DIY chair seat

Photo / - until tomorrow


While most reupholstery projects are better left to professionals, recovering a seat cushion is often a quick and easy task, and introducing new fabric is a quick way to update and enliven a space. Because it’s such an easy project, choosing a pattern doesn’t need to be such a permanent commitment like it is with sofa and lounge chairs.

Photo / - janelle beals

Chair cushions cover such a small area, and they are a great place to utilize patterns because they will not be overwhelming on a small scale. And because each chair only requires 1/2 to 3/4 of a yard of fabric, it can be an inexpensive project if you find an affordable fabric – think fabric store sales and remnant pieces.

Check out these websites for illustrated instructions and tips for DIY chair seat reupholstery: “How to Recover a Dining Chair “DIY Project: How to Recover a Seat Cushion” “How to Reupholster a Seat Pad”

Photo / Ashley Goforth Designs

Another option, for a more loose, casual look, is to create chair seat slipcovers. Of course, this requires a little bit of sewing know-how or a friend who is generous with her time. But slipcovers are easy to change and are even less of a commitment than stapling on a new fabric cover. They could even be used seasonally as the spirit moves you (or just to protect your nice fabric from messy guests and pets!).

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Gorgeous home in Toronto

This home by Meredith Heron is so beautiful! I’m ready to move in. I like how everything is tailored but still casual. The white trimwork and cabinetry is also really clean and crisp. Check out Houzz Tour: Dream Home in Toronto for more photos.

Design and photo by Meredith Heron

Design and photo by Meredith Heron

Design and photo by Meredith Heron

Design and photo by Meredith Heron

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Attractive Solar Roofing

Standing seam metal system with thin-film solar panels. Photo / Emily Udell for

Solar panels are a great way to harvest the energy of the sun to lower energy bills and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.

See this example highlighted by Angie’s List – it shows the possibilities for integrating solar with a metal roof in a way that the average passerby doesn’t notice. The thin-film panels are much less noticeable than the original, bulky panels that initially come to mind when thinking of solar panels. While the initial cost for a new roof with solar panels is significant, tax rebates, the reduction in traditional energy use, and the ability to sell energy back to the grid provide a return on investment in the long-term.

The Angie’s List article also highlights the green benefits of a metal roof over an asphalt roof – the metal can be recycled, and it generally lasts longer than asphalt.

In addition to thin-film solar panels, there are also solar shingles that are installed similarly to traditional shingles, and they blend in with the staggered format of the rest of the roof.

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Lights out for Edison’s bulb

CFL lamp. photo /

You may have heard that Congress passed legislation in 2007 to slowly phase out incandescent bulbs and replace them with fluorescent bulbs. In fact, incandescent lamp production in the US is almost none existent (see Washington Post 9/8/10 article on Winchester GE plant closure). Obviously, green legislation is enacted with the environment in mind – fluorescents use significantly less energy than their incandescent counterparts, and they have a longer life span and lower heat output.

However, there are many who don’t want to be restricted in their bulb choices. The Associated Press reports that several states, including South Carolina and Arizona, have considered passing legislation to protect them from federal bans against incandescents.

Incandescents have been the standard light bulb product since their 19th century invention, and people have grown accustomed to their warm, yellow light. In contrast, fluorescents have long been used in commercial applications, and compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) have only recently been available for use in most residential fixtures. CFLs are now available in a white variety of wattages, color temperatures and shapes, and they can replace almost any incandescent bulb.

Unfortunately, CFL’s large initial cost scares many consumers away. Many also feel that they do not have the same soft lighting as incandescents. Additionally, because fluorescents contain mercury, breakage of CFLs exposes consumers to the toxic chemical; CFL bulbs should be returned to proper refuse facilities, but most consumers throw them in their household garbage, contributing to the pollution of the environment. While they have positive attributes, CFLs are not the ideal lighting solution.

