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    Sip your morning coffee while taking a virtual tour of our celebrity home of the day. Today: Ashlee Simpson's house goes back on the market.

    The Beverly Hills abode of soon-to-be-divorced Ashlee Simpson and Pete Wentz is on the market. After an unsuccessful run last year, the house is back... with a price reduction. Formally listed at $4.5 million, the home is now priced just below $3.7 million. The 5-bedroom, 6.5-bedroom within a gated community and walled property doesn't sound too bad to us. So why can't they sell it?

    Thanks to our friends at, we can take you on a tour of this rock star-turned-family home.

    Sometimes, a gated community just isn't enough. The Simpson-Wentz home sits behind a palm-tree-lined wall. Let's get inside...

    This Mediterranean-style home was built in 1992. It has a two car garage and quite a view. Its 7,100 square feet sit on just over a half an acre.

    We like the traditional, dark cabinetry and contrasting light countertop. And those are some heavy-duty appliances! We wonder if Simpson took advantage and did lots of cooking. Speaking of cooking, when you're finished in the kitchen, take a seat on the crimson chairs and enjoy the meal while taking in the California mountains. Now that's dining with a view.

    This living space is quite luxurious, with the vaulted ceilings, fireplace and velvety furniture. We only get a small peek of the hardwood flooring, but we like what we see. The decor in this room reminds us a lot of Simpson with its goth-glam look.

    Feeling tired but want a tan? Just take a snooze on the wraparound deck, complete with a comfy-looking chaise for napping. Although we don't guarantee you'll fall asleep, the mountain view is a bit distracting (in the best way!).

    Take a dip -- or get training! -- in this lap pool. And because every celebrity home needs a pool house, this one delights with two floors and its own kitchen.

    Make sure to virtually tour our other celebrity houses from this week, including: Jason Reitman's house and Tori Spelling's House.


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    There are so many ways to go green for Earth Day. But that includes a lot of things that eco-skeptics can whine about. In our new series, we ask experts to weigh in on the most annoying, hotly debated eco-tasks. This week: Unplugging appliances.

    unplugging appliancesLook familiar? Photo: Getty.

    We've all been there: You're running out the door, trying to juggling your coffee, keys, jacket and -- wait a minute, is it raining out? -- umbrella. Surely the last thing on your mind is stopping to unplug your computer, air conditioner and all three lamps...but does that make you a terrible eco citizen? Or does it barely make an impact? We asked Dr. Christopher M. Pastore of EcoMan and The Skeptic: Do I REALLY have to do this?

    Dr. Pastore: The simple answer is that you don't NEED to unplug everything, it is your choice. But you should know the implications of your decision. Look at your energy bill and see if you want to save 10%.

    ShelterPop: Who doesn't? But can't I just turn things off when I'm done with them?

    Dr. Pastore: Many electronic devices continue to draw power even when they are turned off. Maybe they have an internal clock, or a light, or just keep some energy ready for a rapid start up. These devices are sometimes called "vampire electronics." The US Department of Energy estimates that 5-10% of residential electricity is consumed by these devices.

    ShelterPop: What are the worst offenders?

    Dr. Pastore: Computers (desktops worst, but laptops bad as well), modems, cable TV boxes, TV sets, cordless phones and VCRs. Clocks too, but most people leave these running for obvious reasons. Also, most of these devices are generating heat, which in the summer means increased air conditioning demands (which adds to cost and green house gasses).

    ShelterPop: We know, we know. But it's still a pain to unplug everything. Any ways to make it easier? What about a power strip?

    Dr. Pastore: Yes, a power strip is one way to reduce the effort -- just throw the power strip switch instead of unplugging everything. You could have your power strip connected to a wall switch to reduce the effort even more. And some technical solutions are making their way into the market. There are cell phone chargers that internally "un-plug" when no phone is connected, one company has a power card that lights up blue when power is being drawn (a visual reminder that you should unplug) and there are plug adapters and power strips that can be timed so that they only allow power for a pre-determined length of time (thee hours, six hours, whatever you want). You don¹t need to unplug everything, but it will save you money and help the planet.

    Thanks, Dr. Pastore! Readers: Tell us what eco-chores are driving you crazy and we'll find out how necessary they actually are. And check back next Tuesday for the next "Do I REALLY Have to Do This?"


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    Flat screen TV fanatics, listen up: A new product turns up the heat on what's possible in home technology.

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

    flat screen TV fireplace

    Now here's a decorating idea: A flat screen TV and fireplace in one. The Scenario from MCZ, an Italian company, and Loewe combines sound, image and heat. Yep, it's a fireplace that incorporates a flat screen LCD TV complete with audio speakers.

    flat screen TV fireplaceIIHIH

    The front cladding is made of tempered glass with a painted steel shelf and painted black steel framework. Scenario integrates a closed fireplace (either the wood-burning Vivo 90 Wood or the gas burning Forma 95 Gas) and a Loewe 37" LCD TV complete with two 60 W speakers.

    It also comes with a rail for remote controls (which are included for the TV and the gas burning fireplace) and comes in an integrated cabinet for a DVD player or a satellite receiver, etc.

    flat screen TV fireplaceIIHIH

    While the price tag on one of these must be steep, it's fun to dream about romantic evenings in front of the fire while watching our favorite Nora Ephron movie.

    Our only fear is that this sleek two-in-one piece will date itself in a few years, and then you'll be stuck with a heavy panel on your wall. But if you can afford one of these, you can probably afford to renovate every few years. (Not that we're recommending that -- It isn't exactly green.) Still, it's pretty cool to look at.

    flat screen TV fireplaceIIHIH

    Tell us what you think. Would you put one of these TV and fireplace combos in your home?

    For more great stories on ShelterPop, don't miss:
    Sleeping on the Couch -- and Lovin' It
    The Case Against Cleaning
    Moving In Together: My Girlfriend Took Over My Space!


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    The bi-annual High Point Market took place last week. Couldn't make it? You can still get all the need-to-know info right here.

    High Point Market is an industry professional's dream. 180 buildings covering 10 million square feet of showrooms for press and designers to roam. We weren't there, but we have highlights to share from this international expo.

