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Create a divine dining room

The dining room is arguably the most important room in your home. It's where the family can gather in the evening to eat, drink and swap stories about the day. Family dinners may have fallen by the wayside to some extent in this mile-a-second world, but not entirely. Redesigning your dining room could be the first step toward recommitting yourself and your family to spending dinner time together.  Getting the light right As with any room in the house, lighting of the utmost importance when you're figuring out the new lay-out of your dining room. If you have large picture windows, those will provide the room with ample light at dinner time during the spring and summer when the days are longer. For those colder months, a hanging lamp or a chandelier is the perfect way to illuminate the delicious meal in front of you. Switch Hits has plenty of collections of decorative outlet covers with which you can spruce up the space, whether your taste is classic or modern, funky or subdued. If you're trying to achieve a clean modern look, check out Switch Hits' Art Deco or Colored Glass collections. They come in a variety of colors, so no matter what the color scheme in your dining room, you're sure to find something that matches. If you'd prefer something a little more dark, try the Vermont Slate collection. For an edgier look, try the Steampunk or Colors in Motion collections. All in the details In the process of reworking the room, you want to make sure it's a reflection of your personality, while also being a welcoming space for the entire family. Southern Living suggests outfitting the room with fresh linens to add a touch of classic elegance. Try a solid pattern in any color, or reach for something a bit bolder with a checked or paisley table cloth. Top the look off with matching chair covers and napkins, and your dining room will be fit for a debutante. Better Homes and Gardens urges the DIY interior decorator in you to take it to the next level by making the dining room a multi-purpose space where the kids can do homework, and the adults will feel comfortable sitting back with a newspaper or a good book. It could even double as an arts and crafts room for the kids with the help of a plastic tarp that can be thrown over the usual linens.Keeping the atmosphere fresh is sure to make the dining room a place the whole family can come together no matter what time of day it is! 

What to choose for redoing walls: Paneling, paper or paint?

Redoing your walls is a big task, but it all starts by picking between three different options. Do you repaint, repaper or use a nice wood paneling? It all depends on the layout of the room, the furniture you already have in the space and what style you're shooting for. Instead of showing you how to pick between the three, here are some tips that come with tackling each project.Wood paneling Going the wood paneling route is classy and admirable but not a task for the faint of heart. Whereas paint and paper take little heavy lifting and physical labor, wood paneling can be a workout. Exact measurements must be taken to avoid windows, switch plates and other wall fixtures you mean to dodge. That means a lot of careful cutting and calculation is absolutely necessary. Make sure this is a job you're  both capable of and are willing to devote a lot of time and labor to. When you commit to wood paneling, you're in for the long haul. Repainting a wall or taking down wallpaper is relatively easy. Taking down the wood paneling can be a little trickier.Wallpaper Applying wallpaper has its own share of pesky problems. All of the careful cutting and maneuvering around wall components is still necessary, but wallpaper responds much more visibly to blemishes. That means paint splatters or subtle wall depressions can mean big trouble for interior designers. When cutting the wallpaper, remember to measure a length 6 inches longer than the length of the wall to the ceiling or crown molding and 1/2 inch over the inside corners in order to provide extra length for the lap seam. The seams are the most important part of a wallpapering job. Make sure the first piece of wallpaper is set correctly and apply each consecutive piece in a manner identical to the second set piece over the first to create a pattern that blends.Paint Often the most popular and simple job to tackle, painting can be a quick-fix job for many rooms, but don't forget the basics:Always apply a primer to prevent the original color from showing throughUse plenty of painter's tape and remove all wall fixtures - it would be a shame to splatter decorative molding or a high-quality switch plateTake your time applying multiple coats evenly - paint drips are a preventable eyesore.Heed these wall retouching tips and you can be well on your way to a successful room makeover. It only comes down to deciding between which method to go by.

