Thursday, December 17, 2009

Cozy Rooms

Do you ever find yourself saying: "Why don't we spend more time in this room?" In just one weekend you can add enough warm touches to create a space you'll never want to leave.


Regardless of your decorating style, there are some surefire elements that will instantly make your room more welcoming.

Decorative pillows. Add big, sink-in throw pillows to your sofas and chairs. Use a fabric color or pattern that stands out against the seating. If you use solid fabrics, consider touchable chenille, velvet, or silk.

Slipcovers. Loose-fitting slipcovers make any room look more casual. If you don't have the time or money to have one made, use a one-size-fits-all version.

Ottoman. Nix your hard-edged coffee table in favor of a kick-your-feet-up ottoman. It's more relaxing, and gives you the opportunity to introduce more cozy fabric into the room.

Fabric window coverings. Blinds and shades are efficient, but not very friendly looking. This room uses fabric panels instead, secured inside the window with tension rods. If you keep your blinds, warm up the window with a valance, a swag, or stationary panels on the sides.

Cushions. A single chair or bench is a good candidate for plumping up. Add a seat cushion using a fun fabric that doesn't appear anywhere else in the room.

Throws. A nubby wool throw blanket for winter (or lightweight cotton for summer) is perfectly welcome thrown over the arm or back of a sofa.

Screen. Floor screens help to visually enclose a space and bring a room into scale. Just sitting near one makes you feel a little more protected. This screen is the ultimate in comfort because it's upholstered, adding padding and a touch of pattern to the room.

Rug. Area rugs help define conversation and sitting areas, and they add texture and pattern to a room.

Plants and flowers. Don't forget natural elements in your design scheme. If plants thrive in your room, so will you.

Family photos. Nothing personalizes a room like family photos. To keep from cluttering tabletops, choose several favorites and create a wall display with uniform mats and frames.

Low lighting. Harsh overhead lights suck all the charm out of a room. Instead, use adjustable ceiling-mounted lights and/or lots of lamps. It's much cozier to use several lamps, each with a low-watt bulb, than one lamp with a 100-watt bulb.

Conversational grouping. Take notice of how your major seating pieces are arranged. People should be able to conduct a comfortable conversation with their neighbor. To do so, pull furniture away from the wall, closer to each other, with chairs and sofas facing each other. Make sure each seat has a table within reach for setting down drinks.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Handy Home Projects

It's time for a home tune-up

Before the holidays kick into high gear, get yourself revved up for a home tune-up.

Whether you are tackling a small project or a large one, here are a few ideas on how to get your home in tip-top shape for all the fun of the holidays.

  • Don't have the time to renovate the entire kitchen? Give your kitchen a quick makeover by adding new appliances (Energy Star-rated, of course!), resurfacing the cabinets, updating the hardware or recovering the floor. Any one of these will give your kitchen a new look without the high cost of a new kitchen.
  • Make your living space comfortable for family and guests by installing a programmable thermostat. Programmable thermostats cut energy costs by automatically adjusting temperature settings while you are asleep or away from home.
  • Get your furnace serviced by a qualified technician before the cold weather hits. Make sure you check the filters monthly throughout the winter and change them as needed. A furnace that is burning cleanly, whether gas or oil, will save you money on your winter heating bill.
  • If you have older windows and doors, go through the house and feel any drafts coming from them. A simple way is to hold a candle or a lighter near doors and windows and see if the flame flickers. Pick up caulking or weather-stripping to fix the problem. Outside, seal leaks with weather-resistant caulk. For brick areas, use masonry sealer, which will stand up better to freezing and thawing. Also check your electrical outlets for air leaks. Foam insulation made for outlet and switch placement is inexpensive, quick to install, and effective.
  • This is the perfect time of year to check the operation of your home's smoke detectors. Change the batteries and push the "test" button. With all the holiday lights aglow and seasonal candles flickering, it is important that smoke alarms are in top working condition. Consider buying new detectors if the ones you have are more than 10 years old.

And while you are sprucing up your home for the holidays, it's a perfect time to do a review of your insurance coverage. Whether you are making little improvements or have done a complete reno in the past year, it is important to make sure your coverage reflects those changes. So talk to your insurance broker to go over the details while your home is on your mind. You will relax and enjoy the season more, knowing your investment is covered.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Home Interior Decorating for the Four Seasons: Winter

Interior design schools teach students how to use small accents to make a huge difference, and winter is the perfect time to make a few small touches go a long way. While many think about home interior decorating for the holidays, remember that there are usually two months of winter after the holidays are over.

Keys to Winter Home Interior Decorating

Winter interior design is all about creating an environment that reflects the beauty and intensity of the winter season, while leaving the cold outside. Good winter home interior decorating should create a warm, comforting, attractive environment, and the best ways to do this are through warm colors, rich textures, and winter-themed accessories.

Deep Interior Design Colors

Deeper, darker colors make a room feel warmer. Replace summer's light lampshades with ones that are mulberry- or copper-colored, and replace sheer or bright curtains with deeper, richer versions of the same colors. If you must have a touch of "snow", consider adding white flowers as mantel decorations or a table centerpiece.

Rich Textures

Carpet can bring warmth and color to a room. If your carpet is not the right color, bring out rugs in deep winter colors, such as pine-green. Regardless of their size, these can add a sense of warmth to a room with light-colored carpet, bare wood, or cold tile.

