10 Tips For The Perfect Bathroom Remodel

bathroom remodeling tips for your homeGiving an old, tired bathroom a makeover is one of the best things you can do to increase your home’s resale value. While bathrooms are frequently the smallest rooms in your home, they’re often the most used and valued spaces, and are among the smartest remodeling investments in terms of return of investment.  Beyond the practical, day-to-day routines, for many people bathrooms are a sanctuary – a place to escape the stresses of daily life, even if only for a few moments at a time.

However, since most homeowners are working with small spaces and because there is a fair amount of water involved (sink, toilet, shower and bathtub), there’s a lot of potential for a bathroom remodel to go horribly wrong so having a professional service is advised. Here are 10 tips from Handyman Matters on how to create the bathroom of your dreams:

 

  1. Get ideas. Start with a visit to a premium tile or cabinet store that offers bathroom displays.  These can give you an idea of the types of designs, tiling, and fixtures available for your remodel.  Another good plan is to visit model homes to see the latest in bathroom design from today’s homebuilders.
  2. Have a plan. Whether your bathroom remodel involves some light fix-me-ups or is a down-to-the-studs project, it’s important to consolidate your ideas and create a remodeling plan and a budget. If you’re going to remodel it yourself, don’t be afraid to get help and seek out information on the latest in remodeling standards.
  3. Bring it up to code. Check your town or city’s website to review or download building code requirements related to bathrooms – in particular codes related to plumbing, electrical and windows. Remember, building codes mean meeting the minimally allowed standards required by your city or state. It may not matter now, but it can be a big deal when you try to sell your home. Spending the extra dollars to bring your bathroom up to at least code, especially in the areas of electrical and plumbing, versus doing simply cosmetic changes, will bring peace of mind, enhance resale value, and avoid problems down the line. Handyman Matters professionals can help make sure your bathroom is following the city standards – one more reason to use a professional for all of your remodeling needs.
  4. Include popular features. Including popular features in your bathroom remodeling project will help at resale time, and make your bathroom feel more contemporary. Second sinks, decorative glass and stone tile and accents, replacing tubs with showers, more storage space, better lighting, extra-wide wall tiles, and heated floors are among the most popular features in today’s new home construction and upscale remodeling projects.
  5. Make it easy to clean. No one likes cleaning a bathroom, so why complicate matters by making it difficult? For example, avoid vanities with space underneath the cabinet that attracts dust. Don’t place vanities, toilets and other items too close together to create tight spaces that are difficult to clean. Use large wall tiles to eliminate grout lines. Invest in shower doors that keep water in a shower or tub and don’t show soap build-up. Consider adding storage to free up valuable counter-top space.
  6. Keep it elegant. Your bathroom is not the place to express your secret passion for Star Wars with movie-themed wallpaper. Focus on using materials and fixtures that exude quality, offer an intimate, contemporary feel, and are timeless. To create an elegant look, consider downscaling a crowded full bath to a comfortable half-bath; mix tile textures, sizes, colors, types (natural stone, ceramic, porcelain, glass) and embrace neutral colors and whites.
  7. Water is the enemy. Water and moisture are the greatest enemies of a bathroom. Make sure to adequately ventilate your bathroom to vent steam and humidity generated from showers. Add a window, if possible, and replace an old fan with a more powerful, quieter version. Replace traditional sheetrock with water-proof cement board and use tile and stone materials to further reduce the risk of water damaging wood.
  8. Create ample light. Out of all of the rooms in our homes, it’s in the bathroom where we take care of our grooming needs as well as life’s little medical emergencies. When remodeling, pay close attention to the lighting of your bathroom and if necessary, add more lighting options, especially around the vanity to reduce shadows and glaring.
  9. Make it safer. Slick surfaces in a bathroom pose a serious risk for falls. Shower stalls and bathtubs should be outfitted with slip-resistant finishes on floors, rubber mats, and grab bars. Consider rounded counter-top finishes versus corners with sharp edges. And keep electrical outlets away from water, such as bathtubs.
  10. Make it greener. Green is in and is here to stay. When remodeling your bathroom, consider using fixtures that save water, replace old windows with new energy efficient windows, and consider counter tops and flooring made from recycled materials, such as recycled glass mosaic tile. Natural stone products act as insulators — keeping cool in and hot out during the summer, and keeping your bathroom warmer longer during the winter.

