Archived Articles: Room Service

Published Articles with Times Herald of Port Huron, Michigan:

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Here is a quick way to spruce up a lamppost, and add a welcoming touch to your home. I purchased a floral cage from my florist, filled with oasis foam. With wire, I attached the cage to my lamp post. I then arranged an assortment of fall picks, faux foliage and some pieces of grapevine into a pleasing arrangement. At Christmas time, I can remove the fall looking items and replace them with evergreen branches, wired pinecones or ornaments and perhaps a ribbon bow.


That crispness is in the air, it must be fall! And, the time to start decorating for the fall season. With some careful planning, you can create a seasonal look that will change as we go from October through the New Year. Start by removing and packing away, for awhile, your regular décor so you have a clean space to work with resulting with a whole new look. This time of year there are an amazing assortment of squashes, pumpkins, gourds, and dried flowers that are available to use as fall decorations. And, they can be used in so many ways: table centerpieces, at the front entryway, or how about in baskets or decorative bowls that can be placed on tables, in the corner of the room, or on the fireplace hearth to hold natures' bounty and the season's finest.

Let's take the fireplace mantle for example and think of it as a work in progress. Start with some lengths of grapevine and then embellish. Add those pumpkins and gourds, maybe dried sunflower heads, pheasant feathers, pinecones, bittersweet vine, and chrysanthemums. Use plate stands to show off an antique plate, perhaps turkey shaped salt and pepper shakers. Add candles, try a clear glass vase, line the bottom with some acorns, add a pillar candle, then finish the look with acorns around the sides of the candle.

After Thanksgiving, change the fall colors and materials for a Christmas look: red berry stems, poinsettias for the mums, or maybe paperwhites, and cranberries for the acorns. Swap out the gourds and pumpkins in the baskets for Christmas ornaments or small gift wrapped boxes. Remove the turkey items and add a holiday cookie plate. Add a string of Christmas lights to the grapevine, lights are a big part of holiday decorating. Add some bits of evergreen branches; keep the pinecones and the pheasant feathers. Looking for something not quite as rustic? Add crystal or silver candlesticks of varying heights and top each with a Christmas ornament, layering with color and sparkle. A few yards of ribbon goes a long way: use it to weave through the evergreens or to wrap around the candle bases, add a bow to the candlesticks. Make it personal. Use the space to display special holiday cards you have received, or favorite holiday photographs dressed up in special frames. Carry the look to the front door and entryway, the average door will take 20 feet of garland, and decorate that by wiring in pine-cones, ornaments, and/or ribbon for a personalized look that will welcome your guests throughout the next several weeks.

Sitting on the front porch, in the cool of a summer's evening is an old-fashioned way to pass the time. And, this past-time is gaining in popularity once again. Whether your porch style is a wrap-around, or perhaps screened in, it's the perfect place for sipping lemonade or iced tea, visiting with the neighbors and watching the kids play. And, these long held traditions can be made even more enjoyable by adding some key elements to make your porch great. Many porches are located in the front of the house, a welcoming space. They add dimension and a sense of character to a home's exterior. However, if adding a new porch, do consider the best placement for a dramatic view or the activities that happen nearby. Since the porch is attached to your home, it is important to maintain consistency of materials and to be sure the architecture compliments each other.

First, we need to think about a functional space with comfortable furnishings clad in weather resistant materials. Outdoor fabrics have come a long way from resisting fading to improved cleanability and often have a soft hand, similar to the more familiar indoor fabrics. As a rule of thumb, to accommodate people and furniture comfortably, the minimum porch depth to aim for is six feet, and eight feet is better. Throw pillows also of outdoor fabric add color and pattern as a decorative and useful element. Durable floor coverings too, now have amazing and long lasting characteristics and help soften as well as decorate the porch. For an exposed area, try painting a pattern or color on the floor. Exterior lamps are now offered in a wide variety of styles, shapes, heights and price points. Placed well under cover, they further transform your porch into an inviting outdoor area that is perfect for entertaining and relaxing. Further lighting options include ceiling mounted fixtures or wall sconces, perhaps a rustic lantern. You can also decorate your porch with plants, keep the large ones by the wall, so as not to obstruct your views. Smaller pots can fill in voids with seasonal color. And, these flower baskets are also an invitation for the birds and butterflies to join you.

