Category Archives: Misc

Save Money and Energy With These 5 Tips

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Sure, we all want to do our part and help our planet stay healthy. Maybe you’ve planted a tree or cut out plastic straws. Kudos! But with life as busy as it is, it can be hard to find the extra time and energy to go green. Sometimes we need a little extra motivation. That’s why we’ve wrangled up five tips that give you two-for-one benefits. They help you save money and energy.

Each of these tips requires an hour or less of manual labor (and most take just a few minutes). Plus, they’re all extremely cheap investments that will offer you long-term savings. What’s stopping you from protecting your pocketbook and the planet?

save money and energy - window coverings

Pull your window coverings shut for energy savings all year long. Image: Urban Environments

Cover up

The heat waves this summer taught us all a thing or two about the work it takes to keep our homes at a comfortable temperature. You could blast your air conditioning or stock up on plug-in fans — or you could close your window coverings. It seems simple, but keeping the blinds drawn can reduce your home’s heat gains by 33 percent.

Keeping out the sun is a no-brainer in the summer, but don’t forget about your drapes in the winter. Keeping them closed helps your home hold onto 10 percent more heat.

save money and energy - led

LED lighting is way more efficient – and longer-lasting – than incandescent bulbs. Image: Roundhouse Design

Choose LED

Did you know that 90 percent of the energy an incandescent bulb uses is given off as heat? An LED bulb uses about 75 percent less energy, and it also lasts as much as 25 times longer. That’s a whole lot less time clambering up ladders to swap out a burnt bulb! If you replace 15 incandescents in your house, you can save about $50 a year.

Be advised that LED light is much cooler than incandescent light, in more ways than one. The light itself is more blue than yellow. If you don’t like the sterile feel of cooler light, look for LED bulbs specifically marked with “warm” on the packaging. And for lamps, you may want to switch out the lampshade to balance out the cooler light.

save money and energy - thermostat

Use your thermostat and water heater to pad your pocketbook. Image: Nest

Dial in your thermostat

Want to save money and energy with a change that will cost you $0? We’ve got an easy one for you.

Turning just two dials in your house can really turn up your savings. Start with your thermostat. In the summer, keep your temperature above 78 degrees F. Every degree you go above 78 can save you almost 10 percent. In the winter, go the opposite direction, staying at 68 degrees F or below. It might feel like an uncomfortable jump if either of these seasonal temperatures are a dramatic difference from your current preference. To make it easier, adjust the temperature by just one degree per day.

Don’t stop with your thermostat. Turn down your water heater for some decent savings and a lower likelihood of scalding yourself while doing the dishes. Most homes have their water heaters set at 140 degrees F but only need water up to 120 degrees F. Turn yours down the 20 degrees and see savings of as much as 20 percent. You can find more info on optimal water heater temperatures on energy.gov.

save money and energy - low flow

Low-flow fixtures shrink your water usage. Image: Axis Mundi

Go low-flow

The EPA estimates that Americans spend about $500 per year on their household water. Save money and energy by installing low-flow technology at home. For the easiest swap, change out your showerhead. You can instantly go from using five gallons of water per minute to just two. Low-flow toilets and faucets are also available. Making these changes can help you save 20,000 gallons each year.

save money and energy - hvac

Clean your air filters for a more efficient HVAC. Image: Aaditya HVAC Solutions

Free your filter

Energy Star reports that the average American household spends around $2,000 per year on utilities, and almost half goes just to heating and cooling the home. Don’t make your HVAC system work harder than necessary; clogged air filters push it into extra work, which can cost you big. Think about it: How much easier is it to breathe normally versus breathing with a handkerchief over your mouth? Swap out your air filters every three months to ensure you’re getting optimal efficiency from your HVAC.

These are just a few ways to get started. Do you have any tips to save money and energy? Let us know in the comments!

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Get Back-to-School Ready! 6 Tips for Creating a Homework Space

creating a homework space

Get ready for the year ahead by creating a homework space in your home. Image: FincH

Doesn’t it feel like summer just started? We collectively blinked and – bam! – it’s time to get ready to go back to school. And that means it’s time for back-to-school shopping. You want to make sure your kids are prepped for their best possible year. As you pick up pencils and backpacks, you might want to grab some other supplies, too. Creating a homework space in your home can help your kids thrive during this school year.

