How to Incorporate a Greener Life

How to Incorporate a Greener Life

No matter where you turn these days, the world is “going green”. It’s amazing how quickly the trend toward a greener life has spread. Thankfully, this trend is actually something to be excited about because it is creating a better world for the generations ahead of us. With climate change, we can no longer look the other way when it comes to being efficient, mindful and definitely not wasteful. Who knew saving the environment and using the earth’s resources in a more responsible way could be so fulfilling? When I think back to years ago, the green movement was in the news, but it seems in recent months to have really taken off because of the urgency to make things right and the emergence of more and more eco-friendly products. Sometimes “going green” sounds intimidating, but in actuality, if all of us take a few small steps we can really make an impact on saving the earth. I hope by reading these ideas, you can incorporate green living into your everyday lifestyle. Take a look at the list below for a few ideas on ways to go green.

Green Products For Your Home

  • It’s a no-brainer to switch to energy-efficient CFL light bulbs, LED type bulbs that last 10 times longer than traditional bulbs.
  • When you’re in the market for a new appliance, choose Energy Star appliances for better efficiency
  • A full freezer is easier to keep cool, so fill it up.
  • Embrace smart green living and download apps that help control lighting and your thermostat when you are not home.
  • Installing ceiling fans throughout your home will make the actual temperature feel lower than it actually is. (This is doubly effective for homes with high vaulted ceilings)
  • Repurpose glass containers and jars into food storage or lunch containers instead of using plastic
  • Choose a cast iron skillet over nonstick varieties to avoid ingesting chemicals.
  • Use cloth napkins, diapers, dish towels, and anything that’s a reusable choice over paper products.
  • Opt for PVC-free and BPA free plastic for all types of household products.
  • Look for “Fair Trade” on labels and support smaller businesses.
  • Use reusable bags when grocery shopping. If you have an abundance of plastic grocery bags, then continue to reuse them. They last a very long time.
  • Choose to paint your home with Zero-VOC or low-VOC paint. There are countless colors and types on the market today.
  • Purchase a vacuum with a HEPA filter and remove more allergens and contaminants from your home’s air.
A closeup of a man using a vacuum on a hardwood floor
Using a vacuum with a HEPA filter removes allergens and contaminants from your home

Eco-Friendly Products For Everyday Use

  • Using liquid flea prevention medicine, you apply once a month is a greener choice than using flea collars. The pesticides on the collars are often harmful and are potentially a human carcinogen.
  • A reusable water bottle keeps plastic disposable bottles out of your daily life and also promotes the healthy habit of drinking more water. Take it with you in the car, to the office, or at the gym.
  • Reuse gift wrap, ribbon, and gift bags.
  • Coconut oil is an all-natural facial cleanser, make-up remover and moisturizer. It also works wonders when shaving your legs and styling and moisturizing your hair, not to mention it smells great too.
  • Grow your own spices for a fresh, sustainable twist when preparing meals.

The Perfect Eco-Friendly Hobbies

  • Plant a garden filled with vegetables and herbs, then remember at the end of the season to freeze your final harvest so you can enjoy all winter long.
  • Create a compost bin
  • Collect rainwater and reuse for watering your garden and plants.
  • If you’re unable to grow anything or simply don’t have the space, then shop at your local farmer’s Market and buy local. 
  • Making your own clothes can be a fun and rewarding hobby and makes great gifts too.
  • Choose all-natural ingredients and make your own household cleaners and detergents.
  • Watering your garden, lawn or flowers is more efficient if done in the morning or evening. Mid-day will have the water evaporating much quicker.
  • Mulching your landscaping also helps provide a barrier so that water absorbs rather than evaporating.
  • Turn Meatless Monday into a more frequent event and add-in another day. Have fun getting creative with your menu and get the whole family involved. Even better, become vegan.

Spice plants sitting on a table.
Home grown spices are a great way to add a new freshness to your meals while going green.

Act Now! Ways You Can Start A Greener Life Today

  • Keep lights off or put them on timers you can control from your smartphone.
  • Skip the warm or hot water settings on your washing machine and wash your laundry in cold water.
  • Fix running toilets and leaky faucets. You’re not only saving water but money, too!
  • When you do laundry or wash dishes, make sure the load is large and the dishwasher is full.  In fact, using your dishwasher over hand-washing your dishes actually uses 1/6 of the water it takes to hand wash according to the EPA.
  • Skip the dryer and let your clothes dry naturally either indoors on racks or outdoors.
  • Unplug appliances when not in use or use power strips
  • Check your home air filters monthly to keep your furnace and AC unit running more efficiently.
  • Lowering your thermostat and water heater temperatures can improve your home’s efficiency and reduce your ecological footprint.
  • If walking or riding your bike is an option for transportation to where you’re going, then by all means use this method.
  • Try to combine all of your errands into one trip rather than going back and forth several times from your house.
  • Visiting a carwash actually uses significantly less water than when you wash your car at home.
  • Be mindful when grocery shopping. On average over 20 pounds of food is thrown away each month.
  • Avoid using disposable paper plates and Styrofoam coffee cups. 
  • Instead of letting clothing and household items you don’t use accumulate or get stored away, why not donate to thrift shops, sell on apps like Poshmark or Let Go, or give to a shelter or charity you like to support.
  • Reading books or watching documentaries about climate change and the environment can be very eye-opening. Sometimes just being mindful can open a door to adopting a whole different lifestyle.
  • Pay bills online as much as possible to avoid paper waste.