    Lillian August exhibited a luxe look in her showroom. Lots of eclectic mixes, like the glam gold bench and zebra rug. Plenty of metallic was seen from the framed photographs franked by shiny gold shelves in this room to the steel blue pillows in another.

    BoBo Intriguing Objects proved to be the ideal collection of vintage and flea market finds. Example -- the mason-jars-turned-flower-vases in the picture above. In addition, BoBo showcased own lines of furniture.

    For a sleek, retro look, check out Apartment Therapy's post on Mitchell Gold and Bob Williams' showroom. Clean, wood lines and neutral upholstery are highlighted with bright accents.

    BeeLine Home's showroom was a spring spectacular. Thanks to photo-real wallpaper featuring a lush hedgerow,the room feel like a secret garden. Check out the photos and details at Habitually Chic.

    What's New(s)
    Artisan Gallery made its High Point debut, featuring various artists' furniture and decor accessories.

    Maxwood Furniture/Maxtrix opened a new showroom. The children's bedroom furniture company had a formal ribbon cutting prior to the start of the market.

    Scott Gaynor Furniture debuted a showroom at High Point this season.

    Showplace had an "Apple a Day" campaign where it gave away Apple products daily to the attendees. iPhones, macbooks -- even the new Apple TV -- were given away.


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  • 04/15/11--00:52: Celebrity Homes of the Week
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    Take your morning coffee with a side of celebrity. Today: A round-up of the week's real estate news.

    Celebrities are known for over-the-top glamour and extravagance. And their homes aren't any different. So let's toast the end of the week with a look at our favorite photos from celebrity homes on the market. First up: Gayle King.

    celebrity homesGetty Images;

    King was living in this Connecticut home that is owned by Oprah's Overground Railroad LLC. Our favorite photo: The exterior shot of the massive home. Lots of house, lots of yard, lots of money. But that's how it goes.

    celebrity homesGetty Images,

    This luxurious house belongs to Tori Spelling. Our favorite pic is the master bedroom, with the soft palette of blues and metallics. The full seating area makes this bedroom look more like a luxury hotel suite.

    celebrity homesGetty Images;

    Famed director Jason Reitman has his house for sale. We love the simple, modern bathroom, complete with double vanity and glass shower.

    celebrity homesGetty Images;

    Newly-single Ashlee Simpson has her Beverly Hills house on the market, and we just can't get over the location. This view is amazing. We wouldn't mind spending a day lying on that chaise and taking in the California mountains.

    Check out last week's celebrity homes round-up. And be sure to stop by Monday morning for a peek inside an actress' New York condo.


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    Three bloggers share their painted furniture success stories. Get ready to be inspired.

    While many homeowners are fearless when it comes to painting their walls or the occasional chair, redoing a major piece of furniture like a dining table can seem daunting. Many people are scared to paint their dining table because they are afraid they might ruin it. However, it's a lot easier than you think and the results will give your dining room a whole new look.

    Christie Kauffman's table before and after a paint job. Photos: Christie Kauffman/Just Beachy

    Blogger Christie Kauffman, of the blog Just Beachy, had a good-quality dining table with a nice shape, but she felt the honey pine stain was outdated. So, like any good DIYer, Kauffman decided to take a paintbrush to her table (and the coordinating dining chairs). Of her decision to paint it, Kauffman says, "Painting pieces to suit your style should be considered: It gives you limitless options." Plus, she adds, "You can't ruin something that is ugly to begin with."

    If seeing Kauffman's results has inspired you, follow her advice to prep your piece well for a lasting finish. Kauffman cleaned and lightly sanded her table before applying an adhesion primer (she recommends Zinsser 123). Allow the primer to cure for a few days, then paint it with a latex paint using a foam roller for the top and brushes for the legs.

    Matt Pierce redid his table with a coating of black poly urethane. Photo: Matt Pierce, Wood & Faulk

    Another intrepid blogger, Matt Pierce of Wood & Faulk is no stranger to table makeovers. The dining table above is actually the legs of one table cobbled together with vintage fir boards to form the tabletop -- hello, crafty! Matt first tried staining the table (several times), but he didn't like the looks, so instead, he opted to paint it with opaque black polyurethane.

    After struggling with the stain, Matt was a little nervous about the next attempt, but everything turned out beautifully when he painted on the black polyurethane. Matt notes you shouldn't be put-off by stumbling blocks in a project like this. "It's just about sanding/stripping and trying again!" he says.

    Photo: Jessica Cumberbatch

    Our very own blogger, Jessica Cumberbatch decided to give a humble IKEA BJÖRKUDDEN dining table a makeover in a bright shade of turquoise. Like the others Jessica prepped and paint carefully to achieve a lasting finish. Says Jessica, "I have a habit of painting things and when I saw the smooth, unfinished wood this table came in, I knew it was the perfect subject for my next project." The results are a custom-finished table at an affordable price point.

    Feeling crafty? Read on for more DIY ideas:
    - DIY Bedroom: A Church Pew Turned Headboard
    - From Books to Wallpaper


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  • 04/15/11--14:27: 5 Great Garden Apps
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    Whether you're new to gardening or a seasoned expert, these apps will help your garden grow.

    I usually grow tomatoes in pots, but last summer I decided to plant them in the ground. I was about to start replanting them when I realized I didn't know how far apart they should be. Luckily, I could find out the answer without leaving the garden.

    Enter garden apps. Whether you're a newbie or an old green thumb, you'll benefit from the encyclopedia of knowledge offered right on your iPhone or iPad. Here are some especially helpful sites.

    Photo: Getty

    iGarden USA, $4.99
    The app offers information on recommended planting dates for various fruits, vegetables and herbs, and suggests good and bad planting companions. You can find out common pests for whatever you're growing. Best of all, the app asks you to add whatever you planted to "my garden" -- then it will begin counting down to the harvest date. Fun!

    Botanical Interests, $5.99
    A boutique gardening app that will appeal to anyone who loves heirloom varieties of veggies; there is information on dozens of varieties of popular summer tomatoes, peppers and more. Not only will you find in-depth growing instructions for hundreds of vegetables, there's a "Tips and Tricks" section as well as Hardiness Zone Maps. Since the app is designed by a seed company, if you find something you want to grow, you can buy the seeds.

