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The Appeal of Bamboo Flooring

Appreciated for its graphic patterns and environmental sustainability, bamboo flooring has become a popular option for homeowners in recent years. Is a bamboo floor the best choice for you? Let's look at the facts behind the trend.

Morning Star Anji Bamboo Flooring

Lumber Liquidators' Morning Star Handscraped Strand Anji Bamboo Flooring.

Floors are an essential and important element in an interior design scheme. Small wonder, then, that the eye-catching patterns of bamboo flooring have been attracting attention. Made from the bamboo plant—a grass—this style of flooring allows homeowners to make a bold design statement underfoot. Another reason for the buzz? Bamboo is considered an eco-friendly flooring option. “While bamboo flooring is unique and beautiful, it’s also a fast-growing grass that reaches maturity in four to six years,” reports Chelsea Fossum, a buyer for Lumber Liquidators. “This makes it a highly renewable resource that is gaining popularity in home design.”

How It’s Made
To make bamboo flooring, the stalks of the bamboo plant are cut into thin strips and bonded together in layers with the use of an adhesive resin. They can be layered horizontally, with the strips facing up to reveal the natural shape of the plant, or vertically, with the strips turned on their ends and pressed one against the other, resulting in a striated pattern. A third process, which creates a product known as “strand-woven bamboo,” involves shredding the bamboo stalks, mixing the fibers with adhesive, and pressing them together into highly durable flooring sheets.

Horizontal-grain, vertical-grain, and strand-woven bamboo flooring are commonly referred to as “solid bamboo,” because they are made up entirely of bamboo strips or fibers. Another option on the market is called “engineered bamboo,” which takes a thin strip of solid bamboo and adheres it to the top of another type of wood such as plywood or fiberboard. The main advantage of engineered bamboo is ease of installation; engineered planks can be floated above a subfloor without need of nails or adhesives, while solid planks are installed much like traditional hardwood.

Bellawood Spice Bamboo Flooring

Bellawood Spice Ultra-Strand Bamboo Flooring at Lumber Liquidators.

Colors and Patterns
Bamboo flooring is available in a wide range of colors from pale straw to deep mahogany tones and everything in between. Natural bamboo resembles light woods like ash and beech. To create other colors, bamboo can be stained or carbonized, a process that produces pleasing deeper hues. Carbonization, however, is thought to degrade the durability of bamboo floors, so darker colors may not be best for high-traffic areas.

The variety of patterns in bamboo flooring is truly one of its biggest draws for homeowners—from the natural silhouettes visible in horizontal-grain planks to the linear quality of vertical-grain planks to the graphic quality of strand-woven designs. Which variety to use in a room of your house will depend on your personal taste and the overall style of the space.

Care and Maintenance
Regular sweeping and occasional mopping with a damp cloth are all that’s needed to keep bamboo flooring looking its best. If your home has high foot traffic, pets, or young children, thoughtfully positioned area rugs may be a worthwhile investment. As with hardwood floors, placing felt pads on the bottom of furniture legs can help extend the life of bamboo.

Supreme Bamboo Horizontal Carbonized Flooring

Horizontal Carbonized Supreme Bamboo Flooring from Lumber Liquidators.

Cost
At about $3 to $8 per square foot, the price of bamboo is comparable to other flooring options such as hardwood, carpeting, or tile. It’s worth paying a little more for a higher-quality product for increased durability. Warranties are often a good indicator of quality; planks with a longer warranty are generally more durable. Households with young children or anyone with respiratory sensitivity will want to inquire about VOC levels before making a purchase, because the chemicals sometimes used in manufacturing can off-gas in the home. For some of the top-rated bamboo floors, click here.

To help you find the best pattern for a particular room, think about the other colors, fabrics, or finishes that will share the space with the bamboo floor, much as you would when considering paint swatches. More graphic patterns lend themselves to use in modern interiors, while simpler designs are typically suited to more traditional decor.

