Halloween Inspired Treats

22534191_STrick or treat? Most of us would pick treat. Whether or not you have kids, Halloween can bring out the inner child in all of us. Why not grab a few pumpkins to carve and cook up some of the following spooky treats. It’s a fun way to spend an evening entertaining little ones and adults alike.

Once you have hollowed out a pumpkin you can use it to hold all kinds of dips. Use black tortilla chips for a creepy effect.

Make witch fingers out of bread stick dough. Cut pepperoni slices to look like fingernails. Don’t forget to score the dough with a knife, creating knuckles and wrinkles for a more realistic look. If you don’t want to use breadstick dough you can make fingers from carrot sticks. Simply attach an almond fingernail with cream cheese and stand the carrots up in a bowl of ranch dressing.

Make green jello, mix in pineapple juice, lemon lime soda and vodka (if adults only) and pour into a punch bowl. In the meantime add dry ice and water to a large cauldron. Fit the punch bowl into a cauldron. Now you have magically smoking witches brew.

Use test tubes to hold tomato soup. Cut out pumpernickel bread in monster shapes and make grilled cheese.

Building a House…I Wish I Had Thought of That! (Part Two)

Screen Shot 2013-05-07 at 10.36.28 AMAs promised we have added more helpful tips that will hopefully keep you from saying “I wish I had thought of that!”

  • Bathroom: I wish I had thought of this one…when designing your cabinets for your bathrooms, think about longer drawers and fewer cabinets. The storage in drawers can be so efficient. Adding draw organizers is sure to make anyone happy!
  • Rounded Corners: Round corners create a smooth custom look throughout your home, which is sometimes easy to miss when you’re thinking about the design of your home.
  • Wall Texture: have you ever noticed the wall texture on homes that you have visited? Some are rough, others a little textured (referred to as knocked down), and then there is smooth. Think about the style of your home and remember there are options when it comes to wall texture.
  • Screen Shot 2013-05-06 at 1.30.12 PMHardwood or Ceramic Floors: You don’t have to pick one or the other, you can have both! Combining wood floors and ceramic adds texture and style to any home. Just remember that the transition from one material to another can make or break a design. Make sure you have a clear-cut line between the two rooms; adding a border in the wood creates a very clean look.
  • Basement Ceiling:  The average basement ceiling is 8 to 9 feet tall. To make your basement feel more open and like the rest of your house consider 10-foot ceilings. You will pay a little more but at the end you will be happy you did it!
  • Interior Doors:  Solid 8-foot wood doors throughout your home will make a statement. Larger doors bring a custom feel to your home that you will enjoy for years to come.

Building a house takes a lot of time and planning. Try to put things in perspective and prioritize what is important to you and your family.

We’d like to take this opportunity to thank Megan for spending her time and sharing her home building insight!

Building a House…I Wish I Had Thought of That! (Part One)

Screen Shot 2013-05-07 at 10.37.00 AMWe would like to introduce Megan, one of our readers who has been kind enough to share her story and advice on building a house.

If building a house is in your future there are many things to think about and consider. Below are some helpful tips that will hopefully keep you from saying, “I wish I had thought of that!”

  • Window Shape: When I built my house I was set on having bamboo shades. It wasn’t till after I moved in that I discovered bamboo shades couldn’t be customized to an arched window. This actually made a lot of sense, but I had not thought about it when we were designing the window shapes in the house.
  • Master Shower: This is a brilliant idea instead of installing shelves in the corners of the shower for your shampoo.  You can do pocket shelves on the same wall as the shower knob. This provides a dry area for all your shower essentials and keeps things neat, tidy, handy, and dry!
  • Hallways: For an added touch use arch niches in your hallway. This is great for a picture or plant. Don’t forget the accent light!
  • Screen Shot 2013-05-07 at 10.35.58 AMEntry Area: An insert of tile or slate is the perfect solution for keeping your wood floors from getting moisture from rain and snow. It’s easy to maintain and worry free.
  • Carpet:  Make sure you get a good carpet pad. A good pad will extend the life of your carpet and you’ll be able to feel the difference on your feet!  Also, go one step further and research carpet beyond “base grade”.

You don’t want to miss next week’s post! Megan has even more information she’d like to share.  Stay tuned.

