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Shelterpop

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    garage organizing
    A garage that's cute on the outside deserves a clean interior too. Photo: jlt, Flickr

    Get your garage organization started with these five easy steps.

    Memorial Day weekend isn't all fun and games, it's also an ideal time to scratch some of the items off of your to-do list. For a fresh start to the summer season, follow these simple steps and get your garage organized. Here's the plan:

    1. Sweep the Floor
    It's amazing how quickly the floors get dirty despite the fact that people rarely spend time in their garage. Being so close to the outdoors and the natural elements -- rain, sleet, leaves, dirt and dust -- makes this space a victim for gritty floors. After a clean sweep with a push broom, you'll see a little bit of sparkle. Consider it a jump-start to the rest of this organizing overhaul.

    2. Get rid of the junk
    Garages quickly become depositories for unwanted items. Ask your family to go through the garage and remove anything they no longer use or need. Be ruthless: Those scraps of lumber you might use for a project someday? Toss 'em. The Little League gear your son won a decade ago? You've probably got photos to remember the games, toss it too.

    3. Organize by Convenience and season.
    Place the items you use most often -- like a hand trowel in the spring and summer months or a snow shovel during winter - within easy reach. Now that we're into the warmer season, move those ice skates, sleds, road salt and snow shovels towards the back of the garage, to provide greater access to potting supplies, kayaks and whatever else you play with when the weather is warm. And for the rarely used tools like a branch lopper, the dark, hard-to-access corners of your garage will do just fine.

    4. Go Vertical
    By the time you squeeze a car or two, bicycles, skateboards, lawn tools and more into a garage, it's nearly out of space. Use your vertical space by hanging peg boards for the garden tools, hammers and stray nails and hooks, and wall organizers for items like brooms, rakes and shovels to add more space for foot traffic. Home Depot's hardwood pegboards ($29) are perfect for smaller items. Go with a simple wall-hung rack for the larger tools, like this one from Ace Hardware ($11).

    5. Look Up
    Run out of space? Still tripping over stuff? Then look to gadgets that allow you to hang items from the overhead garage-door, or even the ceiling. Soft, light-weight items like camping gear, sporting goods and empty coolers can go in this loft shelf sold at Target ($35). For your bicycles, Closet-Masters.com offers several airborne storage solutions for the garage.

     

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    You don't need to be a green-thumbed gardener to surround yourself with nature's beauty. Here, a round-up of America's 10 most beautiful public green spaces.

    Courtesy of the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University Archives

    Boston
    The Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University

    Where you'll find it: 125 Arborway, Boston, MA. (617) 524-1718
    At 138 years old, Arnold Arboretum is the oldest public arboretum in America (it was established in 1872). To most visitors, the Arnold, which sits on 265 acres in Boston's Jamaican Plain neighborhood, is simply one of the gems in a string of beautiful parks sometimes referred to as Boston's Emerald Necklace. But there's more to this oasis than meets the eye. "The Arnold Arboretum is also a living laboratory for science research," says Julie Warsowe, manager of visitor education at the Arboretum. It boasts well over 7,000 varieties of plants, some 5 million dried plant specimens and 40,000 volumes in its library. After all, it is part of Harvard University.
    Spring Blooms: Magnolias, forsythia, cherry trees, lilacs, azaleas.



    The celebration of Hanami culminates in the two-day Sakura Matsuri cherry blossom festival, the nation's largest event in a public garden. Photo: Joseph O. Holmes, courtesy Brooklyn Botanic Garden

    Brooklyn
    Brooklyn Botanic Garden

    Where you'll find it: 1000 Washington Avenue, Brooklyn, NY. (718) 623-7200.
    This is easily one of the country's most glorious public gardens, although it's sometimes overlooked by visitors to New York City and residents alike. The garden got its start in 1897, when the New York state legislature set aside 39 acres for a botanic garden, but it formally opened in 1910. Today it's 52-acres are filled with artwork, sculptures and many gardens. Among these is the country's oldest children's garden, one of the first gardens for the visually impaired, and the C. V. Starr Bonsai Museum, which was redesigned in 2007. "The way BBG sits in the middle of Brooklyn, we're really 52 acres of beauty, retreat and refuge," says Kate Blumm, communications manager at BBG. "We take the responsibility of offering that to urban dwellers very seriously."
    Spring Blooms: Japanese cherry trees, tree peonies, Spanish bluebells, roses.



    The celebration of Hanami culminates in the two-day Sakura Matsuri cherry blossom festival, the nation's largest event in a public garden. Photo: Joseph O. Holmes, courtesy Brooklyn Botanic Garden

    Sacramento
    Capitol Park (California State Capitol)

    Where you'll find it: 10th and L Streets, Sacramento, CA. (916) 324-0333.
    Surrounding California's state capitol building is the 33-acre Capitol Park, a stunning collection of flowers, plants and enormous trees, including Coastal Redwoods and the California big tree -- all this smack-dab in the middle of downtown Sacramento. The park also has several gardens, but it is best know for its Rose Garden. Situated in the heart of the city, the park is frequented by an active crowd of politicians, professionals, students and visitors. "It reminds me of a small Central Park in the middle of the city," says Judith Garcia, a fifth-grade teacher at Trinity Christian School in Sacramento. "It changes the atmosphere of downtown. People walk around the Capitol and Capitol Park. That makes the area really stand out."
    Spring Blooms: California golden poppy, camellias, roses.