The Right Accessories

Candles are some of the best home accessories for winter interior decorating. Their intense glow not only looks warm, but adds heat to any room where they're shining. Group them in collections of various heights and thicknesses.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Fall Accents for the Home

As the hot, humid summer fades into the cooler more pleasant days of fall you may be wondering how you can add some fall accents to your home. Fortunately, there are all kinds of ways you can bring a warm, fall feeling into your home and they don't require a lot of money or work. Here's some ideas on how you can add easily add some fall accents to your home.

It starts with the colors

■Fall is full of bright colors like reds, golds, yellows, Burgundys and oranges so you the simplest way to add a fall feel by introducing fall colors.
■Consider some of the small ways you can add fall colors without making major changes. For example, you could simply change your throw pillows for pillows in a bright fall color, add colorful, decorative candles, books or picture frames to add little touches of fall to your home.
■Painting a room in a bright fall color will enhance the room, but you don't need to do an entire room, you could simply do an accent wall in a yellow, gold or orange color.
■If painting is more work than you want to take on, consider changing your window treatments. Get rid of your light airy summer curtains and replace them with heavier fabrics in a fall color. Not only will you give your home a more 'fall like' appearance, you'll enjoy the practical benefit of saving on your fall (and winter) heating costs.

Fall is harvest time

■You can easily add visual appeal simply using a center piece of fall flowers to bring in some natural beauty while adding a pleasant aroma of the season.
■Or, consider showcasing the beauty of the fall harvest with a center piece of colorful gourds and Indian corn and fruits like apples and grapes. Enhance the appearance by including colorful non traditional fruits such as mangos pomegranate or even tomatoes. The only limitation is your imagination.
■Nothing says fall more than pumpkins and colorful leaves. At this time of year pumpkins are inexpensive and available at grocery stores, farmers markets and often at road side stands. Take a walk on a sunny fall day, enjoy the weather and gather some fallen leaves to spread around the base of a bright orange pumpkin.

Fall has it's scents as well

■Consider adding some candles with the scents of fall such as the cinnamon scent of a fresh baked apple pie or some sweet vanilla.

It's easy to add fall accents to your home and it can be a source of fun for the whole family. Use your imagination and you'll figure out lots of things that will give you a chance to enjoy fall even inside your home.

By Murray Anderson

Friday, September 4, 2009

Fall Decorating Ideas

Most of us don't want to admit that summer is over...pushing the thought to the back of our minds as we enjoy what nice weather we have left. But autumn brings its own excitement...for one, decorating! Here are a few seasonal decorating tips I thought were interesting.


As the sunny summer fades out and we enter autumn, it's time to give your home a look that captures the spirit of the season, adding spice and warmth to your home in a simple, natural way. Whether you're spreading pumpkins and gourds around your kitchen or porch, or adorning your sofa with soft, warm blankets, you'll find that it's small touches that go a long way when decorating for the fall.

This year look to the outdoor autumn world for inspiration when you decorate. Why go out and buy plastic decorations when you can find almost everything you need right in nature? Let's face it, some Halloween decorations can be downright gaudy. Not only will do-it-yourself decorating save you money, but the look you achieve will be more natural, refined, and last in your home long after Halloween has passed. Plus, you can tap into your creativity with hands-on decorating, a fun way to get you into the fall spirit. Get outside and take this opportunity to enjoy the outdoors before the cold of winter moves in.

It's no mystery where the classic earthy colors of the season come from; just look out the window at the natural world around you. Leaves are changing color to intense reds and pinks, vivid oranges and yellows, and more subdued browns and coppers as they fall. The produce of the season crops up in all kinds of rich tones; the deep orange of the pumpkin, lively apple reds and greens, gourds and squash in all sorts of shades and patterns of deep greens and buttery neutrals. At any farmer's market you'll find decorative Indian corn with its pale yellow and dark red, brown, and black kernels, as well as rows of mums with their petals in rainbows of bright earth tones. Simply adding a variety of these items to the interior or exterior of your home will immediately give it a splash of fall colors. From here it's up to you to decide how to arrange displays and create your own crafts with these colorful gifts of nature. Read on for ideas to get you started.

There is perhaps no other fruit as emblematic of the fall season as the pumpkin. With its striking orange color, it will brighten up any space it is placed in. You'll find pumpkins and jack-o-lanterns outside just about any house you pass in October. Pumpkins aren't just for Halloween. If left intact, you can get plenty of use out of them decoratively for most of the fall season, and then use them for some wonderful fall recipes, including that Thanksgiving staple, pumpkin pie.

If you're planning on cooking with fresh pumpkin, keep in mind that you'll need to select the right kind. The pulp of the larger jack-o-lantern pumpkins we commonly think of is too stringy and watery to cook with; however, the seeds inside can be saved and baked for a delicious crunchy treat. For cooking more complex recipes you'll need the sugar pumpkin, a smaller, sweeter variety. Go to farm stands and markets and make sure you purchase pumpkins of both varieties. Pumpkins can be used in all kinds of unique recipes, from soups and breads to treats like pancakes and cookies.

If you buy a large quantity of pumpkins and gourds, you can get creative in your placement of them. You can make original arrangements to put on display in or outside your home. If you buy a bunch of small to medium-sized pumpkins, you can place them in all kinds of places and arrangements, making a bolder statement. Look around you to find unusual spots for your pumpkins to stand out. Cascade them in a line down your front stairs, or place them in a row atop fenceposts to really spread out the color. You can place a pumpkin or gourd or two over your front door, or line them up on each side of the walkway to your house.

