Garlic Chives and Chives

    Onions and garlic are sooo good! But if you don't like a big chunk of garlic in your food, or if onions aren't your thing -- plant chives! They are in the same family, but instead of having a big vegetable to gnaw on, all you do is snip off some grassy leaves, and they make your food taste just as good as onions or garlic does. They are really easy to grow, too -- all you have to do is plant them in the soil and water them, and they'll look like pretty clumps of grass with pink, puffy flowers. Note: You can't eat the grass, but you CAN eat the chives!

    White House Garden: Herbs

    Cilantro

    Cilantro is a strong flavor - people either love it or hate it. If you do like it, you can plant it in the spring when it's cool, and use the leaves as long as the weather doesn't get too hot. Once it gets too hot, the plant makes a flower and the leaves start to go yellow. You can keep the leaves fresh by cutting off the flower and watering it with a little organic fertilizer, but if it gets hot, cilantro season is over.

    White House Garden: Herbs

    Dill

    Dill is used to make pickles, and it tastes good on fish and in vegetable dips. It is an easy plant to grow, all you have to do is plant the seeds right where you want it to grow, cover it with a little soil, then water it. In a couple of weeks, you'll have tiny sprouts that will grow into tall, pretty dill plants. The taste of the leaves is best before the flower pops up, so when you see the flower start to bloom, cut it off and give it to someone you like. That way, the leaves will be tastier longer!

    White House Garden: Herbs

    Fennel

    It might look like celery with a big bottom, but fennel tastes more like licorice. People cook the stems, but they use the seeds and leaves to make teas and spices. You can plant fennel seeds wherever you want it to grow, and it will take about 16 to 20 days before you start seeing little sprouts. Once they start growing, watch the bottom of the plant. When it starts to swell and get big, you can cut it and cook it. You might want to leave it alone and let it grow and flower, so you can enjoy the tasty seeds.

    White House Garden: Herbs

    Marjoram

    Marjoram smells so clean that lots of people use it in their baths - you can tie a bundle of it together with a string and throw it in when the warm water is running. Marjoram also tastes delicious with all kinds of meats -- chicken, beef, fish and pork. It even tastes great on eggs. Some people think marjoram looks a lot like oregano, and it's hard to tell the difference, but all you need to do is smell it -- oregano will smell like pizza or spaghetti. Plant marjoram just like you would other herbs, but you can water it a little more.

    White House Garden: Herbs

    Mint

    What tastes like a mouthful of clean, cold air and makes delicious teas and ice creams? Mint! This is a plant that should be in every garden, but you have to be careful when you plant it. Its roots grow like crazy and can disturb nearby plants. Never plant mint right in the ground -- grow it in a pot! All you have to do is get some potting soil, a little trowel (a trowel is a tiny shovel that fits in your hand), and a small to medium pot. The next step is important: find a rock and cover the hole at the bottom of the pot so the soil doesn't run out. Then take your baby mint plant out of the tiny pot you bought it in, and put it in its new home. Now, fill up the rest of the pot with potting soil, and then press it all in so that it feels nice and snug. All you have to do is water it, and you have yourself a perfect place for your mint to live!

    White House Garden: Herbs



    Tell us: Would you plant a White House-inspired garden? Weigh in on Facebook!

     

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  • 04/01/11--09:59: Justin Long's House For Sale
  • Filed under: , , , ,

    Sip your morning coffee while taking a virtual tour of our celebrity house of the day. Today: Justin Long's house.

    Justin Long is having a bit of trouble selling his Los Angeles home. After two price reductions, it's on the market for $1.649 million. This 3-bedroom, 4-bathroom was built in 1990, so it's a fairly new home. We only have a few photos, but can see this Mediterranean house is a beauty.

    Let's take a look (and thank our friends at Realtor.com for the pics!)

    We love the idea of walking through the gated entrance and under the clay roof pergola. The vines and lanterns give a mystical first impression. And what would an L.A. home be without a few palm trees?


    Looks like the table is set and ready. We can be there in -- wait, how long is that flight? We love the dark hardwood floors and the gothic-esque chandelier. But the best part of this space is probably the vaulted ceiling with it's exposed beams. It's a unique feature you don't experience in every home. Our only complaint? We can't walk through those doorways to see more rooms!


    The best part of this house is clearly the kitchen! (At least in our opinion.) The stone counter and backsplash, the stainless steel appliances, the huge center island -- we could go on for days. But instead, we'll let you take a look for yourself. One thing that left us wondering: Does Justin really use that double range and oven? And one more thing: Did did you notice the under cabinet and above cabinet lighting? What a great detail to illuminate the large space.

    Want more celebrity homes? Check out Kelly Clarkson's Tennessee home and Charlize Theron's Malibu beach abode!

     

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    Replacing a chair cushion just might be the best DIY project in the book. Easy? Check. Inexpensive? Check. Hugely transformative? Oh, you bet. Check out one writer's experience.