    The English Walled Garden. Photo: Robin Carlson (C) Chicago Botanic Garden

    Chicago
    Chicago Botanic Garden

    Where you'll find it: 1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe, IL. (847) 835-5440.
    This serene garden is unlike most other public gardens. Its millions of plants are spread out over nine islands on 385 acres, about 20 minutes from downtown Chicago. Open since 1972, the Chicago Botanic Garden is one of the most visited gardens in the country, with nearly 900,000 people flowing through each year. It's more than a garden, however. It's an education center, including its Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Plant Conservation Science Center, which opened last year. "Our collection of 2.4 million plants has been recognized by the American Association of Museums as a living museum collection," says Kris Jarantoski, executive vice president and director of the Chicago Botanic Garden.
    Spring Blooms: Tulips, daffodils, crocuses.



    PlantAsia at Denver Botanic Gardens Photo: Scott Dressel-Martin

    Denver
    Denver Botanic Gardens

    Where you'll find it: 1007 York Street, Denver, CO. (720) 865-3500.
    This garden, begun by local gardeners in the early 1950s, is beloved by locals and visitors alike. Beautiful and renowned for its conservation efforts, the Denver Botanic Gardens has three locations, with its main location on York Street in downtown Denver. The Gardens have 32,000 plants from more than 90 countries. Its 40 gardens represent a wide array of environments, including its South African Plaza and the French-inspired Monet Garden. "The interaction between us and our visitors is what makes this place so special," says Larry Jackel, a volunteer at the Gardens. "I spend a lot of time simply answering questions, giving tips and having friendly conversations with the folks who visit the Gardens."
    Spring Blooms: Mini iris, snowdrops, daffodils, tulips.



    Ottosen Entry Garden. Photo by Adam Rodriguez

    Phoenix
    Desert Botanical Garden

    Where you'll find it: 1201 N. Galvin Parkway, Phoenix, AZ. (480) 941-1225.
    A garden in the desert? Seems unlikely, but Phoenix's stunningly beautiful 50-acre Desert Botanical Garden proves that the Sonoran Desert is lush with plant life. DBG opened in 1939. It's a breathtakingly beautiful garden year round with a huge stock of cactus -- many varieties are highly unusual and rare. In spring, the Sonoran Desert bursts out in color, blanketed by Mexican poppy, yellow and purple fiddlenecks and a slew of other varieties. Cactus blooms also begin popping out this time of year. "Almost no one expects to see flowers in the desert," says Jose Salazar, a restaurant manager in nearby Scottsdale. "Whenever I take my friends to DBG, they're always shocked by what they see."
    Spring Blooms: Globemallow, desert bluebells, Mexican poppy.



    Nearly 1,500 different varieties of roses can be seen in the Rose Garden almost year round. Photo: The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Garden

    Los Angeles
    The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens

    Where you'll find it: 1151 Oxford Road, San Marino, CA. (626) 405-2100.
    Less than a mile from where the world-famous Rose Parade passes by each January is the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Its world-class art collection alone is worth a visit to San Marino, a Northeastern Los Angeles suburb, but it's the Botanical Gardens where you find the Huntington's true beauty. The garden got its start in 1903, when Henry Huntington purchased a citrus ranch. His superintendent, William Hertrich, was largely responsible for building up the botanical gardens. Today, it's comprised of more than a dozen gardens, including its 100-year-old Rose Garden and its two-year-old Chinese Garden - the Garden of Flowing Fragrance. "The garden is big enough that there's a sense of quiet and peacefulness there," says Margaret Fulmer, a volunteer at the Huntington since 1980. "And in the midst of Los Angeles that is really a treasure."
    Spring Blooms: Camellias, wisteria, roses, Siberian iris.




    Courtesy of Memphis Botanic Garden

    Memphis
    Memphis Botanic Garden

    Where you'll find it: 750 Cherry Road, Memphis, TN. (901) 576-4100.
    The Memphis Botanic Garden has officially been in operation since 1964. But it got its start in the 1950s when a group of locals began planting and tending to makeshift gardens in a public park. Today, MBG has a slew of gardens, including a sensory garden where people with disabilities can enjoy the feel and smell of plants. "Where else can one find Tennessee's Bicentennial Iris Garden, 270,000 blooming daffodils, 28,000 tulips, a world-class 2.5-acre children's garden, a Japanese Garden of Tranquility and other gardens on 96 acres in the heart of a metropolitan area?" says Jim Duncan, executive director of MBG. These days the Garden may be best known for My Big Backyard, its popular kids' area that opened last fall. Among its displays is a Redwood tree that is set up like a tree house, with 16 distinct play areas.
    Spring Blooms: Tulips, daffodils, Japanese cherry trees, violas.



    Bamboo bridge at McBryde Garden (south shore of Kauai). Photo: National Tropical Botanical Garden

    Hawaii
    National Tropical Botanical Garden

    Where you'll find it: 3530 Papalina Road, Kalaheo, HI. (808) 332-7324. The Kampong: 4013 S. Douglas Road, Coconut Grove, FL. (305) 442-7169.
    There are lush gardens, then there are astonishingly lush gardens -- such is the case with the National Tropical Botanical Garden. This isn't merely a garden. This is a network of six tropical gardens. Five are in Hawaii -- two, including the main location, are on Kauai; one is on Maui; two are on the Big Island. The sixth garden, The Kampong, opened in Florida in 1984.

