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5 DIY home upgrades anyone can do in a day

(BPT) -

(BPT) - Do-it-yourself home projects are sweeping the nation, and it's easy to see why. DIY is typically budget-friendly and fulfilling to complete; simply find the right project to match your skill set and needs.

To get started, here are five inexpensive projects that can by tackled by any DIYer, each of which will have an impact on the entire home.

* Make a hardware swap. Replacing your kitchen cabinets changes the entire look of your kitchen - but it's expensive and requires considerable skill. For a simpler, smaller project that can still have a big impact, replace the hardware on your cabinets instead. Select the hardware type first - knobs for doors and pulls for drawers, for example - then move on to style. Crisp, sleek hardware goes best with a modern kitchen, while more detailed offerings work well with classic, traditional kitchens.

* Refresh your space with a fresh coat of paint. Repainting a wall or room is the perfect way to showcase your style, without breaking the bank. The Unity palette from Sherwin-Williams® 2018 Colormix Forecast offers unique color choices that pair together perfectly, making it easy for homeowners to create a cohesive look in their space. Try going bold with pops of peacock on an accent wall, such as Sherwin-Williams 2018 Color of the Year, Oceanside SW 6496, or you use the palette's grounded browns to put a new spin on traditional hues. It's easy to recreate a space that reflects who you are, without making expensive renovations.

* Illuminate a simple change. It doesn't always take a huge change to reinvent a room; it can be as easy as changing the light fixture. You could choose to repaint your existing chandelier, or you could give your ceiling fan a new look by replacing the blades. If you're on the crafty side, try making your own shade for an existing lamp with some of your favorite fabric.

* Invite people to your gallery. Can't decide on the one perfect image for your wall? Then why not go for several? Gallery walls are a great way to show your favorite prints and photos artistically. Pick the wall and apply a fresh coat of paint before building your gallery - after all, this wall will now be part of the exhibit. Once the wall is ready, pick your photos or prints and set them in frames you love. Now the fun part lay your works of art on an open floor space and rearrange them until you find the perfect layout. Once you've found it, grab your hammer and nails and bring your gallery wall to life.

* Bring a new vibe to your existing furniture. If a chair or love seat is starting to show its age, reupholstering it is a great way to give the piece fresh life. Remove the current fabric and replace it with new fabric of your choosing. Apply staples or stitching to hold the new fabric in place, and that old piece of furniture will have a distinctive new look.



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Shedding new light: 8 surprising facts that...

(BPT) - You step into a dark room, turn on the light switch and go about your day without giving it another thought.

But here's the thing - you should.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the average American home has approximately 50 light sockets, and most of those still contain inefficient light bulbs. These bulbs spend 90 percent of the energy they use creating heat around the bulb and only the remaining 10 percent providing any real, actual light. This is just one surprising fact about your lighting you may never have considered. To get you thinking about your lights in a whole new way, here are eight more surprising lighting facts.

* Small costs, big savings for you. An ENERGY STAR-certified LED light bulb will cost you about $2 in most parts of the country. In some areas it may be possible to buy such a bulb for $1, thanks to utility rebates. Yet over the course of its lifetime, a 15,000-hour bulb will save you around $80 compared to the cost of using a 43-watt halogen-incandescent bulb over the same time.

* Big savings for the country as a whole. If every American replaced their existing bulbs with energy-efficient solutions, the country would save $6 billion per year in lighting expenses.

* Same options in an energy-efficient offering. LED bulbs that have earned the ENERGY STAR look and act just like the conventional bulbs you are used to. They turn on instantly and provide quality light all around. Most are also designed to dim, and some even get warmer as they do so. There are even LED solutions designed to match the look of trendy vintage-style bulbs so you can have the look you want without wasted energy expenses.

* Look for the ENERGY STAR seal. The government-backed ENERGY STAR label is a 'seal of approval' ensuring that the certified product saves energy, delivers on brightness and meets myriad other requirements proven by extensive testing and third-party certification. Select products bearing this seal and you'll attain your lighting and energy efficiency goals.

* A shifting trend. Since 2016, many major light bulb manufacturers and retailers have pledged to phase out CFL bulbs and utilize only LED lighting offerings. Now is the time to be ahead of the trend.

* Adoption across the map. LED adoption is happening at different rates across the U.S., but in most states, LED bulbs made up about 20 percent of sales in 2015-2016. In 2016, the following cities were leading in LED bulb sales: Minneapolis, Seattle, Oklahoma City, Tulsa, St. Louis, Richmond, Orlando, Hartford, New Haven, Milwaukee, Nashville and Phoenix.

* Finding the right solution for your home. Like conventional bulbs, there are specific LED solutions for every socket in your home. To find the right bulb for your space, remember the ABCs: Application, Brightness and Color. ENERGY STAR offers a guide that can help you choose the right bulb for your needs by analyzing each of these categories. You can find the guide at www.energystar.gov/choosealight.

* An ever-evolving market. Today LED lighting solutions are available in many options, but the potential for the future is nearly limitless. For example, many manufacturers are integrating microchips into LED bulbs, enabling them to be controlled remotely, to turn on and off, dim or operate based on a schedule or the occupancy of space. All of which will provide ease of use, reduced energy expense and the lighting consumers need.

Turning the lights on and off in a room is a simple decision, but one that has great implications you may not be aware of. Make the change in your home today to more energy-efficient LED bulbs and you'll feel better about your decision with every flick of the switch. To learn more, visit www.energystar.gov/bulbrevolution.



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Upping your laundry room's wow factor

(BPT) - Doing the laundry is no longer relegated to dark, musty basements where no one cares to go. Thanks to modern technology, great design and access to innovative ideas online, laundry rooms have moved upstairs and come into their own. In fact, laundry rooms today are right up there with dream kitchens and dream bathrooms - and the more style, function and 'wow factor,' the better.

'Laundry rooms are no longer just utilitarian,' said Anitra Mecadon, TV personality and award-winning interior designer. 'People want stylish, healthy environments where they can relax, multitask and have some fun while doing the laundry.'

Below are four ways Mecadon recommends to ramp up the wow factor, function and allure of your laundry room:

* High-tech appliances

When looking for washers and dryers today, there are more features than you can imagine. You should consider your needs and desires before starting your search - and we're talking about more than gas or electric, front- or top-loading, color, budget and space parameters. Today's 'smart' appliances offer custom wash cycles, wrinkle removal, steam cleaning, less noise, delayed start times, moisture sensors with allergen and sanitize cycles and more. There's even a machine that washes two separate loads with different setting options at the same time. And nearly every machine today is Energy Star-certified for energy efficiency.

* Loads of style

Laundry rooms today can be decorated to complement other rooms in your home - and Pinterest and Houzz offer loads of pictures online to spark your creativity. Laundry rooms can be country French to modern, whimsical to multifunctional - and it's not unusual to see them in bold or soothing colors, with comfy chairs, statement lighting, flat-screen TVs and docking stations to play music or charge tablets and phones. They also can include windows to let in natural light. If you think white and stainless are your only color options, think again. They can be turquoise, burnt orange, glacial blue, fire engine red, kelly green and even black stainless.

* Function galore

Washing and drying are only part of doing the laundry. There's sorting, folding, hanging and ironing - and each of those steps needs its own space, supplies and storage. Baskets for sorting and carrying laundry can be wicker, plastic or wood and stored for all to see or out of sight. Counters for folding can be granite, marble, quartz, butcher block or laminate, and many people put them over their washers and dryers as well as around the room. Drying racks made of ladders or upcycled cribs can be creative and functional. Ironing boards can be stand-alone, foldable and stored in cabinets or retractable and out of sight. Washers and dryers can be big or small, stacked or all in one - and even put on pedestals.

* High-performance drywall

When laundry was relegated to the basement, part of the dread of doing laundry was the thought of being surrounded by dampness, mold and mildew - sometimes from washing machine water hose failure causing mold to grow within the wall cavity. Because your washer and dryer introduce water, moisture and heat into the room, it's important to use drywall with extra protection for your laundry room walls and ceilings - such as moisture-, mold- and mildew-resistant PURPLE XP drywall by National Gypsum. PURPLE XP - which stands for "Xtra Protection" - products are GREENGUARD Gold Certified for indoor air quality, while aiding in the creation of healthier indoor environments.

'I love that prettier and more functional laundry rooms are becoming places people want to hang out and do laundry, but it's important to think about what's behind all that style and function - and that's their walls,' said Mecadon. 'Walls and what they're made of are important and they're not all the same.'

For more information, go to www.AskForPurple.com.



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Quick tips to prepare your home for holiday guests

(BPT) - As the holidays approach, the decorator in us gets excited about how to deck the halls and drape the tinsel to create a festive home for the season. Social media is full of inspiration, but before you embark on decorating projects, the following are a few easy ideas to ensure your home is as functional and welcoming as it is festive for family and friends.

'Tis the season to repair, repaint, refresh

A pristine paint job is the perfect backdrop for holiday entertaining. Throughout the year, the walls of your home take a lot of abuse, from kids banging their toys into the corners and chairs hitting the walls, to the nail holes and cracks that appear over time. To restore your walls to their former glory, fill in those dents, holes and cracks before you repaint with ALEX Plus Spackling, which delivers professional strength and durability when making repairs on a range of surfaces such as drywall, wood and metal. If you have troublesome reoccurring cracks that just won't go away, ALEX Flex Spackling is the perfect solution for a lasting, seamless repair. And for the ultimate professional finish, use ALEX Flex Premium Molding & Trim Sealant to fill gaps and cracks around interior window and door frames and along baseboards, chair rails and crown molding for a crack-proof, seamless finish. With your walls repaired and looking like new, you're now ready to paint and decorate for a fresh, updated look.

Create a safe, cozy area for fireside chats

A warm, roaring fire is a cozy centerpiece for after-dinner storytelling and catching up with family and friends. Whether your home is equipped with a gas or wood-burning fireplace, it is important to ensure the unit is in good working order. First, inspect the area and repair any damage to key pieces, such as the baffle, damper or mantle, that may have occurred during the year. Next, schedule a time for a thorough chimney sweeping to remove excess buildup of soot and creosote. A clean, maintained fireplace not only makes for a festive environment, but can also serve as an element to heat your home, reducing seasonal stress on your furnace.

Corral guest clutter in your main living areas

There's nothing like visiting with old friends or reconnecting with family members you haven't seen in a while. Of course, with the increased foot traffic in and out of your home comes the question of where to put your guests' belongings so they are out of the way and organized. If you have a coat closet, be sure to clean it out and make room for your guests by storing your coats in another room. You might also consider using an additional coat rack and strategically placing some festive decorative baskets for holding shoes and purses.

Create a kid-friendly space

If you plan on hosting friends and family members who have small children, take some time to kid-proof your home, particularly anywhere they are likely to play. Along with putting plug covers on all of the outlets, remove any common hazards young kids might get into. Secure electrical and window treatment cords, protect hard-edged furniture and put breakables out of reach. Once the groundwork for a safe, kid-friendly space is cleared, add toys, games, comfy pillows and more, so they're entertained and feel welcome.

Prepare the outdoors, too

When it comes to prepping for holiday guests, don't forget about high-traffic areas outside the home. Be sure to clear the walkways of any snow and ice and replace outdoor lights with fresh bulbs to help guests safely navigate their way to your home.

These quick and easy preparations will help you and your guests feel more at home, setting the stage for all to enjoy the festivities and fun of the season.



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Easy winter weatherproofing: Keep the chill out...

(BPT) - Households heating with natural gas, which is almost half of U.S. homes, are expected to spend an average of $635 on heating this winter - 22 percent more than last winter, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration - but some easy seasonal maintenance tips can make a big difference.

'There are several simple, inexpensive ways consumers can save money on utility bills this winter, and still stay warm and comfortable as temperatures begin to drop,' said Jill Murphy, a home heating and energy efficiency expert with Lennox Industries. 'By taking the initiative to weatherproof their home before the start of the cold-weather season, homeowners will be able to enjoy a warmer and more energy-efficient house.'

To help consumers combat high utility bills and achieve optimum indoor comfort this winter, Murphy and Lennox suggest a few easy tips for staying safe, dry and comfortable as the cold comes:

The attic. The attic is one of the biggest culprits when it comes to heat loss. Without adequate attic insulation, your heating system will have to work harder and will be less effective as it tries to maintain a warm temperature in the home. Statistics show that older homes, especially those built before 1980, often don't have enough insulation.

Windows and doors. Air leaks caused by cracks or holes around windows and doors can enable warm indoor air to escape and cold outside air to seep in, preventing you from maintaining a consistent indoor temperature. Murphy suggests sealing cracks with caulk or weather stripping.

Exterior walls. It's also important to look for cracks and holes around the perimeter of your home. To identify air leaks in outside-facing walls, try holding a candle near suspect areas to reveal drafts and then seal leaks with caulk or weather stripping.

Fireplace and chimney. To prevent warm indoor air from escaping the home, Murphy also reminds homeowners to keep fireplace dampers closed when not in use; however, always make sure the damper is fully opened before starting a fire. You also should inspect the chimney cap to ensure that the chimney won't have a smoke or water leak when you fire it up this winter.

Heating system. Keeping your heating system running efficiently is the most significant way to reduce utility bills and stay warm this winter. To reduce the potential for a breakdown in the middle of winter, Murphy recommends having your furnace inspected by certified technicians before old man winter arrives, and consider replacing a system that is more than 15 years old.

Programmable thermostats. To further maximize savings on your heating bills, Murphy recommends installing a smart thermostat, such as the Lennox iComfort E30, which works with Amazon Alexa smart home devices and is compatible with any brand of HVAC system.