 

This post has been brought to you by Lumber Liquidators. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.


Is Cork Flooring Right for You?

Offering easy maintenance, sound absorption, warmth, and comfort underfoot, cork is a smart, eco-friendly flooring choice for many of today's homeowners. Is it the right choice for you? Find out here.

Lisbon's Tobacco Road Cork Flooring at Lumber Liquidators.

In our ongoing quest to make our homes beautiful reflections of who we are, the question of what to install underfoot is an important one. For some people, gleaming oak is the answer; for others, salvaged pine planks or Mediterranean-style tiles. In recent years, cork flooring has become yet another popular option.

“There are natural benefits of cork flooring, including easy maintenance, sound absorption, warmth, and comfort,” says Ebony Costain, a buyer at Lumber Liquidators. “What consumers may find most surprising, however, are the attractive varieties that have been brought to market.” Cutting-edge technology has allowed manufacturers to offer flooring with the amazing look of hardwood or marble, while keeping all the benefits of cork. To determine if cork is a good choice for your floor, consider how well the following statements apply to you.

You have cold feet—literally. If you usually wear socks or slippers around the house to avoid cold floors under your feet, you’ll appreciate cork’s ability to stay at room temperature and therefore feel warm to the touch. Like a cushion underfoot, cork flooring also eases stress on your back and legs, making it a good fit for any place in your home where you’ll be standing for long stretches of time, like kitchens, laundry rooms, and workshops.

Lisbon's Silves Cork Flooring at Lumber Liquidators.

You have an artistic eye. Cork flooring comes in a wide array of colors and grain patterns, so the design possibilities are limitless. Just about any floor motif that can be made with paint or ceramic tile—think checkerboards, stripes, or chevrons—can be made with cork. Let your imagination soar! Some owners even play with the pattern of the cork itself to create a design that mimics exotic wood grains like tiger maple, or the stone striations of marble or granite. Whatever style you choose, you’ll enjoy the surprised expressions when guests first step into a room.

You have a sensitive ear. Cork’s acoustic properties make it a sensible choice for any home in which echoing presents a problem—in pared-down interiors with few carpets and curtains, for example, or in apartment buildings where downstairs neighbors tend to call at the slightest footfall. The pitter-patter of tiny feet becomes a bit less thundering with a layer of cork, while the material’s pliancy would be an added benefit should any tot happen to stumble. Music rooms, too, are logical places for cork floors to mute the reverberations of instruments.

You strive to be green. Most trees would quickly perish if their bark were removed. By contrast, cork trees—native to Spain and Portugal—have a type of bark that regenerates after harvesting and can be trimmed again in nine years’ time. Cork floor tiles are made from the remnants of cork wine-stopper manufacturing and are a truly sustainable option for homeowners in search of eco-friendly materials.

Lisbon's Rossio Cork Flooring at Lumber Liquidators

You have a high-traffic household. Forget “high-traffic area” —your whole house is in constant motion with kids, pets, and projects in flux. Cork’s durability makes it a natural choice in such settings and explains its frequent use in public buildings that have a steady stream of visitors, like libraries and museums. Small dents in cork flooring fill themselves in again and shallow scratches visually blend into the overall pattern, unlike marring on wood floors, which is typically easy to see and a hassle to refinish.

You crave easy maintenance. As it does with small scratches, the highly textural pattern of cork helps mask light stains and marks. Sweeping and occasional mopping with a damp cloth are all that’s needed to keep cork floors looking their best. That said, putting felt pads on furniture feet—just as you would with hardwood flooring—can help extend the life of cork tiles.

You’re budget-conscious. At about $3 to $8 per square foot, cork is comparable in price to other flooring options such as hardwood, carpeting, or tile. Whether you choose cork tiles that are positioned with an adhesive or those that feature a tongue-and-groove system, installation is easy for most do-it-yourselfers, which helps to keep costs low. And once the floor is in place, cork’s thermal properties maintain room temperature even in cold weather, which can alleviate your heating costs in winter.

