Monthly Archives: June 2011

Wrapping it up

Today’s post is all about ideas to keep wrapping paper from over-running our storage spaces. Isn’t it amazing how needy a few rolls of paper and some bows can be when you want to keep them corralled out of the way?

Image courtesy of

Frankly, I’ve been relieved when I heard clients grumble about this, too. Sometimes it’s nice to know you aren’t alone in household organization issues, even if they are inconveniences.

I have a few solutions to suggest and not just about keeping everything tidy. There are two things I did to solve my own wrapping paper issues and I have since helped clients solve this problem. Here’s the first solution, which solves 70% of the problem:

Stop Buying It

The first part of this step is the examining the idea of wrapping paper. It’s beautiful. Its very nature promises to be a part of happy occasions in your future. When you need new/more wrapping paper, you can already picture yourself using it in a joyous setting.

In a way, a wrapping paper can also be a representation of your own style. It’s like a great wallpaper that you don’t have to really commit to and you can share it with friends as you give it away.

Have you ever bought a particular wrapping paper just for a special gift? Can you understand how seductive a product wrapping paper can be when it is all lined up beautifully in your favorite store? This is exactly what we have to stop buying into. Our overly-emotional connection to all-things-gift-giving is the need that so many smart retail marketers are capitalizing upon. This emotional response to pretty paper can lead to a lot of over-buying.

Image courtesy of

The second part of this first step is even easier: stop actually buying more paper. Many of us have a perfectly functional roll of wrapping paper, but sometimes feel the need for something different/less “old”. Or we see something new in a store and want to add it to what we have at home to “be prepared” for future gift needs.

Step away from that new wrapping paper. The paper you have at home is not “old”, it’s just not new to you. Is your gift recipient going complain that they saw the same wrapping paper on a gift you gave to someone else last year? Have you ever heard someone complain about a choice of wrapping paper?  I’m guessing you answer “no” to these questions. Let’s get down to what we really need and reclaim some of that precious storage space. On to Step 2!

Use What You Have

This step means exactly what you think it means. Use up most of what you have before buying any more paper. When you have worked down to almost-out-of-paper, I have a suggestion for your next paper purchase. This method works in our house, and now also works in the homes of a some friends and clients.

Buy three jumbo rolls of paper. Here’s how to choose them:

Paper #1: This paper should be elegant and sophisticated. I like a black and white pattern, which allows me to use any color bow with it. I also like a paper with black on it because it allows me to use it easily for guy gifts.

This is great example of Paper #1 and it's on sale. Just click on the picture to link to the retailer.

Paper #2: This paper should be a floral pattern. You can use it for feminine gifts and romantic occasions during the year, such as Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, wedding/baby showers, etc.

Paper #3: For Parents  Choose one great, all-purpose kid-themed paper (with balloons, confetti, puppies, etc.). This should cover you for the 1001 events that call for kid gifts, including those for your own child. You can also wrap gifts for kids in either of the other two papers listed above.

Paper #3: For Non-Parents Choose one more classic pattern using the same guidelines as Paper #1. You can now mix and match all three papers easily.

These three papers should be all that you need for “Everyday”gift wrapping. You can read about how I handle Christmas wrapping paper over-load right here. Most importantly, you’ve saved some money and you only need to store three rolls of wrapping paper.

Store What You Use

The easiest way to store gift wrap is to find a good container to fit your storage area of choice. Trash bags may work great for many people storing rolls of paper under the guest bed, but they aren’t really practical for a basement table or the back of a closet.

Linked in the pictures below are the gift wrap containers that we use in our home and that I recommended for clients based on their storage needs. Less is more in the world of storage. Less stuff, more space.

Many people like the under-the-bed storage plan, which is easy to get to and can be put away quickly.

This container holds many rolls of wrapping paper, which would cover your “Everyday” papers and your Christmas needs. It has four interiors tubs, perfect for tape and scissors and gift bows/ribbon. I like that you could even use the lid as a hard wrapping surface if you were wrapping gifts on carpet or a bed.

We don’t have room for gift wrap under our bed in our home (we keep off-season clothing there), but we do have extra space in our coat closet. This is the gift wrap organizer we use:

It hangs up nicely and we can get to it easily. I keep one wrapping roll pocket full of Christmas paper and the other full of “Everyday” paper. I really like the gift bags storage pockets on the back. I use one to keep wine gift bags handy and the other for tissue paper and kitchen gift goodie bags. It even has little side pockets for tape and scissors.

