All posts by Diane

Here’s What You Need to Look for in a Real Estate Agent

Picking a real estate agent is a huge step toward becoming a homeowner. However, sometimes that’s easier said than done. There are often more than enough agents in your area to choose from, but how do you know when you’ve found the right one?

If you’re about to enter the real estate market, this post is for you. We’ve outlined four crucial qualities to look for in your real estate agent. When you land on the right combination, you’ll have found your perfect match.

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Ask questions of your potential real estate agent to gauge experience levels. Image: Norris Architecture

Overall experience

Buying a home, especially for the first time, can be a nerve-wracking experience. After all, you’re about to make a huge purchase, one that requires managing several timelines and signing legal documents. If you’ve never done it before, you’re going to want someone to lead you through the process. You need a real estate agent with experience to help make sure everything goes smoothly.

Before hiring anyone for the job, make sure to interview them. Ask how many years they’ve been in the business, as well as how many transactions they complete per year, on average. Their comfort level in answering these questions should give you a sense of how well they’ll be able to lead you through househunting.

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area

Focus on someone who knows your new area. Image: Rawpixel

Familiarity with the area

Whether you’re moving from afar or from just around the corner, make sure you hire someone who’s familiar with the area where you’re looking to end up. Put simply, your agent is there to be a resource for you. Though they’re legally not allowed to give an opinion of the quality of the area, they can guide your search toward neighborhoods that meet your needs.

If you’re moving from far away, we recommend that you look for a referral from an agent where you currently live. They can put you in touch with a reputable agent in your new area. However, always be sure to research on your own as well. Search for the top real estate agents in the area where you intend to move.

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real estate personality

Trust your gut when interviewing a potential real estate agent. Image: Sharratt Design Company

A compatible personality

This one’s a bit subjective, but you should absolutely choose a real estate agent with whom you get along well. The reality is that you’re going to be spending a considerable amount of time with this person, and they’re going to help you make one of your biggest decisions to date. Your agent should be someone you trust, someone who you feel has your best interests at heart.

As you interview the agent, ask yourself: How do you feel about their responses? Were they informative enough? Were they too brusque or too timid for your tastes? Do you think you would get along well together or butt heads? Do you feel comfortable trusting them with your financials? All of these are important concerns that you’ll need to sort out on a case-by-case basis.

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real estate reviews

Be sure to read online reviews. Image: Laura Hursthouse Design

Good reviews

While you’re conducting research, look up reviews for any agents that are at the top of your list. These days, people will review everything from movies to pet stores. Any real estate agent worth their salt is going to have at least a handful of recommendations on home search websites like Trulia and Zillow.

Reviews are key because they offer a unique point of view, one that is very similar to your own. They let you know what the agent was like to work with on a day-to-day basis, how they handled problems and if you’re in good hands.

Choosing a real estate agent may feel like a daunting task, but with the right research, you can find one that suits both your needs and your comfort level. What has your experience been like working with real estate agents? Did you find your perfect match? We’d love to hear about it below!

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Prime Day 2018: The Best Home Deals From Amazon’s Big Day

amazon prime day

Amazon Prime Day 2018 is here! Image: Amazon

We hope you like the products we recommend. Just so you are aware, Freshome may collect a share of sales from the links on this page. 

It’s here! Prime Day is basically Christmas for online shoppers who live for two-day shipping. It starts today at 3 p.m. ET, but that doesn’t mean you have to wait to get in on some great deals. Amazon is already rolling out discounts and stocking its digital shelves with a huge range of products.

What is Prime Day?

If you haven’t already heard, Prime Day is a big deal in the online shopping world. It’s the biggest sale of the year for Amazon, arguably the top player in e-commerce. It offers Black Friday-esque deals on a huge range of products. Essentially, if you were planning on buying something from Amazon, now’s the time. Prime Day continues through tomorrow, July 17. It’s 36 hours of sweet deals from the store that sells just about everything.

Keep in mind that not all Prime Day deals roll out at once. Some will be available right at the 3 p.m. ET kickoff today, while others require more patience. Under upcoming Prime Day items, you’ll see a button that says, “Watch This Deal!” Click it and Amazon will keep you updated on the pricing.

What should I buy on Prime Day?

The short answer is: just about anything. Prime Day includes discounts on nearly all of Amazon’s product categories. Major highlights come from Amazon’s own product line (think the Echo Dot or Kindle Paperwhite). The savings don’t stop with tech, though. If you’ve been looking to freshen up your home this summer, Prime Day is a prime opportunity to do exactly that. Amazon is already rolling out some great deals and exciting previews. Let’s take a look.

prime day - rivet chair

Accent your space with this sleek Rivet chair. Image: Amazon

Home furnishings

If you’ve historically shied away from buying furniture on Amazon, it’s time to warm up to the idea. The e-tail giant has a pretty impressive selection of home furnishings. And that selection gets even bigger with Prime Day 2018, thanks to a rollout of new products from its Rivet%20Furniture%20Line” target=_blank rel=noopener>Rivet line and major discounts on furniture and decor from Amazon’s in-house lines.

If you’ve been looking for an accent chair to spice up your living room, its new Revolve Modern Accent Chair is a sleek piece that’s already 10 percent off for Prime members. You can grab the chair today for $225.

Hunting for a high-impact piece to take your bedroom to the next level while saving a pretty penny? The Stone & Beam Ainsley Geometric Queen Bed is a whopping 32 percent off right now. Not impressed by the discount? You should be – when it brings the price for this bed to just $169.