Really, the possibilities are endless when it comes to uncovering ways to add greener habits to your daily routine. Try adding in a new one each week, and suddenly you will be living green with a much smaller ecological footprint than you were the year before!

Exterior of a home in snowy weather

5 Best Tips To Keep Your Home Warm This Winter

With the winter cold now in full swing across the country, we have all began the winter tradition of bumping our thermostat (just 1 degree!) to stave off the bitter cold of the outdoors. As we relax into the depths of winter, you may choose a nice, cozy comforter or a revitalizing hot cocoa as a soothing contrast to brisk air just outside your home. As homeowners, we are always looking for how to keep warm, and how to keep the chill of winter outside where it belongs. We all could use a break from that dry, winter heat that keeps pumping out from the furnaces at this time of the year. In this article, we explore the 5 best ways to keep your home nice and toasty throughout the winter months without breaking the bank.

1. Buy Heavy Curtains, and Keep them Closed at Night

When it comes to staying warm in winter, one of the greatest areas of heat loss in your home is through the windows. While there is nothing quite as enchanting as watching a fresh snowfall slowly cover the landscape in a serene blanket of white powder, it’s important to cover your windows with a thick, insulating layer as soon as are you are able to break the trance. In fact, if you want to know how to warm up a room without a heater, open curtains for sun during the day and closed curtains at night is the trick! A personal favorite of mine is floor length, velvet blackout curtains as shown below. They go a long way in making sure that the cold stays out and the warm stays in, while having the added benefits of adding a nice, intimate aesthetic to the space and letting you enjoy more restful sleep when installed in the bedroom.

Bedroom with floor length velvet curtains
Thick, floor length curtains keep your room warm while adding aesthetic to the space

2. Use Rugs and Mats in Larger Areas

One of the greatest trends at home plan retailers is the rise of modern farmhouse floor plans. One of the best parts of this architectural style is the large, expansive spaces it promotes, particularly in the kitchen and main living area. With so much open space, it’s easy to lose heat through one of the most commonly overlooked areas of the home, the floor! It seems obvious once you say it, but a little known trick when it comes to how to stay warm in cold weather is to add large, decorative rugs to your open areas. It will surprise you when you see just how much less you find yourself walking over to the thermostat once you have a nice area rug to add another layer of comfort to your larger spaces.

As for specifics, stick to thick, heavy area rugs and mats that serve both the purpose of keeping your home warm and making a nice barefoot walk across the house a much more enjoyable.

3. Find the Draft!

Much of the time, your warm air is escaping through small cracks or spaces that go largely unnoticed during the summer months, but play a huge role in your heating bill come winter. If you have done everything you can think of and still find yourself wondering how to keep warm, unseen drafts are likely the culprit. A common method of finding drafts is to light an incense stick and hold it near walls and floors you believe may be a culprit. Horizontal smoke flow when held near windows, doors, or walls will immediately show you where your heat is running off to, and allow you to quickly fix any problem areas with ease.

Incense stick with smoke rising from lit end
Smoke from an incense stick is the perfect tool for finding drafts that could be spiking your heating bill

If you’d rather not use incense to find problem areas, drafts around doors and walls can also be found with a flashlight. If light can make it through the space between a door and its frame, cold, outdoor air can as well.

4. Make Sure Your Vents are Clear (Air Filters too!)

It may seem obvious, but many homeowners have at least one or two vents that are either blocked by furniture or set to the off position. Take a moment to go through your home and make sure that all your vents are have at least 2 feet of space to properly spread heat. You also will want to make sure your air filter is clean, and get it replaced if it isn’t. The difference in heat output between a system with a dirty filter and one with a clean filter is night and day.

Exterior of a home in snowy weather
It’s important to uncover your heat vents so the beautiful outdoor winter, stays outside

5. Use Ceiling Fans (on Low)

There is a bit of debate about this one, but especially in homes with high ceilings it is important to make sure that all that warm air from your heating system is settling near the ceiling. Keeping your ceiling fans on low is the perfect method for making sure you get to enjoy the warmth without cooling down your home with rapidly circulating air. When you are looking at how to stay warm without heat for longer, getting every ounce of warmth out of each run of your heating system is the best strategy.

We’d love to hear some of your favorite tips for saving on heating costs during these cold months. Or, if you have other ideas for keeping your home comfortable, please share your insight on creating a warm, yet comfortable environment within your home without breaking the bank!  

A completed puzzle with different candies printed on it.

Cost-Effective Holiday Gift Ideas

One of the goals my family and friends have been trying to implement this year has been to think before we spend this holiday season. So, how does someone go into the holiday season not worrying about overspending? Many people gravitate toward gifts with more meaning, something from the heart with a little thought put into it rather than emptying their wallet on the latest trendy gadget or game. While some people are creative enough to make their own holiday gifts, others are not so versatile. So, here are some ideas that hopefully will make the holiday season less expensive and thoughtful for everyone. 

Make a Playlist – The gift of song is something everyone enjoys. But, to actually put an ensemble of songs together for someone can be very personal and meaningful. This is an especially good ideas when thinking of gift ideas for people who may harder to buy for (such as finding gifts for dad). Plus, it’s the gift that keeps on giving all throughout the year every time they press play on their smart device.