LED Lamp. Photo /

Unfortunately for incandescent lovers, it’s going to be an uphill battle. But manufacturers are continually improving alternative lamp technology. LED (light emitting diode) lamps are improving, and they will eventually become the ideal solution because they have extremely low energy usage (half of a comparable fluorescent), they require no warm-up time, environmental factors do not affect their performance, and they have no toxic mercury content. While they are commercially available now, the price is extremely high.

Until the price of LED lamps improves, consumers should attempt to adopt fluorescent lighting and grow accustomed to the different look and feel. Using “warm white” bulbs will most closely replicate the color temperature of incandescent bulbs. And when disposing of fluorescent bulbs, contact your local waste collection agency by visiting Your local Home Depot and Lowes¬† may even offer CFL bulb recycling at their stores.

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The Vanishing Living Room

Photo /

The Cleavers would be upset: the National Association of Home Builders purports that living rooms will become obsolete by 2015. The NAHB believes that “the living room will either vanish or merge with other spaces in the home.”

While it’s hard to believe that living rooms will ever truly vanish, modern lifestyles certainly don’t rely on formal living rooms for receiving and entertaining guests anymore. The living room is already merging with other rooms; the Great Room, which rose in popularity in the ’90s, combines the formal living room and family room (and sometimes dining room) into one large space.

Modern entertaining is a much more relaxed event, and this is surely a contributing factor to the demise of the formal living room. The kitchen and its adjacent rooms have become an important part of entertaining in the home as guests often join the host in the kitchen. It makes sense that home owners expect spaces that were formerly only utilized on holidays and special occasions to serve multiple purposes. Otherwise, it’s just another room to clean (at least that’s my take on it).

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It is curtains for the whirlpool tub?


In real estate the whirlpool tub has long been a symbol of luxury. It is often listed as a key selling point for a master suite, encouraging potential buyers to envision themselves relaxing in a nice hot bubble bath in their new home.  Whirlpools are staged with candles and potpourri and fluffy towels.

But today’s homebuyers appear to have different needs. Many are now taking out large tubs and expanding their showers or installing additional sinks or storage.

According to the Charlotte Observer‘s article “Goodbye whirlpool tub; hello luxury shower,” most whirlpool tubs are only used seven times…ever! And with the average tub taking up roughly 15 sq.ft., that is a lot of space to waste. Larger whirlpool tubs, with their tile surrounds and steps, are often inhabit the square footage of walk-in closets.

Photo / Pottery Barn

At my last house I remember using the whirlpool a whopping two times. Whirlpool tubs are difficult to clean, and I don’t think most people’s schedules afford them much time for baths nowadays. Today’s luxury bath experience is not a long, hot soak, but instead a steamy, invigorating shower.

If given the choice between a bathroom with a whirlpool tub and a simple shower and a bathroom with a walk-in shower with tons of bells and whistles, I would choose the luxury shower any day.

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The Clean Mud Room

Photo - Case Design/Remodeling Inc.’s ideabook “The Handsome Mudroom” inspired this entry with beautiful images of mudrooms – who would have thought such a utilitarian space could be so attractive?!

While a mudroom can be as simple as a row of hooks in an entryway, an attractively designed and well-organized storage system will add to a home’s function and make a big impression.

Think of it as a dumping ground for all of the things that you don’t want cluttering your kitchen or living room, and make sure that it’s easy to drop things off there on the way in the door. While closed storage will hide a multitude of sins, a person is probably more likely to use open storage because it is instantly accessible.

Photo / Renovation Design Group





Ideally, a well-designed mudroom should have open hook storage for hanging coats and bags, shelves or drawers for hats and gloves, space for dirty or wet shoes, and closed cabinets for additional items. Additionally, a built-in bench will make it even easier for someone to sit and take off their shoes.

photo / Charlie & Co Design


I’m sure mud rooms are especially appealing to moms who constantly deal with hanging up coats and tucking away shoes and back packs. Labeling each cubby with a child’s name might encourage them to use their storage spot to stow away all of their stuff.