Other elements to consider: add a small table and chairs to use for dining. Simple draperies constructed of outdoor fabric can shield your porch from too much sun, or nosy neighbors. Or matchstick or bamboo blinds are an option. Borrow an idea from the deep South, and add a ceiling fan to increase ventilation during still, warm humid days. Floor coverings made of natural fibers such as sisal or coir are easily cleaned and can be a welcome addition. Another option would be area rugs constructed of man made fibers which are also easily available. Decorative baskets can stash blankets and pillows, and thus eliminate the need for shelving or other types of storage. The front porch is your home's gateway. With some careful thought, your porch can be transformed into a welcoming haven to read, lounge, visit and enjoy now that those summer nights have finally arrived.

Color! Nothing can be more frightening to a client than the idea of color. Doesn't matter if we are talking the color of walls, soft furnishings including draperies and upholstered furniture or simple accent pieces, oftentimes the reaction is the same. Talk about a fear of commitment! Let's see if we can break it down a little and make it a more comfortable subject.

The latest trend in color is not always a reliable tool to freshen up a room. Yes, walls and accessories can be changed easily enough when you get tired of them, but when purchasing something a little more permanent such as furniture or flooring, the latest and greatest may not end up being that in the long run. And, as colors change from year to year, it is sometimes difficult then to replace the worn out item with something that is currently available. However, a house full of light colored neutrals, walls, floors and furniture may not work either with your dark haired cat, muddy footed children, and the pizza eating sports fan. So what to do?

When finding the right color palette, consider which colors are the most meaningful to you. A spot within nature? The beach? The woods? Examine what's in your closet. What colors there do you love? Look closely to see what pattern emerges. You can make any color look good as long as it is to your taste. The effect of color is powerful, and when you get the color right, it can enhance your feelings of well-being and elevate your mood.

A couple of ideas to get you started. Think about decorating your space from dark to light vertically, that is, the floors are dark, the walls a medium toned color and the lighter values on the ceiling. Pull your new colors from an existing pattern you already have in the room, whether it is the rug or an upholstered piece, or perhaps a piece of artwork. It all doesn't have to be replaced. Keep the color combination to 3 to 4 colors at the most. Do some of your walls seem too large? Try pops of color to break up the expanse through your accent pieces. Don't ignore lighting. See how the colors work during the day and again at night to get an accurate reading. I always advise my clients to purchase a small quantity of paint in the color they are considering, make up a few samples on poster board, and try them around the room, top to bottom, in the morning and at night. It's a step that shouldn't be skipped. If you consider this principle which Mother Nature has done admirably, your result will be aesthetically pleasing and a haven for you and your family and friends.

Repurposing: Google defines it, "to reuse for a different purpose on a long term basis." This is the time of year to visit the numerous garage sales and flea markets that dot our landscape, scouting out the deals and treasures that are ripe for the picking. Attics and basements are also full of potential finds. It is such fun to turn someone else's cast off into a one-of-a-kind accessory. Reupholstering chairs, sofas and ottomans have long been a mainstay in the design field. It is amazing what can be accomplished with some fabric, paint or stain and some know-how. By mixing and matching textiles, hardware, trims and buttons you can add detail and dimension to an unused, worn-out piece of furniture that still has life to it, as well as add personality to a room.

But, repurposing is a little different: to take something and turn it into a functional piece, that is different from its original purpose. For example, a china cabinet refitted to become a mini-bar. The lower cabinet holds the bottles, the top shelves holds glasses, ice buckets, decanters; and the drawers are adapted to pull out shelving to use for mixing the drinks, holding the stirrers and shakers, fruit and snacks. Armoires have been repurposed for years. Originally designed as portable clothes closets back when closets installed in homes were taxed, we have seen them used as linen closets, for television and sound system components, desks and computer hutches, in gift shops as display pieces; their work ethic is admirable.

Think outside the box. Take this old ladder-style plant stand with slotted rungs I had gathering dust in the garden shed. What I wanted was a piece I could use to act as a refreshment station outside. It certainly had seen better days, yet I thought it would make an unusual piece that would fit the bill, and it was a perfect match to my existing outdoor dining set.