Brighten up a room with a glass bottle lamp

Lighting is a key element of any room's design, but it's not all about the type of lighting or the bulbs you use - the lamps are important features too. There are dozens of designs, styles and types of lamps that range from bulky and decorative to sleek and sophisticated, and it's often hard picking the best one for a room.One of the styles gaining popularity in do-it-yourself and interior decorating is the glass bottle lamp, perfect for end tables, changing themes and saving money. The glass bottle lamp is exactly how it sounds. It's a bulb socket fashioned to the spout of an empty see-through bottle. Check out The Inspired Room for an easy blog post about how to make these crafty little fixtures. Unmatched versatility The brilliance of the glass bottle lamp is how versatile the glass container makes it. The glass bottle lamp can fit into any theme in any room by changing what's inside the glass container. Over the holidays, fill it with ornaments or a little branch of pine. Try dried leaves in the fall, or put wildflowers or ferns in during the spring. The options are limitless, and decorating is a cinch as long as you buy a bottle with a wide enough spout. The best part is that it gives you an outlet for some creative genius on a regular basis. The glass bottle lamp can fit anywhere with a little creativity. For a real expert touch, make the light's switch plate match the interior of the bottle. Fill a bottle with seashells and use a switch plate with a beach theme. The attention to detail is sure to wow your guests.Decorating on a dime The glass bottle lamp is a perfect mixture of cost efficiency and sophistication. The total cost is as cheap as the materials you get at the hardware store, and the quality is matched by how much time and effort you put into the project. Plus, changing bottle themes is terrifically inexpensive compared to buying a whole new set of lamps to match a room. Classy, reusable, creative and a design that you can afford for pennies on the dollar, glass bottle lamps cover all your bases. And, if your creativity is ever stifled, try looking through Bottle-lamp.com. It's a whole website dedicated to the usefulness and charm of the bottle lamp.

Controlling light can help treat light sensitivity

Photophobia, commonly known as a sensitivity to light, is fairly common and can often be alleviated with simple changes to your home and office lighting.While this sensitivity may be the result of a corneal abrasion, burn or disease, according to the National Institutes of Health, that's usually not the case, and simple remedies such as wearing dark or tinted glasses, darkening the room or avoiding direct sunlight may help quite a bit. Some people experience light sensitivity without any eye disease. It's wise, of course, to have your eyes checked by a professional if you suddenly notice this sensitivity. Otherwise, there are steps you can take to feel better. The U.K. Royal National Institute of Blind People, dedicated to eye health education, asserted that there's a scale of light sensitivity, and some people are simply more sensitive to light than others. Also, growing older can bring about sensitivity, since eye changes occur even when without disease.Ways to feel better The most obvious way to ease the discomfort of light sensitivity is by wearing hats and sunglasses that shade eyes from light and glare. The National Eye Institute, part of the NIH, recommended choosing sunglasses with care. While they're certainly a great fashion accessory, their real job is to protect your eyes from the sun's ultraviolet rays. When purchasing sunglasses, look for ones that block out 99 to 100 percent of both UV-A and UV-B radiation.Control your environment Even if it's not a question of light sensitivity, you may discover that the lighting in a room is just too bright, but without it, the room is too dark. The simplest answer? Replace standard wall switches with dimmer switches, which give you precise control over the intensity of the light. Most often used with incandescent, not fluorescent, lighting fixtures, they work well in most homes and many offices and can be attached to almost any internal lighting to vary the brightness or dimness. Basically, they work by increasing or decreasing the amount of power supplied to the light.Pick your spots Ideally, you could use dimmer switches in every room, but start with the areas you use the most or that have the greatest impact on your electric bill. Some surveys have shown, surprisingly, that the master bedroom lighting accounts for as much as 15 percent of electricity consumption - and that's including high-use appliances such as refrigerators, ovens and washer/dryers.Remember, too, that dimmers are decorating tools, so you might consider adding elegant switch plates, decorative plug covers and versatile wall lamps when you install the switches.

