Interior Design - Bob Vila

Category: Interior Design


All You Need to Know About Shaker Style

Understand this ever-popular “keep it simple” design philosophy to achieve the look for your own interiors.

The Timeless Look of Shaker Style Homes

Photo: commons.wikimedia.org via Steven C. Price

Once in great a while, a style comes along that captures such a wide audience that its popularity is, well, unshakable—and clean, minimalist Shaker style is a prime example. Today, 150 years after the Shakers (a branch of Quakerism) settled in the United States, their contributions to construction and furniture design still enjoy widespread appeal. If you’re interested in this basic yet beautiful look, read on to learn how it evolved and how you can bring it into your home.

BASIC BELIEFS, SIMPLE SYMMETRY

During the mid-1800s, Shaker communities dotted the New England landscape. Their commitment to leading simple lives led to the development of the Shaker style, which features unadorned lines, unrivaled craftsmanship, and an assurance of quality.

In the midst of a quickly changing 19th Century, when mass production began to replace handcrafted quality, the Shakers remained firmly committed to superior workmanship. Their devout beliefs that simplicity, order, and neatness surpassed ornateness served as the foundation for their no-frills designs. Buildings, cabinetry, and furniture were intended to fulfill a need, rather than serve as décor.

AUSTERE ARCHITECTURE

Shaker residences, called “dwelling houses,” borrowed their rectangular box design from federalist and Greek Revival architecture, but removed all traces of ornamentation—no columns, no wraparound porches, and no fancy millwork. Every element of Shaker construction was functional. Shutters, when used, were built on the insides of dwellings, and were operable, to block out harsh sunrays or frigid winter drafts as necessary.

Shaker dwellings housed many residents and so were often quite large, reaching three and four stories in height and topped with simple gable roof lines. Everything the Shakers built was utilitarian and often balanced in design from one side to the other—for example, the two large fireplaces at opposite ends of the dwellings. Interiors were divided into two nearly identical halves, each served by a separate staircase, because Shaker brothers lived on one side and Shaker sisters on the other.

Many Shaker dwellings were framed from wood timbers, and featured shiplap siding, while others were constructed of brick and limestone. Meeting houses were the largest structures in the communities, and in some Shaker villages, they were built in a circular design, featuring high interior ceilings, and painted all in white, outside and inside, to symbolize the purity of their faith.

 

Shaker Style Chairs Hung on the Walls

Photo: commons.wikimedia.org via Richard Taylor

FINELY CRAFTED FURNITURE

Shaker Style Ladder Back Chair

Photo: istockphoto.com

The most enduring contribution the Shakers made to the world of design is utilitarian furniture with plain lines. Simple ladder-back chairs, no-frills tables with square legs, solid wood cabinets, and well-built wardrobes were constructed using strong joinery techniques. Their use of complicated dovetail joints and wooden peg assembly took extra time but set a high standard for quality construction.

Remaining pieces of original Shaker furniture (for the most part in private collections and museums) are in exceptional condition, due to the superior craftsmanship that went into their construction. The traditional ladder-back chair was first popularized by the Shakers and then adapted by furniture makers all over the world.

The simple cabinet door style introduced by the Shakers is still a favorite today among those wanting an unpretentious vibe. Modern cabinet makers continue to follow the Shaker principle of five-piece construction—one piece for the flat door panel and four additional boards that form a frame on the face of the door. This method of Shaker style construction prevented warping and gave the doors superior strength.

A QUEST FOR LIGHT, AN ABSENCE OF COLOR

In their mission to create utopian communities that replicated heaven on earth, the Shakers incorporated light into virtually everything they designed. With no decorations in their rooms, a single large window could create a halo-type effect as it radiated light to the rest of the room. Daylight was their light of choice, and they came up with some resourceful ways of using it.

Rooms and hallways in the interiors of large dwelling houses, depended on “borrowed light.” By installing windows in interior walls between rooms, such as a dividing wall between two bedrooms, the Shakers cleverly directed illumination from well-lit rooms to dimmer ones within the dwelling. Skylights directed extra light downward over wooden staircases, which eliminated the need for candles and lamps during daylight hours.

Wood floors, furniture, and staircases were varnished to protect them from humidity and temperature fluctuations, but the Shakers did not use wood stain to enrich the natural color of the wood. The tone of the wood in the dwellings was dependent on the type of wood available in their region. Strong hardwoods, including oak, pine, maple, apple, pear cherry, walnut, and hickory were commonly used for both furniture making and to construct interior wood elements such as staircases.

The Shakers used white paint to protect the exterior of their buildings, while interior walls were finished in hand-applied and smoothed plaster, which offered a satiny-white hue. Shaker rules allowed a minimal splash of color, often solid blue, for chair pads. Multicolor fabrics and patterns were avoided. While most Shaker walls were white with natural wood trim, some of the earliest Shaker dwellings incorporated painted yellow trim and doors.

 

Shaker Style in the Kitchen

Photo: flickr.com via larkandlarks.co.uk

GET THE SHAKER LOOK

Because it offers a sense of serenity in a hectic world, Shaker style remains a timeless favorite. Building a new house along Shaker architectural lines isn’t feasible for most, but by incorporating Shaker elements in your home, you can achieve a similar sense of minimalism and modesty.

Paint walls and ceilings soft white. The Shakers used white extensively to create a sense of purity and luminosity within their dwellings, stores, and meeting houses.

Think “monotone” when selecting decor. In a Shaker dwelling, the only colors—besides the white of the walls and the wood tones of the floors and furniture—were the natural tans of cotton and linen cloth used to make bedspreads and cushions, and the occasional colored seat cover. If you choose to add a splash of color, make it a muted one in a solid design: Sage green throw pillows, a natural wicker basket to stow reading materials, or a braided country blue throw rug will add a bit of color without detracting from the Shaker style.

