3 Smart Home Spruce Ups for Summer


Security, shading, and sublime outdoor A/V top the list of features to add to your smart home this summer.

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With summer just around the bend, you might be planning a vacation or thinking of spending more time outdoors. Basically, you’ll be spending less time inside your house. It may seem like the worse time to invest in technology for you home, yet summertime can be a great time to spruce up the place with smart systems.

Here are three types of smart home products that make perfect sense:

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Home security: You want your house to be well protected while you’re away on a family vacation. Sure, you can have a monitored security system professionally installed and monitored (always a good practice), but for a quick and easy way to safeguard your property and belongings, spring for an self-contained system that bundles various sensors, surveillance camera and siren in a simple tabletop device that communicates conditions to you via a companion app on your smartphone. You can be alerted to a drastic change in the indoor temperature, suspicious sounds, movement, and visually inspect the area remotely by accessing the unit’s built-in surveillance camera.

Here are some options to check out: CanaryPiperGuardzilla

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Shading:  The harsh summertime sun that streams into your house through the windows can you’re your AC run harder than it has to. By mounting motorized shades to the window frames, you can easily manage the heat gain. From a mobile app that comes with many motorized shading solutions, you can program times for the shades to open and close automatically, based on the position of the sun. Here are some options to check out: MySmartBlinds, Lutron Serena

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Outdoor A/V: Bring your entertainment to the backyard by installing weather-hardy speakers and a TV. Wireless speakers that can withstand the elements and stream audio are widely available in a variety of styles. As for the TV, Peerless-AV, Seura, and SunBriteTV make displays specifically for outdoor viewing. If your home’s Wi-Fi network extends to the outdoor entertainment area, you may be able to stream content wirelessly to the TV by adding a Wi-Fi dongle like a Google Chromecast, Roku, or Fire TV.

 

This article was originally featured on Electronic House.

The Pros and Cons of a Dark Exterior


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My well-documented obsession with all things designer Sarah Sherman Samuel does continues, and in today’s latest installment, I wanted to discuss her decision to paint the exterior of the #SamuelFixerUpper black. Or off-black. “Caviar” by Sherwin-Williams, to be exact, and this isn’t the first time she’s gone dark on the outside of her own home. So one thing’s for sure—deep colored exteriors are trending.

 

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But going to the dark side is a polarizing decision because, in addition to all that design goodness, there are a few real drawbacks. Let’s talk both sides of the coin a bit here. Clearly, we’re not going to change SSS’s mind, but some of you out there might be on the fence, and this dark exterior debate could help you make a better decision.

 

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First things first, you can’t really pick a more striking exterior color than black these days—it pops against greenery because of the contrast in tones and will definitely make your house stand out against the others on your block.

 

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While you don’t see a ton of black, navy, blackish-green, or even charcoal gray exteriors, these shades are still pretty neutral in the grand scheme of things. It’s not like you’re painting your home Tiffany blue or fuchsia pink. Dark, sophisticated colors bring the drama while still meshing with a variety of other trim colors, materials, and textures.

 

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Dark exterior colors can also camouflage a weird architectural feature or two, as in the Michigan home of Michelle Adams’ of The Maryn and Domino magazine fame. Once she painted her exterior Farrow & Ball’s Railings, the weird pediment above her front door basically just receded into the space. An exterior paint job isn’t cheap, but it’s a lot more cost effective than construction in most cases to fix these kinds of eyesores.

 

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You also might score a few modern points, too, by going black or navy. Ultra-contemporary homes were among the first to have dark exteriors from what I’ve seen, but when you’re upgrading a more traditional home, black or another dark hue can add that little bit of edge you might want. If you’re not ready to go all in, you could compromise with a dark colored front door, shutter and trim situation—or some combination of the three. Apparently, going dark on these features pays off: A recent 2018 Zillow study found that homes with black or charcoal front doors sold for about ,271 more than expected. Not a bad return on investment for a 0 (give or take) gallon of paint.

But like I said earlier, there are a few drawbacks to going to the dark side. In general, black and other deep hues tend to fade faster than lighter colors. Think about it—exteriors are exposed 24/7 to the sun and the elements. So you might find yourself having to touch up your exterior paint job more than the average homeowner, though anti-fade paint technology has come a long way in recent years.

