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Monthly Archives: September 2016

Ideas to Beautify Your Kitchen Backsplash

Just as statement furniture can infuse a pop of color into your living room, an eye-catching backsplash can add intrigue to your kitchen. Details matter in the kitchen: it’s the place where you might share a warm conversation over a glass of wine, pour your heart and soul into a dinner for loved ones or teach your kids how to cook for the first time. So it only makes sense that the most beloved room in the house gets the embellishment it deserves! Whether you’re a foodie who loves spending time with recipes, or you’re someone who embraces creativity in design, take a look at these five gorgeous backsplash ideas for a bit of inspiration.

Go for Natural Materials

Raw, exposed brick is edgy: it can do a great job of balancing out modern cabinets and appliances with more texture and color. When slightly white-washed and weather-worn, a brick backsplash can set the perfect farm-to-table vibe in any kitchen. Bonus? It’ll go with any artwork you choose to complete the dining space.

Choose a Decorative Pattern

A color-blocked kitchen is just begging for a backsplash made with tiles that feature an ornate pattern. For a bohemian feel that’s very au courant, add Moorish-style tiles in a shade that complements your color scheme. Want to up the boho factor? Add in decorative details like a wooden counter top, ceramic dinnerware and a brushed copper vase to complete the look.

Never Doubt Time-Honored Subway Tile

A choice that straddles the line between utilitarian and glamorous, subway tile works if you’re looking to brighten up your kitchen with a touch of tradition. The key to a standout subway tile backsplash is to use darker grout to outline the tiles and make them pop. This luxurious kitchen features shiny tiles, but you can also purchase them in a matte finish that’s more reminiscent of an antique metro setting.

Try a Quick DIY That Makes an Impact

Saturday afternoon DIYers, this one is for you! Pressed tin is a wonderfully inexpensive and easy material to use when you’re looking to make a change that doesn’t includecaulking a backsplash tile by tile. Pick up several of these panels at your local hardware store and revamp your kitchen backsplash with a dramatic, intricate design. Then, subdue the rest of your decor to really make this backsplash shimmer.

Stick With Horizontal Silhouettes

If your kitchen is on the smaller side (hello, urban dwellers!), it’s wise to gravitate toward materials that will give your walls the illusion of width, like these reclaimed wooden boards. A clean white or cream shade like the one below looks effortless and is adaptable to nearly any kitchen aesthetic. Mount them horizontally to give the appearance of an expansive space, and adorn your kitchen with minimalist touches: the black pendant lights, black stool and solitary vase of leaves keeps the overall feel simple and satisfying.

Ways Clean Cast-Iron Cookware

There’s a reason cast-iron pots and pans have remained popular since pioneer times: The material is so tough it’s virtually immortal. Still, caring for and restoring cast-iron pans remains a mystery for many home cooks. So who better to shed light on the subject than the experts at Lodge, which has been making cast-iron cookware for upwards of 100 years? Here, Mark Kelly, PR and advertising manager, shares the company’s best practices for keeping your cast-iron pans going strong for a lifetime.

Take it easy
Cast-iron cookware should be cleaned differently from other pots in your kitchen. Just scrape off residue and hand-wash with a nonabrasive sponge and water, says Kelly—that’s it. Because the pans are sterile at 212º F, soap isn’t necessary (but if you’re still uneasy, you could use a mild soap). No matter what, be sure to dry them immediately to avoid rust spots from forming.

Keep it seasoned
Over time, cast iron becomes naturally nonstick—if you care for it correctly. Kelly recommends applying a light coat of vegetable oil to your pan after you’ve washed and dried it. Wipe on just enough to restore the surface’s sheen, but not so much it feels sticky. “Some people use too much oil when maintaining their cast-iron cookware,” he says. “A little goes a long way.”