Install picture rail and chair rail on walls. Chair rail, a narrow trim board that runs horizontally along walls, about 28” above the floor, offers visual appeal while protecting walls from the bumps of chairs being scooted backward. Picture rail, another narrow horizontal trim board, can be installed at eye level or slightly above. While picture rail is often used today to hang artwork, for the Shakers, it was purely functional; pegs were attached to the rail to hold coats and hats.

Timeless Shaker Style in the Modern-Day Kitchen

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Oklahoma, OK

Add Shaker-style furniture. When it comes to Shaker style furniture, less is more and plain rules over fancy. An eat-in kitchen is a perfect spot for a modest square or rectangular solid wood table, complete with ladder-back wood chairs. Invest in a plain wood rocking chair for an added touch. Shakers were permitted one rocker per room. Choose natural wood dressers, nightstands, and wardrobes that feature flat-front doors and drawers.

Take pictures off the walls and clear away clutter. Artwork was shunned, so true Shaker style walls should be free from pictures. Store family photos in photo albums. For an authentic bit of wall décor, hang an old-fashioned bonnet or a natural-bristle flat broom (the Shakers invented the flat broom) from a peg on the back of a door or on a picture rail. Keep only the items you use on a daily basis on countertops, and stow your toaster and coffee maker out of sight.

Replace curtains with operable interior shutters. Real wood shutters (unpainted) provide privacy when closed, let daylight stream in when open, and add an authentic touch of Shaker design to your room.

Update kitchen cabinets with new faces and iron hardware. Even if you can’t afford an entire kitchen remodel, you can replace existing doors and drawer fronts with new Shaker-style doors and fronts. Choose simple black iron hinges and pulls to complete the Shaker look. Opt for plain white or linen-colored hand towels.


Video: 5 Ways You’re Ruining Your Furniture

A good furniture set can last for decades—if you don't sabotage your stuff by making these mistakes.

Whether your furniture is brand-new or a treasured heirloom, you need to treat it right to keep it in good condition and make it last for years. Sadly, many homeowners shorten the length of the life of their furniture—from armchairs to dining sets—by making a few obvious and not-so-obvious mistakes. Watch our video to learn what you might be doing wrong and how to correct your furniture care routine.

For more cleaning advice, consider:

9 Ways You’re Ruining Your Mattress

15 Brilliant Hacks for a Cleaner Home in 2018

12 Smart Dish Washing Hacks No One Ever Taught You


Bob Vila Radio: Baring It All—The Many Methods of Wallpaper Removal

Removing wallpaper usually isn't an easy project—but sometimes it is! A lot depends on the specific type of wallpaper that you're dealing with. Read on to learn how to tell which type is on your walls, and for tips on what to do once you know.

If you’re thinking of removing wallpaper, first make sure you know what type of wallpaper you’re dealing with.

Wallpaper Removal Methods

Photo: istockphoto.com

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Listen to BOB VILA ON WALLPAPER REMOVAL METHODS or read below:

Try pulling gently on a corner of the paper. If it separates from the wall easily, consider yourself lucky! It may be removable wallpaper, which has recently been gaining converts, especially with renters.

If the paper doesn’t budge, you may be dealing with either strippable or vinyl paper. Try using a spray bottle filled with hot water to soak a corner section of the paper. If it’s strippable paper, it will allow the water to pass through and loosen the glue.

If it’s a vinyl paper, however, the water won’t permeate the paper. In that case, you’ll probably need to use a wallpaper scoring tool. As you roll the tool over the paper, the teeth punch holes in the paper, allowing water to pass through and loosen the glue. Start with light pressure on the scoring tool; you only want to punch holes in the paper—not the wall!

Bob Vila Radio is a 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day carried on more than 186 stations in 75 markets around the country. Click here to subscribe, so you can automatically receive each new episode as it arrives—absolutely free!


Bob Vila Radio: LED Light Bulbs Explained—Finally

They line the shelves in the lighting aisle, but what exactly are LED lights? Learn about the advantages and why you should be making the switch.

More and more homeowners these days are switching to LED lighting, and there are a bunch of reasons why.

LED Light Bulbs Explained

Photo: istockphoto.com

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Listen to BOB VILA ON LED LIGHT BULBS or read below:

LED bulbs—LED being short for “light-emitting diode”—are much more energy-efficient than other types of light bulbs and can last for decades rather than just weeks or months.

LEDs offer big ecological advantages. For starters, unlike other types of bulbs, they contain no toxic chemicals and they’re 100 percent recyclable. They’re also tough enough to stand up to extreme weather conditions or to being jarred and bumped. That makes them ideal for use outdoors or in workshops. LEDs even work with dimmers!

RELATED: Buyer’s Guide – LED Light Bulbs

But that’s just the beginning. Cutting-edge LED lighting systems now produce dramatic lighting effects that are not only pleasing to the eye but also positively impacting moods. Such systems are already being used in workplaces and classrooms. They’re also being installed in airplanes—and goodness knows we could all use a mood-enhancer there!

Bob Vila Radio is a 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day carried on more than 186 stations in 75 markets around the country. Click here to subscribe, so you can automatically receive each new episode as it arrives—absolutely free!


14 Vintage Christmas Ideas to Borrow from the Past

From vintage Christmas decorations to classic cocktails, these 14 ideas will bring old-school charm to your holiday festivities.

SHARES
Vintage Christmas Decorating Ideas

Photo: istockphoto.com

Festive feather trees, classic cocktails, decorative popcorn garlands… revelers of yesteryear really knew how to embrace the holiday season. This year, add a festive touch of seasonal cheer to your home with these 14 old-school ideas. The vintage Christmas decorations and comforting treats will impress any guest and create lasting memories for years to come.