    Just because your kitchen chairs are stained beyond cleaning doesn't mean that you have to go out and spend a fortune on new chairs. Reupholstering kitchen chairs is MUCH easier than I thought it would be, and the new look has totally updated my kitchen. Not to mention: The chairs are more comfortable to sit in.

    reupholster chair


    I've had these chairs for at least ten years, and they've endured spills of everything from wine to milk to babyfood (many years ago, I used to feed my kids on my lap instead of strapping them into a high chair!). I've cleaned them from time to time, but years of messes have made them stained beyond recognition. Any padding that was on the chair has also completely flattened out and made them not only ugly, but very uncomfortable.

    After one trip to the fabric store and $40 later, I bought the following supplies to cover four kitchen chairs: 3 yards of fabric and 3 yards of chair padding.

    Other supplies that I needed were already at home: 1 pair of good scissors, a heavy duty staple gun and staples, plyers or needle nose tweezers to remove old staples and a Phillips head screw driver. The steps were simple:

    1. Turn chair upside down (or on its back) and unscrew the four screws to release the seat pad.

    2. With pliers or needle nose tweezers, remove all of the staples from the bottom of the chair pad and tear off the old fabric and padding.

    3. Place the chair pad onto the new padding, and cut around to fit (leave about 3 inches all the way around because you'll need to wrap it underneath the chair pad so it stretches to the other side/bottom of the chair pad). Cut new padding to fit.

    4. Have another person around to help hold the chair padding in place and wrap it around the other other side/bottom. With one person holding the new padding in place, staple it along the backside of the chair pad. Staple approximately five staples on each side of the chair pad, making sure to evenly distribute the staples to keep the new padding in place.

    5. Now, take the newly padded chair pad and place it on the fabric. Measure and cut enough fabric to cover the chair pad and bring at least 3 inches around to the back side.

    6. Very important: Have another person stretch the fabric as tight as possible while you staple the fabric to the back side of the chair pad. When starting a new side, stretch and flatten the fabric so that there are no wrinkles or bumps in the fabric. Staple generously so that the fabric is in place and won't come undone.

    7. Almost done -- when the chair is completely covered, screw the chair pad back into the chair with a Phillips head screwdriver.

    Now you've got new chairs, but for a cost of about $10 per chair:

    reupholster chair

    This was an easy and inexpensive project, but I did come across a few unexpected situations:

    1. Don't leave the staple gun laying around. My 9-year-old son got a hold of it and stapled the hardwood floor.

    2. If you are using fabric that has a pattern like I did (small stripes), make sure that the stripes are going the same way on all four chairs.

    That's it! A brand new kitchen set for $40 and about two hours of labor.

    reupholster chair

    Ready for another chair makeover? Check out this DIY accent chair!

     

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    When my girlfriend and I moved in together, I knew I'd need to make room for her stuff. Then came her bad habits -- and mine.

    When I lived alone in a one-bedroom apartment in the Adams Morgan neighborhood of Washington, DC, a buddy once came over to hang out. He took one look around at my apartment's white panel walls, my aging blue recliner, and my two TVs stacked on top of each other and declared, "You live in a real bachelor pad."

    I'm not sure he meant it as a compliment.

    moving in togetherPhoto: Ivan Sciupac


    Years later, I'm still living in a one bedroom apartment in the same neighborhood, though a much bigger one with bay windows and hardwood floors. Only this time, there's someone else here to share my space -- my girlfriend. And as far as I can tell, she is not a fan of white panel walls.

    When two people decide to move in together, they often move into a new place. Maybe they analyze the floor plans and decide together where the couch will go. Or maybe they go to IKEA and decide -- again, together -- what bed to buy. They look at their new place the way I see the start of baseball season: full of hope and potential, a clean slate where anything is possible.

    But what happens when someone moves into your place? The one you've had the way you want for months or years. What happens, really, when someone moves into your cave?

    Elizabeth and I decided to move in together nearly a year after we started seeing each other. I had been pretty gun shy about living with anyone ever again after a couple of failed live-in relationships that left me emotionally banged up.

    But with Elizabeth, things were different. She was kind and warm and wonderful. She liked eating Chinese on the coffee table and didn't seem to mind I considered cleaning the bath an optional chore.

    After dating for some time, I started missing her on nights she wasn't over and wishing she wouldn't leave on days she was. So one evening while kissing her goodnight at her door, I asked her if she would move in with me. After being convinced I wasn't joking around, she said yes.

    We had talked about finding a new place together. We wanted a new home, a fresh start. Mainly, I wanted to avoid all the mistakes I made with past girlfriends. But financially, it didn't make sense. So we decided she'd move into my apartment.

    Before I knew it, things were changing. Framed photos of people I didn't know were scattered around the living room. Strangely scented candles were lit in the bathroom. Food I didn't like -- eggplant -- or had never heard of -- sun-dried tomato cheese? what is that? -- was stuffed in my cabinets.

    My once-proud "man cave" was becoming something unrecognizable.

    The biggest change, though, was the sudden need to make room in my life not just for her "stuff" but also her habits. These are the things no one warns you about. Sure, you can learn how to co-exist with flowery-printed bedsheets if you have to, but your girlfriend's idiosyncrasies?