    IGrowIt, $.99 cents
    Listed in the Sunday Times as one of the best 500 apps in the world, IGrowIt is a photo-driven app with lots of helpful gardening information. It's especially helpful for beginner gardeners, since you can tap a button for a list of everything you can plant in your zone that month. I love that there are recipes to go with every vegetable as well as detailed growing instructions.

    Vegetable Gardening Guide, $2.99
    Featured in the New York Times Home & Garden section, Vegetable Gardening Guide is a wonderful app for beginners and advanced gardeners alike. Not only will you find detailed planting info, but there are sections on gardening tools, canning and preserving, nutritional info and recipes.

    The Plant Doctor, $1.99
    Consumer Reports called this one of the 20 best home improvement apps, and we'd have to agree. If your plants are dying, the Plant Doctor app can help. The app features info on the 32 most common symptoms of dying plants, allowing you to examine yours and make a diagnosis. Then there is detailed solutions to bring your plants back to life.

    For more great ShelterPop stories, don't miss:
    Endless Gardening Tips
    Tips For An Indoor Herb Garden
    Decor Don't: Big Wall, Little Picture


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  • 04/15/11--14:27: Design a Bedroom Online
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    Forget shopping for the perfect bedroom set. You can design a bedroom online, thanks to these helpful tips and tricks.

    Help Me! I'm redecorating my bedroom, but I have no idea where to begin. How should I begin, and where should I shop?

    Home Rescue: Nearly everything can be done online these days, even bedroom decorating. But narrowing down your search to your specific needs can be daunting -- and time consuming. With the help of online shopping search engines like, your shopping process is simplified. We asked's Home Editor Cristina Sayre for advice on how to get started. (The site makes shopping so much more fun!)

    design-a-bedroom-onlinePhoto: Flickr, The Shopping Sherpa

    1. Plan the furniture first.
    A bedroom is always going to be dominated by a bed, so decide on that before anything else. Next, determine and search for your storage needs, whether it's dressers, nightstands or an armoire. Once the big stuff is squared away, start hunting for bedding. Lastly, find the accents: lamps and lampshades, gadgets like alarm clocks and iPod docks, and decorative accessories like prints, water carafes, jewelry boxes, etc. Before you know it, your room's done!

    2. Shop with key words in mind.
    If you need a new coffee table or an orange pillow for your couch, type that key phrase into Kaboodle's search engine and hundreds of relevant and stylish results will pop up -- they're all things that have been added to the site because Kaboodle users like them. Filter the results by what's currently popular on Kaboodle or by what's been added to the site most recently. If you're just browsing and know you want something green to jazz up your bedroom, for example, you can search "green" and then opt to see just the results in the home category. Cool!

    3. Talk to other home decor shoppers.
    When you register on Kaboodle, it recommends like-minded shoppers for you to follow, which means you get to see all the awesome products these people with similar tastes are adding to the site, what they're discovering on other users' profiles, what they're commenting on, and so on. This may give you endless ideas. You'll also get to see all the cool home, fashion and beauty finds the editors are featuring and blogging about every day in their channels. And, you'll be able to save all your favorite finds to reference later.

    Additionally, if you can't seem to decide between two or three products, you can use Kaboodle's cool poll tool to help get feedback to help you choose. Plus, the styleboard feature, or online collage, allows you to put together an inspiration board or see how things are going to look together before you buy.

    For more great ShelterPop stories, don't miss:
    Creative Centerpiece in a Cinch
    Need Free Kitchen Design Advice? Done!
    Hallway Decorating Ideas: Five Ways to Brighten Up Your Hallway


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  • 04/16/11--01:57: Weekend Table Ideas
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    Spice up your table setting this weekend with simple ideas taken from over-the-top designer tablescapes.

    At DIFFA's DINING BY DESIGN events, designers create 3-D dining installations that push boundaries, inspire guests and set the stage for fundraising. Yes, these tables are, by definition, extravagant. But that doesn't me they aren't filled with small, simple take-home tips that you can put in place for tonight!

    Today's table: Donna Karan's sophisticated and fresh table setting. She brings a new spin to black and white by alternating place settings. The rectangular table and squared seat cushions create simple, clean lines -- and while we don't encourage buying a new table set to match this one, we do have some take-home tips for recreating Karan's look.

    Table Idea #1: Table-Long Centerpiece
    After all, why should guests at the center of the table be the only ones with a decorative view? Use a long, narrow vase box like the one shown here. By keeping it narrow, your guests still have plenty of space. We like the stones and dainty white flowers fashioned on Karan's table, but take the idea and make it your own! We have some creative centerpieces to give you ideas!

    Table Idea #2: Mix & Match
    What makes this table so dynamic and appealing is the use of white and black dinnerware. Play with each setting -- everyone needs a charger, plate and bowl, but they don't all have to be uniform. We like how Karan uses different sizes and shapes on top of the two-tone setting.

    Table Idea #3: Placemats
    Placemats are a simply table idea that will transform your setting. The subtle black layer adds a bit of shimmer to the table. Nothing too drastic is needed, as seen by this black-on-black example. But unlike a blank table or blanket tablecloth, placemats give the scene more depth.

    Get more table ideas from previous featured settings:
    Arpad Baksa's Geometric Mannequin Table
    Architectural Digest's Flowery Table


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

    This Weekend's Pick: Kim Cattrall

    Cattrall appeared at a Toronto screening of her latest film wearing a very green Michael Kors dress. She accessorized the one-shouldered frock with a thick gold bangle and a satin clutch. Her nude strappy sandals gave a little height without taking away from the look and she kept her look light and refreshing with neutral glossy lips and a wispy bob.

    Now: Get this look at home...

    Cattrall's spring-y green Michael Kors look made us think of bright, cheery decor for a cocktail party. To start, we chose green see-through chairs to give a simple punch of color. And you can lighten up your entertaining space with this pendant lamp. Its circular tiered shades and natural color reminds us of Cattrall's layered bob.