The roof. The roof is your home's first defense against falling rain, ice and snow, so it's important to inspect it to make sure shingles are in place to prevent water from seeping inside the house. If large gaps are found, hire a professional roofing company to repair the problem areas.

By making a few minor adjustments around the house, homeowners can help alleviate safety concerns and reduce the amount of wasted energy, all while staying comfortable during the chilly season. To learn more about home energy efficiency and how to save money on utility bills, visit https://www.lennox.com or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Lennox.



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It's time: Signs your heating system needs a...

(BPT) - Temperatures are falling, pumpkin spice everything has reappeared and stores have already put out holiday displays - all signs that winter is either on the way, or already here, depending on where you live. If you haven't already had your heating system tuned up, now is the time.

Neglect is a top cause of heating system inefficiency and failure, according to ENERGYSTAR.gov. Proper maintenance can help ensure your system works as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible throughout the winter. Failing to care for your heating system now could leave you without heat or with hefty emergency repair bills if the system breaks down during very cold weather.

A tune-up is an inexpensive way to ensure heating equipment is operating properly, and provides peace of mind that no potentially harmful blockage exists in a flue or exhaust vent. While it's best to service a heating system before the cold weather arrives, it's also never too late to perform routine maintenance.

According to the home repair experts at HomeServe USA, a typical professional heating system tune-up will include:

* Inspect safety features and controls

* Check thermostats (including adjustment if needed)

* Inspect burners (with adjustments if necessary)

* Check and clean the pilot light

* Check and clean any gauges

* Flush low-water cutoff

* Inspect filters, belts, oil motors, pumps and condensate line (if applicable)

* Check the flue pipe and chimney draft

* Inspect and clean the blower assembly

A thorough tune-up before the heating season starts can help reduce the risk of a problem in the dead of winter, but you should still be aware of your system's performance. Symptoms that may warrant having a professional check the system include:

* The system takes a long time to warm the house after the furnace comes on.

* You hear unusual noises when the furnace turns on.

* You've noticed an unusual amount of dust coming from heating vents.

* The system cycles constantly.

* The burner flame is yellow or flickering. The flame should be blue in natural gas furnaces; a yellow flame means the unit is not burning efficiently and may even be producing harmful carbon monoxide.

* You notice your heating bills have increased more than you would reasonably expect given the temperature outside.

* You experience excessive moisture building up on windows, walls and other cold surfaces.

* You find visual evidence, such as streaks of soot around the furnace, rusting on flue pipes or pipe connections or the vent pipe visible from outside the home, or water leaking from the base of the chimney, vent or flue pipe.

If you act quickly at the first sign of a problem, you may be able to avoid a costly and potentially dangerous failure of your heating system. For more information about why you should schedule a tune-up, visit www.nationaltuneupday.com.

HomeServe offers home heating protection plans, including ones that cover tune-ups. A 24-hour repair hotline ensures plan holders can be connected with local, licensed and insured technicians 365 days a year. Visit www.HomeServeUSA.com to learn more.



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Raising the bar(n) in your home: Say hello to a...

(BPT) - Amid the many trends ebbing and flowing through home improvement, one in particular seems likely to stick around. Known for their versatility, barn doors have been popping up in homes across the country - in contemporary and rustic designs. With this design element found on such opposite sides of the style spectrum, one might wonder what it is about barn doors that people love so much. If you've found yourself asking the same thing, read on to discover why adding a barn door is an ideal winter home-improvement project.

Barn doors provide the perfect transition between rooms

As homeowners seek more open floor plans, interior doors are evolving. Barn doors meet homeowners' desire for fluid room flows by seamlessly connecting adjacent rooms, allowing the flexibility to close spaces off or join them.

'The rolling feature of barn doors creates a fresh look in any home,' says Brad Loveless, product development manager for Simpson Door Company. 'The functionality of a door mounted on a barn track allows homeowners to control the degree to which spaces are opened or closed.' Unlike conventional hinge-mounted doors, barn doors open up previously divided rooms with an air of intentionality.

Barn doors make an unexpected statement piece

Like a distinctive piece of art in the home, the right interior door can showcase a homeowner's style and personality. An unexpected door style tells a story that creates a great discussion point when entertaining friends and family. Is your home lacking something that inspires creativity and sparks conversation? You may find that a barn door is a simple solution to this problem with its eye-catching rolling feature. They're subtle, but bold. Innovative, but not over the top. Barn doors catch your eye, without taking over the room.

Barn doors are adaptable to changing style trends

Do you ever worry that the sweater you bought last week will be out of style in a year or two? Are you forever a trend skeptic since the bell-bottom era? (If those can go out of style, anything can, right?) Contrary to what may feel like their recent popularity, these farmyard-meets-indoors statement pieces have been around for over a decade. Today you'll find barn doors with a modern, sleek look, rustic wood paneling or even those made with a chalkboard.

Barn doors are available from a number of companies. For homeowners who like the look and feel of wood doors, Simpson Door Company offers rustic-style barn doors, as well as sleek, contemporary doors that can be mounted on barn track hardware.

Why now?

You won't regret moving this installation to the top of your priority list of winter home-improvement projects. Adding a barn door while you're stuck inside for the cold months makes an immediate visual difference in your home and can provide a scenic backdrop for holiday photos.



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5 reasons to skip the stadium and watch the...

(BPT) - For many, fall is back-to-school season. It's the time for pumpkin-spiced coffee, decorative gourds, scarves and cardigans. But by far, the most exciting part of fall is when the sports world begins to heat up. As the football season kicks off, baseball playoffs begin and inevitably, one of our friends tells us about the great tickets they have to a game.

Whether you follow basketball, football, hockey or any other sport, hearing that someone has tickets to the game can make you wild with envy.

It shouldn't.

Simply put, you can have a much better time watching the game at home. Skeptical? These five reasons should convince you otherwise.

1. Better food and better everything. Would you rather sit on a hard chair like the one you sat in at elementary school and eat a soggy, $10 hot dog, or relax in a recliner and feast on a spread of dips, chips, snacks and barbecue? The answer is pretty obvious. Staying home is just more comfortable and enjoyable. Best of all, it's unlikely a stranger will spill their drink on you. Though that may depend on who you invite over!

2. You can get better-than-the-best seats. Even if you were friends with the owner and had no shortage of cash, you couldn't get closer to the action than with the proper television. There are many models out there with a lot of features, but the 2017 lineup of LG OLED TVs, from the LG OLED C7 up to the LG OLED SIGNATURE W7, is simply awe-inspiring. LG's proprietary OLED technology creates perfect blacks, offering over a billion rich colors that show up perfectly from any seat in the room. That makes every hit, goal and three-pointer come to life right before your eyes, like it never has before.

3. You're already there. Perhaps one of the worst parts of going to see a game is dealing with the traffic. With thousands of people all trying to get to the same place, traffic jams are inevitable and it's easy to get frustrated. Too often, this ordeal can spoil your mood before your team even begins to lose!

4. Why limit yourself to one game? At any given time, there are a lot of sports going on, and if you're a fan it can be maddening to decide what game to watch and which one to miss. The solution is to skip the stadium and record multiple games at once, or find a TV with a smart operating system that allows you to switch back and forth easily, such as LG's award-winning webOS Smart TV platform, which comes with LG's OLEDs and LG SUPER UHD TVs. With webOS you can record all the must-see games in gorgeous 4K quality and watch them when you want. Weekend sports binge? It's now possible, and far better than sitting in the nosebleed section and watching another game on your phone!

5. The weather is always right. Rain, snow or just cold temperatures might be alluring to some, but even the most hardcore of fans sometimes want to forgo the chills and discomfort and simply enjoy the game. And who can blame them? When you're comfortable, you get more out of the game.

Take advantage of the technology that's available! With a wide range of models of the best televisions available, LG Electronics USA is your ticket to the best season yet.



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Top tips to reap the fullest experience from...

(BPT) - With long nights and chilly temperatures, it's always good to find an excuse to stay home. Here's a classic excuse that's gone from lame to legitimate in a short time: I have to catch up on my favorite TV show.

So fix your favorite snack and pull up a sofa, because this fall, there are a ton of hot and critically acclaimed TV shows debuting and returning.

In fact, one projection says 2017 is on track to smash records. This year, as many as 500 original scripted shows have already aired and streamed, according to a report in AdWeek. That means there should be something for everyone, right?

Now’s the perfect time to check in with your set to make sure it’s up to the task of bringing you the best possible TV-watching experience.

Get cinematic: It’s not unheard of for TV shows to boast multi-million-dollar budgets that can cover elaborate costumes, locations, sets and stunning special effects that would rival any movie. If you’re looking for TV technology with the ability to accurately replicate the action and characters, consider investing in one of LG’s sets. Whether you look at their premium LG OLED TVs or one of their Super UHD TVs with Nano Cell Technology, you’re sure to get the most lifelike, advanced picture quality available.

Switch around with ease: If switching the TV display from cable to streaming is still a complicated feat that requires three remotes and a 10-minute training session that still befuddles your partner, it’s really time to update your entertainment station to something sleeker and more intuitive.

A smart set with a compatible remote can solve all these problems. For example, all of LG’s OLED and Super UHD sets come with its award-winning webOS Smart TV platform and Magic Remote, which makes flipping between content seamless and easy — all without stumbling into a screen of TV static. Plus, LG’s Magic Remote is voice-activated, making your life easier than ever before.

Get organized: Figuring out what to watch and when to catch it is half the battle. The last thing you want is a big let-down because your show happens to be on a bye week you didn’t know about. Shop around for an app that lets you manage your shows, so you know at a glance what’s coming up. Also, today’s sets come with a platform so you can keep and manage your information right where you're going to use it.

Start thinking about the series finale: When a favorite emerges, keep the season finale in the back of your mind. That’s a great reason to host an end-of-season viewing party, because plot twists and cliffhangers are so much sweeter when experienced with someone. Even if you have plenty of comfy seating to handle the crowd, make sure your TV set is suitable for screening at a wide angle. Many LCD sets have a narrow viewing range with the TV’s “sweet spot” limited to directly in front of the TV, which can mar the entire experience.

However, the superior technology of LG OLED sets pulls everyone into the drama with the widest viewing angles available, and with more than a billion rich colors and perfect blacks, your guests will only see a lifelike, high-contrast image wherever they sit. LG has the largest selection of OLED TVs on the market. If you're interested in learning more, visit lg.com/us/oled-tvs.



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Ready, set, guests: 3 paint projects for fall...

(BPT) - 'Despite the hectic chaos that comes with the back-to-school season and adapting our family schedules, I find fall to be the perfect time to tackle my home to-do list,' explains Cyndy Aldred, the do-it-yourself paint blogger behind The Creativity Exchange. 'It's perfect because fall is our favorite time of year for entertaining!'

With kids in school and summer travels winding down, fall can be the perfect time to complete quick projects to get your home ready for fall social gatherings. Whether you're gearing up for the big game or hosting next month's book club, Aldred offers her favorite paint projects that are sure to wow your guests.

* Add instant curb appeal with painted porch furniture

Aldred loves the tried-and-true trick of painting your front door, but she recommends adding an even bigger pop of color with painted furniture. For her front-porch makeover, Aldred painted her porch bench using PPG Timeless exterior paint and primer in a soothing, soft grey, Silver Reflection (50BG 54/017), and added decorative pillows to create a warm and welcoming entrance for a gathering of friends. With an open front porch, Aldred made sure to use PPG Timeless paint, available at The Home Depot, because it provides good resistance to chipping or flaking and extreme weather conditions. 'I found out that this new line of paint uses UV-Protect Technology, which uses the same technology as automotive paint, so it won't fade in sunlight or dull over time,' says Aldred.

* Declutter your home with color

Busy fall schedules often mean more school bags, homework, sports equipment, crafts and holiday decorations around the house. Aldred recommends quickly tackling a cluttered area of your home with a fresh paint job. For example, if you have bookcases in your family room or glass-faced cabinets in your kitchen, Aldred suggests painting the backs of them in a standout color, like the PPG Timeless 2018 Color of the Year, Deep Onyx (00NN 07/000). 'I love this trick because of how the eye is drawn to the color and not the clutter that might be around or behind it,' says Aldred.

* Transform your favorite gathering space with a fresh coat of paint

Kitchens, living rooms and dining rooms are often favorite gathering spaces for friends and family in the home, so they are ideal spaces to make a great impression with a fresh coat of paint. 'People always gravitate to our dining room when we are entertaining,' says Aldred, 'so I love to freshen the space each year with a new paint color. It's one of the least expensive and easiest ways to get a new look, and I love using a one-coat product to make it even easier.' Aldred recently used PPG Timeless interior paint and primer in Bluegrass White (30GG 73/048) to update her dining room. For an on-trend look, she went with a flat finish. 'Contrary to popular opinion, a flat finish in a high-traffic entertaining space is durable if you select the right product,' explains Aldred. With the paint's outstanding washability, scrubbability and stain resistance, Aldred was sure it could withstand the wear and tear of countless social gatherings.

Perhaps it is time to embrace fall with a few fresh paint projects to impress your guests and make lasting improvements to your home. For more paint inspiration, visit Diy.PPG.com or www.TheCreativityExchange.com.



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Is BPA a thing of Halloween nightmares?

(BPT) - Now that fall is underway and you're already growing tired of all the pumpkin-flavored treats, Halloween must not be too far away. That means it's time to head to the store to pick up the trendiest Halloween decor to guarantee a shocked response from trick-or-treaters. But before you do, have you considered what some of these products are made of? Chances are, some may be polycarbonate plastic made with a safe, common chemical known as BPA.