Fo those of you looking for something more flexible, this bag can sit nicely in a corner of a closet or any other room you may use for storage.

This zip-close bag could also lay flat on a shelf or under a bed, without any bows, ribbons or gift tags spilling out.

There are lots of larger containers out there for wrapping paper supplies, but I’ve passed on those on purpose. Sometimes these bigger containers just give us reason to hold onto things we don’t need. Consider downsizing your wrapping paper collection and see if this another great place to save money in your household budget.

What are other areas of your home do you find difficult to keep organized? Leave them in a comment below and I’ll pull together some solutions in a future post. We all have similar clutter issues. Why not share ideas for solving them?

For the ones with the Most-ess

With July 4th just around the corner, many people are gearing up for some fun holiday parties and other big events, like family reunions, class reunions and trips to visit farther-away friends. What should you give to thank your hostess for her invitation?

While everyone agrees that wine and flowers are always a great hostess gift, sometimes you want to find something a little different. I’ve pulled together a little mood board full of charming and affordable hostess gifts available now at the most well-shopped stores across the US.

It can be hard to worry about hostess gifts when you are trying to remember the ketchup, hamburger buns AND ice cream for your next trip to the grocery store. You can pick up these hostess gifts easily because you are probably going to be near one of these stores anyway.

  1. Mandarin orange scented candle ($15, available at Target) Nothing says summer like the fresh smell of citrus.
  2. Elephant teapot ($16, available at Pier 1) This cute little guy is dishwasher/microwave safe and would even look great on a bookcase.
  3. Small buttons decorative bowl ($9, available at Pier 1) This would be a lovely place for fruit or potpourri on any table.
  4. Colorful ceramic vase ($10, available at Target) This darling little vase is perfect as a cheery pop of color in any room.
  5. Aquarius Scrapbook 23-oz. stemless glasses ($10 each, available at Bed Bath & Beyond) So many people brings wine as a gift. Why not bring a beautiful set of glasses to enjoy with the wine?
  6. Set of 4 monogrammed coasters ($10, available at Bed Bath & Beyond) These personalized coasters would go with any host’s home decor.
  7. Champagne lace jeweled frame ($20, available at Pier 1) Give your hosts a place for great pictures of their get-togethers with this timeless frame.
  8. Hammered silver scent diffuser (available at Wal-Mart) This elegant scent diffuser is a pretty way to show your hosts you appreciate their style.
  9. Origins of Expressions game ($25, available at Barnes & Noble) What’s better than giving a great board game as a gift? Being invited back to play it!

While you at it, you could pick up a few of things for hostess gifts you  may need later in the year, too. Why not plan ahead and save some rushing around later? You could even wrap and store hostess gifts for easy giving later, like I do with our Christmas presents.

And now that I’ve written this whole post, I realize I haven’t given credit to all the guys who act as “host”, rather than “hostess”. Very 1952-of-me, and not in a good way. A shout out to all the men who step up and open their homes to entertain their friends and loved ones. Hooray for the “Host with the Most”!

Do you have a favorite hostess/host gift to give? What is the nicest hostess/host gift you have ever received? Leave a comment and share your ideas to inspire others!

Christmas in June

I know the usual phrase is “Christmas in July”, but if I’d waited to write this post then it might be too late.

One of “those people”

I am one of “those people” who shops for Christmas all year. I have most of my shopping done, except for the stocking stuffers, by early October. I actually wrap and put the gift tag on the gifts as I buy them during the year and then put them away in a drawer.  When December arrives, I pop on a bow, then the present goes under the tree or in a box to its final destination.

Picture taken as I was wrapping a Christmas present, last Tuesday.

While this may seem over-the-top organized to many of you, but it also means I never have to:

  1. Fight crowds at any store during the Christmas season
  2. Worry that stores will be out of the exact items I want
  3. Spend an entire evening wrapping presents when I would rather be having hot chocolate and popcorn in front of tv as we watch a classic Christmas movie

These are all great motivators to buy little presents here and there throughout the year when they only seem like 5 minute tasks. However, that is not why I do this.

I do it because I’m cheap.

Okay, maybe “cheap” isn’t the best word, since it implies some level of stingy-ness. I put a lot of thought and care into the gifts I give. How about “hard-core thrifty”? Yes, that’s much better.

Coupons and cash are our allies in the war on Christmas budgets!

Planning ahead allows me to find deals and sales throughout the year. This means I always and only pay cash. If I don’t have the cash to make the purchase, I still have months to find another sale or pick another item to give. This also means there is NO CHRISTMAS DEBT to take the fun out of our New Year’s celebration. I bet you like the sound of that as much as I do!