Or maybe you’ve been looking for just the right furnishing to tie your living space together, blending functionality with modern form. Look no further than the Rivet Allyson Coffee Table. You can grab it for $143 today – that’s a handsome 28 percent discount.

prime day - rivet pillows

Prime Day 2018 showcases a whole new line of throw pillows. Image: Throw%20Pillows” target=_blank rel=noopener>Amazon

Bed and bath

You don’t have to make room for new furniture to use Prime Day as an opportunity to freshen up your space. Rivet’s new products include a range of attractive, versatile throw pillows that can help you transform your bed or sofa. Whether you’re looking for a luxe, mod or boho vibe, these pillows have you covered. Pricing ranges from $35 to $45.

If you’re looking for a similarly affordable but higher impact way to upgrade your bed, look no further than this $35 Hypoallergenic Microfiber King Duvet Cover. Its Prime Day deal starts at 3:40 p.m. ET. Want something a little more eye-catching? Check out these fun patterns in the cotton PinkMemory Duvet Cover. Most patterns in King are currently $75, but this duvet cover is also part of Prime Day. You can look for its deal to roll out at 4:05 p.m. ET. 

prime day - chair cover

Freshen up an old chair or bench with this trendy sheepskin cover. Image: Amazon

Decor

Prime Day is the perfect opportunity to add decorative pieces to your home that give it a fresh feel without emptying your wallet. For example, if you have a chair or bench that you’ve fallen out of love with, grab this Carvapet Luxury Soft Faux Sheepskin Chair Cover. It comes in a wide range of colors, all for under $20 with additional Prime Deals coming at 5 p.m. ET.

Want to elevate your wall decor? Grab some of these MELANNCO Floating Wood Shelves. They’re available in black or white for under $18, with additional Prime Day savings at 3:10 p.m. ET.

If you’re looking for decor that blends beauty and utility, you may want to grab the Mydethun Moon Lamp Moon Light. This 3D printed lamp brings ethereal, lunar vibes to your space for just $17, with an additional deal starting right with the kickoff of Prime Day at 3 p.m. ET.

prime day - vitamix

Prime Day could be your perfect opportunity to finally justify buying yourself a Vitamix. Image: Amazon

Home tech

If you haven’t already brought artificial intelligence into your home, today’s the day. The Echo Dot is selling for just $30. It’s a tiny price to pay for a gadget that packs a powerful punch. You’ll be amazed at how often you find yourself talking with Alexa for things like tomorrow’s weather, the latest news, recipe conversions and more.

The Coleman RoadTrip portable grill is another Prime Day product launch that helps you capitalize on summer. It’s an easy way to add grilling capabilities to even the smallest patio – or your nearby park. Plus, it’s $227 today, even before Prime Day starts.

Like Black Friday, Prime Day could be the perfect opportunity to grab that pricey item you’ve been eyeing. Stop wrestling with your old blender! Grab the Vitamix E310 Explorian blender, another Prime Day launch for $350.

How to get in on Prime Day

Prime Day is aptly named because – you guessed it! – it’s for people with Amazon Prime. If you don’t have a Prime account, you may still be able to swing some discounts. If you’ve never signed up for a Prime account before, you can start a 30-day trial for free. There’s no better time to get yourself that $0 Prime membership than right now, when you’ll be perfectly poised to score during the upcoming sale.

Which Prime Day deals are you hoping to find? Are there any pieces for your home that you’ve been waiting until today to buy? Do you have any tips for making the most of this major sale? Let us know in the comments! We’d love to hear how you’re getting involved in Prime Day. And if you come across any great deals on items for the home, feel free to share them below. We want all Freshome readers to score big during Prime Day 2018!

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How To: Incorporate Surfboards in Home Decor

surfboards in home decor

Are you ready to catch the wave of surfboards in home decor? Image: Starr Sanford Design

Americans have always had a love of surf culture. We associate it with cool people and a laid-back lifestyle. Surfers are famed for soaking up days in the sunshine, setting their own schedules and pursuing their passion for the ocean. What’s not to love? The surf culture hype is nothing new – but its introduction into interior design is. Now, everywhere we look, we’re seeing surfboards in home decor.

Whether you love or scoff at this new trend, there’s undeniable proof that it can work. When done right, using surfboards in home decor can give a room a laid-back air. Surfboard decor is ideal for homes with a beachy vibe or for modern structures seeking a little playfulness in certain areas. Ready to see how this trend works in practice? Here are some samples of surfboards in home decor highlighting how they can work in each room of the house.

surfboards in home decor - curb appeal

Upgrade your curb appeal with a surfboard out front. Image: Gabheart Investments

Curb appeal

Whether you’re getting ready to sell your home or just want to wow your guests at your next party, you’ve likely given some thought to your curb appeal. When trying to give your home’s exterior that special something, you probably looked for a notable piece. Maybe it was some interesting landscaping or a small statue. Maybe you painted your door a different color. Or maybe you added a surfboard. Nothing gives your home an instantly chill vibe like sticking a longboard right next to your front door.

surfboards in home decor - living room

Adding large-scale art to your living room is a breeze with surfboards. Image: Regan Baker Design

Living room

You want your living room to feel simultaneously relaxed and put-together. Decorating with surfboards can kill two birds with one stone. Because of their size, surfboards are a notable addition to any wall. They make an impact and let your visitors know that you’ve put some thought into the room’s design. But they’re also an homage to a relaxed lifestyle, so they help the room feel open and inviting. While other large-scale art pieces can overwhelm a space, surfboards seem to create more room wherever they’re hung. They say, “Come on in. The water’s fine!”