    The gardens were established by an act of Congress in 1964 -- its main location opened in 1970. The mission is to preserve tropical plants and ecosystems. "These are really special gardens," says Hiroko Letman, an employee at Kauai Nursery and Landscaping in Lihue, Hawaii. "You can see a lot of mostly native plants and flowers." The Kampong in Florida was originally a private garden owned by Dr. David Fairchild and then Catherine Hauberg Sweeney. When it was added to the National Register of Historic Places, it became part of NTBG.
    Spring Blooms: Bougainvillea, kou trees, orchids, plumeria and tiger claws.



    Courtesy of United States Botanic Garden

    Washington, D.C.
    United States Botanic Garden

    Where you'll find it: 100 Maryland Avenue SW, Washington, D.C . (202) 225-8333.
    More than a public garden, the U.S. Botanic Garden is a national treasure. It was first proposed for the National Mall by our country's founding fathers, in 1820, but it took another 30 years until it was formally founded. It has been in its current location near the Capitol building since 1933. At the beginning of the new millennium, the Botanic reopened after a massive, five-year renovation. "There is a beauty here with the flowers and plants that makes this place special," says Judy Gordon, a longtime docent at the garden. "Visitors really like the tours and the staff, in my opinion, is extremely helpful."
    Each year, more than 1 million people visit the U.S. Botanic Garden, which is set up in three sections: The Conservatory, where a slew of gardens are set up, including the Children's Garden and the World Deserts garden; The National Garden which focuses on mid-Atlantic plants; and Bartholdi Park (closed for renovations until 2011) which zeroes in on modern horticulture styles.
    Spring Blooms: Roses, irises, peonies, rhododendrons, orchids.

    Kevin Downey contributed to Shelterpop.com using Seed.com. To find out how you can contribute, go to Seed.com

     

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  • 05/31/10--11:08: Eco-Lingo: Energy Star
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    Look for this label! Photo: Energy Star.

    Eco-lingo is being tossed around left and right these days. We're demystifying common terms to help you figure out which words are the real deal... and which are just green jargon.

    Today's word: Energy Star

    Definition: This little label packs a big punch -- think of the Energy Star brand as proof that an appliance isn't just green for the sake of green consumerism; it's tried and truly energy efficient. How efficient? In 2008, Energy Star products helped Americans save $17 billion on their utility bills and offset the greenhouse gas emissions of 30 million cars. We suppose that's to be expected from a joint venture from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy.

    But not just every appliance can get the label -- only those that get their job done while saving a significant, measurable and tested amount of energy. They also need to be affordable, an idea aided by the federal tax credits available for Energy Star products.

    But products aren't the only thing that can earn the label -- since 1995, over one million Energy Star homes have been built, and they're 20-30% more energy efficient than standard homes. But you don't have to buy a whole new house to live in an Energy Star home, instead you can renovate your own place to meet the standards: Effective insulation, high-performance windows, tight construction and ducts, efficient heating and cooling equipment, efficient products and the biggie: Third-Party Verification. So even if you go through the first five steps, you don't have an Energy Star home until it's inspected and tested.

    Verdict: The Real Deal. Now go home and look: do you have any Energy Star appliances?

     

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    Barbra Streisand's debut book focuses on her love for home design. Photo: Viking/USA Today

    The legendary entertainer has a new coffee table book coming out about her passion for interior design.

    Barbra Streisand has always juggled a lot with the singing, touring, starring in movies, directing and winning Oscars. Who knew that she was also passionate about home design? Well, it turns out the famed entertainer has chosen a book on her interest in design -- not the entertainment industry -- as her first writing project.

    USA Today reports Streisand spoke this week in New York at the opening of the publishing convention BookExpo America with Gayle King, editor at large of O, the Oprah Magazine. She told King some of her design choices were inspired by her childhood growing up in Brooklyn, such as her family not being able to afford a couch until she was eight. "Maybe that's why I love couches," she said.

    Streisand also revealed that much of her design sense comes from past life experiences. For example, her favorite color, burgundy, reminds her of a sweater she had when she was young. A movie that didn't get off the ground helped spark her love for architecture. "A house became my project," Streisand said. "I made a house instead of a movie."

    Streisand's book My Passion for Design, comes out in November 2010. According to the publisher, it will feature "many of her own photographs of the rooms she has decorated, the furniture and art she has collected, and the ravishing gardens she has planted on her land on the California coast." Sounds like we're going to have to add photographer and gardener to Babs's long list of accomplishments!

    For more celebrity home news, check out these stories:


    Ashley Olsen Wants to Launch a Home Line
    Sneak Peek: Meg Ryan in ELLE DECOR
    Oscar Nominations for Interior Design

     

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  • 06/01/10--18:09: Daily Upper: Beach Dining
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    FoTo Fox, Flickr

    Have your beach, and eat there too. We're daydreaming of sinking into one of these cushions and chowing down with an ocean view.

     

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    Photo: CB2

    Modern design lovers rejoice: Wicker has finally arrived in the 21st century.

    Until recently, if someone merely mentioned the word "wicker" when talking about furniture, I couldn't help but cringe. Thoughts of chintzy sunroom seating and mid-80s-Palm-Beach-style patios (read: horrific) came to mind. Even when the material first went modern the styles failed to impress -- uber straight lines, block-like structures and little in the way of "wow" factor.

    But lately I've noticed a new wave of wicker that plays well into the modern home while fulfilling the more traditionalist desire for some curves. Sure, the traditional style still reigns when it comes to dressing our decks and patios for sunnier months. But modern design lovers can hope that, with this new wave of wicker wares, wear-resistant decorating will be that much more exciting.