Mud rooms are usually relegated to the back entry of a home and thus aren’t usually given much design emphasis. But as the image to the right shows, mud rooms can be as fancy as the home owner wants (replete with living room level detailing, crystal pendants, and a library ladder!).

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Layering Rugs

Photo / -

A lot of people don’t realize that rugs can be layered to give a room more warmth and interest. The most common way to do this is to put an area rug on top of wall-to-wall carpeting. The rug on top adds visual interest and color and grounds the furniture piece or grouping that it is near. has an article that shows various examples of layering rugs using both traditional persian style rugs and modern rugs, like cow hides. The article also illustrates that if you have an area rug that you love, but it is too small for the specific area, you can layer it on top of a rug that is large enough to cover the area.

The accent area rug adds pizazz to the neutral carpeting or larger solid area rug that it sits on. Area rugs with pattern and color also serve to hide stains, and they can protect the carpet below from wear and damage.

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Sliding downstairs

Photo / Level Architects

Wow, this is a kid’s dream! This house by Level Architects in Japan uses slides, in addition to stairs, as a means of downward egress. This would definitely not pass US Building codes due the safety aspects (or lack there of), but it would certainly be a great way to keep kids entertained on a rainy or snowy day. The house even has a ball pit room. It’s like a McDonald’s playground built into the house! Check out the site linked above to see great pictures of the home, including an illustration of how the slides are configured.

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Kitchen & Bath Trends of 2010

photo / Alan Bisson

The National Kitchen & Bath Association released their findings of the trends for 2010’s kitchens and baths. For the full write up, go to Kitchen & Bath Business’ website. Here is the list of the most popular trends:


1. Cabinet style: Shaker

2. Cabinet wood species: Maple

3. Cabinet finish: Dark

4. Including wine storage in cabinetry

5. Muted Colors

6. French door refrigerators

7. Gas cooktops are still the most popular

8. Including trash/recycling storage in cabinetry


1. Quartz countertops

2. Undermount sinks

3. White/Off-white color palettes

4. Satin nickel fixture finish

I would also like to add some of my own personal observations. For the Kitchen, lantern-style pendant lights were very popular over kitchen islands. White painted cabinetry is very popular right now, especially with light granite or marble countertops. Cabinetry that is styled like furniture continues to be popular, both in kitchens and bathrooms.

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Valentine’s Day

I don’t know how many people decorate their homes for Valentine’s Day. I suppose it depends on your feelings on the holiday in general or whether or not you are hosting a party or a romantic dinner for two. I did see a Valentine’s wreath on a neighbor’s door the other day, but most decorating is on the inside of the home., of course, has tons of craft ideas. I love the tulip arrangement whose vase is filled with cinnamon candies. Flowers are the easiest way to add some holiday colors and romance.

Another place to look is at the decorating ideas compiled on There are several examples of heart-shaped pillows or wall hangings that would be a quick way to throw in some of the love theme. Bringing out special photos in themed tabletop frames is also a quick and non-temporary decorating solution.

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A Sofa made of Chopsticks

If you had three months and 8,000 chopsticks at your disposal, would you be able to craft an expandable sofa??

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Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

BEFORE (Photo/Leah L. Jones - For The Washington Post)

In today’s Washington Post I contributed to the House Calls article which pairs a local homeowner-in-need with a local designer. The challenge is to provide the homeowner with a new design for their space using products that are accessible to the general public so that the homeowner, and other Post readers, can then purchase the items themselves.

Today’s homeowners are the Butlers, a retired couple who recently down-sized to a new home in a retirement community. They brought all of their existing furniture into their new home, and they weren’t sure how to make their dining room more inviting. It is open to the entry, kitchen, and living areas, and the homeowners must walk through the dining room to access the bedroom area. The Butlers have traditional taste, and they wanted the dining room colors to coordinate with the adjacent living room furnishings. They also wanted to keep their existing dining table and chairs to be economical.


