How to do more with less during a redesign

Less is sometimes more...3 Tips for designing a small space.


Small rooms can present a real challenge for any would-be interior designer, whether it's a studio apartment or a tiny attic bedroom. Here are a few tricks of the trade for creating the feeling of space - without adding square footage.

Try a fresh coat of paint

One of the simplest yet most effective measures one can take is changing up the color scheme. When choosing a new hue for the walls and/or floor, opt for a lighter shade. Light colors (especially white) create a sense of airiness that contrasts sharply with the cozier feel of darkly-colored rooms, which have a tendency to absorb light.

Giving a ceiling a new coat of paint can be helpful, too. Anything that draws the eye upwards will make a room seem bigger. Wallpaper or a painted design on the ceiling will accomplish that task.

Change up the furniture


Although it may seem counterintuitive, decorators actually should not push furniture up against the walls to maximize space. Pulling furniture a little bit away from the walls will make the room appear larger and more open. Similarly, it is a good idea to choose chairs and couches with exposed legs, which also lend the area a sense of openness. The same goes for ottomans, cabinets, dressers and end tables—the leggier the better.

If a standing bookshelf is taking up too much room, ditch it and instead hang shelves near the ceiling, which will both free up space and draw the eye upwards. If the room has hardwood floors, a rug with vertical stripes can elongate the space, in the same way that striped clothing can have a slimming effect on the body. Alternately, using several small rugs to divide the room into sections can also make the space appear larger.

Expansion through decoration


Finally, there are many little (or sometimes big) decorations that can be added to a small room to really help to transform it. For example, using an oversized mirror to make a room feel larger is a well-known trick, but sometimes a large piece of wall art can manage the same feat. Using one large, attention-grabbing art piece is preferable to cluttering up a wall with lots of different pieces.

As for other decorations, they should be well-proportioned and used sparingly. In a small room, anything larger than a bread box is likely to stand out, so smaller plants and knickknacks are preferred—unless there is one big “statement piece” to tie the room together. In general, though, clutter is the enemy of spaciousness, and one should exercise appropriate restraint when picking out decorations for a small room.

Just because you have a small room does not mean anyone else has to know. Follow these tips and tricks for making a tiny space feel bigger, and you can effectively hide a cramped room in plain sight.

Article from Edgewood Properties.



Real Christmas Trees vs. Fake Christmas Trees: Which are Greener?

How do real Christmas trees and fake Christmas trees stack up when it comes to the environment and cost? We’ve got the dirt.


Real Christmas trees are better for the environment than fake Christmas trees: They’re renewable and recyclable, unlike that petroleum-derived faux model.

In terms of price there’s not much difference between the real and fake varieties, unless you get really fancy with a fake. Depending on where you live and the size and species of tree you buy, the real deal runs about $20 to $150 annually.

You can pick up a basic fake Christmas tree for less than $20 at some big-box retailers. Prices go up from there to as much as $430 for a deluxe, already-lit number. Keep a faux tree in the family for at least a decade to goose up your holiday gift fund and mitigate the pileup in your local landfill. 

If you insist on replacing your fake tree every year to change things up, donate your old one to a charity, a resale shop, or Freecycle.

All I Want for Christmas is the Greenest of Trees. What Do I Look For?

  • Visit a local Christmas tree farm. Christmas tree farmland often can’t be used for other crops, says Brian Clark Howard, an environmental reporter. When the tree farmers plant new trees, the growing young trees combat climate change by absorbing carbon. And tree farms conserve soil -- farmers only till the land once every six or eight years.

    If you buy from a Christmas tree lot, your tree was likely shipped from Oregon or North Carolina, and getting it to you created pollution, Howard says.
  • Do business with a local Christmas tree farmer who grows organic Christmas trees without pesticides. Whether an organic tree costs more depends on where you live.

 If you are in the Burlington-Camden-Gloucester County area of New Jersey here are a few suggestions to cut your own tree! Courtesy of PickYourOwn.Org



3 Brilliant Hacks to Make Snow Shoveling Less Miserable

Don’t break your back shoveling snow. Try these tips to make winter less of a burden.

Person shoveling snow in a yard

Winterize your home nav bar

If you’re a homeowner in a snowy climate, chances are good you rue the winter: All that snow has to go somewhere, and it’s not getting there itself. 

Cue the snow shovel.

Barring a move to a snow-free state or barricading your family inside all winter, there’s no way to avoid the endless task of shoveling snow. There are, however, ways to make the process much easier. Here are three simple hacks to make the morning after a snowfall much less stressful.

1.  Spray Your Shovel with Cooking Oil

Snow sticking to your shovel makes an already arduous task even more obnoxious. Avoid it with this hack: Lightly coat your shovel with non-stick cooking oil to make snow slide right off. No more time wasted removing snow from your snow remover. (You can substitute a spray lubricant like WD-40, but the downside is it’s toxic.)

2.  Lay Out a Tarp Before the Snow

If you like short cuts, this technique, billed as “the laziest way imaginable” to clear snow, according to a tutorial from “Instructables,” has got your name on it. The day before an expected snowfall, lay a tarp on your walkway. When the snow finishes falling, just pull out the tarp, and voilà: an instantly cleared walkway. (Word to the wise: Make sure pedestrians won’t trip on your tarp; include a sign or use this technique in your backyard walkway if you’re concerned.)

