Monthly Archives: May 2011

We’re gonna need better luggage.

Hope you had a great holiday weekend! Don’t you find the first workday after a holiday weekend to be one of the hardest mornings to get out of bed? There’s a part of you that still wishes you had “just one more day…”  I hear ya!

Today’s post is a little bit of real estate gawking and a little bit of vacation daydreaming. We all like to peek into other peoples homes and see how they live. Why not see how other people vacation, too?

Listed below are my current favorite (and very different) fantasy vacation places to be. If only I had the trust fund needed to visit them all. The photos are linked for you so you can jump right to the full catalog listings of amazing places to take a fantasy vacation of your very own.

Ooh La La

Did you know France hosts more tourists annually than any other country in the world? Oh, France, you had me at “croissant”, but this little villa rental would be delightful, too!

This rental sleeps 12? Well, I’m sure I can find a few friends to share toasts with us during cocktail hour. Anyone know where we Cannes see a movie later?

Then, we can all take a nice dip in the pool before breakfast…

Old World Luxury

Need a little pampering on your vacation? Maybe you want a little more hotel and lot less cooking your own meals. Czech out the beautiful city of Prague for some world-class old-world charm.

This suite would be perfect for recovering from a hard day of shopping and site-seeing. Did I mention you can book full line of spa service to come to your room?

Doesn’t the bed look inviting? You don’t even have to make it up in the morning. Dinner on the terrace? I’d be delighted!

Chill Out

Want to wake up to some bluer skys? The air up here in Zermatt will have you wishing you never had to leave this cosy chalet.

There’s room for your friends and family to join you, too. How many Swiss cheese fondue recipes are there? Let’s find out!

You can even come back here in the winter, when you need some snow to brighten your holiday season.  This is my idea of a perfect white Christmas!

Warm Your Soul

The old saying is, “No man is an island”, but you can really put that theory to the test. You can rent this island – the whole thing – for your next vacation. Why not practice selling sea shells on the sea shore of the Seychelles?

No need to reserve and mark your beach towel space on this beach. It’s all yours. And so is the view and the relaxing ambience…

Time for bed? Let those cool seas breezes help you drift away. Nighty night!

Now it’s your turn:

Need some more browsing in your work day? I love to pretend shop for house floor plans. You can read all about that in this post (with fun links) right here.

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Netflix Universe

There’s nothing like the start of summer and enjoying being outdoors to help us realize how much stuff we have lying around our homes that we’re not using. It’s that time of year when you start to see these pop up in your neighborhood:

Image courtesy of garage-floor.org

How do we accumulate all this stuff? Does everyone have this problem? I think may people do. In fact, I think so many people do that a lot of other people have come to see the market potential in helping them.

Here’s the answer:

Wait. I’m not suggesting you ignore the problem and drown yourself in past seasons of “Damages”. (Although, who can turn away from that show?!) No.

I mean that the concept of Netflix, movies rented by mail, is available for many other things in our lives. You know how that little red envelope makes you smile when you see in you mail? Part of the reason you smile is because you know you are saving money. (I know. We do it, too!)

So if you could find places that took the Netflix idea and used it for other things, you could save money and clutter. Sound good?

Listed below are 5 sources you can use right now. All the pictures are linked directly to the sites.

NETFLIX

Too obvious? How much do you pay in cable bills every month? Consider their plans and Roku player streaming options as a way to save money over the summer? Plans start at just $8 a month. If you’re new to Netflix, check into their current free trials.

TOYGAROO

This site delivers new toys to your door every month. They have over 500 toys to choose from and they arrive at your house having been throughly sanitized to meet EPA guidelines. Shipping is always free. Plans begin at only $25 a month and they even offer a free 14 day trial period.

COLLEGE BOOK RENTER

Guess what they do. You remember that ripped off feeling when you went to sell back your books at the end of each term? That scam is going the way of those Ramen noodles you abandoned after graduation. They have millions of new and used books you can rent and they cover the shipping costs to return them. They average 60% savings over college sponsored book stores.

