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Kitchen Design Mistakes You May be Making

Kitchens are the heart of any home. You will likely spend plenty of time in your kitchen, preparing meals and even eating. During get-togethers you may find your friends and family gravitating towards your kitchen. If you’ve checked out these kitchen tours or have looked at beautiful kitchens in magazines, you may want a gorgeous space for cooking at your house.

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Kitchens, can be tricky, though. There are many design mistakes common in this room:

Not putting practicality first

Your kitchen is the hardest-working room in the house. Of course, you want it to look great – but you also need it to function smoothly. When considering how well your kitchen works or when thinking about how to remodel the space, list the three dishes you make most often and the steps needed for each dish. How easily can you make the dishes in your kitchen now? How easily could you make these dishes in the kitchen remodel you are considering?

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Over-design

If you are daydreaming over home fashion magazines and catalogs of gourmet designs, you may be thinking about cute and trendy appliances, counters, and kitchens. While these can be fun to look at, they are not usually very practical. You want a kitchen that can stand the test of time, and that means erring on the side of classic designs.

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Ignoring the three most important kitchen areas

The three most important area in the kitchen are the sink, the stove area, and the refrigerator. Not only should you make sure that these areas are highly functional, but they should also be easily accessible and close enough together that moving back and forth between these areas is simple. These three areas are so important that they are sometimes called “The Golden Triangle.” To find out more, check out this great BBC article.

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Too little counter space

You need a lot of counter space for food prep, cutting, and preparing meals. This is especially the case if there is more than one person preparing meals and cooking in your kitchen. If your kitchen is too small for lots of counter space, you may want to invest in a fold-away or pull-out butcher block or a kitchen cart that offers storage space underneath and a cutting space on top.

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An island that gets in the way

An island seems like a good idea because it allows you to add storage and food prep areas in the center of a larger kitchen. But it can quickly get in the way if you keep crashing into the island or if people sitting and eating at the island get in the way of you getting to your counter area. One solution is to put a stove and sink area in your island area so that you can get prep work and cooking done right in the middle of your kitchen. Another option is to forego the island and instead use a kitchen cart that can easily be wheeled again.

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Too little storage space

Kitchens can’t have enough storage space. You need a spot to store food, pots, pans, cutlery, and gadgets. If you have a tiny kitchen, you will need to get creative about storage space. Start by making sure that you are using all your space – including the space near the ceiling. Use organization racks and plastic tubs to keep things organized in drawers and cupboards so that you can fit more in. If you have the room, you can also buy a tall pantry cupboard for your kitchen area.

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Bad air circulation and waste solutions

Kitchens can get stinky fast and they can also overheat easily if you cook or bake a lot. Install a vent above your stove so that you can take care of food odors and open your kitchen window often to air out the room. Keep a smaller waste container in the kitchen so that you take out the trash more often and prevent odors. Scented candles in the kitchen and a strict cleaning schedule can also ensure that your kitchen smells great.

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Dim lighting

You need to see what you are doing in order to whip up great meals for you and your friends. Kitchens need more lighting than most rooms. You will want bright overhead lights as well as track and task lighting to light up your counter, stove, and other food prep areas. Under-the-cabinet lights work well in the kitchen and don’t take up much room.

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Cabinets with space on top

It’s a terrible waste of space and just attracts dust (in a spot where you can’t reach easily). Make sure that your cupboards go right up the ceiling or at least don’t have that do-nothing space on top. You can place less-used items in these areas.

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Boring design

Just because your kitchen is hard-working, that doesn’t mean it can’t be gorgeous. If you add cute or trendy items, though, make sure that they are something that you can live with for a while since remodeling a kitchen is usually costly. Or, do the smarter thing and add a little spice with fun and colorful accessories that can be changed up. A fun wine rack, for example, or a new set of bar stools won’t cost much but can add a little fun to the area.

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Too many gourmet appliances

It’s easy to watch cooking shows and get over-enthusiastic about all the appliances and little gadgets that TV chefs have. Just remember that it is TV: it is meant to sell you things and is meant to be glamorous. Your own kitchen doesn’t need those things. Worse, if you fill your home kitchen with lots of appliances and items it will be harder for you to find room for it all.

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Overspending

If you want to make any changes in your kitchen, it’s important to compare prices and to work with a strict budget. This is one renovation where price can get away from you.

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Have you been making any of these mistakes in your kitchen? Now’s the time to re-do, re-think, and re-imagine your space so that you’ll enjoy spending time in this room rather than reaching for take-out menus every night.

Décor Touches to Make Your Home Cozy for Fall

Now that autumn is here, it’s time to create a cozier home for those cooler evenings. During this time of year, many of us spend more time indoors as the weather changes, and this means you may want to make a few changes to make your home comfortable:

Rethink your palette.