surfboards in home decor - kitchen

Surfboards are a great way to fill awkward open wall space in a kitchen. Image: Ashley Gilbreath Interior Design

Kitchen

The kitchen might seem like the least likely room for a surfboard, but it’s also one of the most challenging rooms to decorate. Cabinets and appliances fill up so much of the wall space in your kitchen that it can be hard to find room for anything else. That’s where the long, sculpted shape of a surfboard comes to the rescue. The sleek but sizable object is the perfect addition to the limited wall space, helping you fill it with something notable without making the room feel too cluttered.

surfboards in home decor - kids rom

A surfboard is a decor piece you and your kids will agree on. Image: Beacon Construction Group

Kids’ room

You want to give your kids a space where they’ll love to spend time and that they’ll be proud to show off to their friends. But your kids’ taste and your own might not easily align. It can be hard to find design elements that your kids get excited about and that you can also enjoy. You’ll have to compromise in other areas, but a surfboard can be one thing on which you’ll both completely agree. Equal parts hip and trendy, it’s an adventurous design element that elevates your kids’ rooms in a way everyone in the family can appreciate.

surfboards in home decor - game room

Make your game room insta-cool with a board. Image: About Space

Game room

Call it a game room, a bonus room or a man cave. This room is supposed to feel cool. What better way to give it that hip edge than by throwing a surfboard in the mix? Mount a surfboard above your pool table or TV to give all your friends that off-the-clock feeling. In our busy world, a board can serve as a reminder to kick back.

surfboards in home decor - outdoor shower

Surfboards don’t have to be mounted as art to work in your decor. Image: Wilco Bos

Surfboards in home decor as furniture and fixtures

Surfboards don’t always have to be mounted to the wall like art, either. They can serve a variety of purposes, from coffee tables to outdoor showers, like the one pictured above. If you’re looking for a way to incorporate surfboards in home decor as furniture pieces, check out these pieces by Duffy London. The board-inspired table and chairs are perfect for giving a space a sleek but playful feel.

Evidently, there is no shortage of ways to use surfboards in home decor. What do you think? Is this a home trend wave you’re planning to catch?

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Our Top 5 Prime Day Smart Home Picks

Prime Day isn’t over yet! You’ve probably had some fun poking around all of the great deals on furniture, textiles and home decor on Amazon. All of the easy-on-the-eyes pictures – and even easier-on-the-wallet prices – make it tempting to spend your savings stocking up on home goods. However, don’t miss out on the great tech deals just because it’s not as fun to window-shop them. This is the year to make your house into a smart home, and Prime Day has just the deals to help you do it. Whether your home is fully fitted with the latest tech or you’ve been hesitant to jump on the bandwagon, there are some key Prime Day smart home deals you shouldn’t skip.

Most people who’ve eschewed smart home tech have done so because of the historically high price of getting started. Amazon is changing that, thanks in part to its deals today. There are a wide variety of devices and price points, so any home or apartment can jump on the smart tech trend. We’ve rounded up five of our favorite Prime Day smart home sales to get you started.

prime day smart home - echo dot

The Echo Dot gives you all the power of Alexa without much of the cost. Image: Amazon

Echo Dot, $30

Let’s start with one of the most cost-effective ways to bring smart home tech into your living spaces. The Echo Dot is a smart speaker that connects you to Alexa, your very own virtual assistant. What’s more, it’s $20 off thanks to Prime Day. You can use its voice controls to play music, get answers to questions, check the news and weather, set an alarm clock and more. And because the Echo Dot is part of Amazon’s family of smart home tech, you can connect it to smart plugs, lighting, home security … you get the idea. The possibilities are virtually (get it?) endless. No more of that pesky getting out of bed to turn off a light. Just have Alexa do it for you!

prime day smart home - roomba

Never vacuum again! The much-loved Roomba is on sale today. Image: Amazon

iRobot Roomba 671, $229

Does anyone actually enjoy cleaning their floors? Just imagine how much more time you’d have if you never had to worry about getting out the vacuum. Thanks to the Prime Day smart home deals, the iRobot Roomba 671 is $120 off, dropping the price down to $229. That’s significantly cheaper than hiring a maid service over the next year. Plus, with your trusty Roomba, you get a multi-surface floor cleaning system that you can put to work whenever you need it. Have unexpected guests coming into town? Turn on your Roomba via your mobile phone so you come home to a sparkling floor. What’s more, this robot helper is Alexa-compatible.

prime day home deals - home security

Keep your home secure with this easy-to-install camera. Image: Amazon

Blink XT Home Security Camera System, $75

You might think that getting a security system installed in your home is expensive. But thanks to the latest tech, the cost of securing your premises is dropping. Take the Blink XT Home Security system, for example. While it’s usually $139, you can grab it for the price of a concert ticket today. Its built-in motion sensor sends an alert to your smartphone, so you can get HD video of any person who sets foot in its range. It has a two-year battery life, free cloud storage for all of your security footage and easy DIY install.

prime day smart home - deadbolt

A smart home entry system gives you the power to control who can enter your home – and when. Image: Amazon

Yale Assure YRD226 Touchscreen Deadbolt, $199

Speaking of home security, you can make your home harder to enter for unwanted guests but easier to access for your loved ones with the Yale Assure YRD226 Touchscreen Deadbolt. It’s an impressive $170 off today. Once installed in your door, this little device gives you the ability to monitor all comings and goings. The keypad makes it easy for you to give the access you want for the duration you desire. Family can have a permanent keycode. Your neighbor who checks on things while you’re out of town can have a short-term one. And your electrician can have one that only works for the hour they are scheduled to visit. And, surprise, surprise, it works with Alexa. Just ask her to lock your door at night and you’ll be able to rest easy.

prime day smart home - lawn

Improve your lawn and shrink your water bill with a smart lawn care device. Image: Amazon

Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller, $149

Take all of the guesswork and hassle out of caring for your lawn and save $100 by grabbing the Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller today. With this single piece of home tech, you can optimize care for 16 different sections of your lawn, controlling each of them from your mobile device. Because you’re able to customize the exact amount of water each portion of your yard receives based on the needs of its specific plants, the Rachio can help you slash your water bill and your environmental impact. Plus (you guessed it), it works with Alexa.