So, now we’re in June. What makes June such an important month for Christmas if this an all-year project? Well, I’m glad you asked. Today, I’d like to introduce you to:

My secret Christmas-wrapping weapon

(Try saying that three times fast!)

When I explained how I wrap presents in advance, what I’m about to show you is what helps me keep the wrapping costs low, too. As I see it, what good is saving on gifts when you splurge on the wrapping paper? You know, the part of Christmas you throw away! I’m not saying you should wrap your presents in newspaper. But, I think buying wrapping paper in December is as silly and expensive as standing in line at the mall.

Here’s my solution:

I get the Current catalog all year, because when I do buy from them, I stock up. Each catalog has lots of fun and pretty things: greeting cards, gifts, seasonal decor, items for the home and wrapping paper. However, I have learned to NOT buy anything from them until their huge annual summer sale.

This year’s sale ends July 8th! Many people know about this annual sale, so the deals can sell out quickly. So, now is when I stalk my cheap prey and swoop in for the kill…er…savings.

Wrapping paper

Here is a great example of the current Current wrapping papers on sale right now:

Pretty, right?!

This roll of paper is 72 feet long, which means it can wrap 18 shirt boxes. Right now, it only costs $5.49. Oh, and Current offers matching gift tags for only$1.99.

Most of the Current Christmas wrapping papers on sale are their jumbo 72-feet-long rolls. Here are some more linked selections (just click on the picture to jump right to each item’s sale page):

These are all beautiful papers that can be used for kids or adults. You can see all of the Christmas wrapping paper on sale right here. If Santa visits your house every year, he might appreciate some help wrapping gifts with this on-sale paper:

How I buy-to-save

Every three years or so, I stock up on wrapping paper. I buy 4 or 5 rolls of Christmas paper in that year’s version of this super sale. Then we use up this paper for the next years.

The real savings and bargain in this plan is:

  • getting a decent deal
  • not having to buy again next year
  • using up what you have first.

Some of you may be thinking, “But, the presents will all look the same under the tree!” They don’t. Just mix in the presents you exchange with other family and any presents Santa might wrap on his own and your under-the-tree area looks great. Think back to the best Christmas present you ever got. What was it wrapped in? Uh huh. Nobody remembers the wrapping paper, but everyone remembers a thoughtful gift. Prioritize your energies and spending!


How do I save money on bows?

Two words: Dollar store

And I only buy bows in four colors: Red, Green, Gold and Silver

These are the only colors of bows we use for gifts at any time of the year. See that blue bow in the above picture? It came on a gift to us. You’ve still have bows in other colors, you just won’t need to buy more.

More great sale items

There are several other great Christmas sale items in the Current catalog right now. Here are some linked examples:

Christmas cards

The card pictured above is $4.79 for an 18-card set. Christmas cards at these prices sell out fast, so check their entire selection right here.

Christmas baking supplies

Do you share gifts from your kitchen at Christmas? Here’s a chance to wrap them in style this year and save some money. You can browse their entire selection of related items right here.

Want to get in on next year’s sale early? You can request a catalog right here. Oh, and if you find yourself in the Denver, Colorado area, Current has a great outlet! I used to spend my summers working in Colorado and would always raid this outlet before I went home. For directions, just call their catalog number (800-848-2848)and ask for more details.

Need some other wrapping supplies? Current has lots of things as part of their summer sale…

And just a reminder, I don’t ever get paid to recommend any companies or services on my website. I just like to share a great sale about products I use and trust with friends!

Do you think this saving idea could help you save some dough during the holiday rush? What are ways you plan-ahead-to-save at Christmas? Want some ideas on keeping all those wrapping supplies organized? Oh, how I love to organize! Stay tuned for an organizing post later this week!

Mood Board: Fight-the-white kitchen

This room was designed using the DIY Design Service for a client facing a common color problem. She was moving into a great rental apartment with a newly remodeled, all white kitchen, which she could not, under any circumstances, paint. What could she do? The kitchen had a very nice galley plan, but was a little short on some storage space.  She also really wanted an inviting space to eat breakfast in and that she could cook in with a friend or two…

The client really likes to cook. She often has a friend or two over to try new recipes with her. Based on how the room would be used, the rug for the white tile kitchen floor needed to be willing to take a lot of wear and be easy to clean. We chose this indoor/outdoor rug full of deep saturated colors the client loves to really ground the floor.

