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    This photo by Victoria Smith of SFGirlByBay is entitled "I Never Promised You A Succulent Garden," and was taken while she spent some time in Palm Springs for Modernism Week. What I like most about the composition is that you don't see the sides of the home, almost making it feel like the house and the row of succulents extends forever. The lawn is so perfect, it looks like Astro turf and is reminiscent of a quirky, independent movie set starring someone like Parker Posey. Can you hear the fake birds chirping?

    Want more Daily Uppers? Get 'em here!


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    Photo: Jennifer Graylock/jpistudios.c

    The home and design news for the week of June 14 to 18.

    Hanes makes a "brief" statement for the home and Dora the Explorer heads to Utah! Here's the home news for this week:

    Guess who they have their Hanes on now? You and your bedroom, the company hopes! Underwear maker Hanes has entered a licensing deal with WestPoint Home on a new line of bed and bath products.

    Designer Diane Von Furstenberg has teamed up with Springs Global to fancy up your place with the DVF Home collection. Take a look a the line.

    It looks like it's all about teaming up as The Robert Allen Group has signed a deal with contemporary design house DwellStudio for woven and print collections.

    Williams-Sonoma, the company behind Pottery Barn, is taking note of how you think about shopping and is making adjustments.

    Tens of thousands of dollars for a mattress? Let's hope it ensures a perfect night of sleep every night -- for the rest of your life!

    And the winners are...: The San Francisco chapter of the American Institute of Architects names its honorees for 2010.

    It looks like Utah was the place to be if you're a parent as Dora the Explorer and SpongeBob SquarePants made appearances at several R.C. Willey furniture stores to promote a new licensed line.

    There's nothing like sitting outdoors and helping the environment while you're doing it: Telescope Casual Furniture is launching a new line of recycled acrylic tabletops.

    If you're a compulsive shopper looking for stuff for the home, you might need a split-screen TV for this: The Home Shopping Network is launching another channel, HSN2.


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    Cabbages & Roses' Christina Strutt's latest book is At Home With Country. Photos: Edina van der Wyck/CICO Books

    Expert advice for how to get the country look -- without letting things get too quaint.

    Country style isn't just for English cottages with cozy nooks and rose bushes. In her new book, At Home With Country: Bringing the Comforts of Country Home, Christina Strutt, makes the case that country is for everyone, whether you live in the actual countryside or in a loft space in the heart of the city.

    As the owner of a home in the English countryside and the founder of Cabbages & Roses, a fabric company specializing in historic rural prints, Christina knows a thing or two about what "country" is all about. We caught up with Christina to get her advice for decorating in a country style -- and how to get it right. Here's what she had to say:

    Bold stripes are a perfect foil to feminine florals. Photo: Photo: Edina van der Wyck/CICO Books.

    Q: Why did you choose the title At Home With Country?

    A: Cabbages & Roses has always been associated with a country style. We wanted to show people that [country] could be slipped easily into the city, an apartment, a beach house -- it's so versatile, that we wanted to put it everywhere. We wanted to show people that it's not exclusively country homes.

    The easiest way to mix and match: Choose two patterns with the same color palette. Photo: Edina van der Wyck/CICO Books.

    Q: Do you have any tips for adding country to one's home?

    A: Go with your heart, and do what you feel is beautiful. If you're looking for country, you'll find it. And always, mix and match.

    Q: Do you have any advice for mixing and matching?

    A: Again, go with your heart. Follow your eye, and don't worry about being judged: Do what you like. It doesn't always come out right the first time. Even professionals have to put things in, take it out, and play around.

    Rough-hewn woods and natural linens add a touch of brutality to this room. Photo: Edina van der Wyck/CICO Books

    Q: How do you keep country from getting too quaint?

    A: Exactly! You need to add some brutal stuff there. What I love is a concrete floor or a concrete surface with a floral. Also, pare down, pare down: Clutter can creep up on you. Once in a while, step back and empty, and then re-add carefully.

    Q: Do you have suggestions for making country more masculine?

    A: Introduce some masculine kinds of fabrics: stripes, plains, or go neutral -- [men] won't notice that it's floral [if you do].

    Q: Do you have tips for mixing country into a more contemporary home?

    A: Be very sparing with country: It gives [contemporary interiors] a bit of femininity and coziness. Contemporary can become very cold and stark, but just a one rosy pillow on a plain white sofa, would give you that bit of softness.

    A few touches of country warm up this modern loft. Photo: Edina van der Wyck/CICO Book

    Q: Are there any big no-nos when it comes to country decorating?

    A: The worst thing you can do is to be afraid to use color; to go beige in everything is a no-no -- that's no taste at all. And it's better to have bad taste than no taste.

    All images from At Home with Country by Christina Strutt. CICO Books, $29.95, 2010;

    Want to read more about decorating in a country style?
    Check out these posts:

    Country Chic South of France Style
    Give Your Home a Farm Fresh Look


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  • 06/19/10--09:40: Dishwasher Rules to Clean By
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    Tom Grill, Getty Images

    Get your dishes cleaner with these smart strategies for loading the dishwasher.

    And the award for best kitchen appliance splurge of all time goes to (drum roll please)...the dishwasher. Well, in my opinion, anyway. But just how well your dishwasher performs depends on just how well you use it. We asked appliance experts Sandra Steward of the Whirlpool Institute of Kitchen Science and Carolyn Forte of the Good Housekeeping Research Institute to share time-tested advice on getting your dishes clean.

    "There are three factors that affect how clean your dishes get," Steward says. "Mechanical energy (the water spray), thermal energy (hot water), and chemical energy (the detergent)."

    Here's how to make sure that you've got each one right.

    1. Don't block the spray arms.

    In order for your dishwasher's water spray to work most efficiently, you'll need to load the machine strategically. That means making sure that the water sprays aren't blocked. On most machines, there's one spray arm below the bottom rack and another right below the upper rack. Steward suggests taking your finger and spinning the spray arms once the machine is loaded to assure that they can move freely.

