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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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Your backyard canvas: 3 ways to create an...

(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 such as MoistureShield Vantage or Infuse decking on the ground, 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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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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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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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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Garage door industry issues consumer alert

(BPT) - A nationwide garage door repair scam has prompted the garage door industry to issue a national consumer alert. The industry's warning includes four short videos that describe the scam.

'We believe that hundreds of garage door and opener customers are victimized by these scammers every single day in America,' said Bearge Miller, president of the Door and Access Systems Manufacturers Association (DASMA).

He said consumers who have a broken garage door spring are particularly vulnerable. The scam artists typically perform unnecessary repairs and charge extremely high fees, racking up a bill for hundreds of dollars more than necessary.

Metro areas are targeted

'These scammers primarily operate in metropolitan areas,' added Randy Oliver, the president of the International Door Association (IDA). 'When they scam 100 people in a population of a million, hundreds of thousands of people are still unaware of their tactics.'

Oliver runs a garage door dealership in San Antonio, an area that has had its share of scammers. He said the scam is now operating in dozens of metro areas from coast to coast.

Four online videos

To warn the public, the garage door industry has produced a series of four short videos that provide advice for consumers, including how to detect a scammer and how to fix minor problems.

To see the videos, click on the 'Consumer Alert' tab at www.garagewownow.com. This is a non-commercial site that also includes a Dealer Locator to help homeowners find a qualified professional door dealer.

The videos were produced and approved by IDA, which represents garage door dealers, and DASMA, which represents the industry's manufacturers.



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DIY done simple: 5 projects you can tackle in a...

(BPT) - This time of year was made for DIY projects. The weather is perfect, the projects have mounted, you've got the time and the motivation. Now if only you had the budget.

Not to worry, DIY doesn't have to be synonymous with expensive! There are plenty of impactful DIY projects that can be tackled quickly and affordably in just a single weekend. Below is a list of five projects that you can use to scratch that project itch without putting a noticeable dent in your wallet.

* Seal the gaps. Hidden gaps and cracks in your home could be allowing air to escape, making the temperature in the house more difficult to regulate and your energy bill more expensive than it needs to be. Seal these gaps with an innovative air-sealing insulating foam to help protect against air and moisture infiltration. It will create a tighter building envelope that helps to reduce your energy waste and your monthly bill.

* A fresh coat of paint. How many times have you walked by that wall, those cabinets or that wooden chair and thought, "I need to repaint that"? Well, now's the time. Painting small spaces and furniture yourself is a small, inexpensive project that can be finished in a single weekend. So start picking colors today. Once you're done, you can feel proud knowing that you put in the hard work to give your home a fresh look.

* Ward off vermin. You're not the only one who's happy to see that warmer weather has arrived. Vermin of the mammal, reptile or insect variety will also be more active during the warmer months and they may set their sights on your home. GREAT STUFF(TM) Pestblock Insulating Foam Sealant helps block vermin from entering your home through gaps, cracks and holes. Spray the foam to block these points of entry and the only guests you'll greet this season are those you actually invited.

* Update your window treatments. If 'treatment' is a generous word when describing the accent pieces around your windows, it's time for an upgrade. Whether curtains, blinds or drapes, window treatments can be as cost effective as you want them to be, so don't be afraid to be picky. And once you find treatments that appeal to you, use them to block the sun on the hottest days to reduce your energy expenses.

* Expand your DIY. Your DIY projects don't have to be confined to your home; they can also involve your boat, your RV or your other vehicles. GREAT STUFF(TM) Multipurpose Black Foam Sealant can be used to fill unwanted gaps and cracks in vehicles, allowing you to cruise into vacation with no worries.

You can scratch that DIY itch without a month-long commitment or completely draining your bank account. All you have to do is pick the projects that match your budget, your time frame and your goals, and get to work. And when they're done, you'll have the rest of the season to enjoy your new and improved home. To find more simple projects you can tackle with GREAT STUFF(TM) Insulating Foam Sealant, visit greatstuff.dow.com.



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How to blend contrasting materials for...

(BPT) - The melding of contrasting materials throughout the home is a sophisticated way to add visual interest and depth to your design. Bold finishes coupled with muted color tones create an eye-catching statement, while natural wood combined with cool metal boasts a stunning blend of nature and machinery. From partnering unconventional textures to pairing deep wood tones with warm gold finishes, mixing materials in a space poses a refreshing take on luxury design for each room of the home.