GAMEFLY

This is as close to Netflix as any of these companies gets, but they’ve even improved on the idea. 7,000+ video game titles, free shipping, no late fees and plans start at $16. Plus: There is a “Keep” feature that lets you buy a great rental game that you don’t want to return. There is also a rewards program where gamers can earn discounts on future purchases. Win-win, so to speak.

BAG BORROW OR STEAL

You saw them mentioned in the Sex and the City movie. (The first movie, let’s agree outright to ignore the existence of the second one.) Get your Hollywood Superstar on here with rentals of bags, sunglasses, jewelry and watches. They offer free shipping, basic insurance, loyalty rewards and purchasing options. You even have access to some private sales. Shop like your last name is Kardashian.

So what do you think? Find some better clutter solutions here? Maybe a few wallet friendly treats, too? These are only the companies I know about now. Think what will be available in the next 5 or 10 years. Yaaaaaay Netflix! Here’s to fewer garage sales!

Are you having a garage sale this summer? Do you prefer an individual sale or a multi-neighbor sale? What are you always clearing out in your home? Leave a comment!

How to cheat a hangin’

We’re breaking the rules here today.

I like to be all “professional” most of the time, but sometimes I do like to cheat.

Call me lazy. Call me crafty. Either way, I can hang pictures faster than anyone in the West.


(I say “West” because, really, I live on the Eastern Seaboard, so that’s all I have to compare against…sometimes I feel like I should clarify things…maybe too much…*clear throat*…)

Saddle up, amigos! We’re gonna take this job like an unarmed stagecoach! (Too far? I really have watched a lot of John Ford films…)

The Professional Way

Supplies:

  • Picture frame
  • Measuring tape
  • Pencil
  • Hammer
  • Nail

Technique:

  1. Hold your picture frame up to the wall and find the placement you like best.
  2. Using the pencil, mark the wall with a small dash at the very center of the top of the frame as it is held on the wall. 
  3. Remove the picture frame from the wall.
  4. Using the tape, measure the distance from the top of the picture frame to the top of the frame’s triangle hook / row of pointy teeth / whatever would catch on the nail thing. (If it is a wire, you’ll have to put it up to an inverted “v” to compensate for the frame’s weight when it is on the wall.) 
  5. Now take the measuring tape to the mark on the wall and carefully measure the same distance down that you did on the back of the frame.
  6. Put a dot on that measurement spot. 
  7. Erase the original dash, so you don’t see it on the wall above the frame.
  8. Hammer a nail into the wall on the remaining dot. (You can learn how to swing that hammer properly in this post.) 
  9. Now you can hang your picture.

The Gunslinger Way

Supplies:
  • Picture frame
  • Pencil
  • Hammer
  • Nail

That’s right. No measuring tape. Walk tall.

Technique:

  1. Put the pencil between your teeth and the hammer on the floor at your feet. We’re shooting from the both hips on this and you’ll need your hands free.
  2. Hold your picture frame up to the wall and find the placement you like best, using only the hand that you write with
  3. With your non-writing hand, reach up over the back of frame, still holding the frame against the wall, and slide your middle finger down behind the frame so the tip of your finger is centered against the top of the triangle hook / row of pointy teeth / whatever would catch on the nail thing. (If it’s a wire, you’ll have to pull it up to an inverted “v” account for the frame’s weight when you hang it.) 
  4. Press the top of the frame into your finger against the wall, making an impression of the hook thingy into your finger pad.
  5. Now move fast! Leave the non-writing hand in the same place on the wall and use your other hand to put the frame between your knees.
  6. Take the pencil out of your teeth and place the point right on the top of the still indented mark on your non-writing hand, which should be on the wall. 
  7. Gently slide your finger out from under the pencil point and guide the pencil the few remaining centimeters to the wall and make a dot. 
  8. Drop the pencil, grab the hammer and put a nail clear through that dot. (Learn how to do it like you mean it right here.)
  9. Hang your picture. Time to move on, partner.