    2. Yes, there is a right way to load a dishwasher.
    You can optimize cleaning by loading the dishes so they make best use of the spray arms. To ensure this, all soiled surfaces should be facing east to west, or as Forte explains, "In toward the center, not out toward the walls." Here are other tips for how to best load the dishwasher:

    -Large items like pots, pans and casserole dishes should be placed along the sides and back of the lower rack. Be sure that pot and long utensil handles don't protrude below the bottom rack -- one way that spray arms commonly get blocked. Some machines have additional jets on the lower back wall of the tub. Heavily soiled items can be positioned to face those jets for a direct, targeted spray and extra cleaning.

    and smaller items should go on the top rack, with glasses placed upside down in between the tines, never over them. (They're less secure when placed over the tines, increasing the risk of damage. Plus, the tines can cause food and water to get trapped inside, leaving stains.)

    -Silverware is a little trickier to arrange. The key to getting these clean is to make sure that they don't nest. Alternate loading spoons and forks with the handles facing up and down; knives should always go in with the sharp end pointing down.

    can get damaged if you're using the heat dry setting, so always put these items on the top shelf, away from the drying mechanism.

    -Platters and cookie sheets are best placed on the sides of the bottom rack. If placed in front, they may hinder the detergent door from opening or prevent the detergent from being dispensed and fully mixing with the water.

    3. Make sure that the water is hot.
    Since heat is a key factor in breaking up grease and stubborn food, Steward suggests running your kitchen tap before starting a dishwasher cycle. That way, the water will be hot the moment it touches your plates.

    4. Add the right amount of detergent.
    "More is not always better," when it comes to dishwasher detergent, Steward says. The amount you need depends on the hardness of your water. Look for guidelines in your machine's user care guide, but as a general rule of thumb, the harder your water is, the more detergent you'll need. If your water is soft (or if you've done a lot of pre-rinsing), using too much detergent can cause etching or a rainbow effect on glass that's irreversible.

    5. Scrape, don't rinse.

    Pre-rinsing is a waste of water, both experts agree. With performance improving in most machines over the years, all you need to do is scrape off big pieces of food and send the wares in for a wash. "The only time I would recommend it is if you weren't running a full load," Forte says. "In that case you can use a "rinse and hold" setting. It only uses a gallon of water, less water than rinsing them in the sink, and they can stay there until you can accumulate a whole load."


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    We weigh the pros and cons and try to figure out when the rent-to-own option makes sense.

    When Niki Horace was having trouble selling an investment property just outside of Seattle, a pair of potential buyers stepped forward. They asked if Horace would be willing to "rent-to-own." Since they didn't have the best credit, the agreement seemed to make sense. Horace and her new tenants set the purchase price and a fixed rent rate, and the tenants put down $10,000. Each month for two years, a portion of the rent would go toward the price of the home. Then the tenants could pay the remaining balance -- or opt out and move on.

    After two years of her tenants being the "perfect renters," Horace realized their rent was late so she went by the house. The place had been completely gutted -- except for the mother-in-law apartment, which the tenants had turned into the largest marijuana-growing operation in the state of Washington, according to the eventual police report. (Pause to wrap your brain around that.)

    The house was condemned by the city and Horace had to sign it off to authorities. Investment down the drain (or, pipe...). Still, despite the drama, Horace says she'd do it again. "Renting to own is great for the seller who's having a difficult time finding the perfect buyer in this economy," says Horace.

    Perhaps as a result of the mortgage crisis (and the economic fallout thereafter), renting to own is becoming more and more popular across the country (take a look at this New York Times article). But does it make sense for someone looking to buy a home? It can, but there are potential challenges.

    "I see rent-to-own hopefuls come through our offices quite regularly," says Troy Costa, National Wholesale Account Executive for Plaza Home Mortgage in San Diego. "The single biggest pitfall is when the seller is trying to credit the buyer's rent-to-own money toward the expense of closing instead of toward the actual purchase price."

    It's why it's essential that a real estate lawyer is hired to help write the contract in the beginning.

    "Make sure you get a contract. Seriously: GET A CONTRACT," says Horace. "Clearly state who's responsible if something goes south, or if the house has a problem, such as a pipe burst that causes damages. Also make sure the note/lease is filed with the city, so there is no room for argument if something really serious happens."

    If all of the kinks are sorted out ahead of time, the experience can be a positive one. This was the case with Corey Schiller, who is currently renting to own at the The Residences Ritz-Carlton Philadelphia.

    "[Renting to own] allows you to get what you want, while limiting your risk," he says. "For me, I wanted time to furnish the place, sell my current house, move in gradually and evaluate if the building was the right fit. That's a lot to balance at once, and I felt more comfortable about the transition in this scenario."

    Schiller wouldn't recommend it for someone who's pinching pennies. Because you put down a large deposit, plus pay a sum that covers both the rent and a percentage of your future mortgage, it does cost more than the typical renting experience or a straight-forward purchase. But in a situation such as his -- residences are moving quickly (and you want to snap one up) -- you probably want to take your time and make sure that you're making the right decision. Then renting to own might just be the way to go.

    And in Schiller's case, all worked out as planned: He's currently in the final stages of his mortgage approval to become a homeowner.

    Renting to own enables you to invest in a property without the commitment. Photo: The Residences Ritz-Carlton, Philadelphia

    We asked Troy Costa to give us a list of pros and cons to renting to own. Here's what he said:

    1. You can move in immediately -- no need to wait on the bank or a closing date.
    2. You'll have time to save up for a down payment, which will ultimately reduce your mortgage.
    3. You can "try on" a home and see if the location, light, style works for you.
    4. It's much easier and affordable to change plans. If something unexpectedly comes up and you decide to move, you don't have to hassle with selling your property -- you just leave it behind like a rental.
    5. During the lease period, the landlord generally handles repairs, just make sure that's stated in the contract.
    6. If you are a first time home buyer or someone who is credit challenged, it gives you the chance to figure out how to get financing for the full purchase price.