    Next, we added green linen napkins and cinched them with these braided gold napkin rings. The linens bring in more green -- the dominant color of Cattrall's look. And the rings are strappy and braided like her sandals. You need to give your guests a bite to eat with those cocktails, and we found the perfect servingware: This tray and bowl combo is the perfect dish for hummus, salsa or dip. And the shape and coral color reminds us of Cattrall's clutch.

    Like our kitchen combo? Get more details on each product and find out where to purchase by clicking on the image then the product thumbnail photo.

    Check in every Saturday for a new fashion room inspired by a celebrity look:
    Jennifer Garner
    Diane Kruger
    Evan Rachel Wood
    Thandie Newton


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    When it comes to Feng Shui in the bedroom, there's one piece of furniture that's even more important than the bed: That second nightstand. Does your room have one?

    one nightstandA beautiful room but there's one thing missing... Photo: PShareski, Flickr.

    You know a one night stand is dangerous for your your marriage. But did you know that having only one nightstand can be even worse? We're serious. What might look like a simple space-saving trick in a small room is actually a visual representation of one partner's upper hand. And if you're single, don't think you can ignore this advice: By keeping your bedroom flush with "pairs" of things, you'll attract more positive energy in the bedroom. That includes lamps, drinking glasses and other things that make your life easier. Not on this list: Calendars, televisions, headboards, anything else that works just fine solo.

    If you truly only have room for one regular-sized nightstand in a room, get ready to compromise. Move out that bulky piece and double your space by trying some unorthodox nightstand ideas: A "Murphy" nightstand that folds down from the wall or a "floating" nightstand that you can build yourself. And Apartment Therapy has a great round-up of other creative ideas (shelf on a radiator, anyone?)

    Have any other ideas for nightstand equality? Share them in the comments or on Facebook!


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    Start your week off right -- with a cup of coffee and a virtual tour of our celebrity home of the day. Today: Jodie Foster lets us in.

    Actress Jodie Foster just put her Beverly Hills house on the market. Sitting on just under an acre of land, the house has seven bedrooms and eight bathrooms. The cost? $9.975 million. The home was built in 1949, but from what we see, it has held up just fine.

    Thanks to our friends at, we have some photos from around the exterior of Foster's cape cod style home.

    The brick steps and terracotta pots are flanked by lush greenery -- that even sneaks onto the stairs themselves. It all leads you to the front patio. Don't the climbing vines and flowers make the house look so welcoming and full? And who knew the asymmetrical florals could pack such an impact?

    This home is a little large to be called a cottage, but that's the feel we get from these photos. Looking through the bushes, we want to skip -- yes, skip -- down the stone path. It's like we just discovered a secret garden. The vines growing up the back of the house are just as lush and kept as the front.

    And like every true celebrity home, Foster's house has a stunning pool. The perfect setting for large barbecues or private afternoons, this is a great space to relax and have a good time.

    Did you miss any of our celebrity homes last week? Take a look of our Celebrity Homes of the Week round-up to take a peek at each.

    And don't forget to check out AOL Real Estate listings including:
    Tatum O'Neal's $1.5 million condo
    Nicolas Cage's not-so-lucrative RI mansion sell


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    Small decorating changes can pack a punch. Here are four ways to transform your home without doing much at all.

    There is at least one reason to sweat the small stuff: In small space design, there can be a big payoff. Maybe it's an ill-matching coffee table or a barren hallway, and fixes to both will make your space feel more pulled together. So do it! If we've learned anything here on ShelterPop, it's that sometimes it's the little things that hold back a room, like overdone blinds, dated artwork, or poor feng shui. But don't fret. There are lots of simple changes you can make to a space to transform it. Here are four to get you started.

    Idea #1. Give your home a foyer.
    When I took a digital shot of my living room to show a designer at Pottery Barn in Westport, Connecticut, she spotted a big problem: I didn't have a foyer. (See shot below.)

    small space designThe writer's foyerless living room before advice from a designer. Photo: Marilyn Syarto

    The designer suggested that I move the console table away from the wall and put it behind my sofa, add a runner, some hooks, and voila, no one would be confused again about where to put their coats and bags. (Pic below.)

    Never before has something so simple and inexpensive changed the way my home functions. Now when guests and family come into the house, they know exactly what to do, where to put things, and the flow of the space effortlessly leads them into the living room. No more aimless loitering in the middle of the room. Thanks to this small change, the space is welcoming and cozy -- all because I moved a table two feet to the left of the wall.

    small space designAfter moving the console table away from the wall and adding hooks and a runner, the space, though not as spacious as before, makes sense to everyone who comes into the writer's home. Photo: Marilyn Syarto

    Idea #2: Paint an accent wall.
    Susan Graziano, a publicist living in Manhattan, changed her life by painting one wall of her studio apartment a deep blue; she left the other walls a bright white. She chose the accent wall stategically. The blue went on a wall that has a picture window and a to-die-for-view of the Chrysler Building. Now it wows guests as soon as they step into her apartment, and it makes her space feel more spacious -- the depth of field is deeper when the eye is drawn outward through the window.

    Idea #3: Faux to fabulous Oriental rugs.
    Lynn Rossini, an interior designer in Avon, Connecticut, knows a few things about how to trick the eye, and she used this quick, easy, and inexpensive trick to transform rooms in her modest sized home: She places different sizes and shapes of inexpensive faux-Oriental carpets around the house over her wood and tile floors. From round to square to rectangle, it looks as though she has invested heavily in a collection of Oriental carpets, and together they pull the rooms together to create flow.

    "No one knows the difference," she says about the not-so-genuine rugs. "They are durable, and they protect my floors."

    Where does Lynn buy her rugs? She frequents HomeGoods, T.J. Maxx, and Big Lots Stores for the best deals on better-looking and larger faux-Oriental rugs for her home. With three kids, including an active toddler, fake just makes more sense in her house.

    Idea #4: Create a pass-through.
    This trick is perhaps the most expensive and involved, but it changed the life of my neighbor, Diane. All she wanted was bright light in every room of her house, but her small kitchen was anything but. When it was remodeled a few years ago, she insisted that the space be designed around a pass-through that would allow light to enter the kitchen through the living room. The unanticipated dividend? When you walk into the cozy ranch style home, the house immediately appears larger because the pass-through creates that necessary depth of vision.

    small space designThough most people would frown upon losing so much wall space in a small kitchen, this homeowner insisted on creating a pass through to let light in to the room. The result is a kitchen that appears much larger than it is. Photo: Marilyn Syarto

    For more great ShelterPop stories, don't miss:

    My Husband and I Prefer to Sleep on Our Couch
    The Case Against Cleaning
    Moving In Together: My Girlfriend Took Over My Space!