Putting the Family in Family Room

7596084_SOne of the best ways to create family time is to create a family room that is warm and inviting for the entire family.  Furniture and flooring can go a long way to making the family room a place the entire family will want to hang out.

Starting on the floor, choose flooring that works for your family’s lifestyle.  Super high traffic areas like family rooms mean you’ll want a durable and stain resistant material. Given some activities like gaming and play in the family room mean sitting on the floor, you’ll want flooring that is also comfortable.  Stain-resistant carpet could be a good choice. So could wood floors or laminate flooring with the addition of an area rug in the seating area.  If you have pets, a wood or laminate floor might be the better choice than carpet.

Ample seating for watching movies, the big game or playing games is also key for a family friendly room. A mix of seating options is always a good idea. Sectional sofas or a pair of sofas in an L-shape creates a nice cozy arrangement for conversation and television watching. Portable seating like poufs, ottomans or stools can be moved around the room as needed, or stored out of the way.

Family photos on the walls and good storage to hide clutter are also good additions to a family room. Make the room inviting and you’ll find yourself and your family hanging out there more.

Hanging Art on the Walls

16545017_SThere are a few things in decorating that can intimidate most of us homeowners. Major investments like flooring and appliances can give us pause on making the right decision for the money and our lifestyle.  Another one of the biggest decisions is choosing what to hang on the walls.

Why is art so intimidating? Is it the expense? The worry that we like the “wrong” kind of art? Not knowing what to buy or where to buy it?  Art for the walls of our homes doesn’t have to be expensive art bought from galleries and auctions. While it is wonderful to collect art, decorating our walls doesn’t need to be a huge investment in the art market.  The best rule for buying art is to buy what you love.

If you buy art that you love, it will make you smile whenever you walk into the room.  Art can also be much more personal. Framed family photos and heirlooms are lovely hung in large groups or enlarged. You can have them printed in all black and white for a cohesive look.  There are even companies that will print your photos on canvas to make your photos really feel like works of art.

Creating gallery walls is a wonderful way to display art.  As opposed to one large piece over the sofa as was tradition, creating a space to display a number of works is visually more interesting. Mix in fine art with family photos and children’s masterpieces for a personal wall of art.

Don’t Get Too Wrapped Up This Year

Do you find yourself stressing as the holidays approach about getting everything wrapped and ready? Here are some suggestions to reduce the demands of gift wrapping and give you more time to enjoy the season.

Set up a gift-wrap center: Whether it’s a card table in front of the TV for a few weeks or just a spot on the floor, prepare a place for wrapping. Include good paper scissors; an office-style tape dispenser that can be used one-handed; and your gift-wrap supplies including paper, ribbon and tags. With just a little planning, you have a go-to space for everyone in the family to wrap gifts.

Pace yourself: Unwrapped gifts scattered around the house look and feel like clutter, but wrap them and you have instant holiday decorations. When you come home after a day of shopping, take part of the evening to wrap up and label the spoils of your labor.

Pre-sort: Will some gifts be brought to a family member’s home and others stay? Are certain presents planned hostess gifts? Create separate sections for each category of present, so it will be easier to pick up the ones needed at the right time.

Make a list, check it twice: Before wrapping your gifts, be sure to make a list of whom you’re giving what to, so that you know when your shopping is done.

Keep it simple: This may mean just one style of wrapping paper and ribbon so that you don’t have to worry about balancing colors. It may involve using stick-on bows or thicker wire-edged ribbon that makes it easy for your gifts to look splashy with little effort. You may want to have a few holiday bags for those gifts such as footballs that just don’t work with wrapping paper.

This year make your gift-wrap process easier and more streamlined, and you may have time to sing a few holiday songs and even bake cookies.

Get Your Dining Room Ready for the Holidays!

If you are fan of decorating shows and blogs, you’ll know there is a big trend right now to mixing and matching furniture. Breaking up sets of furniture and adding pieces from different eras and styles are popular with designers on and off television.  So, don’t be afraid of bringing in different chairs around the table for more seating for your guests. The typical set of dining room furniture where the chairs, table, buffet and china cabinet are all purchased together is changing and evolving. Adding your personal touch to a set of furniture will make it feel less like you are living in a furniture showroom or model home.