Next, we used a classic renter’s trick for kitchen cabinets. We carefully removed and stored the owner’s kitchen cabinet hardware. These pieces will have to go back up when the client moves out. Then we added some beautiful antique-looking glass knobs wherever hardware was needed. These little aqua gems really function like jewelry in the room by being the sparkle you notice when you walk in the room. The client can also take them with her when she moves and use them again later.

Lighting was not a problem in this room, thanks to new track lighting and some well placed under-cabinet lights for the counter. The large window offered an opportunity for off-setting the white walls. Using a large print pattern, the curtain panels were hung from floor to ceiling to allow for a full drape of bold color.

More storage was needed to accommodate the client’s collection of cookbooks and a few larger appliances that took up too much room on the counter top. The book shelf we squeezed in echoes the warm brown tone of the rug and the antique feel of her new cabinet hardware. Most importantly, this bookcase can also be moved and used in any room the client may live in later.

Seating was next on the list of needs for this room. The kitchen had room for a small bistro set. Instead we chose this bold orange bench that seats two facing into the kitchen without having to move it around like you would chairs. The crisp teal pedestal table is handy for breakfast in the morning and can be moved and used for food prep tasks when there are extra cooks around.

The striped kitchen towels were hung on a towel bar directly over the sink, which helped add more color the walls between the countertop and the white cabinets. The large yellow bee canister, now re-purposed as a cookie jar, adds a pop of color and texture to the sleek white counters. The large wood bowl echoes the warm wood of the bookcase and becomes a home for natural fruit in all their beautiful colors.

The large Mucha print was an easy choice because the client loves the artist We framed it in a bold teal blue to be a great pick-me-up to enjoy with her breakfasts. Many of the lively colors in the print are already in her kitchen. This print will give the client some inspiration and direction for future colorful finds to add to her kitchen.

Bold colors combine in this kitchen to make its the white surfaces feel like a clean accent. Using older patterns and furnishing profiles allow this room to feel well-loved and welcoming to future guests.

Unique, affordable, comfortable living.

George F. Barber homes

This is a long post, but it has so many gorgeous pictures that I just couldn’t bring myself to edit them down. I’m hoping this makes for a great read for you all who browse the blog on the weekend, too.

Today’s post is about American architect George Franklin Barber, who was born in 1854 and died in 1915. I would love to show you a photo or portrait of George F. Barber himself, but I haven’t been able to find one anywhere. (Reader update at the end of this post!) We’ll have to get to know George through his beautiful work.

Image courtesy of

Barber was born in Illinois and grew up in Kansas. He learned the trade of carpentry while working for his brother-in-law. He taught himself architecture through books and his own on-the-job study. His keen observations and natural talents soon allowed him to expand carpentry jobs into a larger market.

At the time, there was very limited quality or quantity in ready-made house plans. The order-by-mail home building giants we still know today (Montgomery Ward, Sears Roebuck, etc.) were not on the market yet for the American home builder. Barber saw a way to reach those potential customers by offering easily readable house plans that could be customized to the owners needs.

Using the new mail-order catalogs phenomenon, Barber started with a small offering of houses and grew his business and publications over his lifetime. Many houses in the catalogs came with multiple floor plans to choose. Here’s an example:

Here’s the first plan available for the rooms:

And here is the second floor plan option, for the same house:

You can probably see how attractive this customizing concept was to potential home buyers. Free customization by mail with the architect?! What a deal! Barber went on to become one of the most successful American architects of the Victorian era. When his catalogs stopped publication in 1918, Barber had sold more than 20,000 plans.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Most of his designs are in the Colonial Revival style (seen in the house shown above) or the Victorian Queen Anne style (seen in the house shown below).

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Later in his career, he included Craftsman and Bungalow homes in his collections, although these weren’t as popular. He also offered plans for additions, such as porches, verandas and various outbuildings (sheds, barns, etc.). Many of his houses are in the Midwest and the South because of his own connections to those areas. His first company home town was in DeKalb, Illinois, before relocating to Knoxville, Tennessee permanently in 1888.

Here’s and example of a classic Victorian Barber home in Iowa:

All of that house for $12, 500. That would calculate out to around $296, 000 in 2010. Amazing. Here’s the first floor inside:

And here’s the second floor:

You’ll notice the word “Chamber” used a lot in his drawings. This roughly translates to our modern use of the word “bedroom”. In today’s real estate vocabulary, for a room to be a “bedroom”, it must contain a window and a closet. This might explain the prolific use of the word “chamber” in a time where large, free-standing armoires and wardrobes were still so popular.