Like any true skill, The Gunslinger Way does take some practice. But you can sure feel like Annie Oakley when you get good and fast at it. (And thank you for indulging my sillier side with this post. Much appreciated.) Now if I could just figure out how to spin my hammer around my index finger…

Do you have any DIY cheats you can recommend? Any picture hanging nightmares you’ve lived through? Leave a comment and share your story!

A picture perfect deal

Just a short post today so those of you reading this while goofing off…er…”taking a break”… at work have some browsing time.

Two of my favorite things are at the core of this post:

  1. Enjoying your own photographs in your home
  2. A giant whopper of a sale

Allow me to introduce you to one of my very favorite stores:

Exposures offers amazing photo albums, frames, and photo related gifts. I have bought beautiful items from them for years (as I mentioned in this post) and I am a HUGE fan of their catalog. I mean, I actually squeal when this catalog arrives in the mail. Mr. CARO would verify this for you, but he often prefers to avert his eyes when I am this excited over a catalog. What can I say? He’s a gentleman.

Anyway, as I mentioned, I’m bringing this to your attention today because there is a BIG annual sale going on today. Okay, okay. “How big of a sale?”, you ask. Check this out:

I know!

FYI: I’m not getting any kickbacks or moolah for promoting their site or products. I just like sharing a great deal on items I do use and love. You’re welcome to send me sales you like to explore, too.

All of the pictures in today’s post are courtesy of, and linked directly to, the exposuresonline.com website to make further browsing easy. Here, in random order, are a few of their great deals:

Archive-Friendly Box Storage

They have sturdy, acid boxes for every size of document or photo you could ever want to preserve. And they have them in dozens of colors. I recommend a nice neutral color, because you can move them around the house and they won’t clash with things in another room. (I speak from unfortunate personal experience here.)

I like these colors, but you should browse around to find what you like. They have nice patterned boxes, too.

Elegant Christmas Photo Cards

They have gorgeous, custom-looking Christmas cards with foil lined envelopes that are just waiting for you to pop in picture and address. I know it seems early for Christmas cards, but a bargain is a bargain. The cards all come in packs of 18 and with the sale, some of the cards average out at 44¢ a card.

I like this set because I’m a big fan of snow. I love a White Christmas.

Creative Photo Gifts

Sometimes you want to think outside of the box for a gift and a new way to show off a great photo can be a lovely solution. They have lots of cool options to choose from in several categories.

I can imagine this would be a real hit with grandparents!

Beautiful Photo Albums

Of course, photo albums! Wouldn’t it be nice to get all of your photos in one place and have that place not be the computer? I own lots of albums from this company. You will not be disappointed with their quality or their customer service. (And isn’t that a refreshing find these days?!)

This is great 12×12 inch album for all of those oversized images, like class pictures and big family reunion portraits. For $20, it even comes with a free line of personalization on the front.

Find something you like? Let me know what you like on their site. How do you store photos in your home? Leave a comment!

Wet your whistle: giveaway winner!

It’s time to announce this week’s giveaway winner!  

Today’s winner will receive “The Field Guide to Cocktails” by Rob Chirico. Featuring hundreds of classic cocktails recipes and trivia, this handy little book will be a real help to get summer parties started!

And the winner is: Nancy Z.!

Nancy is game to try new cocktails, but her go-to fave is a sloe gin fizz. Yum!

Congratulations, Nancy!

I’ll be contacting you for your mailing address, so you can break this baby in, pronto!

If you weren’t a winner today, don’t worry. More giveaways are coming soon!

Stay tuned and spread the word!