    1. There are no guarantees. A seller can change the deal if a better offer comes along. It's important to use a knowledgeable real estate attorney to ensure that doesn't happen.
    2. You may miss out on prime mortgage interest rates. (The good loan rates that might be available to you now, could be gone by the time you're ready for traditional financing.) The home's value may also drop in a bad economy, but you're locked in at the original purchase price, meaning you're not getting the best value for your money. (Of course, the value of the home could also go up, and you'd be getting a great value.)
    3. Tax advantages currently favor the home owner/mortgage payer versus renter/lease purchaser.


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    Huntstock, Getty Images

    Make the right decisions about lighting, house numbers, and what color to paint the front door.

    You know the old adage, "You can't judge a book by its cover"? Well, let's face it -- people do judge a book by its cover, and not just when it comes to people. If your house is starting to look a little tired, outdated or just plain blah, here are some quick fixes to help you transform the outside of your home.

    1. Paint your door. Painting your front door is an easy fix, but it's not an easy decision to choose the right color. Should you paint it the same color as your shutters? What color fits best with the style of your home?

    There isn't a rulebook for paint colors, so you can select just about any color that you like. We recommend choosing either a complementary color to your home's exterior siding, stone or brick, or going out on a limb with a bold choice. For example, if your home's exterior is blue siding, you might choose a bright yellow door for a bold pop of color or a darker shade of blue for a more subtle, cool look. For brick homes, you can play up the red in your brick by painting your door a deep red. A cool gray or blue would shine when matched with a stone exterior.

    Before you commit to a color for the door, bring home some paint testers from your local hardware or paint store and test them just as you would with interior wall colors. Paint a large enough swatch so that you can stand back and get a good idea of what it will look like from the street.

    Make sure to do 2 to 3 coats of paint, otherwise the door will look unfinished. You don't have to paint the interior side of the door if you don't want to.

    2. Add new house numbers. You don't want to send your guests on a scavenger hunt to find your home, so choose helpful and handsome house numbers. House numbers come in lots of different materials and fonts, and there are even lighted or solar versions. With all of these options, choosing the right one can be tricky.

    There are so many possibilities when it comes to house numbers. Photos: Accurate Image, Inc.

    Here are a few tips for choosing house numbers that suit your home:

    - Be sure that they can be seen from the street. Have someone hold them up and check them out from the curb to make sure they're visible to guests and delivery services.

    - If your lights are not solar or LED, place them in a well-lit area so that they are still visible at night.

    - Select a readable font. Don't get too over-decorative because the numbers can become difficult to discern. A "1" can easily look like a "7" in the wrong font.

    - If your home is a specific style, such as a bungalow or a mid-century modern, then try to make choices in keeping with your home's style. When considering fixtures, ask yourself: Does my home have mostly wrought iron, brass or nickel-plated fixtures? You might consider choosing house numbers that are an extension of the interior's fixtures.

    - A few great places to add your house numbers are: the front door or right next to it, a post or column of your porch, on your mailbox (especially if it is a street-side mailbox) or right under an exterior light.

    3. Update your mailbox. Just because you get more email than you get snail mail these days doesn't mean that you should neglect your mailbox. A rusty mailbox is a no-no, whether you have a freestanding mailbox at the curb or a wall-mounted one next to your front door. There are lots of beautiful mailbox options to complement just about any exterior, from freestanding classic boxes to compartmentalized units to mail slots. But how do you choose what kind is right for you?

    First, take a closer look at the mail that you get -- do you have lots of magazine subscriptions or receive lots of packages? If so, you may consider getting a post-mount box because they tend to be slightly larger in size and they're able to accommodate multiple magazines, letters and packages. If you're the kind of person who gets a letter here or there, choose a smaller, wall-mounted version.

    Which style is best? We love classic mailbox looks best. Then you know that you'll love it for years to come.

    update your outdoor lightingAdd some lighting that coordinates with your home's style. Photos: Rejuvenation

    4. Light it up! It's important to have exterior lighting: First, it makes your home look much nicer from the street, and second, it helps people find your home by lighting up the area near your house numbers. Plus, well-lit homes help deter burglars.

    Tips for choosing an exterior light:

    - Opt for lighting that fits the era or style of your home. If your home is a Victorian or a Craftsman, you can find original or reproduction lighting from that era. For originals, try Craigslist or eBay.

    - For homes with porches, consider overhead lighting or a wall light. An overhead lamp will flood more light into the area than a wall sconce. Another consideration for overhead lighting is the addition of a ceiling fan.

    - If you sit on your porch or stoop in the summertime, consider switching out your regular bulb with a yellow bug light to help deter insects.

    - If you have a walkway, install solar lights along the path to guide your visitors to the front door.

    Punch it up with something a little different.

    5. Accessorize. Even if you don't have a porch, potted plants, doormats or door knockers can add quite a bit of curb appeal to a bland exterior. Adding color with accessories and plants makes for a more inviting experience for your guests. Try unexpected elements like an upside-down planter, this stone door knocker, a solar planter or this funky timber doormat.

    But don't overdo it. It's easy to get carried away at the nursery buying pots and flowers. Instead, go for one large planter or a bright, bold plant for impact. You don't want your guests hunting through a forest to find the doorbell.

    Want more great outdoor update ideas? Paint your old patio furniture or get some tips from HGTV's Carter Oosterhouse.


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  • 06/21/10--16:52: Daily Upper: Happy Cake
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    Mrs. Jenny Ryan, Flickr

    Can money buy happiness? No, no, we're told it can't. But can money buy happy cakes? Because those might be the next best thing.

    Want more Daily Uppers? Get 'em here!