A homework space might not seem that crucial. Many teens love to flop down on the couch with their laptops, and smaller kids are often happiest working on the floor. But think about it: If you worked from home, would you want to be constantly seeking out new spaces to foster productivity, or would you want a dedicated area for your work? Your kids probably aren’t all that different. By carving out a part of the home that’s theirs for getting work done, you allow them to take ownership of their homework (and maybe even find ways to enjoy it).

So, without further ado, here are six tips for creating a homework space before the academic year kicks off.

creating a homework space - location

A homework space near the kitchen can make it easier to help younger kids while you’re prepping dinner. Image: Make Design Studio

Location, location, location

Apply this real estate principle to your own home for a more successful homework area. You don’t want to put your young kids’ desks on the opposite end of the house and find yourself running back and forth while preparing dinner. On the other hand, as your kids age, they might enjoy more autonomy. You know your kids best. Think through their personality types when choosing a spot for the homework zone.

creating a homework space - comfy

The homework area should be comfortable enough that your kids will actually want to use it. Image: 30s Magazine

Create comfort

You wouldn’t like going to a cold, fluorescent-lit office for work. Why should your kids be any different? Create a space they’ll enjoy spending time in and they’re more likely to use it – and actually get some homework done there. Make sure there’s plenty of light. Add pillows or throws so they can cozy up. Let them fill the space with things they love, from art and posters to their favorite books. Your kids probably don’t think homework is very cool. If you can create a cool space in which they can do it, you just might encourage them to stay on top of things.

creating a homework space - calendar

Keep a calendar visible to help with time management. Image: Red Egg Design Group

Cultivate a calendar

It’s important to leave room for a large clock and calendar. If your kids are old enough, encourage them to fill their calendar with upcoming field trips, events, due dates and tests. Seeing everything they’ve got coming up can help them stay motivated.

A clock in the homework area is key for younger kids who get set “homework time” each night. Having the time clearly displayed can save you an earful of, “Am I done yet?”

creating a homework space - comfort

A dedicated inbox can help your kids get important documents into your hands. Image: Wunderground

Initiate an inbox

Isn’t it funny how important pieces of paper have a way of evaporating between school and your front door? You can’t avoid this entirely, but you can help your kids implement a system that makes it easier to get key papers into your hands. Set up their homework area with an inbox. This should be an actual tray into which they can put permission slips, report cards and important documents. That way, when the teacher hands them something, they can picture its journey from Point A (that moment) to Point B (their inbox).

creating a homework space - gallery

Make a space where they can show off their accomplishments. Image: Shaw Design Group

Get them excited with a gallery

Like any work, homework is exhausting if you don’t feel like you have something to show for it. When creating a homework space, prominently feature a gallery area. Use this to post art, awards, fun pictures from school and good report cards. Kids don’t get a paycheck to keep them motivated week in and week out. A visual reminder of schoolwork’s positive outcomes can help them stay engaged and productive.

creating a homework space - bins

Bins help your kids keep the homework space looking tidy. Image: Braun + Adams

Buy into bins

When you read articles about organizing your home, you’ll be hard-pressed to find one that doesn’t feature bins and drawer organizers. Bins aren’t a one-size-fits-all organization solution, but we do think they’re great for kids. Younger humans tend to “just throw stuff” somewhere. If they can just throw it into the bin where it actually belongs, you’ll have a much higher rate of success with keeping the homework area organized.

Searching for extra inspiration for what your homework area will actually look like? Don’t worry; we’ve got plenty for you. Here’s a roundup of some great study areas to get your ideas flowing when creating a homework space in your own home.

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Watch Out For These 4 Apartment Hunting Red Flags

Apartment hunting, especially online, is easy – maybe a little bit too easy. While the internet and print ads can be great sources for connecting people with housing that fits their needs, they can also be a breeding ground for scammers who are looking to take your hard-earned money. Read on to learn about some of the biggest apartment hunting red flags and how to keep yourself safe.

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apartment hunting red flags

Make sure you can get in touch with the property manager. Image: Tatiana Nicol

The property manager is nowhere to be found

One of the biggest apartment hunting red flags is an uncommunicative landlord. Let’s say, for instance, you’ve finally found a property you like. You’ve been calling and calling to try and set up a viewing, but you’ve only been getting the property manager’s voicemail. Worse yet, no call back and it’s been days. Unfortunately, if this scenario sounds all too familiar, it may be time to let go of that apartment and to find one where management is a bit more responsive.