Share a Meal – Let’s face it, everyone has to eat. So, besides being a necessity, turn a mealtime into a fun holiday gift idea by cooking something special for someone. You supply the groceries and the recipes or theme for the meal and whip up something delicious. Not only will you be making memories, the food and company will be very much appreciated especially for someone older who may not get enough time with the people they love, or don’t get out much.

Surprise Bag – Aren’t you always amazed at the great things you can find at the Dollar stores? So are we – from art supplies and Christmas decorations to kitchen gadgets and toiletries, these stores have a lot to offer for less. For someone who may have just moved into a new place, a gift of kitchen and household gadgets would be well appreciated. Or, how about a craft basket or storage bin? Fill it with art supplies, construction paper, paints, yarn, glitter, you name it. Just walk around the store and you’ll be surprised how easy it can be to come up with a theme. You can even use this approach to come up with plenty of stocking stuffer ideas.

Feeling Puzzled? – Buy an inexpensive challenging puzzle and spend time helping someone put it together. You can even frame it when completed. Putting a large puzzle together offers a challenge especially for younger children, while at the same time allows you to spend quite a bit of time with this special someone.

A completed puzzle with different candies printed on it.
A colorful, festive puzzle can be a brilliant way to spend times with loved ones while engaging in a fun challenge.

A Gift from the Heart – Spend a minute on Pinterest and you’ll find countless ways to make something for a family member or friend this holiday season. Some of our favorites include candy, sweet treats like cookies, breads or cakes, a gingerbread house, candles, bath salt scrub, mixed spiced nuts or even steak or barbecue seasoning rub. And, if you are too crafty or skillful in the kitchen, then look to Etsy and find someone who is and makes things inexpensively.

A freshly made gingerbread house.
Few gifts are more heartfelt and special than those that clearly show the effort and care that went into their creation.

Garden-inspired – If you’re a gardener, then there are lots of ways to share your garden goodies with others. Clipping some flowers and arranging them in an inexpensive vase is sure to bring a smile to someone’s face. Or, if you love growing veggies and herbs, then a gift of dried herbs or a jar of homemade salsa from your abundance of tomatoes over the summer will be gladly received with joy. A beautiful bouquet of flowers is particularly nice when looking for gifts for mom, and serves as a beautiful centerpiece in main living areas.

A bouquet of flowers on top of a glass table.
A beautiful bouquet can add comfort to your living space while brightening your partners day for weeks to come.

Make an Ornament – Buy a container of ornaments and let the kids decorate away! This is one of those Christmas gift ideas that’s hard to go wrong with. These sweet gestures of love will be a fond memory every year when they get hung on the tree.

Netflix and Chill – If the holiday season has your family and friends going in a thousand different directions, then why not create a gift of relaxation – set time aside to relax and enjoy each other’s company with an evening of movies. Let them select their favorites and you supply the candy and popcorn and the night will be perfect!

Make it Meaningful – Maybe you have a way with words, or the person you’re giving to means so much to you that the feeling of them in your life is easy to put on paper. Write a poem or find a quote or quotes and simply write it down. Put it in a frame or print it on paper in a pretty font. This is a gift that won’t soon be forgotten. 

Your Favorite Book – For all those readers out there, why not take your favorite book from the last year or perhaps a few favorites and pay them forward. Books also tend to make very good gifts for men, as nobody can resist a good story that piques their interests. All fellow readers love to receive a really good book. Then, after they read it, plan a coffee date to talk about it.

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words – Photos spark memories that last a lifetime. Whether you choose one great photo of you and the person you’ve giving to, or you put together a book or album, it will be cherished especially since it’s rare that anyone develops their photos anymore and they tend to get lost on your smart device.

We hope these ideas motivate you to give from the heart rather than the wallet this year! Happy Holidays! 

A pumpkin and group of apples resting on a tray that sits on top of an ottoman.

As the Seasons Change, So Does the Decor

An In-depth Look at Seasonal Decorating Ideas

While some homeowners have warm, yet breezy weather year round, others may prefer to enjoy what Mother Nature brings their way with the changing of the seasons. Perhaps you love to watch the leaves change in color when the crisp cool air of fall settles in, or maybe you enjoy those snowy, winter days curled up on the sofa in your country house. Whatever your favorite season, most homeowners would agree that when nature begins to change its appearance, so does the decor of the home. Thankfully, most homes can be transformed to reflect the season with little time and investment.

A vase full of flowers with other decorations and a fish tank on top of a glass end table.
Decorative vases with beautiful bright flowers and other unique accessories provide a tasteful, summer accent to this living space.

Every so often homeowners are graced with a winter day that feels like spring has finally decided to pay a visit. Or perhaps you prefer the first break in the summer heat when the crisp cool of fall is just around the corner. Thankfully, it’s easier than you think!

Seasonal Color Ideas

The key to rotating seasonal décor is acknowledging the significance of layers. Just as people layer clothing to enjoy whatever Mother Nature springs on us next, homes require layers of décor to be functional. The layer that requires attention first is that of color. To begin thoughts on your seasonal decorating ideas, start thinking about the temperature. Cooler temperatures call for fall home decor, a style that uses warmer tones that add comfort and coziness to any sized space- think of deep scarlet and plum, golds and oranges. This is especially important as you consider living room decor ideas, as the living room tends to see much heavier use throughout the cooler months. Warmer temps are great for showing off light and airy touches, perfectly accented by soothing blues, greens, and vibrant sun colors.

A pumpkin and group of apples resting on a tray that sits on top of an automan.
Warm, layered textures provide a sense of coziness and comfort as the temperature outside begins to fall.