Your favorite Prime Day smart home deals

Are you planning on using today’s sales to bring your home into the digital age? We’d love to know if you’re excited by any of these Prime Day smart home deals. Tell us what you think in the comments!

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7 Easy Ways to Decorate With Lilac

lilac dining room

Rich lilac walls highlight pretty white accents. Image:PPG Voice of Color

Lilac has unseated Millennial Pink as the most exciting pastel for our homes, and we couldn’t be happier. While pastel pink can be a soothing addition to a contemporary color palette, lilac and lavender are more versatile and easy to use. Once thought of as nostalgic and sentimental, today’s lilac works wonderfully in contemporary spaces with clean lines and simple decor, and in rustic spaces with a simple color palette.Painting is an easy and quick way to introduce a new color to your home when you’re ready to decorate with lilac. Here are six on-trend lilac paint colors we love:

Six paint colors you’ll want to try

  • PPG Paints:Violet Verbena
    The 2017 Color of the Year.
  • Benjamin Moore:French Lilac
    A classic lilac with soft elegance.

Here are the secrets to decorating with lilac:

Not sure how to incorporate lilac into your home’s color palette? The secret to incorporating this hue into your color palette is to play up its blue undertones. Pastel purple and violet can take the place of blue in most color schemes and in a variety of styles. Lilac is not just for bedrooms and bathrooms; using it as a pop of color in the back of cabinets and bookshelves can give you some of that lilac style without a big commitment. Here are some stylish ways to bring lilac into your space:

1. Style a bathroom

lilac bathroom inspiration

A bold lilac wall creates a stylish bathroom color palette. Image:Glidden Paints

Lilac is a natural for your bathroom. With soft white trim and fixtures, lilac can give any style bathroom a clean and fresh look. If you’ve chosen lilac paint for your bathroom walls, you have several options for accent colors. The most popular color palette for a lilac bathroom includes accessories in green, yellow or gray. Brushed nickel bath fixtures work best with lilac and lavender, but oil-rubbed bronze fixtures complement a traditional style bathroom.

2. Add color to rustic decor

lilac farmhouse kitchen

A lilac kitchen island softens a modern farmhouse kitchen. Image:Christopher Peters

It’s easy to love the pastel colors that have found their way into rustic and modern farmhouse decorating. Lilac can join the muted pastels that offer rustic rooms options beyond white walls. The most-muted lilac and lavender works best with rustic decor. A pale pastel can highlight metal fixtures and wood architectural features without the stark contrast white creates.

3. Incorporate black and white

Lilac home office

Bold lilac gives an executive retreat a playful look. Image:Parkyn Design – Photography: John Trigiani

Decorating with lilac is not just for soft color palettes. In a small room, lilac gives just the right touch of color with a black and white color palette without overwhelming it. You’ll want to choose one of the more saturated lilacs, or even a soft violet, to match the crispness of black and white to achieve visual balance.

4. Enhance your curb appeal

lilac front door

Enhance your home’s curb appeal with a lilac front door. Image:Kelly Webbter, Designer

There’s a good chance that you already have lilac and lavender in your front yard since they’re some of the most popular flowering plants. Lilac can improve your home’s curb appeal because of its relationship to your green foliage. In color theory, green and purple, along with orange, are part of a Triadic color scheme.This means a scheme with three colors that are equally distanced on the color wheel. The Triadic scheme definitely has contrast, butyou can soften it with one dominant color, like green, and use lilac and orange as accents.Your curb appeal palette could be your green foliage, lilac front door and flowers, and an autumn orange bench.

5. Embrace contemporary décor

decorating a lilac living room

Lilac is perfect for decorating a contemporary space. Image:Glidden Paints

The easiest way to add lilac to your contemporary rooms is with accessories. There’s no need to make major changes if you’d just like to freshen up your room with a pop of color. New throw pillows, a rug, and artwork may be all your space needs for a new look. Lilac and lavender can be used in place of blue in most color schemes, but also looks wonderful with royal and navy blue.

6. Dress up your guest room

lilac bedroom decorating

Create a stunning guest bedroom with lilac accents. Image:Marc-Michaels Interior Design, Inc.

Your guest room could be the perfect space for lilac if you’d like to give the color a test drive without a big commitment. Lilac is a soothing color, and suitable for guests of all ages. Lilac bedding and artwork may be all that’s needed to update your guest bedroom. If you have an adjacent guest bath, consider new wall color to coordinate with your guest bedroom accents for a ‘suite’ vibe.

7. Paint an accent wall

lilac accent wall

Add gorgeous and unexpected color with a lilac accent wall. Image: Klondike Contracting

Accent walls can be painted in any room of your home, but we love the look of a lilac bedroom wall showing off a beautiful headboard. Lilac paired with wood tones is both sophisticated and romantic. Any wall in your room can be an accent wall, either to highlight an architectural feature or to fake one with a headboard or large piece of furniture.