 

Send Christmas Cards in the Mail

Vintage Christmas Decorating Ideas

Photo: istockphoto.com

Virtual Christmas greetings get the job done, but they aren’t nearly as sentimental as old-fashioned handwritten cards. Crisp stationery and seasonal stamps never fail to spread holiday cheer. Take a picture with your kids (or pet!) and incorporate it into a personalized greeting for everyone on your mailing list.

 

Have a Spot of Christmas Tea

Vintage Christmas Decorating Ideas

Photo: istockphoto.com

Christmas teas aren’t just for the British. This traditional activity, which came to America in the 1830s as part of the temperance movement, brought families together to converse while drinking a variety of teas at long communal tables. So, put on a pot of boiling water, make some fancy finger sandwiches, and enjoy a warm mug of tea with your loved ones.

 

Display a Feather Tree

Vintage Christmas Decorating Ideas

Photo: istockphoto.com

The first artificial Christmas tree, the feather tree has origins dating back to mid-19th-century Germany. The thin-branched trees became popular in America in the 1920s, when European immigrants carried their holiday traditions to their new homes. Add a tabletop feather tree to your holiday decor for a touch of whimsy and historical charm.

 

Bake Old-Fashioned Christmas Cookies 

Vintage Christmas Decorating Ideas

Photo: istockphoto.com

With the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it’s nice to unwind by baking cookies with family and friends. Whip up a batch of homemade sugar cookies, gingerbread men, or Jim Dandies, an old-fashioned classic that features maraschino cherries, chocolate, and marshmallows. While you’re at it, bake a few batches—remember, cookies can be scrumptious gifts for relatives and neighbors!

 

Mix a Classic Christmas Cocktail

Vintage Christmas Decorations

Photo: istockphoto.com

Classic cocktails have made a grand resurgence in bars around the country. Learn how to make your own versions of these boozy beverages so you’ll have something to keep yourself warm—and impress your guests—over the holidays. Old-fashioned favorites include the hot toddy (made with a bracing spirit like brandy, rum, or whiskey, mixed with honey, spices, and boiling water) and the Tom and Jerry (a concoction of eggnog, brandy, and rum).

 

Make a Christmas Jell-O Mold

Vintage Christmas Decorating Ideas

Photo: istockphoto.com

Jell-O long ago lost its spot as the star of the dessert table, but we think it’s about time the jiggly treat made a comeback! Pull out one of your grandma’s old recipe books and have fun constructing your very own holiday Jell-O mold, sure to be a crowd-pleaser at the kids’ table this year.

 

Deck the Halls with an Aluminum Tree

Vintage Christmas Decorating Ideas

Photo: istockphoto.com

When families in the 1950s and ’60s didn’t want to maintain real Christmas trees , they opted for aluminum versions instead. Nowadays, these shimmering trees can add a little sparkly elegance to your seasonal decor while giving a nod to a long-lost trend.

 

String a Popcorn Garland

Vintage Christmas Decorating Ideas

Photo: istockphoto.com

Before people adorned their trees with lights and ornaments, they decorated with homemade popcorn garlands. The string of popped kernels was budget-friendly and simple to construct. This year, spend quality time with your kids, parents, or grandparents making your own vintage popcorn garland.

 

Give Your Letter Carrier a Thank-You Gift

Vintage Christmas Decorating Ideas

Photo: istockphoto.com

In the past, people traditionally thanked their loyal letter carriers by giving them a small Christmas gift. Though we often don’t have the chance to develop relationships with our letter carriers today, you can still give them a token of appreciation around the holidays. Just remember that federal guidelines stipulate that postal employees can’t receive gifts worth more than $20.

 

Stuff Your Stockings With Oranges

Vintage Christmas Decorating Ideas

Photo: istockphoto.com

Stockings overflow with chocolates and toys on Christmas morning, but in simpler times children were excited and grateful to find oranges in their stockings. Put an orange in your child’s stocking this year to remind your family of its good fortune—and also get a healthy dose of vitamin C!

 

Hang the Tinsel

Vintage Christmas Decorating Ideas

Photo: istockphoto.com

Tinsel became extremely popular in the United States during the 1950s as people sought a way to add shimmer to their Christmas trees without using Christmas lights, which were considered a fire hazard. Re-create this vintage trend and give your tree a shiny, icy look by draping strands of tinsel on the branches.

 

Go Christmas Caroling

Vintage Christmas Decorating Ideas

Photo: istockphoto.com

With roots in solstice celebrations of ancient times, caroling is one of the oldest holiday traditions in the world. So, channel your jolly ancestors, and spread holiday cheer throughout your neighborhood by taking your family Christmas caroling this year! Don’t worry if your singing voice sounds nothing like Beyoncé’s—this tradition is more about having fun than showing off your vocal chops.

 

Put a Toy Train Around the Tree

Vintage Christmas Decorating Ideas

Photo: istockphoto.com

In the early 20th century, people relied on trains as a primary mode of transportation. It’s no wonder that toy versions of these all-important vehicles started appearing underneath Christmas trees during that time. Set up a track around your Christmas tree to take your holiday visitors back in history, or gift a toy train to young relatives.

 

Watch a Christmas Special on Live TV

Vintage Christmas Decorating Ideas

Photo: istockphoto.com

With the convenience of Netflix and DVRs, it’s easy to forget that children used to have to wait all year for their favorite classic Christmas specials to air on TV—and how excited they’d get when that day finally rolled around. Try to re-create the joys of a less plugged-in era by looking up the airtimes of old favorites, such as “A Charlie Brown Christmas” or “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas,” then whipping up a fresh batch of popcorn to enjoy a movie night with your family!