 For easy and dramatic switches from one situation to another, it’s best to start off with a neutral palette. Note that neutral does not mean “white” or “boring.” Neutral can be any shade of a color you want to work with in both settings. Example: green paint can be warmed up with darker greens and deep reds, while warm temps may call for splashes of white and yellow to brighten up the space. The accents will make an impact, so long as the foundation is fairly flexible.

A living room with red furniture and a Christmas Tree.
Using accented accessories in a neutral colored living space is a great way to add strong, seasonal ambience to your living spaces.

Adding Color

Once the colors have been determined, it’s time to decide how to apply that color. The simplest way to approach this is by painting the walls the “neutral” color and using throws, pillows, rugs, and other accessories to pack a punch. These little bits and pieces add so much to décor without breaking the budget. Look for fabrics reflective of the season to add comfort and texture to the color dimensions. Faux fur, chenille, and velvet are all warm and inviting as autumn decorations, a comforting addition to the home as the cold weather of the fall and winter months settle in. Cottons and gauzy fabrics are perfectly cool when warm weather threatens to overwhelm.

A Seasonal Look at Decor

In addition to the basic décor materials, look at changing out books, pictures, and centerpieces. Rotating personal collections depending on the season allows homeowners to display many more treasures without having a cluttered and awkward living space. You should also consider what scents to indulge in depending on the time of year. Spicy candles are delicious in the cooler months but may be too warm and heavy when the weather turns. 

The last layer to make a significant impact is that of lighting. Whatever colors and fabrics you may have chosen, nothing can be properly admired without the right ambiance. Some seasons’ earlier sunsets mean a lack of natural light. This calls for candles, fireplaces, and more general lighting in living spaces (for fall decorating ideas on a budget, you would be surprised at how much a few well placed candles can liven up a space!) When the long days of summer return, window shades are thrown open and extra lamps are rarely needed. Play with home lighting to see what may best suit your home. 

framed shopping bags

DIY Master Closet Decor Ideas

One of the most overlooked parts of modern interior design is closet space. In the excitement of getting your house to feel more like home, its easy to consider closets a simple “utility space” that serves no other purpose than to house your favorite clothing. But if you are anything like me, your master closet is going to be a invaluable part of your everyday life. Luckily, there are few closet design ideas you can take advantage of to drastically liven up your morning routine.

I saw this cute idea on Pinterest for decorating your master closet. I had a little wall space above my jewelry armoire in our master bedroom closet and I thought this would be fun and colorful. I just waited until there was a sale on frames at Michael’s and then bought some floating frames, but really any frame you like works. You might decide to get all the same size or mix up the sizes like I did.

CUTE AND EASY!

Then, I selected some of my very favorite shopping bags. We always have plenty of leftover shopping bags that I hold onto if someone needs a bag for any reason, so I had plenty to choose from. Just be sure it isn’t too wrinkly or torn. 

Next, in order for the frame to shut, I cut off some of the bag especially the thickest part. Once I was able to get the frame shut and the bag was level I hung them up. You will want to be sure to pick bags that show off your personality and add a strong aesthetic dimension to the space. When it comes to interior design styles, using bold, contrasting accent colors against neutral colored walls has always been a personal favorite of mine. Its one of those little tricks that lets you add a huge amount of warmth and livelyhood to your space without spending a great deal of time, money, or effort on making it happen.

Various shopping bags inside picture frames in a closet.
Using a variety of styles and colors in your bag selection adds flair and personality to your closet space

When it comes to wall decor ideas, this may be one of my personal favorites! A fun afternoon and less than $50 later I have a great addition to my closet space that is volumes better than the simple blank wall that was there before.

As you can see, decorating walls with designer shopping bags is a fun and inexpensive way to add a little pizazz to your closet! Its especially effective for the more open closet designs that are typically accompany suite-style master bedrooms. If you decide to do this project, send some photos so I can see how it turned out! 

Basement wall with decorative album covers

Basement Wall Decor Ideas: Creating an Album Art Wall

Vintage records have really made a comeback in the last few years. Being a huge music fan anyway, the thought of an album wall was a home décor idea I was really excited about. Plus, if you have a huge expanse of basement wall space, it can really liven up the space.

After I looked online on Pinterest and saw several ideas for album art walls, I started making my list of possible albums to include in my wall of fame. There could be a variety of reasons why you choose the albums that you do. Perhaps a song was playing during a memorable moment or milestone in your life. For example, your high school graduation class song, the song playing when you met your spouse, the song that played during your wedding dance. If you’re the sentimental type, then this would create a wall of memories so special and personal. I simply did a mix, allowing for a strong blend of both home styling and nostalgia. Of course, all of the artists my husband and I picked out, but I carefully chose the album covers to match my basement décor, too. 

A record player sitting on top of an end-table, with a vinyl record underneath.
Vintage album covers such as this classic by Otis Redding can serve as beautiful, nostalgic décor in your entertainment areas

After narrowing down the choices (which was pretty hard), I went to Michael’s and found the album cover sized frames. If you wait for a sale, then that may be the time to get them but keep in mind depending on the number of albums you feature on your wall, you will need several frames that match in size and color.