BPA is a building-block chemical used to make a certain kind of plastic known as polycarbonate, which has unique properties that make products like flashlights lightweight and durable. And its shatter-resistance makes it ideal for use in LED lights to illuminate your Halloween-scape to guide trick-or-treaters to your doorstep.

Before heading to the store, take a look at some of the common ways BPA is used to keep trick-or-treaters spooky and safe on Halloween night:

* Flashlights - For trick-or-treaters, flashlights are a must-have to avoid losing their way. Polycarbonate gives flashlights their strong, shatter-resistant outer casing so trick-or-treaters can spook their way through their neighborhood late into the evening.

* Halloween decorations - Every neighborhood has one house that spares no expense when decorating for holidays throughout the year. But did you know many of those decorations would not be possible without polycarbonate? It makes those spooky plastic tombstones and skeletons durable and shatter-resistant.

* LED lights - To keep your jack-o'-lanterns burning bright into the night, LED lights have become the lights of choice. Polycarbonate plastic allows LED lights to be more durable and energy efficient as well as transparent.

Products made with polycarbonate help keep trick-or-treaters safe on Halloween night, and using BPA to make the polycarbonate for these products is safe as well. BPA is one of the most widely studied chemicals in use today, and when it comes to BPA used in food contact materials, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) answered the question, 'Is BPA safe?' with a clear answer - 'Yes.'

With Halloween fast approaching, rest assured your trick-or-treater will have a safe and fun Halloween thanks to polycarbonate made from BPA - which isn't so spooky after all!



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O Mythmas Tree! Debunking the Myths Behind the...

(BPT) - Here comes Santa Claus … and a sleigh full of confusion about Christmas trees. Better to buy real or better to buy artificial? Popular myths are that real trees are bad for the environment, artificial trees make more financial sense and real trees are just a hassle, but read on for some facts that will set the record straight and some thoughts that might turn your head on some of the more subjective sides of the debate.

If your No. 1 concern is the environment, your No. 1 choice should be a real tree. Growing, using and recycling real Christmas trees is good for the environment. Research shows that when compared on an annual basis, the artificial tree has three times more impacts on climate change and resource depletion than the natural tree. Real Christmas trees are biodegradable and can even be recycled or reused for mulch, and every year the circle of life continues. Artificial trees are petroleum-based products and most are imported from overseas. Many are thrown away seven to 10 years after they're purchased, and every year the landfills where they will stay (literally for centuries) get a little bit bigger.

Still don't like the idea of cutting down a tree? Remember that just like the Halloween pumpkin you carve with your kids or the fresh-cut flowers you buy for a loved one on special occasions, real Christmas trees are farmer-planted and hand-harvested specifically for people to enjoy. And, for every real Christmas tree harvested, a new tree is planted.

If it's your wallet that worries you, keep in mind that it's no surprise that artificial things frequently cost less than real things. True, not everyone agrees 'you get what you pay for,' but there's a second economic case to be made for buying a real Christmas tree: Real Christmas trees provide real business for real farmers. Fully 100 percent of real Christmas trees sold in the U.S. are grown in North America.

Every choice is a trade-off. What you gain with the ease of an artificial tree, you lose in the experience of a real tree. To be fair, this is subjective. But years from now, which do you think you'll remember more warmly: assembling a plastic tree you pulled out of the attic that looks exactly the same year after year, or bringing home and decorating a real tree that you enjoyed hunting for with your friends and family? Selecting a real Christmas tree makes memories. The hunt for a real Christmas tree can create an experience - everything from the scent to the search - that simply can't be manufactured and that no artificial tree can replace.

Ultimately, with all of the myths aside, a real Christmas tree is a choice you can be proud of. Whether you prefer to shop at a neighborhood store, local farm, seasonal lot or even online, there's a real Christmas tree available for everyone. For more information, visit Facebook.com/ItsChristmasKeepItReal.



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Prevent falls this fall with a home safety...

(BPT) - After months of sticky heat and humidity, it's time to put away the shorts and pull out the sweaters because the autumn season is finally here. But, late September brings us more than just cooler temperatures and a wardrobe change. If you or a loved one are over the age of 65, the change in seasons is also an opportunity to think about another kind of fall - the kind that impacts one in four older Americans every year - and the steps we can all take to help prevent them.

According to the National Council on Aging, falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and account for the majority of emergency room visits for older adults. More than 75 percent of falls happen in or around the house, but fortunately there are ways to evaluate our loved ones' homes and make them safer for everyday living.

Use the checklist below, based on suggestions from the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to help guide your review of the exterior and interior of the property. Many of the safety measures listed can be made at little to no cost, but more significant modifications could require a considerable investment.

Keep in mind, there are financial options available for seniors who want to modify their homes to meet their changing needs. Area Agencies on Aging, state and local governments, and some nonprofits offer grants, loans or other assistance programs for eligible seniors in need of home repairs and modifications.

Older homeowners may also want to consider using a reverse mortgage loan to convert a portion of their home's equity into cash proceeds that can be used for many reasons, including home modifications and maintenance. Unlike a home equity loan, a reverse mortgage requires no monthly principal or interest payments and cannot be frozen or reset.

Borrowers do not have to repay the loan balance until the last eligible spouse permanently leaves the home, or if they fail to meet their loan obligations, which include staying current on property taxes, insurance and any condominium or HOA fees.

For a comprehensive overview of reverse mortgage loans and a Borrower Roadmap to the loan process, visit http://www.reversemortgage.org/Your-Roadmap, a free consumer resource created by the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association.

Home Safety Checklist

Start on the outside:

* Make sure the driveway and any paved walkways are smooth and stable. Seal any cracks before more damage is created. Crumbling or uneven concrete surfaces should be repaired.

* Porch and deck flooring should be flat, even and nonslip. Any loose or broken floorboards should be nailed down or replaced.

* Outdoor steps should have sturdy, easily graspable handrails.

* The porch and entryway should be well-lit and light switches should be easily accessible.

* Consider whether the doorway to the home can be converted to a no-step entrance way. There are many creative ways to achieve this.

Check out the inside:

* Floors should be flat and nonslip; floorboards should be stable and carpets should be free of holes and tears that could create a tripping hazard.

* Throw rugs should be fully fastened to the floor with tacks or double-sided tape, or taken out of the house.

* All stairs and steps should be flat and even, and clutter should be removed.

* Add nonslip treads to stairs that are not carpeted.

* Stairways should have solidly mounted handrails on both sides of the steps if possible, and should be well-lit.

* If you or your loved ones face mobility challenges and stairs are an obstacle to accessing different levels of the home, consider installing a chairlift that will enable them to enjoy all the rooms in the house again.



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Bringing sustainability home is as easy as ABC

(BPT) - With 67 percent of consumers from across the globe preferring products from sustainable sources, according to a recent Nielsen survey, creating a more sustainable home is the new normal. From buying down and feather products to repairing leaky pipes, making your home more sustainable is as easy as the ABCs. Here are three small ways you can make a big difference (and spare your wallet) when it comes to the sustainability of our world:

A is for AUDIT

Do a home energy audit by checking your windows and doors for air leakage, and by checking your pipes - faucets, toilet flappers and valves - for any leaks.

Air leakage from windows and doors can impact your home's energy use. The United States Department of Energy claims sealing uncontrolled air leaks will save you 10 to 20 percent on your heating and cooling bills. Check your home for drafty windows and doors and discuss leak prevention options, such as weather strips and caulk, with your local hardware store.

Fixing leaky pipes can prevent gallons of water from being lost every day. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency states that tightening pipes and repairing leaks can prevent the average household from leaking 10,000 gallons of water per year. These types of leaks are often easy to fix, which can save homeowners about 10 percent on their water bills.

B is for BEDDING

Changing your bedding to down and feather can help reduce your heating bill. Down and feather pillows, comforters, duvets and mattress toppers provide superior warmth, which in turn lets you lower the thermostat. You can save as much as 10 percent on your heating bill, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, by lowering the thermostat by 10 to 15 degrees while you sleep.

Better yet, down and feathers are a natural byproduct of the food industry. So recycling them into warm comforters means the down and feathers do not end up in our global landfills. Since down and feathers are a natural fill material, they have a lower carbon footprint than products made from synthetic fill materials. They are biodegradable and can be composted along with your food scraps or yard trimmings. Not to mention down and feather products are long-lasting with a lightweight feel, so you don't have to replace them as often. For more information about the sustainable benefits of down and feather products, visit the American Down and Feather Council website at www.DownandFeatherCouncil.com.

C is for COMPOST

Composting is the practice of recycling decomposed organic material waste with manure to turn it into rich soil. By composting in your own backyard, nutrients are restored into the ground and less waste ends up in landfills, waterways and water treatment facilities. What's more: landfills cause organic waste to generate greenhouse gasses, so methane emissions are greatly reduced when waste is composted. This practice can also help you save money, since it allows you to purchase fewer soil conditioners and bagged manures for your property. By using down and feather, a byproduct of the food industry, along with creating your own compost by using vegetable scraps, you can make composting a core part of your lifestyle.

These simple steps make it easy to reduce the carbon footprint of your home, and contribute to the overall sustainability of our Earth. By following the ABCs and making these small changes in your everyday life, not only will you be doing something good for our planet, you'll be helping out your wallet as well!



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This fall, make home upgrades with staying power

(BPT) - Fall can be the perfect time for homeowners to complete projects that busy summer schedules didn't allow. It's also a great time to look at ways to add lasting value to your property. This season, upgrade cheap fixes, freshen dated looks and incorporate lasting improvements in your home. Changes that can bring impact and also increase the resale potential of your home include:

Lose the linoleum

Linoleum has been popular in many homes since the 1950s, but these days it's not the only flooring option for durability and waterproofing in areas like the kitchen and bath. Wood-look tile has become hugely popular, and the style isn't going anywhere. Retailers like Lumber Liquidators carry an array of wood-look porcelain tile, vinyl and engineered flooring products that are versatile, water- and stain-resistant and fit with any decor.

Upgrade laminate countertops

Particleboard and laminate are affordable options, but not ones that will create impact in the kitchen. These days the options are vast for elevating countertops with butcher block, quartz, marble, concrete and more. Create a cohesive look with countertops matched to the cabinets. Updating hardware can also be an economical way to freshen the space and tie the look together.

Scrape popcorn ceilings

Common in many homes because they're easy to apply, popcorn ceilings are often one of the first things a new homebuyer wants to change. If you're looking to sell, scraping the popcorn in favor of a smooth look may win over prospective buyers. Always test popcorn ceilings for asbestos before you start.

Rethink wallpaper

Wallpaper had its day, but many new homeowners want it gone - and that's not always an easy update. Save the headache now and later and opt for neutral paint styles while bringing interest and color with your décor. Whites and neutral paints for walls and trim brighten a space and make it appear bigger.

No more wall-to-wall carpeting

Many homeowners can't wait to get rid of old, dirty and dated carpets in favor of the quality, reliability and beauty of hardwood and wood-look floors. Now there are a variety of hardwoods, bamboo and wood-look flooring styles to choose from, and it's possible to achieve the look of hardwood at an accessible price point.

The best part of making improvements like these now is that homeowners can enjoy them all winter long, and far beyond. And you'll increase the odds the next generation will love your home, too.



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Artisanal elegance for curated design in the...

(BPT) - Original, handcrafted décor brings an artisanal elegance to today's modern kitchen. Designers and homeowners alike are incorporating more one-of-a-kind pieces that bring an individualized artisanship to the heart of the home. These unique fittings and fixtures adapt to multiple style preferences, from modern and contemporary urban design to rustic elegance. When it comes to the kitchen space, handmade furniture and accessories coupled with exposed natural materials infuse a sense of artistry for unmatched style.

Authentic elegance

Handcrafted materials make for eye-catching pieces in the kitchen. An island created from reclaimed wood transforms a functional aspect of the room into a beautiful piece of art. Live-edge countertops invigorate the wood grain and serve as a centerpiece for entertaining. A hammered copper sink paired with rich gold accessories doubles as a stunning complement to earth tones. Extend wood elements throughout the entire space with exposed beams and open shelving for a unified look.

Refined fittings

Deemed the jewel of the kitchen, the faucet serves as a focal point that brings all elements of the space together. The Litze Kitchen Collection by Brizo is inspired by the revival of the arts and crafts movement to meld artisan style with clean and contemporary sensibility. Every design element - from the three distinct spout configurations to the unique handle options - makes this collection feel at home in both modern, minimal environments and urban, industrial spaces. The Brilliance Luxe Gold and split Matte Black/Brilliance Luxe Gold finishes effortlessly bring luxury and style, while knurling details add textured appeal to any artisanal kitchen design.

Curated accents

Hand-painted accessories serve as beautiful statements in the kitchen with each piece containing a story as unique as the individual who created it. Whether decorated with bold colors or a muted palette, hand-painted accessories create striking displays of authenticity and originality. Use these pieces to adorn open shelves or feature them as table centerpieces to further accentuate a curated artisanal design.

Custom hardware

Custom drawer pulls and handles make a powerful statement in kitchen design. While seemingly small, these pieces unite all elements in the room's aesthetic. Handles wrapped in leather bring both textural and visual appeal, while hand-carved wooden pulls cater to rustic elements when paired with exposed brick or mineral gray countertops.



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Inspirational tips for autumn outdoor entertaining

(BPT) - The days are shorter, the temperatures are cooler and kids are back in school. You've said goodbye to summer socials, but that doesn't mean it's time to put away your apron and stow the patio furniture. Autumn is one of the best times of the year for outdoor entertaining, and with a few smart tips you'll fall in love with hosting fall gatherings.

