Design Online

4 of the Best Home Inspiration, Design and Resource Sites

1. Houzz

Part social network, part online bulletin board, part design know-how and how-to, Houzz comes as both a website and an app (iPhone and iPad). People and designers hold ongoing discussions on the site about rooms, design ideas and how-to’s, resources and prices. A new feature has added green tags to photos — clicking on a tag will bring up details like price and where you can buy it.

2. Apartment Therapy

One of the most popular design sites around, Apartment Therapy is chockfull of photos, tips, question & answers geared toward “helping people make their homes more beautiful, organized and healthy by connecting them to a wealth of resources, ideas and community online.”

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3. Remodelista

Come to this site for ideas on and guides on accessories, renovations, make-overs, and shopping tips. With a strong emphasis on design, this site is a great combination of inspirational imagery and practical advice to help you make the most of your home.

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4. Design*Sponge

A blog on design that was launched in 2004 by a Brooklyn-based design writer, Design*Sponge now sports a team of writers and editors covering categories including “Before + After”  and “DIY” — ideas,  images and instruction on everything from renovated bathrooms to made-over china cabinets, and which you can search by difficulty, cost, or technique; “Spaces” — sneak peeks into and commentary on other people’s homes, searchable by size, state, even owned or rented; “Products” — showcasing new, cool, useful or just beautiful goods and gadgets; and more.

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Do You Need One of These For Your Home?

4  Eye-catching Products From This Year’s Housewares Show

1. Clean Cubes won this year’s Innovation Award

Clean Cubes are a combination paper and plastic trash bag — providing a disposable (and recyclable) trash bag that you can stand up anywhere.

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2. Hoover Twin Tank Steam Mop cleans little and big messes

Hoover Steam Mop has one tank for water and another tank for Hoover’s biodegradable, non-toxic cleaning solution — you can use just water for light cleaning and surface dusting, or choose to add the solution for tougher dirt and messes.

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3. Bambooee Reusable Paper Towels save money and trees

Yes — reusable paper towels. Another winner of the Innovation Award, these bamboo towels from Bambooee come in rolls of 20 perforated sheets, Instead of throwing it in the trash can when you’ve used one, you throw it in the washing machine. According to Bambooee, one roll of these sheets can replace about 60 rolls of traditional paper towels. That’s a lot of trees.

4. RoboHandle gives you more reach

Whether you’re sweeping, dusting or raking — the RoboHandle makes it easier to get to hard-to-reach places like ceilings and underneath your bed. In fact, it won the Gold Medal last year at INPEX convention for Cleaning Product & Equipment.


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5 Ways To Kill More Weeds For Less Money


Ordinary, everyday white vinegar kills most plants. This includes weeds and “desirables,” so make sure to protect the plants you want to keep. Pour the vinegar into a spray bottle and apply liberally to your targets. For more accuracy try this old but reliable trick —slice the bottom off a large plastic soda bottle and place it over the weed then spray the vinegar directly into the the mouth of the bottle.

2. Boiling water

Pour boiling water right onto your troublesome weeds and they’ll melt away — a nice trick to remember for decks and patios, which may be more sensitive to other substances. By the time the water spreads to the edges and to your grass and plants you want to keep, it should have time to cool down enough to be harmless.

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3. Corn gluten meal

Best spread before weeds germinate, corn gluten meal can help prevent crabgrass, grassburs and other annual weeds. Gardeners often spread it liberally around the base of root crops and bulb plants such as onions — as the corn gluten meal not only prevents weeds, but acts as a feed fertilizer for the young plants.

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4. Vodka

Best for weeds that thrive in the sunlight, an ounce of vodka poured into 16 ounces of water will dry out plants and make them shrivel and die.

5. Newspaper

For areas where you want nothing growing, newspaper — laid down in layers 10 sheets thick, dampened and covered generously with mulch — will smother anything that’s currently growing as well as prevent anything new from sprouting up.

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Bonus tip

A few drops of liquid dish soap added to your spray bottle of vinegar or vodka will break down the oils and waxes on plant surfaces —helping the solution stick to the plants and making them more vulnerable.