How to Hang Your Album Art on the Wall

Then, my husband and I filled the frames with the album covers. After having them all inserted into the frames (of course without the albums inside), we arranged the frames on the floor until we got the right location in the assortment for each album. To balance color, we swapped several around until we felt it was composed. This is especially important for large wall decor, where the contrast between the album art and the wall color goes a long way to set the tone of the room. We decide to spread across more wall space to only go two rows, but if you have a smaller space or higher ceilings, you could very easily arrange them in a square or rectangle and go more floor-to-ceiling. In smaller home designs, this would probably work best and add a ton of impact to a space.

As with many interior design styles, the key to constructing the perfect album art wall was having a laser level. It was worth the investment because it made the project a lot easier when determining how to space everything correctly and making sure it was uniform on every side with the frame next to it. As far as basement interior design goes, I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out. My husband hung everything so well – I was very impressed!

A fully furnished basement den with album art on the wall.
Balanced, Contrasting Colors throughout the posted albums provide depth and composition to the space.

Have you ever created a wall with multiple frames? What obstacles do you run into?

Various tools hanging on a wall.

Essential Tools for Every Homeowner

It’s probably happened so many times – you find the perfect curtains or decorative picture to accent your home’s décor, and you completely forget that you don’t have the proper tools to hang them. After searching through junk drawers, the garage, and every other place you can think of, you still can’t find a single tool for such a small task. In order to avoid this frustration in the future, take a look at the list below and hit up your local hardware store to stock up on these few essential tools that every homeowner should have stored somewhere.

  • Tape measure – A 25-foot tape measure that is ¾ inch wide is great for projects around the home. It is ideal for small or large tasks without being cumbersome. It is essential for any home tool kit.
  • Level – Laser levels are fancy and seem extra useful is our technology-crazed world. However, levels are only useful if they are accurate. Invest in one that works, be it laser or the basic bubble that has served so many homes for many years.
  • Screwdrivers (and screws) – At the bare minimum, every toolbox needs a flathead and a Phillips screwdriver. Quality screwdrivers are available in sets of all sizes, so a small set of five different sizes could come in handy. 
  • Hammer (and nails) – A medium weight hammer is best for a variety of tasks around the home. A rubber handle will be good for all grips. Consider investing in a rubber mallet if your hammering needs may be above the average.
  • Pliers – Needle-nosed pliers are all that most homes will ever need.
  • Wrenches – There is some debate over the need for wrenches and which ones. However, like screwdrivers, quality wrenches often come in simple sets that should serve most any need that would arise.
  • Utility knife – Utility knives often come in handy around the home and should be the only cutting tool needed. If interested, a handsaw could also be a wise investment. Few homes truly have the need for circular saws or other pricey machinery, so avoid being sucked into the hype.
A pile of various tools.

The Perfect Places To Store Your Household Tool Kit

The above tools should all be kept in a toolbox or other storage container that has a designated spot within the home. There are no rules about tools- they do not have to be stored in the garage or the basement. Simply find a place that keeps them accessible but inconspicuous when not in use. Also, consider a few other items that may come in handy around the home. Painter’s and duct tape, various glues, pencils and straightedges, and step ladders are all accessories that could make any handy task a little easier and fit perfectly in any household tool kit.

A pile of painting tools on a tarp.

After browsing this list, you probably found more than a few tools you needed at one time or another. These are only a small number of tools that may be a necessity in your house plan. However, these are the basic tools that every homeowner will need to complete most projects and home fixes quickly and with little frustration.

A table full of drinks for a New Year's Eve Party.

The Guide to Throwing A Successful New Years Eve Party

New Year’s Eve always gets a bad rap. People’s expectations of the last and biggest celebration night of the year has a lot to live up to. How many times does somebody ask you about your new years plans? Probably almost as many times as years you are old! Last year we decided to throw our own New Years party and do a nicer sit-down dinner for close friends and family. I think it really was a fun night, and we definitely learned a lot about how to celebrate the new year at home. I was also more than happy not to be driving around on a night known for reckless drivers.

Get Festive

Because people will probably be hungry again after dinner on New Year’s (unless you eat very late), we made sure to have plenty of New Year’s party foods such as appetizers and other things to snack on. We also have vegan family members and I like to put out extra fruit and veggies whenever possible. Since people may be consuming alcohol, it’s a common courtesy when hosting a party to ensure there is enough sustenance to counteract that. Scattering goodies from room to room will make snacking more tempting while watching television or watching the ball drop in Times Square. 

A fruit and vegetable tray on a kitchen island.
A decorative fruit tray can serve as an excellent, edible addition to a fun New Year’s party

Cater To All Guests

We also set-up a bar table with plenty of alcohol and non-alcohol options. We had plenty of garnishes, so people could have fun creating their own special recipe. Be sure to have champagne ready to pour at midnight for a special toast, and for those underage sparkling white grape juice makes the ideal substitute.  You can even include an assortment of juices, so the champagne isn’t as strong. Cranberry, orange, mango, or even raspberry puree are great options. Include both sparkling and still water, so everyone stayed hydrated.

A table full of drinks.
Having a plentiful drink table set up with a variety of options keeps the festivities going strong

I love to have the table already set because as soon as guests start arriving, they can tell you prepared for the event and it looks inviting and festive. For maximum effectiveness, you should set the table up in a room of the home near the front door, a trick that starts the party spirit off right and is especially effective in homes with grand front entryways. Party horns, hats and other noisemakers not only are fun for all ages, they really add some fun to the table-scape. Ring in the New year right, and bring out the formal china and crystal if you want the event to feel a little more special. I like everyone to feel special and dressing up the table with nice linens and beautiful place settings makes everything more memorable. 