For the indoors, mini pumpkins lined up on the mantle of your fireplace is a nice seasonal touch, especially when you place some leaves in between each one. When walking outside, collect some colorful leaves, pinecones and acorns, then gather together a bunch of small pumpkins, gourds, apples and Indian corn. Add a basket, a glass vase or bowl, and you have the ingredients for a fall display you can use as a dining room table centerpiece, or place on a kitchen island or any free surface. Experiment with plenty of variations. You can place all gourds, pumpkins, or apples in separate containers, sprinkling the leaves and acorns about as desired, or you may prefer to mix them all together. An autumn-toned piece of cloth will look nice under a basket, as well as allow you to spread whatever extras you may want around the base of the basket or bowl. Furthermore, it keeps the surface clean from residue. Place candles around the sides or in the center of your display. No matter what your setup looks like, it is certainly rearrangeable.

Get imaginative and make candle holders out of small gourds and mini pumpkins yourself; cut off the top of the gourd and scoop out the desired amount of its insides to make room for a small candle or tea light. You can raise these one-of-a-kind holders further to attention by elevating them on stands. Note that once you have cut into the gourds they will only last for few days before they must be replaced. It's not a long-lasting decoration, but a clever idea for adding some ambience to your home if you're having company for dinner. You can also use a similar trick, hollowing out the inside of a larger gourd or small squash, to make a "bowl" in which you can serve soup to your guests. In each of these cases, make sure to use a uniformly-shaped gourd or squash with a flat bottom.

Make ornamental lanyards by stringing together dried leaves and pinecones which you can hang almost anywhere in your house: from the windows, over the mantle of your fireplace, or up the handle of your staircase. You can turn a pumpkin into an innovative flower vase if you cut out the core. The possibilities are endless, and you can keep looking around you for inspiration for adding to your do-it-yourself decorations as the season goes by. As it cools down outdoors, you can make your home warmer inside, keeping in the spirit of the season. You can create visual warmth as well as bring scents of the season to you home with autumn-scented candles. Opt for scents like pumpkin spice, cranberry, pine, and vanilla. You can also purchase or dry out your own potpourri to place around your home. But nothing will fill your home with the rich, warm aroma of autumn like home-cooking some seasonal recipes.

Putting slipcovers on the couches and chairs around your house is an easy way to dramatically change the look and tone of a room for the season, as well as bring warmth to it with heavier fabrics. Consider earth tones of all kinds, and different kinds of fabrics like cotton flannel, faux leather, warm chenille, and luxurious velvet. For even more warmth you might want to place around a few objects with a furry texture or trim, such as pillows and blankets. Go for plain solids or patterns that fit with fall themes, like floral or leaf patterns. Just changing the covers on your furniture can make a drastic difference to a living room, and you can follow in this vein throughout the house; change your curtains, bed linens, and towels to heavier materials that are similarly autumn-toned. Bring out fall-colored or patterned table cloths and small rugs. You can rearrange your furniture so that you move it away from drafty areas and closer to the fireplace. Changing the fabrics and covers in your home is one of the most simple and affordable ways to give it a fresh look, and one that is easily changed season to season.

Don't just think about staying indoors for the fall. Sure it's getting colder out there, but fall weather is some of the most pleasant of the year, with low humidity and gentle cool breezes that should last for at least a couple months. Autumn is the last time of the year to truly enjoy your porch. You can warm up your porch similarly to how you might warm up the inside of your house; bring out a few warm throw blankets you can bundle up with as you sit outside and have a cup of hot apple cider, and place durable fall-patterned table cloths on any small tables. Of course you can place pumpkins and gourds around too. Line up pumpkins in a row on the ledge of your porch and bring cheer to both you and the neighborhood. With such a fall-spirited porch you'll want to bring out some candles and enjoy an autumn dinner in the setting sun.

To give your home a fall makeover, you don't need to look much further than the natural autumn world around you, the linens and blankets stored away in your closet or attic, and your own creative license. Simple, natural touches can create a look that fits your own home, instantly giving the interior and exterior a look that will last you all season.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Simple Guidelines for Choosing Kitchen Colours

How do you choose what colors will work for your kitchen design?

It’s easier than you think. Once you eliminate what won’t work, you are left with a simple palette to choose from. So here are a few ways to filter out colors from your kitchen.

Color for Small Spaced Kitchens

Don’t use dark timbers and colors that will make the space appear smaller. So avoid dark reds, purples, dark blues and greens.

Look for clear crisp colors or whites with a tint of blue, green or yellow for a subtle background of color. Keep cabinetry simple and unadorned and avoid clutter as it will create chaos in a small kitchen.

Color for Large Open Plan Spaced Kitchens

Don’t make a huge contrast in color to the remainder of the d├ęcor in your home unless you want your kitchen to visually dominate the living space. Choose a color that flows with the single open plan space. Generally open plan living uses one color for the walls and has small pockets of color to define specific areas within this.

Open plan spaces predominately use white as a wall color and then add color and texture to that. So colors that would work in a large open plan spaced kitchen are mottled, textured neutrals, whites, grays, black and silver metallics, materials like Corian, granite, laminates, stainless steel and tiles.

Then use color in accessories, flowers, jars, vases, pendant light shades, bar stools, pictures etc to provide focal points and pockets of color.

These kitchens are small functional and compact. They generally aren’t a feature of the home simply a necessity and often use colors and textures to blend into the space and encroach as little as possible.

