Author Archives: Jean Nayar

About Jean Nayar

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5 Ways to Create a Perfect Garden Room

Garden Room - Andrew Maier

Photo Courtesy: Andrea Maier

Unlike the glass-enclosed garden rooms or conservatories in the UK—glazed interior spaces that provide visual access to the great outdoors—garden rooms in this country are generally open-air spaces (porches, screened-in sunrooms, covered terraces, or patios wrapped with tall hedges) that ease transition from interior spaces to an exterior garden or lawn.

Whether designed as a retreat for quiet contemplation or as an outdoor entertaining area for gatherings of family and friends, a garden room is most appealing when merged with some indoor creature comforts. Long Island, New York designer Andrew Maier offers these suggestions for bringing out the best in outdoor living spaces.

1. Top it off. “An outdoor room is best if it is covered with some kind of roof, or the suggestion of a roof,” Maier says. “For example, I like pergolas with lots of vine growth. They are romantic and so gorgeous, however they lack some practicality that most people need—what do you do when it rains?” His preferred option? “Custom canvas awnings are my favorite; they’re less expensive than you may think, and they create the effect of adding a room onto your house.”

Garden Room 2 - Andrew Maier

Photo courtesy: Andrew Maier

2. Create a glow. “Lighting is best when many sources of light are used, preferably around the perimeter of an outdoor room,” says Maier. “A good rule of thumb is to use no overhead lighting of any kind, unless maybe it’s a shaded lantern with a low-wattage bulb. Also think about hiding the source of the light. A soft wash of light cast on a wall is so much nicer than seeing the glare of a spotlight.”

Maier also recommends bringing lamps outside when the weather is fair. “Decrease the wattage in the light bulbs by 50% and use buffet lamps on a bar or a big chunky lamp on an end table,” he advises. “Lampshades glow at night and make the space feel much more ‘room-like’ than any other thing you could possibly do.”

Related: 7 Easy Budget-Friendly Backyard Makeovers

3. Stay grounded. “Try adding a synthetic outdoor rug to the mix too,” says Maier. “They are widely available in the retail and custom market, and they make the room feel finished and clean.”

4. Consider the context. “Whether it’s a pergola, covered porch, patio, or pool house, consider keeping the style of your outdoor room in sync with the style of your home,” Maier suggest. “You’ll be happier in the long run if you don’t try to create a tropical tiki hut for a Georgian colonial.”

Garden Room 3 - Andrew Maier

Photo courtesy: Andrew Maier

5. Make it cozy. Defining outdoor spaces with comfortable furnishings and easy-care fabrics enhances their comfort and allure. “Outdoor fabric companies are now making softer, less “plastic-y”, and more ‘fool-the-eye’ weather-resistant fabrics than ever before,” says Maier, who prefers muted colors for outdoor rooms.

“Colors for outdoor fabrics should never be too artificial—keeping some ‘muddiness’ in the colors of the fabrics will ensure that in the harsh light of day, things still look natural and not jarring,” he says. “When I sit in an outside room, day or night, I want my eyes to be relaxed—not overly invigorated by a whole bunch of bright, busy fabrics.” He also gravitates to large furnishings in outdoor rooms. “I like an outdoor sofa or lounge chair that is grounded, bulky, and invites you to fall into it—when you’re outside, nothing small and fussy ever seems comfortable,” he says.

As for materials, Maier suggests going for what stands up to the elements best. “Teak sometimes works, but a woven synthetic faux-wicker type of sofa or chair that you see so often in catalogs these days is great, because it can easily be blended with other ‘less matchy’ things—from a pair of old iron occasional chairs coated with chippy paint to a modern coffee table.” Having a few major pieces that match is a good place to start, says the designer, “but mix up the rest to ensure that the outdoor room feels homey and personal and not stiff.”

To see more of Andrew Maier’s work, visit his website here.

For more on outdoor living, consider:

12 Sensational Deck Designs
Arbors: A Garden’s Best Friend
Bob Vila Radio: Outdoor Living Adds Value

9 Designer Tips to Maximize Small Bathroom Design

Small Bathroom Design

Photo: Lawrence Duggan

Small baths can live large when designed with care. Choosing the right materials, fixtures, and fittings is key, as is thoughtful spacing planning and a considered emphasis on scale. For ideas on how to make the most of a compact bathroom, we turned to interior designer Lawrence Duggan, principal of Manhattan-based, full-service residential interior design firm LD Design, which specializes in custom kitchens, bathrooms, and built-in cabinetry. Here’s a roundup of his recommendations:

1. Establish a focal point. “Keep color, pattern, materials simple,” says Duggan. “Do not load up with details, but do introduce one element that is bold or intricate, such as an elaborate mirror or pendant fixture, to create a focal point. As well, original artwork can have a huge impact in a small space.”