Preparing for The Dinner

The key to having a successful New Years party is definitely planning! About a week before, once you know who will be attending, plan your menu for the perfect new years party foods. You should wait until you have your guest list finalized before choosing a menu in case any guests have dietary restrictions or allergies. Seeing that we almost always have a few vegans attending, I take that into account and make sure to offer plenty of vegan options, so they don’t have an empty plate in comparison to the other guests.

Although the table is set, I usually leave seating assignments to the individual. Sometimes people get wrapped up in conversation with each other and want to continue during dinner. I feel it should be the guests’ decision, which I think makes everyone feel more comfortable. 

A table full of Fine China.
A well set and decorated table brings an air of class of significance to your New Year’s party dinner

Once the meal is ready, I like everyone to grab a plate and we serve buffet-style. That way, people can go back as often as they like, and they can choose how much or little they want to eat. Plating the meal and serving it to guests at the table is nice, but if a guest is watching their calories, or doesn’t like a certain food, it’s harder to avoid ending up with things on your plate that you don’t want if someone else puts it on there for you. Let the guest determine how much, and what type of food they want prevents wasting food, too. 

Once the meal is over, get the dishes off the tables and areas where guests are lingering. You don’t want anything too nice being broken and the mess will be an eyesore. 

Bringing in The New Year

Then, set the stage for a fun game suitable for all ages. Play a game where you draw a name from a hat and then the person has to “act out” or give clues so people can guess who the person is.  Surprisingly, this is quite fun, and everyone has a ton of laughs. And, it seems to make the time until midnight go by much quicker than just sitting around watching television or carrying on conversation.

Having your favorite playlist going in the background instead of keeping the television on also promotes all will play. Then, about 30 minutes before midnight, open the champagne and start pouring into glasses. It’s nice to have a glass in hand for a toast when the clock strikes midnight. Have a bunch of champagne poppers and other noisemakers that everyone can enjoy at the big moment. Then, we ended the night with a group photo so we could always remember who we celebrated with.  With this guide on how to celebrate New Year’s, you’re all set for a fun, safe evening that will be filled with memories! These are just some of the fun ideas and tips from Pinterest.

Quaint Country French style home entry - Plan 101D-0045

Big-Time Curb Appeal Tricks

Everyone wants to own that home on the street that stops people in their tracks. No, that doesn’t mean it has to be a huge mansion with jaw-dropping over-the-top features, it means it just has that “thing” called curb appeal that makes it feel warm and inviting, and seems to beg neighbors and friends to come on in. Below are some of the most popular ways to create that home “eye-candy” we all dream of.

stunning modern farmhouse entry
Plan 101D-0050 on houseplansandmore.com

EXCITING ENTRIES

Gone are the days of cookie-cutter front porch entries. Today’s homeowners love showing off their personality and making front porches a precursor to what guests will find inside. These entrances often include statement lighting, custom doors, unique surrounding windows, luxurious plant holders, and even furniture. Homeowners are really trying to pull you in and they are making these spaces comfortable for outdoor relaxation, too. Front doors made of glass, or that feature iron and glass are becoming more popular. Use fun, playful colors. If you’re wanting to build a European style home, then ornate iron and glass style doors are a beautiful option. For those building a Craftsman home, many front doors include glass windows in a variety of shapes and sizes traditional to the Arts & Crafts style movement. Another playful option is the Dutch door. A Dutch door allows half of the door to be open at anytime, whether it’s the top, or the bottom. It’s a great way to get some fresh air moving through your home on a nice day.

unique house numbers for curb appeal
Statement house numbers and bright accents make this home stand out. Photo courtesy of Platform, theplatformexperiment.com.

LITTLE EXTRAS = BIG IMPACT

Just like it’s being seen in interior design; statement lighting is also a current trend being made on the exterior, too. Statement house numbers are also the rage and people are getting super creative in how they’re displaying their home’s address numbers. Adhered to modern planters, custom painted in a unique font on the front door, or positioned in a clever place on the front facade, house numbers are actually adding style to a home’s exterior. No longer a necessity or eyesore, these numbers are enhancing the front of a home and are carefully taking homage to the home’s architectural style. A thoughtfully selected style and finish can greatly enhance the authenticity of your home’s architecture. Have fun, and be playful with it. It definitely allows you show off you and your home’s personality and style.

bold house colors
Playful Mid-Century Modern entry, Photo courtesy of Destination Eichler, LLC, destinationeichler.com

BRIGHT IS ALRIGHT

Bright colors on home exteriors if they fit with the architectural style is also popular. But, some styles like Craftsman, are still utilizing more neutral tones. Darker paint colors are also making a comeback on the exterior, and in complete contrast, off-white and white exteriors thanks to the Modern Farmhouse style are also growing in popularity just like white has made a major comeback in interior home décor.

custom craftsman door
Photo courtesy of House Beautiful Magazine

CUSTOM DOORS, NEED WE SAY MORE?

What used to be a pretty basic element to a home’s front facade, the front door is often just a plain solid door meant for security purposes only. The doors homeowners are selecting today are thoughtful, well planned exterior ornamentation. Once again, they carry through with the home’s architecture and often include many windows in unusual shapes, which add plenty of extra light to the interior. Take it one step further and paint the door (inside and out) in a vibrant color and add unique house numbers for the perfect expression that’s friendly and inviting.