Decorating tips for a mini makeover at a paltry price

While some remodeling projects can be costly, decorating can be strictly do-it-yourself if you're on a budget.Sure, new flooring or roofing or remodeling entire rooms can be expensive, but you can often give your home a mini makeover at a price ranging from low to free. The key is to use little things to make a big impact. For example, unexpected touches like three-dimensional switch plates or decorative plug covers give style in an otherwise ordinary spot.You're limited only by your own creativity, but following are some bright ideas that can help you start brainstorming on your own. Real Simple magazine offered an adorable and versatile idea for using cubbies, in various heights and facing front, to make side tables for displays and lighting. Inside the cubbies, the sky's the limit: Try bowls of fruit or holiday ornaments, sculptures or bits of history - anything that expresses your personality and makes you feel good.Begin at home Eclectic is always in style, and decorating in that vein lets you group any number of items in any way you like. Better Homes and Gardens magazine advised starting with what you have - a truly economical approach. Comb your cellar, attic or storage space for heirlooms and curiosities that add some spice to a shelf or table top, or scour the flea markets for antique toys or vintage fabrics.The secret is to use just a few of these keepsakes to minimize clutter and accentuate charm.Use this, not that House Beautiful magazine detailed its own array of low-cost decorating tips, such as replacing your bathmat with a real rug, your coffee table with a tray-topped ottoman and your empty corner with a potted tree. As for lighting, layered is better and four lamps trump two, since you need ambient light for mood and direct light for reading. According to House Beautiful, you should love your closets. Paint them, paper them and hang pictures in them. And definitely light them.Look locally Country Living magazine highlighted a wall's worth of wildflowers, pressed by a local artist, in the center hall of an antebellum Georgia house. Below the wildflowers, a salvaged church pew strewn with pillows sewn from turn-of-the-century grain sacks showed a most charming expression of local history.Why not try hunting for collectibles in your town? Half the fun is finding little under-appreciated gems, and you can have a great time exploring local shops, craft shows and yard sales. And don't neglect online sites like Craigslist.org and Freecycle.org, where one person's trash can be another person's treasure.

Designers around the country spot new trends in color, accessories, window treatments

Home decorating magazines aren't the only places to find interesting angles and helpful tips: For regional trends, you might want to check local and national newspapers.Simple and natural The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported sightings of practical and renewable designs and a "less is more" mindset, and talked to award-winning Austin designer Pablo Solomon, who encouraged an uncluttered approach focusing on quality, not quantity, in selecting furnishings, artwork and floor coverings.Natural is always in style, and this season you can integrate pillows embellished with feathers and lamps adorned with faux gems, along with tall plants and pots of herbs, into any decorating motif.Bold and blush - and white For the Santa Fe New Mexican, no report of trendy styles would be complete without a discussion of contrasts, in color and furnishings. Designer Brian Patrick Flynn pointed to the return to the 1980s' use of soft pinks - blush tones - that he likes to combine with bold, masculine accents. He told the paper that he contrasts his favorite blush paint with navy blue."The deep, rich personality of the navy actually washes out the blush, almost causing it to look white, and the overall effect is fresh and gorgeous," he stated.For other designers, white itself is back in fashion. Los Angeles designer Betsy Burnham told the Santa Fe New Mexican that white is back in a big way."I used to think white walls looked unfinished," she admitted. "But I've completely come around on this one, because white is the ultimate palette cleanser. It gives every space - even the most traditional - a modern edge, and sets the stage wonderfully for layers of color in upholstery, accessories, area rugs and art."Decor: Anything you want it to be The Wall Street Journal spoke with interior designers about the key trends for 2014, and identified several that were rather remarkable. One is "books as decor," and San Francisco designer Scot Meacham Wood suggested we shouldn't think of them as reading material at all."It's a statement about not reading," he said, referring to books selected for their matching dust jackets and stacked into a colorful tabletop arrangement.Decor is no longer defined by draperies, either. Sheer window treatments are taking center stage, designers told the Journal."Everyone wants greater transparency and more light," concluded New York designer Celerie Kemble.She isn't referring to thin polyester versions, however: This year's sheers are in rich linens and wool, and you can add coordinating switch plates and plug covers with a refreshing linen motif.