All in all, if you’re thinking about putting in a new floor, cork is an option worth considering.

 

This post has been brought to you by Lumber Liquidators. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.


Pro Tips: Decorative Floor Painting

Painted floors can create a homey, warm atmosphere or make a bold graphic statement. Here are some helpful tips on how you can enhance any wood floor with a decorative pattern.

Painted Floors

Photo: jeanniebalsam.com

You can’t deny the decorative appeal of painted floors, whether they’re patterned in checkerboard, stripes, or some other graphic design. “Painted floors allow your unique creative expression to flourish,” says decorative painter Elise C. Kinkead, author of 50 Ways to Paint Ceilings and Floors. “Painted floors are also an inexpensive way to nudge a well-worn floor into a few more years of service.” But where to begin? Kinkead offers the following advice to guide do-it-yourselfers in the process.

PLAN
Browse magazines or search the Web in order to find a pattern that you love. Then lay out a paper version of the design, securing your “test run” to the floor by means of low-tack tape. Experiment with different positions around the room before deciding which looks the best. If the room in question has a focal point, such as a fireplace or bay window, consider orienting your floor pattern in such a way that it draws the eye toward that striking main feature of the space.

PREP
With the exception of laminates, whose damage-resistant finish does not accept paint well, most any wood floor can be painted successfully. As in other painting projects, it’s essential that you do a good job of preparing the surface. In the case of painted floors, proper preparation involves three steps. The very first step is to remove any waxy residue from the floor surface. Commercial wax removers are commonly available; inquire at your local hardware store.

After cleaning the floor thoroughly and allowing it to dry out completely overnight, continue on to the next step: sanding. Lightly abrade the floor with 120-grit sandpaper secured to the end of a sanding pole (alternatively, rent a floor sander for the day). Once you’re finished, vacuum the sawdust and then wipe away any lingering grit with a slightly damp cloth. Again, allow the wood to dry completely.

Now complete the final step, which is to repair any cracks or gouges by means of wood filler. Of course, if you appreciate and prefer the look of a time-worn surface, then skip this step. Imperfections in the floor won’t compromise, and may even enhance, the project.

PRIME
Clean, sanded, and dry, the floor is now ready to be primed. Opt for an oil-based primer if you wish, but Kinkead prefers water-based products, both for their low odor and fast-drying characteristics. The primer coat goes on mainly with a roller; along edges or in corners, cut in with a paintbrush. Note that if you are painting the floor in a single hue, you can use a primer tinted to your chosen color to cut down on the need for multiple top coats. Remember also that primer may serve as one of the colors in a multicolor design. The point is that there are ultimately strategic, timesaving advantages to choosing a primer carefully.

Painted Floors - Taped

Photo: arvadacarpetcleaningbest.com

TAPE
Having given the primer ample opportunity to dry completely, proceed to outline your pattern on the floor. Do so with chalk or a carpenter’s pencil, making the faintest mark possible that’s still visible over the primer. Lay tape just to the edge of the marks, pressing down on the tape edges with a dull putty knife for optimal adhesion. At this point, wipe away all chalk or pencil with a damp cloth. And before you start to paint, check again to be certain the floor surface is still dry.

PAINT
Believe it or not, there are paints formulated especially for application on floors, and the range of available colors has only expanded over the years. Regular latex wall paint is fine to use, too, provided you finish it with a sealer. In applying the top coat, as you did with the primer, use a roller wherever possible and a paintbrush in those areas where a roller just won’t do. Allow each coat to dry before painting on the next one. For solid coverage, two coats ought to be enough. Remove the tape very carefully, at a 45-degree angle, only after the paint has dried.

SEAL
Plan on sealing your paint job with two coats of either oil- or water-based polyurethane (unless you’ve painted with an oil-based product, in which case you must use an oil-based poly sealer). Generally, a pad is the recommended applicator for sealers of this type, but manufacturers’ instructions vary. Read the label on the can of sealer you plan to purchase before committing to any specific tools for this final stage of the project.