The bathroom is one of the most used rooms in the house. Easy updates will make sure it’s more enjoyable for both you and your guests. These projects do not need to be completed all at once; in fact if you take it slow and upgrade little by little the room will come together exactly how you want it. The great thing about Handyman Matters is that there is no job too small or too big for our craftsmen. Don’t hesitate to call the professionals today, click here to find a location near you!

Handy Maintenance Tips For Your Home

Home Maintenance TipsFollow these steps to avoid expensive repairs later and keep your home safe and efficient.

  • Check Carpet for Stains, Popping Seams, Rumples and General Damage – Small stains can often be removed using WD-40 (Test for discoloration in an unexposed area first).  Popping seams in small areas can be fixed with a glue gun and frayed pieces should be cut with scissors and covered with glue to prevent further unraveling.  “Rumples” are areas where the carpet has a wavy look.  This can be fixed with a “Knee Kicker” which is a tool with a pad and teeth that grabs the carpet and tightens it by pulling it further over the tack strip at the outside edge.
  • Check Linoleum for Rips, Tears & Curling – For rips, re-glue with the manufacturers recommended glue.  For tears, re-glue with a clear vinyl-seaming adhesive.  Curling means that nothing is holding down the outside edge.  All linoleum outside edges need to be covered and held down by molding, transition strips, adhesive caulk or other materials to prevent curling and allowing water & dirt under the flooring.
  • Tighten Screws & Nails on Decks & Patios – Wood expands and contracts with changing temperatures and weather.  Boards will loosen and warp if not maintained.  To make your deck or patio last longer, tighten screws and hammer protruding nails carefully to make sure you don’t cause the wood to crack by over tightening.
  • Clean & Seal Decks & Railings – Do this once each year to extend deck life. Typically only the top horizontal parts of the railing need attention.  Make sure that once you use one kind of product for this that you continue to only use the same type product every year in the future to prevent any incompatibility problems.
  • Review Concrete for Cracks, Chips & Shifting – For cracks, grind with an angle grinder to a minimum of 1/8” and fill with a DOT spec “Bridge Grade Self-Leveling Caulk”.  Make sure to fill only halfway because it expands as it dries.  For separation between your concrete and a wall of over ½” add a “backer rod” (a foam, flexible rod) to fill the gap and give the caulk something to sit on top of and stick to.  For chips or missing chunks, scrape off any loose material and refill with “Rockite”.  Texture to match the surrounding finish for best final appearance.
  • Test All Smoke or CO Detectors Push the button on the unit to check it – a few minutes doing this each month could save your family’s life in a fire.

A Bathroom Getaway For Every Day

Who doesn’t need a break from the hectic day-to-day routine once in awhile? A recent study by the American Psychological Association found that we are more stressed than ever, with nearly 75 percent of Americans experiencing moderate to high stress levels. With time and money as major obstacles, it’s difficult for many people to take regular vacations to escape their busy, everyday lives.

Sure, you could see a counselor for anxiety, but with a little time, budget and creativity, an ordinary bathroom can be transformed into a luxurious, relaxing escape for an everyday getaway. The professionals at Handyman Matters have put together the following tips on how to transform your bathroom into your dream oasis.

Spacious showers

The central feature of any bathroom is the shower or bath. Enlarging a cramped shower space does not have to entail an expensive overhaul. By installing a curved shower rod, you will add up to 7 1/2 inches of elbow room to your space and feel like you have an oversized, lavish shower without adding any square footage. Handyman Matters can install these for you and make your bathroom more spacious in minutes.

Make the most of a mirror

Almost every bathroom has at least one, but a simple addition to your mirror can take the room from ordinary to extraordinary. Framing a mirror is a quick and easy way to draw attention and give any room a luxurious, hotel-like feel. There are a variety of frame styles that can offer comfort and beauty in your bathroom – you find the right one and Handyman Matters will hang it for you.

