Monthly Archives: November 2014

Flower gardening: more than meets the eye

Creating a colorful garden should be a snap-a spot of yellow here, a touch of pink over there, and maybe even a splash of lavender or bright crimson just around the comer. It sounds simple, doesn’t it? We plan borders so the colors of plants blooming together are compatible, and we combine perennials of varying heights to fight that monotonous look.

A good design always strives to bring out even the most subtle features of both flowers and foliage. Perennial borders and other areas of the landscape must remain fresh and vibrant with the coming of each new season. Garden-color selection is more, much more, than simply choosing plants whose blooms complement and whose mature heights produce a pleasing flow to the eye. The best gardens, the ones that are remembered, have an ambiance all their own. Gardens have character; they develop feelings; and most of all, they create a mood.


Unfortunately, for many gardeners light simply means full sun, partial sun, or shade, and which plants will grow best under each condition. To fully appreciate how light can dominate the mood of a landscape, gardeners must have just as faithful an appreciation for the value of light as do nature photographers. Blues look much richer at dusk than in the bright light of midday. Likewise, using blue flowers near tables, benches, waterfalls, or sculptures will make these garden features even more inviting as light values diminish toward evening. Planting blue flowers near a reflection pool promotes a mood that is very restful and calming to our emotions.

It is difficult to describe the various shades of blues in words, and even harder to photograph them accurately. Some blues naturally project more intimate feelings than others. Foliage and berries can bring an added dimension to using blue in the garden. Especially in shaded areas, clusters of perennials with just a touch of blue or bluish green foliage can be quite complementary to plants with yellow or orange flowers. By comparison, most gardeners find it difficult to combine the more intense blues, like some forms of the Colorado blue spruce (Picea pungens), with other colors in the landscape.


Vivid reds, vibrant crimsons, or bold scarlets are anything but subtle participants in the landscape. When backed by green foliage, red flowers appear more brilliant and distinct. Where as some colors almost seem to melt or blend in when viewed from a distance, most shades of red stand their ground well. Brighter shades of red can be used to good advantage in the landscape. With forethought and planning, they lend a dramatic statement to the perennial border. Red can be an overpowering color, however, and its use must be quite selective for best results. Large, unbroken swaths of bold red flowers can be exhausting to the eye. Such garish displays often overwhelm neighboring areas of the landscape, no matter how well-designed.

Tulips are available in many shades, from rose red to carmine or scarlet, and even groups as small as a dozen bulbs can provide refreshing pockets of beauty. Patches of the small-statured tulip Red Riding Hood (Tulipa greigi “Red Riding Hood”) offer a fresh breath of early spring color. Later-blooming tulips, such as the Darwin Hybrids, also help to set spring off on the right foot. Such varieties as “Apeldoom” (bright red) or “Red matador” (carmine red) are equally stunning, even when used in groups as small as 30 to 50 bulbs.

Yellows Yellow-hued flowers can be quite charming indeed. Soft, delicate yellows are especially inviting, because the eye is readily drawn to even the palest hue. Yet serene, yellow flowers can be used with little fear of overpowering the garden. Shocking shades of yellow or yellow-orange are too difficult for most gardeners to blend successfully into the landscape scheme. Many yellows can be used to help buffer some of the more overpowering shades of scarlet or vermilion. Even the softest yellows can stand by themselves and not simply tone down or mellow a hotter color. Do not make the mistake, however, of placing soft-yellow flowers in a location too distant for the eye to appreciate. A background of dark green foliage is greatly enhanced by a foreground cluster of serene yellow flowers. Another pleasing combination is soft-pink or light-rose blooms planted against a foreground of clear yellow flowers.

Great numbers of yellow flowering shrubs and herbaceous perennials are available to work into the garden scheme. Moreover, yellow flowers can color borders, from the winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) and cornelian cherry dogwood (Cornus mas,) in early spring to our native witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) in the fall.

Plants having varying shades of yellow cast throughout their foliage are popular components of many landscapes. They provide the garden with a certain grace and charm duplicated in few other ways. Most landscape designers overlook the subtle beauty of yellow variegated foliage. Only a handful of overworked favorites, like some forms of liriope, miscanthus, or privet, are ever used. That is a shame, because the subtle, yellow variegated leaves of certain bamboos, sedges, and even pines, among others, can be excellent choices for many gardens. A single plant or at most a small grouping can be all that is needed in the right location.


White, when used to its fullest potential, is in many ways the most adaptable of colors. White can be a supreme complement to other colors, although few flowers are actually pure white. Most have tinges of pink, violet, or some other shade. The subtleties of many white-flowered plants are seldom appreciated by most gardeners. The white petals of some lilies are quite vibrant, compared with the blooms of a sweet bay magnolia (Magnolia virginiana), which appear more cream colored and rank among the most beautiful flowers to be found anywhere in the garden.

The use of brilliant or dazzling shades of white must be tempered somewhat in the landscape. Whites are in many ways, however, the mediators of the garden, allowing most other colors to blend together more harmoniously. White flowers are also easier for the eye to pick up in dim or fading light. The time of day one tends to enjoy a garden may, for instance, influence the quantity of white flowers used in a perennial border.

White flowers can make dark green foliage appear much more vivid in a garden setting. This is one reason the deep evergreen leaves of the southern magnolia are so well-complemented by its own white blooms. White flowers also complement a range of garden furniture, fountains, or walkways better than many other colors. The cold, stark appearance of stone seats or statuary is greatly softened by the white blooms of a flowering dogwood (Cornus florida), Merrill. magnolia (Magnolia denudata “Merrill”), or Japanese tree lilac (Syringa reticulata). Likewise, white emperor or lily-flowering tulips always look at home along a red brick walkway.

Even more than whites, the silvers and grays are especially overlooked by most gardeners. The foliage of many plants can be quite stunning and can range from pewter through various shades of blue-gray or greenish-gray to light silver.


Green is so common before our eyes in nearly any garden that we almost forget it exists. The foliage of most yews or boxwoods is quite dark compared to the much lighter leaves of a tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera) or the bluish green hue of a Bar Harbor creeping juniper (Juniperus horizontalis “Bar Harbor”). Green as a color is quite soothing to our eyes. We take for granted the restful qualities of a simple green lawn. Even the green foliage of our common maples, ashes, or oaks is too often over looked. Green tends to take some of the harsh edge off the hot reds or oranges. It is also not given the credit it deserves for accentuating foreground plantings of flowers from pink to yellow or blue. Finally, even earth-toned garden structures from brown benches to slate gray statues are complemented by surrounding green foliage.

Changing Colors

Much more goes into the planning of a garden than simply choosing a handful of compatible colors. A few of our most popular flowers even change color as they mature. The flower buds of some viburnums and crab apples start out pink but often turn a stunning white. Other flowers may have broadly striped petals. The Kaufmanniana-type tulip “Stresa” is well-known for its attractive red-yellow blooms. Finally, many daffodils boast bicolor flowers. “Barrett Browning” features white petals and an orange inner cup.