Most apartments are strapped for space and don’t have an abundance of natural light so bright light and clear colors tend to work best. Once again neutrals, whites and grays with accents of clear crisp colors, teal, apple green, hot pink, citrus yellow in small forms. Therefore the timeless all white kitchen works well with white appliances or for a modern look, soft metallic gray with stainless steel appliances is sleek and functional.

Colors for Standard Typical Spaced Kitchen

Yippee!! Anything goes…. Obviously as long as it suits the style of your home and kitchen you can use any colors you like. The only thing to be weary of is lighting.

If you have a lot of natural light and well planned task and feature lighting then the colors you use can be strong and bold and you will still be able to see and the kitchen will be highlighted but if you have little natural light and poor lighting then either upgrade it or choose lighter more light reflecting colors.

Make the most of color, use it, don’t get obsessed with it – step back and visualize your kitchen and how it will look, use brush outs (large cards of paint colors) to hold up in the space to see how the color works at different times of the day with different light. Start gradually and build up color.

If you are in doubt, stick to neutrals and layer gradually. Add color until you get the look you want. After all haven’t we been told for generations from the real estate agents that white is best in the kitchen as it is the color of purity and cleanliness and the most versatile and the best kitchen color for resale!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Keep That Window Working!

I just thought this was an interesting article...short, but useful. I've run into the sticky window issue a few times!

Windows are an everyday part of our life. We need to maintain our windows because of the moving parts. It does not really matter what type of window you have, from timber to aluminum they all use moving part to open and close. If you let paint or grime build up it will affect the performance of the window and may lead to the point where you can’t lock or close it.
Aluminum windows need to be clean, and with the use of spray silicone you add a film of lubricant to the tracks and wheels or runners.
Use the spray silicone inside the tracking system to improve performance.
For those timber windows use the spray silicone on the hinges and stays, and by working the hinge and spraying at the same time, keep the window moving till you regain total movement.
You must be careful not to get any silicone on paintwork or where you intend to paint. Most spray cans will come with a hollow piece of plastic so that you can direct your spray easily.
The best way to secure aluminum windows is to install a key lock system where the pin passes through the sliding and fixed tracks locking the window into position. When you remove the key the window cannot be moved. There is also a similar locking system for timber windows

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Spring Lawn Preparation

Now that the wintry weather is gone and the colorful blooms are back, it’s time to think about spring cleaning. But while you’re washing windows, scrubbing walls and dusting corners inside the house, don’t forget about rolling up those sleeves and giving the outside a once-over, too.

Spending some time in the backyard as soon as spring rolls around can really pay off. “Winter can leave a lawn in pretty tough shape,” says backyard expert Michael Miller, president of backyard tool manufacturer Hound Dog Products. “But there are lots of little things you can do to help spruce up your backyard when the weather starts to turn warmer. By digging in to cleanup in early spring, you’ll be ahead of the game, and your neighbors will be playing catch-up all year long.”

Miller offers seven tips that the professionals use to ensure a successful backyard spring cleanup effort -- and to help your home’s outside sparkle and shine as vibrantly as the inside.

Rake. As soon as the lawn begins to wake up for the season, give it a light once-over with a rake, taking care not to disturb any new grass plants by raking too hard. In addition to clearing leaves, twigs and other debris left over from last fall, the first raking of the year also allows you to assess the extent of any winter damage to your lawn. Look for early signs of pests or disease, and nip them in the bud before they cause big problems.

Aerate. Heavy use throughout the year can cause soil to become compacted. Removing plugs of sod in the spring -- aerating -- loosens the soil and lets water, air and fertilizer get down to the grass plant’s root structure. For smaller yards, or for concentrated trouble spots in any size yard, consider using a manual aerating tool that removes plugs from the turf. If you have a large yard, consider renting a power aerator.

Top dress. After you aerate, spend a few minutes doing what the experts call “top dressing,” spreading a thin layer of peat moss over the lawn with a rake. The top dressing helps to gradually condition the lawn throughout the year, strengthening the grass so it can resist disease, weeds and thatch, and reducing the amount of water and fertilizer it needs.

Weed. Go after weeds early in the season before they have a chance to go to seed. Cultivating a healthy lawn is one of the simplest ways to crowd out weeds. Or, remove dandelions and other broadleaf weeds with an easy-to-use weeder. Ergonomic tools like the Weed Hound have helped make long afternoons spent weeding nothing more than a backbreaking memory. All you do is place the tool over the weed, step lightly on the footrest, and pull the weed up, root and all.

Fix bare spots. Whether it’s due to disease or dog urine, bare patches can make a yard look shabby. A quick and easy way of improving the look of your yard is to repair the discolored patches, especially in early spring, when the cooler temperatures help the grass grow. Just clear away the dead-looking patches, sprinkle grass seed on the newly exposed soil, add fertilizer, and keep the area moist until it sprouts.

Remove thatch build-up. Thatch prevents sunlight, oxygen and moisture from getting to the nutrient-hungry soil below. But it’s easy to remove, especially if you do it regularly -- every year or two. Just go at the yard with a dethatching rake or power dethatcher to clean away the layer of tangled roots and stems. It takes some elbow grease, but it will help clear the way for new growth.