The technique requires a tarp, firewood, and twine as well as some prep work. Pre-storm, use firewood to weigh down your tarp — you don’t want it flying away in the wind! — and tie the twine to both the tarp and to a shovel standing upright in your yard. You’ll use the shovel to pull out the snow-laden tarp. 

Although this method might be faster than shoveling, it does require manpower. After all, a cubic foot of snow can weigh between 7 and 20 pounds. So don’t get too ambitious with the size of your tarp or you might not be able to pull it once it’s full of snow. 

3.  Make a Homemade De-icing Cocktail

De-icers make snow removal easier by cutting through the tough, icy layers that are a pain to remove with a shovel. But an easy solution should be easy on your property as well. Many commercial de-icers are pretty harsh.

Commercial ice-melting substances — magnesium chloride, calcium chloride, potassium chloride, and sodium chloride (salt) — all cause damage to the environment, according to the University of Maryland’s Home and Garden Information Center. They can also damage concrete sidewalks and driveways, which mean hefty repair costs later. 

A better solution: Make your own de-icer using rubbing alcohol or vinegar. You’ll save money, too. Commercial melters typically cost $8 or more. Plus, you’ll avoid the hassle of trekking to the hardware store to stock up.

Use vinegar before a storm to make ice and snow removal easier:

  • Combine 3 parts vinegar to 1 part water.
  • Spray or pour gently (you still want to avoid runoff into your landscape) before a storm.

To keep the sidewalks and steps from icing after a storm:

  • Combine 2 parts rubbing alcohol with 1 part water.
  • Apply to minimize runoff.

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Bringing the Garden Indoors

Indoor Gardens with 
Low-Maintenance Greenery  


As the colder months arrive and outdoor foliage goes into hibernation, many begin to crave the natural energy of greenery. Although maintaining house plants may sound like a chore, there are several house plants that require little effort or attention to grow. 

If you would like to start an indoor garden but prefer plants that require low maintenance and don’t cause a mess, consider starting with these five plants suggested by Midwest Living and The Huffington Post. 

Aloe vera 
This spiny green succulent does not need much water to thrive. As long as it does not sit in standing water and receives small amounts of water every week, it should remain healthy. If you want your aloe vera to thrive, keep it on a sunny windowsill in the kitchen so it can clean the air of formaldehyde and other chemicals. 

Aloe vera’s long, stalk-like leaves are filled with a gelatinous fluid that has anti-inflammatory and healing characteristics. Thus, having aloe vera on hand is beneficial for treating sunburns, scrapes and other wounds on the skin. 

Peace lily 
The white, spoon-shaped blooms of the peace lily have a unique appearance that stays hearty throughout the summer, and they do not need much attention to flourish. As long as the plant remains at a consistent, cool temperature with low humidity—easily achievable indoors—and receives occasional watering, it will remain healthy. 

The peace lily does not need constant, direct sunlight either; shaded areas of your home are suitable. Although it does produce pollen, it cleanses the air of toxins such as ammonia, benzene and formaldehyde. 

Spider plant 
The easiest houseplant to care for is the spider plant, which is recognizable for its long, thin leaves with a white stripe down the center. 

The spider plant’s leaves can communicate with inexperienced plant caretakers, as they will turn brown if they are receiving too much water, too little water or contaminated tap water. Weekly doses of rainwater work best for these plants. The spider plant thrives in indirect sunlight and is one of the best air-purifying plants, according to NASA. Benzene, carbon monoxide and xylene can all be purged from the air by a spider plant. 

Mother-in-law's tongue 
Many names exist for this type of sansevieria, including the snake plant, but mother-in-law’s tongue remains most popular because the plant can regularly be ignored, much like the words of its namesake. It prefers drier conditions and moderate sun exposure, only needing occasional watering and dusting. 

Unlike most plants, this resilient succulent releases oxygen throughout the night, keeping the air fresh and free of toxins. 

The climbing vines of the philodendron will spread their heart-shaped leaves across shelves, sills and tables. This durable and long-lasting plant can thrive indoors for years, growing as long as eight feet when untrimmed. Its preference for dry soil and low light makes it a staple of indoor gardening. Just keep your pets away from it, as it can cause severe irritation when ingested. 

Bring green into your house all year long by filling your home with these easy-to-maintain houseplants. They work hard to purify the air and require only basic attention—something any housekeeper could provide. 



Getting Ready for Winter

Fall Maintenance Checklist

By: John Riha

You’ll be ready for winter’s worst and head off expensive repairs when you complete this checklist of 10 essential fall maintenance tasks.


Fall maintenance checklist

1. Stow the mower.

If you’re not familiar with fuel stabilizer, you should be. If your mower sits for months with gas in its tank, the gas will slowly deteriorate, which can damage internal engine parts. Fuel stabilizer ($10 for a 10-ounce bottle) prevents gas from degrading.