    Case in point: CB2's modern outdoor Resort set is a sleek addition to a summer patio. Check out ten more mod wicker pieces below:



    Clockwise from top left:

    Cane Covered Demijohn, $60 to $169, Ballard Designs
    Costa Verde Hanging Lamp by Roost, $319 (medium) and $363 (large), Velocity Art and Design
    Wicker Hurricane, $50, Crate & Barrel
    Woven Vessels, $69 each, West Elm
    Alseda Stool, $30, Ikea



    Clockwise from top left:

    Hejka Rocking Chair
    , $139, IKEA
    Wicker Natural Ottoman, $129, Crate & Barrel
    Hulto easy chair, $70, IKEA
    Modern Weave Armchair, $449, West Elm
    Seagrass Wingback Chair, $449, Pottery Barn


    And now that you've got summertime style on the mind...

    9 Cheap -- but Chic -- Outdoor Tablecloths
    Flower Arranging Tips from Celeb floral designer Jeff Leatham
    Expert Q&A: Warm-Weather Spruce Ups for the Living Room
    Top Ingredients for An Outdoor Kitchen

     

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    Jayson Home & Garden's goods range from flea market finds to high-end furnishings. Photo: Jayson Home & Garden

    The Source
    Jayson Home & Garden
    JaysonHomeandGarden.com

    The Goods
    From high-end furnishings to flea-market finds and unusual home accessories, Jayson Home & Garden's goods are varied enough to decorate your entire home without the big-box showroom feel. Although some items fall on the high-end of the price spectrum there are plenty of more affordable finds, and everything is unique enough to make a lasting statement.

    The Secret
    This bustling online shop got its foundation as a quaint storefront in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood. However, thanks to its unique (and large) selection it's become a go-to source for online shopping throughout the country -- at least for those in the know!

    Things to Know
    Jayson Home & Garden doesn't just have the goods to furnish and decorate your home, they also carry finishing touches in the form of floral arrangements, as well as plenty of garden accessories for the summer months. Sign up for their email alerts to receive special offers and discounts.

    Jayson Home & Garden's goods range from investment-worthy pieces to affordable accents. Photo: Jayson Home & Garden

    Clockwise from top left:
    Workshop Cage Lights, $195
    Wall Flower Art, $45 t0 $85
    Horn Taper Holder, $32 to $64
    Rustic Rattan Modular Shelves, $16 to $44
    Boucle Wire Shop Baskets, $98 to $125

    Want to read about more Secret Sources? Check out these posts:

    - Secret Source: The Evolution Store
    - Secret Source: Nimli, Our Go-To Eco-Friendly Store
    - Secret Source: Secondhand Rose's Vintage Wallpaper

     

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  • 06/01/10--18:09: Memoirs of a CouchSurfer
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    Photo: Monica McNerney


    Our writer, Tau Jonty Braun, travels the United States without spending a penny on accommodation.

    Last week I woke up in San Jose, California. Above a door to my right, bright red wooden letters spelled out the word "CANADA." It took my brain a few seconds to remember where I was.

    I have been on the road for 11 months. I have traveled from Fort Lauderdale, FL to Northern Vermont; across the Midwest, into the Southwest and currently I am on the West Coast. I have stayed in hotels only a handful of times on this cross-country adventure. For the rest of the time, I have traveled across the United States using the website CouchSurfing.org to find free accommodation. This means that every few days I wake up in a new city in a complete stranger's house. In San Jose, the married couple who hosted me turned out to be originally from New Brunswick which, according to them, is in Canada. Hence the sign.

    According to their website, "CouchSurfing is a worldwide network for making connections between travelers and the local communities they visit." Put simply, CouchSurfing.org offers you the opportunity of staying with a local resident rather than at a hotel or hostel when traveling. Like Facebook or LinkedIn, there is no fee to be part of the community and there is no monetary or work exchange between the couch-surfing guest and the host. It's free! And in these tough economic times, the word "free" should be accompanied by a heavenly choir singing "Hallelujah".

    Traveling this way has given me the opportunity to explore giant cities like New York as well as tiny rural towns like Wilmore, Kansas (with a population of less than 100 people). I attended Wilmore's monthly live entertainment event called "Saturday Night Live" and was treated like a celebrity. Plus, I gave the residents of Wilmore living proof that vegetarians actually exist.

    My hosts have ranged from college students, farmers and artists, to writers, yogis, teachers and soldiers. I've even bunked with a retired senator who imposed the following rules: "Eat, sleep and wait to eat again" -- fantastic instructions for a weekend spent sailing at his lake house.

    Of course there are real house rules from time to time. The earliest wake up call to leave a host's apartment was 5:30am. My host was a full-time soldier serving with the National Guard. Her early morning routine included a boot camp style workout everyday to keep "fighting fit." Seeing her uniform hanging in her house was an important reminder of the many brave men and women who serve this country.

    Couch surfing gives you a glimpse into other people lives. You hear about things that bring them joy or cause them to lose sleep at night. You see the products they buy, the things they do, and sometimes you get to meet some of their friends and neighbors. It's an anthropologist's dream. It is also a great way to discover books you haven't read, movies you haven't seen, music you haven't heard yet and places you should visit.

    It may be a common experience with newbie couch surfers, but after the first few times that I couch surfed, I just could not stop talking about it. I just found the idea that somebody would invite me into their home to stay with them without knowing me to be, frankly, unbelievable. There is something quaint and refreshing about it. In a world filled with bad news, tragedies and horror stories, there is something profoundly exciting about experiencing first hand that there are people out there that genuinely have an interest in being generous and hospitable to strangers.