Barber built big homes, too. Here’s a grand example:

Here is the how-can-we-live -without-3-verandas first floor:

And here is the glad-we-have-servants second floor:

Yours for $40,000 in construction costs. That’s around $1,070,000 of 2010’s money, in case you’re doing math beyond counting all of those rooms.

I have to show you this darling house “of Swiss persuasion” for a special reason.

See if you can spot one of our previous Design Vocabulary words on the floor plan!
Did you find the Inglenook? (You can learn all about them right here.) I was so happy when I saw that on the plans. I’m a little geeky that way.

Barber never forgot his carpentry background inside the homes he designed. Pictured below are two of  Barber’s exquisite “grilles” (decorative arching wood frames made of spindles in lattice patterns) that he offered as part of his customization options.

Here is a period interior photo of one of those grilles installed:

Here’s a glimpse (in the top right of the photo) of one of those grilles today:

Image courtesy of

Barber’s house plans were constructed in 44 states of the US and many countries abroad. Many American Barber homes now function as very roomy Bed-and-Breakfast businesses. Over four dozen Barber homes are listed individually on the National Register of Historic Places, and even more as parts of historic districts. Here are few current examples:

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

While not all of these lovely old homes have fared well over the years…

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

…there is much love given to many of them in their restoration and care.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

I’ve told you before that I love to browse house floor plans, which you can read all about in this post. So, it should come as no surprise that I love imagining how you could make homes out of non-traditional home structures. Old fire houses and churches really call to me with their siren songs. (No pun intended.)

This barn is my favorite George Barber version of this daydream:

I know, I know. “If this is the barn, what does the house look like?!” This is a building for carriages, horses and the groom that tends to them (who apparently doesn’t bathe). I have no idea if any version of this building was ever built or survives. Let’s not even think about what it would cost to build today. The masonry bill alone would make us cry. Here’s the inside:

Can you see the potential for re-working this building into a fantastic house? The little L-shaped wall on the second floor keeps the hay from getting into the groom’s room and down the stairs. I would take it out right away and then get to work transforming the space.

Here, in a long and very expensive list, is what I would do:

Carriage Room:

  • Add several big windows (in the shape of the big barn door at the front of the building) across the long wall of the Carriage Room.
  • Add a fireplace and a floor-to-ceiling bookcases to the Carriage Room
  • Use the Carriage Room as a giant Living and Dining room
  • Put a giant patio with a pergola off of the back of the Carriage Room

Harness Room:

  • Change the door of this room to face the Passage (hallway)
  • Turn this room into a powder room for the first floor


  • Open up the staircase wall by the front door to make the room bigger

Box Stall:

  • Turn it into a home office with built-in cabinetry
  • Add an etched glass pocket door


  • Take out all stall walling
  • Add wall to separate room from Passage
  • Add more windows to room
  • Use room as kitchen
  • Install a small kitchen garden outside a new back door

Upstairs: (a lot of this depends on the interior roof slope)

  • Add skylights on the back roof
  • Add a bathroom, a laundry room and two bedrooms
  • Add a Master suite with bath and walk-in closet
See, when I say I daydream about house plans, I mean I REALLY daydream.
Oh! Let me at the garden of this cute house! Image courtesy of

Credit where credit is due: All of the original drawings and floor plans in this post are courtesy of this great book, which I recommend as a great read and source for many decor daydreams. If you know someone else who really loves house plans, this little book makes a great gift.

So, that’s my 1,426 words on George Barber homes. I can really yammer on about a good house plan, can’t I?! Thanks for reading along! Now I’m all talked out. (Cue my husband, laughing at the very concept.) Tell me what interests you in what we’ve looked at today!

Did you see a house plan today that you’d like to move into? Ever dreamed of making an old building with a different purpose into a new home? Do any of you live near a restored George Barber home…or (holding my breath) live in one? Dish, please!

Reader Update:

One fabulous reader found a picture of George Barber! Here it is:

Doesn’t he look dashing? A big shout out to Kate, who took the time to send in the picture while she is researching her own may-be-a-Barber home. Thanks, Kate!

Savoring Home: Perfect popcorn

Do you like popcorn? Okay, loaded question. I’ve never actually met anyone who doesn’t. However, movie theaters and microwaves taken their toll over the years. It is amazing how many people have forgotten how real popcorn tastes.

Did you know popcorn counts as a whole grain? It does! Today’s recipe is the classic, cheap and healthy way to get a popcorn fix in 5 minutes, without any butter flavored lung cancer. Once you try this recipe, you’ll never waste your money (or risk your health) with those microwave bags of corn again.