Extend the fun feeling of summer entertaining into the autumn months by taking a few simple steps to create a memorable experience.

Switch up dishes: The cool dishes of summer should be swapped with savory recipes that feature hearty ingredients. A roast or slow-cooker meal is the perfect option. Visit the farmers market and feature local fresh harvest foods. In addition to standard drinks like water and soda, offer a signature warm beverage, such as spicy hot apple cider.

Enjoy the night: Autumn evenings are spectacular, with cool temperatures and star-studded skies. Serve dinner al fresco and then ask guests to stay to gather around the bonfire to roast marshmallows and make s'mores. Add an element of entertainment and guests will enjoy themselves all night.

Make movie magic: To really wow guests, host an outdoor movie experience day or night. The LG ProBeam smart TV laser projector has an HD picture of up to 120 inches with impressive visibility, sharp contrast and rich blacks, even when there is abundant ambient light. Plus, with the award-winning webOS Smart TV platform, you can stream your favorite services just like on a smart TV, creating a seamless viewing (and hosting) experience.

Set up superior sound: Whether you're setting the mood with some music or enhancing the movie-viewing experience, a high-quality speaker makes entertaining easy. The LG LOUDR FH6 is a 600W Bluetooth speaker system that can fill your room (or backyard) with booming audio. Plus, with the Karaoke Creator feature, you can suppress the vocal frequencies of any song to turn it into a karaoke track, which is sure to be a hit with kids and adults alike.

Mind the weather: Fall weather can change drastically throughout a day. Encourage guests to dress in layers so that attire for daylight fun can transition into warmer wear for evening hours. What's more, keep a couple extra jackets on hand just in case people forget and need a light coat.

Create a cozy atmosphere: Whether you're watching a movie, star gazing or sitting around the bonfire, help guests stay warm by setting out a variety of throw blankets and outdoor pillows. Nothing encourages guests to cozy up and stay longer than a big blanket, a fun flick and a mug of something warm.

Light the night: Cloudy days or early evening hours don't have to ruin your good time. Add a soft glow and an element of safety by adding string lights to railings and pathways. For kids attending the party, bracelet and necklace glow lights are always a big hit. For bonfire and movie spaces, add a basket of flashlights guests can use as needed.

Perfect parting gifts: If you decide to offer favors when guests depart, embrace the fall feeling and consider goodies they can savor later while reminiscing about your party. Mini apple or pumpkin pies are cute and creative. Caramel apples are a tasty autumn delight. A container featuring a variety of tea will keep them warm all season long.

Once you try autumn entertaining it might become your favorite time of year to host friends and family. With these tips, everyone is guaranteed to have a splendid time.



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Tricks of the trade: How to maximize your...

(BPT) - Considering a kitchen renovation but not sure how to get the most out of your space and budget? Expert tips can help you focus your plans so you get the kitchen of your dreams for less money and less stress.

"Redesigning your kitchen is a big investment," says A-list designer Nate Berkus, Artistic Advisor of LG STUDIO line. "It's not just about the money; you're also investing a lot of time and emotion. There are so many decisions to make, and you want them to be the right ones. You also want to create a space that reflects the people who live there. A well-designed kitchen needs to be functional and personalized.'

That's a heavy order, but Berkus offers advice to cut through the confusion by providing seven tips for a smart kitchen renovation that any homeowner can follow.

Be realistic and research

Berkus suggests that homeowners start with a realistic assessment of their budget and a wish list. After nailing those down, spend some time online looking for images that best reflect your personal style.

"There is so much design inspiration out there: Instagram, Pinterest, design blogs, and so many others," says Berkus. "Find out what you are drawn to and what catches your eye. Ask yourself how you want to live in the space and what's most important to you. The design needs to support that."

Invest where it counts

Appliances are expensive, but you want to buy the very best you can afford. Considering how much use they get and how long you want them to last, it's a worthwhile investment. 'The new LG STUDIO line that I helped design features pro-style design elements that instantly make a kitchen feel high-end,' says Berkus.

Stretch your renovation dollars

"It's the old adage, don't throw the baby out with the bathwater," says Berkus. "If your cabinets are in good condition, you can save a ton of money by painting them. When it comes to flooring, don't rip it out if you can refinish. Save where you can and then you can spend more of your budget on things that you really love, and are more important, like the appliances."

Add personal touches

For dressing up your kitchen, shop your home and use things you already own. "Objects from your travels, framed photographs, ceramic bowls or handwoven baskets are all things that personalize a space and make it feel layered," says Berkus.

Enhance small spaces

To maximize small spaces, do something unexpected. "Could the cabinets be painted dark gray or black? Could you use some un-lacquered brass hardware for shine? Can you add a backsplash in antique or aged mirror?" Berkus says.

Divide big spaces into zones

To get the most out of a larger kitchen, Berkus suggests using a zone approach. "For example, the island and its location will determine where the appliances sit," he says. "In addition, a large open kitchen allows the opportunity to add an eat-in area. Why not add a built-in banquette upholstered in easy-to-clean materials like outdoor fabric or leather?"

Think long-term

For an investment that lasts, Berkus says to err on the side of classic elements and finishes like stone, nickel, brass, steel, painted shaker cabinets and subway tile. "One of my go-to's is LG's Black Stainless Steel finish. It's both sophisticated, functional and will up the design ante in any kitchen. It is also fingerprint- and smudge-resistant, making it perfect for families."

Need more renovation inspiration? Check out the LG STUDIO Virtual Designer Tool to experiment with different styles and appliance combinations to create your dream kitchen.



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5 kitchen upgrades to make your inner host...

(BPT) - You love entertaining and treating guests to delectable dishes and fun times. Unfortunately, your kitchen layout, appliances and even the faucet are so downright unappealing that the thought of planning and preparing a party menu is equally unpleasant.

What do you do when you're built to entertain, but your kitchen is not? Renovate!

Reason to renovate

The kitchen is a favorite room to remodel, and a minor kitchen refresh can return more than 80 percent of your investment at the time of resale, according to Remodeling Magazine's Cost vs. Value report. But ROI isn't the top reason people renovate kitchens. According to the 2017 Houzz Kitchen Trends Study, most people who remodel their kitchen do so because they just can't stand it anymore.

So, if you love playing host but don't like the kitchen that stands in the way of your entertaining, revamping the room is the perfect way to make it more party-friendly.

Renovating for entertainment

Here are five upgrades that can help make your kitchen the perfect platform for entertaining:

1. Give yourself some space. If you've decided to go all in for your kitchen renovation, and have an older home with a closed-off kitchen, consider opening the space to the home's main living area. If your home already has an open floor plan, consider ways to tie the kitchen more intimately to the living area, such as continuing one style of flooring through both rooms, or repeating an accent color in the kitchen and adjacent common space.

2. Work smarter with a new faucet. The sink is a key point in the workflow triangle for any kitchen, and the faucet should take center stage in this performance. A contemporary faucet with task-driven spray patterns is a must for entertaining, but wouldn't an extra pair of hands also be great to have with the flurry of pre-party activities? An easy and quick solution is a hands-free faucet, such as the American Standard Beale kitchen faucet with Selectronic technology, which allows you to turn water on or off without the need to touch the faucet. This touchless technology makes food prep easier, while also helping to prevent cross-contamination of foods.

Taking hands-free technology one step further, the addition of a sleek, European-styled GROHE kitchen faucet with Foot Control allows you to control the flow of water with a tap of your toe at the base of the sink cabinet. Now it will be super simple to fill a big pot or rinse off a large skillet, using both hands to hold it securely while turning on the water at the same time.

3. Upgrade appliances. Depending on your budget, you can find appliances to help with virtually every aspect of entertaining, from dishwashers that entirely eliminate the need to pre-rinse, to refrigerators that help compile your grocery list. Even on a modest budget, you can improve on your current appliances, especially if they are older and less energy efficient. Double stoves are great for cooking a lot of food for large groups of guests, warming drawers keep food warm until ready to serve, and beverage drawers ensure you'll always have enough refreshments for everyone.

4. Choose cleaning-friendly surfaces. Did you ever wonder why stainless steel sinks continue to be a popular choice in kitchens, regardless of the room's decor? It's because stainless steel sinks not only look good, they also retain their beauty longer by resisting stains and scratches. Plus, drop-in and undermount stainless steel sinks from American Standard offer both single and double bowl options for simplifying kitchen tasks. Picking dirt and germ-busting surfaces like stainless steel, stone countertops, ceramic tile, etc., can help make it easier to keep your kitchen clean, leaving you more time for entertaining.

5. Create an island paradise. The standalone island has become a must-have for entertainment-minded homeowners. An island can serve multiple purposes when throwing a party, from providing extra workspace or hosting a second sink, to giving guests a seat closer to the action. You can even choose a multi-level island that will allow you to interact with guests while concealing work areas and sinks from view.

If your kitchen has been holding you back from blossoming into the host of your dreams, these easy upgrades can help the room better match your personality and entertainment needs.



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5 fabulous deck fix-ups

(BPT) - Are you tired of having a deck you're no longer proud to show off? You're not alone. According to the 2017 U.S. Houzz Landscape Trends Study, one of the top reasons motivating homeowners to tackle outdoor projects like deck upgrades is their open-air space is past its prime.

If you're like surveyed respondents and ready to return your fixer-upper to its former glory, the process may seem daunting. Fortunately, a little inspiration is all you need to transform your deck into a backyard beauty. With these fabulous fix-ups, your deck will be re-energized in no time.

1. Refresh your color palette

One of the easiest ways to transform a ho-hum deck into a stylish oasis is an updated color palette. Refreshing the look of outdoor accessories and furnishings is a simple and cost-effective solution. MidwestLiving.com says, 'Focusing on one or two colors adds a unifying feel to your décor. Punchy blue and green furnishings brighten the deck while not distracting from the view.' You can even swap out fabrics, accent pillows and cushions as the seasons change to keep your outdoor room looking fresh all year long.

If you're increasing the size of your deck, consider choosing decking in a color that complements your home. It will help ease the visual transition from indoors to out and create a beautiful base for planters and deck furnishings. If you are looking to make a statement, consider varying the color of deck boards, inserting feature strips or using contrasting railings to frame your outdoor room.

2. Landscape your deck-escape

To create a deck-escape that draws guests in, integrate landscaping into your design. Start small by lining your deck with planters, curving flowerbeds and grasses. A punchy mix of seasonal annuals and perennials will help encourage visitors to explore your outdoor living space. Or, go a step further and use today's versatile, moisture-resistant composite decking products to turn your deck into an extension of your garden. With proper installation, the boards can easily curve around trees or flower beds to blend your deck into its natural surroundings.

3. Provide pretty privacy

There's no reason to give up style and comfort on your deck just because you want privacy, especially if your neighbors are within close quarters. Trellises, lattices and vertical gardens can screen an exposed view and freshen up your outdoor room. Nature can also act as a beautiful barrier. Slender evergreens like arborvitae can establish a relaxed sense of privacy and create a soft, lush backdrop. You can even add different shade-providing trees near your deck, creating a secluded space with a more intimate feel.

4. Build a beautiful addition

If your outdoor room is limiting the number of guests you can entertain, a new deck addition may be just the right fix. You'll gain extra square feet and valuable space for themed outdoor areas. Try bumping your deck out on one side to make a basic square deck more interesting and gain room for an al fresco dining area or a spa-themed deck nook with a hot tub. With the right decking materials, you can even add a meandering garden path deck or curved getaway encircling a water feature.

'Composite decking with a plastic and wood blend throughout the board like ChoiceDek can be ripped, routed and bent to fit nearly any deck design,' says Randy Gottlieb, president of A.E.R.T. 'The boards are easier to curve than capped composites and traditional wood planks. They give homeowners a lot more design flexibility at an affordable price point.'

5. Create on-deck destinations

To give your outdoor room a lasting edge, create on-deck destination areas that go beyond eating and socializing. Love gardening? Build a vertical garden or use extra deck boards to create planter boxes that allow you to pass on your 'green thumb' to your children. If you're a DIYer, use complementary decking to create a corn hole set for birthday parties and gatherings. With a spark of inspiration, the possibilities for reinventing your outdoor space are virtually endless.



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How to Tackle a Dust-Free Renovation

(BPT) - Kristen Johnson* loved her home, her family and their active lifestyle. She'd never want to change a thing - except for her foyer and adjoining dining room. When she and her husband first moved into their home, they had intended to refinish the hardwood floors in those areas in a darker stain to better fit their style, but life got in the way. Twelve years, two boys and countless birthday parties, pets and indoor soccer games later, their floors were covered in scuffs, scratches and stains, and some of their walls needed repair. To complicate matters even further, they had a wraparound staircase with a wood-tone banister that would also need to be refinished if they decided to change their floor.

With their big family reunion and a house full of people just weeks away, Johnson and her husband knew it was time to make a change. However, they couldn't afford to disrupt their busy schedules, and they didn't want to deal with the hassle of renovation dust getting all over their ceiling fans, cupboards or worse - especially with their son's dust allergies. They knew if they decided to take on this renovation project, they'd need it finished quickly, and they'd need the entire project to be as dust-free as possible.

What's the big deal about renovation dust? Beyond creating a huge mess, renovation dust is also a health concern. As any homeowner who has embarked on an interior renovation project knows, the resultant dust gets everywhere - even inside closed cabinets and in adjacent rooms. However, as problematic as the mess is, dust-related health hazards are of even greater concern, particularly to allergy sufferers. Traditional methods of mitigating dust usually involve extensive prep work, like hanging plastic sheeting and taping off doors, or doing a thorough post-renovation top-to-bottom cleaning. Both options are extremely time-consuming.

