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Finding Your Perfect Patio Furniture

04/07/2011

Your backyard is the hub of social and family life during the summer months. Perfecting your own personal oasis takes time, but finding the ideal backyard basics will help get the job done!  First, let’s tackle how to pick out the perfect patio furniture.

Spend a few days evaluating your backyard.  Take measurements, decide what furniture and accessories you want to include and, determine your budget.

When it comes to patio furniture, consumers have an assortment of tables, chairs, benches, lounge chairs, ottomans, swings, side tables, chaise lounges and even sofas to create the perfect backyard. The biggest decision you’ll have to make is the type of material your patio furniture is made from.

Aluminum

Aluminum’s best quality is its resistance to rust.  It also weathers the sun very well and requires little in the way of maintenance. Aluminum is relatively lightweight compared to other common materials, so rearranging your layout or gathering for winter storage is a simple task.

Wood

Wood furniture is available in several different materials. Cedar and teak are two of the most popular.

Cedar is strong, lightweight and dimensionally stable, meaning it retains its shape despite changes in temperature and humidity. It also dries out fast

Teak Seating from Summer Classics

er than some other woods, making it less susceptible to moisture rot and bacterial and fungal development. Cedar also gives off a distinctive scent, which is pleasant to people but a deterrent to wood pests, moths and other insects.

Teak does not absorb heat, making it more comfortable to sit in on hot August days.  Additionally, teak is not susceptible to rot or mildew, and it will not warp from exposure to moisture, even if it is left untreated.  The only common drawback of teak is its tendency to change color over the years; many people, however, admire that trait as part of the wood’s unique appeal.

All Weather Wicker

Wicker furniture is very lightweight and surprisingly sturdy. Unlike traditional wicker, all-weather wicker is resistant to harsh elements, so bringing wicker furniture indoors overnight or when it rains is unnecessary.  Investing in good quality cushions can make a décor statement, and wicker is easily painted to match any color scheme.

Wrought iron

Wrought iron furniture is quite heavy and durable enough to be left out over the course of an entire summer.  If it is cared for properly, it can last for decades, which helps offset the expense.  Wrought iron furniture is typically available in a wide variety of designs, from the ornate and complex to more modern, minimalist motifs.

If you’re choosing wrought iron pieces, look at them as a long-term investment; it is best to select a design that you can enjoy for years to come. The thicker the material, the more durable the furniture will likely be.

What type of patio furniture do you have, and what are you investing in this summer?  Let us know in the comments below!

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Perfect Your Patio in Time for Spring

03/31/2011

Spring has sprung!  Now it’s time to wash away the winter woes and start thinking about warmer months.  Before outdoor chores can pile up, complete your checklist and get ready to get down and dirty over the next few weeks!

Here’s a list of the core 12 spring to-dos for getting your outdoor living space ready for the great weather to come.

  1. Power wash the patio surface, making sure to get all of the winter dirt and grime off of your surfaces.
  2. Pull out outdoor rugs.  A good cleaning will make it shine!
  3. Uncover your patio furniture or pull it out of storage.
  4. Scrub patio furniture and patio furniture cushions.  No matter how you store them, they usually need freshened up or replaced.  I suggest looking into environmentally-friendly cleaner.  It’s safe for your furniture and cushions, and, more importantly, your guests and children.
  5. Check all of your landscaping lights for any needed repairs or bulb changes.
  6. Pull out and scrub stored flowerpots with warm water.  Make sure you aren’t using any soap or chemicals that will contaminate the potting soils.
  7. Give the grill a good spring-cleaning and tune up, and make sure the gas tank is full.
  8. Trim any shrubs or stray branches that may have grown into patio or path areas.
  9. Fresh mulch in your flowerbeds and landscaped areas dress up the space and give plants and shrubs their spring protection against fluctuating temperatures and last minute spring storms.
  10. Inspect flowerbeds or landscaped areas for stray garbage or other foreign objects that winter storms may have washed and blown into your garden.
  11. Treat lawn and garden for late winter weeds and pre-emergent to keep weeds manageable throughout the spring.
  12. Freshen up your outdoor living space with accessories such as lanterns, lights, pillows, flower pots, etc.