The bottom line is: The response you get now is indicative of the response you’ll get later. If you can’t get a response back now – when you’re trying to determine if you’d like to pay rent for this apartment – then when will you? Just imagine what the response rate will be if something goes wrong. Good landlords always get in touch, even if they’re busy.

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upkeep

Take note of the building’s upkeep. Image: be-attitude

It seems a little run-down

Maybe the paint is clearly chipping everywhere or the trash is overflowing. Every building will have its imperfections, but sometimes there are just too many for the apartment to make sense. As you walk through the building, make note of these little imperfections and see if they add up. Sometimes, all together, they indicate that the apartment isn’t properly maintained.

The truth is, if the landlord or maintenance staff aren’t taking care of the little things, they probably aren’t taking care of the big ones, either. Plus, small problems often grow into larger ones. Tiny leaks left unmanaged can mean big floods. Excess trash can lead to infestations. None of which you want in your new home.

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cheap

Know the market so you’re aware if an apartment is suspiciously cheap. Image: Domus Nova

It’s a little too cheap

We’re not saying that cheap rent is a bad thing, especially if you’re short on cash, but there’s a difference between cheap and unrealistic. Sometimes scammers will take existing apartment listings and post them elsewhere at a much cheaper price to collect a deposit from unsuspecting apartment hunters who are excited about scoring a deal.

Do your homework in order to make sure that you don’t fall for this dirty trick. Look at lots of apartment listings in your new area so that you become familiar with the going rates. Always go see the unit in person before exchanging any money, even if you’re moving from far away. At the very least, settle for a video tour. Usually, these insistences are enough to scare the scammers away.

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cash

One of the biggest apartment hunting red flags is an all-cash deal. Image: Allen+Killcoyne Architects

There’s a push to pay in cash

Yes, you’ll likely have to put up some money for the first month’s rent and security. However, if there’s a push for you to pay in cash rather than by check, it could be a sign that you’re about to get scammed. Always ask for your payment options and, if the landlord or property manager strongly insists on an all-cash transaction, proceed with caution.

If you do decide to go through with it, make sure that you have seen the apartment in-person and that you have the signed and completed lease documents in hand. Even though having these things won’t totally protect you, it can give you some legal recourse in the event that the “landlord” is up to no good.

Have you been apartment hunting recently? What apartment hunting red flags have you found that are worth sharing? Let us know in the comments.

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Little Design Luxuries to Consider for Your New Home

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When designing a new home, it’s all about the details. While you’ll be busy picking out things like cabinets and wall treatments, it pays to think small. Even if you’re on a tight budget, there are little design luxuries that almost any homeowner can afford. You might even find that those details are some of your favorite features. Whether you’re into entertaining or you’re devoted to your dogs, some of these affordable design luxuries could make all the difference in your home.

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design luxuries entertaining

Ask for a hidden pantry to preserve a streamlined kitchen. Image: Tommy Hein Architects

Design luxuries for entertaining

If you plan on doing a lot of entertaining in your new home, the kitchen is probably the most important room. Here are some of the design luxuries to make your kitchen even more hospitable:

  • A pot filler or secondary sink. Depending on your kitchen layout, water might not always be where you need it. Streamline food prep by installing a pot filler over your stove or consider a secondary, smaller sink (sometimes called a prep sink) on an island. Either one will take about $200 to $300 out of your kitchen budget, but they’ll pay you back in spades when it comes to making cooking easier.
  • A hidden pantry. Finally getting the pantry of your dreams? Consider designing a hidden pantry to preserve the flow of your kitchen. Hidden pantries simply require panels that mimic the look of your cabinet doors. With a cabinet facade, your pantry blends in and your kitchen stays chic.
  • Built-in utensil organizers. Why not make things a little easier on yourself by installing utensil organizers in your cabinets? A few thoughtful dividers, hooks and trays is all it takes to upgrade your kitchen into a functional entertaining space.
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design luxuries kids

A stair slide gives kids their own little luxury at home. Image: Ashton Woods

Design luxuries for kids

Family homes might wear and tear a little quicker, but they’re packed with love. By designing with kids and family in mind, you can create a space that is welcoming, convenient and built to last. Consider these kid-centric design luxuries.