From catch-all to creativity: The art of coffee table decorating

Sometimes it seems like there are two types of coffee tables - the first ready for a photo shoot and the second an exercise in controlled clutter. With a bit of imagination, you can design a table all your own.The reason why the photo shoot variety isn't on the list of suggestions is because it tends to look as though it dwells independently in a space where no one actually lives, while the cluttered tabletop looks as if far too many people, none with much decorating sense, live there. The middle ground is a wonderful place to be.Less is more - space, that is Don't give in to the common tendency to cover every square inch, or even every quadrant, of your coffee table. You can adorn it with fresh flowers and lush plants, but leave room for the coffee.At the same time, Real Simple magazine recommended remembering why it's located in the living room, that treasured spot where real living takes place and where you establish the tone for your personal decorating style. If bright and airy is your aim, try an open-weave coffee table topped with a single, show-stopping sculpture. If a reading corner is your oasis of choice, skip the table and opt for an ottoman - ever so lovely for setting magazines and resting tired feet.Book in advance Country Living magazine quoted designer Gena Sigala about how to turn a coffee table from frumpy to focused, and she suggested using objects that mirror the shape of the table. A rectangular table, for example, is enhanced with a rectangular tray - always a good choice - and, of course, be sure to display your most elegant coffee table books, ideally about a person, place or thing that intrigues you."A piece that mimics the shape of your table helps organize items neatly and acts as a pretty layering element," she explained.That perfectly shaped piece can also be highly functional, such as a lidded box that becomes the new home for small essentials and ends the frantic cries of "Where's the remote?"The piece de resistance: personality Here's where you can get truly creative, like every talented designer. Think outside the box and around the coffee table by adding clever touches like switch plates and outlet covers or complementary window treatments that extend the coffee table theme to the entire living space. Then simply add what you like."Set out things that will spark curiosity and conversation, like a collection of glass bottles," advised Sigala.

Wallpaper decorating ideas that wow

If you've always loved wallpaper but weren't sure how to use it artfully, welcome to some visionary, idea-sparking approaches.First of all, remember that in today's decorating world, there are no rules. Don't use wallpaper on a ceiling or in small spaces? Sure you can - you just need a design motif, uniquely your own, and a plan. Any unusual detail, like a bold patterned paper in a tiny foyer, makes a statement.Wallpaper 101 Two things you should keep in mind as you fantasize about papering a room are that wallpaper isn't just for walls, and what works is what works for you. House Beautiful magazine interviewed Scot Meacham Wood, formerly of Ralph Lauren, on whether he believed wallpaper is in vogue. It was a good question with an easy answer: yes, totally and completely. Wood went on to elaborate that wallpaper has many decorating applications."As far as applications go, I wouldn't put too much significance on the word 'wall'  ... Cover a ceiling or line bookcases with it to liven up a room," he stated.Not one to miss decorating opportunities, Wood also advised ordering more paper than you need, saving unopened rolls to ensure a perfect color match should you ever have to make repairs and saving unfinished rolls to use as wrapping paper.Pairings and permutations In papering walls, you have a wide range of choices in terms of designs and fabrics that can give you exactly the look you want. For example, HGTV encouraged pairing the paper with a decorative item that brings it to life. In one example, a dusty green and bronze wallpaper is enriched by an elegant, upswept vase that complements colors and accentuates patterns. Another lovely pairing mixes a fresh new color with a clearly traditional pattern for a great mix of old and new.In terms of permutations, nowhere is it written that wallpaper must be made of paper: You can use natural fabrics like jute or even corkboard to cover walls in a most inventive way. Wall coverings can also be used to create a sense of age and history in a home that clearly has neither. Old-fashioned textured wall coverings can give a room depth and warmth. When using the more heavy-handed options for decorating your walls, choose switch plates and plug covers that exude understated elegance. 