2. Include clever storage. “Use a wall-hung vanity rather than one that sits on the floor,” says Duggan. This type of unit not only creates an airier feeling in small space but also eases maintenance. “Recessed medicine cabinets and toiletry niches also take up less visual space,” he says. “I even recessed a small magazine niche in the wall next to the toilet in one bath. It was very functional and took up no space.”

Small Bathroom Design - Wall Mounted Vanity

Photo courtesy: Lawrence Duggan

3. Opt for frameless shower doors. “Use clear glass to maximize visual space,” Duggen recommends. “They are also easier to clean than shower curtain liners.”

4. Add interest with a mix of tile sizes. “I like to use large (24″x24″ or larger) tiles with minimal grout lines that match the color of the tile,” says Duggan, noting that a consistent tone gives a sense of more room. “That said, I also like to mix it up by using small tiles on the floor with large tiles on the walls or vice versa. The juxtaposition keeps things interesting.”

Using Decorative Tile - Sconce

Robern Candre Light Sconce

5. Employ both direct and indirect lighting. “Use recessed lighting if possible over the tub or shower and sconces or wall lights at the mirror,” Duggan suggests. “Decorative lighting should be slim-lined. Try to find fixtures that have subtle details that won’t overwhelm.”

6. Use a variety of materials. In addition to tile, Duggan likes to layer in marble, wood, metal, and paint to bring in subtle textures with polished and honed finishes. “Polished tile walls work well because they reflect light,” says Duggan, who recommends selecting a honed stone countertop for balance.

7. Stick to one type of metal finish. “Mixing brass hardware with nickel faucets is not clever,” says the designer. “It’s just confusing.”

8. Be judicious with color. “The color palette in a small space should be simple—using one main color in a variety of shades throughout is soothing and calm,” Duggan notes. “In fact, I prefer all painted surfaces to be the same color—even the ceiling. If you introduce a secondary color, do it in small splashes.”

9. Go vertical. “When space is tight, put a hotel shelf above the door or high in the shower for towels,” says Duggan. “Or, in the bath of one of my clients, who stood 6’6″, I created a custom recessed medicine cabinet that measured 24″ wide and 50″ tall. He could reach those high shelves!”

For more information on the interior design of Lawrence Duggan, click here.  For more on small bathrooms, consider:

5 Small Bathroom Space-Busters
15 Ways to Make a Small Bathroom Big
Planning Guide: Bathroom Remodeling

How To: Make a Window Box

Amp up your home’s curb appeal with a flower-filled window box that you can make yourself.

How to Make a Window Box


A window box can add enormous curb appeal to a house and provide a garden opportunity for even city dwellers. And, they are easy to make.  Just follow this simple summer DIY tutorial to deck your sills with beautiful summer blooms this weekend.

Tape measure or yardstick
Carpenter’s square
Handsaw or power saw
Tack cloth
Power drill with 11/64-inch, 1/2-inch, and carbide-tipped bits
Safety goggles
1×8 or 1×10 redwood or cedar stock
1×2 decorative molding (optional)
Wood glue
1 1/4-inch brass or stainless steel flathead wood screws
Miter box and saw (optional)
6-penny brass or stainless steel finishing nails
Exterior grade primer and paint
Heavy-duty brackets (optional)
2-inch brass or stainless steel flathead screws, or 2-inch lag screws with lead masonry anchors

1. Measure the inside width of the window frame. Using a carpenters’ square, measure and mark one board to this measurement, and two boards to this measurement plus 1½ inches, then cut them with a handsaw or a power saw. For the side pieces, measure and cut two pieces of board equal to the width of the stock. Use sandpaper to smooth the cut edges, wiping off dust with a tack cloth.

How to Make a Window Box - Drilling


2. Adjoin the pieces together with simple butt joints. Align the edge bottom of the front of the box along one edge of the bottom, edges flush. Mark and drill 1/16-inch holes through the face of the front board at each end and about every 4 inches all along the joint line about 3/8-inch from the edge of the board. Set the board into place, mark the screw holes on the bottom board, and drill starter holes into the board edge at the marked points. Repeat for the back and side pieces.

3. Apply glue to the front edge of the bottom board and set the front board into place, edges flush. Secure the joint with 1 1/4-inch brass or stainless steel flathead wood screws through the predrilled holes. Repeat for back and sides.

4. If desired, add strips of molding across the front and around the sides, cutting to allow for mitered corners at the ends of the front and two side strips. Glue the strips to the front and sides and hammer in penny brass or stainless steel finishing nails about 4 inches apart all around.

5. Drill a series of ½-inch-diameter weep holes every 4 inches along the center of the bottom board to prevent water logging.