    I once arrived at a gorgeous house in Asheville, N.C., only to find that my host had left a note: "I won't be home until later this evening, but make yourself at home and if you feel like, come and join me and my friends for a drink at the bar down the street." I entered her house a little suspiciously, and was happily greeted by soft ambient lighting, classical music playing from her Mac, and tea and coffee left out on the counter for me with a second note: "Help yourself to anything in the kitchen." Another host apologized that he wasn't able to host at his house due to him working the night shift at a hotel. Instead he put me up in a luxurious hotel room. In fact, I rarely sleep on a couch. In the past year, I have slept in guest rooms, a church, a loft above a tool shed, a yoga studio, an enclosed front porch, a double-wide trailer, an RV, an attic and a barn. At the risk of sounding manic, couch surfing has restored my faith in humanity.

    Of course not everyone is as taken with it. One of the standard questions I get asked is: How do you know that you aren't staying with an axe murderer? The short answer: I don't. However, CouchSurfing.org does have security systems in place like member verification and references from others on their profiles to help ease these concerns. After you've been active and done a bit of surfing or hosting, you can also get vouched for by others that have built up credibility or are actively involved in the CouchSurfing community.

    Couch surfing is laid back, but that doesn't mean that there isn't a certain amount of etiquette to adhere to. Try to give your host adequate notice when requesting a stay, a week or two in advance seems to be the norm. If you are a host, respond to requests promptly and be understanding. Sometimes travel plans change and your guests may need a place to stay urgently or arrive much later than they originally anticipated. The website allows for a fair amount of variables when searching for a host. Increase your range by looking for a host that shows, "Maybe, Yes, or Definitely" to couch availability and look for the percentage of requests that a host has replied to. If you are short on time, limit messages sent to hosts that don't reply to requests frequently. As a host or a surfer, take the time to fill out your profile in detail. Some CouchSurfing hosts are really snotty about this, and understandably so -- it's part of what keeps the community safe. As a surfer, try to arrive at your host's house during daylight hours and have a back up plan if the accommodation doesn't work out.

    Next time you;re longing for a quick get-away or if you're ready to take some time off to discover the world, consider this site. If you like meeting new people, have some extra space, and are looking to increase your karma, host a surfer.

    And if you want to confuse them, hang a sign above your couch that reads, "CANADA".

     

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    sky bedding bloomingdalesPhotos: Bloomingdale's

    Now you can change up your bedding like you mix and match your wardrobe.

    Have you ever been in a store and thought, wow that comforter would go great with those sheets and these shams? Have you ever wanted to make your very own custom bedding ensemble? Well, strap on those sandals and head over to Bloomingdale's, because their new Sky bedding will have you mixing and matching to your heart's content.

    With Sky, you can buy one of their three collections as a set or you can mix and match from the three bold, colorful, bohemian collections, in addition to a great selection of solid and striped sheet sets. To accent your new bedding, Sky also offers an array of pin-tuck quilts for texture and fun decorative pillows -- just the pop of excitement you need in the summertime.

    Check out these free-spirited prints: The colorful Batik set (above left) is an Indian-inspired mash of patchwork with decorative stitching. If you like soaking up the sun, then the Sundial (above right) will make you feel sun-kissed -- even in bed! It combines sunset colors like red and orange with fun geometric patterns.

    sky bedding bloomingdalesPhotos: Bloomingdale's

    The Summersweet set has a reversible duvet with a green and white woven pattern on one side and a bright blue and white floral on the other. So, not only can you mix and match, you can flip and reverse, too!

    Also pictured are a selection of the patterned throw pillows, striped sheets and pin-tuck quilts -- with all the patterns and options shown above, your bedding is sure to be one-of-a-kind!

    The Sky collection is made of soft, pure cotton so no itchy, rough surfaces, here! If you can believe it, this bedding is also pretty affordable, despite Bloomingdale's reputation for pricey goods -- sheet sets start at $70, a fair price to pay for the array of options. Just think of all the fun you can have changing out the patterns!

    Check out more bright, colorful new bedding like Amy Butler and Angela Adams' newest collections for Bed Bath and Beyond.

     

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    clothes closet organizing
    A clean and well-organized closet = a smooth morning, yes? Photo: California Closets

    Attack a messy or jam-packed closet by breaking down the job into small steps.

    Unless you are lucky and have a spacious walk-in closet, it's difficult to jam clothes, handbags, shoes, belts, scarves and more into a tiny space -- and still be able to retrieve a day's outfit during the morning rush.

    To start with the task of organizing your clothes closet, Carolyn Musher, a New York-based designer for California Closets, suggests taking everything out. (Hint: This is a great opportunity to dust in the corners or wipe down the rods and hooks with a cloth.) Dump the clothes on your bed, on the sofa, across the dining-room table ... where they go is not important. The goal is to see everything in a new environment, where you will better be able to decide what to keep and what to toss.

    Here are some tips on how to get started:

    clothes closet organizing
    A garment rod helps stage the next day's outfit so you can see all of the parts together, and how they will look on you. Photo: California Closets

    Invest in closet organizers
    Not at all expensive, closet organizers will make your life -- and mornings -- a lot easier. Musher recommends a a garment rod (above) or even a simple hook that can be used as a staging area for outfit coordination or to store empty hangers). A jewelry drawer or box to house and organize your baubles is also a must. "Every closet comes with a pole - and we know what to put on that," says Musher. "It's the little things that you don't know where to put."