For a slightly worn appearance, leave the floor unsealed for a period of time, or hand-distress the surface with sandpaper. Once it has developed the patina you want, proceed to add the sealer. How long does it take before you can bring furniture back into the room? That depends on the sealer. Again, read the label. Usually, you need to wait no more than 24 hours.


Paint Your Home the Colors of Downton Abbey

Followers of "Downton Abbey," which began its fourth season yesterday on PBS's "Masterpiece," are as captivated by the historic interiors depicted in the series as they are by the story lines of the characters.

Downton Abbey Paint Colors - Drawing Room

The drawing room from "Downton Abbey" inspired one of the colors in a new Kelly-Moore Paints line. Photo: WGBH

Inspired by Downton Abbey, a new collection from Kelly-Moore Paints will now enable fans to live among the dusty grays and muted pastels they have loved seeing in the hit series. “We were getting inquiries from people trying to locate particular paint colors they’d seen on Downton Abbey,” says Mary Lawlor, manager of color marketing for Kelly-Moore Paints. “That gave us the idea to develop colors inspired by the amazing settings portrayed on the show.”

With a great deal of historical research and some help from Downton devotees on the Kelly-Moore staff, the company has created 19 hues, each one capturing an element of the glamour and grandeur of the show’s backdrop, an enormous and opulent estate in the English countryside. Some colors take their cue from the drawing room, where the aqua-green walls are softened by details of rose, ivory, and gold. Meanwhile, other colors reference the masculine, sophisticated oxblood and carnelian reds of the library. Several of the characters’ bedrooms, not to mention the servants’ kitchen, sparked additional shades.

Related: 12 Must-See Home Improvement Flicks

Downton Abbey Paint Colors - Bedroom

Jitterbug (HLS4211) recalls the ethereal blue of Lady Grantham's bedroom. Photo: WGBH

In the eyes of today’s viewer, the colors in Downton Abbey evoke a bygone era. But in their time, these hues were in fact quite modern. “By the early 1900s, the dark, opulent look of the Victorian interior that had prevailed for decades was beginning to feel oppressive,” says Allison Kyle Leopold, a journalism professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City and the author of numerous books on historic design. “The new century would be all about lightening up and simplifying, and a cleaner palette of bright colors and pale hues was a big part of that.”

For Mary Lawlor and others responsible for the Kelly-Moore Paints product line, it was no mean feat to develop new colors based on historical examples. The challenge was to come up with solutions that, even as they remained true to the Edwardian Era, also managed to fit seamlessly into 21st-century homes. Well, it may not have been easy, but Kelly-Moore did it.

Take, for instance, Jitterbug (HLS4211). This ethereal blue would look as welcoming in a contemporary bedroom as it does in Lady Grantham’s. Likewise, Rapier Silver (KMW65) calls to mind the utilitarian kitchen on the show, but it echoes the grays that are currently so popular in interior design. “Although these colors are rooted in the past,” Lawlor points out, “they are thoroughly usable in today’s homes.”

On January 5, the fourth season premiers on PBS’s “Masterpiece.” If you haven’t yet watched the show, consider this: The fans of Downton Abbey are so devoted that many are apparently seeking to re-create the look of its interiors in their own homes. So there must be something to this early-20th-century period drama, right?

For more, visit Kelly-Moore Paints, here.


5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before a Kitchen Renovation

Before beginning the project, ask yourself some basic questions in order to make sure you end up with the kitchen of your dreams.

Photo: sabineshome.com

Can it be that updating your kitchen changes life for the better? For Sabine Schoenberg, there’s no doubt about it. “Kitchens are nurturing spaces for the body and soul,” says Schoenberg, founder of SabinesHome.com and author of Kitchen Magic: Secrets to Successful Kitchens. “Even small improvements in your kitchen can have a profound impact on your quality of life.”