Give your tools a spring tune-up. Spend a few minutes in the garage or storage shed making sure your tools are in good working condition -- before you need to use them for the first time. Consider taking your lawn mower in for an annual tune-up. The dealer can replace the oil and spark plugs, sharpen the blade, and get it ready for the season.A little effort in early spring can lay the groundwork for a thriving, healthy backyard -- and have your neighbors turning green with envy.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Spring Cleanup: Getting Your Garden Back Into Shape

It looks as though...dare I say it? Spring has almost sprung in Prince George! After a couple of MONTHS wondering if we were going to get spring at all...looked for awhile there like we would just go back into looks as though Jack Frost has given up. It is a bit dreary outside as I write this, but...I was fortunate enough to see both robins and tulips just the other day!
So anyway, thought I'd post another article on spring has some interesting tips in it. Enjoy :)

Early Spring is a great time to emerge from hibernation. We all do it; humans, animals and even our gardens. If you take some time to give your garden an early boost, you will likely be rewarded with a spectacular growing season.Early SpringTiming is different in all parts of the country. But you may find that if you get outside and do a little work in your garden before the start of the growing season, your garden beds will look fantastic. You may even enjoy the cool weather and getting your body in shape for the gardening season to come.

Spring Clean Up

If you did a great job bedding down your plants for winter, you may not have too much work to do this Spring. However, you still should put in a little effort to make sure everything is in order.If you were a little too busy last fall to do much cleaning up, you will find that you have some work to do.

Clean Out Those Garden Beds

One of the first things you will want to do for a good Spring clean up is to clean out your garden beds. If you have any annuals left in your beds that are shriveled and dead, rake them up and dispose of them. Better yet, compost them to use in the future as mulch. If you have any perennials which you haven't cut back, be sure to do that now. You don't want to have this year's plants emerging amongst brown and shriveled stalks. Cut back these dead perennials all the way to the ground. However, make sure not to cut back plants which will grow from old wood, such as Hydrangeas.


Mulching and its annual removal is a matter of personal preference. It is also a matter of cost. There are many gardeners who believe that winter mulch must be disposed of in the very early Spring, so as not to spread disease. If any of your plants had leaf spot, or any other garden pest or disease, this will surely be carried over in the mulch. In addition, if leaves from elsewhere have blown in and settled in your garden beds over the winter, you may have spores or cocoons hiding in your garden.

In theory, you should rake up the winter mulch and dispose of it or compost it (the high temperatures of composting will kill off any nasties). However, this can be back breaking, time consuming and expensive.

If, for example, you noticed that your roses performed very poorly last year and had funky looking leaves, you may want to do some extra Spring clean up in the rose beds. That is, if you are lucky enough to have rose beds! Other wise, try to get out all of the dead leaves, weed and plants and leave the mulch behind. You may even find that if you take up all the mulch too early, your plants get a little too chilly. Just make sure that you get rid of the dead and shriveled leaves and plants and you should be just fine.

Garden Bed Maintenance

Early Spring is a great time to look over your beds and perform any necessary maintenance. You will be able to walk freely around in the beds and get to any spigots or fencing that needs repairing before your beautiful plants are up and growing.

Early Spring is also a great time to inspect the foundation of your house if it is going to be shortly blocked by growing plants. Take a few minutes and examine the foundation of your house to make sure nothing looks like it is wet or in disrepair. You may not be able to do this if you have foundation beds and gardens which will soon be growing.

Clean Out Last Years Pots and Containers

Early Spring is also a great time to clean out any pots and containers that may still have last year's plants and soil in them. Mulch or dispose of any dead plants that are still in those containers and get rid of the soil. Chances are that last year's plants have leached all the nutrients out of it, so you can compost the soil as well.

Reap Your Rewards

If you put in a little bit of effort early this Spring, your planting and garden beds will be in great shape for the whole growing season. Your plants will be primed for success and their surroundings will be beautiful.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Tips to Making Painting Easy

Summer is the season of the "do-it-yourselfer." Handy homeowners come into their own as the weather warms and they can embark on all those home improvement and maintenance tasks that languished all winter. Painting tops the list for many homeowners; it not only protects your interiors, painting is a great way to liven things up.

Giving interior walls a fresh coat of paint is well within the abilities of most homeowners. The experts at Wagner Spray Tech, makers of tools to ease every painting task, offer the following helpful hints to get you started on your paint project:


•Good surface preparation is the key to a long-lasting and great-looking paint job. Repair cracks or chips, sand and smooth rough edges, and clean chalky surfaces. Give the walls 24 hours to dry after you have wiped them down.

•Assemble all painting tools and cleanup supplies before you start. You will need paint (one gallon per every 300 to 400 square feet), painter's tape, drop cloths, brushes, rollers, paint tray liners, paint thinner and rags. For fast, easy painting, consider a power sprayer or power roller. Recent innovations make these tools easy to use, easy to control, easy to switch colors and easy to clean.

•Protect floors and furniture with a drop cloth or sheet.

•Cover trim with a low-tack painter's tape to protect trim. Low-tack or less sticky tapes are easier to remove and less likely to harm wood.

•Protect windows with Glass Mask, a liquid product that is easier to apply than traditional tape. The product comes in a plastic tube that fits easily in the palm of the hand. To apply, simply press the attached applicator pad to the window and glide it along the trim that will be painted. Once the liquid is completely dry, you can paint the trim. Any paint that laps onto the Glass Mask can easily be scraped off with the included blade. One tube of Glass Mask will cover about the same lineal footage as three rolls of traditional tape. The product is available at hardware, paint supply and home warehouse stores.

•Remove loose fibers from roller covers with painter's tape or a lint roller before using.


•Spray or roll from top to bottom, left to right to cover neatly and evenly. Lighter, multiple coats will cover better than one heavy layer of paint.

•Sprayers offer the best and most efficient coverage when painting large areas or exteriors. After spraying, back roll to ensure even coverage.