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    We're proud to host the second stop of artist Jill Bliss' virtual book tour. Get a sneak peek at her new, interactive journal and check out what other blogs are hosting her next!

    Jill Bliss at home and her lovely new book. Photos: Chronicle Books.

    Sometimes, when I get off the phone, I'll find myself with a sheet of paper crawling with blooms, bows and various sizes of Hello Kitty. But I'll admit: It doesn't look great. And it certainly looks nothing like the sweet yet sophisticated sketches of Portland, Oregon artist Jill Bliss. So naturally, when we heard that Bliss' next book was not a simple notebook but instead a guidebook for developing your own style for doodling like a pro.


    Seeing and drawing are intertwined. Every person who can see has the capability to draw-it's just a matter of having a positive attitude, developing your seeing and drawing habits, and practicing on a regular basis. In order to draw effectively, you need to accurately understand and record what you observe, to re-learn what you actually see in front of you, rather
    than perceiving the shorthand object your brain has learned to see after years of education. While these learned "seeing shortcuts" allow all of us a common ground to communicate, the secret of drawing is to be aware of this phenomenon and learn to look beyond it. For example, we all have a basic idea of what a flower looks like-a circle with four or five U-shaped petals around it. But if you take the time to look closely at a few specific flowers, the reality of the astounding variety of flower shapes becomes apparent. We all see differently-visually and emotionally-based on our unique life experiences.
    This journal will help you learn to "re-see" the world as you did when you were a child.

    Drawing is translating what you see into marks on a page to show others your unique way of seeing the world around you. Just like when you learned verbal language, you'll need to learn your own distinct visual vocabulary by trying out several different ones until you find one that works for you. Each of us has an exceptional, individual way of experiencing and translating the repeating patterns within the objects we encounter.

    Drawing is about slowing down; it's a form of deep looking, a form of meditation. Like journaling, photography, and other art forms, drawing is something you can do every day as a way to explore your surroundings and your response to them. Doing something mindfully on a daily basis allows you to get out of your everyday routine, relax, and recharge. There are no boring subjects to draw! Keep an open mind and you will find something interesting to draw in everything you encounter.

    All organic forms, such as flowers, plants, trees, and rocks, are pretty forgiving for drawers of all skill levels. No one experiencing your drawing will know exactly what the flower or leaf you're depicting actually looked like, so you don't have to worry about faithful reproduction. This gives you license to explore, embellish, or simplify. Flowers and leaves especially are a great place to begin your drawing practice because most consist of easy repeating forms. Once you learn how to see and draw one petal or leaf, you have the elemental knowledge to draw them all. And once you have that basic form down, it's easy to experiment with variations to give your drawing visual interest. Begin by mentally breaking down the entire plant into its different parts and shapes: flower, leaf, and stem. Multiply and repeat, and soon you have a whole plant!

    Want more? Watch as Bliss guides you through the book in this fun video. And check in with her on every step of the blog tour:

    Drawing Nature Blog Tour

    April 18 AOL ShelterPop
    April 19 Creature Comforts
    April 20 Mint Design Blog
    April 21 UPPERCASE
    April 22 Pikaland
    April 25 The Little House in the City
    April 27 Wit and Delight


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    Whether it's on your clothes or in your home, spring's hottest trend is pointing in one direction -- at stripes.

    We've seen nautical stripes and bold stripes and pinstripes. Nothing new there. But lately we feel like everywhere we turn, we're seeing stripes. A spring trend? Sure, but that may be an understatement...

    We did some browsing and noted that this one-time fashion-faux-pas is far from faded. Dresses, wedges and sweaters are all appearing with this infamous pattern. And home decor is taking a cue. Take a look at these shockingly similar fashion-to-home stripes.

    The Multi-Colored Stripe
    This striped scoopneck tee ($68, Anthropologie) incorporates several vibrant colors. The home decor equivalent? An equally cheery cotton rug (starting at $30, Dash and Albert). Both fashion and home feature lime green, orange, bright pink and blue -- colors we think of as sprinkles on our ice cream.

    The Monotone Stripe
    One color isn't always boring. Something about this single-color stripe catches our eye, whether on a sweater or the sheets. J. Crew calls it "natural brick" while Dwell Studio calls it "poppy." Whatever you call it, we like how the clean lines pop. It looks fresh and spring-y on this stripe boatneck sweater ($88, J.Crew) and crisp and clean on this sheet set (starting at $260, Dwell Studio).

    The Vintage, Organic Stripe
    The organic version of this spring trend can be seen in these espadrille wedges ($69, TOMS) whose bold stripes are displayed on course hemp. Another equally organic look? These drum lamp shades, available in three sizes (starting at $49, Pottery Barn). The linen and hemp material gives a textural look to any room.

    The Black and White Stripe
    Even couture is featuring stripes this spring. Jean Paul Gaultier's look 24 is a severe, bold black and white gown. Aside from the runway, black and white stripes have also appeared on your floor. FLOR tile squares ($13.95, CB2) provide a build-your-own style so you can have as little or as much stripe as you wish.

    The Multi-Stripe Stripe
    Some stripes we've been seeing are a combination of styles. Example: This bold Kelly green and navy stripe incorporated with a navy and white pinstripe ($31.48, Thakoon for Target). And new from Jonathan Adler is this Bargello Windmill Pillow ($175, Jonathan Adler). Aside from the navy-white-green color palette, this hand-embroidered pillow also mixes up the pattern and rotates the stripes to create a geometric effect. There's no lack of excitement with the multi-stripe version of this spring trend!

    For more great ShelterPop stories, don't miss:
    How to Paint Stripes on the Wall (video)
    Unplugging Appliances: Do I Have To?
    Flat Screen TV and Fireplace in One: Yes, Please!


