Interior Design on Your Own Time

I just heard about a great new contest that can be great for homeowners looking for kitchen design ideas and those who have just redone their kitchens.  Kitchen Cabinet Hardware is offering a $100 to their website (and other home décor sites parented by the same company) as a prize in their new kitchen design contest.  Applicants should sent in a 2 pictures of their kitchen- one from “before”, and one from “after”, to show the world how their new kitchen cabinet hardware impacted their space.  Submissions should include a list of all new cabinet hardware used in the kitchen design, and any other relevant information.

Good news for homeowners is that the contest is open to both homeowners and professional contractors, so consumers looking for free kitchen design ideas can hopefully get an eyeful from the submissions.  Even better news is that the contest has no purchase necessary- you can enter the contest even if you didn’t purchase your supplies from Kitchen Cabinet Hardware.  I know that I’ll be monitoring the contest to see all the great ideas out there- I can’t wait to see yours!  For a full set of rules or to enter, go to:  To hear about more online contests, check out Grandma Jam, a great source for online contests.  You can also check out Super Blog Directory for some other blogs that may discuss contests.  It’s kinda like the lotto- hey, you never know!


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?

People with small kitchens often wish that they could have a larger workspace, more cabinet space, or simply just a more luxurious kitchen.  Unfortunately, this is not always possible due to space constraints, permit problems or budgetary restrictions.  Still, there are many ways through which we can maximize the efficiency and beauty of any small kitchen.  The following small kitchen ideas will yield big results- and will enable you to love your small kitchen instead of cursing it.

– Install cabinetry up to the ceiling.  If you are lacking storage space, a great way to take full advantage of even the smallest kitchen is to put double cabinetry on top, so that you utilize every inch of available space for storage.  What’s more, double cabinetry is not only useful, but it’s also beautiful.  Of course, my favorite benefit of having cabinets up to the ceiling is that you eliminate the need for dusting above your cabinets…

– Optimize your corner cabinetry.  If your corner cabinets are a mess, implementing a more efficient system will improve the entire look and feel of your small kitchen.  Ideas for making this happen include installing blind corner cabinets or a large lazy Susan that can make it easy to find what you’re looking for without rummaging through the entire corner cabinet.  While lazy Susans are definitely a more affordable option, there’s no question that blind corner cabinets offer optimal efficiency and can completely revolutionize any corner cabinet.

Rev-A-Shelf Blind Corner Cabinet

Rev-A-Shelf Blind Corner Cabinet

– Paint your kitchen with a light color.  Small kitchens often feel even smaller because they are painted with dark colors which will make the space feel closed.  Choosing a light and warm color such as cream, warm yellow or beige can make a big difference in the way the room feels, and can make the room feel instantly larger.

Take things off the countertops.  If you find that your kitchen countertops are cluttered with accessories, get rid of them.  Instead of having a counter-mounted paper towel holder, install a hanging paper towel holder under your cabinetry.  Instead of keeping your bread box on the counter, hide your bread in a bread drawer organizer.  Instead of keeping your mixer on the counter, stash it in your cabinet on an appliance lift, which will prevent the mixer from ever taking up space on your countertop again.

–  Use long cabinet pulls to create an elongated look. Oversized cabinet pulls are a great way to trick the eye into thinking that a space is larger and longer than it is.  Replace your old cabinet hardware with cabinet handles that are at least 8 inches in length.  Place the handles horizontally on drawers and vertically on cabinet doors to make the most of the look.

Sati Nickel Bar Pull by Top Knobs

Sati Nickel Bar Pull by Top Knobs

Whether you try just one of these small kitchen ideas or implement them all, you won’t believe how a few small touches can really change the feel of your kitchen.

Now that I’ve spent a few Sundays at the beach watching the kids collect a million seashells, I must admit that I’ve gotten a bit caught up in summer styles.  And not just the latest bathing suit styles, but summer interior design trends.  Specifically, I’ve noticed that a lot of manufacturers offer sea-themed cabinet hardware.  At first I was skeptical- who would want to create such a summery space all year long?  But then I started wondering- if so many brands offer beach-inspired designs, there must be a reason.  And I suddenly realized that installing this type of cabinet hardware is a great way to remember the summer fun all year long.

As I began researching these unique cabinet hardware designs, I found that Anne at Home offers some of the most popular beach-themed cabinet hardware on the market…and for good reason.  Anne at Home offers an extensive line of pewter hardware, which is known for it’s longevity as well as its style.  More importantly, Anne at Home offers customers the unique opportunity to choose their own hardware style and match it with the finish of their choice, to create a custom look for any space.  With over 30 colored finishes to choose from that range from green verdigris to an orangey-copper tone, homeowners can create something that is subtly colorful, without being overly garish as many colored cabinet hardware styles tend to be.