Designing a garden that will be remembered for its beauty is no easy task. Of all factors to be considered, the proper use of color is perhaps the most elusive. Some colors will make a garden appear significantly larger than it really is; others may convey to visitors the feeling of peacefulness or serenity. A few colors even accentuate the shape or form of an object in the garden, such as a planting urn or sundial. Take the time to use each color to its fullest advantage. Your efforts will be repaid many times over.

5 Simple home-life improvements

1 Get your caffeine fix down cold

It’s iced coffee season, and the richest-tasting version is cold brew. Fair warning: It’s potent, so dilute with water or milk, unless you enjoy acting like a crazy person. You’ll need coffee grounds the size of kosher salt, says Liam Kenna of Stumptown Coffee Roasters; if you’re grinding at the supermarket, it’s the setting between a flat-bottom basket and French press. Use 4 cups cold water to Vi lb coffee. Combine in a pitcher and steep in your fridge 12 to 18 hours, stirring occasionally. Strain it twice through a paper filter. The smooth, delicious result will keep refrigerated up to two weeks.

2 Cooking tips from a cutie

Do those crinkly eyes look familiar? That’s Ben Ford, chef and owner of Ford’s Filling Station in Culver City, CA, author of the fab new cookbook Taming the Feast, and dead ringer for his dad, Harrison Ford. Obviously, we wanted to know what he’s eating now: “Grilled corn on the cob. Peel back the husk–but not totally off–and remove the silk. Slather an herb butter all over, pull the husk back up, and grill for a few minutes. It’ll taste so smoky and delicious.”

3 Master prints

Pattern mixing isn’t only for outfits (see page 68), as Jamie Meares, a Raleigh, NC-based designer, proves with the gorgeous room below. “Stick to one color family, then layer different patterns and textures. Start with small, affordable accents like pillows that can easily be swapped out,” she says. Lastly, “Be confident. When it’s stuff you love, you can’t mess it up.”

4 Perked-up pots

A Make over those terra-cotta pots gathering dust in your garage with this trick from Cheryl Najafi of cherylstyle .com: Wipe off any dust, plot your design freehand or with stencils, then put it on using two coats of exterior paint. She likes doing a street number or last name and setting the pot on the front stoop.

5 Watermelon wonder

We love this summerific take on pico de gallo from the new Dos Caminos Tacos cookbook. In a large bowl, gently toss 2 cups watermelon cubes with a dash of sea salt. Add 2 serrano chiles (sliced paper-thin) with seeds, 2 Tbsp fresh lime juice, 1 1/2 Tbsp thinly sliced mint leaves, and another teaspoon of sea salt. Toss and refrigerate at least 2 hours, so the flavors meld. Your chips just made a new friend.

Maximum overdrive: six stompboxes go for the gain

A survey of six top rated overdrive pedals. Some have tubes, others are solid-state, but all aim to replicate the organic-sounding burn of hard-working tube amp.

With all due respect to the “Fuzzbox Revival,” there’s still a place on the pedalboard for boxes that sound more like the smooth overdrive of a tube amp than a swarm of killer bees pollinating a Skilsaw. The half-dozen contenders surveyed here go for the sort of real-life distortion that, at its best, adds girth without compromising the innate color of your guitar or amp.

Budda Amplification Phatman

With its dual 12AX7 preamp tubes, it’s no surprise that the Phatman Pure Vacuum Tube Overdrive offers convincing, tube-flavored gain. More remarkable are its beautifully tuned tone pots and the subtle shadings of its supersensitive gain control. Warm and musical, the Phatman is a tone-fiend’s dream. There are no midrange or presence knobs, but the wide-ranging treble and bass controls cover that ground just fine. Cranking the treble adds articulate bite, and rolling back the bass clarifies the lower midst It’s almost impossible to find a bad tone–even extreme settings are usable. Treble up/gain down yields a clean solo boost; the opposite configuration provides tubby-in-a-good-way blues tones. All settings are extremely responsive to playing dynamics and volume-pot manipulations.

Thanks to a light (but sturdy) brushed-aluminum housing, the Phatman’s big, 8″ x 7″ enclosure is not as cumbersome as it looks. The plate that protects the tubes pops off in seconds for easy re-tubing. The interior work is tidy, with all components mounted on a single PC board. A 12-volt, wall-wart adapter is included.

CTech Sonny Boy

An asymmetrical housing is only one of the offbeat features of the Sonny Boy. Like a SansAmp, this pedal aspires to work as both an overdrive stompbox and a direct-recording tool. The solid-state device delivers detailed tones that imitate not only tube-preamp overdrive, but also power-amp thump and the tonal contours of a miked speaker. Marketed as a blues pedal, the Sonny Boy offers 10 presets with evocative names like “Texas Flood” and “Boogie Chillen.” While the settings don’t necessarily sound like their namesakes (don’t expect instant SRV or John Lee Hooker), the box offers an impressive array of blues-approved colors.

“Stone Crazy,” for example, has a peaky, notched-wah quality; “Back Scratcher” is dark and swampy; and “Chicken Shack” is pointy and aggressive. Separate gain and presence controls let you draw tonal variations from each preset, while a “’50s/’60s” switch kicks in a harsher distortion sound. There are a lot more than ten sounds here, and you don’t have to be a blues player to appreciate them.

The Sonny Boy works best straight into a mixing board. Its sounds are so strongly flavored that they tend to clash with those of a strongly flavored, vintage-style amp. And, unlike a SansAmp, the Sonny Boy is not very dynamically responsive–it refuses to clean up as you back off your volume pot. The presets aren’t arranged in any particular order, and because the selector knob and its detents are rather small, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with the settings before you attempt to dial in tones on the fly. The pedal requires a 9-volt battery or AC adapter (not included). Battery changes are quick, but the detachable compartment cover is easy to lose.

DOD Mystic Blues Overdrive

Housed in the company’s standard box (which has been upgraded with a hinged battery-compartment cover and a sturdier footswitch), the FX102 Mystic Blues Overdrive is a straightforward overdriver with simple drive, level, high, and low controls. The Mystic Blues offers a relatively subtle overdrive from somewhere in the Tube Screamer quadrant, but with a sharper treble attack. It can generate plenty of high-end sizzle, but while preserving lows, it doesn’t much augment them. At lower settings, the pedal adds subtle bulk, but overall, it emphasizes bite over wallop. Requires a 9-volt battery or adapter (not included).

Dredge-Tone Audio Dredge Overdrive

You’ve got to love the simplicity of the Dredge Overdrive–its only controls are an on/offswitch and a “more” knob. Despite the absence of tone pots, the Dredge delivers the sort of overdrive sought by many ’90s rock players, adding pumped-up lows and a high-end fuzziness that manages to sound raucous without overshadowing your sound. It offers convincingly tubelike response, especially at lower settings. In fact, you might even leave the Dredge permanently engaged in order to add girth to a guitar with less-than-studly pickups. The lack of separate level and gain controls means you can’t really get a semi-clean solo boost, but you may be surprised by how this seemingly inflexible pedal administers precisely the jolt you seek. Requires a 9-volt battery or adapter (not included).