 

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General upkeep is going to be a little bit more of an issue as well. Yes, dark colors can hide strange architectural features and a little bit of dirt, but they’re also going to show actual weather damage and surface flaws more too. Dark cars always show scratches more prominently than light ones. That principle is kind of at work here, albeit in a much larger scale. Dark paint can also be more prone to peeling than lighter colors.

 

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Thinking about heat absorption, dark exteriors are always going absorb more sun energy than whites, creams, and other light shades, which are more reflective. This could mean higher cooling costs during the summer months.

 

So now that you’ve heard the good and the bad, would you take the plunge on your home’s exterior and paint it black? Darker exteriors certainly make for pretty photos, but has someone out there dealt with these issues first hand, either because you bought a black house or painted your facade dark? Tell us in the comments.

This article was originally featured on Apartment Therapy.

5 Tips: How to Choose a Solar Panels for Your Home


Word of mouth, research, and warranty checks are a few of the important steps to take when choosing a solar power system for your home.

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If you’re looking to install solar panels on your house for the first time, you might have a lot of questions regarding exactly what to look for in a solar company and where to find it?  Besides the obvious task of scanning through online reviews of solar panel providers, here are a few key things to look for when choosing a solar company.

Word of Mouth — The best kind of verification is word of mouth, so ask around.  Word-of-mouth conversations and referrals are great because they can help you identify problems (and even intangible benefits) that won’t come up in a normal online review.

Cast a Wide Net — Get a sense for all the options you have in the area and you might be surprised about the amount of providers in your region. There are some companies that might be more prevalent in your neighborhood or even be doing local advertising, like Solar City or Vivint Solar, but you’d be surprised.

Prepare for Sticker Shock – No matter which solar provider you ultimately select, be prepared to open your wallet. If you are serious about going solar, you need to ready for the high cost.  Even though in the long run solar panels pay for themselves, there is a high upfront cost.  Also, your home’s electrical system might need some upgrades to accommodate for the solar panels, adding more costs.

Determine Which Type of Panels You Want – Not every solar provider offers different types of systems. For example, some companies will only do rooftops systems. If you desire not to have the panels on your roof but instead want a ground-mounted system, your choice of providers will be different.  In most cases, ground-mounted systems will be more expensive than their rooftop counterparts due to the need for longer wiring runs. Moreover, if you are looking for a hydraulic solar tracker for the yard, the providers will be even more limited. Older homes may not be able to support the added weight of solar panels.

Check the Warranty — Every solar panel company should provide some sort of warranty for your panels.  The industry standard is 25 years.

 

This article was originally featured on Electronic House.

7 Ways to Keep Your Home Cool During the Summer


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Summer is here. And that means beach days, vacations and warm evenings. But if you’ve ever been stuck at home on a hot day, you know that the summer heat can be killer. If you’re looking for ways to beat the heat, without running your air condition nonstop, our senior designers have these tips and tricks to keep your home cool.

SWAP OUT YOUR BEDSHEETS

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With all the textiles in your home, keep two sets: one for the colder months of the year and another to beat the heat. When summer comes around, swap out your winter bedding for something lighter. Cotton sheets are a great option for staying cool and you can even swap out your duvet for a thinner bedspread. Check out how we got the look in this Montauk summer home.

SWAP OUT YOUR CURTAINS

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Like throw rugs and bedding, swap out your curtains seasonally. And during the summer, we prefer a pair of white sheer curtains. They’ll give you just enough protection from the blazing sun without heating up your home. A set of sheer white curtains keeps this Upper East Side home feeling light and breezy. 

KEEP YOUR CURTAINS CLOSED DURING THE DAY

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And once you’ve got your new curtains, keep ’em closed during the day, so that the air in your apartment won’t heat up. That way, you can return to a cool, refreshing home.

OPEN UP THE WINDOWS ON COOL NIGHTS

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If running the air conditioning 24/7 isn’t an option, then consider ways to naturally cool your home. On cool summer nights, open up the windows and let the breeze in. It doesn’t hurt to have an exquisite patio, like in this mid-century palace on the Upper East Side.