Photo courtesy of homemydesign.com

THE VINTAGE ADVANTAGE

Vintage flair hasn’t waned, either. Offering a casual and inviting element to a covered front porch, fun vintage pieces like re-purposed benches, antique watering cans, or planters offer a kitschy element that’s fun, playful, and asks you to sit down and stay awhile. 

Plan 101D-0052 covered porch
Plan 101D-0052 from houseplansandmore.com, Damon Searles, photographer

NOSTALGIC FOR FRONT PORCHES

Years ago, the front porch was the gathering place where people would mingle and socialize with neighbors. It was one of the only ways to connect with those around them and provide space for enjoying the outdoors. This trend is reappearing due to smaller lot sizes and homeowners’ interest more than ever in outdoor living spaces. Often, the covered front porch is one of the only outdoor spaces and because of this, people are using this space to the fullest by adding furniture, lighting, and other elements that make it feel comfortable and warm. 

Plan 101D-0059 sidewalk design
Plan 101D-0059 from houseplansandmore.com, photo courtesy of Diggles Creative, Warren Diggles, photographer

SIDEWALK TALK

With all of the thought that goes into every little detail of your home’s design, you would think by the time the landscaping and hardscapes have to be determined you can finally relax and not worry so much about the aesthetics of these elements. But, that truly isn’t so! Sidewalk design is being carried through with a home’s architectural style and color palette as it offers the initial welcome to guests. Don’t get lazy when it comes to your sidewalk. You will see that a carefully designed walkway will pave the way for a major curb appeal moment. Today’s homeowners are opting for pavers, stone, or other materials for their home’s main entrance. And, due to the efficiency and affordability of LED light bulbs, lining those paths and walkways with light adds curb appeal at night for a very low cost.

Plan 065S-0034
Plan 065S-0034 from houseplansandmore.com

SENSING A PATTERN

Driveways, much like sidewalks can offer little or no added style to a home if you choose not to take them into account. But, homeowners today love the look of patterned driveways that either match the sidewalk or complement it. Have fun using textures and materials that complement your home’s exterior and it will positively impact curb appeal.

Plan 013S-0014
Plan 013S-0014 from houseplansandmore.com

FLORA FOREVER

Flowers and plants are more popular than ever for surrounding your home’s facade and adding softness. Landscape designers of today are thoughtful in their plant choices. Native landscaping is the way to go. Selecting plants that naturally grow in your region allows for less watering and fertilization, which is better for the environment. Choosing native plants also goes in line with the trend that homeowners are pairing down their ecological footprint. Native plants require less water than what is already received in rainfall. Plus, less sprinkler time means lower water bills, less water waste, and all around happier plants.

Plan 011S-0003 native landscape
Plan 011S-0003 from houseplansandmore.com

LIGHTER LANDSCAPING

Being paired down to reflect the less cluttered style of homes being designed today, landscaping especially in the front of a home is much less fussy than in previous years. Today, new homeowners are choosing not to over plant shrubs and trees. Think clean, well-manicured lawns, carefully selected bushes, and tree options that are well suited with the home’s architecture. By reducing the amount of landscaping a yard has, homeowners are staying eco-friendly creating less erosion issues, too. 

So, by using less, your choices are now more important in order to make an impact. Choose plants that complement the color scheme of your home. If your home is gray, then offset it with pinks and reds. Or, if you’ve chosen a dark blue or slate, then white and yellow can provide that pop of color, or brighten the exterior. Another fun option is to select edible landscape such as colorful pepper plants and herbs and suddenly your landscaping is working twice as hard as your own organic garden, too. This is especially a great idea if you lack backyard space, or the position of the front of your home has more sunlight, making it more suitable to successful gardening.

unique pot adds curb appeal
Photo courtesy of Tongue & groove, design-build by Mark Watson, tongue-and-groove.com

MORE THAN JUST A PRETTY POT

The planters on the market today have really come a long way. These vessels that used to just hold flowers can now often upstage their contents. Uniquely shaped, and often in a style that complements a home’s architecture, a well chosen and placed planter can add immense curb appeal. 

Plan 101D-0056 transom windows
Plan 101D-0056 from houseplansandmore.com, photo courtesy of Diggles creative, Warren Diggles, photographer

LET THERE BE LIGHT

Transom windows are being added to the front exterior and around the entire perimeter of a home for several reasons. They add character to the facade in a clean, uncomplicated way that is in line with Craftsman and Mid-Century modern style, that is quite popular right now. They have a less formal feel than an arched window design. And, they add additional light to the interior, which is a feature currently popular in interior home design. Open airy interiors are dictating home design, so the addition of larger windows makes an interior feel more open especially in homes with smaller square footages. Also, large picture windows are being seen in every style of home from Craftsman to Mid-Century Modern, plus everything in between.

Exterior lighting adds drama once the sky goes dark. Even a solar light placed strategically on a unique ornamental tree can enhance your exterior and draw eyes to want to see more. Or, take it a step further and create a facade lit with soffit lighting, or light the bottom corners of the home for intensified drama. Many of these lighting systems can now be controlled right from your smart phone making it easy to use and creating added security when you’re away.

THE FINISH LINE

Depending on how luxurious the home is, those with larger budgets are using copper gutters to add curb appeal and style that truly stands out. Another interesting addition can be a unique fence that features an artistic pattern that basically becomes a work of art. Choosing a fence style with a similar architectural feel will make your home seem thoughtfully planned.