•Use a quality brush or roller.

•Place a garbage bag over your paint tray, brush or roller to prevent the paint from drying. This will keep the paint for 24 hours - and let you take a break without worrying that your paint will dry out.

Clean Up

•For water-based paints, rinse brushes, rollers and tools with water. For oil-based paints, use paint thinner. Some power sprayers and rollers now offer disposable wet parts that don't need to be cleaned and are inexpensive to replace. This also allows easier color changes during the painting process.

•Use bristle protectors that fit over brushes and protect them when not in use. They are available at most hardware stores.

•Use a fine-tooth comb to loosen any debris left in the bristles after clean up.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Monthly Garden Maintenance: SPRING!

Spring is almost here - at least we hope it is! - so here are a few tips for getting on top of your gardening for the year!

The term garden journal is widely used, but do you know what a garden journal is? A misconception is that a garden journal is an unnecessary book of blank pages one uses to write down thoughts while lounging in the garden. That is certainly an option (we are not here to discourage creativity or lounging in the garden); however, a garden journal is more widely used as a tool to document the successes and failures in a garden.

When a car is manufactured, it comes with a user's manual. After a house is built, the owner receives a copy of the plans, and user manuals for appliances. Likewise, a garden journal is the manual of your garden that tells you when to perform specific maintenance tasks, deal with diseases, and care for individual plants. A garden journal is your one-stop for all this gardening information. To start your gardening journal off right, we've created a yearly gardening task list broken down by month.

Garden Production Schedule

Starting seedlings, preparing soil, buying mulch, deterring insects and rodents, planting new plants, spraying for diseases, trimming, cutting, dead heading, thinning out, dividing, adding nutrients, and picking produce and herbs are just a few of the tasks a gardener performs each year. Gardening can be an obsession which soon becomes a year round activity, as you'll soon see. For everything to bloom and grow on schedule, your plants must be planted, pruned, fed, and cared for throughout the year. Truly organized gardeners don't fly by the seat of their pants or take a hint from the gardening actions of neighbors, but actually adhere to a gardening production schedule each season. The garden journal is normally the guide used to care for the garden each year.

Gardening Tasks for March

° March is the perfect time to start seedlings indoors such as calendula, corn poppy, corn flower, sunflower, marigolds, zinnia, fox glove, impatiens, cosmos, snapdragon, and lupines. Gardeners use both seed starting kits available at most home improvements stores and online, or develop homemade starter containers by cutting down toilet paper rolls, stuffing the bottom with newspaper, and filling the top with soil. Whichever method you use, be sure to start the seeds during the month of March. If the seeds are hardy (check the package for details) you can plant them directly outdoors. Don't forget to provide some protection from rabbits, or the next time you check the seedlings they may not be there.

° When weather permits, cut back ornamental grasses or flowering plants that were kept taller for winter garden color and interest. Cut ornamental grasses down to at least 12 inches from the base. Prune rose bushes, small shrubs, and any climbing vines. If you plan to add rose bushes in containers, keep an eye on the weather and sneak it in on a warm day. Summer blooming perennials should also be planted in March, but only if they are a hardy size. It is still too early to plant seedlings outdoors.

° Clean up the yard and garden areas and dispose of any left over leaves. Don't simply cover leaves with mulch - damp leaves are a breeding ground for garden-eating bugs and mosquitoes.

° Depending on the region, narcissi, daffodils and other bulb plants bloom from late winter to early spring. If you don't see signs of them in the garden now you soon will. Be sure to fertilize the bulbs as soon as leaves appear above the soil. Once bulb plants start to die, cut off the flowers, but wait six weeks before cutting leaves and stems.

° If your lawn is disheveled it won't matter how spectacular your garden is, so be sure to fertilize and reseed any bare areas.

° Finally, scrub down any garden stones covered with algae or garden decorations left out through the winter.

Gardening Tasks for April

° During April, continue to care for seeds you started in March, and if need be plant more seedlings indoors.

° April can bring harsh storms and winds, so secure climbing plants or fragile rose bush branches. Twist the vines and branches to decorative spikes or lattice to keep vines from breaking in the wind. Add decorative stakes to tall, top heavy plants like delphiniums, hollyhocks, and cone flowers. Some variations of Shasta Daisies need stakes as well.

° April is a very important month for your rose bushes. If you want bold and beautiful rose bushes in July you have to fertilize, prune, mulch, and be on the lookout for bugs in April.

° If April isn't full of showers, trim shrubs in the garden and landscaped areas of the yard.

° If rhododendron flowers were not trimmed from last year, be sure to dead head them by April. (That is, if they haven't already blown down the block during a bad storm.) If you plan to add additional evergreen shrubs to the garden, April is the month to do so. Actually, any shrub or perennial can be added this month that thrives in soil with an acid pH.

° Rudbeckia (black-eyed susans), Shasta Daisies and aster are three popular garden perennials. Not all gardeners are aware that you can divide these plants as they age. Yay, more plants to plant! The time to do that is, you guessed it, April. In the summer and fall months, make a note in your garden journal about plants you feel can be divided the following spring. That will help you keep track.

° Be sure to till and hoe the garden soil to prevent weeds from growing, or from taking away nutrients from seedlings.

° If you should have a late winter frost or snow storm, cover flowering plants with plastic and secure with bricks or buckets of sand. As long as the soil is the proper temperature, your plants should be fine.

° Plant phlox, thyme and other alpines.

° If soil temperatures permit, plant sunflower.