Storing in style

Storage space might not seem like the most glamorous part of a room, but choosing unique organization accessories can make all the difference in your bathroom’s makeover. There are a variety of function accessories available for bathrooms such as bathrobe hooks, soap dispensers, towel bars and rings, and paper holders. They come in a wide variety of finishes and styles to coordinate with the other items in your bath.

Decorative Hotel Shelves are another option available in today’s popular finishes and unique designs to add a hint of luxury to the bathroom while providing maximum storage for linens and towels. These small details are a quick and easy way to give your bath a high-end look while maintaining functionality.

Soothe your senses

It’s the little things that make the biggest difference, and there are many ways to enjoy the indulgent atmosphere of a hotel spa at a fraction of the cost. Pamper all of your senses with bathroom extras such as scented shower gels and lotions, oversized cotton towels and aromatherapy candles. Even a simple coat of paint in a relaxing shade can make a dramatic difference and help create a calming, stress-relieving ambiance. Pop in a soothing CD and your haven of relaxation is complete.

Everyone deserves time away from the stress of today’s world, and with a few simple changes you can transform your everyday bathroom into an organized, relaxing daily escape and Handyman Matters can take care of all of the updates to make your transformation completely stress free.

For more information on how Handyman Matters can take your drab bathroom to a relaxation haven visit, www.HandymanMatters.com.

Spring Home Improvement Projects

Spring Home Improvement Projects

Here are some helpful home improvement tips for your projects:

1) To start with your home improvements in spring, it is good idea to keep the WELCOME mat at your front door – or get a fresh, new one. This mat gives a warm invitation to your guests. And another small thing that you can do is to paint your door. Use the contrast colors for trim and your mailbox, if you like, but the colors should go together well (many paint and hardware companies give advice, so don’t be afraid to seek help).

2) Add decorative items outdoors. For example, if your guests see nice decorated pots in front of your door before you open the door for them, they will be impressed with these small touches. You can add small or big pots depending upon the space available. Note: It does not matter how small the pots are unless and until you have a particular plant or other need for them. And plastic pots on the whole will not look as good as clay pots or terra cotta.

3) Spring always comes with the basic idea of overall spring-cleaning of the home – which is great. Clean inside and up, upstairs and down – all around.

4) You can save energy by filling the gaps and holes in your home. They can increase the performance of the electric gadgets and heating / cooling systems.

5) Spring is the season of greenery. Gardens provide great decoration for your home. Lawns around the home need proper maintenance, so you should keep your yard fertilized (as this can be a very tricky matter, you want to hire help – a lawn care service for the the proper maintenance.)

Window Replacement

Window replacement gives a new style and look to your home with additional advantages like energy savings and airy ventilation within during open-window season (without hurting your arms trying to crank out old metal framed windows).

You should search for the good quality windows that will also solve any current problems; for instance, if there are water leaks in or around your windows that will damage the wood seek better seals of fittings / installation. And keep in mind that cheaper windows may not be best in long term because ultimately they may add more consumption of energy.

Window replacement is not very costly if you consider the advantages. New windows may give you convenience of easy cleaning. And if these windows are double hung models that can be tilted, it may be well worth the investment.

Some new windows are made from aluminum or vinyl. They need less scraping and no painting.

Note: It is not necessary to do all this work yourself. Many reps and manufacturers of windows offer services including delivery and installation of your windows… or you can appoint the contractor who will take care of all this work.

In summary, though you can do lot of small things, it is always better to contract experts for work like windows replacement and garden maintenance. This will save your time and energy. The results will be very nice. You will love your home more than ever before.

A Big And Small Energy Saver For Each Room Of Your House

Energy Saving Tips For Your HomeSaving the environment can be an overwhelming task. With everything in the news about how to make your home more energy efficient, it’s easy to become bewildered when thinking about all the improvements you could make. But there’s no need to worry, as you don’t have to make your home into a model for green living all at once.

In fact, if everyone did just a few little things, the earth would see a gigantic benefit, so you can still do your part even if it doesn’t mean retrofitting your entire home. And a few small measures, like taking the ENERGY STAR “Change the World” pledge, can result in you seeing immediate savings.