Menatone Blue Collar

The Blue Collar makes good on its promise of capturing the sound of a vintage plexi Marshall. Like the amp whose gain stage it imitates, the Blue Collar is less about overall tonal range than delivering one very particular type of crunch. Plexi fans adore the way their amps ease into buttery overdrive without losing their bell-like highs, and the Blue Collar nails that basic quality. Single tone and presence pots offer gorgeous flavors throughout their ranges. Tone down/presence up yields a smoky blues vibe, while the opposite setting crackles with ’70s-glam-rock fizz. Lower the drive and raise the output for a lovely, semi-clean solo boost, or floor the gain and thrill to the way the tones swell without becoming raspy. Even at full distortion, major and minor chords played across all six strings sing sweetly. I was amazed by the extent to which the Blue Collar made a super-clean blackface Fender Showman sound like an old 50-watt Marshall. Requires a 9-volt battery or AC adapter (not included).

Overdrive Electronics Valve Grinder

The Valve Grinder is big in every sense. The 7″ x 4’/2″ X 3″ die-cast box weighs almost four pounds, and a peek inside reveals why: It’s full of hefty, hand-wired components–including a large transformer, dual 12AX7 tubes, and an internal power supply connected to an 8′ appliance grade power cable. There’s even an external fuse socket. In addition to its bass, mid, and treble knobs, the Grinder employs separate “fuzz” and “crunch” controls to evoke the overdrive of an amp’s preamp and output stages. Cranking the fuzz adds bright, fizzy distortion. Raising the crunch knob introduces a deeper, sweatier grind. The pedal’s gain knobs act like additional tone controls. There are many timbres in the Valve Grinder, and they are uniformly big and aggressive. It’s the 18-wheeler of gain pedals.

The Valve Grinder’s interior has a home-workbench look, complete with gloppy soldering. But despite the less-than-stellar wiring, the unit feels genuinely roadworthy. Be warned, however, of certain tonal eccentricities, such as the ranges of the tone pots. Below two o’clock, the treble control drastically siphons off highs. Cranking the bass knob unleashes major low-end mass, but the relatively mild mid control is pitched unusually low. Another quirk: the input and output jacks are arranged in reverse order.

Buzz Factor

Depending on your needs and tastes, most of these pedals do a good job of delivering warm, smooth distortion colors. In particular, the tube-powered Budda Phatman is a great choice for grind gourmets who want to preserve the flavor of a great guitar/amp combo, while the Overdrive Electronics Valve Grinder offers myriad shades of aggressive crunch. Both units consume large amounts of pedalboard space–their only downfall.

Each of the solid-state boxes does its dirty deed in a unique manner. The CTech Sonny Boy is a cool direct-recording tool, but listen before you leap if you plan on using it with an amp. The DOD Mystic Blues sounded overly edgy when used with a single-coil guitar, but it might be just the thing for adding crisp attack to a humbucker-equipped ax. The Dredge-Tone Audio Dredge Overdrive is a great-sounding distortion booster for those who like to keep it simple. And if ’70s British rock tones suit you, you’ll love the vintage-Marshall vibe of the Menatone Blue Collar.

The party house: how to create the ideal home for a grown-up mixer


It needs to be comfortable, stylish, and flexible. This rules out 90 percent of all furniture on the market.


For starters: A recliner is an argument with every woman who ever lived. Instead of putting a giant, cock-blocking marshmallow in your living room, buy good armchairs with footstools; perfectly comfy, and the ottoman doubles as another seat. Or, with a tray on it, a place to put pretzels and beers.


Go conservative with color and (if any) pattern, and don’t go too big; a sofa needs to be only long enough for a nap. Plus, nobody likes sitting in the middle of the seat.


They can be useful, if your room is big and the pieces can be arranged in different ways. Orient the chair(s) and the sofa in an L shape, rather than facing one another–the better to actually hear what other people are saying. And on cocktail tables, consider two or three small ottomans rather than one large, room-clogging slab of wood. Again: flexibility. Additional seating. Easier to move when the dancing starts.


So, your main rug: highly patterned in dark colors. Hard to beat a classic Oriental. Also, consider a cowhide: masculine, interesting, unstainable.


Don’t serve anything red or sticky. Also: Delicate wood surfaces are just water stains and heartaches waiting to happen. Plus, you’ll be that guy who runs around putting coasters under everybody’s drink. For tabletops: thick glass, stone, tile. On coasters: They need to be absorbent, or they’ll stick annoyingly to your glass. Wood or cork is nice. Fire up the chain saw and cut quarter-inch slices off a three-inch-diameter hardwood log–perfect.


If you have space. But it’s easier and less messy to make drinks in the kitchen, where the ice and sink are. Happy medium: Get an ice bucket, and use the cart only for whiskeys while the rest of the bar lives in the kitchen. Put the bar and the table with food on opposite ends of the room. Promotes flow.


But don’t provide seating for everyone. A good party depends on movement and flow; you don’t want people parked in the same chair all night. Figure on enough seating for a third of your guests.


Light a candle; leave the matches. Go easy on the reading material; maybe a copy of Schott’s Miscellany. Offer a stack of small hand towels and a basket to toss them into; a single hand towel will be sopping (and unappealing) after the first three people use it.

Reviewing the basics: reverb

At one time or another, you’ve probably walked down a large hallway with a polished marble floor and stone walls. Each step you take is followed by an echo that seems to hang in the air for awhile. The echo is not a clear repeat of each footfall, but a smear of sound that dies away slowly.

That lingering sound is called reverberation, or reverb, and it is a vital part of virtually every sound you hear. Your brain uses it to determine the size, shape, and other characteristics of the space in which the sound was produced. It occurs naturally almost everywhere, and it is artificially simulated in the recording studio. In fact, reverb is probably the most common signal-processing effect of them all.


Almost all enclosed and semi-enclosed spaces exhibit some reverberation. The process starts with a sound wave that emanates in a more or less spherical pattern from a sound source and expands toward any listeners in the room, as well as nearby surfaces: walls, ceilings, windows, furniture, etc. (Speakers don’t necessarily radiate sound in a spherical pattern; the radiation pattern depends on the design of the speaker.)

Once the sound wave reaches a surface, it is reflected back into the room, where it’s reflected again and again by various surfaces. These multiple reflections also reach the listener. However, the initial sound waves almost always reach the listener first because the path between the source sound and the listener is shorter than the path taken by any of the sound’s reflections.

Each reflection is generally lower in amplitude than the preceding one, because the sound wave loses some energy each time it is reflected. Most materials absorb some of the sound wave’s energy and reflect the rest. As a result, the reverberation dies away over time.

