Tag Archives: decorating tips

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.

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 www.virtualvegetable.com.”

[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 www.oriental.com) 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 (www.deltacrafts.com).

[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 www.wallplatesonline.com. 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 www.garnethill.com or www.thecompanystore.com.

[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.

Give your living room a face-lift

Just like your wardrobe, your home can look dated if nothing has changed for a decade. We took away what seemed “tired” and revived this room with quick, easy changes.

Too often, living rooms are static spaces, decorated once, and then never changed for decades. Dan and Alice Hurley, two writers who live in Montclair, NJ, had a living room that was stuck in the classic decorating doldrums. A beige damask sofa was covered with a red-and-white blanket to camouflage threadbare cushions and the juice stains made by the kids in their 3-year-old daughter Annie’s play group. An oversize plaid chair seemed better suited to a den. Wall-to-wall carpeting, inherited with the house, also showed its age. A big TV teetered atop a too-small table, and every surface was cluttered. White walls played it safe and did nothing to enhance the space.

New York interior designer Laura Bohn revived this living room in less than three weeks while spending little cash and recycling much of the original furniture.

* First, the walls were painted a soothing celadon green, a favorite of Bohn’s for its clean, calming effect. Cool colors such as green recede, helping a small room feel larger.

* Next, the wall-to-wall carpeting was removed, the wood floor was polished, and a neutral-hued, soft nylon sisal-look area rug (childproofed with Scotchgard) from Pottery Barn was put in place for a lighter, fresher look.

* The Hurleys’ existing furniture was slipcovered to help harmonize mismatched pieces: The sofa was covered in a plush but durable moss-colored velvet, with pillows in a mix of Waverly fabrics–lemon-yellow, bold blue, and the same airy leaf print that transformed the club chair. “Using an assortment of pillows, rather than the matching ones that usually come with sofas, is an instant way to make any couch look more interesting and inviting,” points out Kevin Fitzpatrick of City Workroom in New York City, which made the slipcovers.

* Bohn tried a novel storage idea: A wicker dresser from Pier 1 Imports, more typically ensconced in a bedroom, slides in neatly beneath the window to hold the television while concealing clutter–videos, magazines, extra table linens–in its drawers. Using one ample piece rather than a hodgepodge of small tables is an ideal way to streamline a space.

* Instead of a traditional coffee table, a textured leather ottoman from Ethan Allen offers extra seating, a great place to put your feet up, and a surface for serving (with the help of a tray).

* At the windows, fussy lace curtains with poufy valances were replaced with clean-lined wooden blinds that complement the strong architectural detail of the room.

“I can’t believe how much more serene this room feels now,” says Alice. “I look forward to coming home and relaxing in here with my family at the end of the day. Dan says it feels like we’re staying in a beautiful country inn!”