CEILING FAN

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Next to sliced bread, we consider indoor air conditioning to be one of the great innovations of the 20th century. But running the air conditioning all day can be expensive. So if you’re looking for ways to keep the air circulating while you’re out of the house, dust off your ceiling fan and give it a spin. A matte black ceiling fan helps keep the sitting area in this Connecticut family home cool, and perfectly matches the contemporary seating options.

DITCH THE INCANDESCENTS

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Incandescent bulbs aren’t just harmful for the environment. They also generate 90% more heat than their fluorescent counterparts. So if you find yourself working up a sweat while you’re sitting under your reading light, then consider ditching the incandescents. We flanked the bed in this beachy Upper East Side apartment with exposed fluorescent bulbs, to keep the room cool during the summer months. 

START GRILLING

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Anyone who has tried to bake during the summer knows how much it heats up the home. If you’re looking for ways to keep up your culinary habits without getting hot, consider getting a grill. Whether or not you’re a bonafide dad, grilling is a great way to keep the heat down during the summer. And if you don’t have a full range to get your grill on, this Dual Fuel Grill from Crate & Barrel is great for small spaces.

This article was originally featured on Decor Aid

Domestic Science: How to Wash a Down Comforter


Over the past several months, we’ve been touting the benefits of a clean bed, from pillow to mattress (see Domestic Science: How to Clean a Mattress and Domestic Science: How to Wash a Pillow). Our latest installment? How to wash a down comforter. A good down comforter should be a lifetime-lasting heirloom item. But how do you maintain it? You may think washing a down comforter will mat the feathers or otherwise compromise its integrity, but the truth is, down benefits from a gentle wash. Here’s how.

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Above: Large capacity front loaders are best for washing your comforter at home. See 10 Easy Pieces: Front-Loading Washing Machines.

 

Professional Option

Heavy detergents and chemicals will compromise your down; therefore, dry-cleaning is not recommended (you may, however, ask your dry-cleaner to professionally launder your comforter, which will cost about 0 to 0, depending on the size). If time is of the essence, this may be the best option.

 

Washing a Down Comforter at Home

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Above: If your machine has preset cycles, select one that is gentle but also allows for a high spin speed.

 

If you have access to an industrial-size machine, either at home or in a laundromat, it’s easy and more economical to wash a down comforter yourself.

  • Only use a washer that is large enough to accommodate your comforter or duvet, with ample room to spare (as with any material, your machine will not clean as effectively when it’s overstuffed). With down, it’s even more important; you want the detergent and the rinsing water to freely circulate among the feathers. Also, never use a top loader with center agitator as these can stretch the material and compress the feathers.
  • Use a small amount of mild detergent. Harsh soaps and chemicals will strip the feathers of their natural coating. Do not use fabric softener, as this will coat the down, reducing its performance.
  • Select a gentle setting. If you feel your duvet needs a deeper clean, consider pre-treating any soiled spots by soaking them in a tub of warm water and mild soap.
  • Use cold or warm water, so as not to strip the down, and to avoid shrinking the exterior cover.
  • Rinse twice to make sure all detergent is removed.
  • Set your spin cycle on high to ensure that you remove as much water as possible.

 

 

Drying Your Down Comforter

 

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Above: If you don’t have dryer balls, a couple of tennis balls will also speed up the drying process.

 

As we learned with our pillows, drying bedding can take a long time, several hours or more.

  • Select a large capacity dryer.
  • Add a few dryer balls to hasten the drying process and to help fluff the down.
  • Time-dry your comforter at a low to medium heat for one cycle or one hour. Do not dry on auto setting, as sensors will stop once the outside, not the inside, is dry.
  • Remove the duvet and fluff it with your hands to redistribute the down. Reload and dry for another hour/cycle.
  • Repeat this process several times. Once you feel the comforter is throughly dry, double check it by allowing it to cool and then testing the interior for dryness one more time.

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Above: Our down comforter, cleaned and refreshed.

Basic Down Comforter Care

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Above: We stored an extra duvet wrapped in an old linen sheet, folded furoshiki-style.