Give it a second life
If you’ve inherited a pan that seems beyond repair, don’t worry. Minor rust spots can be removed by scouring the cookware, then washing, drying, and oiling it as usual. If you’ve got a seriously neglected piece—one that’s dull, gray, and has lost its nonstick properties—Kelly advises cleaning it with hot, soapy water (soap is all right in this case) and coating it inside and out with a thin layer of cooking oil. Bake the pan upside down at 350 to 400 degrees for at least an hour (with foil on the bottom rack of the oven to catch drips) and it will come out as good as new.

Steps to Stunning Painted Floors

When decorating a room, we usually get to work overhauling the walls, furnishings, and window treatments, but a key element is right beneath our feet. Renowned interior designer and decorator Miles Redd regularly uses paint to make the floors pop in his plush and playful spaces. “I love it in an entrance hall, where you’re covering a basic, not-so-special wood floor,” says Redd, who likes to bring a similar wow factor to dining rooms, kitchens, and children’s bedrooms. We asked Redd how to incorporate bold colors and striking patterns underfoot, and tapped Chris Pearson, his go-to painter, for technical tips.

Do the proper prep
You don’t need wood floors to benefit from the transformative powers of paint. Pearson, a specialty floor painter who’s worked on several of Redd’s rooms, has brushed up hardwood, linoleum, concrete, tile, and plastic flooring. No matter the material, Pearson stresses that the surface needs to be sanded down, vacuumed, and swept thoroughly before it gets a layer of primer. He suggests using a brush rather than a paint roller. “Rollers produce an orange-peel texture on the floor—the paint doesn’t adhere as well and it can affect the sheen,” he says.

Invest in quality paint
Springing for high-end paint is crucial to the floor’s longevity. Ask an expert at your local home improvement store to advise on the right type (either oil-based or latex) for the surface you’re working with. “Oil-based paint can yellow but is more durable and shiny,” says Redd, who favors richly colored, high-gloss paints from Fine Paints of Europe. Two to three coats should do the job.

Play with solids and patterns
“Black, white, and tan always work,” says Redd, but the designer definitely doesn’t shy away from more daring choices: “A color or faux marble in an interesting pattern is always transformative to a space.” Before you begin laying down painter’s tape, decide on the effect you want to achieve: A dark, sophisticated tone creates drama; a natural finish like faux bois adds subtle detail; and bold patterns, such as tumbling blocks, have immediate impact and can pull a room together.

Make it timeless
When choosing a pattern that will impress for years to come, it’s important to keep scale and continuity in mind. The size of the motif should be based on the size of the room, though Pearson tells us that the current trend is to go large. To help with the flow from room to room, he uses a combination of finishes—say, wood and marble—to coordinate the floor with design elements from around the house. In terms of making your floor last, physically, a final coat of polyurethane sealer is key to finish and protect it. High-traffic areas might require a touch-up coat every three to four years, but painted floors can stand up to plenty of wear and tear.

7 Common House-Maintenance Mistakes you

A house is a lot like a living thing: It’s great when the systems are firing on all cylinders, but when something isn’t right, it lets you know. According to a recent survey commissioned by Liberty Mutual Insurance, one-third of American homeowners (34 percent) have faced an unexpected home repair of $5,000 or more. But the truth is that for each of those all-too-avoidable catastrophes, there was a symptom that likely went ignored. “Most of the biggest mistakes that homeowners make revolve around what they are not doing,” says celebrity designer, HGTV personality, and Liberty Mutual Insurance consultant Chip Wade. “Neglecting routine home maintenance and ignoring signs of deterioration often cause permanent damage that ends up degrading the value of your home.” Learning to properly maintain your home can eliminate a lot of the guesswork involved in its upkeep. Here, Wade outlines seven of the biggest mistakes most homeowners make when it comes to their homes—and how to avoid making them in the first place.

1. Failure to winterize properly. “Often, homeowners overlook their sprinkler systems when the cold months hit and leave water in the lines,” says Wade. “When temperatures drop, sprinkler pipes can freeze and break. You may have a rupture and not even know it, costing you tons of cash as water drains into the soil, not to mention the cost to repair the broken sprinkler.”

