Interior Design on Your Own Time

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I must admit that I’m a bit of an environmentalist.  I don’t use paper goods (except the rare paper napkins or paper towels on occasion when the kids spill things) or other disposable food items (plastic wrap, disposable tin pans, etc.).  I turn off the water when I’m washing dishes so that no drops go to waste unnecessarily.  And I try to purchase energy efficient appliances whenever possible.   That’s why I’m so excited to learn that soon the government will be providing incentives to consumers who want to exchange their old, non-energy efficient home appliances for more efficient models.  Not only will a rise in the use of energy efficient appliances have a great impact on the environment, but they provide a great way to improve the look of your kitchen without breaking the bank.

According to the US Department of Energy, lighting, refrigeration and cooking appliances consume 41.5% of a home’s energy consumption.  For this reason alone, I encourage you to take advantage of this new ‘cash for clunkers appliances’ deal to improve the look and efficiency of your kitchen.  (The deal will likely go into effect around November 2009).  Please note that at this time there is no such thing as an Energy-Star approved oven or stove.  Still, there are many ways to improve the energy efficiency of your kitchen.  Here are my top picks for energy efficient appliance upgrades:

1- Energy Star Refrigerators with Top Mount Freezers.  Not only do top mount freezers offer maximum storage space for frozen foods, but they also use 10-25% less energy than side-by-side or bottom freezer models.  Although this model may not be considered the most aesthetically popular design, you can easily enhance the look of your new appliance with new appliance pulls that match your existing cabinet hardware.

2-  Energy Star Dishwashers.  I love energy efficient dishwashers because not only do they save money on your electric bills, but they also use less water than less efficient models, which is better for the world and easier on your water bill.  Consumers should be aware that Energy Star guidelines for dishwashers were amended on August 11, 2009, though some models that are still being sold only conform to the outdated standards.  I highly recommend purchasing models that conform to the latest standards to ensure that your appliances are as energy efficient as possible.

3- Energy Star Freezers.  A spare freezer is a great place to store extra food- but many times extra freezers are left running when they aren’t completely full, which means that you are spending money to run your spare freezer.  To get the most bang for your buck on a spare freezer, upgrade to an Energy Star model which will save nearly $50 a year on your electricity bill.

What energy efficient appliance would you like to buy with your government rebate?


BusinessWeek’s property blog, Hot Property announced that the housing market has lost $27 billion dollars of value as a result of the failing economy.  Unfortunately, home depreciation is rampant today- but there are ways to protect your house from depreciation.

One easy way to maintain your home’s value is to stay organized.  As a mother of four, I know this is easier said than done- but staying organized helps every house make a better first impression (and first impressions are critical when you’re looking to sell).  Keeping an organized home will also prevent you from scrambling every time the realtor drops by.  And of course, staying organized as you try to sell your home is a great way to develop organizational skills that you can take with you to your new home, so that you won’t back to regress your old sloppy ways.

Another critical way to prevent home depreciation is to keep your home décor fresh.  This does not mean that you need to undergo an entire reconstruction just to refresh the look of your space.  There are, however, a few easy ways to instantly perk up the look of your space.  You can, for example, get a new paint job (or replace your old-fashioned wallpaper with a fresh coat of paint).  Or, you can replace your dingy light fixture with a new one that will present your home in the best light.

One of my favorite ways to keep your home looking fresh is to decorate it with decorative mirrors.  Because mirrors reflect the light and make every space look larger, they are a great way to decorate small homes.   Additionally, stylish mirrors will be easy to take with you to your new home and are more likely to match your new space than standard wall art that may be tied to the color scheme of your old home.

If you need to sell your home in a hurry, you may have to settle for a slightly lower price than you were hoping for.  But keeping your house in great shape is an easy way to ensure that you’ll get top dollar for your home and that you won’t become a statistic in the trend of house depreciation.

Like the rest of the world, I’m a bit in shock over Michael Jackson’s sudden death. And like the rest of the world, I grew up listening to his tunes and watching as he displayed his distinctive Michael Jackson style. With tight pants, sequins and the most hideous shoes, I must admit that I never quite understood why “Michael Jackson style” became so popular. Still, I find Michael’s willingness to express himself (even the stranger side of himself) quite admirable- it’s a trait that has certainly influenced the way I design rooms and the way I help others to express themselves.