After a thorough scrubbing, I went shopping. I found two plastic plates we were able to secure to the top step with screws and wing nuts after drilling holes into the center. The next rung was the right size to hold an old copper tray I had; a good holder for the ice bucket. The bottom shelf was used to secure a ceramic pot with a drain hole to act as a chilled bottle container to be used with ice. Again, we fastened it to the step using a screw and wing nut and this time a large plastic washer, which still allowed the melting ice to seep out. We secured two pieces of copper pipe cut to size along the sides for ice tongs and a handy towel.

Re-purposing can be carried out in a variety of other ways. Think abut reusing salvaged wooden doors horizontally as paneling in a dining room or study. Old doorknobs which are beautifully detailed in brass or crystal can be refashioned as finial ends for a decorative towel bar or as coat hooks mounted on a board. Dressers used as bathroom vanities. The delicate patterns of antique pieces of lace can adorn a window or accent a plain pillow. Other vintage fabric finds can dress up upholstery and centerpiece cloths for your table. Use wooden-rung ladders, outfitted with glass shelves to hold accessories, books and pictures. The ladders can be fastened into the studs for stability or just lean them against the wall. Make a candelabra from a ceiling mounted chandelier.

Old picture frames can be used not only for artwork or family photographs but reuse them as mirrors- remembering to refinish or blacken the lip the mirror edge rests against as it will be reflected out. Or, filled with a picture, they are a great disguise in the off-season for that unattractive air conditioning unit, that electrical box. How about crafting a serving tray out of one, with a decorative backing covered with glass and a handle mounted on each side. Filled with mementos, it could be used as a table top.

And, speaking of tables, the ideas for one of a kind tables are virtually endless: tops made of game boards, shutters, stained glass panels, garden stepping stones, brass or silver trays, old advertising signs, pieces of crating, intricate scrolled iron-work covered with a glass top. Then, think about mounting them on something equally unique: on wagon or baby buggy bases or a set of wheels from the hardware store, plant stands, pieces of fencing, old chair or stairway spindles, or new ones from the building center, 8" PVC pipe cut to length. You can see there are possibilities everywhere, just start thinking outside that box.

I had a chance to interview an old friend of mine from Ash Showroom in Bloomfield Hills. With over 1500 books in stock, and with every designer and manufacturer represented, he has a good idea of the new trends in the world of wallcoverings. And, what's old is new again.

Grasscloths are back and better than ever. They provide a great texture and whether you're traditional or contemporary, the great thing about Grasscloth is, they don't dictate style, the end user does. If you watch ABC's Brother's & Sister's on Sunday nights, you'll see Sally Fields home has different kinds of Grasscloth throughout her home.

Retail: $32-$300 a roll.

The higher-end of that price point includes Grasscloths with patterns, and Grasscloths with embossed patterns laid right over them. Very hot. Very distinct.

Speaking of old, Flocks are back. We're not talking the old tired flocks of yesteryear, or at Gramma's house, Flocks these days come in many different color ways with both simple and ornate patterns. The thing I like about Flocks these days is the manufacturers are pairing them with what the industry calls the grounds, or the backgrounds the Flocks are laid on, so you can cap a room by putting the ground on the ceiling, or do three walls in your room and use the ground with the Flock laid on it as the accent wall.
Retail: $60-$150.00 a roll.

Other wallcovering trends include the old world Damasks. Looks like faux, old world Damasks where the patterns don't look laser-printed on the wallcoverings. They look like the walls have been fauxed 100 years ago. Great for that Tuscan look, for formal bathrooms, foyers and dining rooms.
Retail: $40-$120.00 a roll.

Textures, Textures, Textures--Vinyl's have come along way. They're not just for commercial use anymore. Vinyl's these days can look like leather, crocodile, basket weaves, grasscloths, silks, linen, sisal and on & on. The great thing about Vinyl's are, you can use them in high-traffic areas; bathroom, hallways and kitchens, and if you spill something on them, you can easily wipe them off--some are even scrubbable.
Retail: $30-$100 a roll.

Botanicals are big. I'm not talking about the Tommy Bahama Floridian leaf patterns, I'm talking about the cool, subtle botanicals like pussy willows, cotton plants, twigs, & branches. They come in very soothing colors that work well in bedrooms, 4 season rooms, & bathrooms. They're a soft touch for the end-user who doesn't want a bold print and wants that "spa feel." This is great place to start if you're thinking spa--these patterns will give you your color palette.
Retail: $60-$100 a roll.