Help prolong the life of your duvet with these maintenance tips:

  • Protect your down comforter from dirt, mites, and dust with a cover. Wash your cover once a month.
  • Fluff your duvet daily to remove dust and dandruff and to help maintain its shape.
  • In between washings, spot clean any soiled areas. When doing so, pull the down away from the cover so it does not get wet.
  • Wash your down comforter at least once a year.
  • Store your comforter in an ample, breathable fabric bag or even loosely wrapped in a sheet. Do not vacuum pack (read “mash”) or store in a plastic bag.

 

 

This article was originally featured on Remodelista

Steal These Looks: 5 Bathroom Remodels on a Budget


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Having a walk-in shower or a jetted soaking tub right at home — maybe with some marble flooring below and a crystal chandelier above — sounds nearly as good as a spa vacation.

But if you’re planning a master bath renovation, you know that such a luxury doesn’t come cheap.

In construction or remodeling, “the bathroom, per square foot, is one of the most expensive things in your house,” says Michael Hydeck, founder and former owner of Hydeck Design Build near Philadelphia.

You can cut costs, but you have to be upfront with your contractor. Articulate exactly what you like in that dream bathroom. A smart contractor or designer can offer less-costly materials, designs and finishes.

Equally important: Be honest about your budget. Get a customized personal loan rate today from myBankrate to fund your home improvements.

Check out these tips from contractors and designers on how to remodel your bathroom on a budget.

 

This article was originally featured on Bankrate

15 Unique Coffee Tables That Will Steal the Show


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We often give our sofa all the attention when decorating our living room, and for good reason. It needs to be comfortable, long-lasting, and beautiful. In the process, though, we often tend to neglect another piece of furniture that has the potential to completely transform a room: the coffee table. Yes, a simple, basic coffee table is great when you’re just starting out, but if you’ve already decorated your space and are in the process of slowly upgrading a few pieces, you may want to take a look at that living room standard.

These unique coffee tables are not your run-of-the-mill furniture pieces. Made from marble, copper, travertine, and solid oak, these tables will make a unique statement in your space. The right coffee table can singlehandedly make a room feel more expensive, so don’t skimp. These are our favorite unique coffee tables, and best of all, they’re priced as low as 29.

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Not only is this coffee table seriously chic and affordable but it also has very handy concealed storage. Win, win, win.

 

 

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This may be our favorite coffee table under 000. The marble top and demi-lune oak legs look even chicer with the brass base.

 

This coffee table will make you feel like you’re in an ’80s music video. This unique piece is insanely affordable and is perfect for small spaces.

 

 

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No one would ever guess that this metal patchwork coffee table is under 00, but if you act fast, it’s nearly 50% off on West Elm!

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Travertine is the new marble. If you’re a minimalist at heart, you’ll love this coffee table that’s rich in character and ultra simple in shape.

 

 

 

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If you need a piece to add a little weight to your space, look no further than this hand-carved coffee table made from beached rosewood.

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This unique coffee table by Brooklyn-based studio Volk is a statement piece to keep for a lifetime.

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This is undoubtedly our favorite coffee table under 00. The curved piece also comes in a light wood finish if you’re color-shy.

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We love the curvy nature of this dark green coffee table with a glass top and tone-on-tone powder-coated legs.

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Tropical lovers will love this CB2 coffee table that feels like a mini vacation every time you enter the room.

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Midcentury lovers will adore this Indian rosewood table with a beautiful inlaid sunburst brass-and-marble pattern.

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Minimalist and sleek, this coffee table, handcrafted in chic smoked ash, will elevate the look of your whole space.

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This West Elm coffee table is unique both in material and in shape. The hammered metal and etched copper surface make this minimal modern piece feel a little more glam.

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Why have one coffee table when you can have three? This selection of side tables looks even better in a set.

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If you want a bold coffee table that will stand out from the rest of your living room, try this indoor/outdoor number from Anthropologie. The woven rope and natural teak legs are a match made in heaven.

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If you’re looking for a unique statement piece that will last you for generations, try this &Tradition palette coffee table. It’s a guaranteed conversation starter.

This article was originally featured on My Domain

Bright Contemporary Home With Bursts of Color


Designer Claire Paquin loves to add pops of color to neutral spaces through accessories such as vibrant, elegant satin pillows to create a space that radiates class. The grandeur continues in the master bedroom with a bubble chandelier, attractive fireplace, and posh sitting space.