Before any work can begin, however, Schoenberg advises that you ask yourself a series of questions. The exercise can help you pinpoint and (just as important) articulate the goals of your project. “Don’t rush through this fun discovery phase,” she says. “Enjoy the opportunity to think through what’s important to you and your family to create your perfect kitchen.”

 

1. KITCHENS PAST

Kitchen Remodeling Design Tips - Inspiration

Photo: kentinteriors.com

In your most fond memories of the kitchen where you grew up, which features of the room usually stand out? It might be the paint color on the walls, the material of the countertop, a particular type of table, or the presence of a sunny window. Should fresh inspiration fail, let those recollections guide your choices.

 

2. PRIMARY MOTIVATION

Kitchen Remodeling Design Tips - Banquette

Photo: streeterhomes.com

What’s the main reason you’re remodeling the kitchen? Don’t lose sight of your primary motivation, be it more light, more storage, or a more efficient workflow. Taking the time now to develop a firm grasp of your priorities will help you make some tough decisions at later stages of the process.

 

3. SENSE OF STYLE 

Kitchen Remodeling Design Tips - Style

Photo: apdarchitects.com

When you envision your dream kitchen, what are its design characteristics? Is it ultramodern or quaintly country? Does stainless steel or natural wood appear on the finishes? Browse shelter magazines and websites, identifying the commonalities that exist between those images you find most appealing.

 

4. JUST ONE THING

Kitchen Remodeling Design Tips - One Thing

Photo: klaffs.com

What is the one feature you wouldn’t be able to forgive yourself for not including in your kitchen renovation? Whether it’s a splurge item—a commercial oven, for instance—or simply cookbook storage space, adjust the budget of your project so that once completed, your new kitchen perfectly fits your ongoing lifestyle.

 

5. KITCHENS FUTURE

Kitchen Remodeling Design Tips - Future

Photo: jackrosen.com

Close your eyes and imagine yourself in the finished space. Do you feel happy because the sun is streaming in, organized because there is a place for everything (and everything is in its place), or social because you can entertain guests while cooking? Be sure to discuss your vision with your architect or contractor.


5 Common Painting Mistakes—and How to Avoid Them

If you want your DIY interior paint job to look polished and professional, steer clear of these common pitfalls.

Painting Mistakes to Avoid

Photo: shutterstock.com

In his role as the “Paint Doctor” for Purdy—longtime makers of handcrafted paint brushes and roller covers—Bruce Schneider fields queries from intrepid do-it-yourselfers on a regular basis. Who better to ask about the most common problems that homeowners encounter in their interior painting projects?

Mistake #1
Choosing Inferior Applicators
Solution: “To get the job done right, you need good quality tools,” Schneider says. “It always boggles my mind that people are willing to spend $40 or $50 on a gallon of premium paint but decide to go cheap on the applicators. Later, when they see a hair on the wall or lumps of roller lint under the paint, they’ll realize the mistake. Investing in good brushes or rollers up front is worth the extra expense.”

Related: 10 Unexpected Spots for an Accent Color

Mistake #2
Improper Preparation
Solution: “It may seem obvious, but you always want to do repair work first so that your walls are smooth, clean, dry, and free of loose debris before you begin painting,” Schneider advises.

Painting Mistakes to Avoid - Roller

Photo: shutterstock.com

Mistake #3
Overextending Each Dip of the Brush or Roller
Solution: DIYers often continue applying a dip of paint until the brush or roller becomes dry. The problem? “When you overextend each dip, the paint can dry in the brush bristles, and the fabric on rollers can mat down,” he cautions. “Be sure to always maintain a smooth line of paint. Once the paint appears to break up, it’s time to re-dip.”

Mistake #4
Breathing the Wrong Way
Solution: The way you breathe when painting—especially when cutting in near edges—can affect the steadiness of your hand. “When you need to be precise, hold your breath or breathe out,” Schneider suggests. “Your body moves more when you’re breathing in.”