Europeans these days are using a lot of bold patterns, geometric shapes and bright colors like fuchsia, lime green & purple. So strange to think of Europeans sitting on antiques with cushions filled with down, while staring at what we might perceive as contemporary, retro or even Mod. Twiggy would have loved it!
Retail: $64-$180 a roll.

As you can tell, the choices are plentiful, colorful, functional and a great way to make a big impact in a big way.

A lot of information is out there now regarding how to get a good night's sleep. And, there are several solutions ranging from medical, to behavioral, to changes in the room's design. Many can be easily incorporated into one's lifestyle with a few simple changes.

One of the most common culprits is too much light. Room darkening window coverings are a good solution and come in a variety of styles offered by most manufacturers. Be sure your shade covers the window completely, making sure there are no light gaps for best results. Consider a shade that either operates from the top down or the bottom up for maximum control, to maintain privacy and allow for a good use of the natural light. Use a 45 watt bulb in the bedside lamp; this keeps your body from thinking its daylight and stop producing the necessary melatonin for restful sleep. A dimmer switch for that lamp would also work. If your bedroom contains a reading lamp, be sure the bottom of the lampshade is below eye level, so the light shines onto the reading material, and not into your eye. Also considered a light source is the television, do you keep that on all night? By eliminating such distractions as your telephone, computer, and turning off your cell phone, you will significantly reduce the noise and light levels in the room, and sleep more soundly.

Clutter can be distracting as well. Putting everything back into its place can be cathartic. Bedside tables, scaled to the size of the bed have great importance, and can solve some storage problems. The top of the table should be even with the top of the bed; and think about matching pairs of table lamps to create symmetry and balance.

Studies have shown that calming paint colors, soothing color palettes are very important in creating restful retreats. Monochromatic color schemes are unifying and soothing and can be a perfect choice for a comfortable bedroom. Neutrals, too, are good at helping achieve a tranquil mood.

Your bedroom should be your sanctuary, the star of the show, and should be the most luxurious room in your home. Beautiful bedspreads made of fabrics that are soft to the touch are key to achieving that kind of heaven. Splurge on lush, lofty fabrics, a comfortable mattress, and pillows suited to your sleeping patterns. Bedding can be expensive, but adding that layer upon layer of beautiful bedding is sumptuous and comfortable and creates style – the basis of perfect design.

No matter what they are called: home offices, library, study/den or perhaps the family command center, many benefits result from a dedicated space where you can organize your work, your life and your family. Whether it is a retrofitted closet, complete with shelves, lighting, desk top/work table, storage, and a telephone line, or perhaps a separate room with such features as bookcases, an easy chair and reading lamp and television, besides the work table and storage components, these spaces function at many levels for the whole family.

As in any redefining of space, you need to determine how you plan on using the room. Do you intend on running a business out of it? Or just the mechanics of your family? How much table top/work space do you need for your projects? What kind of storage requirements: Office supplies? Files? Work in progress? Will the room be used for other purposes so that you will need to think about hiding everything away with doors, a curtain, a screen? And the equipment issue: computer monitor and tower, printer, fax machine, telephone? How about a charging station for cell phones and music players? Would you prefer closed shelving or keep the shelves open with baskets to provide a uniform and uncluttered look? Lighting is important for a well-functioning area. Consider both ambient and task lighting. Small, recessed can lighting can shine down, highlighting the items on the bookshelves and provide warm ambient lighting especially on a dimmer switch. A task lamp with an adjustable arm will reposition to where you most need it. A floor lamp next to the easy chair, if space allows, will be adequate for comfortable reading.

Some ideas to consider: don't let a small space be a hindrance, shelves 10 to 12 inches deep are adequate. Lighter colors help keep the room from becoming cave-like. On the other hand, dark, rich hues with leather and wood are classic materials for offices and libraries; again it's a matter of personal preference. Put seldom used items on upper shelves and install a rolling ladder. Use magnetic chalk board paint on the wall behind the work table to add color and functionality to your organization, just be sure to edit the board regularly. An old door makes a great work table, and the door knob hole is perfect for the electrical cords. Place it on two file cabinets and you have an instant desk with storage. If you add those inspirations that are special to you, a favorite picture or poster, collectibles from a special vacation or a special person, it personalizes the space, and becomes like spending the day with an old companion and makes working from home a pleasure.