1. Transitional Beige Living Room With Stylish Furnishings

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Striking, one-of-a-kind furniture pieces stand out in this neutral transitional living room. Green and purple satin pillows add a vibrant splash of color to the space.

2. Neutral Transitional Living Room With Stacked End Tables

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Three end tables of different heights, one glass, one stone and one solid black, stack on top of each other in a neutral, transitional living room.

3. Beige Living Room With Striking Purple Patterned Benches

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Vibrant purple patterned benches stand out against this living room’s neutral color palette. Purple and green pillows coordinate with the benches, adding an additional splash of color to the room.

4. Sleek X-Base Stools Under Console Table

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Lemongrass upholstery adds a jolt of color atop contemporary x-base stools. The pair is stowed under a modern console table and can be pulled out for extra seating when needed.

5. Neutral Transitional Bedroom with Wood Dresser

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A crisp and clean transitional bedroom features a classic, dark wood dresser with a glass lamp. A bright white throw rug stands out against hardwood floors.

6. Pale Gray Master Bedroom With Glass Bubble Chandelier

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A stone fireplace and glass bubble chandelier serve as stunning focal points in this pale gray master bedroom. The dark wooden bed adds a classic touch amongst a variety of furnishings.

7. Sitting Area in Contemporary Gray Master Bedroom

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A bold green and blue painting breaks up the gray color scheme in this contemporary master bedroom sitting area. A graphic patterned window shade and textured pillow add a touch of pizazz to the space.

8. Soft Gray Contemporary Bedroom With Bubble Chandelier

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A glass bubble chandelier hangs in this contemporary master bedroom, drawing the eye upward. A chic sitting area next to a large window offers a comfy place to cozy up with a book.

9. Window Seat with Built-in Cabinets and Gray Accessories

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Bright white built-in cabinets offer storage without taking up any space in a neutral contemporary bedroom. A cozy window seat is decorated with a gray cushion and pillows that bring out the gray throw rug.

10. White Dresser in Contemporary Bedroom

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A bright white contemporary dresser is featured in a neutral and spare bedroom with a gray rug and clear glass lamp with a white shade.

11. Contemporary Master Bathroom With Sleek Vanity and Chevron Tile Floor

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All-white counters, floors, and walls create an open and airy feel in this spacious master bathroom. A sleek, white vanity and glass enclosed shower adds to the space’s contemporary design.

12. Gray Monochromatic Master Bathroom

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A small bouquet of red flowers adds a bold pop of color to a sleek, monochromatic master bathroom. White countertops with built-in storage provide hidden storage space.

13. Spacious Glass Shower With Built-In Bench

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An all-white contemporary master bathroom features a spacious glass shower with a white bench for added comfort.

14. Kid’s Blue Contemporary Room with Yellow Accents

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Yellow hanging lights and bed linens pop against bright blue walls in this contemporary kid’s room. In the corner, multicolored chairs surround a small white table perfect for arts and crafts or tea parties.

15. Kid’s Pink Contemporary Room with Colorful Accessories

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Bold, colorful accessories pop in this soft pink, contemporary kid’s room. Turquoise light fixtures hang over a white bed with pink and orange pillows creating a fun, vibrant space.

16. White Contemporary Cubby Style Shelves in Mudroom

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White cubby-style storage shelves are a great way to keep a family’s mudroom organized and tidy.

This article was originally featured on HGTV

15 Ways to Pretty Up Your Patio for Spring


Wake up your patio for spring with these simple yet stunning seasonal updates that are perfect for both lazy Sundays and evening gatherings.

 

 

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Cozy Spot for Relaxing + Entertaining

Once a simple, paved spot around the front of this midcentury modern home, transformed into a bold and beautiful spot for entertaining friends and family during the warm-weather months.

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Modular Lounge Area

Use modular seating elements to create a versatile patio for easy entertaining. This woven, resin sofa has gray tones similar to the exterior paint of the home. It can be set up as a sofa flanked with armless chairs, a seven-seater sofa or a three-seater sofa with a chaise.

