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Houzz Call: How Did Your Dad Shape Your Idea of Home?

When I was a kid, my dad was always in the yard. He spent almost every weekend mowing, weeding, edging, pulling, cutting and trimming. This was in a suburb of Houston hot, humid and swarming with insects. The St. Augustine grass lawn was like a battlefield. My dad versus fire ants, mosquitoes, chiggers, and copperhead and cottonmouth snakes. At any given time, he wielded a chainsaw, a mower, a blower, an edger, a Weed Eater, a branch trimmer or a rusty machete, just like the one in the Friday the 13th movies. And I loved it.

Mom kept the house running day to day — cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, shopping, packing lunches, shuffling my siblings and me to school and various sports. The exterior and yard were my dad’s domain, and that was where my mother shooed us to on the weekends so she could have some peace while she got the house in order and watched her soap operas.

Over time my dad taught me to use his various — and dangerous — tools, slowly passing some of the lawn duties down to my brother and me. But not all of them. He enjoyed working in the yard too much to relinquish all the responsibilities.

One summer in my early teens, I tried starting a neighborhood lawn-mowing business to earn money and impress my father the way my brother had successfully done the previous summer. I wasn’t very good at it, though. And my dad often had to accompany me to make sure the job was done right and the customer was satisfied. But he never complained. I think he was just happy to be working in a yard, in the sunshine, gritty soil up to his elbows, a machine in his hands, a welcome departure from his office job as an accountant.

I didn’t know it at the time, but I was getting a crash course from my dad and mom on what it takes to care for a home. It’s one of the most joyful things in life, but also one that requires constant patience, maintenance, upkeep, time and money. Even after you go through the long process of buying or building a home, and hiring pros to perform renovations or additions, there’s always going to be something that needs your love and attention. And that hard work can be an immense source of pleasure.

I don’t have a yard, but I do have a balcony where I spend a lot of Saturdays with my kids planting and repotting plants and trimming dead branches, hands deep in potting soil, away from the computer. And we spend most Sundays cooking, cleaning and doing laundry, those precious skills I learned from my mother.
Sometimes I wonder if these moments are burning an image of me into my kids’ memories, similar to the one I have of my father toiling away to get the yard in shape. Or maybe their conception of me will be completely different.

It’s a pointless exercise, of course. They’ll remember what they remember. But I take a lot of comfort in just being able to have them around to observe, ask their infinite questions and get their hands dirty, just like I was able to do with my dad. No doubt they are absorbing some knowledge about the importance, privilege and joy of maintaining a home.

Today, my dad is in his early 70s. He has a landscaper who comes by once a week to do the regular yard maintenance. And that’s good. He certainly earned it. But he’s always working on little projects — painting rooms, washing windows. I recently shared the Houzz photo shown here of a potting station with my mother, who excitedly showed it to my father. Now he is determined to create something similar for her in the backyard of their Southern California home.

My dad wants me to drive down this summer to help with some of the work. The kids too. That way they can be a part of the action. Who knows, maybe it’s the kind of “dad work” they’ll be thinking about, and emulating, decades from now.

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8 Ways to Remodel Your Indoor Kitchen to Get an Outdoor Vibe

My ideal outdoor kitchen would be outfitted with a sink, top-of-the-line grill, exterior-grade appliances and plenty of counter space for cooking and entertaining. Alas, I’ve yet to realize this dream amenity since there’s always some obstacle — budget, bugs, climate, space limitations — standing in my way.

Fortunately there are many ways to create an outdoor feeling in an indoor kitchen.

1. Location, location, location. The best way to bring an outdoor vibe to an indoor kitchen is to maximize the amount of natural light pouring in throughout the day. If you are building from scratch or have a healthy remodeling budget to tap into, think about positioning your kitchen to receive maximum daylight.

South-facing kitchens receive the most sun, whereas kitchens oriented to the north receive the least amount of sunlight. Of course, the downside to a south-facing kitchen is the additional solar heat gain, so if you live in a hot climate, you may wish to orient the kitchen to the east to capture the soft morning light.

2. Add oversized glass doors. Relocating the kitchen is not in the budget for most of us, but there are other design moves you can make that allow sunlight to flow in without hitting your pocketbook quite as hard. You could create an indoor-outdoor flow in the kitchen by literally breaking the barrier between the two with large glass doors. If you are fortunate to live in a bug-free climate, you can keep the doors wide open and really amplify the connection to the outdoors.

3. Be generous with the windows. Given a choice between windows and wall cabinets, I will always root for windows. Yes, you lose some storage space, but what you gain in natural light — and if you’re lucky, views — is worth the loss of a few cabinets, in my opinion. Make up for lost storage space by installing tall pantry cabinets on an interior wall, where you can’t have windows.

4. Go big with skylights. If large glass doors and windows aren’t an option, perhaps you can install a series of skylights or light tubes. This is a great way to compensate for the lack of natural light common to north-facing and interior-sited kitchens. Just keep in mind that skylights turn into black boxes at night, so be sure to work in enough light fixtures to keep the space properly lighted at night.