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Beyond the Terra Cotta Pot: CB2’s Modern Planter Line

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cb2's modern planter - zen

CB2’s modern planter line includes interesting shapes in classic colors, like these Zen planters.

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We’re loving the houseplant trend. What’s better than surrounding yourself with lush, affordable decor that will only get more impressive with time and will help keep your air clean? It’s no surprise that plants are in style. Whether you’re just starting to test your green thumb or have a veritable jungle at home, CB2’s modern planter line has something for you. Its sleek new planters will help you transform your home garden into a work of art.

If you’re still using terra cotta pots for all of your plants, CB2’s here to upgrade you. Its unique planters deliver clean lines, classic colors (that aren’t earthen brown!) and a wide variety of sizes and shapes. Maybe you’re looking for a small but stunning home for your desk plant, or maybe you’re envisioning a largescale way to build a whole wall of green. Either way, CB2’s modern planter line has you covered. Here are just a few of their planter options to help you start dreaming up your ideal houseplant collection.

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cb2's modern planter - olly

The Olly can double as a table or storage until you’re ready to plant.

The Olly planter

Interested in getting a new plant but want to take your time in picking the perfect one? Grab the Olly planter. When empty, it can double as a table or storage thanks to its flat top. It’s a low-pressure way to try growing. If your plant dies, you can empty it out and use it to hold blankets or fill it with ice and use it as a cooler. You won’t feel pressed to re-fill it until you’re ready since it will get so much use regardless of whether or not it’s holding plants.

The Olly was designed by Mermelada Estudio and is made from a durable fiberglass and polyester resin blend. Overwaterers, rejoice! It comes with a drainage hole.

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cb2's modern planter - blox

Blox planters come in a huge range of sizes and shapes.

Blox planters

If you want to jump on the houseplant bandwagon but don’t necessarily want to spend hours filling a bunch of pots, look to the Blox planter line. It comes in a variety of sizes, including a 32″ by 16″ by 16″ rectangular planter. Fill this single box and you’ve got enough greenery to transform a wall. As an added bonus, this planter is sizable enough that you can use it outdoors to create barriers in your yard. A few of these Bloxes is enough to establish a foliage-filled faux wall between the pool and barbecue areas.

Whether you want a narrow planter for your citrus tree or a squat one for your succulents, you’ll be able to find it. Blox planters are available in high-gloss white or matte charcoal. Both colors are powder-coated galvanized steel, which means they’ll hold up outdoors. Like most of CB2’s modern planter options, Blox planters come with a drainage hole.

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cb2's modern planter - nile

Add elegance to your houseplants with the handblown glass Nile planter.

Nile glass planter

Many planters are sturdy and heavy-looking. That’s great for outdoor planting where you’re up against the elements, but you can opt for something more elegant indoors. The Nile planter is a perfect example. The handblown soda lime glass ripples with colors of rose quartz and terra cotta, balancing a natural feel with chic airiness. Because each Nile planter is handblown, no two are the same.

Again, this planter is ideal for the person who thinks they are ready for a houseplant but might want some time to prepare. Because it’s such a unique vessel, it’s a perfect storage container for blankets or pillows while it awaits its green friend.

Love the houseplant trend but don’t want to bother with the upkeep? CB2’s modern planter line has a hack for you; check out this faux fiddle leaf fig tree.

Feeling inspired? Don’t stop here. The full planter line is pretty impressive and definitely worth checking out. Plus, CB2 was kind enough to provide some planting tips to get you started. We’d love to hear about your houseplant plans below. Photography by CB2.

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4 Bar Cart Essentials: Glasses, Decanters and More

bar cart

Fill your bar cart with these four essentials. Image: Homepolish

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You’ve finally found the perfect bar cart. You know it’s the ideal piece to fill out that corner and make your home or apartment look party-ready. You’ve brought it home, ready to show it off to the world. And then you realize you need to stock it.

Even the most beautiful bar cart looks sad if its shelves are empty. Deciding what to put on your cart isn’t always easy, though. Do you add coffee table books? A potted plant? Eccentric liquors? Fresh flowers? Part of the fun of owning a bar cart is being able to play with what you put on it, changing its decor with the seasons or your tastes. But before you can focus on the highlights of your bar cart, you need to get the key pieces in place. Here are four essentials every bar cart needs.

bar cart with decanter

A decanter makes your bar cart feel instantly legitimate. Image: Morrone Interiors

Bar cart essential #1: decanter

The decanter is possibly the most important piece on your bar cart. Nothing takes your cart from looking like kitchen storage overflow to a veritable home bar quite like a glass container filled with liquor.

A decanter (or collection of them!) is a game changer. Plus, you can decant your less expensive liquors into these beautiful bottles and none of your friends will know that their cocktail was made with bargain alcohol. Or, if you opt for a wine decanter, you can bring out the flavors of more affordable bottles. In both cases, the decanter is essentially an investment in being a better host without busting your budget.

If you want a classic decanter, hunt for something like Pottery Barn’s Library Decanter or Williams Sonoma’s Dorset Wine Decanter. Don’t think you have to add crystal to your bar cart to capitalize on the decanter’s power, though. Modern pieces like this sleek blue carafe from H&M give you an elegant but playful receptacle for your booze.

bar cart with glassware

Fill your bar cart with glassware you’ll enjoy using. Image: Design Shop Interiors

Bar cart essential #2: high-end glassware

Most people come into their nice glassware from a wedding registry, an antique store or a relative who passed away. The only problem is that, regardless of how it ended up in their home, they often don’t use it. We get in a routine of relying on the same old glasses while our prettier vessels get left in the back of the cupboard. That is, until you put them in the spotlight on your bar cart.