Normally, you can’t hear these reflections individually because they happen in such quick succession. Most rooms are no more than a few dozen feet long in any direction, and sound travels at about 1,130 feet per second in air. Therefore, the sound waves are reflected many times per second in every direction (up/down, right/left, front/back). Our brain tends to smear all these rapid reflections into a continuous sound, which we call reverberation. This sound has a haunting, ringing quality that lingers for some period of time after the original sound stops.

Several factors contribute to the specific reverberation of a particular space. For example, the larger the space, the longer it takes sound waves to reach the walls and reflect back to your ears. Heavy drapes and thick-pile carpeting absorb much more sound than marble walls and hardwood floors. In addition, people tend to absorb a fair amount of sound energy (unless they’re wearing suits of armor), so an empty room has different reverb characteristics than the same space when it’s crowded with people.

The phenomenon of reverb can be distilled into several distinct parts. The most obvious component is the time it takes the reverberation to become inaudible. This decay time depends primarily on the reflective properties of the room–as determined by the texture of the walls, ceiling, floor, and furnishings–and the amplitude of the original sound. Also, high frequencies tend to fade away more quickly than low frequencies. In very large spaces, such as enclosed stadiums, there could be a perceptible delay between the original sound and the onset of reverberation.


One problem with acoustic reverberation is that you can’t easily control it. The physical size of the space limits what you can do, so studio recordings normally rely on artificial reverb. For maximum flexibility and creativity in signal processing, acoustic musicians are often recorded in a relatively “dead” (that is, non reverberant) environment, and their signal is passed through a reverb unit that digitally simulates various acoustic environments. Electronic sound sources also benefit from passing through a reverb unit.

Best reverb units are actually multi-effects processors that perform reverb, modulation effects, and several other signal processing chores, which I’ll discuss later in this part of the book. Many synthesizers also include onboard multi-effects processors that apply reverb in addition to other effects.

To program a reverb unit effectively, you need to know the basic parameters you will encounter. The most fundamental parameter is reverb type. Most units offer several types of reverb, generally based on different acoustic environments. As you might expect, a room reverb simulates a small to medium-size room, while a hall reverb simulates a large room or auditorium. Some units offer a stadium or cathedral reverb, as well. Select the reverb type that best suits the acoustic space you wish to simulate.

Many reverb units also include several digital simulations of early types of reverb processing. In the early days of recording, engineers sent a recorded signal to a speaker in a small, tile-lined chamber. A microphone placed in the chamber picked up the sound from the speaker along with the subsequent reflections inside the chamber. Reverb chambers are prized for their lush, blossoming quality and were a major component of the classic Phil Spector sound in the early 1960s.

Spring reverbs employ a physical spring with a microphone transducer attached to one end and a speaker transducer attached to the other end. The signal passes through the spring to create a reverb effect. Spring reverb stend to produce a boingy, chattery timbre with accentuated high end. Plate reverbs use a metal plate instead of a spring, with pickups placed at various locations on the plate. Plate reverbs typically produce a sharp timbre that greatly enhances the punch of drum and percussion tracks.

Many units also offer several reverb types that have little to do with acoustic reverb. These types are generally known as nonlinear reverb. For example, a reverse reverb starts from silence and grows to maximum level, after which it cuts off abruptly, which is opposite from the way natural reverb works. A gated reverb starts normally but suddenly is cut off after a user-definable gate time. Gated reverb is often applied to the snare drum in pop and rock music.

Once you have selected the basic reverb type, there are several parameters you can play with. The first and most obvious parameter is reverb or decay time. This parameter determines how long the reverb effect remains audible, and it lets you control the apparent size and reflectivity of the simulated acoustical space. For example, a room reverb might have a decay time of one or two seconds, whereas a hall reverb might last three to five seconds. A cathedral reverb might last as long as eight to ten seconds. If the environment is highly reflective, the reverb time is longer.

Sometimes, you can actually discern the first few reflections separately before the reverberation starts to smear together, particularly in large acoustical spaces. These early reflections have a strong influence on how you perceive reverb in a large space. In a digital reverb unit, the time between the original sound and the very first reflection is controlled by the predelay parameter. As the predelay time gets longer, the apparent size of the space increases and your apparent location within the space gets closer to the “center” of the room. Predelay is generally no more than 500 milliseconds and typically in the 10 to 50 ms range.

Another parameter that relates to early reflections is called, reasonably enough, early reflections (in some units, it’s called density). This parameter controls the time between the first few reflections, which is generally just a few milliseconds. This might seem insignificant, but it determines the “opacity,” or density, of the reverb sound during the first few moments. Like reverb time, density helps simulate different room sizes; higher density values simulate larger spaces, because it takes longer for the early reflections to reach your ears in a large space.

The diffusion parameter controls the separation of the reflections within the main body of the reverb sound, which determines its “thickness.” Reducing the diffusion value produces a thinner sound because the reflections are more widely spaced in time. This parameter lets you determine the complexity of the simulated acoustical space. Keep in mind that many reflective surfaces in a room result in a thicker, denser reverb.

One of the characteristics of acoustic reverberation is that high frequencies typically die away faster than low frequencies. As a result, many reverb units include a high-frequency damping parameter, which lets you control the decay rate of high frequencies separately from the main reverb decay. Some reverb units even include a low-frequency damping parameter. Both of these parameters provide additional control over the apparent size and reflective characteristics of the simulated acoustical space. For example, softer surfaces cause high frequencies to decay more rapidly, while smaller rooms cause low frequencies to decay more rapidly.


As mentioned earlier, one of the primary applications of artificial reverb is to Simulate an acoustical space within which your recorded ensemble “performs.” To accomplish this, send the entire mix through the same reverb unit programmed to re-create the type of space you wish to simulate.

You can also apply different reverbs to individual instruments for special effects. In many pop drum mixes, for example, the snare is heavily processed (often with a gated and/or reverse reverb), while the kick drum is relatively dry. This approach lends an air of drama to the snare backbeat without washing the kick drum in confusing reflections that would diminish its cohesiveness with the bass. Many guitar players like to apply liberal amounts ofreverb to enhance their solo sounds.

Another interesting application is playing in a highly reverberant environment a la Paul Horn’s Inside the Taj Mahal. Use a hall or cathedral reverb type with a long decay time and high aux-send and aux-return levels.

In many synthesizers with onboard multi-effects units, the effects are an integral part of each patch. Unfortunately, most of these kinds of synths can produce only one combination of effects at a time. If the synthesizer is multitimbral, all parts are passed through the same effects. If you’re not careful, this overall effect will be the one assigned to the last patch you called up, which might or might not serve the other parts well. Instead, you should set the synth’s effect mode to “master,” which lets you select the effects you want for all the parts from that synth. (Fortunately, some synths now include several separate effects processors; some effects are global and others are applied as “insert” effects to individual patches.)