Some of the world’s leading brands recently teamed up with energy-savings experts to build an energy-neutral house to test earth-friendly practices in Boulder, Colo. Lifestyle experts were then invited to live in The Green House for three days, test its environmentally friendly products and experience the benefits of eco-friendly living.

The main takeaway from The Green House project is that there are a variety of steps you can take, big ones and smaller ones, to make each room in your home more eco-friendly:

Bathroom
Big: Install a low-flow aerating showerhead. Most models allow you to save around 30 percent on water usage without compromising on your shower experience.

Small: Avoid using toxic cleaning products, as chemicals find their way into the atmosphere and waterways. As you run out of old cleansers, replace with nontoxic cleaning products.

Kitchen
Big: Replace your old refrigerator or dishwasher with an energy-efficient model. Look for models that either meet or go beyond ENERGY STAR levels, like a new 4-Door French-door refrigerator that’s 20 percent more efficient than the minimum ENERGY STAR standard. The fridge achieves efficiency through linear compressor technology that alters output based on demand from the refrigerator. This means fewer temperature swings, ultimately using less energy and saving you money.

Small: Plant a garden, as the food out of your garden will be fresher and won’t need to be transported to the store or to your home.

Bedroom
Big: Buy all-natural bedding that is made from earth-friendly materials.

Small: Unplug gadgets like cell phone chargers and unused appliances before going to bed, since they can use energy even when they are plugged in and not in use.

Laundry room
Big: Buy an energy-efficient washer and dryer. Consider a high-efficiency, front-load steam washer machine. It uses more than 50 percent less water per load and is roughly 86 percent more energy-efficient than conventional top-load machines.

Small: Clean your dryer vent after each load, because even a partially clogged vent will hurt your dryer’s efficiency.

Energy center
Big: Invest in a programmable thermostat, which can save you money by automatically managing home temperatures when you plan to be away or while you sleep. Some even can be controlled remotely while you are gone.

Small: Replace incandescent light bulbs with more energy-efficient CFL or LED bulbs.

Garage
Big: If you’re in the market for a new car, buy a gas-sipping hybrid.
Small: Take public transportation. Better yet, where possible, bike or walk on one trip each week where you would usually drive.

Living room
Big: Buy an ENERGY STAR-rated TV that will save you money when it’s both on and off. With very low standby and on-mode power consumption, some new LED HDTVs save only about 7 cents of electricity a day for average viewing of six hours daily.

Small: Unplug your DVD player or other accessories when they are not in use, especially when leaving for an extended time like a vacation.

Whether they are big or small, your energy-saving contributions won’t go unnoticed by Mother Nature or your pocketbook. The professionals at Handyman Matters can help take care of all of your interior projects – no matter how small! Click here to find a location near you or call 866-FIX MY HOME today.

Keeping That Simple Kitchen Remodel Budget Under Control

It’s startling just how quickly the costs for what seems to be a simple remodeling project can spiral out of control.  As stated in Remodeling Magazine’s recent cost vs. value report, the 2010 national average price tag for a minor kitchen remodel was $21,695.  And keep in mind, that’s a minor remodel.  As real estate prices have gone down, it’s easily possible to pay more for a kitchen remodel than other people may pay for an entire house!

So, if you are a do-it-yourselfer on a budget, what steps can you take to keep the costs of that “simple remodel” under control?

Start with specific advance planning.  Planning costs nothing but time and imagination, and yields big results.  List the features you want to change in your kitchen and then arrange them in order of importance and preference.

Include a list of the items you’re craving—Are new counters at the top of your wish list?  Then that’s where you place them.  These can take a chunk of your budget, but they provide a large variety of benefits.  A new laminate countertop, for example, helps create a fresh, more attractive finish and, with a bit of forethought, can help eliminate previously wasted or unused space.

Control expenses by using—or reusing—existing materials.  Rather than replacing cabinets altogether, consider whether you can create the effect you want simply by replacing the front panels.  Or maybe a little repainting will achieve the unifying, modern look you’re after.