  • Canola oil
  • Salt
  • Butter
  • Popcorn: We use the organic bulk popcorn (in the self-serve bins) at Whole Foods. We like the price and have noticed that we get fewer un-popped kernels (“old maids”, really?!) at the end of each popcorn batch.


We are making 3-4 quarts of popcorn today, so we are using 1/2 cup /120 mL of popcorn kernels. You can adjust this recipe up and down in quantity very easily.

Pour around canola oil the bottom of a big, heavy pot. We’re using about 2 Tablespoons/ 30 mL for this quantity of kernels, but you should just use enough to lightly cover the bottom of your pot. Swirl it around to make sure the oil covers the pot bottom and heats well.

Turn on your burner to medium-high heat, then place 1 kernel in the pot and place the lid loosely on the pop.

We’re going to wait for it to pop, then we’ll know our oil is hot enough and add the rest of our kernels.

POP! Now we add the rest of our kernels to the pot, swirl them around to make sure they get coated in oil and rest the lid loosely on the pot again.

And we wait, but not for long. Let the popcorn pop. When most of the popping sound has stopped, move the pot off the hot burner and let it sit on another burner for about a minute.

This allows the few remaining kernels to finish popping without burning the popcorn on the bottom of the pot. We all know how awful that can smell. In the meantime, we are going to melt our butter in the microwave.

We are using a whole stick of butter (8 Tablespoons/113 grams) because we are making a large batch of popcorn. You can adjust your measurement to whatever you prefer.

Now the butter and salt are standing by…and our popcorn is ready!


We take gallon size zip-loc bags of this recipe into every movie theater we visit. I just carry an small tote bag as my purse that day and in we go. Our stuff tastes much better, costs WAY less and uses real butter, instead of warm flavored oil. (What is that oil made of anyway?)

In case you are a real popcorn aficionado or become one with this recipe, I want to share two other great resources which we adore at our house.

This book, for great popcorn recipes you would have never thought of, some of which are very addictive:

This online popcorn company, which carries beautiful varieties of popcorn to taste, including two great sampler packs for taste comparison:

(Hint! Hint! These make great gifts!)

Do you have a favorite popcorn recipe? Do you use popcorn as part of another recipe? What is your favorite drink to go with popcorn? Leave a comment and share some snacking ideas!

Mood Board: Seascape sun room

This room was designed for a client with a brand new sun room addition on the back of her house. She had planned for this sun room for many years and had a “mountain” (her words, not mine) of inspiration ideas and clippings to share with me. She wanted an extra living space, without a television, that would give her room to enjoy her garden and her air conditioning simultaneously. She liked the breezy feel of a cabana, but also really loved the soft tones of beach landscapes during a beautiful sunset…

The first thing we chose for this project was the flooring, because it was part of the room’s final construction. We chose a dark stain on a polished extra-hard bamboo floor. The bamboo part of the floor kept it very affordable and sustainable. The dark tones mimic the rich, cool floors of a classic colonial Caribbean plantation, perfect for enjoying barefoot.

The next challenge to tackle was the room color. With three sides of the room dominated by almost floor-to-ceiling windows, we needed to soften the bright white wall framing. We also had to unify the three new walls with the older wall, which had formerly been an exterior wall of the house. This soft peach wall color, Benjamin Moore’s “Candle Light”, is very soothing and captures some of the sunset lighting feel that the client loves.

We also painted the ceiling of this sun room. There is an old Southern tradition of painting porches ceilings in a light blue. Many rumors abound about its uses (keeps the bees away, keeps you feeling cooler), but I thought it would work here to make our sun room ceiling feel more a part of the outside garden. I used a favorite light, clean blue of mine, Benjamin Moore’s “Sweet Bluette”.

Energy efficiency can take some careful planning in a room so full of windows. The large palm-paddled helps move the air through the room evenly, regardless of it being heated or cooled for the current season. The sand colored area rug, made of jute in a diamond pattern, is soft on the feet in summer and warm on the feet in winter. It defines the seating area of the dark expanse of flooring.

The curtains chosen for this room also contribute to the room’s energy use. These large textured panels still allow natural light to enter the room when they are closed, which is very useful in the winter months. The billowy quality of the curtains is reminiscent of those found on island resorts. They also give some privacy to the client and her husband when they want to enjoy a relaxing morning in their pjs without having to wave to the neighbors.

