Category: Interior Design

Bob Vila Radio: New Designs for Recessed Lighting

For homeowners, it's well worth taking a fresh look at recessed lighting, which in recent years has seen an explosion of new and exciting design options.

Recessed lighting has always been efficient, since it takes up no space at all in a room. Over the years, as a variety of new trim kits appeared on the market, recessed lighting became even more appealing, with amenities like eyebrow kits that let you direct light in a specific direction. Today there’s a veritable explosion of new style options, making recessed lighting worth a fresh look.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Listen to BOB VILA ON RECESSED LIGHTING NEW DESIGNS or read the text below:

Recessed Lighting


New styles of trim kits are breaking old boundaries by extending the fixture beyond the surface of the ceiling. That may fly in the face of the whole “recessed” concept, but the result is a new slate of options with glass teardrops, metal frames, and even crystal arrangements. These trims enhance the look of the fixture and also diffuse the light to great effect.

Recessed lights are even moving out of the ceiling and into the walls and staircases, where they are terrific space-saving ideas that provide valuable light in previously dark spots. That’s a great idea for those of a certain age, especially those who don’t want to sacrifice elegant design as they get older. So if you haven’t shopped for lighting in a while, take a new look—these are not your father’s high hats anymore.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.

How To: Clean Leather Furniture

Leather is a surprisingly durable, easy-care upholstery material, but it does require occasional cleaning and triage. If your leather furniture is looking tired, follow our suggestions for perking it right up.

How to Clean Leather Furniture


With its rich color and supple feel, leather furniture invites an element of luxury into your room decor. Fortunately, despite its opulence, leather doesn’t require the kind of painstaking maintenance you might associate with other refinements. Inevitably, however, there comes a time in the life of all leather chairs, chaises, or sofas when a little care is called for. Rest assured that it’s not difficult to clean leather furniture, and the process involves only supplies that most homeowners keep readily at hand.

- Vacuum (with brush attachment)
- Clean cotton or microfiber cloth
- Vinegar
- Small bucket

How to Clean Leather Furniture - Detail


When you set out to clean leather furniture, the first step is to remove all dust and loose debris from the piece. You can do so easily by means of a vacuum cleaner outfitted with a brush attachment. Don’t forget to clean between the cushions of the furniture, if there are any. Once finished, wipe the whole thing down with a cotton or microfiber cloth.

Having inspected the furniture in the course of dusting and wiping it down, you now understand which parts of the piece look the worse for wear. These are the areas on which you’re going to focus the lion’s share of your cleaning efforts.

To address the problem areas, you can use a simple but effective homemade cleaner, comprising equal parts vinegar and water. Mix the two in a small bucket, then dip in the corner of a cloth. Wring out the cloth so that it’s damp but not wet, then proceed to wipe down the soiled parts of the leather. Rinse the cloth after every few strokes to avoid spreading any dirt.

Next, follow up with a dry cloth, making sure to go over every area that you treated with the water-and-vinegar solution. At no point during the process should you let the leather become soaking wet; saturation is one of the material’s enemies.

Stain Removal
Has a careless guest spilled something on your leather furniture? Don’t despair—you can probably prevent the accident from leaving a permanent stain, but to be successful, you’ll need to work quickly. Different stains demand different remedies:

• Wipe away grease stains with a clean, dry cloth. Do not add water, because the fluid could help the grease soak into the leather. If the grease has dried by the time you notice it, try sprinkling baking soda onto the area in order to draw out the grease. Leave the baking soda on for a few hours, then brush it off with a rag.

• If there’s an ink stain on your leather furniture, rubbing alcohol may be the key to removing it. Dab alcohol onto a cotton swab, then wipe the stain until it clears. Keep in mind for the future that many homeowners have reported luck using rubbing alcohol to remove pesky patches of either mold or mildew on furniture.

• Notoriously vulnerable to stains are white and beige leather. To remove blemishes—particularly dark-colored spots—from such pieces, opt for a mixture of equal parts lemon juice and cream of tartar. Combine the two into a paste, apply it to the stain, then leave it in place for 10 minutes. Wipe it away with a damp cloth.