  • A drinking fountain. Tired of washing cups after a day of play? Drinking fountains are becoming more and more popular in homes, especially in spaces like mudrooms. A small drinking fountain can be installed for under $300, while larger models run $500 to $1,000. It’s a super convenient way to make sure your kids stay hydrated without resigning yourself to hours at the kitchen sink.
  • A message/homework center. Even if your kids have desks in their rooms or a designated homework space, there’s a good chance they’ll end up dragging their books into the kitchen. Setting up a homework center near all the action helps you keep things organized in one space. A nook with a desk, computer and hanging file folders won’t add much to your budget, but can help keep kids motivated and organized.
  • A stair slide. Be your kids’ hero by installing a stair slide. For less than $100, a stair slide can make going down the stairs (even just into the basement) fun for kids. It’s an option that seriously increases the “cool” factor of your home on the cheap.
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design luxuries dogs

A dog bath keeps the rest of your home squeaky clean. Image: WoodBridge Pacific Group

Design luxuries for dogs

Dogs are like family, so why not add a few little design luxuries that make your home even more pooch-friendly?

  • Dog baths. One of the biggest design trends in 2018 is including a dog bath for keeping your canine clean. After all, there’s nothing worse than a dog tracking mud through your new home. A simple, tiled area with a faucet can make all the difference near your back door or in the mudroom. The extra tile and plumbing is a relatively low cost, and you can use the bath for cleaning off messy kids, spraying off yard tools and a bevy of other housecleaning tasks.
  • Built-in kennels. If you kennel your dog, you know that kennels can be expensive and, let’s face it, kind of ugly. Instead of trying to hide them, make kennels part of the decor by opting for built-in models. You can position kennels so they’re near a dog door, letting your pup roam outside while still offering a dry spot inside. You can even design built-kennels that mimic the style of your woodwork and cabinets, putting up your pooch in style and making your life easier in the process.

The main benefit of designing your home is getting exactly what you want. But what might be seen as design luxuries could be extremely pragmatic for the way you live your life. Think outside of the box to come up with thoughtful design solutions that make your home completely unique – and extra luxurious.

Will you be incorporating any design luxuries into your next home?

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What Is Universal Design and How Do You Get It?

Do you have aging relatives or are you thinking of designing a home that you want to live in forever? Then you may have heard the term Universal Design. But it’s hardly just a building and interior design buzzword. It’s a whole way of looking at a home’s design to plan for long-term use and accessibility. It helps people living in the home age in place or manage reduced mobility for other reasons.

The National Association of Home Builders gives the official definition, explaining, “Universal design is the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design.”

That means everything from taking care of the small details like adding good lighting to larger whole design concepts like keeping everything on one level of the home to reduce mobility issues. Read on to learn more about Universal Design and how it applies to the home design process.

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Universal Design Open Floor Plan

One-story homes with open floor plans keep all areas accessible to all residents. Image: Peter Vincent Architects

Overall floor plans

The first step to making a home acceptable for Universal Design is to make sure the home floor plan itself is maximized for accessibility. As mentioned above, that means single-story living so that stairs do not become a barrier to mobility. Open floor plans can also keep areas more easily accessible.

The doorways will also be designed wider to make room for wheelchairs, as well as moving larger items around the home more easily. Along the same lines, hallways need to be wider for easier wheelchair mobility from room to room. There should be plenty of turning space around alcoves and doors.

In general, Universal Design asks designers to pay more attention to providing as much floor space as possible for ease of wheelchairs in the space. Cramped bedrooms with little space around the bed are a no go.

Entries must also not have steps, and thresholds need to be flush with the floor so wheelchairs can move more easily across entryways and between rooms.

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Universal Design Shower Area

Shower areas with showerheads that detach from the wall and seating areas make for a safer shower experience for those with limited mobility or balance concerns. Image: T.R. Builder

Bathroom spaces

Universal Designers also give the bathroom special attention. Non-slip surfaces in the bathroom are key. Handrails may go by the shower area and toilet for greater access and stability.

Also, designers take ease of use into account when installing showers. For instance, a shower space may just be a tile and drain system. There may be no surrounding steps or tubs of any kind so people can access the space much more easily. Or the space may have a step-in tub with a side that slides up and down.

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Universal Design Kitchen Lighting

Strong lighting can help those with vision problems navigate the space more easily. Image: Designs Anew Houston

Additional elements in Universal Design

Other smaller details can also make the home easier to navigate. For instance, Universal Design pays attention to good, quality lighting. All spaces may be well-lit with recessed lighting, task lighting or ceiling fixtures. This can help people with poor vision move about the space more easily. Similarly, buttons and other controls that can be detected and controlled by touch or auditory output may be added.