2. Failure to address water damage. “This can have major consequences down the road,” Wade says. “When you don’t keep your spaces (like bathrooms) dry and in good repair, water damage and mold can start to occur. Within days and sometimes even hours of a condition like this not being addressed, water can penetrate into building materials to a point that can require complete replacement. If water damage stays for longer periods of time, mold can start to occur, which can lead to more costly removal or remediation.”

3. Ignoring appliance maintenance. “Your icemaker (higher-end models), for example, can start to scale up, especially if you have harder water that causes the mechanisms to stop working correctly. You also want to ensure that ice bins remain clean and sanitary. You can do this by emptying them out every month and cleaning with a bleach solution. Larger refrigerators often have water and sometimes air filters that need to be replaced.”

4. Indiscriminate power washing. “Pressure washing too close to masonry on the home is another mistake that can go unnoticed until it’s too late,” says Wade. “Homeowners often don’t realize that if you wash with too much pressure, it can cause mineral deposits to actually seep out of the brick and stone and cause white streaks that are virtually impossible to get off later. While you might think that you’re cleaning, you’re really ruining the masonry.”

5. Improper temperature control. “Closing a vent to help control room temperature might seem like a good idea, but most don’t know that this can cause the furnace to work harder and even lead to damage,” Wade says. “Furnace replacements can cost a whopping $3,500. I’d suggest calling in an HVAC contractor to take a look.”

6. Taping up the walls. “Avoid allowing kids to put tape and other adhesives on the walls. It may seem harmless, but it can pull the paper off the drywall, which can make repairs more difficult.”

7. Procrastination. “It never seems convenient to tackle a home-maintenance project at the current time. There is always something more urgent or fun to do,” Wade says. His solution? “Come up with a schedule for every maintenance item, put calendar reminders on your phone, and treat it like a meeting request. This way you won’t double-book, and it acts as the perfect reminder when you set it for the right time of year on a repeating schedule.”

See the error of your ways? Here’s how to get your home back on track.

1. Be proactive. According to a recent survey commissioned by Liberty Mutual Insurance, 30 percent of American homeowners are not maintaining systems in their homes on a regular basis. In fact, 24 percent admit that they are often behind schedule when it comes to routine home maintenance. “Proper home maintenance really is a year-round job, but in the fall, before the temperatures drop, it is the perfect time to take care of winterizing the outside of your home,” says Wade. “Keep your gutters clear so you don’t have water blockage issues later on.”

2. Get in a routine. “Every six months, seal your natural stone countertops and tile, especially in your kitchen. Make sure you clean your icemaker and check the service manual for the maintenance schedule on all kitchen appliances (usually refrigerators will need it). And replace the batteries of all of your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.”

3. In fact, six is the magic number. “Walk around your property (inside and outside) every six months—put a calendar reminder in your phone to help you remember. During the walk, make sure to look at all openings like doors and windows, attic vents, etc., inspecting for signs of decay or intrusion. Look at your electric, gas, and water bills from the previous year and cross-reference them with current bills to see if there may be something draining your resources. Also be sure to check all your plumbing fixtures and under-cabinet locations for slow leaks.”

4. Monitor your home with a smart device. “There are a ton of new smart home devices that can really help you keep tabs on your home from your smartphone, so no matter where you are you can be sure that everything is running smoothly,” Wade says. “Installing these devices can be a quick upgrade to your home that can really help give you peace of mind, especially if you find yourself constantly wondering, Did I lock the doors? Did I turn off the stove? What if someone breaks in?” Some of his favorites include the August SmartLock, which can lock and unlock your doors, create virtual keys for guests, and keep track of who comes and goes; the Nest Protect smoke and carbon monoxide detector, which sends alerts straight to your smartphone if you’re away from home; and the Canary video security system, which allows you to check on your house in real time. “These devices not only keep you safe but can also save you money,” he says. “For example, Liberty Mutual offers a discount on home insurance for having one or more of these smart home devices.”