One thing to look out for in autumn is a cold house. Bright colors that are cheering in the summer can feel cold in the fall. Great autumnal colors include reds, orange, copper, brass, rich greens, and even smoky grey. You don’t have to re-do your entire color scheme, but consider adding a little color with throws, rugs, candles, and other accessories. A great option is to add color and texture with richly textures blankets, curtains, and rugs. Thick wools, textured or nubby fabrics, cashmere, and leather are great choices for fall.

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Decorate with organic items.

Bring a little of the indoors in. Buy some fall flowers at the farmer’s market or buy some autumnal wreaths. A centerpiece of fall leaves on the mantel also works great. Or, consider orbs. Made from wicker or metal, orbs are inexpensive and can be filled with flowers or can work standalone. For inspiration, check out this article. Organic, natural items bring a little warmth into your home without costing much. They blend nicely with most décor and they can bring some nature in at a time when you are probably spending more time inside. If you’d like more tips on creating your own autumn decorations, check out this handy page.

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Pay attention to indoor air quality.

While not an interior décor item per se, indoor air quality is even more important than the items you use to decorate your home. Now that you are closing your windows more often and will be using your heating system more, you need to make sure that your home is safe and comfortable. This is a great time to get basic maintenance on your HVAC or other heating system. It’ll save you the stress of having something go wrong on the first really cold day. If you haven’t already, this is also a great time to add some plants to your home and to switch to more natural cleaning products so that you can breathe easier.

While you’re at it, check to see whether your home is too damp or too dry. You can buy a hygrometer at your local hardware store to check how your home air is holding up – it will be in the same aisle as room thermometers. If you find problems, a dehumidifier or humidifier can go a long way towards keeping your home cozy – and safe.

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Think spicy.

Candles and diffusers with rich scents of cinnamon, nutmeg, leather, vanilla, and other warm fragrances can really make your home seem welcoming and autumnal. Candles in rich colors and warm scents are an especially great idea at this time of year since they add a soft glow and a great fragrance as days get shorter.

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Add more seating.

Fall often means more entertaining, so consider adding some more seating areas for guests. Padded benches or groupings of chairs in your dining area, living area, and entrance area can create a great welcoming feel. It’s also a practical way to ensure you have room for people who stop by. A bench or cozy chair also looks great – especially if you choose seating that is rich in color and texture. If you can’t afford to go all-out with new chairs or benches, take a second look at your outdoor furniture. If you have wicker patio sets, for example, a few throw pillows and a cozy blanket can transform them into a cozy seat for a foyer or a nook.

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Give extra attention to entrances.

There will be more activity here, so re-focus from your garden to foyers, doors, and walkways. Hang an autumnal wreath on your door and make sure that your walkway is lit up for evening visits. Add some sunflowers or fall leaves to a hallway table. Since days may be getting wetter, invest in an attractive rug or mat in front of your door. Make sure your home says “welcome.”

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Think rustic.

Rustic touches are a great option for autumn. This is the perfect time to show off any decorative items you have that feature a little patina and character. Whether it’s a copper vase or an old trunk, rustic works wonderfully. Go raid your attic for a few ideas.

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A few extra touches are all it takes to help your home transition between the seasons beautifully.

Acronyms You Need to Know to Keep Your Home Safe and Cozy

If you are shopping for furniture, décor items, or appliances for your home, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the vocabulary. Sometimes, it feels as though you need a glossary just to get through the showroom. In addition to trying to keep clear on different features and styles, you may run into these common acronyms when shopping:

CFL.

Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs (CFLs) are energy-saving light bulbs intended to replace traditional light bulbs. If you are buying a lighting fixture or lamp for your apartment or house, you may notice that your lighting choice allows or does not allow CFLs. For example, if you buy a lamp with a dimmer, you will likely not be able to use a CFL light. You can learn more about these light bulbs here.

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EMFs.

Electromagnetic fields (EMFs) are weak magnetic and electrical fields that are produced by wireless devices and electronic equipment. This World Health Organization website provides additional details. EMFs have been linked in some studies to childhood cancers and other serious health risks, so if you are buying any electric appliances or electronics for your home, you may wish to read more about EMFs and look for appliances that produce little or no EMFs.

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FSC.

Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified furniture is made from wood that adheres to the sustainable forestry rules set out by the FSC. If you are concerned about the environment, buying FSC-certified furniture gives you some peace of mind. You can read more about the FSC and sustainable furniture at this site.

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HEPA.

HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) is used to describe a standard applied to air filters and some vacuums. Appliances that meet the HEPA standard must meet standards set by the United States Department of Energy (DOE). If you have allergies or are concerned about air quality in your home, a HEPA filter or vacuum may help you to remove some fine particles from your indoor air. To learn more about the HEPA standard, visit this site.

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MDF.

Medium density fiberboard (MDF), also known as engineered wood, is made from wood fibers that are bonded together with pressure and heat. Furniture made from MDF tends to be lighter and less expensive than real wood pieces and can still be durable.

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SFI.

The Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) certifies wood products – including furniture and home décor items that meet standards for sustainable wood harvesting and production. If you are shopping for wood furniture and looking for eco-friendly products, this is a certification to look for. You can find out more about the SFI labels here.

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TBPH.

Often used as a fire retardant in furniture foam and other products, is(2-ethylhexyl) tetrabromophthalate (TBPH) actually replaces older flame retardants that were considered unsafe. Unfortunately, according to this article and others, there are still health concerns with TBPH and other foam products.

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VOCs.

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are chemicals which have a low boiling point and a high vapour pressure in regular conditions, which means they can easily leach from finishes or paints and into your air. VOCs have been linked to immune problems, allergic reactions, and respiratory ailments in children who have been exposed to toxic VOCs over a longer period of time. It is important to look for low-VOC paints, carpets, finishes, and stains when decorating your home, especially when decorating a baby or child’s room. To learn more about how VOCs may be affecting your indoor air quality, you can read more at the EPA website here.

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While there is no such thing as a completely safe home, being aware of what is in your furniture can go a long way towards keeping your family safe. Consider getting familiar with the above abbreviations before shopping so that you can make smart decisions – as well as stylish choices – for your home.

Décor Hacks to Transform Your Home

You don’t have to be a genius (or a trust fund baby) to make your home gorgeous. A few simple hacks can take your home’s interior from ho-hum to dazzling:

Never throw anything away without careful consideration.

It’s amazing what you can do in your home with a few items you were about to throw out. That old coffee table can be transformed into a TV table, ottoman, or shelving. There is even a tutorial online on how to transform plastic spoons into a decorative wreath (really – you can see it here). Something as modest as some cardboard can be transformed into something functional, such as a vanity (instructions here) or a room divider (visit this page for how-tos).

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If you are looking around your home and thinking that you need all new furniture, really consider before tossing anything out. You can often get a hip new look simply by repainting something you have or transforming it. If you would like some cool ideas on transforming what you own into unique décor items, check out this Pinterest page.

Invest in crown molding from your local hardware store.

It is truly amazing what some simple — and inexpensive — crown molding can do:

  • Attach it to your walls for one-of-a-kind frames
  • Add texture to walls by applying layers of it over your walls
  • Affix it to the top of bookcases and paint it to match your shelves to create a more upscale bookcase
  • Create the look of built-in bookshelves by placing several tall bookshelves side by side and applying crown molding along the edges where the bookshelves meet – you’ll get the look of one built-in wall unit if you paint the entire structure
  • Add some interest to your ceiling space by attaching dramatic crown molding in a contrasting color near the ceiling
  • Transform a chest of drawers by sticking strips of crown molding to the drawers, painting the whole piece, and adding funky hardware

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Buy wallpaper, fabrics, and paints you love in bulk.

You can transform just about any home with these three items. Use the paint to update walls, kitchen cabinets, furniture, and even floors. For some incredible decoration makeovers with paint, check out this Pinterest page.

Wallpaper is another interior design secret. It’s really not just for walls. The cool patterns mean that it can transform just about anything in your house, from old hatboxes and vases to old pieces of furniture and even doors. Try wallpapering just one wall or the insides of your bookcases for a fun look. If you live in an apartment, you can even make your own temporary wallpaper from fabric and starch (find the instructions here).

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Fabrics are another thing you will want to stock up on. You can use them to create your own curtains, bed coverings, throws, and more. Even if you can’t sew, you can use gorgeous fabrics to reupholster existing furniture. If you live in an apartment or just don’t want to bother with wallpaper or paint, you can also transform drab walls by hanging large pieces of fabric over them. If you live in a rented space, simply use tension rods to keep the fabric in place.

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With a little padding and some fabric, you can also transform just about anything into a cute seating area. For example, turn a shelving unit on its side, add padding and fabric to the top, and you have a cute bench or window seat. A stepstool or even a block of wood can become an ottoman with padding and some fabric.

Steal ideas from expensive stores and magazines and create your own.

One of the best hacks out there is simple: find a cute or trendy item that costs an arm and a leg and create your own version for a fraction of the price. This site can show you how.