Door handles may be a lever design and light switches may be a rocker-type switch. These styles can help people with less hand strength open doors and turn off lights. That’s because they are easier to push on, even with an elbow, than traditional switches and doorknobs.

Even smaller details can make the home more accessible. For instance, Universal Design may turn to a single-hand, closed-fist operation for parts of the home like fire alarm pulls.

Are you considering incorporating Universal Design into your next home?

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5 Unexpected Ways to Use Wood Textures in the Kitchen

Wood is a common material for kitchens, from cabinets to walls to countertops. You can also use wood textures in the kitchen in surprising ways to create some visual interest and a style all your own. You can use wood in unexpected ways or in unexpected places to make a statement in a space. So if you’re looking for something creative to do with a kitchen design, take a look at the different ways to use wood textures in the kitchen.

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Wood Textures in the Kitchen Island Wood

Textured wood creates some interesting contrast against the cabinets’ gray color. Image: Stonington Cabinetry and Designs

Match wood in interesting places

One idea is to take a highly distinctive wood texture and use it in unexpected places with high contrast. The photo above shows how the warm, textured wood from the island was also used over the cooktop area. This wood contrasts with the sleek gray cabinetry. Using a certain kind of wood for the island and extending it to other areas of the room creates design cohesion in the space.

You can use this idea in a variety of ways. You could use the wood texture in the flooring to line the cabinets, for instance. Or you could use the wood texture in the chairs on the countertops. You can get as creative as you want with this idea.

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Wood Textures in the Kitchen Gray Cabinets

Wood works well in modern styles. Image: Ania Stempi Design

Combine wood with sleek, modern designs

In the photo above, we see another example of how to use wood to create an appealing contrast against cabinets. The sleek, gray cabinets look almost futuristic and the range hood style adds to the modern look, but the warm wood creates a sort of natural feel. What results is some subtle contrast using wood textures in the kitchen, helping the kitchen feel modern but not stark.

The naturally textured stone countertop is serves as a nice dividing line between the modern and classic styles. The countertop has the sleek lines of updated styles but the natural stone makes it look slightly rustic. It serves as the unifying point in the style.

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Wood Textures in the Kitchen Contrast Wood

Deep, saturated hues create an attractive contrast with wood textures. Image: Holmes Hole Builders

Mix and match wood textures

There are so many wood textures out there, you can also stick to wood alone to create a contrasting style. The style in the photo above contrasts highly textured darker barn wood walls against a lighter ceiling and floor.

You can see further contrast in the stainless steel refrigerator and appliances, giving this rustic space a modern touch. A blue and gray color scheme on the cabinets and kitchen area itself also juxtaposes with the surrounding natural wood. It goes to show that if you want to use wood textures in the kitchen in surprising ways, think high contrast.

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Wood Textures in the Kitchen Abstract Wood

A more conceptual wood texture works well in modern spaces. Image: Scott Weston Architecture Design PL

Go for abstract wood textures in the kitchen

What is abstract wood, exactly? The photo above shows the style on the drawers and island. Wood isn’t typically that gray, nor is it textured exactly like that. But the style still evokes a feeling of a wood texture.

When paired with the bright orange minimalistic cabinets, high-gloss white backsplash and black wire chair, you have a thoroughly modern space while still being able to evoke warmth. You can also get a style like this by using an exterior addition like a kitchen cabinet vinyl wrap.

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Wood Textures in the Kitchen Rustic Countertop

Go natural for some unique style. Image: SF ARC Architecture

Use wild, rustic texture

Another idea for using unexpected wood textures in the kitchen is to go as natural as you possibly can. The photo above shows a countertop that looks like the wood was just dragged right out of the forest and thrown onto the kitchen island.

When combined with the sleek white design of the rest of the kitchen, it’s another interesting high-contrast style. Warm wood floors stop the countertop from looking too out of place. You could use similar highly rustic textures in other countertop spaces or in chairs and stools, too.

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Cleaning House (Please Stand By) • Ugly Duckling House

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Happy Friday, friends! The kitchen nook area got a nice little update this week with a new set of pans and a wall-mounted pot rack.

The last time I posted about this area was around this time of year in 2016. It seldom gets any love because it’s the spot right before the sliding glass door (aka, the dumping ground for all of the tools and supplies while I work on the shed and deck outside).