Sea grass furniture is popular again, although my client and I don’t understand how it can ever be unfashionable. We chose two sea grass sofas and two sea grass wing chairs and kept all the upholstery in a clean, classic white. For more personality in our seating area, a variety of complementary throw pillows in different textures and patterns were mixed in for comfort.

The client had been saving an antique rattan accent table for this room’s completion for many years. Her lovely flea-market find was placed between the two wing chairs. The large glass and iron coffee table fills the practical need of table space while still keeping a light footprint in the seating area. It’s bamboo segmented gold legs are also echoed in the floor lamps, which give the room a cosy glow in the evenings.

The finishing touches for this room include two small potted palm trees. Placed in the two window wall corners of the room, the trees bring the view of the garden inside. Two vases on the coffee table, in stoneware and capiz shell, allow the client to bring some of her flowers into the house to enjoy. The fourth wall gets a classic seaside watercolor by James McNeill Whistler in a mottled gold frame to balance out the sliding glass doors leading into the room.

The natural textures of sea grass, palm, rattan, bamboo and capiz shell combine to keep this room feeling a part of the outside world. By embracing the warmth of a coastal sunset, this room’s color palette gives the client the relaxing and peaceful space she has dreamed of for years.

Unique, affordable, comfortable living.

Leveling with you

I realized last week that it has been way too long since I have added to our Toolbox! Especially when you consider how very busy Summer is as a DIY season. So, let’s do some catching up today and add another great hand tool to our repertoire.

Today we are going to talk about the spirit level. That’s my level in the picture above and it gets quite a regular workout.

Levels are used to make sure that things are straight, or “level”, along a horizontal plane. Things that are straight/level on a vertical plane are called “plumb”. Easy, right?

It’s called a “spirit level” because there are little vials of liquid in it to help display the degrees of incline. The liquid is actually a “spirit” in the old sense of the word. It’s alcohol with a little dye in it. This will make more sense when I show you how to use one, in another paragraph or two.

How To Buy

Pictured below is the collection of levels available in the hand tools section of Sears, which is where I like to buy hand tools. (Love the Craftsman brand. I’ll have an upcoming post to explain why.)

There are a lot of choices here, some pricey, some not. This large level stands six feet tall…

…but we don’t need anything that large for our toolbox. Or anything close to its $80 price tag. We’ll leave those big levels to the professional contractors and look for something smaller. This should do it:

This level is 9 inches long and its $6 price tag is much more practical. Once we get it home, we’ll just discard it’s plastic packing sleeve and throw it in our toolbox. The only tools that really should stay in their packing are power tools.

How To Use

Using a level is very easy once you know how. (Tip to parents: This is great job kids can help with during a DIY project in your home.)

There are three vials in each level. Each vial measures for a different type of plane.

The middle vial on any level always measures for a horizontal plane. Think of this as meaning that it will indicate if something is level with the horizon.

At one end of the level, on the left if we’re using the picture above, is a vial that measures for the vertical plane.

Just a tiny bit blurry on this pic, sorry!

See how the liquid and the lines on the vial run perpendicular to the horizontal vial shown above?

The other end of the level has a vial that measures a plane at a ninety degree angle.

Have you notices the little lines on each vial? They are very important. For something to be level on the plane you have chosen, the bubble has to be evenly between the two lines on the vial.

Here’s an example using the horizontal plane of my desk. I’ll put my level on the desk. However, if I hold one end of the level up, clearly creating an un-level surface reading, the bubble slides outside the lines:

But if I place the level flat on the desk, the bubble moves between the two lines.

This proves that my desk is level on the horizontal plane.

Remember that giant 6 foot level I showed you at the top of the post? Masons use it to make sure that their foundation surface is level before they start building. Carpenters use levels to make sure their frame for a door is hung properly. You may notice appliance delivery experts using a level to make sure your new stove or fridge is level on the floor, which can really make a difference in how that appliance works. The uses for a level are everywhere in a home.

How To Use: Example

We’ll use a picture frame from a previous project to show how to read a level in a real DIY situation. I put the frame pictured below on the wall as part of a large gallery wall, which you can read all about right here. (There are a lot of picture frames in this project!)

While the picture frame looks straight at first glance, I want to make sure that each frame is really level or else the whole grouping of pictures tends to look like a background scene from Inception. Just being honest here.

Can you see how the little bubble in the middle of the level is not between its vials lines?

All I need to do is make a slight tweak to the frame and voila!

The bubble is in the center of the level which means this frame is now straight. On to the next project!

Think you can do this? You’ll be amazed at all the places you can use a level in a home. How will you use one in yours?