Make space on your cart for glassware you love and it’s sure to get used. Crate & Barrel’s Hatch Drinkware is a classic option that will give your cart a distinguished look. If you don’t want to shell out big cash for your glassware, fear not. You can still get a high-end look on a budget thanks to options like H&M’s gold-rimmed, textured glasses.

bar cart with bar tools

Be ready to make any cocktail with a set of bar tools. Image: Lindye Galloway Interiors

Bar cart essential #3: bar tools

Adding a bar cart to your home sends the message that you’re a willing host with skills at entertaining. Make sure you’re ready to step up to the plate! Add a set of bar tools to your cart so you’re prepared to make any cocktail your friends request – or at least point them in the direction of the tools they’ll need to make it themselves.

Beyond being useful, bar tools add a notable flash of metal to your array. If you love copper, accent your cart with your favorite metallic hue with this three-piece set from One Kings Lane. Or, if you’re going for a more sleek, masculine look, choose a silver set like the one from Sur La Table.

Keep your cool during even the busiest parties with a readily-available ice bucket. Image: Melissa McLay Interiors

Bar cart essential #4: ice bucket

If you’re having trouble making your bar cart look full, the ice bucket is your friend. Its relatively squat profile adds a sense of solidness to your cart’s shelves. Plus, it’s great storage when you don’t have it filled with ice. Say you stocked up on lemons for your summer cocktails; your ice bucket is a perfect place for them to live until they get used.

You might think that ice buckets are the least exciting option on this list, but they don’t all look like the one you find in a hotel room. This pineapple ice bucket from Pier 1 might just be the most interesting item on your bar cart. A shiny canister like the Chelsea Ice Bucket from West Elm – which comes in brass or copper – will also add a touch of glam.

Armed with these four essentials, your bar cart will look complete in no time. Were you inspired by any of these ideas? We’d love to hear about it. Happy hosting!

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14 Fresh and Fun Patio Ideas to Inspire You This Summer

patio ideas

Check out these fresh patio ideas to help inspire your design this summer. Image: Distinguished Pools

Summer is finally here, which means it’s time to think about your backyard entertaining options. Your exterior space doesn’t have to be boring. With just a little bit of effort, this area can become your favorite spot in the entire home.

If you need a little inspiration to help you get started, you’re in luck. From pools to outdoor kitchens, we have 14 fresh patio ideas to help inspire your design. By the end of the list, you’ll likely find one that strikes your fancy.

1. Work with your pool

pool

If you have a pool, consider creating a showstopper by incorporating it into your patio design. Image: Pasquale Design Associates, Inc.

2. Make sure there’s plenty of room for dining

dining

Don’t forget a dining table for hosting dinner parties. Image: Chelsea Construction Corporation

3. Think about adding a TV

TV

Adding a TV to the patio makes the space perfect for watching the big game. Image: Alisberg Parker

4. Bring some shade with a pergola

pergola

If you want a middle ground between indoor and outdoor living, think about adding a pergola. Image: Yardscapes Northwest

5. Don’t forget lighting

lighting

It’s important to pay attention to lighting while you’re planning your patio design. Image: Creative Environments

6. Create an outdoor kitchen

outdoor kitchen

Go big or go home by including a whole outdoor kitchen in your patio setup. Image: Ettore Masonry Inc.

7. If nothing else, include a grill

grill

Make sure you have a grill so that you’re not stuck in the kitchen preparing a meal while guests socialize outside. Image: Maverick Landscaping

8. Add some warmth with a fireplace

fireplace

Including a fireplace will help extend the life of your patio well into the cooler fall weather. Image: Fredman Design Group

9. Extend the life of your patio with a fire pit

firepit

Building your patio around a fire pit creates the perfect spot to roast s’mores or sit and talk the night away. Image: Sycamore Design

10. Keep cool with a fan

fans

Ceiling fans are a must for those who like to keep cool all year round. Image: Affordable Shade Patio Covers

11. Break it up into different seating areas

seating area

Think about adding several distinct seating areas so that you can easily entertain large groups. Image: Patina Home Design

12. Pay attention to your chair arrangements

chairss

Try arranging chairs in a circle to facilitate long evenings filled with conversation. Image: The Moellman Group

13. Use benches for maximum seating

benches

Consider comfy benches like these to maximize the amount of seating your patio has to offer. Make sure to include plenty of pillows to keep it comfortable. Image: Dale Alcock Homes

14. Don’t forget the bar

bar

A patio bar gives your guests a built-in place to congregate and saves you from having to run back and forth with drink orders. Image: Georgio Home

Incorporating even one of these patio ideas into your outdoor space will keep your summer gatherings fresh and inviting. Are you inspired by anything on this list? Let us know in the comments!

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5 Outdoor Entertaining Tips to Amp Up Your Summer Parties

outdoor entertaining tips

Prep for summer fun with these outdoor entertaining tips. Image: Apex Pools

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‘Tis the season to start moving your gatherings outdoors. As temperatures warm and the daylight hours lengthen, it becomes easier – and more fun – to host parties in your yard. Easier doesn’t necessarily mean easy, though. Hosting your friends al fresco comes with its fair share of challenges.