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    Sip your morning coffee while taking a tour of our celebrity home of the day. Today: Lamar Odom's pre-Kardashian house.

    Lamar Odom -- Khloe Kardashian's husband -- has his house for rent. For $8,000 a month, you can stay where Odom lived before he shacked up with one of the famous Kardashian sisters. Odom previously tried selling the house -- which he purchased in 2006 for $2.7 million -- back in 2009 for $2.399 million, but was unsuccessful. The home has five bedrooms and six bathrooms. Sounds good so far. Why won't it sell, and who might we see renting it?

    Thanks to our friends at, we have photos of the Odom home that's ready to rent.

    This 2-story Mediterranean-style home hosts an open layout and vaulted ceilings. Spacious! And the Spanish tile makes the roof look more like a work of art. A three car garage and driveway allow plenty of parking space. So what's inside? Here's what we know: The family room, living room and master bedroom have fireplaces. We're sorry -- one of the master bedrooms. (The home has two.)

    A raised hot tub overflows into a custom pool surrounded by stone walls. The backyard is kept super private, so feel free to soak in the amenities without worrying about paparazzi (or nosy neighbors).

    The back patio is composed of exquisite stone work. The tiered design creates several layers for lounging. Tall, lush foliage and the extended roof makes for a private cabana feel. We wish we could see the view from the huge second-story windows.

    Did you miss any of our celebrity homes last week? Catch a peek at all of them in our celebrity home round-up.

    Also check out AOL Real Estate's listings on these hot celebs:
    Tatum O'Neal's NY Condo for Sale
    Nicolas Cage' takes a loss selling his RI House


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  • 04/19/11--10:46: 3 Steps to Curb Appeal
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    Whether you're looking to sell your home or just keep up with the Jones', these few easy steps will make sure your house is admired by just about everyone who passes by.

    Help me! My house looks nice inside, but the front yard just isn't up to par. I hear so much about curb appeal but it's hard to figure out where to start. What are the most important things to do?

    Home Rescue: True, you could spend days at a time working on your curb appeal. But that's not the only way to get great results. Start with these three transformative tips and you'll start impressing your neighbors (and would-be homebuyers) in no time.

    curb appealPhotos, clockwise from left: Flickr, one2c900d; Flickr, Stewf; Getty Images.

    Curb Appeal Tip #1: Jazz Up Your Mailbox
    We swear -- it'll impress more people than just your mail carrier. Freshen up your mailbox with a fresh coat of paint -- in one of these spring colors, perhaps? Personalize it with decals for an eye-catching. one-of-a-kind box or go with a sleek design for a modern mailbox. And don't forget the ground around it! Plant a few flowers to add extra color. A flowering vine is perfect, as it will grow up the base of the mailbox and show passers-by that this is a house where details matter and beauty rules. Craving more? Check out our five favorite ways to give your mailbox a makeover.

    Curb Appeal Tip #2: Focus On Your Front Door
    Everybody else is doing it already, so you should too! Let this be your opportunity to show that you're serious about style while still remembering that less is more when it comes to this part of your home. So choose one or two statements -- a potted plant, a decorative knocker -- not 20. A nice railing is a good way to frame your entrance and add some flair. If you decide to repaint, finish off your fresh front door with quality hardware in a glamorous finish like satin nickel or oil-rubbed brass. Want more? Check out these ideas to boost your front door appeal.

    Curb Appeal Tip #3: Lighten Up.
    No one can see your house in the first place if it's dimly lit. Overhead lighting works above your front door, or mount sconces on either side. And don't forget your walkway -- not only will you keep visitors safe by illuminating the path to your door, but at sunset, it can look downright magical against the grass. Remember: Your home is on display 24 hours a day -- it should be prepared for the attention!

    AOL Real Estate has some tips for you too!
    Curb Appeal: The Seller's Edge
    Easy Landscaping Tips
    Staging Do's and Don'ts
    Top 10 Home Improvements that Pay you Back!

    Not ready to curb this topic? We have more for you! Here's everything you need to know, plus:
    8 Great Tricks Under $50
    Curb Appeal in 5 Easy Steps


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    With daffodils and lilacs in bloom, we're dreaming about visiting some of the prettiest public gardens in the country.

    In compiling this list of some of America's best public gardens, we considered not only beauty but also factors such as outrageousness, scrappiness and willingness to try something completely different. Read on...

    public-gardensCourtesy of the Missouri Botanical Garden

    Missouri Botanical Garden

    4344 Shaw Blvd., St. Louis, Missouri; 314-577-5100
    Founded in 1859, Missouri Botanical Garden is the oldest continuously operated botanical garden in the U.S. "We're widely considered one of the top three botanical gardens in the world, noted for our expansive science and conservation efforts around the globe and for our stunning horticultural displays," says Karen Hagenow, the garden's public information officer. Don't miss the Climatron conservatory, a 50-year-old geodesic dome that houses a tropical rainforest.
    Spring blooms: 41,000 tulips representing 100 varieties; 2,640 daffodil bulbs representing 72 varieties; 12,000 corms and 7 varieties of crocus; and 1,850 bulbs and 17 varieties of hyacinth.

    public-gardensCourtesy of Kahanu Garden

    Kahanu Garden: See the Pregnant Banana Tree

    650 Ula Ino Road, Hana, Maui, Hawaii; 808-248-8912
    A remote treasure located on the eastern shore of Maui, Kahanu Garden features plants that have historical and cultural ties to the indigenous peoples of the region. They have the world's largest collection of breadfruit trees, which produces a grapefruit-size fruit that remains a staple food in many tropical regions.