Be wary of experimenting with stain removal products on leather; some may do more harm than good. Always first try a cleaning agent on an inconspicuous part of the furniture. (That way, if things go awry, nobody is likely to notice!) If none of the above tips or tricks prove helpful, consider seeking the assistance of a pro.

Weekend Projects: 5 Easy DIY Beanbag Chairs

With an appropriate fabric, the filling material of your choice, and some inspiration, you can create a comfy beanbag chair that will satisfy your most slothful dreams. Check around your house for the fabric and filling, but first find your inspiration here.

Beanbag chairs come with a host of often negative connotations. In the eyes of an average homeowner—someone who perhaps cringes upon remembering his college dorm room—beanbag chairs belong only in the kids’ playroom, if anywhere. Fair enough. But if you’re on a budget and have a knack with the sewing machine, there’s no more affordable or quicker-to-make seating solution than a DIY beanbag chair. Scroll down for five favorite examples from around the Web!



DIY Bean Bag Chair - One Seater


Fancy interior designers call them poufs, but we know what they really are: somewhat cylindrical beanbag chairs! You can keep yours in a closet if you wish, pulling it out of storage only on occasions that call for extra seating. The carrying strap added to this DIY beanbag chair makes it even easier to move around at a moment’s notice.



DIY Bean Bag Chair - Pillow


Crafty Gemini—whose video tutorial you can watch here—demonstrates the process of sewing together a patchwork of fabrics, including cozy fleece and fuzzy chenille, to create a DIY beanbag chair that is large and soft enough to be comfortable while still light enough to be easily moved to an out-of-the-way spot when not in use.



DIY Bean Bag Chair - iPad


Stuffed with uncooked beans or cloud-like polyester fill, a wedge pillow like this one can serve as a sort of DIY beanbag chair for your tablet device. You’ll need about one-half yard of the fabric of your choice (floral prints aren’t for everyone, after all). For step-by-step instructions, visit Sewn Up by Theresa Down Under.



DIY Bean Bag Chair - Cube


A rectangular DIY beanbag chair is actually easier to make than the traditional round shape. Fill the angular seat (in the best dimensions for your space) with whatever material you think will be most comfortable. Alternatively, use what you have on hand—packing peanuts, bubble wrap, or scrap fabric would all work.



DIY Bean Bag Chair - Floating


Water-resistant fabrics are available for purchase by the yard both online and in local craft stores. Using this stuff in combination with naturally buoyant foam beads, you can—believe it or not—put together a DIY beanbag chair that can be used comfortably both on land or floating in your backyard swimming pool.

Weekend Projects: 5 Sturdy and Stylish DIY Dining Tables

To create a dining table that's perfect for your family and your surroundings, go the DIY route. While you may need to scrounge a bit for materials, you'll end up with a piece that's just right.

The dining table is where families gather to enjoy meals, swap stories, and make memories. Given its central role in the life of any household, doesn’t it make sense to customize your dining table to meet your needs precisely and coordinate attractively with your decor? You’d be surprised by the number of sturdy and stylish dining table designs that are easy enough for a beginning do-it-yourselfer to create. This weekend, instead of shopping around for the perfect piece, create your own DIY dining table.



Pallet Dining Table


Rich in character, this DIY dining table includes a mix of materials. The tabletop is an old door that’s been sanded smooth and surfaced with scrap wood repurposed from shipping pallets. Charmingly unrefined in its look, this table is as great a conversation starter as it is a place to have a conversation.



DIY Dining Table - Spool


A large wooden electrical cable spool lends itself naturally to reuse as a dining table, perfect for a compact apartment or eat-in kitchen. To complete the arrangement, use smaller spools as matching chairs. Here, a variety of translucent stains work together to create a geometric peace sign pattern.



DIY Dining Table - Sewing Machine


For an easy, eye-catching DIY dining table, start with the legs of an antique sewing machine. You can find these vintage wrought-iron gems either online or at your local thrift store. The tabletop, meanwhile, is simply made from boards of stock lumber that have been stained to highlight and enhance the wood’s natural beauty.