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    Docked just 100 kilometers north of Amsterdam, consider this your unique waterfront getaway. Photo: Reddingsboot in Harlingen

    Sleep somewhere different on your next European vacay: In a lifeboat!

    While vacationing, I have no qualms with beachfront hotels or sailboat rides, but I took pause at this discovery: An overnight stay in a lifeboat. Because of my dislike for cramped, tiny spaces, I imagined sleepless nights and cramped quarters.

    However, the interior of Lilla Marras, a lifeboat docked in the Harlingen harbor on Holland's north shore, about 100 kilometers north of Amsterdam, is not what you would expect. Rooms on the lower deck are artfully arranged to feel as if you are in a boutique hotel -- albeit a small one -- not a lifeboat.

    From 1955 to 1979, Lilla Marras served along the British coast and performed 105 rescue operations (including saving the lives of 45 people). The boat was recently restored to accommodate travelers (two people at a time). Today, for 229 euros (approximately $311) per night, you can secure a spot on this luxury lifeboat, which is surrounded by multi-million dollar yachts.

    Not the cramped quarters you'd expect on a boat, this lilypad-design bed is actually a double-size bed. Photo: Reddingsboot in Harlingen

    The cabin space has been carved out for relaxing and entertainment. Bedtime means retiring to a lilypad-shaped double bed. While, a flat-screen television and DVD player, turn the room into a home movie theater. You don't even have to sacrifice a pro-bono meal: Breakfast is delivered to the pilothouse daily.

    Doesn't this cedar bathtub look lovely? Never mind that it's next to the toilet. Photo: Reddingsboot in Harlingen

    If a storm rolls in forcing you to head below deck, simply recline to the forecabin and take a hot bath inside a cedar bathtub that's deep enough for a true soak.

    A breakfast nook for morning coffee, complete with two Arne Jacobsen-style chairs. Photo: Reddingsboot in Harlingen

    In the aft cabin are two swivel armchairs, a table and a wall unit for audio-visual equipment. For light meals, there are a boiling-water tap, a mini-bar and a kitchenette to get you started on some creative, shipman's-style cuisine.

    Sadly, if you want to spend a night in this lifeboat, you will have to hold onto your excitement: Lilla Marras is booked through 2010. (The year 2011 has the next openings.)


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    Thomas O'Brien, ELLE DECOR's Editor-in-Chief Margaret Russell with Michael S. Smith and Bunny Williams at the event. Photos: Patrick Butler.

    ELLE DECOR spotlighted the top 25 interior designers. We singled out our three favorites.

    ELLE DECOR toasted the 25 designers (and five designers to watch) on their A-List at the McGuire showroom in the New York Design Center with electric pink peonies, lots of champagne and a gorgeous magazine spread on some of their favorite homes.

    We had a blast -- both at the party, and back at home paging through the issue. But we also wanted to get in some of the fun of choosing. So we've handpicked the three ELLE DECOR A-List designers that we think are the leaders of the pack. The magazine made their choices by poring over photos and sites and arguing -- err, "conversing in a lively fashion" -- over which designers best reflected their hallmarks of high style, serious comfort and snappy ideas. But we're focusing on the three most high-profile, high-style designers -- think of it this way: If the interior design world was a high school, these three would be the Prom Queen and Kings. (What? A tie is allowed!)

    So if you don't have time to go through the magazine or slideshow (though we highly recommend it!) here's our CliffsNotes on the A-Plus of the A-List.,feedConfig,localizationConfig,entry&id=899892&pid=899891&uts=1277139760

    Our Faves from the ELLE DECOR A-List

    What makes Michael S. Smith so A Plus? His clients range from Cindy Crawford to the Obama White House. The common thread? His easy, breezy, elegant California style.

    Our Faves from the ELLE DECOR A-List

    Don't you want to sleep until noon in this comfy-luxe bed?

    Our Faves from the ELLE DECOR A-List

    How can you not love Charlotte Moss's dealbreakers? "Bad shoes. Polyester napkins. A 'library' with no books." And she's working on her seventh -- yes, seventh -- design book. Epic.

    Our Faves from the ELLE DECOR A-List

    Totally elegant, totally restrained and the number one place we'd love to have a glass of iced tea.

    Our Faves from the ELLE DECOR A-List

    Can't afford to hire Thomas O'Brien as your decorator? Buy some of his incredible wares at Aero. Can't afford those? Thomas's Target Collection is swoon-worthy.

    Our Faves from the ELLE DECOR A-List

    Chocolate brown sofa + larger-than-life artwork = perfect weeknight retreat.

    Our Faves from the ELLE DECOR A-List


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    Sandra Bullock Jesse James As picture-perfect as a movie set, the northern Orange County, California, home that actress Sandra Bullock shared with her soon-to-be ex husband Jesse James is up for sale. Photo: First Team Real Estate

    The best part about celebrity breakups? Some really sweet real estate always ends up on the market.

    Now that he and soon-to-be ex-wife Sandra Bullock are headed to divorce court, Jesse James has put his Los Angeles real estate on the market. The Sunset Beach, 3,600-square-foot Mediterranean-style villa, which he shared with Bullock in happier times, will be sold, along with a condo he owns down the street. James is relocating to Austin, Texas.

    Sandra Bullock Jesse JamesDecorated like a beach retreat, honey-colored wicker, tropical plants and animal-inspired patterned pillows are in one of the four bedrooms. Note the touch of glam: leveled mirrors above each nightstand. Photo: First Team Real Estate

    Listed at $6.75 million, the Sunset Beach property was recently remodeled in 2002. Located right on the sand, and a few miles from the Newport and Huntington Beach piers, its four bedrooms, each with its own bath, are spread across two levels.

    The design inside the house is pretty relaxed, nothing too glamorous except for gleaming hardwoods and first class views of the Pacific Ocean. Still, since we all love to peek inside celeb's homes, let's take a look around.

