Author Archives: Jennifer Noonan

About Jennifer Noonan

Jennifer Noonan is a writer (and home improvement lover!) living in Delaware. Check her out on Google +!

5 Things to Do with… Artificial Turf

Today's synthetics are a far cry from your father's artificial turf. New products more closely resemble the real thing and can be incorporated into some authentically creative DIY projects. Check out just a few.

When artificial turf came onto the scene in the mid-1960s, it offered several advantages over natural grass lawns, ease of maintenance first and foremost. Over the years, advancements in the design and manufacture of artificial turf have made it much more realistic, both in looks and texture. That improvement has not gone unnoticed, inspiring creative types to test out the material in a variety of DIY projects in and around the home. Scroll down to see five of our favorites!



Artificial Turf DIY - Wall


Here’s an artificial turf DIY project that blurs the boundary between a home office and the leafy yard beyond its window. Unlike wallpaper, fake grass doesn’t call for the use of adhesives; you can nail or staple the green stuff directly over drywall or plaster, creating a distinctive look that can last just as long as you want it, whether a single day or multiple years.



Artificial Turf DIY - Table Runner


For a spring-season dinner party in the dining room or a casual backyard get-together, why not repurpose artificial turf as a table runner that’s bound to be a conversation starter among guests? Using a utility knife, you should have little trouble cutting the product into a strip of the appropriate length and width for your table.



Artificial Turf DIY - Stools


Introduce a summer theme to your man cave or customize the stools at your backyard bar with seat covers just like these, made from two pieces of artificial turf cleverly joined by means of a heavy-duty sewing machine. Come on, could there be a better way to settle in for an evening daiquiri, mai tai, or piña colada?



Artificial Turf DIY - Pillows


Quirky and delightful for any sitting area, whether inside the home or on a deck, porch, or patio, these artificial turf DIY throw pillows are as eye-catching as they are easy to make. Simply cut a large sheet of turf into a pair of equal-size squares, place padding between the two pieces, then finish by sewing the edges closed.



Artificial Turf DIY - Floor


When used as a floor covering, artificial turf behaves similarly to traditional carpeting, at least in the sense that both are relatively hassle-free to maintain with a vacuum. But whereas wall-to-wall carpeting isn’t a surface you would typically paint, artificial turf all but cries out for stripes of white to approximate yard lines.

5 Things to Do with… Test Tubes

Test tubs aren't just for the lab! Check out these surprising and practical projects that will have you scattering test tubes all around the house.

Test tubes are commonplace and entirely unremarkable in locations like science labs and chemistry classrooms. But in the home, where you normally wouldn’t expect to come across them, test tubes are an arresting sight. As simple as they are practical—and available in a range of sizes, with or without stoppers—test tubes appear in a variety of storage and decor projects, both in and around the home. Scroll down now to see five favorite test tube crafts from around the Web.



Test Tube Crafts - Vase


Whereas a single bloom is a pleasing sight, a grouping of flowers serves up a lavish, delightful feast for the eyes. Start with a metal or wooden rack, either wall-mounted or portable. Set a row of test tubes into the rack, fill them to the halfway point with fresh water, then place one or two stems into each vessel.



Test Tube Crafts - Storage


Home office supplies are so often jumbled in a desk drawer, remaining maddeningly elusive on those occasions when you really need a thumbtack or paper clip. Rarely is a desktop organizer as design-savvy as the above set of mini test tubes. Occupying limited real estate, the compact trio keeps all the essentials within easy reach.



Test Tube Crafts - Spice Rack


If you frequently cook at home, then you already know how quickly and completely a spice collection can take over the cabinet it’s stored in. Sound familiar? Let test tubes come to the rescue! They are perfectly sized, airtight containers for any dried spice, and the colors and textures of the contents make a lovely display.



