Light Up Your Summer Nights

5 Tips and Ideas For Outdoor Lighting

1. It doesn’t have to be fancy

Hang inexpensive pendant lights — or make your own, like HGTV’s designer Jamie Durie did here out of candle holders and basic pendant lights on a cord.

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(photo from HGTV.com)

2. Light the way

Nothing’s more romantic than softly lit pathways winding their way through the night, whether you tuck lights above in the branches or nestle them low to the ground.

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3. Mix it up

Different areas call for different light — although you’ll need plenty of strong task lighting around your grill area, dimmable lighting, or even a chandelier with real candles, will provide light and ambience for your dining area.

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4. One if by land, two if by sea

Lanterns are lovely to look at and quite practical. Enclosed in glass or metal, their light is protected from wind and rain. They can be hung, placed on tables, or on the ground near pathways and steps.

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5. Use your holiday lights all year round

Holiday string lights (make sure they are rated safe for both indoor and outdoor use) are perfect for your summer backyard — they can be strung across the top of your patio, around trees, along fences — the possibilities are endless.

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For more outdoor lighting design ideas and installation tips, visit these resources:

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Pinterest for Homeowners

Whether you’re looking for inspiration, innovation, or procrastination — you’ll find it on Pinterest.

1. home & furniture

Nearly three million users follow this board full of design ideas and products for the home.

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2. Storage Solutions

“So many things, so little space. Imagine the perfect storage solutions for every room in the house and even outside in the garden.”

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3. Small things that work very well

“This is about utility and function, the small workhorses that smooth out the bumps of daily life.”

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4. closet love

From fantasy two-story closets to simple ways to dress up an ordinary closet, this board has a closet-ful of ideas to offer.

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5. Creative Storage

From the bathroom to the kitchen, books to art supplies, baskets to armoires, this board has storage on the brain.

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6. home goods

One of the most popular home décor boards, Jonathan Lo pins photos of Tom Ford’s London house, gorgeous furniture, color trends, and nifty products.

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7. Outdoor Yard Inspirations

Ideas for outdoor spaces and style from Japanese serenity to English cottage romance and more.

8. Garages

Storage ideas, nifty gadgets and handy projects to make the most of your garage space.

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9. Home Remodeling

Tips, resources, videos and design advice to “make the most difference” in your home.

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10. cleaning tips + tricks

Gathering cleaning tips — like a no-scrub cleaning method for your microwave — cleaning tips sites and resources and must-have cleaning products, this board helps you keep your home spic and span.

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This Summer, GYOV — Grill Your Own Veggies

3 Reasons It’s Easier Than You Think to Grow Your Own Produce

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1. You don’t need as much space as you think

Square foot gardening is an alternative to traditional “row gardening” that offers more produce from less space, time and effort. A gardening method tailor-made for beginners, it is also great for experienced gardeners.

  • An area just four feet by four feet can hold about 130 plants and yield enough produce to feed one person all summer long.
  • Square foot gardens use about 20 percent of the space and 10 percent of the water to produce the same amount of vegetables as traditional gardens.
  • Spend less money on tools, supplies and seeds — the only tool you’ll need is a hand trowel and rather than sprinkling seeds widely, you plant them according to precise formulas.
  • To learn more about square foot gardening, check out Building a square foot garden on Journey To Forever, Square Foot Gardening, the non-profit organization and 9 Reasons You Should Try Square Foot Gardening on HouseLogic.

 

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2. You don’t even need a yard – you can garden in containers

Perfect for beginners, container gardening is one of the easiest ways to grow your own vegetables. If you don’t have space in your yard (or you don’t have a yard), you’ve never grown vegetables before, or you’re put off by weeding and watering, container gardening might be just your ticket.

 

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3. You can be better at it than you think

With the nearly infinite resources available at your local home store and online, it’s easier than ever to get your garden right.

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When Form Meets Function Meets Frugality

Ceiling fans are one of the unsung heroes of home décor — and here’s why:

1. Fans are…  energy efficient

Consider this: ceiling fans use a fraction of the energy as air conditioning and can reduce the temperature in a room by up to eight degrees. Ceiling fans can now qualify for an Energy Star rating — Energy Star fan/light fixtures are more than 50 percent more efficient than other fan/light units.

2. Fans are.. simple

Ceiling fans are easier and less expensive to install and maintain — a good handyman should be able to handle anything that comes up.

3. Fans are… not just for summer

Most ceiling fans available these days offer forward and reverse direction for the blade rotation. In the cold weather, reversing the direction of the blades will help move heated air that has risen to the ceiling out to the edges of the room and down the walls, maximizing your heat and helping to reduce heating costs. 

4. Fans are… good for outdoors too

Installing ceiling fans in outdoor patios, porches and decks can make a huge difference in the comfort of your outdoor space. Creating a constant breeze and air flow, fans can combat not only the heat, but also bugs.

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Small DIY Projects With a Big Impact

3 Ways to Increase Your Home’s Value Up To $7,000

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HomeGain released its annual home improvement and home staging survey for 2012 last week — questioning 500 real estate agents across the country regarding the top 10 DIY home improvements under $5,000 that home owners should make to increase the value on their home, weighing both cost and ROI. (For the full list from HomeGain, click here.)

Fundamentally, the practical value of your home, or anything for that matter, is what a buyer is willing to pay for it. So the more appealing your home is to buyers, the more valuable it will be — and the trick to that is presenting a home buyers can imagine themselves living in. And the more of an ideal, fantasy-worthy home you can create, the more buyers will salivate to move right in.

Which makes it hardly a surprise that the number one project on the list is one that will most likely cost more time than money — and for many, require ruthless determination.