Reverb is inescapable. You hear it everywhere, and rightly so. Almost all music sounds better with reverb, which is why church choirs generally sound better than one would expect from the singing skills of their members. Your music will sound better with reverb, too. All you need to do is experiment a bit with a digital reverb unit to discover just how much better.

20 ways to host a star

Don’t let the thought of playing hostess to a blow-you-away bash scare the party girl out of you. With these entertaining tricks, you’ll impress your guests and yourself!

[1] “Miniature picture frames make the perfect place-card holders–and they double as adorable favors.”

[2] “To keep my house smelling great, I simmer a homemade potpourri mix–apple slices, vanilla beans, ginger root, and peppermint oil–in a pot of water on the stove.”

[3] “I glam up store-bought cakes by decorating them with gorgeous edible flowers, like nasturtiums and pansies. Get them at select stores or online at”

[4] “I slice off the bottoms of lemons and limes (so they can sit on a flat surface), hollow them out, and stick white votive candles inside.”

[5] “For a quickie dessert, dip strawberries in warm Nutella, a chocolate-and-hazelnut spread available at grocery stores. After the treats cool on waxed paper, serve them with a scoop of ice cream.”

[6] “For a wintertime bash, I cover the tables with dark blue cloths and sprinkle lots of white confetti on them to look like snow. I also have my kids cut out paper snowflakes to hang from the ceilings.”

[7] “To keep my bathroom smelling fabulous, I pull back the shower curtain and fill the bathtub with scented floating candles and flower heads, such as gerbera daisies and roses.”

[8] “I freeze cranberry juice in a Bundt pan. About an hour before company arrives, I empty ginger ale into a large bowl and add the frozen ring.”

[9] “I ask friends to take candid shots throughout the festivities with my Polaroid camera. They make instant (and practically free) party favors.”

[10] “I always do themed goody bags for my guests. For a bonfire party, I gave out bags filled with marshmallows, wooden skewers, and matches so friends could roast marshmallows at home,”

[11] “I hire my babysitter to help me in the kitchen. The extra set of hands makes guests feel less obligated to take on tasks, like carrying of food back and forth.”

[12] “I make copies of how to get from my house to major intersections and highways. Then I just point people to the printed directions by the door instead of repeating myself every time a guest leaves.”

[13] “I tie colorful pieces of red-licorice laces around white napkins. Kids and kids at heart always `ooh’ and `ahh’ over these edible rings.”

[14] “I freeze raspberries and use them as ice cubes in glasses of white wine. They add taste, color, and class.”

[15] “I dig up 70s- and 80s-music CDs and encourage each guest to act as the DJ. There’s something about hearing music from your younger years that puts everyone in the mood to party.”

[16] “Tape sheets of tinted vellum paper into four-inch-round cylinders, and then place the paper tubes over lighted votive candles. These luminarias make a room glow with color.”

[17] “I set up a kids-only room with three or four activity tables in it, I put coloring books and crayons on one table, building blocks on another, and so on. This way my guests can bring their little ones along.”

[18] “To make more areas of conversation, I limit the number of chairs around the house. This also prevents people who are already close friends from plunking down in one spot together the entire night.”

[19] “An easy, but elegant, bar shortcut: Only serve champagne and Guinness beer. They can be combined to make a Black Velvet or drunk separately.”

[20] “I buy colorful Chinese take-out containers (from and fill them with leftover treats to give to guests as doggy bags.”

50 ways to spruce up your place

[1] Tired of your museum-print posters of Monet? Pick up a few yards of pretty-patterned fabric (a big, bold flower print, perhaps?) and stretch it over a 24-inch-square wooden frame that you create with stretcher bars. Tightly secure the fabric to the back of the frame with thumbtacks, trim excess material, and hang your masterpiece.

[2] Prop an aluminum stepladder against a wall and use its steps as sleek, stylish bookshelves.

[3] Reshuffle your wall art. Take paintings or framed photos from your bedroom and see how they look in the dining room, kitchen, or entryway.

[4] What kitchen wall wouldn’t look better with the Container Clock (at right) on it? Fill it with a bunch of jelly beans, pistachio nuts, seashells–you choose.

[5] Do the words “those old things” best describe your living-room curtains? For a superfast, no-sew fix, buy fabric and “hem” it with invisible hemming tape (find it at fabric stores); then fasten Clip Rings to the material and drape it from any curtain rod.

[6] Funky knobs may be all that nightstand or dresser needs to shine like new. Try blue Gem Pulls or blue ’30s Glass Knobs or pewter Pressed Flower Pulls.

[7] Who says a couch has to be against a wall? Try floating your sofa in front of your fireplace or angling it in a corner.

[8] Transform dime-a-dozen water glasses (above) into creative vases by wrapping each in a sheet of handmade paper, then a piece of decorating mesh. Secure paper and mesh with clear-drying craft glue. If you like, knot colorful pieces of raffia around the middle of the vase for a finishing touch.

[9] Gussy up your guest bathroom by wrapping half a dozen ordinary bar soaps (above, center) in colorful gift wrap or origami paper (available at stationery or craft stores), the same way you would a small present. Tie ribbons around the soaps’ centers and display them in a bowl.

[10] Let’s say your sofa is the most blah shade of beige. Bubble Silk pink pillows (above) will perk it up.

[11] Adding a touch of Arabian Nights is a sexy way to restyle your bedroom–and you can do it in just a few simple steps. Screw a large eye hook in your ceiling directly above the center of your bed. Thread about ten yards of lightweight material through the hook (we suggest using tulle or lace). Arrange the fabric so it falls on both sides of the bed, letting each end puddle onto the floor.

[12] Groovy, baby! These Rave Tumblers make retro-cool kitchen displays. Plus, they’ll score big with guests at your next swanky soiree.

[13] Redesign ho-hum tea towels, throw pillows, and pillowcases with fabric paint and dummy-proof stencil sets from Delta Crafts (

[14] Paint the back of your bookshelves an energetic red, orange, or teal to liven up a dull library look.

[15] Get your bathroom in full bloom: Hot-glue plastic flowers, found at craft stores, to your shower-curtain hooks.

[16] Admit it: Your towering CD collection isn’t doing much to liven up your living room. Pack disks and liner notes in a sleeved album that blends in on a bookshelf, then chuck those space-sapping plastic CD containers. The Container Store Nylon CD Wallets hold 128 disks.

[17] Make a nothing-special nightstand look like something you scored at an antique shop: Sand it, then paint it any color with latex paint. After it dries, drag a large set of keys back and forth across the surface and down the sides, stopping when you think it looks sufficiently distressed. Make more scratches and dents with coins nails, or knives, and sand away some of the paint along the edges and corners to imitate wear.

[18] Scour a flea market for vintage postcards, like the ones at right, then frame them in black 8-x-10-inch frames. Use construction paper for the background.