Still have the winter blahs? That spring teaser we got awhile ago has made many of my clients ready for some quick ideas to spruce up some of their interiors, before we all head outdoors to enjoy the spring weather. Here are some quick changes that can make a big difference.

Take an inventory of what you already have. Assess where to spend your time, energy and most importantly your money. Decide what are keepers, and what needs to go. If you need to buy some items, start shopping. It is a good idea to take measurements and some pictures of the room in question so you have the information at hand as you shop.

If your sofa is in good shape, you can change the look without reupholstering or even by adding a new slipcover by simply replacing the back cushions with oversized 26" square pillows. Stuffed with down, they can soften the boxy shape and add pattern, color and texture to your room. A new throw pillow or two completes the look. A room.

Speaking of furniture, switch furniture from other rooms for a better mix. Bring your favorite piece of outdoor furniture indoors. Replace your coffee table with 2 ceramic Chinese garden seats, or a big ottoman, with room for everything and your feet too. Add sitting areas with a loveseat and ottoman in the bedroom. A long bench type stool at the end of the bed adds a polished look. Replace an existing night stand with an affordable round table with a to-the-floor tablecloth and you gain additional storage space underneath.

Soften your bath's utilitarian feel by adding a comfortable stool, small slipper chair or metal garden chair for seating, or let that piece double as a table. Get rid of the boring bath mat and replace it with a real area rug for more color and pattern. There are many indoor/outdoor rugs in interesting patterns and colors that can be used, and in fact, a real rug will hold up just fine. New mirrors can make the biggest change in the look of a bathroom by not only changing the reflection but also maximizing the light. Another thought, how about changing the light fixture to something more dramatic, perhaps a chandelier? Updating lighting is a great way to breathe new life into a room.

We all know about the tasks we need to, or at least want to, complete in the fall, Caulking drafty areas, leaf raking, gutters. Great satisfaction for a job well done, but not much fun. Now on the other hand, your interiors can use some cozying up for the briskness of Fall and the impact can be immediate, visual and lasting. Adding a few personal touches can go a long way to making your home feel more comforting and inviting.

Let's start in the family room. New accent pillows can make such a difference in a quick, inexpensive update to your existing look, Rich, warm fall colors can complement most any décor and then there are the details from buttons and trims to a variety of textures and patterns, each lending themselves to a fresh new look.

How about your fireplace? Showcase it to display the warmth of fall, using copper pots perhaps to hold the wood, baskets for kindling, an arrangement of fall's bounty of pumpkins, gourds and vines in a beautiful cache pot. Your mantle can host a seasonal wreath that helps to set the tone as well. A fire in the fireplace is such a passageway of fall, as the sun sets so much earlier now, its warmth and brightness is enjoyed by all.

Your entryway welcomes you home as well as any guests dropping by. Do you need a new rug to protect your floors from wet (and soon snowy) boots? Is there room for a bench for taking off those boots? Or maybe just a chair will do? Does the lighting need updating? Perhaps a new lampshade? A welcoming gesture can also include a small table for gloves, keys perhaps a mirror. And, don't forget the front door. Does it need a fresh coat of paint before the winter sets in? It is also a good place for a wreath or a decorative element that can add another welcoming touch.

I love area rugs. Nothing can so quickly change the feel of a room and have a bigger impact than an area rug. It anchors the furniture, creates the feeling of warmth and can work magic pulling the look of a room together. There are so many patterns and colors available now, the choices are unlimited. Keep in mind that rugs in adjoining rooms do not need to have matching patterns, but for maximum impact, keep the colors and hues of coordinating rugs similar.

Other small, personal touches should include candles. Again, the variety of candles and their embellishments are unlimited, and when paired with candleholders, the resulting look conveys the feel of warmth and personal style. Candles are reasonable in price and nothing is prettier than dinner by candlelight. Throws and shawls in both solid colors and patterns are a sure sign that the sun-kissed days of summer are quickly coming to an end and will be much appreciated as the days seem to get shorter. Flowers also signal the signs of Fall. Mums and asters are just as pretty in the home as outside in your landscape. These ideas should help bridge that gap between now and your Halloween decorations and then on into November and Thanksgiving.