How To: Arrange Furniture

While there are no hard-and-fast rules to decorating, there are certainly basics to consider when arranging furniture. Here, a professional room-stager and designer offers tips and tricks to help you make your rooms look and function their very best.

How to Arrange Furniture

Photo: shutterstock.com

Anything’s possible in an empty room. You can fill it chockablock with traditional wood furniture, or you can favor a spare, modern aesthetic by sticking to the essentials of daily living. Between those extremes stretches a virtually infinite spectrum of possibilities, the number and variety of which can be intimidating for average homeowners. For professionals like Robin Long Mayer, however, few things are more inspiring than a blank canvas.

In her work for Country Living and New York Spaces—and as the principal of Robin Mayer Design—Mayer has learned how to arrange furniture in ways that maximize not only visual impact, but convenience as well. Though much depends on the particulars of the room itself, Mayer maintains that in any case, observing a set of simple design principles can help just about anyone, in just about any circumstance, determine the best possible layout.

 

BIG PICTURE

No matter the purpose of the room you’re designing, certain rules of thumb almost always apply. There are exceptions—times when it makes sense to break the rules, or times when the circumstances make the rules impossible to follow. Still, simply knowing the best practices—and bearing them closely in mind—helps many homeowners figure out where to begin.

 

How to Arrange Furniture - Focal Point

Photo: istockphoto.com

Find Your Focal Point
If there is a focal point in the room—a fireplace, for instance, or a bay window—orient your furniture so that it emphasizes and draws attention to the feature in question. “Put your best foot forward” isn’t just good advice for meeting new people; it applies equally well to interior design! Remember that the ideal is for the focal point to be immediately visible to anyone entering the room.

 

How to Arrange Furniture - Circulation

Photo: istockphoto.com

Keep a Clear Path
A well-designed room invites you in, and as you enter, places no obstructions in your way. So be mindful of the number and bulk of pieces you’re adding. Use only what you need for comfort, storage, and utility. Everything else? Find another place for it, be it in another room or on the trash heap. It’s as simple as this: If you can’t circulate freely about the room, you’re never going to be satisfied with its layout.

 

How to Arrange Furniture - Avoid Perimeter

Photo: istockphoto.com

Avoid the Perimeter
Placing furniture along the walls tends to create a stagnant, even lifeless look. But most rooms aren’t large enough to accommodate any other arrangement. Fortunately, there’s a compromise: Set up the largest pieces of furniture on the perimeter and float smaller pieces closer to the middle of the floor. (Picture a wall-hugging sofa paired with a pair of free-floating armchairs.) The result? A feeling of balance.

 

How to Arrange Furniture - Clear Clutter

Photo: istockphoto.com

Clear Clutter
Don’t let clutter compromise your design vision. Take a stand against it, right at the outset, by designating places for collections, keepsakes, and family photos to live. Resist the temptation to blanket each and every surface with stuff. Instead, plan to cordon off would-be clutter on a table, or on the shelves of a wall unit—anywhere your belongings can stand out visually without getting in your way.

 

How to Arrange Furniture - Measure Mindfully

Photo: istockphoto.com

Measure Mindfully
There’s nothing abstract about furniture arrangement. You may love the idea of a certain furniture piece, but if it’s not going to fit snugly in the space, then it doesn’t belong. Before buying or hauling anything, therefore, it’s wise to take measurements. Understand the room dimensions you have to work with, as well as the relationship between the larger space and the size of the individual furniture pieces you’re considering.

 

ROOM BY ROOM

Certainly, universally applicable advice helps homeowners avoid some of the biggest pitfalls in furniture arrangement. But since different rooms exist for different purposes, Mayer recommends taking a further layer of room-specific best practices into account. The right recipe for a high-traffic, utilitarian area isn’t likely to succeed in a private space devoted to comfort. You need to let the context dictate your approach.

 

How to Arrange Furniture - Seating Area Layout

Photo: istockphoto.com

Encourage Conversation
In the living room, aim to include at least one seating area with ample room for at least three people. Position a couch and two chairs near the room’s focal point, or opt instead for the combination of two love seats that face one another.

 

How to Arrange Furniture - Dining Room Layout

Photo: istockphoto.com

Dining Room Dynamics
In the dining room, put the table and chairs in the middle of the room and if space permits, locate a sideboard, hutch, or console (or even a chest of drawers) along a wall for much-needed storage of linens and flatware. No need to reinvent the wheel.

 

How to Arrange Furniture - Bedroom Layout

Photo: istockphoto.com

Bedroom Basics
If you’re lucky enough to enjoy a lovely view from your bedroom, position the bed so you can see out the window, even when lying down. Include nightstands on either side of the bed and ideally, at least one dresser or armoire for clothes storage.

 

How to Arrange Furniture - Kitchen Seating

Photo: istockphoto.com

Kitchen Kismet
Be honest about how you are likely to use the kitchen. If you love to cook and entertain, invest in an island—preferably one with built-in space for bar stools—and consider a banquette. If you rarely cook and entertain but work from home quite often, consider allotting available space to a desk. Don’t rush: take stock of your habits but most of all, your pain points.


Buyer’s Guide: LED Light Bulbs

Looking to save money and conserve energy by switching existing light bulbs to LEDs? Use these tips to make an informed purchase, and check out our top five picks for the best LED bulbs on the market today.

Best LED Lightbulb – Buyer's Guide

Photo: istockphoto.com

Nowadays, many homeowners choose light-emitting diode bulbs (LEDs) over the classic incandescent, fluorescent, or halogen options. That’s because LED light bulbs are comparably more energy efficient and longer lasting, thus saving money on utility bills and replacements. While LEDs still cost a bit more than other types of bulbs, prices have dropped significantly since their first market appearance in the 1960s. Early versions ran as much as $100 a piece and were limited in color to harsh white. Today’s versions usually cost between $3 to $70, depending on quality and special features like smart technology, and come available in dynamic color ranges.