    Arrange by season
    Every six months, Musher rearranges her closet so that the current season's items are easily accessible. "People use prime real estate for flip-flops in the winter, for instance," she says. "Keep the things you're using in view." You can always store off-season clothing under your bed, inside plastic storage containers with lids, or in an attic or storage space that you don't access often.

    Take the "Do I Really Love It?" test
    Ask yourself this about each item. If you truly did love that black studded clutch or Indian-silk top bought on a vacation, you would have worn it within the last year, right? "If you can't remember wearing an item within the last 12 months, resist the temptation to return the item to your closet and instead, donate it. "If you haven't worn something in a year, it's got to go," says Musher.

    Let go of clothes not in your size
    Whether they were your favorite jeans five years ago when you weighed 15 pounds less, or your best black skirt is two sizes too big, get rid of any clothes that no longer fit. "We tend to hold onto a lot of things we want to fit into again," says Musher, "and years go by and all it does is cover up what you do have."

    Repeat, repeat, repeat.
    Clean your closet out every six months following these sames steps, and you'll pare your wardrobe down to the items you really wear and love. Here's a clever way to figure out if you've worn something: Return everything to the closet so that it hangs with the hanger's hook facing forward. Once you've worn and item, you can return it to the closet facing inwards. All the hangers left facing outwards at the end of six months are your first candidates for the donation pile.

     

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    Susan Cozzi, ASID

    Get the chatter going with these smart design tips for creating a conversation area in your living space.

    When looking to create activities in your living room, one of the most important is the art of conversation. Use these simple tools to get your guests talking. Creating your own 'Speak Easy' is simple, if you just apply some basic principles then let the stream of conversation take its own course.

    ShelterPop sat down with Susan Cozzi, ASID of Susan Cozzi Interiors in Boca Raton, Florida for a chat on creating areas conducive to conversing in living rooms.

    SHELTERPOP: How do you go about designing a space that enhances dialog?

    COZZI: "People like their own space. Space planning and allowing for people to circulate is important. It helps for people to interact if the furnishings are placed properly. Also I take into account movement within the space, as well as individuals being within reach of people outside the main conversation area. It's not just about 'sitting'. I think there are two elements at work here. I consider the movement in and around the area along with the specific area itself."

    SHELTERPOP: What do you consider good conversation starters?

    COZZI: "You get to the second tier of a design for conversation starters -- carefully chosen accessories and statement occasional pieces, such as an unusual chair, work well. I tell my clients to choose things that are important to them as far as accessories go. Well placed items, even something small, but meaningful, to the homeowner, can move a conversation forward."

    SHELTERPOP: Can you discuss the importance of color?

    COZZI: "A fabulous wall color or wallpaper is something people always notice. It's one of the first things remarked upon when entering a room. I really believe people react to the environment; therefore a terrific wall color or great fabric will start conversations every time."

    SHELTERPOP: How does the arrangement of the furniture itself impact conversation?

    COZZI: "I like using 'anchors' to define a space -- be it an area rug or coffee table and end tables within reach. I believe people like sitting in corners, whether it's the corner of a room, or the corner of a sofa. It gives them a sense of protection, helps them to relax and engage in conversation more freely."


     

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    uses for old ladders as decorPhotos: Charles Walton IV for Southern Living/Deborah Ory for Woman's Day

    Take an old ladder to new heights with these clever D.I.Y. ideas.

    I'm willing to bet that you have an old step ladder in your garage or basement. You know the one -- covered in old paint with the wobbly leg. Too bad it's useless, right? Wrong! You can reuse that old ladder without stepping on a single rung. Here are a few fun ways to re-purpose that ladder and put it to good use around the house, without spending a dime.

    If your ladder is a bit dingy, clean it up, scrape or sand off the old paint unless you're going for that shabby chic look. Tighten up that wobbly leg, and try one of these nifty ideas:

    1. Bookshelf. You've seen ladder-shaped bookshelves, right? Well, obviously, they were inspired by the real thing. You can use an old ladder as a bookshelf and save yourself a lot of cash while still getting the same look.

    2. Pot rack. How fun is this idea we spotted over on Woman's Day? Just take an old ladder and place it on its side, affix to the ceiling and use it to hang your pots and pans!

    old ladder as a towel rackDo these photos inspire you to dig up your old ladder? Photos: This Old House/Living, Etc

    3. Towel rack. You know those ladder towel racks that run upwards of $50 or even $75? Why not use your old ladder instead and save that money for some new bath salts or a towel upgrade?

    reuse an old ladderAn instant purse rack! Photo: Holly Becker, decor8

    4. Plant stand. You can actually buy ladder plant stands, but why spend $99 when you have a free one collecting dust?

    5. Closet organizer. Ladies, do you want somewhere to hang or rest your purse collection? What about sweaters, or maybe you need somewhere to hang your pants or rest your shoes? An old ladder in the closet is a great place to organize your clothing and accessories.

    6. Nightstand. If your ladder has flat rungs that are like small shelves, you can use a ladder as a nightstand. Simply place the ladder next to the bed and use the rungs to place your alarm clock, books or magazines and phone (or whatever else you keep next to the bed).

    7. Wall decor. Hang an old ladder on the wall as art! Paint it a fun color to match your room, or affix family memorabilia to the rungs and use it as a wall display.