Test Tube Crafts - Terrarium


There are a million and one ways to do a terrarium. Here’s one more. Fill the bottom quarter of a test tube with pebbles and a small amount of activated charcoal. Next, add about a half-inch of dirt followed by a thumbprint-size piece of moss. Cap the test tube and display it on a stand or attach a magnet and stick it to the refrigerator door.



Test Tube Crafts - Chandelier


Simultaneously retro and futuristic, and elegant without being overly formal, a test tube chandelier like this one makes for an unforgettable conversation starter, especially when the integrated tubes are filled to varying levels with dyed water in a spectrum of bright, buoyant hues.

5 Things to Do with… Coffee Grounds

Once you've had your daily cup (or three or four), save those coffee grounds for one of these smart uses.

If you drink coffee, chances are that you drink it every day. Sure, sometimes you get it on the go, but if you’re anything like me, there are plenty of occasions when you brew the stuff at home. Now, think back over the years to all the coffee grounds you’ve chucked into the garbage. If that strikes you as a waste, then you may be interested to know there are many different practical uses for coffee grounds both in and around the home—and a few might even surprise you!



Uses for Coffee Grounds - Fertilizer


Coffee grounds contain calcium, potassium, nitrogen, and phosphorus, all of which are highly beneficial to plant growth. Aware of these qualities, experienced gardeners have long known that one of the best uses for coffee grounds is adding it as a fertilizer near acid-loving varieties like azaleas and rosebushes.



Uses for Coffee Grounds - Furniture


Some uses for coffee grounds may seem odd, but believe it or not this trick really works: Yes, coffee grounds can effectively conceal a scratch in dark wood furniture. With a cotton swab, rub the grounds into the scratch (or scratches), let them sit for 5 or 10 minutes, then clean them off with a dry cloth.



Uses for Coffee Grounds - Snails


You learn something new every day: Snails hate caffeine. In fact, if the dosage is a high enough, caffeine can be lethal to gastropods. So, if snails have been sabotaging your flower beds and vegetable patches, try sprinkling coffee grounds at the base of affected plants. Many people say that tea leaves work, too.




Is your refrigerator or freezer getting a little funky? Let a bowl of coffee grounds sit for several hours or overnight. The granules not only absorb foul odors, but also impart their own refreshing scent. If you love the effects of coffee but not its smell, try mixing in a few drops of vanilla or cinnamon extract.



Uses for Coffee Grounds - Compost


Coffee grounds make an excellent addition to the backyard compost heap, because they contain nitrogen, which compost can’t do without. Also, coffee grounds attract the earthworms that further aid decomposition. Just remember to balance the nitrogenous grounds with carbon-rich materials such as leaves.

Weekend Projects: 5 Simple Ways to Set Up a Compost Bin

Composting is a win-win enterprise: You cut down on waste and also help keep your garden healthy and growing. Set up one of these easy, do-it-yourself compost bins, and in time you'll have nutrient-rich, home-grown compost.

Compost: It’s what eventually becomes of all decomposing organic material. Essentially, it’s dirt—but it’s not just any dirt. No, this stuff is super rich in the nutrients that are beneficial to plant growth. Gardeners like to call it “black gold.” And while some people pay good money for cubic yards of such high-quality soil, others choose to make it themselves. They do so by composting kitchen waste and yard debris like grass clippings, dead leaves, and small twigs.

Related: Compost Bins—10 Smart Options

You, too, can make your own compost. In fact, if there’s an out-of-the-way spot on your property, you could simply heap compostables into a big, messy pile. But in more compact backyards, homeowners often rely on a compost bin, either store-bought or homemade. If you’d rather not spend money on a premade product—or if you’re looking for a good reason to get outdoors this spring and summer—you can complete a DIY compost bin in a matter of hours, using only a few materials that are easy to find.



DIY Compost Bin - Chicken Wire


Built of recycled deck boards and simple chicken wire, this DIY compost bin features three compartments to accommodate compost at different stages of decomposition. The chicken wire allows air to circulate among the piles, and the slatted front provides easy access for inspection or removal of compost.