As homeowners tastes change, so do their ideas of what the ideal architectural style truly is. As their need for less complicated living, free of clutter and visual distractions becomes more important, the popular architectural styles reflect that. If they’re craving a need to feel one with nature, then their desired style of home will turn to architecture that allows nature to be honored and respected. These constant shifts in tastes and trends in society are what make the landscape around us so colorful and interesting with glimpses of the past, present, and future found all around us in any given city or neighborhood. Whatever style of architecture you choose, remember these curb appeal tips for optimizing the exterior style to the fullest and making your personality and home shine wherever it is that you live.

To view all of the house plans highlighted throughout this article, please visit houseplansandmore.com and search by plan number. And, to see hundreds more great curb appeal ideas, visit House Plans and More on Pinterest.

compact, modern office by CDK Architects

Tips for Creating a Functional Home Office

In these unprecedented times of uncertainty, one thing we all can be certain of is that the way in which we work may never be quite the same. As more and more people have already been working from home in recent years, the trend is definitely shifting in favor of a home office environment over a community style “central” office location. Add with the threat that COVID-19 has quickly presented suddenly working remotely from home has even become the norm for many who never thought their profession would go in that direction. But, as most of us have found out, it’s important that a home office can provide an environment that encourages communication, function and efficiency.  

Here are some ideas for creating a functional and inviting home office space that provides everything you need to conduct “business as usual.”

Find a True Designated Place

Rather than just creating a makeshift spot for working, truly determine a good location within your home that will promote a productive work environment. That means the space should have ample light as well as a quiet location within your home for being able to easily concentrate on the tasks at hand. Shy away from being too close to the kitchen or great room where you may be tempted to turn on the TV, or join the action if others are at home. 

corner desk
Photo courtesy of Savoir Faire Home – savoirefairehome.com

And, don’t be afraid to use a small nook or mud room desk to create a place to work. A home office doesn’t need to be a grand or large space with a fancy desk and towering bookcases. With the small size of laptops and most printers, you can easily carve out a functional office space just about anywhere.

file tote
Photo courtesy of fresh finds.com

Consider using file boxes that you can take out of a closet instead of a filing cabinet that takes up more space. Some great locations include a larger mud room, a second-floor loft area, a formal dining room that never gets used, or even an oversized walk-in closet.

small office spot
Photo courtesy of Sarah Barnard Design, Chas Metivier, photographer.

Have the Essentials

If you already have a home office in place, then be sure your existing desk and chair provide the space and comfort you need to complete your tasks. If you’re looking to buy new furniture for a home office, be sure to list all of the items you will need to have on your desk before your go furniture shopping. You may fall in love with a sleek table style desk, but if you are constantly needing to look at files and other documents, then choosing a desk without drawers will leave you overloaded with paperwork that no doubt will end up piled on your desk. A comfortable chair is a must. You will spend countless hours sitting in it and although it can be tempting to select a chair that’s super stylish, make sure it as comfortable as it is attractive.

sleek home office desk
Photo courtesy of Callahan Interiors – callahaninterior.com, Dustin Halleck, photographer

Don’t Skimp on Style

A home office can often be solely designed for function, but consider making the space a reflection of your style and taste and it will become a place you want to spend time in. Paint the walls a color you love, choose artwork and decorative pieces that make you happy and will inspire you.

sunny home office
Photo courtesy of fabulouslydisheveled.com

Arrange the desk so you have plenty of natural light to encourage a happy mood, but also have lamps and overhead lighting so you can adjust the light. Have a throw over the back of your chair in the winter and open a window for a fresh breeze in the Spring. The beauty of a home office is that you have the liberty to add comfort and coziness to the space as well as enjoy a lovely breeze when the weather permits thanks to operable windows. Most office buildings lack the ability to get fresh air, so it’s a huge bonus. 

chic home office details
Photo courtesy of thefancythings.com

Also, a home office allows you to decorate with items you may cherish where many may not want to leave a beloved photo or painting in their office in a public building. It also allows you to keep you plant watered, so adding some greenery can boost your mood all year long. And, because it’s your own personal space, go ahead and choose fun notebooks, colorful pens and paperclips. Why not make your space happy and fun? 

chic home office
Photo courtesy of thefancythings.com

Stay Organized

Right from the start, organize the space to include all of your basic office needs. Paper, a stapler, a phone, high speed internet with wifi, a surge protector, a printer, scanner or fax machine may also help you with your work. What you don’t want to do is have to search the house for a pen or notepad when having a conference call. Make sure the pens, paper, stapler and other items you need stay in the space and don’t travel to other spaces in your home.

Photo courtesy of thespuce.com – design by CDK Architects

Create Structure

When you physically drive to an office typically you maintain consistent office hours that provide structure and a framework for your entire day. When working from home, it can be easy to get off track and start working later in the morning and continuing later into the evening. For balance and a good work-life balance, it’s a good idea to try to maintain a similar work schedule from day to day. Start at the same time every day, take small breaks at consistent times and stop to eat lunch around the same time each day. It’s healthier to create a schedule and will most likely keep you on track with your regular daily diet.  

bay window desk space
Photo courtesy of the spruce.com from Pause Design

When nothing in the world appears to have structure or certainty, find comfort in the fact that you have a safe, sheltered place to still conduct business. Designing your home office to include all the things you need as well as the things you love will make your remote office a place of serenity, which no doubt will increase productivity.

For other great ideas, visit our Pinterest Boards!