Are you thinking about switching to LED bulbs in your home? Check out our guide on everything you need to know about this energy-saving light solution, including our top five picks for the best LED light bulbs.

Understanding LED Brightness
The brightness of incandescent bulbs is determined by wattage, a measurement of how much energy the bulb uses. A 100-watt incandescent bulb can effectively illuminate a large kitchen, while a 40-watt bulb is a go-to option for softer, dimmer light. While LED bulbs still list wattage numbers, their actual brightness is measured in lumens. The following list illustrates how much wattage an LED bulb uses in order to emit the same brightness as an incandescent bulb.

• A 7- to 9-watt LED bulb is equivalent to a 40-watt incandescent bulb (450 lumens emitted)
• A 9- to 12-watt LED bulb is equivalent to 60-watt incandescent bulb (800 lumens emitted)
• A 12- to 15-watt LED bulb is equivalent to 75-watt incandescent bulb (1,100 lumens emitted)
• A 16- to 20-watt LED bulb is equivalent to 100-watt incandescent bulb (1,600 lumens emitted)

Fortunately, many LED bulb manufacturers now include an equivalent incandescent wattage value on their packages. For example, a “60-watt equivalent” LED bulb will emit as much light as a 60-watt incandescent bulb, yet the actual LED bulb may only use 10 watts. Most consumers more confident choose an LED light bulb when the incandescent equivalent is listed.

Best LED Lightbulb – Buyer's Guide

Photo: istockphoto.com

Light Quality
In addition to lumens, an LED bulb’s color temperature is listed on the package’s “Lighting Facts” label. This information is shown through a color-coded bar; the orange-colored end represents “warm” temperatures, and the blue-colored end represents “cool” temperatures. An arrow indicator falls somewhere between the two points, displaying on the color temperature of the specific bulb. For the best results, choose bulbs with a color temperature that corresponds with the specific lighting needs in your home:

• Warm white light is calm, inviting, and flattering to skin tones, making it suitable for bathrooms, bedrooms, living rooms, reading corners, and outdoor spaces. Warm white light falls on the “warm” end of the color temperature scale.

• Soft white light is vibrant and energetic. It’s well suited to kitchen work areas, basements, garages, and task-oriented spaces, where you want bright (but not harsh) illumination. Soft white falls mid-range on the color temperature scale.

• Bright white light, sometimes called “daylight” lighting, is located at the cool end of the color temperature bar. It’s very bright and crisp, but it tends to be a bit hard on the eyes in relaxed living situations. Bright white lighting is best used for outdoor security systems and bright workshops.

To Dim or Not to Dim
Dimmable bulbs allow the user to adjust the amount of electricity to the bulb and control its brightness. Thanks to their ability to conserve energy, dimmable bulbs are a great option for those looking to save on utility bills—but not all LEDs are dimmable, so be sure to read the package before buying. Also, keep in mind dimmable bulbs only work when you have installed dimmable light switches.

Smart LEDs
Technologically savvy bulb manufacturers offer a variety of LED light bulbs that connect to home Wi-Fi, making it possible to turn them on and off remotely from a smart phone or tablet. Priced higher than ordinary LEDs, these smart LEDs start around $15 and price up to $70, depending on the bulb’s features. Many bulbs can be programmed to turn on and off at preset times, or to turn on as you approach (using a technology known as “geofencing”). What’s more, some smart LEDs allow the user to switch between color temperatures, while others sync with home voice-activated assistants like Amazon’s Alexa. If you want to control your home lighting remotely, a smart LED light bulb is just the ticket.

An LED Bulb’s Useful Life and Yearly Cost to Operate
When shopping for an LED light bulb, you’ll find an estimated lifespan on its package; most bulbs last anywhere from 10 to 25 years. You’ll also find an estimate of how much the bulb will cost to operate per year. These estimations are based on an average bulb use of three hours per day. If you leave a light on all day long, the lifespan will be significant shorter, and the bulb will cost more per year to operate.

Our Top Five Picks

If you’re ready to covert to LED light bulbs, but you’re not thrilled about analyzing labels, don’t worry. We’ve researched consumer sites and studied customer ratings to pinpoint five of the best LEDs on the market today. Here are our top five picks for the best LED light bulbs.

Best LED Light Bulb – Philips 60W Equivalent Ambient Dimmable A19 LED Bulb

Photo: amazon.com

Philips 60-Watt Equivalent LED ($19.98 for three)
In firsthand testing, CNET chose the Philips 60-watt equivalent LED as the “best dimmable LED” in their tests. It emits light in a wide arc to illuminate a broad area, and it operates without buzzing or flickering, which is a common problem with some LED bulbs. CNET notes that the Phillips LED bulb even works well with older light switches that may not be specifically designed to accommodate LED bulbs. Amazon buyers also like the Philips LED, giving the bulb 4.3 out of 5 stars for its soft white light and its long useful life (which is estimated at 25 years). The bulb costs about $1.28 per year to operate, and it emits 740 lumens. This bulb is great for kitchens and for other areas of the home that require bright yet soft lighting. Available on Amazon.

Best LED Light Bulb – Cree 40-Watt Equivalent LED

Photo: amazon.com

Cree 40-Watt Equivalent LED ($5.41 for one)
The Sweethome awards the Cree 40-watt equivalent LED top honors for “reading lamps and bedrooms,” listing its best features as “brightness, dimmability, color accuracy, and efficiency.” With 460 lumens and a dynamic color range, the Cree LED successfully mimics soft incandescent light, making it a flattering choice for bathroom vanities. It also works well as an all-purpose bulb in lamps and wall sconces. Amazon customers give the Cree LED 4.4 stars for dimmability and say that it’s “easy to read” near. The bulb is estimated to cost $.72 per year to operate and should last an average of 22 years. Available on Amazon.