Is there a better way to handle renovation dust? There is a better way to handle renovation dust: by collecting it right at the source like the pros do. Professional contractors are used to dealing with renovation dust, and given the volume of work they do, they create dust far more frequently and in much greater volumes than the average homeowner or DIYer. Rather than spend valuable time on prep work or post-project cleanup or suffer through the use of uncomfortable dust masks, they use dust collection tools that capture and contain dust immediately as it's created, before it can become a mess or airborne health hazard.

How Johnson tackled her dust-free renovation. Because of their tight timeline, Johnson and her husband decided to take on some of their renovation themselves using supplies purchased at their local hardware store, but they let the professionals handle the tricky floor/banister redo.

To repair their drywall, they patched the damaged areas using joint compound and a drywall sander, which together cost about $130. To make the sanding process dust-free, they added a Dust Deputy, which they connected directly to the drywall sander and to their wet/dry vacuum. They found that this combination captured virtually all the dust generated by the sanding. They noticed no dust in the air, and the Dust Deputy prevented the fine drywall dust from clogging their vacuum filter.

Even though they had the flooring contractor tackle the floor and banister, they saved a few dollars by removing the varnish from the banister and other hard-to-reach areas themselves. To do this, they applied a gel varnish remover using a brush (together about $20), then scraped the wet varnish residue using a Viper Scraper attached to their Dust Deputy and wet/dry vacuum. The scraper captured the residue, and the Dust Deputy contained it for disposal, without it ever reaching, or damaging, their vacuum.

Their big splurge was on the floor refinishing, which they left to the pros to tackle (about $2,500). To keep that process dust-free, they selected a dust-free contractor in their area who used a cyclonic Oneida Vortex dust collection system with HEPA filtration. In the end, they finished the project virtually dust-free and just in time for their family reunion, and they were very pleased with the results!

*Kristen's last name has been changed for privacy.



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Shared housework may be the true language of...

(BPT) - The key to a better relationship may not be in long walks on the beach or romantic dinners, it may actually be in discovering how your partner values chores. According to recent studies, chores have a direct impact on relationships more than previously thought.

For example, a recent survey of 1,000 Americans age 18 and older, commissioned by home appliance leader LG Electronics, found 58 percent believe someone who's good at chores, like folding sheets, is also more likely to be better between the sheets.

Cleaning is caring

Would you feel more appreciated when your partner does household chores or buys you a gift? Among Americans with a live-in partner, nearly half (48 percent) would rather receive a free pass from chores for a month than designer jewelry or tickets to a big game (52 percent).

To improve your relationship with chores, consider delegating according to your priorities. For example, if one partner hates the sight of dishes in the sink while the other can't stand spots on the bathroom mirror, the sink-minder can load the dishwasher while the spot-hater takes care of wiping up the bathroom vanity. There's no better way to say 'I love you' than a sink free of dishes and a spotless mirror.

Sorry with suds

Do you prefer to come home to a clean house after a feud rather than to a romantic dinner? Clean dishes, vacuumed floors and folded laundry are preferred over an apology by most Americans. In fact, nearly one in five Americans would rather have a partner do household chores after a fight than apologize.

Get help with saying 'sorry' from appliances that make cleaning chores easier, like the LG QuadWash(TM) dishwasher. It uses four high-pressure spray arms instead of the standard two to get dishes clean the first time, without the need to pre-rinse before placing items in the dishwasher. Plus, this ENERGY STAR-rated dishwasher is Wi-Fi enabled and uses smart technology to improve energy- and water-efficiency. Say sorry and save enough time to still grab flowers on your way home.

Good, clean flirting

Have you ever bragged to your partner about cleaning the bathroom or doing the dishes? Women (57 percent) are more likely than men (46 percent) to get turned on when their partner does a chore.

Couples should discuss division of housework and establish a plan for who will do what. Don't focus on a 50-50 split. Instead, emphasize working together as a team, and looking at chores as teamwork, rather than 'your work' and 'my work.' This can also be a way to spend time together while having some good, clean fun.

Payback is a dish

Have you ever purposely mixed your partner's laundry after a fight? Surprisingly, you're not alone. One in four admit to messing up their partner's laundry intentionally when angry with their significant other.

While seeking revenge through household chores may seem like a relatively harmless way to express anger, try more constructive ways to communicate.

If your partner is one to leave dirty dishes in the sink as revenge, it's ok because loading the dishwasher is a breeze with the LG QuadWash. Thanks to its new EasyRack(TM) Plus technology, you can quickly and easily adjust the height of your dish rack with the push of a button, making it great for pots and pans or stemware.

While every couple is unique, it turns out the love of shared chores is fairly common - and it may just be that housework is the true language of love.



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5 smart technology upgrades to make the...

(BPT) - Smart technology has found a place in virtually every room in the home, even the one where we take care of our most low-tech needs. In fact, thanks to innovations like sensor-operated, self-cleaning toilets, moisture-sensing ventilation fans and digital shower controls, it's possible to turn an ordinary bathroom into the brainiest room in the house.

If you're ready to upgrade your bathroom with the latest smart technology, here are five elements to put at the top of your must-have list:

1. Smarter shower

From showerheads with light and sound, to digital temperature and water pressure controls that you can set from your smartphone, an array of high-tech features is available to elevate the simple act of getting clean to the level of a luxurious, high-tech experience.

You can find something for every preference. Love to shower at night? Install a showerhead that features its own lighting. Dislike fiddling with the controls every morning to get just the right temperature? Opt for digital temperature controls that allow for multiple pre-settings for individual users. Focused on conservation? Try a showerhead that senses what you're doing - washing your hair, shaving your legs - and automatically adjusts the water flow accordingly.

2. Intelligent toilet

A toilet that cleans itself is a dream come true for many people, but TOTO boosts the intelligence of its NEOREST AC wall-mount toilet even higher. The intelligent toilet features a WASHLET personal cleansing system that uses warm, aerated water for comfort, a warm air dryer and a heated seat. An automatic opening and closing function and auto-flush ensure you never have to touch the toilet.

The toilet keeps itself (and the environment in your bathroom) clean with a flushing system that uses an environmentally friendly combination of gravity and high-speed water jets to spin away waste, while an in-bowl catalytic deodorizer helps keep the air fresh. The bowl itself is glazed with titanium dioxide and zirconium, which when activated by the toilet's integrated UV light, creates molecular reactions that help keep the bowl free from visible and invisible waste.

Not only will you not need harsh detergents to clean the toilet, it's is also WaterSense labelled, and uses just 1.28 gallons per flush (gpf) for solid waste and 0.9 gpf for liquid. Visit www.totousa.com to learn more.

3. Versatile ventilation

Bathroom ventilation fans serve practical and cosmetic purposes. Ventilation removes moisture and humidity that could promote the growth of mold and mildew, and can help exhaust unpleasant odors. Of course, not everyone puts ventilation to its optimum use, and that's where a new style of bathroom fan comes in.

Ventilation fans that sense humidity - such as after someone has taken a long, hot shower - turn on automatically to help remove excess moisture from the room. Some fans can communicate wirelessly with wall switches or with an app that allows you to control the fan from your smartphone.

4. Multi-tasking mirror

Mirrors and medicine cabinets aren't just for reflection anymore. Now you can kit out your smart bathroom with mirrors that feature built-in TVs and can communicate with your home's security cameras, and medicine cabinets with defogging features that can let you get to your post-shower shave faster.

Refrigerated medicine cabinets are perfect for preserving delicate drugs and cosmetics, and you can find both mirrors and medicine cabinets with built-in USB ports for charging your devices.

5. Advanced accessories

Of course accessories can be additions that put any bathroom over the top, and you never have to settle for ordinary accessories in your smarter bathroom. Enhance the usability and convenience of your bathroom with items like:

* A small robot that mops floor tiles automatically.

* A Bluetooth-enabled toothbrush that communicates with your smartphone to monitor how well you've brushed.

* A smart scale that helps you track your weight and health progress.

* Touch-free soap dispensers.

* A towel rack that uses hot air and ultraviolet light to dry towels and keep them fresh longer.

By upgrading to tech-savvy versions of everyday bathroom elements like toilets, faucets and showers, it's possible to make your bathroom not only one of the most-used rooms in the house, but the smartest as well.



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Focus on a single element to get the feel of a...

(BPT) - Dreaming of a renovation but lacking the time and resources for a full upgrade? You might be able to refresh your space by focusing your efforts on individual elements that have the most impact.

This growing interior design trend uses a thoughtful approach to renovation by analyzing what should be replaced to achieve the desired aesthetic. At the heart of this movement is the idea that a strong, singular update can change a room dramatically.

That means you can revamp your favorite rooms without investing in a complete remodel. For example, a new chandelier in the entryway might be the statement piece you need to welcome guests in style. Or, rather than ripping out the dining room, explore how a new dining set with table and chairs can change the entire personality of the space.

When investing in singular pieces to enhance a room, custom features reign supreme. The Laura Kirar KALLISTA collection from Kohler is a great example. Kirar, an internationally renowned designer, marries the beauty of natural elements with the pureness of line and symmetry in the collection's bath vanity, mirror and sconces.

Have you grown weary of your tired bathroom design? Mixing and matching various materials lets you make a personal statement in any room. With the KALLISTA Paletta line you can customize the look by choosing from five different finish combinations. For example, nickel and antique silver blend beautifully together by evoking a stylish design element of warm and cool tones that creates personality and character within the room.

Not only do the mixed finishes add visual impact, but when you pair Paletta brassware with a marble top console table, you create a stunning effect that immediately captures attention no matter how big or small the space. This singular update can revamp a dated master bath or enhance a bland powder room - no massive remodel necessary.

Light is another element that can redefine a space, yet it's often overlooked when approaching a room refresh. Remember to look at lighting from different perspectives. Analyze natural lighting against installed ambient, task and accent lighting. Note fixtures and consider the impact of updating sconces and shades that are no longer en vogue. It might be just what's needed in the various spaces throughout your home.

When you take a step back and take stock of your surroundings, do so with a fresh set of eyes and see the possibilities. A complete update may not be necessary. Do your research, focus on singular elements with the most impact, and invest in luxurious features that stand the test of time. With this approach, you can change any room's setting beautifully without committing to an entire renovation.



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Turn your basic backyard into an outdoor oasis

(BPT) - Summer's in full swing, but are you truly making the most of it? Creating a vibrant outdoor space can expand the living area of your home, while providing a unique venue for entertaining or relaxation, allowing you to enjoy every free moment to the fullest.

From the ultimate sports bar to a zen paradise, the outdoor design possibilities are endless and can be customized to meet your priorities, be it entertaining friends and family or creating the perfect tranquil retreat. As a leader in home comfort for nearly 40 years, Napoleon has extensive expertise in designing products and environments that help create memorable moments that last a lifetime. The company recently enlisted a third-party research firm to help examine the connection people have to different areas of their home and outdoor spaces, and how the design of those spaces can have a direct impact on emotions.

'The research shows the most-loved areas of the home combine relaxation, socialization and functionality,' said Stephen Schroeter, Napoleon's senior vice president of sales and marketing. 'Outdoor spaces provide a great opportunity to accommodate all three, yet they are still vastly underutilized by most homeowners.'

Following are Schroeter's top tips for creating the outdoor oasis of your dreams:

1. Add an outdoor kitchen - Outdoor kitchens are growing in popularity, and for good reason. Not only do they meet a basic need, but they do so in a fun, engaging atmosphere. No one wants to be stuck inside preparing a meal when the party is out under the sun - or stars. The showpiece of every great outdoor kitchen is a quality, professional grill, which can be freestanding, or built-in to save on space. Napoleon's Prestige PRO Series grills are packed with features for professional-level grilling right in your own backyard. Innovative products like the OASIS Outdoor Kitchen allow you to personalize your outdoor area with a cooking and storage solution that fits your space and your budget. Other culinary considerations include outdoor refrigerators or beer dispensers to keep beverages cold and flowing freely, pizza ovens and sinks for easy clean-up.

2. Establish a gathering place - One of the most important features of an outdoor space are areas for socialization. A central location with a variety of seating options creates a welcoming atmosphere. Adding the element of fire to a space sparks emotion, provides a focal point, and enables the space to be used later into the season. Consider a built-in fireplace or a fire pit that can be moved to different locations depending on your needs.

3. Create privacy, divided zones - Escape the hustle and bustle while making your space feel more intimate with the use of barriers like large plants or trees, a pergola, or privacy panels. Designing distinct spaces with divided zones helps create the feel of a secluded getaway and gives each area purpose.

4. Design for all the senses - Our favorite spaces are those that delight all the senses. In addition to designing a comfortable, beautiful space, consider adding outdoor speakers for music that sets the mood, or a water feature that eliminates street noise. Relax and enjoy the delicious smell of grilling or the experience of roasting marshmallows over an open flame. Consider adding fragrant bushes to fill the night with a sweet scent. Get creative.

5. Add accents - Small touches can go a long way. Personalize your space with items that define your style and personality or focus on a fun theme. Don't be afraid to add bold pops of color - your outdoor living area is a great place to explore a more adventurous design than you might consider inside your home.

It's never too late to transform your backyard into a welcoming oasis. For more outdoor design ideas, visit http://napoleonfireplaces.com/inspiration/outdoor-spaces.



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Tricks to customize a kitchen on a budget

(BPT) - Who wouldn't want a kitchen customized to meet their specific tastes and needs? A complete kitchen renovation can cost tens of thousands of dollars, but you don't have to spend a bundle to achieve a custom effect. A few modest investments can help make your kitchen work well and look great.