    Best of all, the garden is also home to one of Hawaii's last remaining native Pandanus forests. The odd-looking Pandanus tree is supported by thick, above-ground roots. Other interesting sights in spring include blooming passion fruit plants, baobab trees and leopard trees. "We specialize in what we call canoe plants, or plants that were brought to the island by our ancestors in canoes. These include sugar cane, sweet potato and banana," says Kamaui Aiona, director of Kahanu Garden. What's the most bizarre plant? Instead of growing bananas on its branches, the pregnant banana stores them within its trunk, creating a distinct bulge around harvest time.
    Spring blooms: Many people are surprised by the huge variety of sugar cane species, says Aiona, some with striking bark colors and stripes. "The garden explains our story as a people. These are plants that were used not only for food but also for textiles and construction," says Aiona.

    public-gardensCourtesy of Wave Hill

    Wave Hill: The Unexpected Urban Oasis
    West 249th Street and Independence Avenue (front gate), Bronx, New York; 718-549-3200
    Scott Canning, director of horticulture at Wave Hill, doesn't like too many labels. He takes the former private estate's Victorian heritage seriously and wants to maintain a certain aesthetic throughout the grounds. While many gardens slap an informational label on anything and everything, Canning places subtle labels only on items of seasonal interest. That way, you can get information about what's in bloom right now without feeling like you're walking through an encyclopedia. Year-round, Wave Hill offers surprisingly intimate nooks that will make you forget you're in the Bronx. The casual wanderer will also be treated to serendipitous views as walkways open up to the Hudson River. Says longtime garden volunteer Laura Green of Wave Hill's 28 acres, "It's small, scrappy and absolutely beautiful. There's a level of design that's simply breathtaking."
    Spring blooms: For April, Canning recommends making the Paisley Bed near the visitor's center your first stop; it's bursting with colorful tulips. In May, the same area will be used to showcase easy-to-grow annuals.

    public-gardensCourtesy of Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

    Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden
    10901 Old Cutler Road Coral Gables, Florida; 305-667-1651
    A repository of rare tropical plants and fruit trees from around the world, Fairchild takes full advantage of its hot, humid Florida spot. Fairchild tries to strike a balance between its role as a tourist attraction and its function as a community gathering place for area residents, according to Kimberly Bobson, the garden's communications coordinator. "From our variety of festivals throughout the year, to our family-friendly events, plant sales and lectures, to even hosting days to bring your dog, we make sure there is something enjoyable for everyone in our large local and not-so-local community," she says.
    Spring blooms: April and May bloomers include Philippine violet, epiphytic orchids, red silk cotton tree, sweet almond bush and monkey's brush. For those with an eye for the outlandish, don't miss the jackfruit tree. Its fruit can weigh up to 40 pounds, it's covered with spiky green skin, and the insides smell like Juicy Fruit gum.

    public-gardensCourtesy of Bloedel Reserve

    Bloedel Reserve

    7571 NE Dolphin Drive, Bainbridge Island, Washington State; 206-842-7631
    As you walk into Bloedel Reserve, you won't see any massive meadows of flowers. That's intentional, according to Andy Navage, director of horticulture. "You're slowly brought into the experience," he says. Navage considers the entryway, which features plants native to the Pacific Northwest, "an unwinding area, to help you slow your thought patterns down." Dwight Shappell, an air force veteran who has volunteered at the reserve for 14 years, didn't hesitate when asked about his favorite areas. It's hard to beat the complete solitude of the moss garden, he says. Beneath a dense canopy of Angelica trees, the living green carpet of moss envelops everything and absorbs nature's cacophony, inviting quiet contemplation. He also likes the reflection pool, which is surrounded on three sides by manicured, 12-foot-high shrubbery. While sitting on the solitary bench, you can see towering hemlocks reflected in the water. "And you don't have to walk through a gift shop on your way out," says Shappell.
    Spring blooms: Rhododendrons, orchids and wildflowers.

    public-gardensCourtesy of Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens

    Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens
    18220 North Highway One, Fort Bragg, California; 707-964-4352
    If you like to view colorful flora against a backdrop of blue ocean, Mendocino Coast is the place for you. Linda Brown, a volunteer at Mendocino for 20 years, encourages non-gardeners to visit simply for the stress relief. "Public gardens offer so much to the horticulturally-impaired visitor. A walk through our gardens is a great way to slow down, calm down and take advantage of just being here now," she says. Brown says visitors enjoy walking through arbors of rhododendrons in the spring, crossing over the little creeks and then coming upon the vast Pacific Ocean. "It has a way of getting one in tune with life and how spectacular it is," she says. "It's good exercise, you can bring your dog, a picnic, or just sit on a bench and zone out."
    Spring blooms: In April, you can view blooming rhododendrons, camellias, daffodils, magnolias and Pacific Coast iris. Many of the trails are covered in rhododendron petals, dropped by hybrid plants growing overhead. And if you're lucky, you might see a migrating whale. It's also a hot spot for spring birdwatching. Ospreys, hawks, sandpipers and plovers routinely patrol the coastline.

    public-gardensCourtesy of Blithewold

    101 Ferry Road (Rt. 114), Bristol, Rhode Island; 401-253-2707
    Every spring about 50,000 daffodils bloom on the property. "Most are in a woodland area we call the Bosquet and it's a pretty spectacular sight," says Kristin Green, Blithewold's interpretive horticulturist. Woodland wildflowers like may apple and trout lily are starting to bloom also. Situated on the eastern shore of Narragansett Bay, Blithewold was the home of Augustus Van Wickle, who built the original mansion in 1896. The house burned down in 1906 and was replaced by an even grander mansion.
    What's on show: "Our claim to fame, plant-wise, is the tallest giant sequoia east of the Rockies," says Green.

    public-gardensCourtesy of Longwood Gardens

    Longwood Gardens
    1001 Longwood Road, Kennett Square, PA ; 610-388-1000
    What started as a humble arboretum in the 1700s has evolved into one of the most extravagant gardens in the world. Industrialist Pierre du Pont bought the property in 1906 to preserve the trees, and he later used his immense wealth to create a horticultural showplace. The 195,668-square-foot conservatory, built in 1919, houses 20 indoor gardens and 5,500 types of plants.
    Spring Blooms: Kaufmann tulip, trumpet daffodil, white pearl hyacinth and Lenten-rose.