Mood Board: Hollywood Glam Foyer

This room was designed for a client craving some Hollywood Glamour style. She had already collected two great pieces for her foyer, but was unsure how to pull this popular look together. She needed to add some extra storage, if possible, to compensate for her very small coat closet. Her biggest obstacle had been trying to pick an interesting wall color for her foyer and narrow central hallway…

The wall color was the first decision we made, because it would become the backdrop for all of the colors and finishes intrinsic to the Hollywood Glam look. By choosing neutral colors, the view of the hallway would not be jarring from any other room in the condo. The stripes allow us to give the walls a little dimension with their finishes. The dark color is painted in an eggshell, almost matte, finish. The light color is painted in a high gloss finish, to make it stand away visually from the darker color and reflect a little pearl-like light around the room.

Speaking of light, the client had already found this lively orange lamp and was looking for a great place to put it. By placing it on the glossy black console table, a natural focal wall was created across from the front door. We added the antique-looking silver mirror to give the room a little sparkle and the appearance of more visual space.

The rug was the other great find that the client already had waiting for this project. The popular chevron pattern (you can learn more about it right here) is turned on its side in this rug, making an interesting stripe. The client has given me permission to share her find with you, so here is the link to this fabulously priced rug at Ikea.

Storage was on the clients wish list, specifically to handle off-season scarves, boots, gloves, hats, etc. that didn’t fit in the narrow coat closet. The curvy upholstered bench in a vibrant mod green pattern fits the bill for storage, but also gives her a place to sit down and put on those boots in the winter.

Art was needed to give the foyer and hall some extra color and to make the room personal for the client. By choosing a few modern art prints and having them framed similarly, the client can now add to her collection as she finds great pieces and grow her gallery down the hallway.

Finally, we added two more pieces for practical purposes. The brass chandelier has clean modern lines and acts as a chic supplement to the table lamp’s light. The sleek chrome umbrella stand adds another layer of shine, while making the coat closet a little less crowded.

Modern patterns and old furniture profiles mix together to give this space that collected-over-time feel that feels so personal in any home. By mixing metal finishes, the sparkle of Hollywood Glamour is alive and well in this foyer and hallway.

Unique, affordable, comfortable living.

Casting a look back

I thought it might be fun today to look at some really popular lawn furniture.

Okay, I should have explained that it was really popular in its day, but not so much today. It doesn’t look very comfy. Does it? Maybe it needs more cushioning?

Okay. Still no. So, why was this so popular?

This furniture is made of cast iron. This was brand spankin’ new technology in the 1800’s. It was the lucite furniture of the moment.

"Peekaboo clear nesting tables" by CB2

While the use of iron dates back to the Roman Empire, iron was all the new rage for architecture in the Victorian era. We’ve already talked about one famous building example of its use in this post. Here’s another example that still stands today:

The Eiffel Tower, in Paris, may be the most famous example of an iron structure on the planet. Millions of people still travel to see it every year. However, the Eiffel Tower was not cheap when it was built, in part because of its weighty materials.

This bring us back to the cast iron furniture. Cast iron was so exciting because the process made it so cheap and adaptable to decoration. Molten iron is poured into a mold of any shape, cooled and then the pieces are bolted together.

Image courtesy of all-about-garden-furniture.com

Most of the furniture was originally painted green, to blend in with your garden. This is also why most pieces sport so much foliage detailing. It’s almost is if the designers were trying to say, “This garden is so lovely it has grown a bench for us to enjoy in it!”

As you find models from closer to the 20th century, the detailing styles can become all Gothic and scroll-y (very technical term):

Image courtesy of carters.com.au

If you’ve ever sat on black cast iron furniture during hot summer months, you can also imagine another reason that green and white were very popular color choices. The women of that era would have no idea of what I’m referring to because they all had layers of skirts to protect them from the heat. However, Victorian men, in their white linen summer suits must have inwardly cringed when beckoned to one of those hot seats. We never see that in Merchant Ivory films, do we?