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Splashes of Color

Update your exterior furniture for spring by simply swapping out throw pillows. These hot pink pillows in a vintage-inspired print energize the neutral upholstery and add character.

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Shades of Gray

When choosing furniture for your outdoor space, consider more up-to-date neutrals such as charcoal or medium gray rather than beige or taupe. This is more chic and edgy and will allow for a more lounge-like feeling.

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Soft Underfoot

If your home has a basic concrete slab patio that’s lacking in character, an excellent way to transform it is with an oversized outdoor area rug with a graphic pattern and color scheme.

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Showstopping Azaleas

As the weather starts to become more and more pleasant, set one of your weekend days aside to prune and care for any of the bushes along the exterior of your house. Several days or weeks later, the blooms will kick in and the exterior will seem brand new.

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Impromptu Dining

By adding a folding bistro table and four stackable chairs in a corner of your patio, you’ll offer guests a comfy spot to enjoy coffee over sunrises or cocktails at sunset.

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Classic Hues

If you’re stumped as to what color to go with in your main design elements, keep in mind the classic, timeless appeal of black and white. To coordinate with the charcoal and medium gray colors of this home’s exterior, vintage-inspired stackable chairs were chosen.

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Container Gardens

If you don’t have proper beds around the front of your house for planting perennials, try planting bushes like azaleas into containers and grouping them in odd numbers. This will pop bold color into the space and add plenty of texture.

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Space Planning

The best way to add the most function possible to a patio is to break it up into zones. Here, a small dining area is tucked into the corner near the front door, allowing space to enter and exit the front door. Along the very front of the house sits a zone designated for lounging complete with modular elements such as occasional tables, garden stools and a reconfigurable sofa that can be changed as needed.

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Stunning Entrance

Hands down, the biggest way to make a massive change in your curb appeal is with a new front door. To honor the sleek, midcentury modern-lines of this house, a transitional door in a walnut finish was chosen. The inset panel detail adds depth, while the period-appropriate hardware gives the door a classic midcentury feel.

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Custom Hardware

A budget-friendly way to get a custom look for your front door is to choose a stocked door from your local building supplier, then accessorize it with made-to-order hardware in a style appropriate to the home’s architecture.

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Fresh Welcome Mat

Although just a small design element, a simple switch of welcome mats can make a nice impact on your front entrance. After a long winter with wet, grimy ground surfaces, give your patio a rinse with a pressure washer and change out darker, hardier welcome mats for more light and airy ones.

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Personality Pieces

Bring a one-of-a-kind touch to your patio with design elements certain to provoke conversation between guests and neighbors. Simple statues such as these greyhounds introduce a graphic, organic shape to a space and can help break up the rigid lines of brick or siding.

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Updated Lighting

If you’ve been living with the same low-end exterior light fixtures that were included with your home purchase, mix things up with a wall sconce. Choose something that fits in with your architecture, and go with a finish that’s classic and certain to stand the test of time. Although installing a wall-mounted fixture is something many DIYers think they can do themselves, it’s best to leave the wiring to a licensed professional.

This article was originally featured on HGTV

Trending on Remodelista: The Great Indoors


No better time than right now to focus on your home. Remodelista has some ideas on what you can do while you’re social-distancing.

 

1. Welcome in spring.

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Above: With all the chaos and turmoil in the world right now, we don’t blame you if you forgot that spring arrived this week. Help usher in the new season by heading outdoors and if you can, bringing in some of its verdant beauty. Photograph by by Nina Plummer for Ingredients LDN, from Quiet Beauty in Edinburgh: At Home and Work with Nina Plummer.

 

2. Prep your seating for lounging.

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Above: Your home is now your office, gym, and favorite eatery, too. Make the extra effort to increase the creature comforts. Photograph by Tom Fallon courtesy of Retrouvius, from A Rustic Townhouse Remodel by London’s Masters of Salvage.

 

3. Make sure to tackle an organizing project.

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Above: You’ll feel a great sense of accomplishment when you add a spring cleaning project to your to-do list. May we suggest cleaning out your refrigerator? Photograph by Matthew Williams, styling by Alexa Hotz, for Remodelista: The Organized Home, from Steal This Look: The Organized Refrigerator, Plastic-Free Edition.

 

This article was originally featured on Gardenista