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It looks even better though when you compare it to how it looked the first year I moved in!

Funny how we just need the proper motivation to get organized sometimes, right? For me, the trigger to clean up this area was that white cookware set. I found them at TJMaxx and was immediately drawn to the white enamel and faux-wood handles. K and I discovered the first pair of pans while trying to kill a little time before meeting my parents for dinner one night, and we went on a hunt to Homegoods and another TJMaxx for the rest.

UDH tip: I assume it’s common knowledge, but just in case you didn’t know: if you find something at TJMaxx or Homegoods or Marshalls but it doesn’t have a full set, you can often find matching items at the other nearby stores. You have to take a little bit of a gamble on it, but I was pretty confident we would find more pans (given how many duplicates we found of the pans we bought). And if you’re interested on these kids of shopping tips, I have more here and here.

Anyway, the purchase of the pans made me finally buy the pot racks, and not having any room in my kitchen cabinets for either finally made me go through my pots and pans and get rid of some old ones. After K moved in this year, there’s been a lot of re-organizing to either get rid of duplicates, make room for his collections (he’s got a few, so it’s a challenge!), or just buy new sets of things to better match our combined tastes.

And speaking of reorganizing, the “please stand by” is in regard to me moving servers for this site. That isn’t really going to change how things look, but rather just trying to get a lot of technical stuff dealt with behind-the-scenes so I can then make more improvements. So, if you see something funky over the next couple days/weeks, there’s a good chance I’m already aware of it and trying to fix it, but still feel free to let me know. Whenever migrating, there are things that sometimes disappear (like even this post, so I have held off on my next deck update until I know for SURE I won’t have to do that work twice)!

I hope you guys have a wonderful weekend!

Wall-mounted pot racks are great when you don't have a kitchen island, and they add tons of cabinet space. #kitchen #potrack #organization #kitchenorganization

While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy & effectiveness of the information displayed on this website, The Ugly Duckling House is for entertainment purposes only. All tutorials and demonstrations are not intended to be professional advice (nor substitute as such), and I make no guarantees as to the procedures and information here. Creating with my suggested methods, materials, and tools is under your own risk. Please ensure you are following proper guidelines with anything used, and seek professional advice if you don’t know how to do something! Read my complete disclosure here.

5 Stylish and Functional Garden Edging Ideas

Whether you’re designing a garden from scratch or trying to figure out ways to make your current garden more attractive, you might want to consider looking at garden edging ideas. Garden edging is not mandatory. Plenty of gorgeous garden spaces simply sit right next to the lawn. But adding garden edging helps create a visual barrier between the garden and other spaces. It creates a certain visual logic in your yard. Functionally, lining a garden has its benefits; it can stop the plants from growing outside of their designated space. You can see several garden edging ideas below.

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Garden Edging Small Stone

Stone is an attractive way to line a garden. Image: Niza

Gravel/stone strip as garden edging

This no-fuss, functional idea creates some geometry in the space. As the photo above shows, stone makes a solid visual barrier separating the shrubbery from the rest of the lawn. It also shows how you can add geometric art to the style to further visually separate the space, as in the boxy brown features.

It’s an easy design in that it’s not difficult to line a garden or shrubbery space with stone. If you use mulch in your bedding, it also helps create a barrier between the grass and the mulch. That way, you’re not getting mulch mixed into the lawn while you try to carefully rake the mulch along the grass line.

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Garden Edging Gravel Pathway

Divider rock works well in segmented garden spaces. Image: Surrounds Landscape Architecture + Construction

Gravel paths and divider rock

Another idea for lining gardens is to place brick around the garden spaces themselves. This creates an easy and visually clean barrier. It’s especially useful if you have walking paths between the garden space, like in the design above.

This is a good design if you tend to grow a lot of different plants. That way, each patch of dirt can be devoted to one plant. For instance, one patch might have a certain type of flower and another might have ferns. A whole section could be devoted to growing different types of vegetables. This design lends an organizational logic to a landscape.

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Garden Edging Raised Garden

Raised gardens can be a convenient way to take care of plants. Image: Casa Smith Designs

Raised gardens

A classic way to designate a garden space is to go for a raised design. This can be helpful for people with bad backs, or anyone else who doesn’t want to spend a lot of time bending over when working in the garden. It’s also a visually appealing way to keep a garden organized and segmented.