How is the holiday decorating going? Do you have a corner that needs some tweaking yet? Have you considered a miniature Christmas tree? The choices, styles and themes for small scaled Christmas trees are more varied than ever and can be customized to compliment any décor. From traditional to hot pink, and everything in between, there is something for every spot in your home. The trees, while chosen for size, also offer flexibility and multiple trees can festively fill the bill in many cases. Some ideas to consider: think about a variety of cookie cutters or kitchen utensils on a table to tree in the kitchen area. Religious symbols offer a sense of comfort in today's tough economic climate and are popular for a simple comforting décor. Special family heirlooms that you have inherited can be showcased on their own tree. Childhood memorabilia offers a nostalgic feeling. Use the tree as a welcoming touch in the foyer or the guest room if you have special company coming. Children love their own tiny tree featuring meaningful ornaments to them, mementos of trips taken; and then decorating the tree each year will take on special significance. A visit to the local holiday decorations departments of most every store this time of year will yield a host of ideas, themes, and price points. Use less expensive glass ornaments to fill the inside of the tree, saving the more expensive pieces to be showcased on the outside where they create the most impact. And the trees themselves come in a variety of materials: traditional, "snow"-flocked, metallic, feathers, just about any color, texture and height you can imagine. Don't forget about the tree skirt ti cover up the workings such as the stand and lighting. This is a great way to update your décor, add a very personalized touch and have some fun all the while.

Earth Day is coming up on April 22nd, and the Interior Design field has played an important role in making our environments, and the materials in them, safer and more eco-friendly. Green is not just a color any more!

The floorcovering industry has made tremendous strides in the ecology field. The amount of used, discarded carpeting made of non-renewable resources being dumped into our landfills was abysmally staggering. Karastan, along with DuPont two of the leaders in the carpet and rug industry, has developed a new line of carpeting made from renewable corn-based polymers, that are not only good for the environment, but are beautiful, durable, stain-resistant and long lasting. It is also more degradable when it is time to recycle. Lou Ropposch of Ropposch Brothers says that the production of this new fiber called SmartStrand uses 30% less energy than the production of traditional nylon carpeting fiber. Also, greenhouse gas emissions from production of SmartStrand are 60% lower. SmartStrand is the not only the softest carpet fiber available but also the most stain resistant. His clients are very happy with how this product performs in their homes.

Mark Vandenbosche of Port Huron Paint says great improvements in the painting industry have been made as well. The advantage to using Earth friendly paints are that the coating provide no or low VOC's or solvents that release into the atmosphere. They have virtually no odor during application, and no residual odor after drying, which allows for early reuse of your room, and plays a big role in healthy air quality.

By now you have probably heard of the new legislation that will ban the familiar incandescent light bulb. Starting in 2012, these will be phased off the market under the new energy law approved by Congress in favor of the compact fluorescent bulbs or CFL as they are known. CFL bulbs significantly reduce the amount of electricity used and the estimated cost savings can be measureable. There are some drawbacks however that need to be addressed. The initial cost of the bulb is higher, although experts say the CFL bulb lasts much longer. Also, they are designed to be recycled, instead of throwing them into the household trash, an inconvenience to many. Home Depot's website says they do have the recycling capacity and the local store does have a recycling bin available in their entryway. If they break, they need to be handled with care, it is recommended not to vacuum them up. Many of the CFL bulbs cannot be used in dimmer switch configurations. And, finally, there is the quality of light that they emit. Although there have been improvements, the quality of light they give off is not what we are used to, not true colors. I am not sure we have heard the final word on these bulbs and the legislation.

Happy New Year! Now that the decorations have been put away, January is a perfect time to look at your home with a fresh new perspective and set your sights on what you want to accomplish, what changes or goals do you want to set for the New Year? What worked well for you as you entertained this past year? What needs to be addressed? How can you make your everyday life a bit easier? More efficient? More comfortable? Oprah has said, "Cheers to a New Year and another chance for us to get it right." We can apply that to interior design as well.