Here are ways to affordably customize your kitchen:

Get creative with cabinets

Completely replacing cabinets can be costly, but it's possible to create a custom look with the cabinets you already have. Customization tricks to try:

* Paint cabinets a trendy color, like dark blue. Or, paint one set of cabinets, such as those under an island, a different color.

* Remove the doors from one cupboard to create an open effect where you can display prized showpieces. Further accent the look by painting the back of the cupboard a contrasting color.

* Replace dated or dull hardware with drawer pulls and knobs that speak to your personal design tastes. For example, if you love a vintage look, replace metal hardware with glass or ceramic knobs.

Freshen up the faucet

Cabinet hardware isn't the only 'jewelry' in the kitchen. The faucet can also be a design focal point that looks as good as it works. If yours is old, basic or just not to your taste, replacing the kitchen faucet with a newer model that speaks to your style can help affordably reinvent the entire room. Plus, a new faucet can provide functions and features that will make your kitchen more usable.

For example, the Tournant faucet by Kohler combines traditional design with modern industrial elements, so it works well with a variety of kitchen design themes. A three-function, pull-down spray head lets you put the water exactly where you need it, while a special BerrySoft setting is gentle enough for washing fruits and vegetables.

If a more vintage look appeals to you, Kohler has recently added a bridge model faucet to its popular Artifacts line. Reminiscent of turn-of-the-century kitchen and bar faucets, the deck-mounted bridge faucet works with either lever or six-prong handles for temperature controls, and features a dual-function sidespray. Visit www.us.kohler.com to learn more.

Enliven your lighting

Good light is essential for a kitchen to function well, but it's common for kitchens to have just one overhead light and maybe a pendant or two over a breakfast bar. Replacing dated fixtures with newer ones that suit your personal style is easy, but what can you do if you want more light without the expense of paying someone to install additional wiring?

* Replace a standard ceiling light with track lights. They require no additional wiring and you can position lights along the track to put illumination where you want it.

* Install under-cabinet lights that can easily plug into an existing counter-level electrical outlet.

* Place a swing-arm task lamp over work areas, so you can aim light where you need it most while working. The lamp can easily plug into a wall outlet.

Accentuate accessories

Accessories are the finishing touch of personalization in any room, including the kitchen. However, since the kitchen needs to be high-functioning, look for ways to accessorize that also enhance your kitchen's ability to work for you.

* Every kitchen has small appliances that get regular use, such as toasters, food processors, blenders, etc. If your toaster sits out on the counter, why not turn it into part of the design theme by selecting an appliance in a bright color to match your decor?

* A matching set of potholders or dish towels hung from a hook beneath a cabinet or on the side of a cupboard not only puts a much-needed item close at hand, they can add decorative flare.

* Place a bright, cheerful area rug in front of the sink or prep area. The rug will not only perk up the space, it helps cushion your joints while you stand in one spot working.

* A pot rack above an island provides much-needed storage space for large pots and pans, while adding a homey touch to the kitchen.

Customizing a kitchen doesn't have to be costly or require you to sacrifice any functionality. With a few smart updates, you can cost-effectively create the personalized kitchen of your dreams.



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5 steps to a smart home

(BPT) - When it comes to technology, smarter is better. There are smart watches, smart televisions and just about everyone has a smartphone.

So what about a smart home?

Smart thermostats and lighting timers represent the first steps toward smart home technology for many homeowners, but in a lot of cases, they were the only steps. Since then, technology has continued to develop, and today there are scores of home goods that can talk to one another while allowing you total control of your home from your smartphone, tablet or another device.

It all sounds so simple, so perfect, yet many consumers remain confused on how to make the most of smart home technology in their house. Instead of finding the installation welcoming, they see it as daunting and expensive.

This doesn't have to be the case. Installing - and enjoying - smart home technology in your house is easier than you think. Follow these five simple steps and your home will be a smart home in no time.

* Determine what you'd like to control remotely or automate based on time. Having total control of your home sounds great, but it also leads to total responsibility and sometimes you don't need all that. For example, lighting solutions are a popular automated option. The smart dimmer by Leviton allows you to dim and time lighting to meet your needs once you download the app, providing you increased functionality all from your smartphone or tablet.

* Select technology that works with your home. When you're shopping for products - like lighting switches - you should always be mindful of functionality. For example, does your home operate on Wi-Fi or Bluetooth? Understand the base functionalities of your home and you'll streamline your shopping process.

* Seek professional help. If you're concerned about your ability to set up your smart home technology successfully, don't be afraid to seek out some guidance. Call on your contractor to assist you in the installation. You can also download helpful guides and how-to instructions from the manufacturer's website. The more information you have before beginning the project, the more comfortable you'll be with the installation.

* Download the proper apps. The key to your home's smart technology lies in the corresponding apps. Make sure you've downloaded the right one to match your system. Many smart home technologies offer both iPhone and Android apps to provide the functionality control you need.

* Set your schedule and optimize as needed. Your smart home is an ever-evolving machine, and the more time you take to continually customize your preferences, the more you'll get from your system. Establish your initial schedule and then add voice control through Amazon, Google or Apple. Finally, don't be afraid to make continued improvements. You've already tackled the biggest hurdle of installing your system, and the ongoing small adjustments you add will make your system great.

To learn more about today's smart homes and lighting technologies available from companies such as Leviton, visit www.Leviton.com/DecoraSmart.



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Transform your backyard with these 3 elements

(BPT) - It's amazing to contemplate that all the famous paintings in history - from da Vinci's Mona Lisa to van Gogh's Starry Night - are essentially formed from three primary colors. Artists skillfully combine red, yellow and blue to formulate an infinite range of colors to bring their paintings to life.

Likewise, when creating your own outdoor living space, you can combine three basic elements - decking, railing and lighting - in nearly endless ways to "paint" a personal masterpiece of fun and relaxation.

1. Get decked out with modern decking

For decades, backyard decks mainly have been rectangles. This is largely because of the rectangular shape of traditional wood deck boards. With the advent of modern materials, it is now easier to fashion decks of virtually any shape - from curved sections following the contours of a sloping yard to round decks. Or, let your imagination run wild and create a specialty shaped deck of something you love, like a giant guitar or stacked leaves.

'Today's decking options offer exceptional design flexibility,' says Brent Gwatney, senior vice president of MoistureShield Decking. 'Composites, in particular, are more easily bent into creative shapes than wood decking, and can be ripped and routed to form virtually any design you can think of.' DIYers and deck builders can even install moisture-resistant boards in the ground or under water for more design possibilities, notes Gwatney.

2. Rail against the ordinary

Many decks are required by law to have safety railings. But, with some creativity, the railing can enhance your deck's look even as it prevents falls. With the variety of products now available, the railing can be a visual complement to your home and deck. For example, if you have a cabin, you could install hewn timber posts and railings for a rustic appeal. For a waterfront home, a nautical-themed railing system of posts and ropes could do the trick. Or, if you have a modern home and prefer simple visual lines, cable-and-wire railings or glass panels could be your style.

For a distinctive look for your deck, consider mixing colors and materials, like combining white aluminum railing and balusters with rich brown composite posts to create a dramatic look. Or, to add a sophisticated mix of texture and color, you can install on the top of a black or white railing a composite board that complements the decking color.

3. Light up the night

A third element to add to your outdoor living design palette is deck lighting. With the right lighting, you can extend your hours outside and keep your deck as charming in the nighttime as it is during the day.

From subtle post lights that cast a magical evening glow to understated recessed lights and rail strip lights that help guide guests' steps, today's deck lighting choices are both functional and affordable. And, with the emergence of energy-efficient LEDs, you can use them liberally with little effect on your monthly electricity bill. Some decking manufacturers like MoistureShield offer deck lights specifically designed to integrate with their decking and railing.



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5 ways to create big luxury in a small master...

(BPT) - If you're thinking about remodeling your small bathroom, you may know that studies show updating a bathroom of any size can increase the value of a home. However, there's a statistic from a Houzz survey you might not know: 75 percent of people who renovate a master bathroom don't make it bigger.

Enlarging a small master bathroom is often impractical; you may need to take space from another room, or extend an exterior wall to accomplish an expansion. Both options have disadvantages and costs. The truth is, you don't need to move walls or spend like a home improvement show host in order to create big luxury in a small master bathroom.

Here are five ways to make a small bathroom space feel lavish and spa-like:

1. Rethink the shower stall versus tub debate.

Many large luxury bathrooms have a separate shower and soaking tub. In a small bathroom, which may be used by multiple members and generations of a household, creating an upscale feeling by separating the tub from the shower might not be a realistic option. Instead, look for ways to boost the appeal of your tub/shower space, perhaps by choosing a visually appealing, bright-white model for an updated, yet classic, style.

For example, Americast bathtubs from American Standard combine unmatched strength and durability with elegant, traditional design lines that blend perfectly with stylish bathroom decor. Patented three-layer Americast construction gives the tubs a porcelain enamel finish, sound-dampening qualities and superior resistance to damage, all in a lightweight material that makes for easy installation.

2. Step up your shower game.

The shower isn't just where you get clean; it's also a morning wake-up tool or end-of-day relaxation therapy treatment. Deluxe showers often feature multiple jets, rainfall showerheads and hand showers. Replacing an ordinary showerhead with a shower system is a cost-effective and easy way to add a luxurious experience to the shower.

Options like the GROHE Retro-Fit Shower System offer a drenching rain showerhead, along with an integrated hand shower for ultimate convenience. Since the main showerhead is mounted on a movable arm, you can position the spray overhead (to function as a rainfall shower) or at an angle for additional comfort, all with the choice of spray patterns. Even better, the system works with existing plumbing, eliminating any need to open the wall to change piping. For added indulgence, consider a shower system with an elegant brushed nickel finish to elevate the look of your overall shower and bathroom decor.

3. Splurge on luxury materials.

Yes, materials like travertine tile or granite countertops can be costly, but when you're renovating a small bathroom, you need less of those materials. Adding marble tile above a small tub/shower area will cost far less than outfitting a large walk-in shower. Replacing a modestly sized vanity with a new cabinet and granite countertop won't be nearly as expensive as redoing a large, double-sink vanity.

When you have less real estate to refurbish, high-end materials can be a cost-effective choice. For a reasonable price, you can use quality materials to significantly boost the upscale feeling of your small bathroom.

4. Add pizzazz to functional elements.

You can increase a small bathroom's feeling of extravagance by adding some flare to functional items like faucets, mirrors and cabinet hardware. For a modest investment, you can turn everyday, often-overlooked elements into items that underscore the overall beauty of the room.

For example, replacing an ordinary or outdated faucet with a modern-style option from the Colony PRO bath collection is an affordable way to improve aesthetics and functionality. Sleek styling translates well into modern bathroom design. Plus, single- or double-handle design means that faucets are user-friendly for children and adults of all ages and mobility levels.

Replacing a typical bathroom medicine cabinet or mirror with a luxury model is another way to elevate a small bathroom to premium status. Today's medicine cabinets come with an array of leading-edge features, such as defogging functions, built-in electrical outlets, night lights, USB outlets, interior lights and set-in magnifying mirrors.

5. Lighten up the space.

Finally, adding more natural light into a small master bathroom can make the space seem larger and more appealing. If your small bathroom already has a window, forgo blinds or shades in favor of easy-to-apply privacy film. Readily available in home improvement stores or online, in a breadth of simple or fancy patterns, this opaque film allows light to enter the room while providing the necessary privacy.

If your budget allows, consider adding a skylight for natural lighting and passive ventilation. Even if your small master bathroom is on the ground floor, it may be possible to use a tube skylight to bring more natural light into the space.

Achieving ultimate comfort and luxury in your small-space bathroom is at your fingertips, easily and affordably.



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5 hot trends for the home

(BPT) - Home safety is one of the top priorities of homeowners and renters alike. Your home should be a place to relax, play and enjoy spending time with family and friends.

Here are a few of the latest trends in home security so that you can make yours a home sweet home that's equally safe.

Home automation and controls

Home automation and controls is exactly what it sounds like: automating the ability to control items around the house - from window shades to pet feeders - with a simple push of a button or voice command. Homeowners now have the ability to make sure they really did lock the back door or turn off the lights. This trend is taking a security system and turning it into a smart home device, and consumers are loving it.

Solatube Daylighting System with Integrated NightLight

Solatube Daylighting Systems have gotten even more innovative. They harvest sunlight on the roof and shoot it down a tube of the most highly reflective material made and into the home environment. Not only do the residents experience natural light during the day, with the NightLight they get the soft glow of the moon at night. Solatube integrated a small solar-electric system that collects the sun's energy by day to power a NightLight that automatically comes on at dark. You won't have to turn on lights for trips to the bathroom or navigate dark hallways any longer.

Video monitoring

Having a good indoor security camera is now the cornerstone of any good home security system. This allows homeowners to watch live video footage of their home from their smartphone anytime, anywhere. It also takes the stress away when leaving pets at home for any amount of time. Owners can monitor and speak to their animals while they are away. This trend is convenient, offers peace of mind and may deter burglars.

Geofencing

You can think of geofencing like an invisible fence serving as a virtual perimeter. With it, homeowners can draw around any location on a map and trigger actions from their smartphone when they enter that location through an app. A great example would be an electronic notification sent to Mom's or Dad's cell phone when their child arrives home from school, triggered by the child's cell phone. This technology also allows parents to establish a 'safety' zone outside of which their child is not allowed to venture. The geofence sends mobile alerts the moment their loved ones enter or exit the area established, tracking their children's whereabouts. Overall, this trend is making homes safer, smarter and more efficient.