You may have more or less steps depending on your outdoor space, but these 12 steps are getting my backyard in great shape!  How do you spruce up your space for the coming months?  Let me know in the comments below!

 

Get Your Backyard In Gear for Spring

03/24/2011

It’s been a while since we’ve had to do backyard maintenance. The task of backyard prep can be daunting, so we created a list of simple steps to help you prioritize projects and get your outdoor living space warm weather ready!

Jot down specific issue areas
• Garden, gutters, tool shed, garage door

Be as specific as possible about what needs to be improved/fixed in those areas

• Garden – prior to planting, the garden needs to be cleaned out because last summer’s plants were left through the fall and winter
• Gutters – the horizontal gutters around the roof are clogged because they didn’t get cleaned out before winter
• Tool shed – the gardening supplies and items in storage are in complete disarray
• Garage door – there’s a slight crack at the bottom of the door because the motor isn’t releasing the entire chain

Look at your list again and determine what the outcomes will be for each item if the issue is not addressed

• Garden – it will delay planting for the spring and summer
• Gutters – clogging will cause problems with the roof creating leaks becoming a much larger and costly issue
• Tool shed – it will be difficult to get to any items/know where they are when they are needed
• Garage door – warm air will seep into the house, while AC will seep out, creating a higher electric bill

Prioritize this checklist. Writing out the issues will help you determine which projects are immediate and those that can be put lower on the list.

• Gutters – has highest potential to become a serious and costly issue
• Garage door – second highest project that could turn into a costly problem
• Tool shed – it will be easier to clean the garden if I know where all my tools are
• Garden – this is important, but I can clean out the garden and plant tools at the same time

These simple steps make take a little more time than simply throwing a list together, but follow these steps and you’re guaranteed to get jobs done quicker. Check back next week to see how to get your patio summer ready!

4 Steps to Hosting a Great Potluck Party

03/10/2011

The term “potluck ” has an old-fashioned, down-home connotation to it. Potluck parties, however, are an ideal for the busy family, running from school to office to practice. Potlucks are less formal than a party, but have a real festive feel about them. They’re a great way to get the kids together, but allow parents a little “grown up time.”

Pick a Theme

Although the term potluck suggests a random assortment of dishes, the wise host/hostess will do a little pre-organizing. Choosing a theme is as simple as a “Pasta Get Together” or “Only Finger Foods.” This adds a little structure to your dinner and make sure everyone enjoys a nutritious and delicious meal.

Finger Foods are not only great for appetizers and deserts, but also main courses!

Assign Dishes to Guests

If you don’t want to risk the chance that all of your guests will bring only desserts, begin by assigning your guests a specific course to bring along. If it’s a small party, ask guests individually what they would like to provide. If it is larger, the “last name A-F bring appetizers” method always works. Either will do, and make sure you’re having a balanced meal.

Don’t Sweat, but Don’t Forget

As host, remember not everyone brings food ready to serve. Make sure to dig out extra serving platters, baskets, and utensils before your guests arrive. Also, assign someone to be responsible for beverages. Drinks are often overlooked and water is always a great go-to, but put a little fun in your potluck and have someone provide the beverages!

Play Your Part

If enough people are coming, providing the place for the party and the dinnerware is enough. Sometimes the host will stock the bar with alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks including juices, water and soft drinks. But this is all up to you based on the size of your guest list.

When picturing a potluck, it is easy to picture ladies in their Sunday bonnets and June Cleaver dresses, teetering in high heels, while carrying a large dish covered in a checkered cloth. Change this perception by calling up family and friends, and hosting small gathering. Having a mid-week get-together is a great way to break up the workweek, and an excuse not to cook dinner.

Do you have suggestions for easy potluck recipes? Leave your suggestions in the comments below!

How to Find the Right Paint Colors

02/17/2011

Let your fabric be your guide

Upholstery, an Oriental rug or a large piece of artwork are among the biggest investments in decorating. Paint, however, is inexpensive in comparison and transforms a room more quickly than anything else, so pluck colors you like from the pattern.

Always take a fabric swatch (from a sofa or draperies) to the paint store, and pull out the different hues in the fabric. The paint color doesn’t have to match the fabric exactly — in fact, the paint will be darker or lighter on the wall depending on the lighting of the room.