A great way to start is to be objective with what you currently have. Do your spaces fit your family? Do you need more seating, or a better arrangement of the furniture you already own? Do those pieces need to be replaced? Reupholstered? Professionally cleaned? Will new throw pillows be enough? And, how about the lighting? Are your lamps in good working condition? Are the shades clean and in good repair, or should they be replaced? How about your accent pieces? Artwork? Flower arrangements? Potted plants? Are you still happy with them? Should you be daring and add a dramatic accent color, either on a wall or two, or through a new accessory or piece of art? Bedrooms oftentimes are the easiest to overlook, is the bedding in good shape? Need a better mattress? What about storage, is it time for the closets to have a good purging? The kitchen is the heart of the home, does it need some updating? The bathrooms probably withstand the most abuse, is there something there that needs attention? What challenges are you finding?

As you go about refreshing, sorting, editing throughout the house, also make a list of the repair work that needs to be done: touch up paint, carpet stains, nail pops, nicks in woodwork, anything that is broken and needs replacing.

Then, after you have set your priorities and as you have the time and money, watch the sales and set about reaching those goals, and making those changes in this new year.

With the arrival of Spring right around the corner, this is a perfect time of year to organize your closet. Not only will it give you a jump on your Spring cleaning ahead of the nice weather we are all anticipating, your newly organized closet will also give you a sense of accomplishment and pride. No two closets or people are the same, so before you spend any money or energy, let's rethink what you have.

It is first a good idea to start by going through your items, determining what to donate to charity, what to pitch and what will be kept, those items you actually use. Compile a list of what is left to determine what kind of and how much storage space you will need; for example, how much space for long hanging items, how much space for short hanging or double rod items, and the shelf space for folded items, shoes, accessories. Keep in mind that your storage needs may change as the seasons changes, so keep some flexibility when planning. A general rule of thumb for dimensioning your new closet is as follows: blouses need between 30 to 36" long of hanging space. Skirts need 34" to 44" long, while pants need 28" to 32" long if they are folded. If hanging the slacks by the cuff, allow 46" to 52" and dresses run between 48" to 66" long.

Ideally, what is it you would like to have in your dream closet? Better lighting? Pull out shelving? More mirrors? Is there space available to hang one on the door? Drawers with dividers for such items as jewelry, scarves, belts? If your closet is a walk-in, do you have room or the need for an ironing board or perhaps a clothes steamer? How about an island? For those who travel frequently, its an ideal spot to pack your suitcase. Consider some options for dust free storage for infrequently used items; clear boxes or canvas hanging bags can do the job efficiently and cost effectively, or can you move your out of season items to another space? What about all those shoes? Do you have the room to add an armoire to increase your storage space? Answers to these questions should help you determine a plan that will best suit your needs. And, now is the time to invest in the correct hangers to help your clothing maintain their proper shape.

Once you have emptied the closet out, it's a good time to repaint or perhaps even wallpaper. As for the new system itself, the range runs the gamut from simple to grand with price points in between, and something suitable for every budget. At the less expensive end of the spectrum are plastic-coated wire shelving and rod components which are durable and long-lasting and available in a wide variety of options and configurations. The top of the line programs are custom designed and planned to suit your needs and space. Remember when planning to take advantage of the back of the closet door as well as the valuable space above the top shelf.

With some careful consideration and forethought, you should end up with a workable solution to your overcrowded, unorganized closet. However, there is still no guarantee you will be able to find something to wear.

Many of us will have overnight guest this holiday season. Whether friends or family, there are several things you can do to welcome them and make them feel at home. Essentials include a comfortable mattress, and you may want to check that out by sleeping on the mattress yourself one night; all cotton sheets, extra pillows and blankets; a reading lamp with current magazines; an alarm clock; fluffy towels; luggage rack; and a carafe or crystal pitcher filled with water. If you are not lucky enough to provide a separate room for your guests, and they will be couch bound, put some of these things on a pretty tray on the coffee table at night for their convenience.

Little extras add that special touch and helps your guests be comfortable: toiletries like small bottles of shampoo and a toothbrush; beverage center with a small coffee maker and all the fixings, including flavored decafes; bottle water and juices; small portable television with local viewing guide or a compact disc player with seasonal music; travel iron and small ironing board. Other special touches could include padded hangers; fresh fruit with fruit knife and plate; fresh flowers or an arrangement of fresh evergreen boughs.