Home automation with GPS

Home automation with GPS is less of a safety feature and more of an added convenience for homeowners. Home automation uses GPS in smartphones to trigger assigned actions. For example, when a homeowner pulls into his or her driveway, the home alarm is deactivated and the front door lights turn on. This trend simplifies consumers' daily routines by putting the house to work.



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5 ways to keep your cottage comfortable this...

(BPT) - Although it's officially summer, the fluctuations in temperatures, sporadic downpours and tornado-inciting weather would make you think otherwise. While many of us take the opportunity to hit the beach, lake or ranch during the summer for some rest and relaxation, cottage home improvements are often the furthest thing from our mind.

More often than not, cottages aren't built to last as long as homes, because they are used only for a short time of the year. Yet, with newly changing weather patterns and humidity affecting the structure of a cottage home, homeowners can seek ways to keep their cottages comfortable well after summer has ended and the crowds of day-trippers have left.

Extending the usability of your summer home can also increase its market value, should you ever decide to sell. If you're unfamiliar with how exactly to go about improving your summer home's comfort, here are five quick tips to get you started:

* Plant shade-giving trees and shrubs to reduce how much heat your cottage absorbs from direct sunlight. Not only will these plants add ambiance and character, but they will help contribute to keeping the cottage cooler.

* Consider upgrading your cottage's small and large appliances to ENERGY STAR-rated appliances that can run on very low energy during the low season.

* Consider having an independent contractor perform a home energy audit, to determine where your home could improve its energy efficiency. This is obviously the most straightforward approach, and the one that will give you the most tangible objectives to aim for moving forward.

* Take advantage of local tax incentives to upgrade your cottage to be more energy efficient.

* Replace your home's existing insulation with a high-performance spray foam insulation like Icynene, which can help to reduce air leakage, thereby reducing the amount of work your HVAC unit has to do to keep your home heated or cooled.

Air leakage forces your air conditioner unit to work overtime to cool the warm air that enters your home through leaks, increasing energy usage and increasing your utility bill at the end of the month.

Spray foam insulation is a wise investment for cottage owners who want to make energy-efficient improvements and extend the livability of the cottage beyond just summer. Able to perform in all climates, spray foam insulation allows homeowners to adjust air conditioning use throughout summer and their furnaces during winter. This modern insulation material helps effectively control a cottage's indoor environment, letting you and your family stay cool all summer long while also helping to minimize the entry of pollen and allergens that enter the space, making it ideal for allergy sufferers.

An energy-efficient and modern investment, spray foam insulation expands rapidly to completely seal a cottage's walls, floors and ceilings to prevent air leakage. Experts note that insulation can noticeably reduce monthly cooling and heating costs due to its ability to seal the home, a great bonus when considering that cottages and summer homes are typically only used for a limited period of time. More information on how spray foam insulation can help homeowners minimize air leakage and transform their city home or their summer home into an energy-efficient one is available online at www.icynene.com.



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How to perfectly light a bathroom for beauty,...

(BPT) - Good lighting is important throughout a home, and each room has different lighting needs. Kitchens require overhead and task lighting, while bedrooms and dining rooms can benefit from variable illumination. However, no room in the house requires more layers and nuances of lighting than the bathroom, where lighting directly influences the room's efficiency, utility, safety and beauty.

Upgrading lighting in a bathroom can give the room a whole new look and improve its functionality for a fraction of the cost of a full renovation. As you're planning your bathroom enlightenment, keep in mind the multiple purposes lighting plays in a bathroom, including:

* Safety - Bathrooms are a prime spot for falls and injuries. A well-lit room can decrease the risk of someone stumbling or slipping.

* Tasks - Whether you're applying makeup or shaving, task lighting can provide the illumination you need to do the job well.

* Visibility - Ambient lighting provides whole-room illumination that makes the space usable at any time of day.

* Decorative - Lighting can minimize glare from shiny surfaces such as porcelain, glass or ceramic tile, and enhance the appearance of colors, fixtures and accessories.

Here are tips for creating effective, attractive lighting for the bathroom:

Safety

Bathroom lighting affects safety the most during nighttime hours. A completely dark bathroom could lead to falls, as could the temporary blindness caused by switching on a light when your eyes are acclimated for darkness. A brightly lit space can also make it difficult for you to go back to sleep after using the bathroom.

Dimmable bathroom lighting, which can be set for less illumination at night, and strategically positioned nightlights can help users safely navigate the room at night. Equip low-wattage light sources that turn on with a motion sensor, so that soft illumination comes on when you enter the dark bathroom.

Tasks

The bathroom vanity is a hub of activity, where people shave, brush their teeth, fix their hair, apply makeup and generally get ready for the day. The lighting above your vanity or sink area is critical to how well the space functions.

Lights above the bathroom mirror, or to either side of it, can create glare and shadow. A better alternative can be to use a lighted mirror or medicine cabinet like the Verdera collection by Kohler. Lighted mirrors and medicine cabinets eliminate harsh shadows and light 'hot spots' that can come from overhead lighting.

What's more, Verdera lighted medicine cabinets feature a convenient built-in electrical outlet to allow you to use your favorite grooming accessory. LED lights make the mirrors and cabinets energy-efficient, and all are compatible with LED dimmers, giving you even more control over task illumination. Visit www.us.kohler.com to learn more.

Visibility

Certain areas in the bathroom require basic visibility at all times, including showers and water closets. In these areas, overhead lighting can provide the ambient illumination you need. You can opt for a basic light fixture, a fan/light combination that also provides ventilation, or even a skylight for natural daylighting.

Uplighting is also becoming a popular form of ambient light in bathrooms. Lights set beneath countertops or around the base of shower stalls provide soft illumination and character.

Decorative

Decorative bathroom lighting is your chance to have some fun. These lights may enhance ambient lighting or support task lighting, but their ultimate purpose is to add visual interest to the bathroom.

Depending on the size and style of your bathroom, you can choose decorative lighting options like chandeliers, wall sconces, pendant lights, recessed lighting and more.

Finally, be sure that every layer of light in your bathroom is as energy efficient as possible. Replace any incandescent bulbs with LEDs or CFLs, which use a fraction of the energy to produce a comparable amount of light, while lasting far longer.



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Upcoming home improvement? How to navigate big...

(BPT) - Are you planning an upcoming home improvement? If so, you are not alone.

Higher-than-average renovation spending is expected in 2017, according to a leading consumer magazine, with more than half of homeowners planning to spend money on home improvements throughout the year.

From upgrading appliances to gutting entire rooms, big projects can have a big impact on a home and on your wallet, so it's important to approach any renovation with thoughtful intention.

To ensure you make the right decisions when it comes to large purchases and major home improvements, ask yourself these five questions:

How long do you plan to live in the home?

Knowing how long you expect to live in your home can help you better navigate home improvements. If you only plan to live in your home for five years you'll likely make different decisions than if it is your forever home.

What is your budget?

Home upgrades don't come cheap, so it's helpful to determine a budget before you start. Consider renovations and upgrades as a smart way to maintain your home investment. By putting money into your home, you are helping maintain its integrity, style, usefulness and value.

When setting a budget, you can pay out of pocket or take out a personal or home equity loan. Additionally, some companies offer low-interest financing. If you plan to borrow for your project, make sure you clearly understand and are comfortable with payment terms.

Once you set a budget, stick to it. Problems may arise that require unexpected additional costs, but often budget blowouts are from homeowners who start spending and the excitement of the project causes them to go beyond their means.

What purchases are worth the splurge?

Research and decide which purchases are worth spending more on. For example, appliances used nearly every day are a worthwhile investment - especially if they are more energy efficient and offer features that enhance your day-to-day routine. Rather than getting a basic washer, opt for the LG TWINWash(TM) 2-in-1 washer. It can run two loads at once, saving homeowners time and energy.

LG TWINWash combines any Energy Star(R)-certified LG front load washer - including the largest capacity on the market (at 5.8 cu. ft., it's large enough to fit a full set of king-size bedding and a comforter) - with a second washer, the LG SideKick(TM). This smaller washer sits in place of the pedestal, and washes 3-4 lbs. of clothes, making it perfect for custom-care items.

Owners of LG washers can also decide to upgrade their existing front load washer from 2009 on with the LG SideKick instead of purchasing a new one - making a big upgrade simple.

Bottom line: Make sure your purchase improves your daily life and is proven to last. (For example, LG washers and dryers were recently named the most reliable in all laundry categories by a leading U.S. consumer products publication).

What is the ROI?

The return on investment should be considered in many ways for home improvements. First, check out reputable reports like the Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report. For example, adding fiberglass attic insulation recoups 107.7 percent of the cost.

In addition to resale ROI, consider other ways you'll get a return on your investment. Will your upgrade help you save energy and reduce your bills? Will it save you time and stress in daily life? Does it enhance your home's aesthetic and flow? These are other ROIs that are just as valuable to consider as resale ROI.

What does the research say?

It's worth your time to conduct research so you get the best outcome possible. Learn about materials to discover which is best for your lifestyle and research brands. If you're hiring the project out, research contractors to find a reputable professional for the job.

Starting a home improvement project is exciting. Answering these questions will help ensure your time and financial investment are well spent.



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Rethinking bathroom design

(BPT) - As homeowners begin to dream up plans to update their kitchens and bathrooms, they can spend hours searching for inspiration on the web or one of the many home renovation television shows. There's no shortage of beautiful ideas and designs out there, but before you make any decision, you should start with the crucial question: What is it I really want?

A recent study conducted by the home design website Houzz found that the two things homeowners want most for their bathroom are style and ease of cleaning. In effect, people want their bathrooms to exhibit both function and design.

Of course, there are the conventional bathroom remodel options, such as a new faucet, countertop or shower fixture, all of which can be stunning and transform not just your bathroom but your house. But the most commonly used bathroom component is often the most overlooked: the toilet.

Eighty-three percent of Americans claim there's something they want to improve upon with their toilets, according to a survey by Kohler. The question is what.

This statistic should give homeowners pause and invite them to think beyond the conventional bathroom remodeling ideas and re-imagine the possibilities.

Comfort, hygiene and style

Travelers returning from Italy, Spain, Argentina and Japan often rave about the unexpected luxury of using a bidet. While popular in many other countries, bidets are only just now catching on in the United States, moving from high-end luxury bathrooms and hospitals (where they're used for their superior hygiene) into household bathrooms across America.

As the leading manufacturer of modern bidets, Kohler has been working to incorporate the trifecta of comfort, hygiene and style into their intelligent toilets.

Built directly into an ergonomically shaped toilet seat, a stainless-steel bidet wand offers adjustable water temperature, pressure, position and shape, along with pulsating and oscillating functions to maximize the comfort of the experience.

But that's not all. To better introduce Americans to the international phenomenon of bidets, Kohler's intelligent toilets feature a heated seat, warm air dryer and added sanitary features such as hands-free flushing and a deodorizing seat.

A redefined bathroom

Equipped with smart technology that allows a person to fully customize their experience, such ultra-modern bidets may change how Americans go to the bathroom - but only if the look is right.

Consumers are not willing to sacrifice design for functionality; they want it all. For anyone who has used or seen a Veil Intelligent Toilet, it's evident that the same exacting standards it brings to cleanliness and hygiene go into its crisp, clean look.

A recent survey by Kohler suggests 33 percent of homeowners would be excited to upgrade their toilets. With this latest generation of toilets and bidets, it's likely that more people will want to redefine their bathroom with these stunning new options.



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6 must-know kitchen and bathroom design trends

(BPT) - Many homeowners today wonder how they can turn their bathrooms or kitchens into something worthy of making the rounds on Pinterest or Instagram. As more people want to give their home a personal and stylish touch, home decorating and interior design is hotter than ever, and the possibilities are seemingly limitless.

The only problem is that making up your mind can be overwhelming. If you've ever tried to pick what shade of blue or tint of gray to paint a wall, you know that sometimes there are too many choices.

With over 140 years of designing kitchen and bathroom products, Kohler Kitchen & Bath tapped into a large brain trust of designers and product experts to identify the six leading kitchen and bath design trends for 2017.

  1. All in the mix. We all know patterns play a big role in how large a room appears and what features are accented or emphasized. For all the importance people place on patterns, many are inherently afraid of blending - or mixing - patterns. Be bold! When done right, this can create a vibrant, energetic space that does more for your room than if you were to play it safe.
  2. Perfect pairs. Two of the most striking colors to appear in kitchens and bathrooms these days are velvety blues and vivid greens. Blues are timeless and can work well by themselves in most situations, but add a small dose of blood orange and you've created an infectious vibe to the room. Nothing makes as dramatic a statement as pairing two complementary colors.
  3. A softer white. A traditional color for bathrooms and kitchens, white gives off a clean, bright aura. Nonetheless, the look can be a bit clinical. Once way around this problem is to warm up the whites with tones of brass, gold or bronze. Subtle touches on the cabinets or backsplash can create a warm ambiance that softens the look of an all-white space.
  4. Keep it neutral. If you're looking for fun, vibrant colors but aren't ready to go all in, consider neutral shades such as icy blue, blush sand and other straight-from-nature shades. These are a lot more refreshing than the standard beige! Such transparent neutrals beautifully diffuse light and lend themselves to contrasting elements.
  5. Amber glow. The living room has expanded. Kitchens aren't just for preparing food and bathrooms aren't just for getting ready. People want a cozier, at-home feel for both these rooms. Top designers do this by adding a range of metallic fixtures coupled with smoky grays, a combination that creates a dramatic and welcoming room.
  6. Noir. With the debut of black stainless steel appliances, black has made its way back to being a staple color in kitchens and bathrooms. Of late, the emphatic pairing of black and white has become the real showstopper. The idea here is to work with high contrast: think strong color-blocking patterns and heavy stripes. Two timeless colors will join to create a perfectly modern mixture.