Mistake #5
Letting Touch-up Paint Dry Out
Solution: To extend the life of your leftover paint, try these tricks. “For water-based paint, place a piece of clear plastic wrap directly on the surface of the paint, then reseal the container,” Schneider offers. “For oil-based paint, add about a half-inch of water on the surface before resealing.”

Visit Bruce Schneider’s “Ask the Paint Doctor” feature and get more information on Purdy products at purdy.com


5 Pro Tips to Help You Find the Perfect Fixer-Upper

On the hunt for that elusive diamond in the rough? Real estate wizard Randy Florke shares his top tips on buying a fixer-upper.

As founder and president of The Rural Connection, a real estate company based in Upstate New York, Randy Florke has purchased and restored more than 40 old farmhouses, creating gracious and comfortable homes from these diamonds in the rough. When scouting a property, which qualities catch his eye, and what are the red flags that make him walk away? Read on for pro tips on buying a fixer-upper.

 

1. Location, Location, Location

Buying a Fixer-Upper - Location

Photo: shutterstock.com

“If a house has an amazing location, there’s almost nothing in the way of renovation hurdles that get in my way,” Florke says. “My dream location is all about privacy. I love a house that’s set back from the road. If it’s also got a great view or a water feature, such as a pond or creek—those are both bonus features.”

 

2. Budget for Renovation Costs

Buying a Fixer Upper - Budget

Photo: shutterstock.com

“When I first tour a house, I’m thinking about what I’d like to change and what needs to be done,” says Florke. “By the time I walk back out the door, I already have a preliminary idea of what the renovation costs might be.” These costs, Florke continues, have to be factored into your overall budget. If you’re unsure about the costs yourself, ask someone you trust to come along and offer you an honest estimate. “It’s essential that you know what you’re getting into.”

 

3. Focus on Roofing and Foundations

Buying a Fixer-Upper - Roofing

Photo: shutterstock.com

Issues with roofs and foundations often scare off potential buyers, according to Florke, but if you adore the house, ask a contractor to take a closer look. “I’ve bought many houses with both of these issues,” he says. “Provided the cost to fix them properly is within your budget, it could be a great opportunity.”

 

4. Know Where to Draw the Line

Buying a Fixer-Upper - Wood Rot

Photo: shutterstock.com

Repairable roof and foundation problems aside, Florke would pass on an old home with termites or significant rotting. “If a roof has been left in disrepair for too long, a house will rot from the inside out. That’s not worth an investment.” But don’t rush to dismiss the land on which the tear-down is sitting. “It you’re in love with the location and your budget allows, you can raze the old house and rebuild a new one in a similar style.”

 

5. Stay Positive

Buying a Fixer-Upper - Stay Positive

Photo: shutterstock.com

If you’ve found an old home you feel is perfect for you but have reason to believe the renovation costs will not realistically fit into your budget, “walk away,” Florke advises. “There will always be another house to fall in love with.”


7 Ways to Make Your Dorm Room a Home Away from Home

For busy college students, ideal dorm room ideas deliver the most functional or decorative impact with the least investment of time.

Dorm Room Ideas

Photo: dormdesign.tumblr.com

In her book, Speed Decorating, interior decorator Jill Vegas offers tips and tricks for anyone interested in putting together a beautiful space—quickly. Low fuss is always a plus, but for college students in particular, the concept of fast-pace design holds special appeal. While undergraduates want to live in fun and functional surroundings, their favorite dorm room ideas are usually those requiring the least time to implement.

Related: 10 Honor Roll-Worthy Dorm Room Storage Solutions

“The beginning of the academic year is the perfect time to create an ideal living environment,” says Vegas. “College is about following your dreams, so why not live in a dream room?” Read on for expert advice aimed at helping you transform the blank canvas of your dorm room into a personalized home away from home, custom-tailored to your daily needs and sense of style.