    Sandra Bullock Jesse JamesThe home's great room is cozy and rustic. Photo: First Team Real Estate

    Speaking of views, they're best from the great room (above). Canterra stone floors and subdued furnishings give the space a rustic feel. Crown-molding and grid ceilings add character. Vintage suitcases, a natural-wood sofa table, and potted palms bring to mind Old Florida. There's a glass-enclosed patio off the room, containing a pool, grotto, waterfall, tiki torches and waterslide.

    Sandra Bullock Jesse JamesThe kitchen's open concept is suitable for entertaining -- whether your friends are in the movie business or not. Photo: First Team Real Estate

    The kitchen is well-appointed, but not movie-star exciting. Custom maple-wood cabinetry is crowned with granite countertops, and there's a Viking stovetop and stainless steel appliances. A crescent-shaped granite slab divides the great room from the kitchen. An ornate iron staircase plays off of the Mediterranean decorating theme.

    Because of the sellers' celeb status, the new owners will have to contend with an extensive surveillance system complete with security cameras and professional-quality audio and video systems.

    Just down the street, also in Sunset Beach, is this three-bedroom condo -- which James also owns -- with an asking price of $1.29 million. While it's not on the beach, you can see the Pacific Ocean from the home's deck and third floor. Unique and upscale architectural features make this home anything but the typical beach house. The fireplaces are constructed of river rock and there are three staircases plus an elevator. The layout is designed such that the bedrooms are on the first two floors -- and the living room and kitchen above those.

    If given your pick, which one would you buy? I'd take the villa for the proximity to the beach alone.

    Even if we don't have beach houses, we still love the beachy stories:
    Table in a Bag: Perfect for Summer Outings
    Weekend Splurges: Seashells!
    10 Pretty Beach Towels
    Daily Upper: Beach Dining


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  • 06/22/10--09:48: Spell Your Name With Seating
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    ABChairs alphabet chairsSpell before you sit. We used these unique chairs to spell ShelterPop! Custom photo courtesy of Roeland Otten

    Loving these chairs is as easy as learning your ABC's.

    About ten years ago, graphic designer Roeland Otten got an idea to design "communicative furniture for public space." However, the project was shelved until recently when he partnered with Fonds BKVB and Materiaalfonds to develop ABChairs, a series of 26 chairs and stools, each representing a letter of the alphabet.

    These limited edition lacquered MDF seats are currently available by request from Otten, but he hopes that eventually he can partner with a manufacturer to create plastic versions.

    The applications for these are endless for both residential and commercial spaces. Imagine your patio furniture spelling out your last name, or a shop having seating that spells out the store's name. Otten says that the fun in these chairs is the interaction between consumer and product. In other words, before you order, you have to think about what word you would like to spell and how you'll use them -- every order is custom!

    What would your set of chairs spell out? Tell us below in our comments section!


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    Steve Crane, Flickr

    When we think beach house, we think white-washed and shabby chic. But aren't these technical beach huts so much more alive? We call dibs on the green one!

    Want more Daily Uppers? Get 'em here!


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    Madeline Weinrib's signature textiles sit in front of her brand new wallpaper. Photo: Madeline Weinrib Atelier

    The famed textile designer introduces her first line of wallpapers.

    Even if the name Madeline Weinrib doesn't ring a bell, you've probably seen her rugs and textiles before. Weinrib's contemporary interpretations of ikat, suzani and blockprint designs are the darling of the design world and her graphic rugs are loved by traditionalists and contemporary design lovers alike; both have appeared in many publications, including ELLE Decor, Town & Country and just about every issue of Domino magazine.

    When we heard that Madeline Weinrib Atelier was debuting a line of wallpapers, we expected to find the signature patterns of her textiles reinterpreted onto paper, but Weinrib's new wall coverings have a distinct look all of their own. Instead of the bright blocks of color found on her soft goods, the papers are strictly black and white.

    The line is called "Allemande" and draws its inspiration from antique French brocade. When seen up close, the brocade patterns reveal visible brushstrokes, giving the paper a handmade and personal feel. Like her textiles, Weinrib's wallpaper reinterprets something from the past and gives it a fresh, of-the-moment look.

    An up-close view of Madeline Weinrib's "Allemande" wallpaper. Photo: Madeline Weinrib Atelier

    Weinrib's wallpapers are being produced in the U.S. by Studio Printworks, a workshop that produces hand painted wallpapers and textiles. Weinrib's designs are hand-silk screened with vinyl ink onto clay-coated paper. Sold as single roll sets of two five yard by 27-inch panels (25"-trim), the papers will be available both to the trade and to the public.

    The wallpaper on display at ABC Carpet & Home. Photos: Madeline Weinrib Atelier

    "Allemande" wallpaper is currently on display at the Madeline Weinrib Atelier at ABC Carpet & Home in New York City. To purchase or receive information and swatches, call the Madeline Weinrib Atelier. All interior images above were shot in the showroom.


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    Eye-catching garden borders don't have to be ordinary. These ideas are packed with personality. Which would you try?

    Pavers, bricks, railroad ties, rocks...go to any landscape designer and these are the edging options you'll find. Where oh where has all the creativity gone? While lush lawns and gorgeous landscaping are sure to raise the resell value of your home, a little whimsy could go a long way while you are actually living there.

    Think about it. What does your yard say about you? What do you want it to say? If you were to harness your passions and personality into your flowerbeds, what would be the result? Give it up for the folks that created these landscape edgings. They were definitely in touch with their inner artiste -- expressions of hobbies, of eco-consciousness, of an eclectic side all abound. Be inspired with these crafty ideas. Here, some things you might want to try in the garden:

    Large quahog clam shells line a flower garden near the sea. Photo: Gina Provenzano

    Sea shells: Rim your beds with your seashore finds. To keep them from toppling in a heavy rain, dig narrow, 4-inch-deep trenches and fill them with cement. Before the cement sets, place the shells in your desired pattern.