[19] Your holiday ornaments don’t have to collect dust all year. Arrange the most lustrous balls you own in a large clear glass bowl and use it as a striking centerpiece.

[20] Nowhere is it written that kitchen counter appliances must be white, black, or silver. So pick up the crayon-red Diner Toaster from Crate & Barrel.

[21] Arrange several small mirrors (any shape will do) behind and underneath short flower arrangements on your mantel or along a bookshelf and–presto, change-o!–you’ve got beaucoup de blooms in view.

[22] Nothing brightens up a bathroom better than accessories in sunshine orange. Try a waffle-weave fabric curtain and …

[23] … the funky DayDreamer floral wastebasket.

[24] This whimsical woven basket (right) in every color of the rainbow is ideal for stashing newspapers, magazines, and anything else that piles up in your family room.

[25] If your bedroom walls are plain vanilla, paint just the closet doors or the ceiling a new, springlike shade, such as lilac, peach, or a buttery yellow.

[26] Just try to find a more fun and colorful floor mat. The lively checkered Index Throw Rug adds spunk to any room.

[27] Nab some designer ceramic tiles at a home-furnishing store. Glue same-size squares of felt to the bottoms and you’ve got a new set of eye-catching coasters.

[28] Oranges, potpourri, and more can be put on display (at left) in these pink and green lacquered bamboo bowls.

[29] Purchase a few yards of extra-wide ribbon at a fabric store and roll it across your table for a runner.

[30] Pick up a wallpaper border with an easy-to-cut pattern, for example flowers, and then adhere it to your painted bathroom or bedroom walls. Try arranging the borders around a hanging mirror or doorway.

[31] Ditch the standard-issue light switch plates your house came with and opt for ones with floral designs and hot hues; head to Our favorite? It’s a toss-up between the Red and Dusty Rose Gloss Steel plates and the Blue Flower and Victorian Rose Porcelain plates.

[32] Find a gorgeous faux orchid (three cheers for no watering!) that can fool even the pickiest petal lovers.

[33] Add a warm ambience to your porch with do-it-yourself lanterns that can be hung with wire. Pour colored sand (available at craft stores) into canning jars; then position a small votive candle in the sand.

[34] Hang a wicker bicycle basket on your kitchen wall for a creative way to store fresh fruit or dried flowers.

[35] Give your plain-Jane lampshades some personality: Write inspiring words, such as “Happy Home” or “Sweet Dreams,” on them with fabric marker (available at craft stores).

[36] How adorable is this wine rack? Paint it any shade.

[37] Replace your ceiling fan chains with a pretty gingham ribbon; also, hot-glue ribbon to the front of window blind cords.

[38] Bundle up dried lavender and tie together at the center with some purple ribbon. Cut the ends of the stems with scissors so they’re even, then stand the aromatic bouquet on a mantel or windowsill.

[39] Keep your fireplace glowing even during warm months. Pile up fresh logs and wrap them in white twinkly electric lights.

[40] Scout thrift stores for shawls and scarves with attractive patterns, such as an Indian sari print, and toss them over your solid chairs and sofas for instant flair.

[41] Give your fridge a makeover with homemade magnets (below). Superglue snips of magnetic tape, available at craft stores, to the backs of bright buttons.

[42] Cheer up kitchen cabinets: Purchase sheets of funky-patterned paper and cut them so they’re slightly smaller than the cabinet doors. Paint a layer of Mod Podge (a clear-drying, nontoxic glue available at craft stores) over the paper to keep it in place.

[43] Jazz up humdrum dinner plates by adding polka dots and curlicues around the rims with ceramic paint (available at art stores).

[44] New pillow shams are enough to give your bed an instant makeover. Search for fun floral-print ones at or

[45] Punch up any room with gerbera daisies in color-coordinated terracotta pots. Paint one pot orange and plant red daisies in it; paint another pot red and plant orange daisies in it; and so on.

[46] Make great scents in your clothes closets and drawers with Hand-Embroidered 100-percent Cotton Pillow Sachets with lavender inserts.

[47] A redwood window box makes a creative container for spices, vinegars, and olive oils on your kitchen countertop.

[48] Funny how everyday cooking utensils look so much better when kept in a porcelain pitcher. Try Le Creuset Poterie 2-Quart Pitcher in citrus, cherry red, or jade.

[49] Cut gift wrap into 13x-18-inch sheets and have them laminated at a copy center to create unique–and stainproof!–place mats.

[50] Swap dark-colored throw rugs with superdurable, more summery sea-grass ones. We like Color-Bound Seagrass Rugs in sage.

101 bright ideas for your home: wan’t little changes with big impact?

Here, the easiest ways to turn so-so space into your dream home. Plus: under $25 ideas from top designers.

1 Make wall space your showplace. Instead of paintings or prints, hang shelves to display keepsakes and collectibles.

2 Do bamboo. Turning up in everything from place mats to pieces of furniture, it’s an accent that’s hotter than the tropics.

3 Hide the home gym. All it takes to conceal your treadmill is a beautiful screen.

4 Dine with dishtowels. A great napkin substitute, they’ll bring fun and color to your table.

5 Rethink faux flowers. Artificial blooms have gone upscale. For a chic arrangement, pack them in a tight mound and hide their stems in an opaque vase.

6 Streamline your computer cords. Tidy the growing tangle of cables under your desk with the Wiresnake, a nifty rubber casing that bundles up to eight cords into one neat unit.

7 Try a new deck stain. Banish the dark reds and browns; go all out with a more cheerful choice like green or bright red.

8 Dress up your chandelier. To give new life to the old fixture, add candle shades, strings of glass beads, or a coat of surprising color (may we suggest copper?).

9 Custom-design your carpet. The latest innovation in do-it-yourself flooring: modular pieces (think big squares with adhesive backs) from companies Flor and Milliken. With just two complementary colors, you can create a border or a checkerboard pattern.

10 Turn your kids’ curtains into a treasure trove. Fashion little pockets out of colorful napkins, bandannas, or spare swatches of fabric and sew them onto the drapes. Fill the pouches with small dolls and other toys.

11 Use mirrors to increase the feeling of intimacy. In a large living room, angle a wall mirror downward so it reflects the seats–not just the tops–of furniture. (To create that outward tip, hang the mirror from a slack wire that’s attached to the frame at its midsection.) Cozier now? That’s because the reflection gives you the sense of a lot more furniture in the room.

12 Add dimension to a wall with a chair rail. New synthetics make it easy–just glue or nail them on.

13 Fake a new fridge. Freshen its front with appliance epoxy paint. For a chic facade, try Rustoleum’s appliance epoxy in Stainless Steel.

14 Replace your ceiling fans (especially if they look like helicopter propellers!). New models have blades shaped like everything from boat oars to palm leaves.

15 Plant whimsy at your children’s feet with colorful scatter rugs from the Majestic Rug Company in designs such as butterflies, stars, fish, and more.