Best LED Light Bulb – 60W Equivalent Daylight Dimmable LED Light Bulb

Photo: homedepot.com

Cree 60-Watt Equivalent Daylight LED ($19.97 for four)
For its ability to “more accurately reflect an object’s true colors,” Digital Trends lists the Cree 60-watt Equivalent Daylight LED as a top choice for consumers who want LED lighting that closely mimics natural daylight. Home Depot buyers give the Cree bulb an enthusiastic 4.5 stars. With 860 lumens, it costs an average of $1.02 per year to operate, and it is expected to last about 22 years before needing replacement. For clear beautiful light that’s easy to see by, the Cree LED is suitable for use in overhead lights, ceiling fans, floor and table lamps, and sconces. It’s also fully dimmable and quiet, no expect humming from this bulb. Available at Home Depot.

Best LED Light Bulb – Philips Hue White LED

Photo: amazon.com

Philips Hue White LED ($14.95 for one)
In extensive reviews of today’s top selling smart LEDs, PCMag gives the Philips Hue White LED its coveted Editor’s Choice designation for affordability and its ability to integrate with Apple Homekit, Amazon’s Alexa, IFTTT, and Nest technology. This smart bulb emits 800 lumens of white light, which is equivalent to 60-watts of incandescent light, and it’s expected to last about 23 years. It’s also dimmable and features geofencing, so it can detect when you approach (if your smart phone is in your pocket or purse) and turn itself on. Tech-smart Amazon customers give the smart bulb 4 stars for its low cost and its fancy features. To operate the bulb, consumers will need to download a free Philips Hue app to their smart phone (both Android or Apple iOS devices will work), and follow the directions to sync the device to the bulb. Available on Amazon.

Philips 60-Watt Equivalent Soft White LED

Photo: istockphoto.com

Philips 60-Watt Equivalent Soft White LED ($5.07 for two)
For both performance and affordability, The Spruce lists the Philips 60-Watt Equivalent Soft White LED as their pick for a “budget LED bulb.” With a slightly shorter estimated lifespan of 10 years, this bulb won’t last quite as long as some of the more expensive LEDs, but it’s still an excellent value at just $2.55 per bulb. It emits 800 lumens of soft white light and costs approximately $1.02 per year to operate. Home Depot buyers give the Philips LED a resounding 4.6 stars, citing its major selling point as its affordability. The bulb is not dimmable, so use it only with standard light switches. Available at Home Depot.


DIY Lite: A Beginner-Friendly Build for a Rustic Wooden Lantern

Love the farmhouse look? Create a lantern-inspired light for any indoor tabletop using little more than a set of dowels, scrap wood, and a lamp kit.

How to Make a Lantern from Wood

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Wooden lanterns placed throughout the home—on the window sill, fireplace hearth, dining table, or the steps up to the front doors—are an easy way to create a cozy, even rustic feel. While you might typically find them filled with candles, those twinkling lights are not always practical (easy to snuff out) or safe (one wrong move away from a house fire) for use hours at a time. That’s why we set out to make this modern version, which won’t involve striking a match or frequently replacing batteries on flameless candles! Keep reading for how to make a lantern-style table lamp that requires only a flip of a switch to shine.

 

All You Need to Make Your Own Lantern

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
Scrap wood
Ruler
Cordless drill
¾inch square wooden dowels (16 feet)
2inch wooden trim
Hand saw
Wood glue
Wood clamps (4)
Masking tape
Wooden ring
Lamp kit with cable, socket, plug, and switch
Allpurpose glue
LED light bulb

 

How to Make a Lantern from Wood

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 1
Cut two square shapes from your wood plank: one should have 7-½-inch sides (the base) and the other should have 5-½-inch sides (the lid).

Next, cut the square ¾-inch dowels to size. You will need four 10″-long pieces to make the corners of the wooden lantern, and 24 6″-long pieces to make the horizontal slats. Do your best to make straight cuts so that you can easily glue the pieces together.

Sand all wooden pieces.

 

How to Make a Lantern from Wood

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 2
Take the 7-½-inch square base, and use the ruler to find and mark its center. Drill a hole wide enough to pass the wire cable.

 

How to Make a Lantern from Wood

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 3
Cut the 2″-wide wood trim into four 9″-long pieces. Then you’ll make 45-degree cuts so that the corners fit together to frame the base. Each piece should now have a 5-inch edge and a 9-inch edge.

Take one piece of trim and cut a ½-inch notch out of its middle to leave for threading an electrical wire.

Apply wood glue to the top of each piece of trim, along the shorter edges. Press them firmly around the 7-½-inch square, and flip it over so that the trim is the very bottom of the wooden lantern. Use four wood clamps to hold the pieces together until the glue dries.

 

How to Make a Lantern from Wood

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 4
To build the wooden lantern’s sides, lay four 10″-long square dowels vertically on a flat surface.

Between the first two, space six 6″-long dowels perpendicularly and equidistant from one another. (We also rotated our dowels so that sharp edge of the four middle ones are facing out.) Once you’re happy with the spacing, lift the top dowel out to apply wood glue to each end and replace. Use masking tape to hold the pieces together until the glue dries, and proceed down the first lantern panel.

Repeat using the second two 10″-long dowels to make an opposite panel. Wait the full drying time suggested for your brand of wood glue.

 

How to Make a Lantern from Wood

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 5
Once the two rectangular sides of your wooden lantern are done drying, you can start assembling them to create a box.

Stand and glue the remaining dowels along the edges of the first panel, six per edge, and try to keep them aligned with the dowels in the panel.

