Carter Oosterhouse: Making Homes Asthma-Healthy

June 23, 2011 at 4:59 pm , by

Did you know that many things inside your home can trigger asthma attacks? Common allergens, such as dust mites, mold, pet dander, and pollen, as well as irritants like smoke and VOCs in paint and adhesives all cause problems for asthma sufferers. Luckily there are ways to make your home more asthma-healthy, and there’s a new campaign called Build Smart, Breath Easier that’s working with HGTV host and carpenter Carter Oosterhouse (that’s him at left) and Habitat for Humanity in order to raise awareness.

I sat down with Carter and Dr. Reynold Panettieri a few weeks ago to learn more about the program and what homeowners can do to improve their own indoor air quality. Carter is working with Habitat to design four asthma-healthy homes around the country for families affected by the disease. The first house, being built in Detroit for a family of four, recently kicked off construction. Homes in Philadelphia, Georgia, and Los Angeles will follow. Read more

On Trend: Imperfect China

June 1, 2011 at 3:10 pm , by

Screen shot 2011-06-01 at 10.50.26 AMI’m in the market for some new dishes. Now that I have more cabinet space, I’m finally going to pick up the heirloom china that’s been in storage at my mom’s house for years. It’s pretty formal—white with a blue floral pattern and a platinum band—but it’ll look more modern mixed with all-white dishes. While hunting around for some online, I noticed a number of designs that have an organic, imperfect edge that I really like. It picks up on the Japanese wabi-sabi aesthetic, which is all about accepting and seeing the beauty in imperfection. (Now that’s a philosophy I can get behind.)

Luckily you can pick up this trend at any price point:

Above, CB2′s Calla Dinnerware is made of stoneware, which is usually the least expensive type of china you can buy. It’s sturdy, though, and holds up for daily use. Prices range from $3.95 for a small bowl to $6.95 for a dinner plate.

Screen shot 2011-06-01 at 3.08.02 PMIkea, long a purveyor of $.99 plates, has gone fancy, selling a set called Skyn that’s made of bone china (this has a more delicate look and usually gets saved for special occasions). Prices start at $7.99 for 2 small serving bowls and run up to $29.99 for a large serving bowl. Check out a nice photo of the set over at the kitchn.

Screen shot 2011-06-01 at 10.51.00 AMOrganic Shaped Dinnerware from West Elm is made of glazed porcelain. Porcelain is a little bit nicer than stoneware, and usually has a whiter finish. A set of 4 mugs goes for $12; a set of 4 dinner plates for $28.

Screen shot 2011-06-01 at 10.51.43 AMPebblestone Dinnerware from Diane Von Furstenberg at Bloomingdale’s is also made from porcelain. These plates are $13 and up apiece.

Marimekko Turns 60!

May 25, 2011 at 5:59 pm , by

Screen shot 2011-05-25 at 5.15.17 PM

Today marks Marimekko‘s 60th anniversary, but the Finnish textile company is just as modern as ever. Though they started out with clothing (and still make some really adorable swing dresses and more), I’ve had a crush on their vibrant, pop-art designs ever since I first came across them in Crate & Barrel years ago. The store’s had a long relationship with Marimekko, carrying a variety of their bedding and other home products since the early 1960s. And just this year C&B opened dedicated Marimekko Shops within several of their stores—here in NYC, Chicago, and Los Angeles—to showcase even more of their whimsical housewares.

At left, Unikko, was created back in 1964, and remains one of their best-sellers.

A few of my favorite current pieces after the jump: Read more

Sara’s Tech Tips: How To Clean Your Gadgets

May 24, 2011 at 9:48 am , by

Whether the dust that has created a protective barrier between you and your ability to see your TV screen or the computer keyboard contains at least one crumb from every meal you’ve multi-tasked over the last several months… our gadgets can get pretty nasty. Here’s the scoop on how to clean them (without ruining them!).

What you’ll need: Water and isopropyl alcohol (mixed 60/40,) a bottle of compressed air, microfiber or electrostatic cloths (like Swiffer or Pledge dry cloths) and cotton swabs.

Remember: You should always turn off and unplug all devices before cleaning them. Also, rather than vigorously scrubbing your gear like you would your dishes, channel the image of handling a baby when cleaning your gadgets. They may seem tough with the ease in which they solve all of our problems, but they are fragile (expensive!) machines to be handled with care.

Screens (computer, TV, and smart phone) seem to be magnets for dust and grime. Even the cleanest among us will notice a layer of dust coating the surface of the TV or computer. And don’t forget about the smudgy finger prints. First, wipe them down with a microfiber cloth (which traps dust between fibers) or a electrostatic cloth (which has synthetic fibers that create magnetic charge to pull dust to them). By doing this, you actually remove dust rather than spreading it around or unsettling it just to have it land back on your screen within minutes. Then, use a cloth dampened with the water/alcohol mixture to remove the fingerprints. (Paper towels and napkins are too abrasive for standard screens and can leave minute scratches on the surface).

Keyboards (computers and smart phones) are a more delicate area to clean because any fluid you use can drain into the actual machine, causing damage. That’s why it’s important to spray liquid cleaner (like the alcohol/water mix or other gadget-specific cleaning products) onto a cloth and NOT onto the device itself. Wipe the top of the keys off with a cloth and then use a cotton swab dipped in alcohol to trace the sides of the keys. Finally, use the compressed air to blast any dust and grime out from the inside of the keyboard.