Textured charm

Incorporating different textures with furniture, textiles and accessories can add layers of visual and tactile appeal to a living space. Create an elegant, yet contemporary design by complementing white wooden floors with shag rugs and velvet accent pillows in neutral colors of blush and dusty blue on cream or light gray upholstery. The contrast of a coarse wool throw draped over a smooth leather chair quickly adds texture to a sitting room. For tabletop décor, brushed silver and wood statement pieces in tiered sizes radiate a deluxe aesthetic to draw the eye to a central gathering point.

Exposed materials

Exposed brick and wooden beams bring a modern, industrial vibe to any space, while doubling as focal points in a room. From urban-rustic to contemporary environments, the rugged masculinity of the exposed elements can be balanced by soft, feminine touches to suit a multitude of design preferences. Incorporate scalloped linens and delicate prints framed in brushed gold to instantly soften and brighten the room. Reinvigorate a traditional design statement by offsetting rich, jewel tones with a neutral or light color scheme and warm metals.

Naturally inspired

The infusion of metal and natural accents into one space brings a clean, spa-like aesthetic to the home's oasis - the bath. Live plants and bamboo décor bring an element of the natural environment into the space, enhancing the tranquil atmosphere. The teak wood accents with the chrome or nickel handles in the Litze Bath Collection by Brizo exemplify a beautiful marriage of manmade and earthy details, evoking a unique sophistication.

Sophisticated luxury

Deep wood tones combined with metallic and brass finishes bring refinement to any room, especially the kitchen. Darker grains, such as walnut and mahogany, emanate refined luxury, while cabinet hardware, backsplashes and modern barstools in bright metal finishes instantly capture the eye's attention. Adding hanging light fixtures in varying heights add depth and dimension. Complete the space with minimalist furniture, such as a sleek kitchen table and structural chairs stained in cocoa tones, to bring all pieces of the room together for a cohesive look that is both polished and inviting.



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How to use color psychology to influence the...

(BPT) - Looking to make a few changes around the house? A fresh coat of paint can make a big difference on the look of your home and how you feel living in it. But unless you're a color expert, it's hard to know what colors are best among the endless array of options. A great place to start is by understanding the psychology behind various colors, so that you can achieve the look and create the effect you want in each room.

'Color is such an important factor in setting or improving our moods; it greatly influences human emotion and behavior,' says Dr. Sally Augustin, a color psychologist who applies science-based insights to how we experience colors. 'The brain interacts with color in a variety of ways, from calming to energizing. By applying color psychology to your paint selections, you can make each room evoke the emotions you desire.'

Most people talk about neutrals like black and white, according to a new color study conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of Sherwin-Williams through listening to social media conversation about colors mentioned with areas of the home. But when asked directly, the majority of participants say more vibrant colors should be used throughout the home, such as blue, red and green.

Based on this new research and Dr. Augustin's insights on color psychology, here are some ideas on choosing colors for painting projects:

In the mood for blue: If you're drawn in by beautiful blues, you're in good company. Sixty-two percent of Americans select blue as one of the colors they like the most. This strong preference for blue is consistent across genders, locations and age, making a blue like Adriatic Sea SW 6790 a good choice if you're considering more vibrant colors, or if you're painting a room in a home that you plan to sell soon.

'No matter where you go on the planet, people are most likely to say that their favorite color is blue. In our primordial past, blue was linked to good things in our lives. It is the color of the sky on a fair weather day and also a color of a watering hole seen from a distance,' Dr. Augustin says.

Black comes back: It may be surprising that black is the second most popular color (32 percent), and is especially liked among millennials, at 41 percent. Many have fallen in love with darker tones again, and dark black like Tricorn Black SW 6258 and even charcoal, navy and deep jewel tones are all gaining in popularity, adding urban sophistication to a wide range of spaces, from living rooms to kitchens.

What green really means: Generations see green hues differently. Millennials associate it with energy (33 percent compared to 24 percent of Gen Xers and baby boomers). Boomers are more likely than millennials to associate green with calmness (26 percent vs. 20 percent). When it comes to the psychology of green, the color seems to enhance creative thinking, making a green such as Derbyshire SW 6741 a good option for a study or for a stimulating playroom.

Raving for red: According to Dr. Augustin, since red is also the color of many fine wines, painting a wall Rave Red SW 6608 in a dining room can appropriately call wine to mind. Red also offers people a burst of strength, making it an effective color choice for spaces like laundry rooms, where 'heavy lifting' is done. According to the survey, almost half of Americans (49 percent) said the most associated emotion with the color red is excitement.