The good news is that with a little preparation, an outdoor party can be extremely low-maintenance. Getting everyone together outside lends a relaxed air. Expectations are lower, the natural beauty of your yard does most of the decorating work and if things get really messy, a hose handles cleanup. Are you ready to take advantage of the summer season and move your next party into the fresh air? Here are five outdoor entertaining tips that will help you get started.

outdoor entertaining tips- storage

Outdoor storage for dishes makes hosting a breeze. Image: LevEco Architects

1. Create an outdoor kitchen

Even if you already have a kitchen set up outside, you may benefit from making things easier to access during your party. Start by bringing a cabinet, a trunk or another storage piece outside. If you plan to host throughout the season but don’t want your furniture to get damaged by the elements, consider flipping it over and adding some casters.

Once your outdoor storage is ready, fill it with everything you’ll need. Plastic dishware and cloth napkins are a great start. Think through your previous parties. What did you find yourself often grabbing for? (A bottle opener, perhaps?) Having these necessities easily accessible outside will give you more time to enjoy your event.

outdoor entertaining tips - seating

Capitalize on the relaxed feel of an outdoor gathering by mixing decor. Image: IDF Studio

2. Celebrate variety

The relaxed air of an outdoor party encourages playfulness in your decor. Say, for example, you’re hosting more people than you can seat with your outdoor chairs. Bring your indoor chairs outside and intermix them. The variety looks fun and inviting.

What other indoor items could be useful? Pull throws off your couch and drape them over chairs outside for guests to use if they get chilly. Choose decor from your coffee table and mix it with fresh-cut flowers for an interesting centerpiece. Don’t be afraid to play with items you already own. The beauty of an outdoor party is in the way otherwise-stressful details become unimportant.

outdoor entertaining - wind

Make sure you’re ready if the breeze picks up. Image: Anthony Wilder

3. Be prepared for wind

Summer nights can get breezy. Getting ready for wind is one of the best outdoor entertaining tips we can offer, because it can prevent something out of your control – the weather – from ruining the whole night. The week before your party, make a mental list of anything that could blow away. Solutions are generally simple: like, for example, buying or making tablecloth weights that clip to the corners of a tablecloth. You should have no trouble finding a product or DIY project that matches the decor of your party.

Too pressed for time? Skip the tablecloth altogether!

If you’re going to be lighting candles, make sure you protect them from the wind. Hurricanes and tea light holders are an affordable way to maintain your lighting on a breezy evening.

outdoor entertaining tips - pests

Candles add ambiance and keep bugs away. Image: Susie Watson Designs

4. Keep pests away

Candles can serve a dual purpose, beyond adding ambiance: They can also help fend off mosquitos. You don’t have to choose citronella varieties, either; pests also hate eucalyptus. If you’re feeling crafty, you can even make your own bug-deterring candles. This DIY uses both citronella and eucalyptus to banish mosquitos.

If you’re going to be serving food outdoors buffet-style, have a plan in place to cover it when people aren’t actively serving themselves. In a pinch, an overturned mesh colander can serve as a protective shield.

outdoor entertaining tips - grill

It’s grill season. Get ready to cook outdoors all summer long. Image: FireMagic Grills

5. Prep your grill

Don’t wait until the day before your party to grab propane and scrub your grill grate. You can even season your grill grate the way you would a cast iron pan to avoid rust.

As you get your grill ready, make it safe. Move it at least 10 feet away from your home, outdoor structures and any trees or bushes. If you own a gas grill, perform a quick and easy test with soapy water to identify any leaks. Taking the time to get your grill ready before you fire it up gives you a summer of stress-free outdoor cooking.

If you want more inspiration to get your yard ready for summer parties, check out our outdoor articles. We’re always working to keep you in-the-know about the latest outdoor decor trends and hottest summer yard designs. From outdoor entertaining tips to highlights on fun yard additions, we’ve got you covered.

Did we miss any outdoor entertaining tips? Let us know your best tips and tricks in the comments below.

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Just When I Thought I Had Things Under Control…

Sigh… owning a house is great and all, but when there’s a leak in your ceiling? Ugh. Here’s how to prevent and clear a clogged air conditioning drain line.

Going to tell you right now: this story isn’t quite finished yet. I found a temporary solution, but I’m more or less going ahead and posting this so that someone will run up to their attic and immediately take care of this, before you have to deal with a ceiling leak.

Let’s start with what we all know is never a good sign: the dreaded ceiling stain:

I knew it couldn’t be good. I’ll be partnering with a drywall brand later this fall, and while I was at their headquarters earlier this month (recap coming next week), I heard a quote that proved to be way too ominous:

When it comes to owning a house, it’s not a matter of IF you’ll have a moisture issue. It’s WHEN.

Little did I know how true that was about to be. I’ve always said that my house has a sass all its own, and once again, she interrupted my plans. It was as though my house overheard that quote and manifested an example so I could have a story ready to go. I didn’t want to do a tutorial on ceiling stains, but my house is like, “Drywall? Ok, I got you, boo. Check this out!”

But this, of course, isn’t the project I wanted to do this fall — it’s something else that’s way more exciting and cool.

Frig friggity frig-frig — freaking dammit.

Anyway, I saw the leak and at first thought it might be a sweating/condensation issue. It’s been raining practically EVERY DAY this summer and humid beyond belief. So, I figured that turning the A/C up when we went to visit K’s parents the other weekend might have created a problem, similar to how I learned that leaving the door open might freeze up my A/C (as it turns out, your childhood scolding wasn’t just a “bought air” issue). Working on the deck and shed, I’ve certainly noticed how soggy everything in general has been this summer.