    Flickr user: Gary Lennon

    Bowling balls: The Big Lebowski would be all over this garden lane. Using retired bowling balls as a landscape border yields striking results. While probably best if displayed in moderation, don't spare any of the psychedelic swirling colors from the mix.

    Perhaps cars rev your engine more than throwing strikes. Junk yard hub caps have been lining fences for years. Why not update and polish up the look by burying them halfway down along the garden edge?

    At left, mosaic border edge, Kaffe Fassett. At right, recycled glass bottles, ReadyMade.

    Broken plates: If your favorite plates are beyond repair, fashion a mosaic trim. It's truly special when the borders are made from something with a bit of kitsch 'n history, like Great Aunt Maggie's old china.

    Bottles: Forgo the 5 cent return and take your drinks to a whole new level. Recycle bottles by inverting them and burrowing the necks at least halfway into the ground. Whether you work in orderly rows or along a meandering path, the colored glass bottles catch the light and send lovely reflected light onto your garden.

    Ceramic plate border, Flickr user: MJIphotos on Flickr

    Chipped plates: Chipped vintage ceramic plates and tag sale bargains are wonderful expressions for a cottage garden. Unify the look with matching plates, or go eclectic with a mix of patterns and colors. Be sure to secure plates by embedding them at least half way into the dirt, or setting them in a narrow cement trench.

    If fashion plays a bigger role in your life than food, opt for a quirky display of shoes or garden boots instead. Shop thrift stores and tag sales, and fill them with cement to line you beds, otherwise your decorative trims may end up on your neighbors' lawn.

    At left, oven willow border, Gardener's Supply Co. At right, nautical roping, Photo: Caralee from Outdoor Resorts and Properties.

    Willow branches: For a more traditional approach that is anything but run-of-the-mill, try shaping willow branches in a lovely crisscrossing pattern and setting them in the soil. Secure each intersection with wire. The overall effect is free-spirited, yet contained.

    Don't have the patience to craft your own garden path trellis? Woven willow edging can be found at better garden shops and online.

    Roping: A homeowner wanting to meld her vegetable garden with the nautical theme of her child's play pirate ship used heavy-duty marine roping and wooden posts to line the edge. The look can easily be incorporated in a more grown-up location situation.

    Old ski fencing, Telestar Logistics.

    Skis: Mountain cabins don't need fences. Trim down old skis and bury them alternating the tips and the bottoms to accentuate landscaped beds. Are you more of a boarder? Try outcast or broken snow boards instead.

    Wagon wheel fencing, 1.bp.blogspot.

    Wagon wheels: Feeling like taking a walk on the wild side? The wild wild west that is. Well, start swinging the ropes, pull out the wagon and line your trails with old wagon wheels. Secured to a wire backing they act more as a fence. But cut in half and buried in the ground, they're a show stopper.
    Swap the wagon wheels for bicycle wheels if cycling is more your speed. With radiating spokes and shiny rims your yard will be riding high.

    Whatever your style, whatever your quirk, channel the spirit and express it in garden borders and trims that say something more than standard. Strive for spectacular.


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    Dining chairs upholstered in a variety of fabrics from DwellStuido for Robert Allen. Photo: DwellStudio

    DwellStudio's signature prints will now be available as fabric through The Robert Allen Group.

    When DwellStudio came onto the the design scene in 1999, there weren't many options for graphic, modern bedding. Dwell's early orange, chartreuse and chocolate brown patterns filled a hole in the market for high-quality, yet affordable contemporary bedding -- and they've been popular ever since.

    DwellStudio has grown (and grown up) in the intervening years. Their designs have become less bold and bright and more sophisticated, with a softer spin on contemporary design. DwellStudio has also widened their focus to include table linens and child and baby products.

    When the company partnered with Target in 2008, they brought their signature style to the masses at ridiculously low prices. A partnership with The Shade Store brought DwellStudio to windows. Now, with a new line of fabrics from The Robert Allen Group debuting next month, DwellStudio is opening up a world of design possibilities for their prints and patterns.

    The 'Vintage Blossom' fabric in gray was used to upholster this sofa. Photos: DwellStudio

    Robert Allen and DwellStudio have collaborated on both a residential and a "health care" collection (for hospitals to purchase). The residential collection will debut with a staggering 70 designs and the health care line has 41 upholstery and privacy curtain designs. We got a sneak peek at some of the first collection, which is called 'Eclectic Modern,' and we can't wait to see the rest of the line.

    Prints and prints and prints -- we love all of these designs! Photos: DwellStudio

    The full collection will be available in early August at Robert Allen/Beacon Hill showrooms across the country and at

    A wingback chair looks stately in their 'Gate' print, while the company's signature dot print takes on a whole new look in velvet. Photos: DwellStudio

    Want to read more about DwellStudio? Check out a post on their most recent DwellStudio for Target collection.


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  • 06/23/10--10:49: Time to Grow Up
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    Sweet peas are a fragrant, quick-growing option for a beautiful arbor. Photos: Flickr, MJI Photos and Flickr, mberry

    Add whimsy and romance to your outdoor space with a beautifully cultivated arbor garden.

    Running out of space -- or simply searching for space -- to plant some spring and summer blooms? Whether you have an expansive garden or little room to grow, arbor gardening is an excellent solution for adding some fragrant foliage (and architectural interest) to your outdoor space. All you have to do is grow up.

    HGTV's resident garden guru Jamie Durie, host of "The Outdoor Room," knows a thing or two about arbor gardening, so we picked his brain on some simple (or relatively so) tips for creating your own arbor garden this season.