Image courtesy of weheartit.com

It’s also worth noting that the backs of all of these furniture pieces were also dictated by ladies fashion. Remember that polite ladies were always taught to sit upright, and really had no other choice because of all this nonsense going on underneath their pretty dresses:

Image courtesy of tidbitstrinkets.com

There was no way these ladies could kick back with an ice tea and the latest issue of Elle Decor. Poor things. So now you have a good idea of why this furniture declined in popularity as fashion, literally, “loosened-up”.

You can still find cast iron furniture today. The best place for the original stuff is estate sales and auctions. You can also find decent reproductions available.

The "Country Living 3-piece set" from Sears

If you are seriously considering moving cast iron, even just to sit down…bring a friend. Or have a really strong butler, like they did in the 19th century. It is very heavy furniture. I think this is why some many older pieces survive today.

Do you like the cast iron furniture look? What type of lawn furniture do you prefer? What is your favorite way to relax outside?

Psst! Today is the very last day to enter to win our current giveaway. It can certainly help you kick back and relax! You can enter to win it right here!

Junk in your trunk

Got a little weekend project to share with you! It only takes 10 minutes, or less.

So, what’s the project?

Clean out your car.

Specifically, the trunk. Do you really need all of the stuff in there to go anywhere? Really? I know we all throw things in there to deal with later, but “later” has arrived. Wanna know how I can tell? Take a look at this:

Image courtesy of blogspan.org

All that extra junk in your trunk is making your car less efficient and wasting gasoline. An extra 100 lbs of full-car-trunk will increase your gasoline needs by 2%.

What does this mean in real numbers? Suppose you spend only $50 per week on gas. (Lucky you.) Two per cent of that is $52 a year…more of your money into the large pockets of big oil.

I’m only one weekend ahead of you on this project. Here’s my trunk as proof:

It is now freshly vacuumed and holds only the necessities:

  • Recycled bags for grocery shopping…more on those soon
  • A small, cheap cotton area rug…for catching any grocery spills and for impromptu outdoor seating
  • A plastic box containing: a basic first aid kit & car-emergency tools

Who among us has never had days where they felt like they practically lived in their car? Why not make it a nice and thrifty place to live on those days, just like our homes? A cleaner car is a more efficient car. The planet thanks you for the consideration!

Image courtesy of cheapgasblog.com

Got more than 10 minutes?

Tackle a few extra car money-saver jobs. Listed below are ideas and some links to help you do them. (As always, check the owners manual of your own car first and use caution!)

  • Check your tire pressure (why & how-to link here)
  • Refill your windshield wiper fluids
  • Change your wiper blades
  • Check your air filter (why & how-to link here)
  • Check your oil (why & how-to link here)
  • Dust and vacuum the car cabin
  • Wash all of that leftover salt and new pollen off your car

Image courtesy of greencar.com

Want some more solutions toward our Greener Living challenge. You can read more about this plan here or at the link in the menu bar at the top of the page. How do you Spring-clean your car? Any additional suggestions to recommend? Leave a comment!

PS  Did you know that car “trunks” are called “boots”in the United Kingdom? If you’re reading this blog from the UK, please mentally replace this post’s title with “Boot-y-licious”.

Wet your whistle: free giveaway!

************************This contest is now closed*********************

Memorial Day is just around the corner. Do you have any plans for the long weekend? This giveaway might just be the inspiration you need to host a fun get-together. I’m giving away a free copy of The Field Guide to Cocktails, by Rob Chirico.

Cocktails have made a real comeback in the past few years. This gem of a book includes over 293 of the classic recipes, plus dozens more variations to play around with, as the mood strikes you.

It will also teach you how to stock a great bar, use the correct cocktail glasses, the best seasons to enjoy each recipe, even the history and traditions of each drink. (All of the great stories actually make this book decent bedtime reading, too.) I love all of the color photos to see if we’ve made the drink correctly!