A welcome basket spotlighting your guests' interests could include a listing and pamphlets of local attractions and events, along with a street map; maybe a stack of some great books; writing supplies such as a notebook; stationary, envelopes and stamps. Yummy, tempting treats like chocolates or baked goods may have a spot as well.

Celebrate the season with adding bits of holiday cheer: a wreath on their door; decorator pillows with a festive theme; how about a live potted evergreen in a beautiful pot, and you can plant it outside next spring.

I saw a decorative pillow once that said, "Guests, like fish, smell after three days." But, with a little careful thought and some planning, that doesn't have to hold true for you this holiday season.

Craving change? I was. So, I started to think about what I could easily and reasonably accomplish to change up the Master Bedroom. I had grown tired of the matchy matchy night stands that had come with the bedroom furniture set. The old lampshades had outlived their usefulness as well. An old trick of turning the square table into a round one, with a to-the-floor tablecloth to cover came to me. I found a fabric that nicely combined with the other patterns and colors in that room and would make a great to-the-floor tablecloth. I had a round piece of sheetmetal cut to completely cover the top of the nightstand; wood would work as well. Between the round piece and the table top, I placed a large piece of interlining, which is like a felt, to protect the top surface of the table. I also placed another large piece of interlining over top of the sheetmetal to protect my tablecloth from the edges. Specifically with my measurements, I needed 5 yards of 54" fabric that I had pieced and sewn into one large square. I wanted a sumptuous look, so, I only serged the edges of new tablecloth fabric so I would tuck the edges under and it could puddle onto the floor. New lampshades in black silk with gold lining replaced my old, used shades for the swing arm lamps on either side of the bed and I found new finials for each lamp harp in a gold color that complimented the new shades. The finished project allows for much more tabletop space than before and I love how it turned out.

Ah, Springtime! As I write this, it's a glorious day, not a cloud in the sky, although there are still some big snow/ice piles, and everything is brown. Nevertheless, I am starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel we call Winter and like so many of you, I have Spring Fever! So, what can we do about it?

This time of year presents all kinds of opportunities to spruce up your home and shake off those winter doldrums. The shelter magazines are filled with projects, ranging from the amateur to the "perhaps we need some help" skill levels. The key and the most important first step is to assess what you and your family needs: more storage which produces less clutter? Freshen up the family room? New paint colors? Replace the ________; fill in the blank! So let's get started.

Probably the most dramatic way to make a change is by painting. Not only can that fresh, clean look do wonders for your spirit and your home, the impact that a new color has can not be measured. Mark Vandenbossche of Port Huron Paint says, "Spring into color! Color has the power to move us and there are certain colors and moods that capture the essence of spring, i.e., greens can bring balance, harmony, and stability to any space." Light colors add a freshness and clearness to a room. Bright colors are bold and exciting. Dark colors add richness and depth. Pick an accent color from your soft furnishings and paint a wall or two for emphasis. Remember, paint color sets the mood and it does not matter what other people like; color is very personal and what matters is your reaction to it.

Another way to get a new look is to rearrange your furniture and regroup your accessories. Think about your focal point: is it a view through the window? What about television viewing? Plan your seating around that, keeping in mind comfort levels: can you carry on a conversation with others without shouting? Is the TV too far away? At an uncomfortable angle? Next comes table placement and lighting. Where can you place your coffee cup? Is the task lighting adequate for your needs? Accent lighting can be an interesting detail that quickly perks up a dark corner and a tired décor. There are so many cool objects you can use to make a distinctive, one of a kind lamp: vases, teapots, statues…the sky is your limit; or rather your ceiling is.

The dreary early days of Spring can oftentimes drag on. Another quick, inexpensive fix can be a new houseplant nestled in a beautiful ceramic container, or other appropriate vessel. Keep in mind the light and watering requirements of both your new purchase and its new home. You do not want any water damage to mar the finish of your furniture. If you invest in a flowering plant, its an instant fix to those doldrums.

Also, area rugs are a terrific way to tie your new look together or visually divide a large space into smaller, workable components. Window treatments as well completely change the look and functionality of a space, besides being a beautiful addition to any décor.

These budget conscious solutions can be quickly and easily incorporated into any space or can be a good starting point for further, more permanent changes down the road.