DIY Compost Bin - Tumbler


A DIY compost tumbler offers one great advantage over other designs. Can you guess what that is? You’re right: The tumbler makes easy work of turning the pile. (If you’ve composted before, you know how that can become a chore.) The project pictured centers on a rain barrel that’s been ingeniously repurposed for the task.



DIY Compost Bin - Cinder Blocks


Are raccoons and other critters likely to cause problems? Not to worry. You can build a fortress-like DIY compost bin with square cinder blocks. It’s a flexible system: If you need a bigger bin, simply add on a row of blocks; if there’s too little air, change the orientation of a few blocks so their hollow centers face out.



DIY Compost Bin - Shipping Pallets


Plywood shipping pallets lend themselves very well to the construction of a DIY compost bin. Here, one side of the bin has been outfitted with hinges to provide easy access. Burlap planter pockets added along the top perimeter help the bin blend into the surrounding garden.



DIY Compost Bin - Worms


Composting takes time. To speed up the process, consider hosting a worm bin in your backyard. You can DIY one cheaply and easily with a plastic recycling container. What the worms produce inside is politely called “castings”—you might think it’s pretty gross, but your plants are going to love, love, love it.

How To: Decoupage

Using this time-honored technique of adorning objects with paper, you can transform furnishings and home accents into beautiful, one-of-a-kind pieces. Follow our simple step-by-step instructions to get spectacular results. It's not too difficult, so try it out today!

How to Decoupage


The fancy French word decoupage refers to the simple act of gluing paper or fabric cutouts onto an object. The results can be magical; once varnished, the glued-on design looks as if it were inlaid. For hundreds of years, people have been experimenting with decoupage, and in expert hands it’s truly an art form. But armed with only a few inexpensive, easy-to-find materials—and a willingness to be patient—even a beginner can create a masterpiece.

- Decoupage medium (such as Mod Podge)
- Paintbrush
- Sharp scissors (or matte knife)
- Maps, magazines, wallpaper, wrapping paper, tissue paper—any kind of paper!

The first step of any decoupage project is to prepare the object you plan to transform. Repair any surface imperfections—whether scratches, gouges, or bona fide holes—and if applicable to the material with which you are working, sand the object to a smooth finish. Then clean it thoroughly and let it dry completely.

How to Decoupage - Side Table


Assemble the paper or fabric you are going to apply in your decoupage. Choose anything so long as it’s flat and flexible: maps of places you love, theater tickets with sentimental value, or even sections of a beloved old dress. You don’t need to use scissors or a matte knife—ripping is fine—but to achieve a seamless look, cutting is recommended. So too is dry-fitting the cutouts to determine where they work best on the object’s surface.

With a paintbrush, apply a thin layer of decoupage medium (for example, Mod Podge) to the object you are covering. Next, lay the initial piece of paper onto the object, smoothing it gently with your fingers to remove any wrinkles or air bubbles. Once you’re finished, apply another thin layer of decoupage medium on top of the paper, then allow both layers to dry completely, undisturbed.

To preserve the job, particularly if you expect the object to get wet, it’s wise to seal it using either varnish or polyurethane. Before you do so, gently buff the decoupaged surface with steel wool, then clean it with a damp cloth. Once it has dried, proceed to apply the sealer. If you want your design to look as if it were painted on, repeat the process of buffing, cleaning, and sealing as many times as needed to achieve the desired appearance.

Almost any furniture or home accent can be updated through decoupage. A glass vase decoupaged with tissue paper suddenly shimmers ethereally, while clay pots covered in Sunday’s funny papers become wonderfully playful. Fair warning: Master this technique and you may love it so much that you’ll want to decoupage EVERYTHING!

5 Things to Do with… Old Sweaters

Beloved sweaters that have become too small or worn are the stars of some great DIY decorating projects. So don't just toss that cardigan into the trash bin, transform it into something useful and wonderful.