For more natural and homemade weed control ideas, check out these resources:

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It’s Fix a Leak Week!

March 12-18, 2012 is the 4th Annual Fix a Leak Week

Did you know that the average home leaks enough water every year to fill a swimming pool? That’s a lot of water. Which is why WaterSense, a partnership program from the EPA, created the annual “Fix a Leak Week” — to encourage and educate consumers about leaks and how to eradicate them.

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From the “Wanted: ‘Bad’ Flapper” campaign in New Mexico to the “Leak Detective Training” program at Piedmont Elementary School in Charleston, West Virginia, cities, counties and states are demonstrating their support of the annual leak awareness campaign.


Check out these water saving pledges (and ideas):

·         “I’m for Water” on the WaterSense site

·        Take the Pledge on


Saving water can save you money on your water bills — and it’s good for the environment. Hard to beat that.

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1. Your water meter is your friend

Make sure no water is being used in your home for two hours — check the water meter reading at the beginning of those two hours and again at the end — if there has been a change, chances are you have a leak.

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2. Food coloring isn’t just for Easter eggs

To determine if your toilet tank is leaking, drop a bit of food coloring in the tank — if the water in the bowl shows up colored in 15 minutes or less, you have a leak. To prevent staining your toilet, make sure to flush the toilet thoroughly after 15 minutes, leak or no.

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3. An oldie but a goodie — turn off the water while you brush your teeth

Turning the water off while you’re brushing your teeth can save 2 to 4 gallons of water per brushing (according to the U.S. Geological Survey) — for the average person who brushes their teeth twice a day, that works out to somewhere between 1,500 and 3,000 gallons of water a year. Assuming it requires only about a gallon of water to wet and rinse your toothbrush, you would save enough water to brush your teeth for another 2 to 4 years.

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4. Save water and make clean-up easier at the same time

When you’re cleaning baked-on, cooked-on, burnt-on pots and pans — let them soak for a while and then clean them, rather than running water on them and scraping them. (Bonus tip: for pans that are too big for your sink, or pots that are particularly stubborn — fill with water and a little dish soap and place in a warm oven or on the stove over very low heat for 30 minutes to an hour — the warm water and soap will soften the residue and make the pan easy to clean.)

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Frost King Foam Pipe Insulation (available at

5. Insulate your pipes

Installing pre-slit foam pipe insulation around your water pipes will get you hot water faster — it will help you waste less water waiting for it to heat up.


For more tips on cutting your water bill and saving water, check out these sites:

·        25 ways to conserve water in the home and yard (

·        100 Ways to Conserve (

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Big Ideas For Small Yards



Remember these 3 things to make the most of your outdoor space

1. Proportion

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San Francisco Dining Terrace modern patio by
 Christopher Yates Landscape Architecture (via Houzz)


Small spaces  — inside or out — require even greater attention to proportion and scale.

·      Choose furniture, plants and accents that suit the size of the space — too many small items can make a small space feel cluttered, over use of oversized elements can make a small space feel cramped

·      Balance large, medium and small elements in a constrained space to give the eye places to rest — a large tree in the corner of a small yard, for instance, or the large expanse of concrete set against the wood decking in the photo above

·      Choose one or two large pieces and one or two collections or grouping of small items (like the closely spaced grid of plantings above) to break up what could otherwise be a monotonous arrangement of same-sized components

2. Hardscape

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Mediterranean Landscape by
AMS Landscape Design Studios, Inc. (via Houzz)


Hardscaping — those outdoor elements that are not plants — is even more important in small spaces.

·      Paths provide a sense of space simply by suggesting a start and finish — an entrance and an exit

·      Pavers and stones offer opportunities to create interest in small spaces — while a sweeping expanse of uninterrupted lawn can look luxurious, a small area of grass often looks like an untended green postage stamp

·      Take advantage of small spaces  combinations and patterns of stones and variegated greenery look lush and inviting in a constrained space — the same arrangement would look busy and overwhelming in large areas

3. Contrast

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Designer Showcase Traditional Landscape by
Frank & Grossman Landscape Contractors, Inc. (via Houzz)


Contrast — heights, colors, textures, materials — can transform a small space from “ho-hum” to “oh my!”