You don’t want to underestimate the effect that flooring has on a kitchen; it can make or break the overall appearance.  It may be necessary to replace a dated or damaged one, but if some serious scrubbing can polish the old tile to a pristine appearance, or if adding a layer to the existing floor can accomplish the look you want to achieve, those are lower cost alternatives that go a long way towards sprucing up the room where you spend a good deal of your time.

Of course, every individual has their own list of priorities.  You may have your heart set on a designer sink or a new appliance.  If that’s the case, do some careful investigating; perhaps the energy-savings function of a new dishwasher will help to offset the remodeling costs in the long run.

Don’t underestimate the power of lighting.  The American Lighting Association recommends you keep three things in mind:  ambient, task and accent lights.  The right combination of the three will give you what you’re seeking in both function and atmosphere.  With a judicious use of LED strips and modern track fixtures, you can achieve this without straining your pocketbook.

Naturally every home and its owner are unique, so you’ll want to organize your priorities to suit your own wishes.  Just keep in mind that advance planning, along with an eye toward the practical can inspire you to improvements that will suit your taste, match your skills and keep that pesky budget under control.

Source material: “Fabulous and Frugal Fixes,” by Connie Bastyr, Handy, Feb/Mar 2011.

Harvard Report: Bright Future For Remodeling

Home Remodeling IndustryRemodeling may have been hit hard by the recession, but demographics, an aging housing stock and a recovering economy give us plenty of reason to believe the industry is poised for recovery, according to the Harvard University Joint Center for Housing Studies’ biennial report on the industry.

Harvard estimates the remodeling was a $286 billion industry in 2009–down 12 percent from the $326 billion peak in 2007, but still above 2005 levels and nearly twice the size of the market in 1995.  The biggest hit came in the owner-occupied improvement category, though–the sweet spot for many remodelers.

“Maintenance expenditures and rental expenditures didn’t really drop at all,” says Kermit Baker, director of the Joint Center’s Remodeling Futures program.  “In fact, it increased to some extent.  If you look only at owner improvements, that was actually down somewhere between 20 to 25 percent from peak to trough.  That’s what many remodelers are seeing.”

While we won’t return to the over-the-top spending of the last decade, the first half of this decade should see steady growth of 3.5 percent a year in the remodeling market, the Joint Center predicts.  That’s on par with the market growth in the late 1990s, but well below the 12 percent average annual growth from 2003 to 2007.

“It’s kind of back to business as usual, but not overly accelerating,” Baker says.  “I don’t think there were many people who were living through the 2003 to 2007 period that thought this was going to be a normal level of remodeling activity.”

Remodeling tends to closely followed the strength of the overall economy.  According to Joint Center estimates, remodeling accounted for about 2 percent of total spending in the U.S. economy in 1995 and 2009, growing at an annual rate of 4.75 percent compared to 4.71 percent for the overall economy.

“When the market was growing, it was growing because there was a fairly thin slice spending a lot more on home improvements,” Baker says.  “Just getting that back to normal implies a different mix of projects.”

This means remodelers probably shouldn’t expect as many of the big-ticket projects as they saw during the boom.  Instead, the market will be driven by smaller projects that are aimed at maintaining and improving homes for the way clients lives rather than with an eye toward resale.  While that may be painful for those remodelers that cater to the high-end clients, it’s key to a more stable industry, Baker says.

The ease of entry into the remodeling market continues  to make it a market made up mostly of smaller firms.  Using the latest numbers available, from the 2007 economic census, Harvard estimates there were 650,000 firms that reported receiving the majority of their revenue from remodeling.  That continued fragmentation of the industry makes it difficult to encourage professionalism and adherence to the rules and regulations of the industry, such as the Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule.

“You don’t have folks that are committed to the industry for the long run,” Baker says.  “They’re kind of in it while they’re looking for a more permanent job or in it to take advantage of an upturn.”

The increase in foreclosures and other distressed properties has played a major role in the decline in remodeling.  The high rate of foreclosures has also played a significant role in depressing home prices.  With declining prices, homeowners are much less likely to invest in their homes or may be unable to because of the lack of home equity financing.