The photo above shows some of the attractive designs a raised garden can make, like the star design in the middle of the space. Raised, segmented gardens are another good way to designate different spaces for a certain vegetable or herb. Keeping to a textured wood helps the space look natural and rustic.

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Garden Edging Brick Pathway

Brick pathways are a clean idea for segmenting a garden. Image: BrightView

Brick paths

Yet another attractive way to make garden edging is to go for a brick pathway design. A raised stone pattern on the edge of the path visually separates the path from the garden. And by choosing a tight brick design, you virtually eliminate the chance of weeds and other plants growing out into the pathway, as tends to happen in graveled areas.

Brick paths are a good design if you like to spend time strolling in your garden, as you can create as many winding pathways as your space can accommodate. And it’s another nice way to create patches of dirt that can be devoted to certain plant themes, if you wish.

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Garden Edging Rustic Pathway

Keep it looking rustic with naturally-cut stone. Image: FifthSeason

Rustic stone

You can also use some rustic stone as garden edging. The photo above shows how rough-cut stones set next to each other create an easy, natural garden lining. This design is a good way to create a barrier around a rustic gravel pathway because it helps the look keep to a more natural design.

As the photo above shows, this type of stone edging works well in spaces where the plant life is arranged to make it look like it’s more dense, free-growing and natural. If you don’t want a garden that looks too boxy and pre-planned, this is your design. In fact, it’s probably one of the most natural garden edging ideas.

How will you use garden edging to give your outdoor space new life?

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5 Ways to Get a Zen Living Room

Merriam-Webster describes Zen as “a state of calm attentiveness in which one’s actions are guided by intuition rather than by conscious effort.” From a colloquial standpoint in the West, we generally use it to describe anything that is calm, serene, simple and soothing, especially when it comes to interior design. Zen spaces are also usually defined by distinctly Japanese design aesthetics, like rock gardens and tatami mat floors. If you love everything Zen, you may be searching for ways incorporate Zen in the central spaces of your home. Read on to learn how to get a Zen living room.

Zen Living Room Indoor Zen Garden

Zen gardens can fit right next to sitting areas. Image: Triptych Design

Indoor Zen garden

When people think Zen, they usually think of Zen gardens. But don’t assume that just because it has the word garden in it, it needs to be outdoors. The unique living space in the photo above puts a Zen garden right in the home. Since Zen gardens are usually made up of sand, stone or gravel, they’re easy to put indoors because they don’t have the upkeep of natural plant life. Your Zen garden can also be for more than show: You can also meditatively rake the Zen garden no matter what the weather looks like outside.

Zen Living Room Buddha Head

The white and gray neutral coloring on the Buddha head fits in well with modern, light color schemes. Image: ASI Interiors

Chic Buddha statues

Zen itself is grounded in a type of Buddhism from Japan. Because of this, one of the easiest ways to get a Zen living room is to find a chic representation of the Buddha. Adding this element to a room allows you to create a Zen focal point.

How Zen you go from there is entirely up to you. It’s a nice way to add an element of Zen, even if you’re not looking to go drastic with your design plans. Also, choosing a chic artsy figure like in the photo above allows you to keep the space more modern, if that’s the style you’re going for.

Zen Living Room Rustic Space

You can apply Zen principles to surprising places, like this rustic mountain home. Image: Locati Architects and Interiors

Combine Zen with other styles

The above tips suggest ways to incorporate Zen into modern stylings, but Zen also complements rustic spaces, creating a rustic chic vibe. Just take the photo above: Something as simple as the light earth tones gives the space a loose, natural Zen feel.

Zen is usually associated with natural elements, so the style pairs well with rustic elements like exposed beams, textured wood flooring and carved art. If possible, combine the style with open views of nature. That creates an even more rustic, natural and soothing Zen vibe.

Zen Living Room Outdoor Zen Garden

Bring that Zen feel inside with sliding doors that open to a stone Zen garden. Image: MM+J Architects

Open to Zen outdoor spaces

Of course, not all of your Zen features have to be in the living room itself. Simply opening your room into a Zen rock garden or having a window view to one can create that sense of Zen. It’s an easy way to add visual style to the Zen living room without installing a full-fledged Zen garden in your home.

This is also a good idea for minimalistic or transitional spaces. The soothing nature of a gravel-based Zen garden pairs well with minimalistic style, and the Zen garden itself is a traditional element that adds interest to a transitional space.