If your tastes have changed or you’ve outgrown a favorite old sweater, you have options aside from donating the garment or throwing it away. Recycled sweaters are excellent for a range of home decor DIY projects. In fact, the things you can make with recycled sweaters are so cozy and charming, you might start trolling thrift stores especially to buy knitwear not to put on, but to repurpose. Scroll down to see five wonderfully creative uses of recycled sweaters.



Recycled Sweaters - Throw Pillow


Recycled sweaters are natural throw pillow covers: Simply remove the sleeves from an old cardigan and cut the body into two squares, serging the edges so they don’t fray. Once you’ve sewn those squares together, you’ll have a cushion cover with a button front that makes slotting in a comfortable pillow hassle-free.



Recycled Sweater - Wine Bottle Cozy


It’s thoughtful and gracious to bring a little something for your dinner host. If your gift of choice is wine, decorating the bottle makes the gesture more special—and a bottle “bag” of your own creation is a particularly lovely touch. To make one, cut the arm off a sweater, then fit the sleeve over the wine bottle. Sew the bottom of the sleeve closed and, for a final flourish, tie a decorative ribbon around the covered neck of the bottle.



Recycled Sweaters - Pet Bed


Recycled sweaters are great for any pet owners who want to go the extra mile for their cat or dog. With surprisingly little modification—a bit of sewing here, a bit of padding added there—a sweater can become a bed for Fluffy or Fido. Best of all, you can choose a sweater that coordinates perfectly with your existing room decor.



Recycled Sweaters - Reusable Bag


It’s increasingly common to carry reusable grocery bags on errands and shopping trips. We love their benefit to the environment, that’s for sure, but we don’t always care for their looks. Luckily, you don’t need to be a master of the sewing machine to make an attractive bag from a sweater: With basic hemming, you can transform yesterday’s sweaters into today’s totes.



Recycled Sweaters - Vase Cover


Instantly customize any cylindrical vase or candlestick with the turtleneck or sleeve of a sweater that has a color or pattern you love. So little time and effort is involved, you might even choose to create different sets of these cozies, one for each season, along with special one-off creations for birthdays and holidays.

7 Things to Do in Spring for a Healthy, Gorgeous Lawn Year-Round

To create a thriving, beautiful lawn, you need to hit the ground running in the spring. Add these 7 important tasks to your spring to-do list, and you'll have a lush, thick carpet of green come summer.

Spring Lawn Care


At the tail end of the winter season, homeowners face the sometimes daunting but always exciting prospect of readying the lawn for the warmer months ahead. From cleaning to mowing to seeding, proper spring lawn care encompasses a range of responsibilities. All are important. Remember that cutting corners now could mean that at the peak of summer, you’ll be spending your weekends making up for spring lawn care oversights. In other words, it’s in your best interest to act now. Stay on top of the game to ensure healthy and beautiful grass that demands no more of your time than is strictly necessary.



Spring Lawn Care - Dethatching


Dead grass and lawn clippings accumulate and get matted down into thatch, which not only prevents the germination of new grass seed, but also promotes fungus growth and pest infestation. Dethatch the lawn by giving it a good once-over, using either a lawn rake with stiff tines or a special dethatching rake.



Spring Lawn Care - Soil Testing


To grow grass successfully, you need the right soil. Most varieties thrive in conditions that are neither acidic nor alkaline. Methods exist to raise or lower soil pH, but you’ve got to know what you’re dealing with. Purchase a soil test kit for around $10 from your neighborhood garden store, or send a soil sample to your local extension office.



Spring Lawn Care - Cleanup


Part of spring lawn care involves clearing away the ravages of winter. Equipped with your rake and pruning shears, take an exploratory stroll around the property. Look closely for any plants that didn’t survive. Prune damaged or dead branches from trees and bushes, and remove twigs or leaves you find lingering on the grass.