 

1. Pare Down to Essentials

Dorm Room Ideas - Pare Down

Photo: shutterstock.com

According to Vegas, “The best way to make a space inviting is to include only items that you love.” Instead of packing up every miscellaneous knick knack from your bedroom back home, Vegas recommends that you “carefully edit your essentials, so you don’t clutter your dorm room with stuff.”

 

2. Begin with the Bed

Dorm Room Ideas - Bedding

Photo: hgtv.com

The focal point in most dorm rooms, the bed is the best place to direct your initial burst of decorating zeal. ”Ideally, the bed should be able to pull double duty as a place not only to sleep, but also to read, study, and lounge,” says Vegas. “In addition to bedding, choose three to seven accent pillows to finish the look.”

 

3. Color Coordinate Your Desk

Dorm Room Ideas - Organized Desk

Photo: flickr.com

“Start with a fabulous desk lamp,” Vegas suggests. “You’ll want something stylish and very functional for late-night reading.” After that, move on to the accessories. “Pick one accent color and purchase your desk items in that color. If you prefer a neutral palette, stick with natural tones like ivory or white.”

 

4. Personalize Your Walls

Photo: dormify.com

Create an accent wall with framed photographs of family and friends. “Collect an assortment of inexpensive frames from thrift stores and yard sales, then unify the look by spray painting them all in your favorite color. A gallery wall like this is a great way to add color to the room while making it feel more like you.”

 

5. Don’t Ignore the Floor

Dorm Room Ideas - Flokati

Photo: carpetgeeks.com

A small accent can make a large impact on your level of comfort. “You’ll definitely want a cozy rug by your bed,” Vegas says. “I like a plush sheepskin or a similar style that feels like you’re stepping on a cloud. It can also function as a throw if you’d like to put it over your desk chair for an extra layer of comfort.”

 

6. Keep It Neat

Photo: collegecandy.com

Liberate your dorm room from attention-stealing disorder by placing your possessions out of sight and into trunks or storage boxes. “Make sure everything has a place,” Vegas urges. “I prefer clear boxes that allow you to see what you have.” Save floor space by situating storage containers under the bed or in the closet.

 

7. Involve Your Roommate

Photo: americanprofile.com

“Share your design ideas with your roomie and listen to his or her ideas, too,” Vegas concludes. “It’s a great way to learn how to collaborate and to create a space that is a celebration of your new adventure at school.”

 

For more on Speed Decorating, including online decorating classes, visit Jill Vegas.


5 Smart Ways to Fill the House with Your Favorite Color

With tips from Benjamin Moore color expert Sharon Grech, you can create a design palette for your whole house that begins with your single favorite hue.

Everyone has a favorite color, but not everyone understands how to use that most loved hue to full advantage at home. Benjamin Moore color expert Sharon Grech offers hints aimed at helping you build a household palette around apple green, sunflower yellow, or firehouse red—whatever your favorite color might be—to create a sense of flow that continues seamlessly from one room to the next.

 

1. CHOOSE HARMONIOUS HUES

Interior Paint Color Scheme - Harmony

Photo: rwandersonhomes.com

“Although it’s simpler to just paint one color throughout the house,” Grech says, “changing the color or the value of the color from room to room is a very effective way to define spaces. Choose more than one shade of your favorite color or move close-by on the spectrum, but be sure to limit your palette to no more than five distinct colors. And remember: White is a color when decorating!”

 

2. FIND A STARTING POINT

Interior Paint Color Schemes - Starting Point

Photo: trendecoration.com

Which room should get the purest form of your favorite color? For Grech, the answer is whichever room already features that hue in a decorative accessory, be it a work of art or a fabric pattern. However, if your home is a blank canvas that is crying out for some color, “choose the room you spend quality time in.” Grech continues, “For many of us, it’s the kitchen or living room.”