However, as more foreclosures work their way through the system and are purchased, the new homeowners will likely find there is substantial work to be done, especially with the average home spending 500 days in the foreclosure process, Baker says.

Harvard cites a spring 2010 study from the Home Improvement Research Institute that found that buyers of distressed homes spent, on average, 15 percent more on home improvements in the first year of ownership compared to other buyers.  Most of the homes in that study were short sales, Baker says.  As more foreclosures go on the market, that difference is almost certain to increase.

“The level of distress for those properties is not nearly what we’re going to see when this wave of foreclosures comes through,” he says.

By Jonathan Sweet, Editor in Chief

DIY Painting Tips For A More Professional Finish

DIY Painting Tips For Your HomeWhen doing home renovations and redecorating, many people choose to do their own painting.  While the services of a professional painting contractor are undoubtedly the best plan, you can save a decent amount of money and complete this portion of the project yourself.

What’s the difference between a professionally painted wall and a DIY job?  Usually consistency of the finish, the edges and the clean up are top quality.  If you can take care of these three areas, your paint job will shine like a pro’s.

Buying the right paint for your area is a good start to a fine job.  You’ll have to choose between flat (often ceiling paint is flat), semi-gloss and gloss.  There are also many kitchen and bath paints with a high resistance to mold and mildew and other specialty paints for textured finishes.

Decide which type suits your area and ask at the store for their recommendation.  Generally high gloss paint is the easiest to wipe clean and flat paint is the least expensive.

Make sure the surface you are painting is clean and ready to receive a new coat of paint.  No oils should be present and the wall surface should be dry.

Use a clean roller and brush.  Be careful to mix the paint well before you start and stir often during the project.  Paint in small sections with a regular pattern of rolling and a consistent amount of paint loaded onto the roller each time.

Many homeowners get impatient when painting; that shows up in the edging.  Take the time to properly tape areas off.  This includes all trim, cabinets, fixtures, floors and ceilings.

Be slow and deliberate with all edging especially where a light color is meeting a dark color.  Buy top quality masking tape to reduce the chance of bleeding and remove the tape as soon as the paint is cured enough on the walls.

When you make mistakes, fix them right away.  Have a wet cloth handy for latex paints and some thinner on hand when using oil based.  Catching these mistakes as you go along will mean less work at the end.

Professional painters know how to leave a jobsite in pristine condition. Why is it that homeowners often don’t do the same for their own rooms?

Use a tarp wherever you need to protect flooring or furniture.  Wipe down all of the areas that have paint splotches or brush marks afterwards.  Remove masking tape and replace any furniture and decor you moved.

It’s a lot of work to clean brushes and rollers, but it’s worth the effort to reduce waste.  Used paint brushes and rollers are great for craft projects or paint jobs that require less of a fine finish.  With latex paint any rags and clothes used can also be washed.

Dispose of empty paint cans properly as they’re usually considered hazardous waste.  Many regional landfills and other businesses that deal with waste removal will take them.

By following in the footsteps of a professional painter you can enjoy a better quality finish in your home.  DIY painting is a fun project to do alone or with friends, and most rooms require only basic tools.  Enjoy this easy and inexpensive home improvement even more with a finished look that’s professional.

Backyard Decorating Tips

Your backyard can be an important extension of your home, so it’s worth spending time, and perhaps a little money, to make it functional and attractive.

The first step in creating a comfortable and appealing outdoor living space is to clear and tidy the area you have to work with. Stand in your backyard and assess what maintenance needs to be done or what eyesores need to be removed.  It’s time to think of all those gardening verbs:  Trim, mow, edge, fertilize, rake, weed, cut down, haul away, put away, paint and repair.

Make a list of the jobs, and get started – today!  Here are some problem areas for many homeowners, with ideas for ways to make improvements.

Tackle backyard eyesores

Store garbage cans and recycling bins in the side yard or garage.  If the hose must be handy, install a hose reel or a pottery hose house to keep it tidy.  Remove tired or scraggly potted plants, especially ones still in their plastic pots.