Gardening Tasks for May

° Continue gardening tasks covered in previous months. This includes caring for seedlings, weeding, and trimming.

° Plant hydrangeas, fuchsia and other shrubs that prefer warmer weather. As the lovely to look at azaleas bloom, be sure to deadhead daily so new flowers have room. Do the same for rhododendrons and other flowering bushes in your garden.

° Check the pH level of soil and make adjustments as needed.

° Walk the garden area and look for overcrowded areas, or overgrown plants that may be blocking others from the sun. If needed, trim plants or thin out areas by replanting elsewhere. If areas of garden weed barrier ripped over the winter, apply a new barrier sheet to the area. Add mulch to your entire garden area.

° Plant annuals within the garden, in containers, and as borders. You can plant annuals in April or March if the soil temperature is right. Be sure to regularly deadhead annuals to promote new growth.

° When the wind blows, seeds from lawn weeds are carried to garden areas where they take root. Continue to mow the lawn and add weed killer.

° Add homemade or store bought slug traps throughout your garden.

° Of course, don't forget to care for your indoor seedlings, to check plants for diseases, add protection against rabbits, and document anything of note in your garden journal.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Use Colour to Change Space

The Designer's Lesson

You know the formula by heart: warm colors advance and cool colors recede.
The advice that usually follows this statement is to paint the walls a cool color if you want a room to seem larger; if you want it to feel smaller, bathe the walls with a warm hue. Unfortunately, it isn't that simple.

A bold green or blue can pull in the walls around you just as effectively as the warmest red, while a soft yellow can make the walls seem to dissolve, enhancing the sense of space. It's a matter of value -- lightness or darkness -- and intensity (how saturated or pure a color is) as much as temperature.

Mood Changes and More: In general, lighter, paler, or less intense colors will enlarge the apparent space; darker or more intense colors will shrink it. The impact of color on space is also a question of mood. Color affects your mood, which in turn affects your perception of a space and your comfort level in it.

Remember, too, that neighboring colors affect each other. If you juxtapose two colors, the eye will perceive them to be as different from each other as possible.
Complements -- colors that lie directly opposite each other on the color wheel -- intensify each other. If you use red and green in a room together, the red will seem more red and the green will appear more green.

Every scheme needs a dollop of contrast to intrigue the eye and to feel balanced and lively. When you work with complements, you automatically have that contrast. An analogous scheme of warm or cool colors will require the addition of an element of the opposite temperature to give the scheme punch.

Light and Dark

Value refers to how light or dark a color is; among all colors, yellow is the lightest value, and purple is the darkest.

When you want to alter the sense of space in a room, use low-value (dark) colors to draw the walls in around you. Use high-value (light) colors to push them away and make a room appear a bit larger.

Every color can range from light to dark, so you can use your favorite hue to shrink a room or expand it by choosing the appropriate value.

Focal Points Pop

High contrast between a room's walls and its architectural features outlines the room's boundaries and calls attention to its shape and size. If the room is generous, you'll notice the size more; if it's diminutive, you'll be more aware of that too.

Furnishings that stand out sharply against the wall color also help define the space more precisely. Ocean blue walls contrast briskly with white woodwork and upholstery, sharpening awareness of the dimensions and limits of the space.

A bold golden yellow, on the other hand, blends with gold-color accessories, painted furniture, and white woodwork and upholstery, enlarging the sense of space even though the color is deep and warm.

Create Dimensions

If you're faced with a boxy room that feels boring, try a multicolor palette to change the proportions. How do you choose a palette for this kind of illusionism? As a general rule, plan on either a warm or an intense color for the wall you wish to bring forward and either a cool or a subdued color for the walls you wish to push apart.

In a long, narrow hall, for example, painting the end wall coral and the corridor walls sage can visually shorten the corridor because the coral will advance visually. Conversely, a short hall will seem longer if you paint the end wall a lighter color and the corridor walls a darker one.

For a starting point in choosing specific colors, consider your givens. If a piece of furniture (such as a red sofa) is a focal point, then choosing its complement (green) for the nearest wall will intensify both colors and draw the eye toward that part of the room.

For the remaining walls, select a light value of a color that appears in other furnishings or in an architectural feature. For the ceiling, decide whether you want to lower or raise it and choose your color accordingly.

No matter how effectively you select colors for this kind of space-altering approach, using different hues on each wall and the ceiling breaks up the space and may easily create visual chaos.

Decorating with planes of color -- changing hues wherever one plane meets another -- is an option best suited to those who enjoy the stimulation of lots of color in their environment.

Alter the Sense of Space

Lofts and new homes with open plans and cathedral ceilings offer similar architectural challenges for homeowners. If your living room, kitchen, and office all share one large, undivided space, can you use more than one color? And if so, where do you stop one color and start the next?

In traditional homes, cased openings, columns, and pilasters provide natural boundaries for starting and stopping colors. To develop a palette, pull out colors from your home's furnishings that will blend rather than match exactly. Start with a rug or fabric that offers three or four compatible colors. Include both warm and cool hues and keep them in the same tonal range.

To map out where you'll apply each color, think about creating a sense of movement through successive spaces by arranging the colors from warm to cool or vice versa.

Also consider the light that each space receives. Natural light changes the appearance of any color. To gauge the impact of light on your chosen colors, buy a quart of each color and brush the paint onto large pieces of poster board. Tape the poster board to the walls to observe how the colors change throughout the day and by lamplight.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

A Few Ways to Add Curb Appeal...In a Day

...Create perfect symmetry
Symmetry is not only pleasing to the eye, it's also the simplest to arrange. Symmetrical compositions of light fixtures and front-door accents create welcoming entryways. This door is flanked by two sidelights. The black lantern-style sconces not only safely guide visitors to the door, but also coordinate with the black door and urns.