If you are the lucky person who wins this giveaway, the book will be delivered to your home in time for you to break it in over the Memorial Day weekend. The great size of this book will make it easy to take with you to the liquor store to make sure you haven’t missed anything on your list.

Try a brand new cocktail or make a big batch of a favorite mix for your friends and family!

To Enter:  Leave a comment that begins with “I’LL DRINK TO THAT!” and tell me what your favorite cocktail is and when you discovered it’s delicious-ness. Only one entry per email address will be allowed, so that everyone gets a fair chance of winning.

Enter By:  Monday, May 23, 2011 at 10pm EST

Number of winners: Only 1, so enter now!

The Winner:  Will be selected at random from the total number of comments by using random.org and will be announced in next Tuesday’s post.

Want more giveaways? I already have some things in mind for the future, but you can also tell me about the kinds of thing you would like to win when you enter your comment.

What are you waiting for? Enter your comment now!

Cheers!

Mood Board: New dining room finds old character

This room was designed for a client fighting some serious room obstacles. This dining room, in a newly built apartment, was an empty box. It is a small room, with two arched doorways leading to the galley kitchen and the narrow entry hallway. The room has no windows. This was the client’s first dining room in her first home. She wanted an inviting space with some real charm that allows dinner guest to linger at the table. She also wanted to make sure she invested furniture pieces that would last…

First things first, we had to do battle with the serious lack of light in this room. We mounted the large floor mirror on the far wall of the dining room, opposite the view from the entry hallway. The scale of this piece tricks the eye into seeing it as a window. A large mirror is also helpful to add visual square feet to a small room. We complimented the mirror with a large chandelier on a dimmer, in the center of the room. The mirror will reflect the light around the room. The shade on this chandelier acts as a light diffuser, which will be lovely for entertaining.

Next, the wall color was chosen. We chose this smokey blue to add some luxury to the room. Under lower light, this saturated color will also add some recessed corners to the room, giving it some extra depth. Blue is a soothing color to most people, which will help the client’s guest to feel more relaxed around her table.

Choosing the right table for this room is a great example of why taking good room measurements is so important. While there were many tables that seemed to fit in the room, when you actually look at the space people need to move around a table, pull out chairs, etc., it cut down on a lot of the choices. The client has always liked round tables, so we chose this classic round oak table, with an optional leaf to be the focal point of the room.

The chairs are in a slightly different style, but the same oak finish as the table. By choosing a chair with the back cut out, the chairs feel lighter in the space, and again, give the illusion of more spaciousness. The chair seat upholstery is a simple blue and brown toile, echoing the tone of the wood and the wall color. With the use of the table leaf, the room will seat six people. The client keeps the extra two chairs as accent chairs in her guest room when they are not in use in the dining room.

A sideboard or buffet table is always a helpful thing in a dining room, but we just didn’t have the floor space for a traditional sideboard in this room. By repurposing a console designed for entryways, we found a handy place for wine bottles and hot serving dishes to live during meals. The antique glass candlesticks add some dimension to the surface of this sideboard and offer another way to decorate with light when entertaining.

While we had solved the light issues with this room, it still didn’t have much of a view. By adding two large, detailed landscapes in similar frames, this room now has views worth noticing. The gold of the frames contribute a little sparkle to the room, too. The easy-to-maintain Ficus tree is small enough to live in several places in the apartment. By using it in the dining room when entertaining, the client can bring some soothing nature into the room, which compliments the art work.

The large orange area rug takes its color cues from the oranges found in the art and as a natural complement to the blue wall color. You can also find orange stripes in the silk curtains we chose to frame the two door arches. The long curves of the draping fabric help soften the crisp lines of the doorways.

By adding color and pattern to this small dining room, it has found some charm and individuality. Choosing classic furniture pieces and using some architectural tricks has ensured this dining room will have a long and busy life.

Unique, affordable, comfortable living.

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