    Suddenly, I was struggling to get her to close the curtain after a shower. Or freaking out when she wanted to eat something in bed. Or stacking her laundry so high you would have thought we lived in an apartment with 10-foot ceilings.

    I had my own peculiarities. I'm no clean freak, so I never really cared if a couple of days went by and the dishes in the sink weren't washed. No big deal. But Elizabeth's habit of leaving used plates on the table immediately after eating dinner? Infuriating! I had no idea I would care so much about such a minor thing. And I never knew my habit of mismatching wine glasses or my fascist ownership of the remote control would cause such ire.

    But the biggest surprise since she's moved in hasn't really been the sharing of mutual space or discovery of potentially annoying habits. It's been all the things you didn't realize would make things, well, awesome.

    Like agreeing from day one on how to split chores, or watching Jeopardy every night, or hosting unofficial burping contests that I usually lose. It's going for long runs together, or singing Disney songs in the shower, or giving each other foot massages on the sofa after a long, rough day.

    So yes, maybe my man cave has been changed, maybe my space has been altered. Maybe my one-bedroom is no longer my own.

    But I live with a cool chick who can out-burp me every night. And I'd take that over a bachelor pad any day.

    For more great ShelterPop stories, don't miss:
    Conflict at Home: How to Talk Bad Habits
    Decorating For Two
    'Til Bed Do Us Part
    Your Biggest Couples Cleaning Fights: Solved!

     

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  • 04/01/11--09:59: Modern Kitchen Makeover
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    Just how drastic can a kitchen makeover be? We found one that's sure to top your transformation expectations.

    Through our sifting of tons of before and after images, we came across Eden Lang's kitchen makeover, thanks to Raenovate. And boy, are they share-worthy. How does one go from dark, dingy brown to sleek, modern white? Well, take a look:


    There's a less than lovely linoleum on the kitchen floor and dull carpet through the rest of the space. And those heavy, drab curtains are restricting the bit of natural light willing to enter.


    But then, voila! Now that the dividing wall has been knocked down, they're left with one large kitchen/eating space. Finally, room to breathe! The light from the existing windows can now illuminate the extended kitchen. And what better to replace the old linoleum and carpet than tiger wood flooring. The beautiful, multi-tonal wood sets a sleek, modern tone throughout the home. And the stainless steel hood and range definitely out-do the set-up before, seen in the picture below...


    Before: A cramped cooking space, with range, oven and refrigerator in a tight cut-out. Move over outdated cabinetry (with gold knobs.)


    Stainless steel appliances are an instant upgrade. But what we really love are those shiny, high cabinets! The glossy finish and smooth lines make things extra sleek -- and miles away from the drab "before" kitchen.

    Ready for the next kitchen makeover? Check out this white kitchen makeover.

     

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  • 04/02/11--03:59: Bed & Breakfast
  • Filed under:

    Hey early riser, take Saturday morning easy by indulging in these yummy picks.

    bed breakfastAnthropologie; New Media Publishing via KitchenDaily


    What would you rather start your Sunday with? This week, Decor Musings's Monique Valeris shares her fantasy weekend picks: Anthropologie's glamorous bedding ($228 for Queen duvet cover) and Whole Grain Waffles from KitchenDaily.

    "It's not a good weekend without cozy bedding that has the right touch of elegance, like ruffles. I'm also partial to neutral colors because they work beautifully with my room. Another weekend favorite: Indulging in waffles coupled with fresh fruit for a dose of energy in the morning."

    Thanks, Monique! What do you think? Bed or breakfast? Tell us on Facebook!

    And check in next Saturday to see another guest-curated bed & breakfast!

     

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    Filed under: ,

    We're obsessed with StyleList's "Look of the Day." We're obsessed with decor. So why not put them together in a shoppable, fashion-fueled room?

    This Weekend's Pick:
    Diane Kruger

    Kruger looks oh-so-chic in this black Jason Wu dress. The silhouette is pure glamour and the peekaboo white hemline serves as the daintiest of details. She accessorizes the look with blush satin heels, a white clutch, and gold earrings. Such an elegant, timeless look!

    Now: Get this look at home...



    The full black bottom of Kruger's dress and her shiny satin heels made us think of a luxurious bedroom. To start, we chose Donna Karan's Modern Classics bedding in black ice (starting at $500, Bloomingdale's). The color and sheen reminded us of Kruger's dress.

    Next, we added white lace shams ($20 each, Velocity) to mimic the peekaboo effect of her hemline. The "Elise" headboard in teastain ($899, Horchow) finishes off the classy bed set in the same style her gold earrings lead her look.

    And to illuminate this elegant bedroom, we chose structured Pablo Corina lamps (starting at $220, Design Public) and a petite copper candle ($30, Bloomingdale's). The white lamps give the room form, like Kruger's clutch, and the candle finishes with a bit of extra shine, like a perfectly-fit shoe.

    Get a new Fashionable Room every Saturday! Did you check out the rooms inspired by Evan Rachel Wood and Thandie Newton?

     

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