Any fabric can suggest at least three options for wall colors, each of which will produce a different feeling in the room. Once you identify the options your fabric offers, decide which one creates the mood you want to evoke — cozy, relaxed, energetic?

Red pulled from the rug and upholstery make this fiery wall the perfect accent.


Love your personal style

Most people buy clothes in colors they like to wear and think they look good in. Decorate your rooms in colors you look good in, and decorate honestly. Guests will appreciate your home because it is you, even if they’d never decorate the same way.
Go vertical, light to dark that is

A simple way to make any space look good without much risk is to use darker color values for the floor, medium color values for the walls and light values for the ceiling.

60-30-10

Divide the colors in a space into components of 60 percent of a dominant color, 30 percent of a secondary color and 10 percent of an accent color. The walls will most likely be the majority, the upholstery would represent the secondary color and accessories (floral arrangement, throw pillows, small figurines, etc.) make up the rest.

 

Embrace and enhance the architecture

If you have a small room in your house, don’t paint it white to make it seem bigger. Instead, cozy up to its architecture with a more complex color scheme. Decorate the room using smaller furniture and accessories to enhance the space, without losing the warm, cozy feel.

Do you have any additional tips and tricks that helped you decide your wall colors? Please share them in the comment section below!

 

 

Three Ways to Spend Valentine’s Day

02/10/2011

No matter your relationship status, Valentine’s Day is a day to celebrate love, family and friends. Here are just a few suggestions of how to spend the day fun-filled and festive.

Gather the Girlfriends

Valentine’s Day should be spent surrounded by loved ones. What better way to cuddle up with cupid than to grab a bottle of wine, a great chick flick and get cozy in some PJ’s with the girls? In honor of the holiday, pop a bottle of Merlot, and stick with the red and pink color theme. While sipping away, watch a couple of classics like, “When Harry Met Sally,” “Pretty Woman” or “Casablanca.” If you’re looking for something more recent, grab, “Love Actually” or “The Notebook.” Any of these films are sure to bring tears to your girlfriends’ eyes.

 

Wine and Dine for Two, please!

Celebrating with a significant other keeps in the tradition of this holiday. Rather than trekking through the cold and fighting the crowds, spend V-Day in the sense of a “stay-cation.” Jazz up your home, modifying lighting with candles and adding sweet aromas to the air.  Make a classic meal for two, like this delicious Shrimp Scampi with Linguine.

Snug as a “Love” Bug

Keep the kids occupied while making crafts the whole family can enjoy. These cute, easy-to-make Paper Love Bugs are great Valentine’s for neighbors, family and teachers. Sit down Sunday night and help the kids make a bug or two, then enjoy Monday by taking the night off and calling in the sitter.

Share your ideas on how to spend the holiday in the comment section below!

 

Five Steps to a Zen Closet

02/03/2011

A few weeks ago we discussed how to make your home a more “zen” place to be (Feng Shui Your Living Room). Now, give your wardrobe the attention it deserves by following these five tips to clear closet clutter.

Clean Up & Clear Out

The golden rule of closet organizing: If you haven’t worn it in a year, toss it. Get rid of items you don’t need and especially things you shouldn’t be wearing anyway (read: bad trends). Try things on – if it doesn’t fit you well, either have it tailored or get rid of it.

Assess the Layout

Measure the space you have, including the backs of doors, floor space and interior walls. Draw a blueprint of your closet with the measurements and keep it in hand when you shop for shelves, boxes, bins and other space-savers.

Utilize All Space

Use every square inch of your closet. Hang shoe racks on the back of your closet door. Classic belt hangers with multiple hooks are also a good solution for hanging camisoles, bras, or scarves, along with belts.

Crack the Code

Save time in the morning by coordinating your wardrobe. Sort by color, and hang like-types of clothing together (i.e. skirts, pants, blouses, etc.). Use high and low shelves for items that are out-of-season. This gets them out of the way, but ready for when the time is right.

A Keen Eye

Keep items you use frequently at eye level or below and items you rarely use higher up. Labeled boxes are good for storing things like bathing suits or turtlenecks because you can rotate them higher or lower in your closet depending on the season.

An example of a well-edited selection of clothing and accessories, neatly organized using a mixture of shelves, hangers, and boxes.

 

 

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