    Best Flowers For Your Arbor

    When it comes to arbor gardening, it's essential to choose the right flowers. For a country style, Durie suggests opting for Wisteria, potato vine, hardenbergia, climbing roses, hydrangeas, Dropmore scarlet honeysuckle, Clematis, Dutchman's Pipe, Morning Glory or Sweet Peas. "Bougainvillea and grapes are great for a Mediterranean vibe," he says. "And if you'd prefer the tropical look, Orange Trumpet Vine (this one grows like crazy) and variegated kiwi are all excellent options."

    Growing Up
    How do you get the flowers growing up and around an arbor? It's all about training. First, plant your chosen option in the ground next to your arbor. "Be sure to select plants that fit the hourly sunlight in that location. Most flowering vines prefer about four hours of sunlight each day," says Durie.

    Once the plant's growth is truly underway, you'll want to train the vine stems to grow along the arbor by weaving the vines in and out of the structure. "If the vines need extra assistance," he says, "use wire or twist ties to help secure them to the structure."

    Cold Weather Tending
    To ensure successful growth in years to come, you'll have to work to maintain the flowers through the winter. "Pruning should start during the second winter of growth," says Durie. "You could prune anytime after the leaves begin to drop in late autumn until flower buds begin to appear in spring." In very cold winter climates, wait to prune until buds just begin to swell. This will delay growth enough to avoid damage from late frosts. For very thick vines, use lopping shears for pruning. For removing very established vines that are thicker than an inch, use a saw.

    Durie also encourages arbor garden enthusiasts to be patient. "Don't try to force your vine to cover a large area too quickly," he says. "To make sure that your plant has healthy new growth, each winter you can prune the main stalks of your vine (that provide the main framework) back for sturdy growth. Don't forget to use garden ties and check they aren't too tight so they don't bind the new growth of the vine. And each winter season, begin by removing all dead, weak stalks flush back to the thicker trunks."

    Choosing a Design
    When it comes to selecting an arbor material or shape, Durie says to keep the design simple. "Use strong, bold timber formats," he says. "Even think about recycled or re-used timber -- overlap the joints and trail the climbers over it. The key is to let the plants be the hero, not the structure."

    Still looking for ideas? We asked Durie about the type of arbor garden he'd love to grow. "Japanese style arbors are my favorite, and I love to use Stephanotis floribunda (madagascar jasmine), a dark green leathery leaf with a beautifully scented white flower," he says.

    Climbing roses are one of the most popular flowers for arbor gardens. Photos: Flickr, Weaselmcfee and Flickr, Kim+5


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  • 06/23/10--10:49: What's Your Seating Style?
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    seating arrangementsAre you casual and eclectic? Photo: Suzy Q/Room Fu

    Don't know how to start decorating an empty room? From buying furniture to arranging it, here's what you need to know to get started.

    Let's say that you're staring at an empty living room or family room, and you're ready to buy furniture. You're probably wondering where to begin. Choosing furniture can be an overwhelming experience: What types of seating will fit the room best, and how do you balance that with how often you entertain? What style fits your home? Should you go with two sofas or two sofas and a chair?

    For answers, I spoke with Austin, Texas interior design guru Robin Callan of Room Fu "Knockout Interiors" (isn't that a great name?).

    She says that most people's tastes can be placed in one of two categories: urban sophisticate or casual eclectic. So, before we begin, figure out which category you fall into:

    If you're casual and eclectic, you tend to like...

    1. Bold or high-contrast colors and patterns
    2. Asymmetrical arrangements
    3. Mixing wood tones and colors
    4. Dramatic, diagonal arrangements

    If you're urban and sophisticated, you tend to like...

    1. Everything lined up on the square
    2. Matching lamps and/or side tables
    3. Low contrast, neutral colors
    4. Fewer prints and patterns
    5. Symmetrical arrangements

    Have you chosen? Good, that's a great start. Now you should have a better idea of your basic style, along with how you'd prefer that the pieces will be laid out in the room.

    living room seatingIf you find this room more appealing, then maybe you're urban and sophisticated. Photo: Room Fu

    Ready to go shopping? Not so fast. Here are a few of Robin's rules when it comes to buying and arranging furniture:

    1. Measure, measure, measure. Before you even step into a furniture showroom, you must measure your room. It's impossible to understand the real proportion of any piece of furniture when it is in a wide open store with 20-foot ceilings. Often times, people will choose a living room set and have it delivered only to find that it is way too large for their room. "It's always best to map everything out before hand," says Robin. "If you do this first, you can also be more efficient while shopping, instantly rejecting items that are too big or too small."

    2. Know your level of entertaining. Are you often the host? Or, do you never use your living room? Figure out how often you'll use the room since that will help you figure out how to arrange the furniture. See the following tip.

    3. If you plan to entertain in the space, decide if it's going to be a formal room or a casual one. If casual, you may want to position your seats for entertaining. In other words, position seats so guests can easily access them. "Immediate access to a seat cushion says, 'Come sit here,'" says Robin, "whereas seat backs and arrangements that force you to walk all the way around a room say, 'Wait for your host to invite you in.'"

    If your seating area isn't incorporated into the natural flow of the house, it will take a huge commitment on your guests' part to leave the safety of "Small Talk Land" (read: kitchen) and move into the seating area. Consequently, they end up standing around waiting for your cue to get comfortable. If, however, your seating area is easily accessible to the entry, it will feel more natural for guests to waltz in and sit down.

    4. Know the comfort level of your guests. Be realistic about guests' habits. Sofas may be able to accommodate three people, but have you noticed that most average-sized couches end up only having two people on them? If given the opportunity to sit elsewhere, the third person will do so. Therefore, a sofa and two chairs is a more versatile seating arrangement, especially if you often socialize with couples.