If you’ve ever seen a picture of Neverland Ranch, the home where Michael Jackson lived for several years before he was rocked by scandal, you were probably amazed by the ranch’s gaudiness. And yet, it held a unique style that embodied Michael Jackson style, and that is OK by me. So here are 3 things that I’ve learned from Michael Jackson- and may his memory continue to inspire others to stay true to their own styles.

1- Be true to your style. There’s no question that Michael Jackson style resulted not only from Jackson himself, but from a myriad of stylists and experts who helped create his public persona. When hiring an interior designer or enlisting help in your home décor project, it’s important that you recognize the line between professional guidance and abdicating your style autonomy. You have the right to let your own style shine through (even if it needs to be varied slightly).

2- Don’t be afraid to go bold. I am willing to guess that Michael Jackson would have still been a popular singer, even if he had not displayed Michael Jackson style. But I suspect that it’s BECAUSE he was not afraid to be bold that he was able to a capture the world’s attention. All too often, homeowners are afraid of designing with colors or with daring accessories. Possibly because they’re afraid of what others will think or because they’re afraid it’ll go out of style. And while these may be valid fears, I’ve found that embracing your own style is the only way to make sure that you get what you want- otherwise, you may end up with a ‘vanilla’ home that everyone else likes, but you’ll always feel that it’s lacking.

3- Don’t be too bold!
The last thing I’ve learned from Michael Jackson is that sometimes there is such a thing as too much. People in the public eye often exaggerate themselves to make a splash- and Michael Jackson definitely did that. If he would have scaled himself down, he may not have had the persona that we’ve come to know and love. Still, when doing any interior decorating project, there IS such a thing as too much. It’s ok to have a couch with a wild print, as long as it’s tempered by solid curtains or demure wall hangings. Recognize that not everyone can afford to embrace Michael Jackson style- and that it’s ok to take a step back.

My mother is one of my biggest interior design inspirations. She’s not a professional designer, but she has GREAT taste. Everything that she updates in her home has a look that is unique without being overdone. What’s more, my mother has the unique ability to create fabulous looks without spending a fortune (gee, I wonder where I get that from). Since I am currently visiting her, I wanted to share 3 free kitchen design ideas that can add enjoyment and value to your home without breaking the bank.

1- Over time, the side of my mother’s kitchen island became scratched, dirty and even cracked (as often happens with formica). Unfortunately, replacing formica is expensive, and there’s no guarantee that it won’t scratch or crack in the future. And so, my creative mother had another great idea- to replace the dingy sides of her kitchen island with a decorative tile pattern. The tiles won’t scratch like formica does when someone bangs into it, and the unique design is one that gets noticed instantly. Fortunately, the sides of my kitchen island are relatively new- but I think I’d love to implement this kitchen design idea one day in the future!

Great tiling on the side of this kitchen island transforms it from boring to beautiful.

Great tiling on the side of this kitchen island transforms it from boring to beautiful.

2- Replacing your kitchen furniture is another great way to update the look of your kitchen without overspending on a complete kitchen renovation. Changing your furniture quickly changes your entire kitchen design, especially if the room has a neutral color scheme. Consider replacing your wooden table with a metal and glass kitchen table for a more modern look, or swap your old kitchen chairs with sleeker kitchen stools.

3- Since you already know how much I love cabinet hardware, I feel it important to say what a shocking difference new cabinet hardware can make in an older kitchen. Replacing outdated or dulled kitchen cabinet hardware with shiny and stylish pieces is an easy way to rejuvenate your kitchen design. If you don’t believe me, order free samples and see for yourself!

The kitchen is one of the most popular rooms in the home, and I’m a big fan of having a great kitchen. I hope that these free kitchen design ideas can help you improve your home affordably, or can inspire you to find the change that you’ve been looking for.

As a mother of four, my home never looks the same from one minute to the next.  No sooner do I clean the house, the hurricane hits.  No sooner do we invest in a new couch (or table, or chair), does it become a new trampoline, racecar or tent.  Still, I love change…and I love the excitement of getting something new for the home.

Unfortunately, in today’s economy, it’s not always practical or possible to get new things (or to get expensive new things).  Sometimes we’ve got to make do with what we have or to choose more affordable decorations for our homes- and that’s perfectly OK.  This blog is about how to design (or redesign) your home affordably and how to make your old furniture look like new.  I look forward to sharing my ideas with you and hearing your feedback as well!