DIY Dining Table - Door


Here’s yet another DIY dining table that involves an old door. Readily available—perhaps you already have one in your basement—a wood door doesn’t need much alteration to become an eating surface. Although a pair of wooden sawhorses function as the legs here, you can raise a door on many different types of platforms.



DIY Dining Table - Butcher Block


The advantage of butcher block is its resilience; after all, people use this stuff for cutting boards. Joining together multiple blocks can be time-consuming, though. The quickest route to a DIY dining table like this is to purchase a premade butcher-block countertop and to support the surface on hairpin legs.

Weekend Projects: 5 Unique and Easy DIY Pendant Lights for Any Room

Pendant lights are functional, versatile, style-laden, and occasionally pricey. Make your own by purchasing a lighting kit and tricking it out with one of these creative pendant ideas.

Nobody wants to spend time in a room with bad lighting, but how do you avoid it? Well, there’s strength in numbers: Outfit each important space with a variety of fixtures, so you can always match the room lighting to the activity you are doing. Pendants, one of the most popular types of fixtures, are also among the most practical, because they can provide either task lighting or general-purpose overhead illumination. They’re often stylish too, introducing a pop of personality to the decor. The downside? Pendants can be expensive. But if you like taking matters into your own hands, creating a DIY pendant light doesn’t need to be a costly affair. And the the results, as demonstrated by the favorite five examples below, can often be nothing short of extraordinary.



DIY Pendant Light - Globe


If you’ve got an old globe in your attic—or if you recently bought one at a thrift store—why not refashion it into a DIY pendant light? All you need is a lighting kit, the kind sold at local hardware stores. Halve the globe along the equator (where else?), then decorate the cut edge with ball fringe—or don’t! The choice is yours.



DIY Pendant Light - Flowers


Here’s a project sure to provoke conversation among the guests at your next party. It’s a DIY pendant light festooned with flowers. To make yours, start out with a wire basket, then use wire to attach fresh or faux flora. Add a light socket and a low-wattage bulb before hanging the assembly over the bar or buffet table. Wow.



DIY Pendant Light - Paper


The unique look of this striking DIY pendant light springs from an unlikely source: scraps of paper. Because wastepaper comes in so many colors and textures, there’s virtually no limit to the designs you might achieve with a set of basic supplies—scissors, glue, and a simple, dime-a-dozen white lampshade.



DIY Pendant Light - Wire


Cage lights are a common sight on construction sites, and they are also popping up in the homes of those who love industrial-style decorating. Here, A Beautiful Mess offers a modern, minimalist take on the cage light that features three strands of spray-painted wire looping around a sculptural incandescent bulb.



DIY Pendant Light - Leather


It’s not necessarily going to take hours and hours, but in order to complete a project like this—a leather DIY pendant light replete with subtle sophistication—you’ll need to do two things: one, plan out the project before you begin, and two, execute some tricky maneuvering of the material. Easy? No. Delightful? Absolutely.

Bob Vila Radio: CFL Bulbs

The most common alternative to the light bulbs you've used for years—incandescents—are compact fluorescent lamps, better known as CFLs.

With incandescent light bulbs on their way out, shoppers who had been reluctant to buy alternative bulbs are realizing that it’s time to make the switch.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Listen to BOB VILA ON CFL BULBS or read the text below:

CFL bulbs


The most common alternative is the compact fluorescent lamp, or CFL, which fits into a standard lamp base and can be used pretty much anywhere you once used an incandescent. Fixtures labeled “incandescent only” will be fine with a CFL, but don’t use an LED lamp or floodlight in them. Look for wattage equivalence—if your fixture calls for a 60-watt bulb, look for a CFL that’s equivalent to 60 watts.

CFLs claim to have long life spans, and they often do, but there are several reasons why they might fail earlier than expected. CFLs do best when they’re lit for long periods of time and burn out faster when frequently turned on and off. Some CFLs will fail early if used in enclosed fixtures or in areas with extremely high temperatures. CFLs can also be affected by colder temperatures, so they don’t always last that long when used in outdoor fixtures in cold climates.

You may be able to extend the life of a CFL by choosing a lower-wattage bulb than the fixture says it can accommodate. Using a 40-watt equivalent in a fixture rated for 60 watts may be just what you need to get a little more life out of your CFL.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.