1.    Choose a select combination of plants — greenery, trees and flowers — to create interest and feature moments in your space

2.    Limit the variety of any element — stones, plants, accents, furniture — in small spaces to create appealing contrast rather than appalling clutter

3.    Maximize levels in a small space — the square footage may be small, but your vertical options are sky-high — placing eye-catching low elements against attractive tall or large elements will highlight both, more than either on their own


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Light Your Home Like a Pro

3 lighting tricks that will make your home look like a million dollars

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1. Light from floor to ceiling

The number one trick up designers sleeves is lighting a room on multiple levels. Recessed lighting, pendant lighting, lamps on tables, wall light flowing up from the floor or down from the ceiling — the more levels of light you place in a room, the more luxurious it will feel. Layers and levels of lighting make a room look bigger, more interesting and richer.

  • Try running a long light underneath a pretty buffet or dresser on legs — place it near the back to create a glow under the piece and the surrounding wall.
  • For pretty draperies, place a cool temperature uplight just in front and light up the folds and pattern.
  • If you’re lucky enough to have beefy crown molding or soffits on your ceiling, try tube lighting tucked against the back.
  • Sconces can wash a wall with light to create a soft atmosphere

For more ideas about multi-level lighting check out Lighting and Uplighting on

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2. Light to feature and display

Light is one of the best ways to show off your home’s features — not to mention your own prize possessions.

  • Aim a ceiling mounted pin light at favorite photos or paintings
  • Pin lights can also be used to showcase sculpture and works of art on shelving and table tops
  • Uplighting plants is an easy way to add drama and interesting light to any room
  • Highlight architectural features in your home — illuminate a niche by washing light up from the floor or guide visitors to a window seat with subtle strip lighting running under the edge of the seat
  • In the kitchen, under-cabinet lighting is not only functional, it can add to the visual appeal of the room

For more ideas on lighting your home, check out Home Depot’s tips to Design with Light.

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3. Lighting as art

In and of itself, lighting can be beautiful and interesting.

  • Crystal chandeliers and modern pendant lamps capture and refract light a thousand times over
  • Lamps can be works of art in and of themselves — look for pretty and distinctive lighting fixtures and lamps that make their own statement.

Kartell Cindy Table Lamp (available from


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Arco Floor Lamp from DWR or try the similar Meryl floor lamp from Crate and Barrel

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Dim the Lights, Your Home is About to Glow

How to transform your home (and save money!) with the power of light

Spanish Inquisition or Romantic Dinner for Two?

One of the quickest ways to set a mood is with lighting. Notice how you never walk into a nice restaurant for dinner under the glare of bright light? Or how nice it is to sit in your living room at night during the holidays with just the holiday lights or a fire? Adjustable lighting gives you easy control over the feel and mood of the rooms in your home.

Dim the Lights

The number one easiest way to control your lights is to replace standard on/off switches with dimmers — dimmers come in all varieties, from your basic $5 round push and turn version to full fledged smart controls with memory settings, remote controls, vacancy sensors and scene controls (like the one below from Leviton, available at The Home Depot).

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Save Energy

As a bonus, using dimmer controls on your lights can also reduce your electricity bill. The lower the light, the less energy it requires. Lutron, a leading manufacturer of lighting controls, has an online Energy Calculator on its site — enter bulb type, quantity, wattage  — to see how much electricity, money and replacement costs you save with different dimmer settings and use.

 dimmer rocker slide lutron


Energy efficient light bulbs are also now available in dimmable versions — there are dimmable CFL bulbs and LED bulbs. You can pick up a two-pack of 65W equivalent dimmable CFL bulbs at The Home Depot for about $15.

Don’t Light Empty Rooms

Dimmers are available with occupancy sensors (like the Lutron dimmer below, available for about $40 from The Home Depot)— turning lights off automatically when the room is empty. Some occupancy dimmers can also be set to turn on automatically when someone enters the room, while others offer a variety of control combinations — e.g., come on automatically when someone enters while requiring a manual turn off.

dimmer lutron occupancy sensor



Next week: Choosing and Placing Lights to Make the Most of Your Rooms

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