Not to panic, I thought. I‘ll just monitor it and let it dry out. If it did, I could just cover over the stain and be done with it and have learned a lesson. I also had one of K’s brother’s visiting overnight at the time, so I was in a frenzy and really couldn’t spend time thinking on it.

(Which is obviously stupid, because ceiling leaks don’t give a damn about your schedule.)

The next day, it started to drip. And I knew immediately it was a bigger problem. So, I grabbed a tarp and a cardboard box and started cutting the ceiling open. I certainly know enough to handle a drywall patch, so it was more of trying to protect ruining the floor more than anything.

To humor myself, I put a neglected plant underneath the drip to give the plant a little water. Lemons —-> lemonade.

After K and I investigated the drip a little more, we had to keep cutting a hole to find the source. I  suspected that the leak might be further away, since the stain was forming right along a drywall seam (which would make it a path-of-least-resistance type thing, where water would seep through a vulnerable spot, even if the drip behind it originates somewhere else). The leak was coming from inside the house a spot closer to the actual wall/joists, near a duct.

It occurred to both of us: if you go straight up from this point, it’s between two walls and directly in line with the air conditioner in the attic. DAMMIT. The more I cut, the more it became a steady flow.

Tip: If the drip is splashing on your floor, drape a towel over the bucket.

After looking through a number of articles online, YouTube videos, speaking to my dad, and more, it seemed the most likely culprit was a clogged AC condensation line.

How to Prevent a Clog in Your Air Conditioner’s Condensate Drain Line

The purpose of an air conditioner’s condensate drain line is kind of in the name: to drain excess water. As the HVAC system does its thing, water is produced, and it needs a drip line to take that water from the HVAC system in the attic or basement and outside the home (you know, where it won’t leak through your ceiling). You can often locate the end of this drip line outside, near your A/C unit.

There’s also often an overflow line and a drip pan underneath the indoor HVAC system, so that in the case that the line gets clogged, it will fill the pan and reach the overflow line and still run out of the house. So, why did I still have this issue?

Unfortunately, this whole setup usually doesn’t get much love until there’s damage. Clogs and blockages form from algae and mold buildup. Metal drip pans can rust through. To prevent this buildup, it’s recommended to use distilled vinegar or bleach and pour it into the line at an access point (there’s usually a valve somewhere along the drain line where you can open it and pour it in). Doing so on a regular basis (a good time is every spring just before turning on the A/C for the first time),  you should have no problem. If you ever hear a gurgling, or bubbling sound behind your wall, this would be a good time to check too.

But get this: even if you hire someone to regularly service your HVAC system each year, this is commonly forgotten to be checked on. So first, you have to know about this to even ask the person if they checked it. Anyone see the problem with that???

How to Clear a Clogged Air Conditioning Drain Line

You Might Need

  • towel and bucket
  • distilled vinegar , bleach, or drain line buildup remover
  • funnel or something with a narrow pouring spout
  • drain snake or a drain line gun

Steps

  1. Turn off the A/C power at the thermostat and the breaker.
  2. Locate the drip pan beneath the HVAC system. If it’s got standing water in it, you probably have a clog. Shop vac it out or use a towel to soak up the water. I sincerely doubt you will, but you should also clean the pan with soap while you’re at it.
  3. Go outside and locate the end of the drain opening. Use the shop vac again for a minute or two (put your hand around the valve and end of the shop vac if you want to improve suction, or use some super cheap dollar-store duct tape that never sticks well to anything when you want it to). You might hear debris getting sucked up, but check the shop vac’s contents if you’re not sure. You might also see some really gross sludge fall out of the line.
  4. Locate the access valve (if there is one). It will look like a T-shaped vent with a PVC cover. Using a funnel, small cup with a spout, or similar (I used a watering can with a really narrow mouth), pour a little distilled vinegar or bleach into the line.
  5. Allow it to sit for a little while (go watch an episode on Netflix & come back), then flush with water. Have someone outside on the phone with you when you do this to confirm if the line is now clear.
  6. If the above doesn’t work, you can try snaking the clog, blasting it with a canister of air (my dad does this), or calling a pro (hopefully a guy who will remember to check this for you the next time he services your system).

In my case, not only was my line clogged, but:

  • My drip pan was rusted through in one spot. That’s what was causing it to leak in the house, because water wasn’t catching where it should have been.
  • Even if I had known about this prior, my drain line setup had no valve to pour anything into. While this might still work if you can remove the fitting on the edge of the drain pan, mine was stuck on tight and really awkward to move in its current layout. So, we had to cut the line and reroute the water flow temporarily into the overflow drain line.
  • Drain lines are recommended to be slightly titled at a downward angle to better assist with water flow. Guess what — nope.
  • There are a number of turns in mine, so the clog has been building up slowly for years.

What’s next:

As I mentioned, my tale is not quite over yet, but at least we have the A/C running and I’m confident we’ll be able to get this fixed. We’ll need to clear the clog and reroute the drain line back to normal, add an access valve, and replace the drip pan. We’ll probably also look into installing an overflow sensor in the overflow line, so we can be alerted in case it happens again (yay, technology!).

Oh yeah — and patch the hole in the living room ceiling. I’ll have that tutorial for you sometime in the future.

So, now you know! I hope this info someday helps someone prevent a clog and an expensive repair bill. If it does, please come back here and tell me so I know I prevented damage in the process of earning mine.

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