Weekend Projects: 5 Unique Coasters You Can Easily Create

If you DIY your own coasters, they won't only keep your wood furniture safe from water rings, but they can also express a little bit of your personality. Here's how.

In bars and restaurants, drink coasters often bear the logos and slogans of popular beverage brands. At home, DIY coasters are equally communicative, but rather than promote businesses, they show off your individuality and personal sense of style. No matter what you care about most—nature, travel, literature, or something else entirely—it’s easier than you thought to channel your passion into a set of DIY coasters. Scroll down now to see five favorite examples from around the Web.



DIY Coasters - Stone


These stone border tiles turned DIY coasters are an earthy accent sure to draw attention whether in a modern or traditional living space. Tara Dennis explains how to make them. It’s quick and super simple: Apply a coat of clear varnish to the tops of the tiles, and to protect your furniture from scratches, put surface savers on the bottoms.



DIY Coasters - Map


Working with cutouts from road maps or an old atlas, or even Internet printouts, you can use decoupage to transform ceramic or porcelain tiles into DIY coasters that celebrate your favorite travel destinations, neighborhoods where you’ve lived, or your hometown. Visit The Country Cottage for the easy step-by-step tutorial.



DIY Coasters - Scrabble Tiles


Looking for a gift to give a person who’s always playing word games? Why not repurpose that old Scrabble set gathering dust in your attic? Domestic for Dummies shows how it’s done. All you need are hot glue and a sheet of thin cork. Probably the hardest part is choosing the words to spell out on the squares.



DIY Coasters - Beach Glass


Devote part of your sea glass collection to creating these perky, refreshing DIY coasters. First, place an arrangement of glass onto square or circular cork coasters. Next, trace the outline of each piece of glass. Finally, cut out the shapes you’ve drawn and glue the glass into the slots you’ve made. Sincerely Kinsey explains it all.



DIY Coasters - Felt Balls


Bright and colorful, these DIY coasters are made of wool felt balls that you can purchase either online or in your local craft store. Simply glue the balls on top of cork coasters. Better yet, if you are skilled with a needle and thread, you can sew the balls together in a circular pattern. Want details? Check out Inspired by Charm.

Bob Vila Radio: Linoleum Rugs

Do you remember linoleum rugs? At one time, they were hugely popular and today, they're a great, noncommittal way of participating in the comeback of this retro yet eco-friendly flooring material.

Linoleum rugs are a little-remembered footnote to floorcovering history. These days, unless you uncover one when you’re ripping up an old floor, you’re unlikely to find a linoleum rug outside of a vintage shop. But their half-century or so of popularity makes them worth a moment of consideration.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Listen to BOB VILA ON LINOLEUM RUGS or read the text below:

Linoleum Rugs


Introduced in the late 1800s, linoleum was first produced by coating a fabric, such as burlap or canvas, with a mixture of linseed oil, cork, resins and wood flour. The easy-care, resilient flooring was perfect for high-traffic areas—kitchens and hallways, for instance.

Although early linoleum was available primarily in solid colors, patterns became more sophisticated as production methods advanced. By the early 1900s, manufacturers began to offer linoleum rugs—essentially movable, highly patterned sheets of linoleum with decorative borders. They tended to mimic textiles—oriental rugs and intricate florals—but unlike their “real” counterparts, they could just be wiped clean.

By the 1950s, the rugs’ popularity began to wane as less expensive vinyl entered the market. Today, however, true linoleum is enjoying a comeback of sorts, thanks to its relative eco-friendliness and the advent of brighter colors suited to modern interiors. Some fabricators are even making linoleum rugs that unlike their predecessors, aren’t pretending to be something else, but instead celebrate what they are.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.

How To: Clean Wood Furniture

Over time, wood furniture accumulates grime that can't be removed with regular dusting. When this happens, some serious cleaning is in order. Try these methods for spiffing up your wood furniture safely and effectively.