    public-gardensCourtesy of Moody Gardens

    Moody Gardens

    One Hope Boulevard, Galveston, TX; 800-582-4673
    After extensive renovations, Moody Gardens' 40,000-square-foot Rainforest Pyramid reopened last spring. The conservatory houses over 1,000 species of exotic tropical plants from rainforest regions of Africa, the Americas and Asia. Unlike traditional botanical gardens, this is a family-oriented tourist attraction, complete with a 3-D theater, butterfly gardens, a white-sand beach and a water park. "We're seeing a lot more public gardens installing butterfly gardens on their grounds," says Donita Brannon, Moody Garden's horticultural exhibits manager. " Everyone loves to see colorful butterflies flitting among fragrant flowers. And they are very educational, to boot." Moody Gardens has had a butterfly garden for several years and it attracts butterflies to the grounds all year long.
    Spring Blooms: In addition to orchids, violets and bromeliads, you'll also encounter macaws, an anaconda, turtles and fish inside the 10-story glass pyramid.

    public-gardensCourtesy of McKee Botanical Garden

    McKee Botanical Garden's Waterlily Garden

    350 U.S. Highway 1, Vero Beach, FL; 772-794-0601
    "McKee is not an extremely manicured garden; we've let its natural growth dictate the design," says Christine Hobart, the garden's executive director. A mile of waterways wind next to and under the botanical garden's trails. "The sound of falling water might lead you into a secluded meditation area, or a turn might be crafted to suddenly showcase a burst of colorful waterlilies," says Hobart. Established in 1929 as McKee Jungle Gardens, the site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
    Spring Blooms: Waterlilies are the star of the show in the springtime at McKee Botanical Garden. "We have more than 75 species and 200 individual plants that fill our ponds and waterways with vibrant colors," says Hobart. Other spring bloomers include pineapple, plumbago and bromeliads.

    Robert Macias contributed to using To find out how you can contribute, go to

    Here's more great gardening content from ShelterPop:
    Grow Your Own Lunch
    Replicate the White House Garden
    Time to Grow Up: Arbor Gardens
    Say Yes to Fake Plants


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    We talked to the fashion designer about his new line of sponges, his neat-freak tendencies and what music gets him into full-on cleaning mode.

    We see a lot of fashion designers bringing their talent to the home. But while Diane von Furstenberg took her prints to the table and bed and Cynthia Rowley lent her amazing color palatte for paint, Project Runway winner Christian Siriano is taking a different route into your home: Sponges. Yes, the man who so chic-ly embedded "fierce" into America's vernacular has taken on one of the least fashionable home staples...and turned them into leopard-printed fashion statements.

    christian siriano spongeDesigner Christian Siriano and his chic sponges -- "Muse" and "Leopard". Photos: O-Cel-O.

    ShelterPop: So tell us. Why sponges?

    Christian Siriano: I'm really into home, and I love this moment of fashion in your kitchen. I figured, sponges could look a little bit cuter... and not so grimy. It's a different type of project -- more of a graphic design experiment for me. Something not so serious fun lighthearted and that was

    ShelterPop: What's your dishwashing style? Wait until they pile up or clean them as you use them?

    Christian Siriano: I'm a crazy neat freak. I'm always loading the dishwasher and I like a clean kitchen.

    Wait, you use a dishwasher, not a sponge?

    Christian Siriano: I can't clean my own dishes -- I don't have time for that. A lot of people in New York don't have dishwashers but when I moved, I had to have one. Otherwise, it makes me crazy!

    ShelterPop: So what do you do with all your sponges?

    Christian Siriano: The sponge isn't just for cleaning dishes, honey.

    Fair enough. So tell us: How do you make housework fun?

    Christian Siriano: Like I said, I'm a clean freak. I get really into it. All I need is good music.

    ShelterPop: Whats on your cleaning playlist?

    Christian Siriano: Ohmigod, it could be anything. Anything from Britney and Christina to old Toni Braxton. And my boyfriend loves Tori Amos so sometimes it can be a little intense. Oh! And we'll even have a bit of classical depending on what's going on.

    ShelterPop: What's your first memory cleaning, as a kid?

    Christian Siriano: When I was really, really young, I was very into organizing. My mom used to say I'd organize everything I could. Inside cabinets, my sister's shoes. I was always into it and that's trickled on through life.

    ShelterPop: So if we came over, I'd see that everything in your home is meticulously organized?

    Christian Siriano: It kind of is. I would love for it to be even more perfect but I do have to throw things around for work so it's not always just right.

    ShelterPop: I bet it's neater than you think! OK, one last thing. Here at SP, we believe that happy homes make happy people. How do you make your home happy?

    Christian Siriano: I love the little things, like fun fresh flowers and definitely beautiful scents. I really love Belle Fleur, they're based in New York and have a lot of very cool, different scents. And they also have a florist, so I get my orchids there.

    Thanks, Christian!

    Want to pick up the sponges for yourself? Check O-Cel-O's website to find out where you can find them in your neighborhood.

    And of course, read up on some of our other favorite collaborations:

    Target & Calypso Home: Collaboration Alert!

    Sneak Peek: Crate & Barrel Gets Marimekko Flair
    Shabby Chic and Michaels: Collaboration Alert
    Converse & Marimekko: Collaboration Alert!


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    Have your morning coffee while taking a virtual tour of our celebrity home of the day. Today: A peek at Jennifer Garner & Scott Foley's old love nest.

    Before the lovely Jennifer Garner married Ben Affleck, the Arthur actress used to live in this California home with her then-husband Scott Foley. The couple sold the home after the divorce, and it appears it's back on the market. (Another divorce, perhaps?) Now on the market for just under $3 million, the 3-bedroom, 3-bathroom needs new owners.

    Thanks to our friends at, we can slide open the gate and take a peek at the property.

    Driving by, no one can identify the house thanks to a high gate across the driveway and lots of full shrubs. This paparazzi guard could definitely be a selling point for star buyers like Garner.

    The home -- built in 1950 -- opens up with a massive driveway that leads to a two-car garage. Even so, it manages to look pretty cozy. Too bad for that gate -- this house definitely has curb appeal.

    We like the look of this house -- quaint and low-key. Well-manicured landscaping leads guests down the stone walk and up to the front door. We wish we could see more -- after all, we're clearly obsessed with Garner's style -- but for now we'll just wish the new buyers luck...and a long, happy marriage.

    And in AOL Real Estate's celebrity news:
    Glenn Beck Sells CT Estate

    Check out yesterday's celebrity home:
    Lamar Odom's Pre-Kardashian House for Rent


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