Next, apply wood glue to the exposed dowel ends and lay the second lantern panel on top of them. Wrap the masking tape around each of the freshly glued joints again to hold the wooden lantern steady while it dries.

 

How to Make a Lantern from Wood

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 6
Take the smaller, 5-½-inch square of wood and add a trim frame in the same way you did for the base—this time you’re making a lid.

Cut the remaining trim into four 7″-long pieces, and make 45-degree cuts at each end. Apply wood glue to the bottom of each cut, along the shorter edge, and place them to frame the top of the square. Use your four wood clamps to hold.

Next, take the wood ring and glue it so that it stands upright in the direct center of the lid. It’s easiest if you flatten one edge of the ring with light sanding so that it can adhere to the lid better.

 

How to Make a Lantern from Wood

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 7
Pull out your lamp kit. Thread the wire through the notch you left in the base, beneath the 7-½-inch square, and through the drilled hole. Attach the light bulb socket to the wire as instructed in the kit and affix the bottom of the socket to the base will all-purpose glue.

Wait the recommended dry time.

 

How to Make a Lantern from Wood

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 8
Glue the open-ended box made from lantern sides to the base, and weigh it down with a book so that it adheres well.

Finish however you’d like! You can opt to paint it white, stain it dark, or simply coat with a clear varnish to follow the Scandinavian trend. Once your finish has dried completely, screw in an LED light bulb—which can last for 50,000 hours—and place the lid on top to close the wooden lantern. Since you made the bottom of the lid to be 5-½ inches square, it should fit snugly between the 6″-wide opening without any glue.

 

How to Make a Lantern from Wood

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Ama is a DIY addict and the creative mind behind Ohoh Blog. She likes home decor, lighting, and furniture projects that may involve painting, sewing, drilling…no matter the technique! Whatever she has on hand is inspiration to create, and fodder for her serious addiction to upcycling.

 

DIY Projects Anyone Can Do

All of the Best Hands-on Tutorials from BobVila.com
Get the nitty-gritty details you need—and the jaw-dropping inspiration you want—from our collection of the favorite projects ever featured on BobVila.com. Whether your goal is to fix, tinker, build or make something better, your next adventure in DIY starts here.


Porcelain or Ceramic: Which Tile Type Is Right for You?

Discover the similarities and key differences between porcelain and ceramic tiles so that you pick the right one for your next project. Once you've come to a decision, read on for how to keep your chosen material looking like new for years to come.

The Difference Between Porcelain and Ceramic Tiles

Photo: istockphoto.com

When considering a tile refresh for any floor, wall, or countertop, keep porcelain and ceramic tiles top of mind for their classic look and clean-lined appearance. Homeowners love their durability and versatility, as well as the wide variety of style options available. Despite all of their similarities, though, a handful of important differences separate the two types of clay-based tiles, from porousness and absorption to durability and cost. Read on to explore the pros and cons of each to help you choose the best fit for your home. Whichever way you lean—porcelain versus ceramic tile—we can equip you with the maintenance advice to keep each looking good as new.

PORCELAIN TILE

Porcelain tile is made of refined clay and other natural elements. After being kiln-fired, the tiles are either left in their natural state or transformed to look like stone, wood, concrete, or other materials. The clay-based construction makes porcelain tile a subtype of ceramic tiles; however, porcelain tile has a hardier construction and greater durability than non-porcelain ceramic tile varieties. Homeowners can choose either glazed and unglazed porcelain tiles. Unglazed, or full-bodied, tiles have color running through the entire thickness (as opposed to a glaze placed on the top), making them longer lasting and more resistant to chipping.

 

Understanding Porcelain vs Ceramic Tile

Photo: istockphoto.com

Weighing the Pros and Cons of Porcelain Tile
Known as the most durable type of tile on the market, porcelain is harder, denser, tougher, and less porous than ceramic tile. It also has a very low absorption rate, meaning it’s virtually impervious to water damage, even after prolonged exposure. This characteristic makes it an ideal choice for bathrooms, laundry rooms, patios, and other moisture-prone areas. Since porcelain tile can withstand heavy traffic over long periods of time, it works well as a flooring and countertop material.

Despite its durability and versatility, porcelain has two major drawbacks: price and ease of cutting. On average, porcelain tile costs at least 60 percent more than its ceramic competitors. Also, due to its density and hardness, homeowners typically require a wet saw with a diamond blade to cut cleanly through the material. Professional installation is preferred for a flawless finish with undamaged tiles. If you’re looking to take on a budget-friendly DIY installation project, ceramic tile might be the smarter choice.

Porcelain Tile Upkeep and Maintenance
In general, porcelain is very forgiving when it comes to spills and scratches; it’s hard to damage and relatively simple to keep clean. Sweep and vacuum porcelain tile once or twice per week, depending on how much traffic it experiences. Once a month, use a vinegar-and-water solution or tile-friendly commercial cleanser to banish dirt and day-to-day build-up. If you have glazed tile, use a mop. If you have unglazed or textured tile, rely on scrub with a soft-bristle brush instead. Take care to avoid using oil-based products, waxes, abrasive scrubbers, and anything containing bleach or ammonia. Follow up with a hot water rinse, and dry thoroughly with a towel or microfiber cloth. For step-by-step guidance, consult our tutorial for cleaning porcelain tile, which breaks down the routine for glazed, unglazed, and even textured tiles.

 

CERAMIC TILE

Ceramic tiles are kiln-fired at a lower temperature than porcelain tiles, making them less dense, softer, and more porous. The clay used in its composition is also less refined, making it a more affordable, albeit less durable, option. Many homeowners opt to install ceramic tiles as flooring, especially in warm climates, where the natural coolness of the tile becomes a welcome perk in the summer months.