To discover more ideas for your home visit ideas.kohler.com. Here you'll find invaluable advice and inspiring fixtures to transform your bathroom into the room of your dreams.



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A room-by-room guide to decluttering your home

(BPT) - Controlling clutter in your home can be a challenge; 48 percent of Americans say their houses are cluttered with stuff they don't use anymore, according to a survey by ClearVoice Research. Multiple studies have found a cluttered home can negatively affect your mental and physical health, while a cleaner home can make you feel happier and healthier.

A UCLA study found mothers in cluttered homes had higher stress levels while dealing with their stuff, while an Indiana University study found people with clean houses are healthier than those living in cluttered homes. You may realize clutter isn't good for you, but it's not always easy to get organized. To help you get started, here is a room-by-room guide to cutting the clutter:

Entryway

Basic tactics:

* Decide what belongs in your entryway and what doesn't. The size of the space will influence this decision. If your entryway is a spacious mudroom, you might choose to store shoes, boots, umbrellas and backpacks there. If you have a modest foyer, you may decide you only have room for car keys. Remove anything from the space that doesn't help it serve its purpose in your home.

* Add storage/organization that helps the space meet its purpose. Wall-hung key racks can keep important keys at your fingertips. Shoe racks are available in a variety of sizes and styles to fit your space and décor while keeping footwear organized and off the floor.

A step up:

* If space allows, adding built-in storage such as cabinets and shelves can help keep an entry space organized and visually appealing.

Family room

Basic tactics:

* Assess the kind of clutter that builds up in your family room. Perhaps your clutter consists of children's toys, magazines and newspapers, or multiple remote controls for entertainment components. Once you know what kind of clutter you're collecting, decide if it belongs and must be accommodated, or doesn't and should go.

* Add storage solutions specific to your needs. For example, storage ottomans can double as extra seating and a place to store frequently used toys. A caddy can keep remote controls organized and at hand.

A step up:

* Sometimes furniture that's too large for a space can add to the feeling of a cluttered and congested room. Assess your family room furniture. Is it the right size for the space, or is it overwhelming the area? Replace overly large furnishings with ones that better fit the room.

* If you have the room for it, a large shelving or cabinet unit can help contain clutter. Add decorative containers to help keep everyday items like toys, magazines and other frequently used items organized on shelves.

Bathroom

Basic tactics:

* Tackle the linen closet and trash any partial bottles of shampoo, tubes of toothpaste and towels that have seen better days. Be brutal. If you haven't used that half bottle of body wash so far, chances are you never will.

* Clean out your medicine cabinet. Discarding expired prescription medicines can help reduce the risk of someone accidentally taking the wrong medication.

A step up:

* Showers can be among the most cluttered spots in a bathroom. If you're ready to take your bathroom organization to the next level, ditch the rack hanging from your showerhead and the precarious corner shelving and upgrade your shower to one with built-in organization, like Sterling Store+ shower. The showers feature built-in recesses and tracks where you can snap in a variety of storage accessories and shelves, such as a soap dish, storage bin, towel bar or shower hook. The storage is fully customizable, and all accessories are removable and dishwasher safe. Visit www.sterlingplumbing.com to learn more.

Kitchen

Basic tactics:

* Countertops frequently host a wealth of kitchen-related clutter, from the mail you brought in yesterday and forgot to go through to small appliances you use once or twice a year. Clearing off countertops can make a kitchen feel visually more appealing, look bigger and function better. Remove and store rarely used small appliances, ditch the ceramic container of utensils and store those items in drawers instead.

* Pantries and cabinets can be nearly as cluttered as countertops. Adding shelving and storage units within cabinets can help keep pots, pans, lids and dishware better organized and more easily accessible.

A step up:

* Some people need a bit of extra incentive to stay organized. If that's you, consider replacing solid cabinet doors with glass ones that reveal what's inside. Knowing the contents of your cabinets are always on display can help inspire you to keep them tidy and organized. Plus, glass-front cabinets are an opportunity to create an appealing visual display.



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5 affordable weekend DIY projects that...

(BPT) - The cold months of winter have a batten-down-the-hatches feel to them, don't they? Fortunately, they're over. Now that summer is here, you want to spread out, bask in the beautiful weather and finally tackle those home improvement projects you were eyeing during those colder months.

Now is the perfect time to make a big impact on your home, and you can do so without spending a lot. Below are five do-it-yourself projects you can tackle in a single weekend, and each will still leave you enough money in your budget to enjoy everything else summer has to offer.

* Freshen up your landscaping. Your home's outdoor appearance gets a pass during the winter, but in the summer the exterior of the house is all about curb appeal. That makes improving your landscaping a great place to start your summer projects, plus the work you do can be completely customizable to your budget. If you have some extra money, plant a tree or a bush. If your budget is tighter, opt for potted flowers. Even an activity like trimming around your trees and bushes or pulling weeds can have a big impact on the look of your home and it costs you nothing.

* An accent wall that truly accents. You've seen hundreds of DIY tips suggesting you add an accent wall to your home with a fresh coat of paint. However, to add an accent wall that goes above and beyond, replace the paint project with Charred Wood Shiplap from UFP-Edge instead. This wood, burnt through an ancient Japanese technique to highlight its beauty and character, then sealed with a satin finish, offers the perfect contrast to any room for an accent you'll relish every time you see it.

* Update your bathroom on your terms. A full bathroom remodel is hardly DIY, and you're certainly not finishing it in one weekend. However, that doesn't mean this room is completely off-limits when it comes to improvements. Instead, pick the project that matches your needs and your budget. Large-scale improvements could include replacing your outdated sink or toilet. You could go smaller and simply replace the hardware on the sink. This is also a great time to look at the smaller aspects of your bathroom and see if you want to replace your medicine chest, your towel rack or the handles on your cabinets.

* The perfect wrap for your kitchen or bar. The kitchen is a focal point in any home, so improvements made here tend to stand out. If you're looking to improve your kitchen with an incredibly popular country look, you can add your island to the motif with a rustic wrap. UFP-Edge Rustic Collection is new lumber that has been distressed to provide that worn country charm. Rustic wood is available in shiplap siding and trim boards that allow you to create a wood project that supports your style in any size and any location. Start with a wrap for your kitchen or bar and see where your creativity takes you.

* Rethink your window treatments. Like your bathroom, a full-scale replacement of your window treatments can be pretty expensive. However, like your bathroom, you also have plenty of freedom to pick and choose your options here as well. If a favorite room feels too dark, replace the existing curtains with something light and airy. If you want the room to feel darker, install room-darkening shades. Spend your money and your time on the rooms that matter most to you and you won't be disappointed.

These warm-weather months are the perfect time to make your home everything you want it to be, so invest your time in a little DIY. You, your home and your budget will all be better for it. To learn more about these accent wall materials available from UFP-Edge, visit UFP-Edge.com.



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Cypress siding: It's what the pros choose

(BPT) - If current design trends are any indication, wood siding is back. Design professionals are recommending one species in particular: cypress. What's behind this revival of cypress siding?

'Good looks, dependable performance and affordability,' says Stephen Logue of the Southern Cypress Manufacturers Association, www.CypressInfo.org. 'Cypress has a unique appearance with its honey-like hues and intriguing grain pattern. Its ability to withstand the elements and nature has long made it a favorite siding material in areas of the country that experience constant heat, high humidity and torrential rains. Additionally, cypress is a competitively priced material. We see it being requested more and more.'

Architects side with cypress: Take it from the pros

Atlanta-based architect Daniel Martin says he recommends cypress to clients based on his firsthand experience with the unique wood.

'The performance is great,' Martin says. 'I've had cypress siding on my own home for more than 20 years, and I've only had to repaint it once in that time. One of the main reasons I recommend cypress is because it's resistant to decay, as well as insects like termites and bees. Carpenter bees love some other species of wood, such as cedar. They'll bore in and lay their eggs, and then woodpeckers come along and gouge out grooves to get to the eggs, destroying the wood. That's not an issue with cypress.'

As Martin has learned, cypress comes by its durability naturally, thanks to an oil that is produced while the tree is growing. The oil acts as a preservative, meaning cypress wood doesn't need to be pressure treated with chemicals like some other wood siding options.

David and Laurel Mullikin, a husband-and-wife design/build duo in Atlanta, say they use cypress regularly in outdoor applications.

'We've designed some of our best projects with cypress,' Laurel says. 'It's one of our favorite species of wood to use. In fact, we're currently designing our own new home. We are incorporating cypress as the ceilings for our porches, adding a lot of aesthetic warmth to a part of the house many people overlook. And we're using cypress siding and finishing it with the Shou Sugi Ban method, which involves charring the surface of the wood and then sanding and sealing it. The process not only provides a unique look to an already beautiful wood, but also enhances its natural durability."

For the best performance

As with any wood siding, cypress will require a little TLC every now and then to look and perform best. With properly applied finishes and regular maintenance, cypress siding will last a lifetime or longer.

Whether installing new cypress siding or refreshing existing wood, the first step is to make sure its surface is clean so that it can better absorb the desired finish. Wash the wood with a mild bleach-and-water solution, using a pressure washer on a low setting. Let the solution soak for 15 minutes before thoroughly rinsing. Then, allow the wood to dry for about a week. This also is a good time to repair any nail holes and surface irregularities.

Homeowners who prefer cypress' natural color can preserve the look by applying a clear, water-repellant sealer to all sides and edges of siding boards. It's also suggested to look for products with a UV inhibitor to block out the sun's fading rays. Sealers should be reapplied every few years to rejuvenate and protect the wood. If left untreated, over time, cypress will weather to a dark gray.

To bring out the richness of cypress' grain, semi-transparent, oil-based stains work best. These stains will penetrate the wood, prevent water problems and allow the wood to breathe. Stains typically need to be reapplied every two years.

If you like the clean look of a solid finish, paint it. For best results, apply a 100 percent acrylic latex paint with a compatible primer. It's also recommended to back prime the boards to avoid any potential moisture issues.

No matter your chosen finish, remember to follow the manufacturer's instructions for best results. For more information on cypress, or to get inspired for your next home or renovation project, visit www.CypressInfo.org.



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Natural selection: Live-edge wood in home design

(BPT) - Live-edge hardwood, in which the sides of the slab are left unmilled to retain the natural profile of the tree trunk, is an increasingly popular decorative trend in today's residential interiors. The technique is not only used for pieces of standalone furniture such as tables and benches but also for built-in elements like shelving, mantles, counter tops, bars and kitchen islands.

'Most mills cut off the rough tree edges, turning the raw timber into neat boards,' says Linda Jovanovich, of the American Hardwood Information Center at www.HardwoodInfo.com. 'But the current demand for live-edge slabs has led to a small but vigorous subset of producers who specialize in the category.' These are often boutique businesses that source, dry and mill limited batches of timber for use in furniture of their own design and manufacture.

'Some larger sawmills sell live-edge slabs to the public,' Jovanovich continues. 'You visit their showroom and pick your own one-of-a-kind piece of ash, cherry, red oak, walnut or whatever other hardwood species they have in stock. A cabinetmaker can then custom-make a piece of furniture or a built-in feature to your exact specifications.'

Sustainability-minded entrepreneurs are responsible for another niche in the live-edge hardwood market: small urban suppliers that source culled or fallen trees from the backyards of private homes, public parks, graveyards and other leafy locations in their city and its immediate environs. One such enterprise, RE-CO BKLYN in Brooklyn, New York, recently harvested four 12,000-pound logs from a 150-year-old storm-felled elm in nearby Prospect Park. The logs were taken to an upstate mill to be sawn into live-edge slabs and dried before being shipped back to Brooklyn, where they were either sold or used by RE-CO for tables, desks, bar counters, shelves, headboards and other beautiful custom-made pieces it produces.

'It was George Nakashima, the legendary Japanese-American mid-century furniture maker, who pioneered the use of live-edge slabs in refined residential settings,' says New York-based designer Glenn Gissler. 'Previously, untrimmed wood planks, sometimes with the bark still intact, were used for rustic, log-cabin or ranch-house effects - elements that referenced the traditions, myths and aesthetics of the American Old West. With his gorgeous large-scale pieces, comprising multiple slabs of characterful woods like walnut and cherry connected with butterfly joints, Nakashima showed us how unfinished natural edges and richly figured knotted surfaces fit perfectly into even the most sophisticated urban interiors.'

Today, original Nakashima pieces are highly collectible and command high prices at auction. But his free-edge aesthetic is more influential than ever as homeowners discover the ability of live-edge furniture to work with almost any decorative style. Paired with blackened-steel legs, for example, a live-edge slab of burled walnut creates a dining table with loft-worthy industrial chic. Fixed to the bedroom wall, a free-form expanse of warm-toned cherry provides a romantic headboard. Or a hefty live-edge slab of oak, supported on an equally hefty oak-slab base, makes for a monumental console with the presence of a piece of archaic sculpture. New York-based designer Laura Bohn has even used the chainsawed cross-section of an elm trunk - complete with its bark - as a counter top on which to mount a stainless steel powder-room sink. 'It introduces a decidedly rustic note into a thoroughly modern space,' she says. 'And yet it looks perfectly natural, as if it had just grown there of its own accord.'

Visit www.HardwoodInfo.com for more about residential design trends and other applications and products using American hardwoods.



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Articles last updated at Oct 18, 2017 12:52:20pm.
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