    Want more repurposing ideas? Check out 5 things you can do with an old t-shirt.

     

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    Type Fiend, Flickr

    A Place for Everything, and everything in its place. Do you think the owner of this ultra-organized office drawer meant to match the carpet to the binder clips? And is the carpet supposed to look like lush grass? This is one desk we wouldn't mind being stuck behind.

     

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    Want to recreate your favorite vacation memories in your own backyard? Let's create an outdoor room with well-traveled flair!

     

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    Adhesive window films on windows.Pretty and feminine, "Rose" reminds of times past in a decidedly contemporary fashion. Photo: Emma Jeffs.

    These adhesive window films give a modern look to windows and mirrors.

    When Emma Jeffs introduced her decorative window films in 2006, Jeffs's first design of a lace pattern printed onto frosted, etched vinyl was an instant hit with interior design enthusiasts the world over. Recently, the designer introduced a new collection of her wildly popular films.

    Emma Jeffs' three newest adhesive window film designs for spring are called Anni, Pearl and Rose. As with her original designs, white patterns are printed onto a sheet of frosted film, which is like contact paper but much more sophisticated and attractive. Emma Jeffs' film is opaque enough to provide privacy but translucent enough to allow light to filter through -- and yes, figures are obscured even for bathroom windows.

    The films are easy to apply: You measure and cut the film to size, then wet the window and apply the film. Plus, the high-quality vinyl makes them easier to apply than other cheaper window films. To remove, simply peel off with no sticky residue.

    Adhesive window film on windows.The "Pearl" design features open circular geometrics. Put some delight to ho-hum backdoor window panes or transoms. Photo: Emma Jeffs.

    So, why all the buzz? The films cleverly resemble old-fashioned net curtains while bringing a streamlined and clean look to your windows. You can also take advantage of their versatility, and use them on glass cabinet doors in the kitchen to hide clutter, turn a plain glass coffee table into a chic tabletop or cut the adhesive into shapes and frame the edges of a mirror. Each roll comes in a 37" x 52" sheet for $76. Emma Jeffs' full line of window films, both in feminine lace designs or masculine geometrics are available at 2Jane.

    Adhesive window film in windows.
    "Anni," resembling an old-school computer print out, and would fit well in a den or a guest bathroom. Photo: Emma Jeffs.

     

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  • 06/03/10--21:12: On the Hunt: Placemats
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    Protect your table in style with these fabulous placemats.

    Now that summer is right around the corner, you may be thinking about all those fun barbecues, parties and get-togethers that involve lots and lots of cooking and eating. There's no better time than the present to start stocking up on some new tabletop essentials. From florals to solids and from to vinyl to beads, there's a placemat out there that will put some pizazz under your plates. Here are some of our favorite finds:

    modern placematsAdd simplicity and function to a modern table.

    From top left, clockwise:
    No one does outdoor textiles better than Chilewich: Chilewich Pressed Vinyl Dots placemat, $7, Sur La Table.
    Add some bling to your table with this Gloss silver placemat, $5.95, cb2.
    Although understated in color, this Mother of Pearl placemat has just enough shimmer to feel fancy, $30, Bed Bath & Beyond.
    Modern-Twist's easy-to-clean Grid placemat has a simple pattern that resembles pebbles, $19, Velocity Art and Design.
    These chaotic Silver Nest placemats will add order to your table, $19.80 for a set of four, ZGallerie.
    Finally, FilzFelt's Wool Felt Rectangle placemat is the perfect touch to any mid-century modern tabletop, $16, Supermarket.


    fun and patterned placematsPut a party under your plate!

    From top left, clockwise:
    Crate & Barrel always manages to have fun with their textiles as shown in these round Maisie placemats, $6 each, Crate & Barrel.
    On a budget? No problem -- grab a four-pack of these KLISTRIG placemats for $2.50, IKEA.
    Simple beauty in my two favorite colors for this season: Juniper Aqua placemats, $40 for a set of four, Allmodern.
    Who says you can't play with your food? Hilarious Cheeseburger diagram placemats are meant for fun, $28 for a set of four, girls can tell.
    One of my favorite collaborations of this past year is DwellStudio for Target and I love their graphic floral-yet-not-flowery Blossom Cork placemats, $10 for two, Target.
    You can always count on Pier1 to have something unexpected, like these Bamboo beaded placemat, $8.

    Need more fun tabletop ideas? Check out some of our new spring linen finds.

     

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  • 06/03/10--21:12: Daily Upper: Flower Car
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    Bella Lago, Flickr

    Better than a pocket full of posies: a trunk full of blooms. We're so envious of the lucky garden these sweet flowers are going to. Wouldn't it be such a lovely surprise to open your trunk one day to find these guys?

     

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    Duffy-Marie Arnoult, Getty Images

    Design world provocateur passes away in Manhattan home.

    Tobias Wong, the designer who coined the term and personified the movement "postinteresting", died in his Manhattan home on Sunday, May 30th. The 35-year-old's death was ruled a suicide, and he is survived by his mother, stepfather, brother and partner Tim Dubitsky.

    A talented artist that found success in both the avant garde and commercial worlds, Wong brought his cheekily thoughtful parodies of the work of designers like Philippe Starck, Issey Miyake and Karim Rashid, offering a different -- often controversial, often brilliant -- perspective on what we traditionally consider design. By illuminating Stark's Bubble Chair, he not only turned the seat into a lamp, he opened up the possibilities of looking at conventional furniture in a decidedly unconventional way. "When I do pull a prank, it's my means of sending out a conceptual idea, it's not just laughing at them," Wong had said.