Add stabilizer to your gasoline can to keep spare gas in good condition over the winter, and top off your mower tank with stabilized gas before you put it away for the winter. Run the mower for five minutes to make sure the stabilizer reaches the carburetor.

Another lawn mower care method is to run your mower dry before stowing it. 

1. When the mower is cool, remove the spark plug and pour a capful of engine oil into the spark plug hole. 

2. Pull the starter cord a couple of times to distribute the oil, which keeps pistons lubricated and ensures an easy start come spring.

3. Turn the mower on its side and clean out accumulated grass and gunk from the mower deck.

2. Don’t be a drip.

Remove garden hoses from outdoor faucets. Leaving hoses attached can cause water to back up in the faucets and in the plumbing pipes just inside your exterior walls. If freezing temps hit, that water could freeze, expand, and crack the faucet or pipes. Make this an early fall priority so a sudden cold snap doesn’t sneak up and cause damage.

Turn off any shutoff valves on water supply lines that lead to exterior faucets. That way, you’ll guard against minor leaks that may let water enter the faucet. 

While you’re at it, drain garden hoses and store them in a shed or garage.

3. Put your sprinkler system to sleep.

Time to drain your irrigation system. Even buried irrigation lines can freeze, leading to busted pipes and broken sprinkler heads.

1. Turn off the water to the system at the main valve. 

2. Shut off the automatic controller.

3. Open drain valves to remove water from the system.

4. Remove any above-ground sprinkler heads and shake the water out of them, then replace.

If you don’t have drain valves, then hire an irrigation pro to blow out the systems pipes with compressed air. A pro is worth the $75 to $150 charge to make sure the job is done right, and to ensure you don’t have busted pipes and sprinkler head repairs to make in the spring.

4. Seal the deal.

Grab a couple of tubes of color-matched exterior caulk ($5 for a 12-ounce tube) and make a journey around  your home’s exterior, sealing up cracks between trim and siding, around window and door frames, and where pipes and wires enter your house. Preventing moisture from getting inside your walls is one of the least expensive — and most important — of your fall maintenance jobs. You’ll also seal air leaks that waste energy.

Pick a nice day when temps are above 50 degrees so caulk flows easily.

5. De-gunk your gutters.

Clogged rain gutters can cause ice dams, which can lead to expensive repairs. After the leaves have fallen, clean your gutters to remove leaves, twigs, and gunk. Make sure gutters aren’t sagging and trapping water; tighten gutter hangers and downspout brackets. Replace any worn or damaged gutters and downspouts.

If you find colored grit from asphalt roof shingles in your gutters, beware. That sand-like grit helps protect shingles from the damaging ultraviolet rays of the sun. Look closely for other signs of roof damage (#5, below); it may be time for a roofing replacement. 

Your downspouts should extend at least 5 feet away from your house to prevent foundation problems. If they don’t, add downspout extensions; $10 to $20 each.

6. Eyeball your roof.

If you have a steep roof or a multistory house, stay safe and use binoculars to inspect your roof from the ground.

Look for warning signs: Shingles that are buckled, cracked, or missing; rust spots on flashing. Any loose, damaged, or missing shingles should be replaced immediately. 

Black algae stains are just cosmetic, but masses of moss and lichen could signal roofing that’s decayed underneath. Call in a pro roofer for a $50 to $100 eval.

A plumbing vent stack usually is flashed with a rubber collar -- called a boot -- that may crack or loosen over time. They’ll wear out before your roof does, so make sure they’re in good shape. A pro roofer will charge $75 to $150 to replace a boot, depending on how steep your roof is.

7. Direct your drainage.

Take a close look at the soil around your foundation and make sure it slopes away from your house at least 6 vertical inches over 10 feet. That way, you’ll keep water from soaking the soils around your foundation, which could lead to cracks and leaks.

Be sure soil doesn’t touch your siding.

8. Get your furnace in tune.

Schedule an appointment with a heating and cooling pro to get your heating system checked and tuned up for the coming heating season. You’ll pay $50 to $100 for a checkup.

An annual maintenance contract ensures you’re at the top of the list for checks and shaves 20% off the cost of a single visit.

Change your furnace filters, too. This is a job you should do every two months anyway, but if you haven’t, now’s the time. If your HVAC includes a built-in humidifier, make sure the contractor replaces that filter. 

9. Prune plants.

Late fall is the best time to prune plants and trees -- when the summer growth cycle is over. Your goal is to keep limbs and branches at least 3 feet from your house so moisture won’t drip onto roofing and siding, and to prevent damage to your house exterior during high winds.

For advice on pruning specific plants in your region, check with your state extension service.

10. Give your fireplace a once-over.

To make sure your fireplace is safe, grab a flashlight and look up inside your fireplace flue to make sure the damper opens and closes properly. Open the damper and look up into the flue to make sure it’s free of birds’ nests, branches and leaves, or other obstructions. You should see daylight at the top of the chimney.

Check the firebox for cracked or missing bricks and mortar. If you spot any damage, order a professional fireplace and chimney inspection. An inspection costs $79 to $500.

You fireplace flue should be cleaned of creosote buildup every other year. A professional chimney sweep will charge $150 to $250 for the service.

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