Replace old hardware...
House numbers, the entry door lockset, a wall-mounted mailbox, and an overhead light fixture are all elements that can add style and interest to your home's exterior. If they're out of date or dingy, your home may not be conveying the aesthetic you think it is. These elements add the most appeal when they function collectively, rather than as mix-and-match pieces. Oiled-bronze finishes suit traditional homes, while brushed nickel suits more contemporary ones.

...Install outdoor lighting
Low-voltage landscape lighting makes a huge impact on your home's curb appeal while also providing safety and security. Fixtures can add accent lighting to trees or the house or can illuminate a walking path. If you aren't able to use lights that require wiring, install solar fixtures (but understand that their light levels are not as bright or as reliable).

Create an instant garden...
Container gardens add a welcoming feel and colorful appeal to any home exterior -- quickly and affordably. You can buy ready-made containers from garden centers or create your own with your favorite plants. For most landscapes, a staggered, asymmetrical arrangement works best to create a dynamic setting.

...Renew planter beds
Get garden beds into shape by pruning growth, pulling weeds, planting flowers, and adding new mulch to restore color that was taken away by sunlight and harsh weather. If stone or brick borders your bed, consider cleaning and resetting any pieces that are soiled or dislodged. If your border is old or tired-looking, try upgrading to stone or a decorative cast-concrete edging system.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

BLACK and WHITE Update


Citrus green paired with black and white creates an energetic, modern environment, even when used with eclectic furnishings. Try hanging black-and-white papers in exciting patterns on a narrow magnetic board or bulletin board for an inexpensive and unstudied work of art.


Black trim adds sophistication to the playful blue beaded board walls in this entryway, but a graphic paint treatment on the door keeps it bold and fun. A neutral rug ties the look together without overwhelming the space.


When pairing black and white with a beige wall, gravitate toward creamy whites. The simple lines of this classically upholstered armchair complement the minimalist artwork while the rosy-toned throw grounds the eye with a place to rest.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Colin & Justin: Avoid bathroom renovation disasters!

5 bathroom renovation no-nos and how to avoid them
The bathroom's importance should never be underestimated. Often, it's in this smallest room that we get the chance to make the biggest impact. Besides enhancing your quality of life, a great bathroom will also bolster the saleability of your property. When putting together a look during bathroom renovations, think about two elements: convenience and comfort. For convenience, try to create efficient wash, makeup and hairstyling areas; for comfort, establish a restful, well-decorated haven for yourself. No longer just a place to wash and go, our bathrooms can provide sanctuary from the stresses and strains of the outside world. You owe it to yourself to get it right!

1 Carpets
Carpets are harbingers of, ahem, fluids, so opt for wipe-clean surfaces like stone or ceramic. The worst case of bathroom carpeting we've seen was in a tiny London home where the owners had gone potty (excuse the bathroom pun) and carpeted the floor, bath panel and even window ledges.

2 Coloured suites
Hell's bells, when will people learn? Bathroom suites can be any colour -- as long as they're white. That means a resounding no to avocado, beige and any offensive pastels. While filming How Not To Decorate, we encountered a bathroom with four different colour schemes: a bath so green it looked like Kermit the Frog exploded in it, a toffee-colour bath panel, a marshmallow pink toilet and, to top the lot, a navy sink with golden taps. When pressed to explain the error of her ways, our style-challenged homeowner proffered that on the lookout to save money, she'd bought (in various stages) sanitary wares through local newspaper ads -- regardless of colour. Stick to white, and introduce colour via tiling, flooring and accessories, instead. Listen to no one who tells you that avocado is back in style!

3 Cheap laminate flooring
Let us tell you about The Weetabix Bathroom. As part of Colin & Justin's Home Heist, we tackled a bathroom renovation in Oshawa, Ont., that initially didn't look too bad. But we discovered a cardinal sin: cheap laminate flooring. You see, those bargain-bin deals are not what they're cracked up to be. Some laminates are little more than a photograph of wood grain glued to compressed fibre board or chipboard. And what happens when you add water? They expand -- just like Weetabix does when you add milk. So take a tip: invest in the best and opt for water-resistant products like bamboo or teak.

4 Toiletries on display
The Bilious Bathroom! Who wants to see your every ailment? Not us! Just before we left our beloved Britain for Canada, we were visiting friends for dinner. In the bathroom, we noticed an open-front cabinet that positively groaned under the weight of tonics, tinctures, pills and potions for all manner of -- mostly unmentionable -- conditions. We actually made our excuses and left. We simply didn't fancy dinner cooked by those potentially afflicted hands. Our advice is simple: mix open storage with closed so your Chanel toiletries will be on display but your hemorrhoid creams won't. It's all about piles of style rather than, well, just piles!

5 Wallpaper
OK, OK -- these days manufacturers offer wallpapers that can live with humidity without any problems. But we tend to avoid papering our bathroom projects as there are so many fab paints on the market that effortlessly deal with hot and steamy areas. The last thing you want is for that glamorous and expensive paper to peel off as soon as you run your first bath. We like to add extra colour and drama with towels, changeable artworks and an assortment of storage boxes and jars, all of which can be rearranged or amended as tastes change.

By Colin McAllister and Justin Ryan