Spring Lawn Care - Aeration


In high-traffic areas, the soil beneath grass gradually becomes compacted and inhospitable to grass roots. Manual or mechanical aeration reverses the damage done. Here, wine cork-size plugs are drawn out of the lawn surface, giving roots room to spread and allowing air, nutrients, and moisture to penetrate the soil.



Spring Lawn Care - Preemergent


Weed control ranks high among spring lawn-care priorities: If you don’t act against weeds now, before they emerge, you’ll spend the summer battling them—and it’s not a fight you’re liable to win. Prevent weeds from even sprouting by applying a pre-emergent herbicide. For an alternative treatment free of harmful chemicals, try cornmeal.



Spring Lawn Care - Seeding


On any bare patches of ground, skip the herbicide and opt instead for grass seed. Be aware, however, that if you’re planting grass in the spring, it’s going to need lots of TLC during the hot summer months—that is, consistent watering and regular weeding—and you’ll most likely have to seed again in the fall.



Spring Lawn Care - Equipment


Before the lawn season gets into full swing, inspect all your outdoor tools, including the mower. If necessary, take the machine in for service or give it a tune-up yourself: change the oil, install new spark plugs, and replace the air filter. Also, make sure to have fuel on hand in preparation for the first grass-cutting of the year.


An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure: The old adage applies as directly to spring lawn care as it does to so many other pursuits. Indeed, setting off on the right course in spring can help ensure that your grass thrives right through to fall, bolstering that curb appeal you count on it to provide.

Weekend Projects: 5 DIY Nightstand Project Ideas

A nightstand is a bedroom must-have. Where else can we put our books, glasses, and a cup of water? If your room currently lacks this vital piece of furniture, how about making one out of things you might already have lying around? Here are 5 takes on accessible DIY nightstands.

You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone. Only when I tried living without a nightstand did I realize how important this modest member of the furniture pantheon really is. Bedside tables perform only one function, but it’s a vital one—keeping the accouterments of a good night’s sleep within easy arm’s reach. But while I would argue that owning one is a must, buying one isn’t. There are countless ways to create a DIY nightstand cheaply and easily. Here are five favorites.



DIY Nightstand - Tool Chest


Besides its chic industrial styling and wonderful metallic blue, what I love about this DIY nightstand is its set of integral drawers that allow for storage of personal items aplenty. Mounted on a swivel base, the tool chest pictured reaches the desired height (in relation to the bed) and offers convenient portability.



DIY Nightstand - Suitcases


Thrift stores (and Grandma’s attic) are chockablock with vintage suitcases. Stacked on top of one another, two or three can serve as an offbeat, eye-catching, yet perfectly functional DIY nightstand. If you want, lay a cut-to-size pane of glass—or even a mirror—on top of the uppermost case for a smooth, easily cleaned surface.



DIY Nightstand - Shelving


Limited floor space in the bedroom? Install a floating shelf adjacent to the bed. No heavy-duty materials are required. You need only a couple of L-brackets, a handful of screws, and your screwdriver. For the shelf, use reclaimed wood for a natural look or paint a plywood board to match the existing decor in the room.



DIY Nightstand - Step Stool


Here’s another DIY nightstand project that requires virtually zero effort. If you have a step stool whose shape and patina appeal to your sense of style—or if you can find the perfect piece at a flea market or yard sale—simply place it next to the bed. Each step offers additional surface area upon which to place your things.



DIY Nightstand - Pet Bed


A dresser becomes a DIY nightstand-cum-pet bed, when you remove the bottom drawers (and their supports). Dress up the interior with beadboard or painted plywood, then add a comfy cushion. The remaining drawer gives you the storage you need, and the space created beneath gives Fido cozy sleeping quarters!

5 Things to Do with… Fireplace Ashes

Next time you sweep out your fireplace, don't just dump those ashes! You can use them in the garden and around—and even inside—the house.

Cozying up to a roaring fire is a winter evening pastime that no one would reject. Disposing of fireplace ashes? Well, that’s a chore that many would prefer to do without. But the fact is, there are many productive uses for wood ash. Rather than emptying your ash can into the garbage, put those heaps of soot to work for you. Here’s how.