Zen Living Room Japanese Style Room

Japanese design makes your home feel instantly Zen. Image: e-sumai

Incorporate Asian design elements for a Zen living room

Since Zen has its roots in Japan, you may consider using traditional Japanese architectural elements in your living room. The photo above is actually a design from a home in Kyoto. But the traditional tatami floor and paper doors are great sources of inspiration for your own living room design project.

If committing to this style makes you nervous, you could choose one or two elements to suggest it. Try installing one paper sliding door. Or place a tatami mat in the middle of the living room. You might also consider other Japanese elements like koi fish or a short-legged table, also called a chabudai. We’ve covered many ways to incorporate Japanese style into your home if you’re craving more inspiration.

Remember, the goal of Zen design elements is to add a sense of calm to your living spaces — so try not to stress as you decide how to incorporate it! There are many options for achieving that soothing aesthetic, whether you want to go big or understated. Do any of the ideas above make you want to add a little Zen to your home? We’d love to hear about it below.

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Cool Kitchen Backsplashes to Whet Your Appetite

The basic function of kitchen backsplashes is to prevent water, food and other types of liquids and solids from damaging the wall behind your kitchen counters. However, backsplashes can be both functional and stylish. There’s a dizzying array of styles to choose from, but we’re skipping the most popular backsplashes (since you’ve probably seen them anyway) so we can highlight some of the coolest options.

Art glass backsplash

A photo of the city’s skyline is the inspiration for this spectacular kitchen backsplash in Melbourne. Image: Visual Resource

According to Katy Brut, interior design consultant at New York Furniture Outlets, “The newest and freshest trend in kitchen interior design is to use uncommon materials, such as metal panels, glass and ceramics.”

Hexagonal tile backsplash

This hexagonal pattern is clean and modern. Image: Trevor Brown Architects

“People are gravitating toward cleaner, modern backsplashes, as opposed to the busier mosaics, to create a timeless look,” says Pace Tropper of TileBar. “The use of simpler tones and designs for the backsplash with pops of color from accent pieces create a kitchen that is more transitional for a long-term investment.”

Solid color sheet glass backsplash

This solid sheet of gray glass provides a sleek, seamless look. Image: thirdstone inc.

This gray, glass sheet backsplash is another example of a cleaner, more modern design and requires virtually no maintenance. Just wipe clean.

Wood and wood-look stone tile backsplash

The latest generation of stone can realistically mimic wood. Image: Chroma Design.

Brut says some homeowners are achieving customized looks by using specially treated (water and mold resistant) solid wood panels.  However, the wood look above was achieved with stone tile.

Can you tell if this is real wood or not? Image: Leicht Westchester

The warm look of wood in this backsplash is replicated in the floor-to-ceiling cabinets and in the under-counter cabinet cut-outs.

Stainless steel metal backsplash

A stainless sheet backsplash is durable and can be cut to fit any space. Image:

This gives new meaning to the phrase “stainless steel package.” While that term generally refers to stainless steel appliances, this kitchen is stainless steel from floor to ceiling: backsplash, countertop, cabinets and sink.

Back-to-nature window backsplash

Nature always creates a complementary backdrop. Image:

It’s hard to find a better backsplash than nature (but you should probably wear clothes when standing at the sink). Smaller windows are common in kitchens, but a wall of windows makes a cool architectural statement.

Slate backsplash

Arranging the backsplash vertically helps to create depth. Image: Clarke

The slate backsplash in this Asian-inspired kitchen complements the light wood and stainless steel. Slate resists water, stains and spills.

Porcelain tile backsplash

This backsplash adds interest without looking too busy. Image:

“Porcelain-cement tiles are unique materials perfect for kitchen backsplashes because they don’t stain and are quicker to source and install than traditional cement tiles,” explains Matt Karlin, third-generation President and CEO of Nemo Tile + Stone.

Subway tile backsplash

Subway tile remains a popular choice among homeowners. Image:

“Backsplashes are one of the easiest ways to personalize a kitchen, but there’s a reason subway tile is so popular,” says Jonathan Self, a real estate broker for Center Coast Realty in Chicago.

Pablo Picasso backsplash

Kitchen backsplashes can be customized for any style or taste. Image:

“Unless it’s a forever home, I’d avoid going too crazy with the design because this can make it harder to sell your home down the road,” Self says. Maybe this Picasso is what he’s talking about. It’s definitely original, but how many homebuyers do you think would like this style, especially in the kitchen?

Tell us what you think in the comments!

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