 

3. FOCUS THE COLOR IN OPEN FLOOR PLANS

Interior Paint Color Schemes - Open Plans

Photo: donwongphoto.com

If you have an open floor plan and feel the color would be too overwhelming if applied everywhere, use it for an accent wall only. You can then balance its effect with a neutral coordinate for the rest of the space, Grech advises. “The coordinating color can be a lighter value of the accent wall or a neutral that will work with almost any hue, like Benjamin Moore’s Jute or Muslin,” she says.

 

4. ACCESSORIES ECHO YOUR MAIN COLOR

Interior Paint Color Schemes - Accessories

Photo: cgapartners.net

“Be sure to repeat touches of your favorite color in adjacent rooms by way of soft furnishings and accessories like throw pillows, picture frames, and china patterns,” Grech says. “This will help to ensure harmony from space to space.”

 

5. USE HALLWAYS TO CONNECT SPACES

Interior Paint Color Schemes - Hallways

Photo: amoroso-design.com

“Hallways can be a natural respite from the more colorful rooms, but you also want to continue the sense of flow throughout the house,” Grech advises. “Use these thoroughfares to display colorful framed images or accessories that reference back to the home’s color palette, even if the wall color here is more neutral than the rest of the house.”


6 Pro Tips for Successful Container Gardening

Kerry Michaels, About.com's container gardening expert, shares her top tips for success. Follow her advice and you may soon find that your containers—and your enthusiasm—flourish exuberantly.

Container Gardening

Photo: groundsinc.blogspot.com

When she’s not sharing her knowledge of container gardening as a guide on About.com or photographing New England gardens for a forthcoming book from Timber Press, you’re likely to find Kerry Michaels tending to the nearly 100 potted plants that surround her home in coastal Maine. “No matter how hectic life can be,” she muses, “I get such enormous pleasure from these pots!” Here, Michaels offers six tips to boost your own container gardening know-how.

1. Water Properly
“It still surprises me how much water a good-sized container needs to get to the roots of a plant,” says Michaels. Don’t just wet the top of the soil, she advises. Rather, continue until you see water dripping out from the holes at the bottom of the pot.

2. Supplement Nutrients
“There are no nutrients in most potting soils, and even those that have some will need to be supplemented throughout the growing season,” Michaels says. If your potting soil doesn’t have any (check the bag), then augment it with slow-release fertilizer every couple of weeks. Be sure to follow the directions closely, whether you choose to use diluted liquid fertilizer or granular fertilizer.

3. Pay Attention to Pot Size
Pots that are too small can be a problem for container gardeners, Michaels reports. “Small pots mean less soil, and less soil means that there isn’t much margin for error when watering, because the pots dry out so fast,” she says.

Related: How To: Decorate Garden Pots

Container Gardening - Drainage Holes

Photo: hgtv.com

4. Add Some Holes
If your pot is skimpy on drainage, don’t be afraid to make a few extra holes in the bottom. You can either use a drill with a special bit for ceramic pots (because these pots can crack, always wear safety goggles and make sure the pot and bit do not overheat), a regular bit for plastic pots, or an awl or nail and hammer for metal pots. “Sometimes my pots look like Swiss cheese, because I put so many holes in them,” Michaels says. “The more drainage the better.”

5. Skip the Gravel
“It’s a myth that stones or shells at the bottom of a container help keep your plants from getting waterlogged,” Michaels reveals. To keep soil from escaping the bottom of your pot, place window screening, a coffee filter, or a paper towel over the holes of your container before adding soil.

6.  Elevate Pots
“When containers are set flat on nonporous surfaces, drainage can be affected,” says Michaels. “And on a deck, the constant moisture can damage the wood. Air circulation below pots is beneficial to both the plants and your deck.” She suggests using commercially made pot feet, like Potrisers or Pot Pads, or depending on the weight of your containers, you might consider teacups, shot glasses, or small terra-cotta pots to elevate them.