“Less is more.”
~Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (famous architect)

#1 — Clean and de-clutter

For the tenth year in a row, cleaning and de-cluttering your home ranks as the number one recommendation by agents to increase the value of your home. Back to that “ideal fantasy home” you are creating — don’t most people dream of living an organized, clutter-free life? Walking into a home that feels that way instantly creates a “boy, I wish my home looked like this” feeling.

According to the survey, the average cost of de-cluttering a home is $402 and the average value benefit is $2,024 — giving a 403% ROI.

#2 — Lighten and brighten

You can’t appreciate — or covet — what you can’t see. Not only do plentiful light and bright windows (cleaned and unblocked) shed light on your home, light rooms are inviting and friendly. While mood lighting has its place and time, when you want to show your home to its best advantage, light up the joint. When museums mount an exhibition, the first thing planned is the lighting. Place table or floor lamps in dark corners, make sure every bulb is working, and think about putting light in unexpected places — like closets and counter tops.

According to the survey, the average cost of lighting and brightening a home is $424, with an average value benefit of $1,690 — giving a 299% ROI.

“The devil is in the details.”
~Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (again)

#3 — Repair electrical & plumbing

Think about your ideal home — wouldn’t it be one where everything just… works? It probably wouldn’t be one where the hall light doesn’t turn on when you flip the switch, or where the kitchen faucet drips incessantly. While everyone has lived with a blown bulb for days before changing it, nobody goes out of their way to do so.

According to the survey, the average cost of electrical and plumbing repairs for a home is $808 with an average value benefit of $3,175 — giving a 293% ROI.

One chance to make a first impression

Ultimately, you want your home to feel perfect to buyers. When they walk in, you want them to feel that your home is not only a home they could live in, but a home they want to live in — a home where faucets don’t leak, closets are organized, lights always come on, keys are always where you put them, toilets don’t run — a home where life runs smoothly.

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What’s Old Can Be New

From the mundane to the unique, the uses for salvage material in your home are endless. Builders, contractors and remodelers are realizing they’re better off disposing of left-over and replaced materials and items in salvage yards rather than in landfills and garbage dumps — which means there is a veritable cornucopia of selection available for you to use in your home.

Basic Materials

Left-over supplies are the most common thing you’ll find in a salvage yard — lumber, light fixtures, floorboards, hardware, plumbing fixtures and so on. Read up or bring an expert with you, so you know what you’re getting — often times the supplies are surplus and in nearly perfect shape, you’ll still want to inspect everything before you buy it.

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Replacements

Salvage yards are a great place to find doors, cabinets, sinks — ready made and often good-as-new. The key to getting the most out of shopping for salvage is to remain flexible in your vision of what will work in your home, without abandoning your design guidelines altogether. Figure out what is non-negotiable for your requirements — you want a single control faucet sink in the kitchen, you can only fit a pedestal sink in the powder room — and what you can play with décor-wise.

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Creative Design

One of the best things to come out of salvage yard shopping are new and eye-catching uses for old things. Whether old column headers for table legs, flower pots as pendant lights, or even the old but never tired tire-as-swing — salvage yards are full of things that you can use to make your home your own — and save money and help the planet at the same time.

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For more ideas on how to use salvage materials in your home, check out these resources:

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How Does Your Garden Grow?

Why and How To Test the Soil In Your Yard

 

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What does your soil say?

Knowing your soil is, according to most garden and lawn experts, essential to getting the most from your landscape efforts. Soil tests can tell you your soil’s nutrient composition, its pH, its phosphorous level, organic content, and its composition.

  • Nutrient composition is to plants what RDA levels of vitamins and minerals are to humans — if tests show your soil lacking in certain nutrients, it’s easy to compensate with a fertilizer rich in those areas.
  • Soil pH levels tell you how acidic your soil is — a pH level of between 6.5 and 7.0 is generally fine for most types of plants. If you’re planning on a more extensive garden, it’s worth investigating the best soil levels for the plants you intend to grow — rosemary, for instance, thrives in soil with a pH level between 5.0 and 6.0.
  • Organic content in your soil helps the soil absorb and store water as well as raises the nutrient levels available in the soil

How do you test your soil?

There are many DIY kits for testing your soil’s pH, nutrient and phosphorous levels. The most reliable way to test your soil, however, is to contact your county extension agent — you can find your nearest extension office on the USDA’s site here.

To get a sense of your soil’s type and composition, there are a few tests you can do yourself with materials found in your kitchen.

  • The Squeeze Test for soil type: take a moistened handful of your soil (from the area and depth you will be planting in/to) and squeeze — coarse soil will break with slight pressure, medium texture soil will stay together and change shape easily, fine textured soil resists breaking apart.
  • The Jar Test for soil composition: scoop up one to two cups of soil and place it in a large jar. Fill the jar half-way with water and shake. After a few hours, check the jar — the sand will settle at the bottom, the silt in the middle and the clay at the top. Measure the total height of all three layers and the height of each layer to determine the percentage of sand, silt and clay.

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(image from Rainbird.com)

Why test your soil?

 “Amending” your soil with feritlizer, lime, compost and/or other additives will maximize the chances that you’ll have the lawn and garden you want, and minimize the amount of frustration you’ll experience tending your yard.

For more on your soil content, check out these sites:

  1. Estimating Soil Texture: Sandy, Loamy or Clayey (Colorado State University Extension)
  2. Four Easy Do-It-Yourself Soil Tests (About.com Organic Gardening)
  3. Preparing Garden Soil (TLC)
  4. Improving Garden Soils with Organic Matter (Oregon State University Extension)
  5. Understanding your Soil (Rainbird)
  6. Adventures in Soil Testing: Do DIY Kits Match Pro Results? (HouseLogic)
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