Concepts for creating and decorating a small home office

It can be a space next to a fireplace or between two windows: Creating a small home office is all about where you find the space and what you put into it.Dismiss the notion that a small but organized home office demands a room - or even a wide open space - of its own. HGTV itemized a number of workplace-suitable areas, including the "dead" space under the stairs. The space may be tiny, but by adding a corkboard backdrop and floating shelf for your laptop, you can use every inch of it. Apartment-dwellers frequently have dead space next to the entry. Instead of filling it with an umbrella stand, HGTV proposed using it for a tiny, minimalist private office.Room with a view Nowhere is it written that the home worker can't have the finest view. If your bedroom is the only place to put your office, try a vintage desk under a large window. Not only does the view refresh your mind, it also refreshes your eyes: Many ophthalmologists suggest alternating close work on your computer with a few minutes of staring into the distance every hour.Real Simple magazine found a unique way to create an office that can appear and disappear at will. Use a white plastic drop-down desk, and get wonderful cubbies and storage compartments when it's open and a nonintrusive piece of furniture when it's closed.Shelve it all Another of Real Simple's suggestions was to build an office entirely of sturdy shelves that can handle everything you send their way, from files and laptops to a vase of fresh flowers. By eliminating the need for a desk, you free up space and let the area blend into any room from which you've carved it.Better Homes and Gardens magazine gave the shelving plan another look and recommended that you add shelves above the desk and file cabinets below for all-in-one functionality.Integrating two areas When your office is part of another room, which is often the case, the best approach is to look at the small, inexpensive additions that will make the unified area cozy and livable.First, consider the paint. Just as a folding screen separates areas in a multi-use space, a consistent color of paint unifies the areas. Use similar lighting, whether track lighting or wall lighting, and try out some unique switch plates and decorative plug outlet covers in a theme that works well in both functional areas.

How to make spring cleaning a personal spa day

For most people, spring cleaning takes less than a day but can mean so much more than a tidy home. Think about it. Far from being a day of drudgery, spring cleaning is a time to clean up, dust off and clear out - to make a break with the past that's every bit as real as New Year's Eve. Psychology Today magazine published a number of articles under an umbrella theme: Cleaning up junk can help clear your mind, and the results will be healthy for you and your home.Begin with surveillance Look around. Exactly what is all that clutter telling you? Human beings hang onto things for several reasons, and laziness is generally not one of them. For example, it doesn't take a therapist to see that refusing to let go of clothes that haven't fit for years and aren't likely to be in style if they ever do again isn't about frugality - it's about fear. We like to live in our comfort zones, even when it hurts to do so.Psychology Today quoted Ranka Burzan, professional organizer, speaker and author, on the reasons why we avoid cleaning out clutter."We always relate to routine and familiar circumstances even if they work against us. That is one reason that people stay in abusive relationships, low paying jobs and cluttered homes, because it's predictable and we become experts in dealing with unpleasant situations."Hunker down and clean up Real Simple magazine, on the other hand, focused on the joy we experience from cleaning up - and the insights it gathered in a survey of its Facebook fans. One such fan was Michelle Jesperson, and for her, cleaning comes with euphoria."My satisfaction is mostly gleaned from having a clean home with things organized and put away," said Jesperson.Does that satisfaction extend to other areas of life? Of course, Marla Deibler, Psy.D., director of the Center for Emotional Health of Greater Philadelphia, pointed out, and it leads to an ability to take on projects in other areas of our lives."When we set out to accomplish a goal like cleaning the fridge, we gain confidence that we can succeed," she told Real Simple. So here's the plan. After you set aside all the recyclables and clean everything in sight, stop to admire your handiwork. Touch up any little paint chips or imperfections and maybe add some saucy new additions like switch plates or plug covers to signal a final break from the cluttered past.Now that your tasks are complete and your mind is calm, finish with fresh flowers and candles in a relaxing bath - you deserve it.

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