    He also brought his lens to corporations like McDonalds and Burberry -- elevating the fast food giant's coffee stirrer by gold-plating it, and bringing the British brand's signature plaid down to earth by slapping it on buttons that he passed around. Wong even challenged the modern idea of shopping, co-organizing the "Wrong Store", a Chelsea gallery turned into a space that was anti-shopping in every way, from the "Come in, We're Closed" sign on the door to the fact that nothing was sold.

    Of course his ideas could not be ignored by the art world biggies -- his work has been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, the Cooper-Hewitt, the Brooklyn Museum of Art and Paris' Colette shop. And after inspiring an entire generation of designers, writers, thinkers and artists, his death has left the blog world saddened, shocked and just as Wong would have hoped, with a renewed vow to challenge ideas, reevaluate values and always look for new ways of looking at the world.

    Some of our favorite bloggers remember Wong
    Design Milk
    If it's Hip it's Here

    MoCo Loco

    Core77
    Apartment Therapy
    and the official New York Times obituary.

     

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    Paul Grover, Rex USA
    Big news for this tiny plant -- a London horticulturalist saves the centimeter-long flower.

    A person's a person, no matter how small -- and the same goes for lilies. After 25 years of botanists' attempts to get a seedling of the Nymphaea thermarum (the official name for those freaking adorable water lilies) to flower, horticulturalist Carlos Magdalena unlocked the secret in the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

    Paul Grover, Rex USA

    Turns out the miniature blooms don't function the way typical water lilies do; Magdalena discovered that the petite versions flourish in damp mud, while their regular-sized counterparts need to be submerged in water before they get big enough for their pads to reach the surface. Who knew?

    It's especially welcome news considering that the last wild Nymphaea thermarum in Rwanda fell victim to dry conditions in 2008. Since then it hasn't reappeared until November of last year, when Magdalena's first flower bloomed. "Now we have over 30 healthy baby plants growing here at Kew and some are producing seeds," he announced. And the flowers made their public debut on May 22, where water lily enthusiasts gathered at Kew to get a peek.

    Inspired to spend more time in your own garden? Here, some ideas to get you started:
    Native Perennials for Shade
    Growing Up: Vertical Gardens
    How to Grow Chives
    Easy Summer Bulbs: Lilies

     

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    Jason LaVeris, FilmMagic


    An elevator to the sky-lit kitchen -- just some of the luxuries in the actress' new home with Stephen Moyer.

    Canadian-born and New Zealand-bred actress Anna Paquin rocketed to fame at age 11 when she won an Academy Award for her supporting role in The Piano. The proudly gap-toothed and self-professed bisexual actress then became known for her role as Rogue in the X-Men trilogy, and she currently stars in the award-winning vampire series True Blood.

    In the fall of 2009 Paquin became engaged to her longtime boyfriend and True Blood co-star Stephen Moyer. The couple, who met filming the show's pilot, had been shacking up in a leased house on the canals in Venice, CA but recently forked over $2.2M for an architect-designed contemporary crib just half a block from legendary (and legendarily funky) Venice Beach.

    A walk-street wonder. Photos: Winston Cenac / Bulldog Realtors, Inc.

    The May-December pair's new beach pad is located on one of Venice's "walk streets," a car-free and pedestrian-friendly environment where houses face each other across a narrow sidewalk rather than a traditional street. Auto access is typically through a narrow street or alley at the back of the property. According to listing information, the glass, steel and stucco house stands three stories tall, measures just over 3,100 square feet, and includes a total of four bedrooms and four and a half bathrooms divided between the modern main house and attached guesthouse.

    Open plan aerie. Photos: Winston Cenac / Bulldog Realtors, Inc.

    The main living space -- an open planned sky-lit and window wrapped living, dining and high-tech kitchen area -- is situated on the third level in order to capture the sunset and ocean views. Fortunately there's an elevator so no one will have to break a sweat schlepping groceries up the flights of stairs.

    Master bedroom business. Photos: Winston Cenac / Bulldog Realtors, Inc.

    The bedrooms are well separated for privacy and the expansive second floor master suite has plush wall-to-wall carpeting, a fireplace and spa-style bathroom with floating custom-built cabinetry, spa tub and separate shower.

    A front yard too. Photos: Winston Cenac / Bulldog Realtors, Inc.

    The ground floor has polished concrete floors and includes a bedroom, bathroom, office nook and family room space with floor-to-ceiling French doors that open to the good-sized, tree-shaded and grassy front yard, a real rarity in a Venice property situated this close to the beach.

    Indoor outdoor living. Photos: Winston Cenac / Bulldog Realtors, Inc.

    A balcony off the living room hangs over the front yard and a larger terrace off the kitchen provides outdoor space for grillin', chillin' and taking in the ocean and sunset views.

    Room for guests and cars. Photos: Winston Cenac / Bulldog Realtors, Inc.

    Above the three-car garage, a classic, cottage-style guesthouse has a separate entrance, living and dining areas, a bedroom alcove, bathroom and renovated kitchen with wainscot and glass-fronted cabinetry. There are two additional off-street parking spaces: an out-and-out luxury in a neighborhood where street parking can be a blood sport.


    Craving More Celeb Homes?

    Guess the Celebrity Pool -- Hint: She Speaks Four Languages
    Sneak Peek: Meg Ryan in ELLE DECOR
    Lenny Kravitz's Former Miami Villa

     

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