Earphones often end up attracting earwax or other unidentified yuck from the bottom of the bag or purse they have been riding in. If they have soft removable covers, take them off and soak them for 10/15 minutes in a glass of water mixed with a couple drops of soap. Then, using an alcohol-dipped cotton swab, wipe over the earphones themselves. Let them dry for 20 minutes afterward to ensure that all of the water has evaporated.

Decorating a Kids Room on the Cheap

May 12, 2011 at 4:24 pm , by

We just moved in December and though we’ve been working like crazy to renovate our old house, it seems as though none of it is done. Except Lily’s room. What began as the plaid wallpapered office of an elderly man, is now a really pretty room that my almost-three-year-old loves. Here are my tips for a great kids room on a budget.

Ask the kids what they want – Even at her young age, Lily had an opinion about the colors she wanted. Pink and red were all she asked for. Red became the accent color and we chose a coral-y pink for the walls – Benjamin Moore Shell Pink – and got the Ben formula because it was low VOC making it a lot less stinky than most paints. (Thanks to Lily’s Aunt Julsie who helped out on this painting job! And a shout out to my dad, brother and nephew who came to visit and spent 48 hours removing wallpaper! THANKS!)

Take a freebie if it’s offered to you - Everyone wants brand-new items for their babies but there are plenty of items in perfect condition on Craigslist – or you can even snag a freebie from a friend. Lily’s toddler bed was a hand-me-down from her big sister and even then we got it for free when I friend of my mom’s offered it up!

Shop at Ikea - It can not be beat for cute, fun kid’s stuff. The bedding, red table, picture frames, heart shaped mirror, rug and the knobs on her dresser are all from Ikea. Her duvet and duvet cover are actually twin size so we just folded it in half.

Go bold with big statement pieces. It’s a kids room – it should be fun! I really love the huge 20×30 custom-made “Lily” sign from MadeByGirl.  The colors were perfect with the room and she loves the alphabet so this was a no-brainer. And her pom poms really make the room!

Shop on Etsy. I found the pom poms from Party Poms for less than the tissue paper would have cost me to buy. They arrive all folded up and I just helped them “bloom” and hung them with the clear fishing line that was included. (The reversible tissue box cover is also an Etsy favorite of mine. It’s from Head to Toe. I have one in every room!)

Repurpose things you already have – The ribbon curtains (which I got at PB Teen years ago), the white lamp (from Target), and the rocking chair (a gift) were all from the girls’ shared nursery in our old house. For the lamp, I just removed the old pastel striped lampshade and added this new one from Target. Her dresser used to be plain solid pine and it lived in our bedroom many years ago. We just painted it to compliment Lily’s  room.

Be creative. Wondering what that striped panel is on the wall? It’s a big hole that opens to a storage space. (The former owners of our home had an old TV in it.) We’re just using it for storage so I had to figure out a way to cover up the hole. So, I bought this fabric at Ikea that matches her bedding and wrapped it around a piece of cardboard from a moving box. It’s not perfect. But it’ll do for now!

So, what do you think? Not bad, huh? Especially considering it cost about $200. So, tell me…how have you decorated your kid’s rooms?

Inspiring Small Homes

May 12, 2011 at 12:37 pm , by

4da0006a32704a4aa7000003._h.500_w.540_s.fit_No matter what size your home, most people have trouble finding room for all of their belongings. That’s especially true here in NYC, where many apartments lack closets (or are, in fact, the size of most closets). Don’t believe me? Check out this controversial 78 square foot abode that was entered in Apartment Therapy’s Small Cool contest.

Since I just moved earlier this month after six years in the same apartment, I especially enjoyed browsing through the entries looking for ideas. My new place has a bit of a storage challenge (only one closet, but the super-high ceilings make up for it). I already managed to get rid of quite a bit and pare down before the move, but it will definitely take me some time to find a “home” for everything. This time around I plan to be much more thoughtful, and slowly acquire furniture that I really love and works in my space. I’m hoping to live by that old William Morris quote, “Have nothing in your house that you don’t know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”

That’s why it’s so great to see other people’s ingenious small space planning and decorating tricks. The Small Cool contest winner, Jordan, whose living room is pictured above, was just announced Monday, and her apartment totally embodies that quote. Here, a few things you can learn from her. Read more

Staging Your House To Sell with HGTV’s Sabrina Soto

May 4, 2011 at 1:04 pm , by

Summer is nearing, and it’s a time when many homeowners are preparing to sell their houses. Of course, as anyone who has started this process before knows, there is a lot of grooming to think about before it’s ready to go on the market (kind of like entering the dating pool, right?). This doesn’t have to be a big daunting process if you know what to focus on, so we sat down with Sabrina Soto, HGTV designer and personality, to get some tricks of the trade:

Photo Courtesy HGTV

It’s Business, Not Personal: Disengage from the personal characteristics of your home by thinking of it as a product—not every potential buyer is going to appreciate the same aspects you do. Eliminate anything personal, political, or religious, which will largely be pictures and picture frames. If your rooms look sparse without them, Sabrina suggests printing black and white images from the internet to frame instead (think flowers, landscapes, and nature), but keep it minimal.

Lighten Up: To instantly brighten your rooms, “take down heavy draperies and install easy-to-clean shades or lightweight washable panels,” suggests Sabrina. “The more light you can introduce into the space, the bigger the room will feel.” If your curtains cannot be replaced, Sabrina advises they at least be dry cleaned once every two months. Also think about painting walls a light neutral, like a sage green or pale cappuccino shade, to maximize the feel of the room.  

Surprisingly, people often forget to…

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