Cheery vibes with yellow: Forty-two percent of Americans associate yellow with happiness. The color yellow is also psychologically linked to physical warmth. Other golden colors that are a bit darker, such as Cut the Mustard SW 6384, would work in a kitchen dining area, as warm colors stimulate appetite and can make a space seem cozy.

What's right about white: The top feeling most Americans associate with white is calmness (34 percent). In color psychology, white also signals cleanliness, so shades of white can be good choices for the bath, laundry or anywhere in your home that you want to add brightness.

For more tips and ideas on how to spruce up your home with paint color, visit swpaintingweek.com.



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Add living space to your home with an easy...

(BPT) - Everyone looks forward to a shift into summer mode, with its sun-soaked days, flower-scented breezes and velvety nights under the stars.

Now's the time to take advantage of a golden opportunity right outside your door. Celebrate summer and all it offers by recreating your outdoor space. Whether it's a balcony, a patio or a deck, a few touches are all you need to turn it into a highly functional living space.

When done right, a patio makeover is like a boost to your home's square footage of living space without straining your wallet. Think of the patio as a summer room, and the possibilities really open up.

One approach to making your summer room perfect is to start by thinking of your needs and what you love to do. If you could add any room to your home, what would it be, and what would you use it for? Then, turn to a resource like Big Lots, which offers everything you need to build that summer room, while keeping you within budget.

Your summer living room

Transform any outdoor space into a relaxing oasis that's perfect for unwinding and summer daydreams. Your key piece is a comfortable outdoor couch you can really sink into.

It's always best to start with a neutral-colored cushion, then work the accessories and accent pieces, including side tables, brightly colored throw pillows and outdoor lanterns to make the space feel extra homey and just like an authentic living room. These decor pieces can be easily and affordably switched out year-over-year to make your outdoor space feel fresh and new.

With an easy assembly gazebo, you can also keep the space cool and comfortable in the heat of the day.

Finally, if your patio faces an open or public area, a row of evergreens planted in large colorful pots will transform it into an intimate space with a perfect touch of nature.

Your summer party room

With the right pieces, you can set the scene for any gathering of friends and family. Start with ample seating. Add to the traditional living room setup with an outdoor cushioned bench, and position some accent chairs and tables in a nook or two for conversation clusters. A patterned outdoor rug also helps to delineate spaces on a large patio or deck.

A fire pit always creates a natural centerpiece and gathering spot. Some designs take this up a notch and incorporate the soft glow of fire right into a tabletop, making it easy to talk long into the summer night. As a finishing touch, be sure to have a wireless speaker and playlist ready to set the mood with music.

Your summer kitchen

The downside of summer living is building up unwanted heat in the kitchen from cooking dinner. The best solution is to take it outside. Don't limit the grill to weekends and burgers and brats. Explore the many grilling recipes out there to expand your repertoire. While you're doing this, set up your patio as an outdoor cooking station that's ready to go whenever you're ready to start cooking.

Set up a sturdy table for prepping veggies and meats and a selection of lightweight, outdoor serving dishes. The variety of colors and designs are endless and add to the space aesthetic. (Just as you would indoors, make sure the surface is clean before you get started.) Use colorful crates to keep grilling tools, potholders and outdoor dishes and glassware organized and handy.

Finally, pick up some bright-colored pots that match your decor style and plant rosemary, parsley, basil and other herbs so they're within easy reach to add fresh flavors to your grilled fish and chicken, as well as those tasty summer veggies. These potted plants also make for beautiful, easy centerpieces.

Your summer dining room

Dining outside is a fun and relaxing way to enjoy food as well as the company of your family and friends. When you choose a patio table, choose one with ample seating, and keep things comfortable and colorful with waterproof cushions. Umbrellas can throw shade on a sun-drenched deck or patio, making daytime dining (or your morning coffee time) more pleasant and easy on the eyes. If you're looking for something different, a patio umbrella outfitted with lights on the underside will let you linger over dinner longer.

Creating beautiful outdoor spaces can be easy, but it also doesn't have to break the budget. Big Lots has a wide variety of affordable patio furniture and décor so you can create an outdoor scene with indoor style. Visit BigLots.com or a store near you for all your patio and outdoor accessory needs.



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Articles last updated at Aug 23, 2017 12:10:08pm.
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