6. Prime and paint the inside and outside of the box with two coats of primer and two coats of exterior grade paint, letting dry between coats.

• You can attach the window box using several different methods. One option is to drill holes into the siding or brick and use heavy-duty deck screws to attach the box directly to the area directly under the windowsill. Or you can use window box brackets or try a cleatless system, which eases water damage issues. To fasten the box to a brick or concrete-block wall, use 2-inch lag screws with lead masonry anchors. Wearing safety goggles, drill holes for the anchors with a power drill and a carbide-tipped masonry bit; insert the anchors and then drive the screws in flush with the wall surface.

• To extend the life of the window box, add soil and plants to a window box liner rather than placing them directly into the box.

For more on window boxes, visit our slideshow: Window Boxes That Raise the Bar

Want more How To? Browse all projects in 30 Days of Easy Summer DIY

Eldorado Stone’s “Non-Stone” Fireplace Surrounds

Eldorado Stone Mantels

Eldorado Stone

Love the idea of a stone fireplace mantel but turned off by the high price? Eldorado Stone—one of the leading manufacturers of stone veneer siding products—delivers a welcome solution: fireplace surrounds that look just like those made of stone but at a fraction of the price, weight, and installation.

Hand-crafted with a proprietary blend of natural limestone, other minerals, and materials, each surround is finished in a labor-intensive four-step process to give it a one-of-a-kind look. Since the product consists of molded profiles rather than solid stone, it is easily shipped and comes complete with mounting brackets, trim, hearthstone, and mantel. Additional accessories are also available.

Read the rest of this entry »

How To: Lay a Stone Path

Create a simple stone path to enhance your yard and set a distinctive walkway.

How to Lay a Stone Path


A stepping stone path is easier to create than a full-blown walkway and lends charm and practicality to your yard. Here’s how to make one:

Leather gloves
Flagstones or garden pavers
Utility knife, spade or garden trowel
Crushed limestone or sand
Rubber mallet

1. Examine your lawn and note where the grass has been regularly traversed and has worn down to natural path. This is the ideal place for your stepping stone walkway.

2. Determine the placement of the stones so they align with an average person’s comfortable walking stride. Walk along the path and place spikes where the center of your foot lands at each step as you move along the path.

How to Lay a Stone Path - Pea Stone


3. Use a wheelbarrow to carry natural flagstones or manmade patio pavers to each stake. Remove the stake and center the stone or paver atop each spot. Using a long utility knife or a garden trowel, carve a line around the perimeter of the stone. Remove the stone and dig out a layer of sod, removing soil so that the hole is about an inch deeper than the depth of the stone. Make the bottom of the hole as flat as possible.

4. Pour a 1/4- to 1/2-inch layer of crushed limestone or coarse sand on the bottom of the hole, packing it down and making it is as flat and level as possible. Use a level to see that the bottom is flat and level. If you’re using coarse sand, you may moisten it with a fine spray of water to help tamp it down and pack it tightly. This layer will keep the stone from sinking over a period of time.

5. Now place the stepping stone into the hole and press it into the packed material. Then pack a little more of the loose sand or crushed stone around the stepping stone to give it some added support. Tap the stone with a rubber mallet or stand on it to set it in place. Repeat steps 3 through 5 until you’ve completed your path.

Photos courtesy: (top) Garden Design Life, (bottom) Shades of Green Garden Centre

To view a gallery of gorgeous garden paths, take a look at our Garden Paths: 12 Easy-to-Imitate Stone Walkways slideshow.

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How To: Make Garden Luminaries

Add a decorative glow to the tabletop or garden with these easy-to-make sap bucket luminaries.

How to Make Garden Luminaries

Photo: 52 Weekend Decorating Projects

Luminaries create an enchanting glow at dusk along a garden path or atop a picnic table. Here’s how to turn an old sap bucket into a delightful source of light:

Saral paper
Sap bucket
Safety goggles
Drill with 1/8-inch metal drill bit
Pillar candle or battery-operated votive

How to Make Garden Luminaries - Complete


1. Mark dots in a sun or starburst pattern on a piece of paper.

2. Tape a piece a saral paper to the sap bucket. Tape the dot pattern over the saral paper. Use a pencil to mark over the existing dots and transfer the pattern onto the bucket. Remove the pattern and saral paper and retrace any dot that can’t be seen clearly. Repeat this process on the other side of the bucket.

3. Place the bucket on its side on a bed of sand or soft earth. Wearing safety goggles, drill holes through each of the marks.

4. Place a pillar candle or battery-operated votive inside the bucket.

Photos courtesy: (top) 52 Weekend Decorating Projects; (bottom) Fine Gardening

Want more How To? Browse all projects in 30 Days of Easy Summer DIY