16 Neaten your nightstand. Remove reading lamps and mount swing-arm lights on the wall.

17 Accent your garden with decorative stakes. Whether topped with ceramic teacups or pretty glass prisms, they’re all the outdoor rage.

18 Pack an old steamer trunk with new punch. Change the hardware and line the inside with patterned paper. Use the trunk for storage or as a table.

19 Heat up your patio with an outdoor fireplace. (If you select one that’s a wood burner, be sure it has spark guards.)

20 Break away from solid-color sofas. Borrow the fresh style of La-Z-Boy’s new line and put print slipcovers over your cushions.

21 Find a new place for plates. Hang an assortment above the kitchen sink for a unique backsplash.

22 Take a novel approach to bookshelves. Lose the library look by stacking some books horizontally, some vertically, then accenting the shelves with interesting collectibles.

23 Trash the can. Retire the metal wastepaper basket and use a pretty hamper as a rubbish bin instead.

24 Modernize your faucets. In terms of time and money, this is a minor project, but it will have major impact.

25 Single out a wall. In a big space, finish just one wall with something unusual, like a Venetian plaster.

26 Hide your heater. The Wooden Radiator Cabinet Company custom-makes attractive units to match any decor.

27 Make over your mantel. Remove small objects and hang a painting or ornamental mirror above it.

28 Theme your child’s room. Using cast-resin wall appliques from Bombay Kids, create a jungle scene (with giraffes and trees–each four to five feet high) or a sky (with sun and clouds).

29 Cluster candles. On a sideboard or hall table, place candlesticks that are varied in size and style but united in substance (brass, silver, glass, etc.).

30 Reface your kitchen cabinets. Cheaper than installing new ones, this service is available from Sears at

31 Give your master bathroom the spa treatment using such luxury touches as plush terrycloth towels, a heated bar to dry them, and scroll-style or wire-basket shelves.

32 Reclaim the laundry room. Whether it’s on the main floor or in the basement, decorate the space by putting up wallpaper and shelves.

33-35 Learn the art of arranging a throw. It’s easy with these three elegant looks: Neatly fold the throw in half and lay it flat over the back of the couch; loosely fold the throw in thirds and drape it over a sofa arm, and cover the end spilling onto the seat with a pillow; or cascade a throw (gathered lengthwise) over the sofa back and seat, parallel to the arm.

36 Be creative with silk roses. Make an impromptu table runner by scattering a layer of petals over a console or a dining-room table.

37 Have designs on your ceiling? Mount a decorative medallion over the base of your ceiling light or fan. Style Solutions offers two-piece medallions that fit around the light fixture for simple installation.

38 Paint a faux kitchen rug. The braided look is warm (but, in this version, not fuzzy). Bonus benefits: It won’t stain or slip.

39 Make a room more feminine. Hang photos and other art with pretty ribbons to soften the hard lines of frames.

40 Rearrange the furniture in your living room. Some ideas: Split one conversation group into two cozier ones. If your couch is parallel to the wall, reposition it so it’s at an angle. Spin a rectangular area rug 90 degrees to make the room seem longer or shorter.

41 Change your kids’ view. On their bedroom windows, paint the mullions (the thin strips that divide the panes) a bright hue.

42 Give your floral arrangements a new bottom line. For an artful composition, fill the base of a clear vase with a layer of smooth black stones.

43-44 Boost your bed’s appeal. With New England Classic’s kit, you can create the illusion of a polished headboard by paneling the wall behind the bed in the desired height and width. Or, for an upholstered look, slip a fabric cover over your existing headboard; Spiegel offers styles that coordinate with their quilted slipcovers.

45 Accessorize your cabinets. Replace plain knobs with decorative drawer pulls. In styles from ceramic to leather, they’re a fast fixer-upper for old woodwork.

46 Add a mantel to a hearthless wall. Install a decorative one–or simply place a long shelf atop ornate brackets at mantel height. Then decorate the surface with candles.

47 Stick on some style: Decorate your bathroom tiles with decals.

48 Have fun with finials. Cap curtain rods with whimsical hardware for a fanciful effect.

49 Wallpaper the easy way. With Paperez from Eisenhart, you apply a special paste to a primed wall and then hang the paper. No soaking, no shrinking, no stretching–no problem!

50 Freshen up your shower curtain. Buy rings that have clips and hang two terrycloth bath sheets. Sew a grosgrain-ribbon trim a quarter inch from the bottom to complete the designer look.

51 Bring on the baskets. They’re the secret to containing shelf clutter, says interior designer Mary Gilliatt.

52 Support your artist-in-residence. Have three or four of your child’s drawings or paintings professionally matted and framed. Arrange them on one wall. As a collection, they’ll look striking and surprisingly mature.

53 Deliver your mailbox from boredom. Drop the standard-issue version for one with a built-in planter. Or, better yet, ask a local artisan to custom-build a box that’s a mini replica of your home.

54 Outfit a walk-in closet as you would a room. Put up wallpaper and hang a small, pretty mirror.

55 Fabric-ate closet and cabinet doors, Hang curtains to conceal storage shelves or a washer and dryer. To avoid clashing with the window drapes, choose a solid-color material.

56 Give your address some dash. Replace the plain (and probably faded) numbers on the front of your house with a distinctive ceramic plaque from Santa Barbara Ceramic Design. You can grout the number tiles yourself, or they can be mortared-to-order.

57 Frame your door with color: Using a glue gun, make a graphic border out of vintage photos or antique valentines.

58 Enjoy some firelight–even before the temperature drops. To get the warm glow without the roaring heat, arrange pillar candles inside the hearth.

59 Celebrate your kids’ creativity: Customize a wall calendar with their artwork.

60 Bring blooms into unexpected places–like the bathroom. Place flowers in Oxo’s suction-cup bud vase–it sticks to tiles.

61 Stripe it rich. offers colorful designer blinds that match hues in most of Sherwin-Williams’s paints.

62 Deck out your patio chairs with colorful new cushions.

63 Transform an old table. For a rustic farmhouse feel, strip the dark finish from a flea market find to reveal the natural planks underneath. Rub a paste-wax sealer on top so the wood won’t dry out.

64 Express yourself. Personalize a room by posting your favorite quote or saying on a wall, using press-on sets from Wall Words.

65 Renew your outdoor furniture. Go to for step-by-step instructions.

66 Make a wall arrangement out of your children’s baseball caps. In addition to boosting the family’s favorite teams, it’s also a colorful way to keep clutter under control.

67 Fake a crown molding. Apply stamped-metal appliques in a classic motif like fleur-de-lis or stars, from Architectural Products by Outwater.

68 Go to the mat. Step up the look of your stoop with a great pattern (like the one shown above, from Tag)–lots of color for not much money.

69 Get into mood lighting. Dimmers are easy to install, and they help you set the scene for your space–a cozy conversation in the living room or a quiet meal for two in the dining room.