 

Understanding Porcelain vs Ceramic Tile

Photo: istockphoto.com

Weighing the Pros and Cons of Ceramic Tile
Ceramic tile is a versatile and affordable option for those in the market for large quantities of tile. Not only does it cost significantly less than porcelain, it’s also easier to install. Thanks to its relatively soft surface, homeowners can cut ceramic tile with a simple tile cutter—a piece of cake when you consider the far more involved process of cutting porcelain tile. What’s more, ceramic tiles have an attractive clean-lined appearance, and the durable glazed finish can be customized in a variety of colors and patterns.

Ceramic tile is not as durable as porcelain, and homeowners must clear away spills quickly due to its relatively high absorption rate. It’s best to avoid using ceramic tile in areas often exposed to moisture, such as the shower and patio. Also, due in part to its tendency to absorb moisture, ceramic tile requires weekly deep-cleaning, as opposed to monthly. The coolness of the tile might feel nice in the summer, but it can also be uncomfortably cold during the winter. Ceramic tiles are coated with a glaze, and if the tile cracks or chips, the clay material underneath the glaze will show through. Homeowners should consider using ceramic tiles in areas with low or moderate foot traffic.

Ceramic Tile Upkeep and Maintenance
With a bit of discipline, it’s easy to keep ceramic floors looking great for years on end. Once per week, sweep or vacuum your ceramic tile to clear the way for easier mopping. Then, using a mild dish detergent mixed with hot water, work your way from one end of the tile to the other with a string mop. Finally, dry the entire area swiftly and thoroughly with a towel or microfiber cloth. For a deeper dive into howto keeping these tiles sparkling, check out this guide for cleaning ceramic tile.


All You Need to Know About the Waterfall Countertop Trend

Debating this high-end option for your kitchen or bathroom? Find out what all the excitement’s about!

In the world of contemporary kitchen and bathroom design, few aesthetic innovations have stirred as much interest as the waterfall countertop. Whereas a traditional countertop has a single horizontal surface that ends at the edge of an island, peninsula, or bank of cabinets, the waterfall drops vertically down the sides, creating a continuous flow of all the way to the floor. It’s all about looks, a way to put a dramatic material—usually natural stone—on display, and as you’d expect, it’s pricey! So read on for details about all the options to see if this splurge is right for your remodel.

Giving Glamour to Everyday Spaces

As kitchens become gathering places and bathrooms feel increasingly like personal spas, our most functional, practical rooms are trending towards greater sophistication. No wonder the waterfall has caught on! In a cookspace, a waterfall countertop can be a stunning focal point, linking floor design with cabinetry in one dynamic sweep and elevating an ordinary island to the level of fancy furniture. Though it would have no place in a traditional home, a waterfall countertop offers the strong, clean lines key to a contemporary kitchen. In the bath, a smoothly flowing expanse of stone on the sides of a vanity can seamlessly connect to walls or flooring. And since natural stone is waterproof and moisture-proof, it’s a perfect choice for a steamy bathroom.

Materials That Make a Statement

While a waterfall countertop might be called upon to camouflage a set of barstools or hide an appliance, its main purpose is appearance, and so it’s usually crafted from beautiful, quality materials. Marble, granite, quartz, and travertine are all favorites for waterfall countertops. Concrete and wood, however, have entered the waterfall market, and unlike stone, countertops made of these materials are DIY-friendly (see below for details).

Comparing the Costs

Stone slabs range from $75 to $120 per square foot for marble, granite, or quartz, and installation can add another $60 to $100 per square foot. What’s more, waterfall countertops also involve an additional fabricating charge. To create the continuous visual flow from the horizontal top to the vertical drop, the fabricator uses a computer numerical control laser cutter (CNC) to precisely miter the edges so they fit together with virtually no visible seam. This process can add anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000 to the total price.

If you install a traditional (top-only) stone countertop on a 3-ft. by 5-ft. island, at a stone cost of $75 per sq. ft., materials would cost $1,125. With an additional $60 per sq. ft. for installation, the countertop would set you back another $900, putting your total cost at just over $2,000.

For a waterfall countertop, plan on an additional stone charge of $1,350 for both sides (each one would be 3 ft. by 3 ft.), bringing the cost of stone alone to $2,475. Because you’re adding an additional 18 sq. ft. for the sides, the cost for installation would increase by $1,080 at least—and, since the fabricator must miter two waterfall edges, you could easily pay an additional $1,200 for fabricating the seams. The final price tag? Ballpark $5,655.

There’s no rule dictating that a waterfall countertop must be fashioned of stone, by a pro. Creative DIYers can build dramatic versions from concrete, wood, and other countertop materials. Concrete, formed and poured in place with a wet-set concrete mix, would run about $250 in material costs for a 3-ft. by 5-ft. island. Woodworkers can source a butcher-block countertop for the same size island for between $150 to $300, depending on the type of wood. And of course, by doing the work yourself, you’d save a lot more.

Finding a Fabricator

If you opt for stone, you must hire a fabricator experienced with the complexity of cutting the precision edges where the sides and the top of a waterfall meet. When considering potential fabricators, find out:

• How long they’ve been in the business;
• What kind of stone-cutting technology do they use (it should be state-of-the-art CNC);
• If they are affiliated with reputed stone industry associations, such as the Marble Institute of America;
• If they are insured.

As with any home improvement project, you should get at least three bids from stone fabricators. In addition to reviewing a gallery of photos from previous jobs, ask for references from one or two of their recent customers and contact them to gauge their satisfaction. A reputable fabricator will use the same stone of the same thickness for all sides of the waterfall. Also, most reputable stone fabricators will send a rep out to take the measurements of your space. Taking your own measurements is risky because if they’re even slightly off, you could end up paying for the mistake. It’s better to do a little footwork at the beginning to ensure that you get the waterfall countertop of your dreams.