A load off your mind: free giveaway winner!

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

Today’s winner will receive two 50 fl. oz. (33-load) bottles of Seventh Generation’s Natural 2x Concentrate Laundry Detergent, in the “Free & Clear” variety. This laundry soap is hypoallergenic, biodegradable and works well in cold water, helping you save a little extra on your energy bill!

And the winner is: Tammy!

Tammy says she is “forced to do laundry just about every day”, averaging about 10 loads a week. Wow!  Glad we can lend a hand with some healthy detergent!

Congratulations, Tammy!  I’ll be contacting you by email for your mailing address later today, so this soap can start helping you this week!

If you weren’t a winner today, don’t worry. The next giveaways is just two weeks away!  You can follow CARO Interiors on Facebook and Twitter so you don’t miss a thing. Stay tuned and spread the word.

Check back for another post this afternoon, too!

Have an idea for a gift you’d like to win? Leave me your idea in a comment!

Orange you glad I wrote this

With summer’s arrival, many of us feel the urge to refresh our homes for the warmer weather. Whether you need to fling open the windows and let the warmer air in or appreciate your air conditioning a little more while the sun bakes outside, everyone can bring a great pop of color to their homes.

I’m talking about orange.

Mmmm...Spring Grove orange soda pop in the summer. One of our favorites!

See how you can almost taste those sodas? There is just nothing like orange in the summer. It’s a very flavorful and sensual color.

Orange is also a great summer accent color in our homes because it marries so well with so many other colors. It is wonderful for adding some energy and freshness to any neutral color scheme, which so many of us have in our homes.

You don’t have to add a lot of orange to make it really count in a room. This makes it a very practical color for seasonal decorating on a budget. You can bring a some summer “zing” to your rooms for not a lot of moolah.

Listed and linked below, I’ve gathered a few of the many great options out there for adding just a few pops of orange around your home in easy decorate-now-and-change-out-later themes.


It is amazing how a simple change of pattern and color can refresh our most used living spaces. Pillows are a great solution for easy, comfortable seasonal decor because they are so easy to store and rearrange around a home.

  1. With a silhouette of tropical flowers, this linen pillow is a way to bring tropical climate style into you room.
  2. This casual shaggy pillow is 100% cotton and mixes well with any other summer colors you use in your decor.
  3. The classic cabana stripes of this pillow would look great on both ends of any sofa in a neutral color.
  4. Bring a little Mediterranean pattern to you home with this brightly colored throw pillow.
  5. If you prefer a more modern style, this velvet textured pillow brings in the orange warmth in a mod pattern.
  6. The subtle cream and white pebble pattern on this pillow makes it easy to mix in with any decor style.
  7. This stackable floor pillow with its many stripes of orange would be handy for movie or board game night or any other types of gamers.

Plants & Flowers

It’s summer and things are growing outside! Did you know orange flowers symbolize energy, happiness, creativity, confidence, passion and confidence? Why not bring a few happy vibes into your home with some fresh flowers or blooming plants?

  1. The Orange Lily, which is believed to have been growing on our little planet for over 3,000 years.
  2. The Begonia plant comes in over 1,500 species, many of which include broad leafy foliage surrounding the flowers.
  3. This pretty orange floral bouquet comes with a re-usable orange glass vase, perfect for a summer party centerpiece.
  4. Strelitzia, also known as “Bird of Paradise”, is native to South Africa and can really be a dynamic accent to any room.
  5. You only need a few stems of Gerber Daisies for colorful pop of nature with modern decor.

Decorative Accents

By adding just a few pops of color in with your other mementos and decor items, you can rev up your usual look. There are so many choices of items available, you’re sure to find one that suits your taste.

  1. This frame gives you great place for your best vacation photo and a place to write “Gone out for more ice cream!”
  2. Bring the fresh scent of oranges into your home with this aromatic votive candle, which burns for up to 32 hours.
  3. Add some spice with this kicky tablecloth and matching napkin set, perfect for dressing up your table for entertaining.
  4. Dress up your coffee table for summer by topping it with this large and affordable lacquer tray.
  5. Add a little sparkle to your bookcase or home office with this charming glass globe. It would make a stylish paperweight.
  6. These handy baskets come in three sizes and can catch everything from your vacation brochures to your sunscreen.
  7. This cheery Fiesta pottery vase is perfect for showing off the flowers of the summer season.

Do you have any orange items in your home decor right now? What other colors do you crave in the warmer months? Leave a comment and share your ideas with others!

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