Uses for Wood Ash - Deicing


Did you know that wood ash gives traction to icy or snow-covered walkways? That’s welcome information, particularly for gardeners, who know too well how commercial de-icing products damage lawns and plantings. Also, if the car gets stuck, sprinkling ash in front of and behind tires can help them get a grip.



Uses for Wood Ash - Clean Silver


Many store-bought silver polishes are toxic; wood ash offers an all-natural alternative, free of cost. Mix one cup of the stuff with a small amount of water. A thick paste should form. Spread that evenly over your silverware and let it sit for a few minutes. Then wipe off the paste with a clean cloth and buff your silver to a shine.



Uses for Wood Ash - Amend Soil

Photo: shutterstock

Because it contains about 25 percent calcium carbonate, wood ash works well as a liming agent for acidic soil. Steer clear of applying it near certain acid-loving plants like rhododendrons, but generally, if the pH reading of your soil is 5.5 or less, ash can provide a benefit when dug about six inches down into the soil.



Uses for Wood Ash - Clean Fireplace Doors


This may seem counterintuitive, but wood ash—being abrasive and alkaline—actually cleans sooty fireplace doors quite effectively. What you do is dampen some old newspapers, dip them into ashes, then vigorously scrub the glass. Employ the same technique with any windows in your home that show a buildup of limescale.



Uses for Wood Ash - Repel Slugs


Are slugs and snails a nuisance in your garden? If so, try sprinkling wood ash around the plants most frequently affected. Acting as a desiccant, the ash dries up these slimy garden pests. Be careful, though: Ash can do the same thing to your plants if you don’t take care to place it a safe distance from stems and roots.

5 Things to Do with… Wooden Dowels

The humble, practical dowel takes center stage in 5 projects that celebrate the versatility of this wooden workshop staple.

Though they’re nothing more than long, cylindrical pegs, wooden dowels can be used to make furniture and home accents of surprising complexity and disarming beauty. Sold at any hardware store—in widths from 1/4 inch to 2-1/2 inches and lengths from 12 inches to 72 inches—these staples are dirt cheap, considering how valuable they can be in all types of DIY projects. So buy a bundle, then get to work this weekend. Pursue your own idea or adapt a design from one of the five highlighted dowel projects below!



Uses for Dowels - Coat Rack


We love the approach Danish furniture makers We Do Wood took with their coat rack, pictured here. With nothing more than some boards and a set of dowels, you can make something similar: Drill a series of holes into a reclaimed wood board, then slot pegs into some of the holes. This flexible storage solution is clearly influenced by—but a lot more attractive than—pegboard.



Uses for Dowels - Wreath


Here’s a way to craft a wreath that will last much longer than evergreen boughs. Cut dowels of varying diameters into 2-inch-long pieces. Glue them together in a circle. Stain or paint the assembly, or leave it unfinished for a more natural look. No matter what finish you end up choosing, the wreath is sure to look most welcoming.



Uses for Dowels - Wine Rack


To make a wine rack like this one, you need only a salvaged wood board and a handful of dowels. First, drill holes in the board to accept the dowels, making sure that their spacing leaves room for wine bottles of different sizes. Then mount the unit or stand it up with an A-frame support structure of scrap wood and twine.



Uses for Dowels - Dish Storage


Install pegboard on the bottom of a deep kitchen drawer, then fit dowels into its perforations. Now you can stack bowls and plates in the drawer, and the dowels will keep your dishware securely in place. When and if your storage needs change, you can easily modify the arrangement to host a different set of items.



Uses for Dowels - Camp Chair


The advantage of a camp chair is that once folded up, it can go anywhere with you. And for no more than $25, you can use a few hardwood dowels to make a stool that looks better than any design you could buy in a typical store. Join the dowels with simple hardware, and make the seat with leather or heavy canvas. Wow!