    5. Create conversational areas. Place your seating in a way that makes for great and easy conversation. You don't want to be rearranging furniture while your guests are present. Robin recommends avoiding making the TV or fireplace the center of attention. Instead, create an L or U shape with your furnishings. If you place chairs opposite a sofa, then you allow those seated in the room to see and speak to each other easily. Many designers will orient seating toward the fireplace, but I prefer to encourage conversation by facing seating toward each other.

    living room seatingThis conversation-friendly seating arrangement is easily accessible from all points of entry to the room. Photo by Chris Sackett/Twist Tours, courtesy of Room Fu

    6. Should you match? Well, according to Robin, "If you use a pair of chairs or sofas and they're positioned next to each other, there's less visual clutter if they're identical. If your chairs are on opposite sides of the room, feel free to mix them up. Ideally, chairs would never be an exact match to the sofa."

    More tips from Robin:

    - Furniture with rounded arms takes up more real estate than square arms, so if you're in a smaller space, be sure to look for smaller, squared arms.

    - Armed seating and higher seatbacks are more conducive to comfortable TV-watching.

    - Consider lighting. Robin says, "Overhead lighting in a seating area is only good for two things: highlighting art or architectural features, and looking for lost contacts. To create less glaring and more natural ambient light in your seating area, distribute table and floor lamps throughout the space, preferably through all four points of the compass."

    - Buy occasional tables. Every seat needs access to a table to set a drink on, and (in an ideal world), the coffee table doesn't count toward this quota.

    - You need rugs. Yes, they're generally necessary, even if you have carpet. Why? Robin explains that because most living areas these days are part of an open concept or open floorplan, they aren't partitioned off by walls. Rugs can be used to define specific rooms or seating areas.

    More living room ideas: try decorating with yellow or hide that unsightly TV!


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  • 06/23/10--10:49: Daily Upper: A Great Mess
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    Looks like art, right? It's actually just a byproduct -- it's one of the hundreds of dropcloths used in the Let's Colour Project -- an undertaking that's devoted to bringing color to all the boring blank spaces in the world.

    Want more Daily Uppers? Get 'em here!


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    Oh, Martha, say it isn't true: We want to love your detergent as much as we love you. Photos: Soul Brother/, Martha Stewart Clean

    Consumer Reports reveals that Martha's new laundry detergent doesn't lift stains.

    It's no secret that Martha Stewart is one of my personal heroes, and it's rare that we have anything negative to say about Marty here on ShelterPop. However, today, I must deliver some bad news: Martha Stewart's new laundry detergent is a total bust.

    I know, I know, it's shocking news, but Consumer Reports, the magazine published by the non-profit organization the Consumer Union, recently tested 50 laundry detergents. It turns out Martha Stewart Clean Laundry Detergent was one of the worst scoring of the bunch; in fact, it barely cleaned any better than plain water. (As in other years, Tide topped the charts for stain removal and overall cleaning power.) Consumer Reports even has a video showing their results online.

    When I read the news, I found myself making excuses for Martha. I thought, "Well, she worked so hard to make her new Martha Stewart Clean line eco-friendly, it's no wonder that it doesn't perform as well as harsh, chemical detergents." However, Consumer Reports says that two other "green" detergents, Kirkland Signature Free & Clear Ultra 2X (Costco) and Seventh Generation Natural Powdered HE, both managed to perform reasonably well in their testing. The publication does note, "manufacturers can make green claims without checks or federal standards." So, maybe Martha's detergent is just being beaten by less "green" competition? I guess we'll never know.

    In the meantime, I've got my fingers crossed that the detergent is the only dud in the Martha Stewart Clean line. I've been eyeballing its green ingredients, lack of artificial scents and pretty packaging at the supermarket and planning to add it to my cleaning kit.

    What about you? Have you tried any of Martha's new line of cleaning products? Did they work?

    Some of our fave Martha moments...
    A Frat House Gets Martha Stewart Makeover
    Martha Stewart Gets Busy... Again
    A Kitchen Just Like Martha Stewart's
    Martha Stewart Knows How to Work a Pole
    Martha Stewart Will Green Clean Your House


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    Paul Costello, ELLE

    Sheryl Crow lets ELLE into her antiques-filled New York City loft -- and we're snooping around.

    How many times have you looked at photos from a celebrity's home and sighed at the perfectly put-together vignettes? Yes, we'll drool over the ironed sheets, the perfect white upholstery and the furniture that looks so brand new it may still have a price tag stuck on the back. But do we think we could live in it? Not a chance.

    That's why we're extra smitten over the loft Sheryl Crow shares with her darling son Wyatt: It's so cozy and eclectic, we're wishing Sheryl would invite us over for a snack -- and like Mariska Hargitay's son August, we might feel at home enough to stand up on the dining bench!

    What's her secret? Not one you hear a lot from celebs: Junking. "It's a totally therapeutic pastime for me. I can spend hours going through flea markets," she says. "I've got some real weird stuff." You mean like that big rustically gorgeous freestanding tub?

    Paul Costello, ELLE

    "I wanted [it] because I thought it would be cool and romantic. But I never really use it," she told ELLE. What?! Memo to Sheryl: We appreciate your honesty, but you're nuts for not taking advantage of that baby.

    We love the understated elegance in here -- the oversized bulb hanging fixture, the simple pedestal sink -- and even though there's a sea of white towels, the antique tub makes it seem more relaxed.

    And see the bottom right corner of the hallway? That's a 19th-centure prosthetic leg. And those photos aren't just family snaps -- there are shots by Diane Arbus and David Bailey on that brick wall. But she doesn't take even the most precious pieces too seriously. "One thing I've learned about children and antiques is that you just have to let go," she told ELLE. Good words for design-savvy moms to live by.

    To see the rest of the home, check out the full story -- and slideshow! -- at ELLE's site, or pick up the magazine. (We highly recommend ripping out the photo of Wyatt's room for some amazing color inspiration.)

    Want to see more famous homes?
    Anna Paquin's Venice Beach Dream Home
    Lenny Kravitz's Former Miami Villa
    Jennifer Aniston Shows Off Her New Home
    Or browse through all of our celeb homes


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