Establish a kiddie play area and train your children to keep their outdoor toys there.

Barbecues and their attending equipment aren’t always beautiful to look at.  Why not store them out of sight until they’re needed?

Organize your tools and create a storage system that works.  Up-end them in an old metal garbage can.  Hammer in a row of nails along a fence or the back of the hose, drill holes in your tool handles, loop through a section of rawhide and hang your tools from the nails.

How to Get Motivated

Your list may seem overwhelming, so here are a few ideas for making the work lighter:

Set up a social gathering a month or two away to work towards.  If you’re like me, you’ll want a tidy and attractive yard for your guests.

Commit time to the project. Break your list down into manageable chunks.  Schedule 15-minute to 2-hour blocks of time on your calendar over two months.  Use the odd few moments of free time to complete one small task.

Team up with a friend or neighbor. Spend an hour at his/her house on Saturday and work at your home on Sunday.  Reward yourselves with a picnic in your outdoor dining room.

Design a few outdoor rooms

After taking care of the grunt work, you’ll need to clearly define how you use the space.  Think of your yard as a series of areas or “rooms” with specific functions – areas for conversation, food preparation, eating, potting, storage, playing or sunning – surrounded by or intermingled with foliage or flowerbeds.

Create conversation areas in configurations similar to those in your home.  For example, place a small table in between a pair of chairs.  Position a “coffee table” in front of a bench with two chairs on either end.  Cluster pots to either side of the bench.  Add accessories such as shells, sculpture pieces, tiles or driftwood.

Make sure your outdoor “dining room” is easily accessible to the door closest to your kitchen.  Clean or replace the chair cushions.   Place an improvised centerpiece on the table and leave it there even when the table’s not in use.  Try a blooming potted plant, a cluster of pottery vases, a mound of river rocks, a bird house or birdbath or a bowl filled with croquet balls, beach glass or fish net floats.

Buy or recycle furnishings

Finally, think of items you might add to your outdoor living space to enhance your enjoyment.  Be creative!

Could you purchase sections of reassembled picket fencing and cordon off a small play area on the patio or the lawn for the kids to play in?

How about hanging a bamboo roll-up screen in front of your potting shed to conceal it from view?

Do you have trees that could hold a hammock or hanging chair?

Check any old wood furniture in your garage or attic.  An old dresser works well as a barbecue center or as a potting station.

An old kitchen table and chairs with a fresh coat of paint looks charming.  An old trunk, a few tree stumps covered with a slate slab or a wooden box can serve as a “coffee table.”

For creative finishing touches, rummage through your kitchen cabinets and check for anything waterproof to use as an accessory.

by Kit Davey

Giving A Room A Quick, Easy Facelift

Courtesy of Elle Decor’s executive editor Michael Boodro, here are a few tips for injecting a fresh look into your home’s interiors, ideas that can be accomplished at relatively little cost and with just a small amount of effort.

Pump the Color

Don’t let it scare you.  If you love a bold color, but worry it will be overkill, do one wall, or paint the wall below the chair rail.  Strong color instantly changes a room.

Don’t Fear the Dark

If you have a dark room, don’t paint it a light color and pretend it’s a bright room.  Painting a dark room a dark color can give it real presence.

Use the Ceiling

Too many people ignore them.  Paint ceilings a pale color, like soft blue or pink or butter, or add texture with architectural detail.  When you address the ceiling, it lifts the eye.

Add Shine

Put something shiny in every room:  A glass bowl, a mirror, a polished brass table, lacquered or glossy-painted furniture, satin pillows.  Furnishings that reflect light make spaces happier.

Edit your Stuff

Just as choosing which photos will make it into our magazine’s layout is the hardest part of editing, the same holds true for a room.  Not every great item belongs.  Clear every surface.  Put your stuff in a pile and slowly consider each piece before you put it back.

Have Fun

Your home should be playful.  Not every piece needs to be valuable or have provenance.  Your home should reflect you, not a hotel.

Keep it Alive

The philosophy of maintaining a magazine is that “it’s like a shark.”  If it doesn’t move ahead, it dies.  The same holds true for a living space.  Keep it moving forward!