As you can see in the dining room above, there is a mix of three different sets of chairs around the table.  It still looks elegant with this collection of chairs.  The chandelier is a great way to add sophistication to the space.  The neutral patterned wallpaper enriches the entire room, without overpowering it.  The storage cabinet in the back is a perfect solution for storing plates and decorations.  The mirror makes the room feel bigger; if you have a mirror hanging just make sure to have it reflecting something pleasing to the eye.  A buffet area would allow for extra space to place food or drinks that are easy to access during the holiday meals.

Make the holidays interesting by having special table settings and decorations around the room.  Cut into a gourd or pumpkin and you can place your guests’ names there for place settings.  Candlesticks or vases with flowers are always a great option for centerpieces.  Get the kids involved and have craft time. You can display their special crafts as centerpieces for the table or décor for around the house.

Have fun with your dining room decorating this holiday season! There are no rules as long as you enjoy it.  Get creative and enjoy the holidays with family and friends.

Entertaining: Casual Dinner Party

In our busy lives it can be difficult to make time for friends and family gatherings. Starting a tradition of weekly family meals is one way to make sure you have quality time together. Another great tradition is to have dinner parties with your friends and neighbors. These parties do not have to be formal affairs. A casual meal in the slow cooker or on the grill is a good excuse to bring together a small group of friends and neighbors.

Open concept kitchens that open onto the dining area are great for these casual dinner parties. It seems at most parties people gather in the kitchen. Allowing the chef or chefs to interact with guests both in the kitchen and gathered at the table is a great thing for the hosts.  Having an open concept kitchen dining area that shares the same floor surface, whether it be tile or wood, will make the two spaces feel like one large room.

For a casual dinner party, you can make it a progressive party where courses are served at different homes. This is a great idea for neighbors or a small block party. Potluck can help keep the costs down for you if your guests bring dessert or appetizers.

Making time for friends and neighbors is a wonderful way to open your home and entertain guests. Dinner parties do not have to be formal or fancy to bring people together over good food, good drinks and good conversation.

Creative Projects for Wallpaper Remnants

Wallpapering walls and even ceilings is a hot trend that we’ve been seeing all over the design world. If you’ve recently done a wallpaper project in your home you might have a partial roll of paper leftover. There are many ways to use wallpaper beyond the walls and ceilings of your rooms. If you are too leery of putting up wallpaper and don’t have a spare roll lying around your home, you can buy a single roll for these projects.

Wallpaper is a great way to add color and pattern to a room and can also be used to spruce up furniture and cabinets.  You can use spare rolls or buy a roll or two of wallpaper for smaller projects. Adding wallpaper to cabinets and furniture can give new life to old or dated pieces.

Add wallpaper to the inside of a bookshelf or cabinet to create a colorful background. Painting the exterior and adding wallpaper can turn an old cabinet or flea market find into a custom piece that perfectly matches your décor.

Just like an area rug can add pattern and color to the floor, wallpaper can add it to any flat surface. A console table, dresser, or table top can be transformed with chic wallpaper. Be sure to seal the surface after you apply the paper to protect it from spills and wear.

For less permanent ways to use small sections of wallpaper, think about framing them. A collection of framed wallpaper patterns is an expensive way to decorate bare walls.

Adding Pops of Color

If you follow design shows on TV or read design blogs (like this one), you’ll be familiar with the beloved “pop of color” used by designers.  The pop of color is that burst of accent color that adds life and energy to a design.  It can be a single color, contrasting colors, or multicolored. These pops are typically accent pieces and accessories.  Even a large piece of furniture in a color can be a pop of color if it is in a neutral space. More commonly the pop of color is something small that can easily be swapped out for another object, should the mood strike.

In this living room, predominate colors are neutral.  Neutral color upholstery on the chair, neutral wall colors, and the neutral carpet make for an almost monochromatic room. The dark brown TV stand/cabinet creates a focal point for the room.

While layers of tonal colors can feel sophisticated and chic, interest in this room comes from the small pops of color.  The purple accent pillow on the chair and area rug add a nice layer of color. The green and red bottles as décor on the TV stand/cabinet also add more depth.  Any of these colors can be swapped out and the effect would be the same.

Art on the wall introduces other colors to the room and becomes its’ own pop of color. The fact that the painting colors don’t perfectly match the other accent colors makes the combination more interesting and less matchy-matchy.