Anyway, I digress.  Because pewter is a soft metal that is easy to work with, Anne at Home is able to offer sculpted cabinet hardware that is more than just a design stamped on a metal plate.  Although I’m sure that many people appreciate, oh, Liberty Cabinet Hardware’s Coastal Collection, which offers knobs with a nautical theme, I appreciate the texture and unique shape of Anne at Home’s selection.

Anne at Home Dolphin Knob

Anne at Home Dolphin Knob

Liberty Hardware Seashell Knob

Liberty Hardware Seashell Knob

But here’s the catch- pewter hardware isn’t cheap, and Anne at Home’s custom designs definitely aren’t cheap.  While I’m usually an advocate of purchasing home décor items that aren’t the most expensive, sometimes I think that buying what you love may be worthwhile.  Items like cabinet hardware are designed to last forever AND you generally don’t need more than 5 or 6 to outfit an entire bathroom.  So…despite my normally cheap tendencies, in this case I think Anne at Home is worth a splurge.

What do you think?

Anyone who knows me or has read my blogs or articles will know that I never claimed to be an interior designer- I’m really just a regular person who has learned a tremendous amount about home organization and affordable decorating in recent years. Most of my experience comes from being a newlywed, new mom, and student, and being forced to decorate each home we’ve lived in as nicely as possible on a limited budget. Likewise, while living in a ‘shoe box’ for 2 ½ years, I’ve created various home organization solutions that I’m happy to share with others.

I’m a fan of interior design shows as much as the next person- for the most part. But Keyshawn Johnson’s new show called “Tackling Design” has left me scratching my head. For one thing, I couldn’t really tell how many of the ideas were Johnson’s and how many were a collaborative effort with his entire production team. Even still, I didn’t find any of the suggestions specifically creative or distinctive.

Another problem I had with the show is that I felt as though Keyshawn Johnson tried too hard to impose his opinion on his clients, when he should have been more open to compromise. As I mentioned in a previous post, it’s important for a client to consider the sagacious advice of his or her interior designer- but it’s even more important for a designer to appreciate the desires of the client and to incorporate them as much as possible.

In short, I’m concerned that while Keyshawn Johnson may have had a fantastic NFL career, his foray into the world of interior design will be anything but phenomenal.

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.

Since I’m still mourning the loss of Michael Jackson, I thought it fitting to discuss my favorite black bathroom accessories.  Why bathroom, you ask?  For starters, you won’t see many black bathroom accessories around, and I think that this is a pity, because black accessories have the unique ability to add drama to any room- especially to smaller spaces like bathrooms.  I’ve seen many 70’s bathrooms- mint green, powder blue, fuschia or light pink that would benefit from a bit of a modern twist.  And while not all homeowners can afford a full bathroom renovation, adding a touch of black will instantly update even the most outdated bathroom.  So here are 4 of my favorite black bathroom accessories…what are yours?

1- A modern black T-shaped knob.  Bathroom cabinets generally don’t require much in the way of cabinet hardware, so picking black cabinet hardware that will really make a statement is an inexpensive way to accent the space.  My favorite black cabinet pull is the one featured here- but you can see for yourself that any design will make a difference.

Berenson black cabinet knob

Berenson black cabinet knob

2- A fabulous black bathroom vanity.  Even installed against the oldest of solid-color bathroom tiles, a black bathroom vanity can do wonders to reinvent a bathroom.  If you have patterned tiles, however, you may want to think twice before installing a new bathroom vanity, unless you know for sure that it’ll complement the busy pattern.  I happen to love ultra-modern bathroom vanities, and choosing a black one is a great idea because black never goes out of style.  Just make sure that the dark finish won’t overwhelm your space- if you have a very small bathroom, black fixtures may overpower the space rather than enhancing it.

Double Black Bathroom Vanity

Double Black Bathroom Vanity

3-  A patterned black shower curtain. You may think that having a black shower curtain will darken your space but I must tell you that it can also do wonders for disguising an unsightly shower.  If your shower has mildew, cracked tiles, or an ugly design, you probably wish it would just disappear- and with a patterned black shower curtain, both you and your guests will have something beautiful to focus on.

4-  A black wastebasket and rug combo. OK, OK, I know these are really two different black bathroom accessories, but I think they mesh well together since they both sit on the floor.  Black trash cans are great (in my humble opinion), because they keep your eye focused on things other than the trash.  Likewise, they look terrific when paired with a black bathroom rug that will conceal outdated floor tiles and provide a plush experience every time you exit the shower.

Black bathroom accessories aren’t ideal for every bathroom, but they are definitely great for MOST bathrooms.  Without going overboard, you can add a touch of modernity to your space and transform an old-fashioned bathroom into a spa-like sanctuary.