70-71 Spruce up mismatched wooden chairs. Paint each one a different bright color, or–as an alternative–unify them by using a single hue.

72 Inspire the chef by changing the kitchen scenery. If there’s no window over your sink, brighten the space by putting up trompe l’oeil designs from York Wallcoverings to create the illusion of a view.

73 Let your kids paint a mural on canvas, then hang it. It’s easy to remove later on.

74 Soften the walls with upholstery. Fabric creates a luxurious look that also helps soundproof your room.

75 Dress up the details. Trim your curtains and pillows with fringe or tassels.

76 Give your house a front-lift. Paint the door a striking red (or another bold color you love). Or, replace the door with one that has panes or paneling (the one shown above is from Jeld-Wen). Complete the look by installing side- and toplights to create a grand entrance.

25 UNDER $25

America’s top designers reveal easy and affordable ways to revive any room in your home

77 Play with pillows: Instead of matching the colors to your sofa, go for shades that are striking.

78 For a long-lasting bouquet, gather sprays of lemon leaves in a vase. A big bunch costs about $15 and will stay fresh for weeks.

79 Paint the floor with two coats of shiny deck enamel. If you have light walls, try a rich shade like French blue or apple green.

80 Switch to pink lightbulbs in the bedroom to give it (and you) a rosy glow.

81 Stencil a border around the door frame of your living room or bedroom. Pick a pattern with personality and paint with a bold color.

82 Group botanical prints or photos as a collection for big impact.

83 Update an old wooden table or bureau by spray-painting it with white high-gloss enamel.

84 Give your kitchen table a lift–it’s easy with a new set of place mats.

85 Cover dining-room chair seats with fabric remnants. Vary the patterns, but stick to just one color.

86 Find art in unexpected places: Frame antique fabrics, a series of postcards, or pretty seed packets.

87 Stack a neat pile of books on a wooden chair or on an ottoman.

88 Hang paper lanterns in a family room or a hallway; unusual colors and sizes will cheer up the space.

89 Give a cozy room a touch of grandeur with extralong window treatments. Place curtain rods near the ceiling, or buy sheer panels that puddle on the floor.

90 Stir up some romance in your bedroom: Drape mosquito netting from the ceiling to craft an instant canopy above the headboard.

91 Use liquid dye to renew old sheets. Be sure to wash them separately.

92 To give a room more drama: Stick a small lamp under an indoor tree to cast shadows on the ceiling.

93 Scour flea markets for pitchers and vases of different shapes and sizes; display them together.

94 Place a row of small pictures above a door.

95 Paint your ceiling lavender or sky blue to make the room look bigger.

96 Table trick of the trade: Fill a wooden or metal bowl with fresh lemons or green apples.

97 Make your own wallpaper from old magazine covers, vintage sheet music, gift wrap, maps (road or nautical), or even a stash of beautiful wine labels. See instructions, page 220.

98 Dress up an end table by topping a long cloth with beveled glass (about $20 at most glass cutters).

99 Using blackboard paint, create a graffiti-friendly zone–a whole wall that your kids can draw on.

100 Lean a large print against the wall on a console table.

101 Brighten a bookshelf or a china cabinet by lining the inside with mirrored tiles.

Books: Home Decorating

The most daunting aspect of home decorating is where to begin. Do you rethink a room from top to bottom, or just repaint? Should you stick with your color scheme? Buy new furniture? This season’s decorating books give you a creative boost to make the first move and underscore the fact that the simplest touches can make your home more appealing. Here’s our Top 10 list:

If you’re a detail-oriented person, making a mental note of what to buy at the wallpaper store just won’t do. The Decorator’s Fact File by Anoop Parikh (Soma, $25) is a compact, hands-on decorator’s journal-with plenty of pages to log in room dimensions, paint colon, and to-do tasks. You’ll bring your renovation in on budget and on time with this useful guide.

One of the busiest rooms in your house need not fall short on style. Consult The Bathroom Idea Book by Andrew Wormer (Taunton Press, $29.95, out in October) for smart tips catering to a wide variety of tastes and budgets. Useful pointers on layout, materials, and costs are accompanied by inspiring photos.

Want to bring a little spunk to your drab kitchen? In Kitchen Junk (Viking Studio, $29.95, out in September), Mary Randolph Carter gives advice on transforming your home with flea-market finds. This imaginative stylist-known/ as the Queen of Junk-shows how treasures such as graniteware pitchers and Day-Glo Tupperware sets can bring charm to any kitchen. Savvy vintage-shopping tips and some 400 color photos make the transformation simple.

Along the same lines, Cath Kidston–a London-based shop owner and decorator–captures the charm of redoing your home with old-fashioned touches in Vintage Style (Bulfinch Press, $29.95, out in October). Her philosophy: Mix and match what you have with what you pick up secondhand-soft, floralprinted linens, well-loved antiques, and faded photographs.

Crave a little color in your life? Shelter Now by Natalia Marshall (Universe Publishing, $25, out in October) emboldens the reader to use strong lines, dramatic hues, and funky fabrics in the home. Get creative–learn to make your own fauxfur throw, spice up the kitchen with fire-engine-red appliances, or mix kitsch with classic for a unique and fun decor.

A room should have an emotional connection to your life, says interior decorator Judith Wilson in Inspiration, Decoration (Simon & Schuster, $35). Her suggestion: Focus on what inspires you; it might be a piece of aqua sea glass from your last beach vacation that prompts you to paint your foyer in shimmering blues. Bright, detailed photographs of rooms–from formal to kid-friendly–illustrate how objects from nature or memorable colors can move you in imaginative ways.

Not for the faint of heart, Mexicolor (Chronicle Books, $24.95) captures the bold spirit of South-of-the-border design. Photographer Melba Levick, artist Masako Takahashi, and writer Tony Cohan dare you to splash brilliant fuchsia on conservative white walls and adorn a kitchen with handpainted pottery and turquoise tiles. From weavings to murals, doorways to patios, Mexicolor shows how the daring decorator can turn a plain home into a work of art.

Debbie Travis’ Decorating Solutions (Clarkson Potter Publishers, $29.95, out in September) proves there’s more to a painted wall than a flat or semigloss finish. The author and host of the television series Debbie Travis’ Painted House gives expert advice on decorating walls, ceilings, doors, floors, and staircases with more than 65 clever treatments.

Attention bookworms? Put down that novel, and check out Living with Books by Alan Powers (Soma, $35); it’s full of wonderful examples of how to display your Prousts and paperbacks. A chapter called “Practicalities” outlines the basics of building do-it-yourself bookcases, from wood to metal racks.

Tired of how-to books, but still yearning for inspiration? Terence Conran’s Easy Living (Soma, $35) offers up a clean-cut approach to maintaining simplicity in your surroundings. Chapters include “Sleep,” which features a sumptuous bed, draped with mosquito netting, in a white room–dreamy design at its purest.