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Buy inexpensive blank canvases and use them to cover up anything you don’t like.

Buy blank canvases at your local art store and paint them yourself if you are artsy. If not, use stencils, fabric, wallpaper, or your photos on the canvas to create your work of art. Then, use your art pieces to cover up cracks in the walls, unsightly air conditioners, exposed pipes, or anything else that you hate but don’t have time to fix right away.

Try a few DIY decor projects this weekend — a few supplies may be all you need to makeover your apartment or house.

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Moving is a Chance to Revamp Your Style

Moving is no-one’s idea of fun. Unless you are fortunate enough to get movers who can pack, move, and unpack for you, you are probably going to be living with boxes and a bit of frustration during your move. The one silver lining? A move is the perfect time to revamp your style and create that home you have always dreamed of.

Before you Move

When relocating, you are effectively paying for every item you own. If you are hiring movers, you will generally pay per pound as well as per meters in distance. If you are moving yourself, you will need a larger, more expensive truck if you have more stuff. The solution? Get rid of everything you don’t love or really need. Likely ideas for pruning include:

  • Things you haven’t used in more than a year
  • Things you received as gifts but don’t really like
  • Any piece of décor and furniture that you don’t love or need
  • Any décor or furniture item you have outgrown
  • Any item that won’t fit in your new home
  • Any items that will be too difficult to move

If you are having trouble getting rid of things, read this blog post about de-cluttering or check out the MSN post here about cleaning up before a move. Keep in mind, though, that everything you get rid of you may need to replace at your new apartment. Really consider what you need – it’s probably less than you think. You will generally need (to start):

  • A few pots and pans and kitchenware
  • A few utensils and plates
  • A bed
  • Clothes hangers and a place to put your clothes
  • Your computer and some electronics
  • A place to sit and eat

Some of these things you can buy when you arrive in your new home. Keep in mind, too, that you can break up sets. If you love your dining room chairs but don’t love the table, keep the chairs and sell the table. You can pick up something nicer when you are moved in.

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Keep Things Organized

Staying organized is easier than you think – even if you are living out of a suitcase for a few days until you unpack. You will need a binder or folder with several tabs and pockets. Inside, you will want to keep everything related to your move, including:

  • Photos of your new and old homes, with measurements of each room, door, and window
  • Ideas for decorating your new home
  • Contact information for your real estate agent, utility companies, movers, and anyone else you may need to contact
  • Swatches of upholstery and paint samples for your new apartment or house
  • A list of places where you can buy furniture, housewares, and anything else you may need
  • Lists of things to buy, things to do, and things to bring when you move
  • Receipts
  • A tape measure and a calculator

Bring this information with you whenever you are running errands. Whether you are buying new furniture or trying to arrange a move, this information will be handy and will ensure you don’t get a couch that doesn’t fit in your door or end up buying paint that clashes with your floor. Check out this post to see how one blogger organized a move.

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After Your Move

Once the move is over, it’s time to start setting up your new apartment or house. If you have moved from a larger space to a small studio apartment, the main adjustment will be to reduce what you own and to buy furniture that fits the scale of your new space. Even if the space size is the same, however, your new home may have a different style or you may be moving into a different lifestyle as well as a new place.

Take some time to get familiar with your home. The impulse is to run out and buy everything you need right away, but it makes sense to set up what you have and to start creating lists of what you might want to furnish your home. Compare prices on items and consider spending some time just living in your new, barer space until you find something that really appeals to you. If you need a kitchen table, for example, consider hunting around for one that really suits you and suits the apartment rather than buying the first pre-fab set you see. Yes, you may need to eat at your kitchen counter or on the sofa for a few days, but it will be worth it to get the best price on something that will bring you pleasure.

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Remember: a move is a chance to start over, and that means making new style and home choices. This is your chance to buy something you really like, not something that just happens to be convenient or on sale. Take your time and make choices you are excited about.

Making New Style Choices Fit Your Space

Once you have the basic furniture you need, you will want to make your apartment or house your own. Adding plants, art, and other decorative choices is ideal, but think carefully before just transferring the pieces you have now to your new space. One of the big challenges with relocating is that your new space will likely have a different style. You may be used to a modern apartment and your new house may be a historic property with high ceilings and original molding. Or, you may be moving from a historic walk-up to an ultra-modern condo. In either case, it is important to adjust your style slightly so that it complements the space. If you are looking at the blank canvas of your new apartment and just feel confused, check out the interior design tips at this Southern Comfort post and this HGTV article.

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As you set up your new space, keep in mind that this can be a great style adventure. Start paying attention to home styles and furniture options. You may find new ideas and styles that really appeal to you and help you create that perfect dream space you have always wanted.