(Photos: Chandelier - Restoration Hardware, Mirror - ZGallery, Artwork -, Orchid - Teleflora, Runner - Pottery Barn, Rug - Pottery Barn, Lamps -, Buffet - Home Decorators Collection)

See the Washington Post’s article for information on the specific items that I suggest. I sought to make the space more intimate and appealing, adding color, texture, and warmth with a new area rug, mirrors and art, and new lighting. I also introduced some storage so that the Butlers would have somewhere to stash table linens or serving pieces. The selections are traditional to suit the homeowners’ taste, but they are updated so that the room doesn’t look stuffy; the abstract art helps to keep the space looking fresh. The redesign ties the room together to create a room with personality and presence.

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Pretty in Pink

Pink lovers, rejoice! Pantone has named their color of the year for 2011: it is “honeysuckle,” a vibrant pink that they deem to be “Courageous. Confident.” Pink is a color that seems to flow in and out of popularity with its variations of intensity and hue.

Photo/Garnet Hill

Popular pinks of late have been the intense variety: fuchsia and magenta. They have found their way into the most posh hotels, nightclubs, and luxury homes. The bubblegum and pastel pink colored clothing patterns of Lily Pulitzer have found their way into young girls’ bedrooms and even into grown up living rooms and bedrooms. My post on “Mom Caves,” for instance, featured a Mom’s pink sitting room.

Photo/Darren Higgins for The New York Times

Pink bathrooms of the 1930s have long been seen as eye sores. Owners removed existing pink sinks and toilets at their first opportunity to renovated. Now, apparently some homeowners are choosing to install pink ceramic tiles and even, gasp, pink toilets into renovations or new construction. The New York Times published an article called Bathrooms – Pretty in Pink, Again which discusses that as the midcentury style is becoming in vogue again, pink bathrooms are seen as palatable, if not desirable. I don’t think that anyone should go out and buy a vintage pink toilet (and I REALLY don’t think anyone should decorate with pink poodles!). I also don’t foresee the Kohlers and American Standards of the world rolling out pink as one of their new finishes. But a little bit of pink can be really attractive.

Photo/Stephanie Diani for The New York Times

A pale pink paint on the walls, for instance, is a very inexpensive way to incorporate pink into a modern bathroom with modern white fixtures. Interior Designer Brooke Giannetti’s bathroom is beautiful; it uses a warm blush pink on the walls and accents it with a rose ottoman and pink flowers.

If a person wants to use fuchsia or magenta, I would suggest adding the color in small amounts on items that aren’t permanent. Pops of color can be brought into a room in pillows, draperies, art, area rugs, slip covers etc. And when the fashion wanes or the homeowner grows tired of the color, it is easy to switch out.

Photo -

The pinks that are less intense, such as carnation and salmon, tend to be more timeless (and easier on the eyes). A wall painted in these colors will stand the test of time longer than the vibrant, saturated pinks.

Pink is personal. You probably either love it or hate it, but it seems like it is back in style, at least for a while. Personally, this bedroom makes me want to paint something pink!

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“Is Green Design Always Good Design?”

This is a great question. As businesses and governments make an effort to seem eco-friendly while always watching the bottom line, sometimes the concept of eco-friendliness misses the mark. The article Recycled Sidewalks: is Green Design Always Good Design? discusses NYC’s re-use of construction debris as a road median. While it is a creative way to re-purpose what would otherwise have gone in a landfill, it looks like exactly what it is – a pile of busted up stone, complete with utility markings and probably lots of old chewing gum. But the function is somewhat compromised. While a typical median has a curb height that will not damage a car that bumps into it, this median could total a car that drifted a bit off center. And as a commenter to the article noted, these medians do not accomodate the typical greenery that municipalities use to brighten up an otherwise cold and barren stretch of road. The article’s author writes, “I wonder where the line between “green design” and “good design” lies, and if in fact in some cases, aesthetics are lost to a green agenda.”

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