How to Clean Wood Furniture - Table


Homeowners have long relished the beauty, versatility, and toughness of wood furniture—and above all, they’ve appreciated its low maintenance. Like the ideal houseplant for brown thumbs, wood furniture survives on its own, requiring little intervention. Every now and again, though, whether due to an accident or normal wear and tear, it becomes necessary to clean wood furniture to renew its appearance and ensure its longevity. When that inevitable day comes, follow these steps to restore a wood finish to impeccable condition without inadvertently causing damage.

- Cotton balls
- Dishwashing detergent
- Sponge
- Bucket
- Clean cloth
- Mineral spirits
- Cheesecloth
- Wood wax
- Denatured alcohol

If you are certain of your wood furniture finish—paint, stain, or some other treatment—then use a cleaning method appropriate for that specific wood finish. Otherwise, it’s best to clean the furniture in stages, starting with a mild cleanser that poses no risk to the integrity of the finish, then graduating to a stronger solution only if the gentler one fails. Proceeding in this way means that you can safely clean wood furniture without knowing precisely what you’re dealing with.

How to Clean Wood Furniture - Chair


Start out with perhaps the humblest of household cleaners: dishwashing detergent. Add a drop to a water-moistened cotton ball, then wipe it on an inconspicuous part of the furniture, such as the inside of a chair leg. If the detergent mars the finish in your test area, then continue without the detergent. If the test area shows no evidence of damage, it’s safe to proceed. Mix water and detergent in a bucket and use this solution to sponge down the entire piece. Be careful not to soak the wood: Brush the sponge lightly over the wood surface and don’t let the liquid linger for long. Dry thoroughly.

If you want to see if you can get your furniture a little cleaner, the next thing to try is mineral spirits. They should be harmless to wood finishes, but you should still test an inconspicuous area with a moistened cotton ball. If you see nothing suspicious, wash the piece with a clean cloth soaked in mineral spirits. (Work in a well-ventilated location.) In many cases, mineral spirits can remove years of grime. Finish by wiping away any residual cleaner with water, inspecting the wood for blemishes as you go.

If the finish reacted negatively when you tested the mineral spirits on your furniture, don’t push your luck—move on. Before you try any further interventions, you’ll need to determine the type of finish that’s on your piece. To do this, dab some denatured alcohol onto a cotton swab and test it in a small, inconspicuous area. If the finish dissolves, that means it’s probably shellac. If the finish stands up to the alcohol, it’s probably oil, lacquer, varnish, or polyurethane. Either way, if you’re still dissatisfied with your furniture’s appearance, chances are that you’ll need to refinish the piece to truly restore it.

If you are satisfied with the results of your cleaning efforts, the wise choice at this point is to protect the wood from future damage by applying furniture wax. Apply it liberally with a cheesecloth, rubbing in the direction of the grain. Afterward, buff with a clean cloth.

Note: Always dust wood furniture with soft, lint-free cloths. Avoid feather dusters, because they aren’t as effective and sometimes have sharp quills that may scratch the wood surface. 

Bob Vila Radio: Wallpaper Prep

Before tackling this tricky task, take the time to properly prep the wall you are going to paper. Here's how it's done.

Hanging wallpaper can be tricky, but it’s worth the effort for the beautiful effect it can have on a room. As with so many do-it-yourself jobs, the secret to great results is in the preparation. Here are a few tips to help you achieve professional-looking results.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Listen to BOB VILA ON WALLPAPER PREP or read the text below:

Wallpaper Prep


First, put a coat of primer on the walls to be papered. Primer seals the surface and protects against moisture building up beneath the paper. It also keeps the wallpaper adhesive from penetrating into your walls, which makes it impossible to remove the paper if and when you opt for a new look. And if the walls are painted a dark color and your paper is light, a coat of white primer will help conceal any small imperfections in your seams.

Once the primer is dry, apply a coat of sizing on the walls. Sizing creates a slick, glossy surface that will make it much easier to maneuver the paper as you’re installing it. Without sizing, your paper can stick to the wall before it’s in its final position, and that can cause the paper to tear when you try to move it. On a sized wall, you can slide the paper around to get it right. Sizing has a thin, watery consistency and can be applied with a paint roller. Be sure it’s dry before you start papering.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.