5. Bring exterior elements inside. Another trick for faking an outdoor kitchen is to bring materials traditionally associated with the outside in, such as the charming brick pavers used for the kitchen floor here. The inclusion of ample natural wood materials also contributes to the outdoorsy feeling of this space.

6. Get colorful. One of the easiest and most affordable ways to bring a bit of the outdoors in is through the use of color. Think soothing, soft sky blues, verdant greens and sunny yellows for a little dose of the colors we associate with being outside.
7. Grow your greens. Another element that immediately calls to mind exterior spaces is live plants. If you don’t have the space outside for a garden, perhaps you can bring one inside. This window-mounted herb garden is a fantastic, space-saving way to grow and use herbs right in the kitchen where you need them. Vases with fresh-cut flowers or pots of your favorite houseplants are other ways to add a touch of nature to an indoor kitchen.
8. Keep it airy and open. If you are going for an outdoor vibe in your kitchen, try keeping the space as open, clean and uncluttered as possible. With ample light and an open feel, you can fake it like it’s the great outdoors.

Your turn: How have you created an outdoor vibe in your indoor kitchen?

I may have an unhealthy obsession with outdoor kitchens. When I want to relax, I’ll pore over ideas and images of stunning outdoor spaces dedicated to cooking, eating and entertaining. Same goes when I can’t sleep. Instead of counting sheep, I create mental floor plans of outdoor kitchens for my house and for the homes of family and friends.

This content was originally published here.

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To-Dos: Your July Home Checklist

Things to Check Off Your List in an Hour or Less

1. Clean porch lights. If you have glass light fixtures that are easily removed, bring them inside and wash in a dishpan of warm water with gentle soap. If the fixtures must stay in place, turn the power off and carefully wipe the exteriors with a damp microfiber cloth; dry with a soft cloth. When finished, change lightbulbs as needed.

2. Unfurl a flag for the Fourth. Get in the Independence Day spirit by putting up an American flag on your porch in time to celebrate the Fourth of July. Don’t have room for a full-size flag? Try lining your walkway with mini flags, or hang a pleated fan above the door instead. Whether you hang your flag vertically (as shown here) or horizontally, be sure you keep the union (the part with the stars) in the upper left corner.

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3. Check safety devices. Carbon monoxide detectors and smoke detectors should be tested monthly; replace batteries as needed, and replace the entire device if it is more than 10 years old. Interconnected smoke detectors (when one alarm goes off, they all sound) are the safest because it is more likely that everyone in the house will hear the alarm. Also, take a moment to check the expiration date on any fire extinguishers in the house and replace them if needed.
4. Care for furry friends. Summer poses some unique challenges for our pets, but with a little extra care, you can ensure your furry friends are healthy all season long. If you will be traveling this summer without your pet, be sure to plan ahead to set up care. Most pets are more comfortable in their own homes, so consider using a professional pet sitter rather than a kennel, which can be stressful. To keep pets safe in the heat, you should provide access to shade and ample fresh water and never leave pets in a car unattended.
Tackle These Tasks Over a Weekend

5. Clean windows inside and out. Keep that summer sunshine streaming in by giving windows a quick rinse with glass cleaner or a vinegar solution, then squeegee them dry or wipe with a clean microfiber cloth. If you want to avoid using a ladder outside, reach exterior windows with a window-washing hose attachment or telescoping window washer, or hire a window-washing service to get the job done.

6. Check window screens for holes. It’s summer, and the mosquitoes are out in full force. If you’ve been getting bitten inside the house, check your window screens and screen doors for small holes and tears. Use a screen patching kit to repair any damage, and keep those pesky bugs outdoors where they belong.

7. Refresh summer whites. Fresh, clean and crisp, nothing says summer quite like white linens. Keep your white textiles looking their best by laundering slipcovers, cushion covers and curtains, or sending them out for dry cleaning if they’re not machine washable. Keep white upholstery and Roman blinds looking fresh by vacuuming them regularly using your vacuum’s upholstery attachment.
8. Conserve water. Cut down on unnecessary water use by watering your lawn and garden during the cooler, early morning hours. If you water when the sun is high, much of the water will simply evaporate instead of sinking into the soil where the roots can access it — and it can even scorch tender leaves. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends using a WaterSense-labeled timer for your sprinkler system, which acts like a thermostat for your lawn and can reduce water use by up to 15 percent per year. Inside the house, keep an eye out for leaky faucets and have them repaired promptly.

9. Keep the landscape fire-safe. If you live in an area with dry summers (such as California), it’s important to remove weeds, fallen leaves, needles and other items that could become fuel in a fire, particularly from the area immediately surrounding your home.

Maintenance and Extras to Budget for This Month

10. Check fences and repair or replace as needed. Inspect fencing and gates around your property. If you find damaged areas (for example, broken boards, sagging areas and soft or rotted wood) schedule repairs or replacement as needed.

11. Upgrade pool safety measures. If you have a pool in your backyard, it is essential to keep it securely fenced with a self-closing, self-latching gate at least 4 feet high, to prevent children from jumping or falling in. Place a safety cover on your pool when not in use, and never allow anyone to swim in your pool alone. The American Red Cross also recommends installing a pool alarm that will go off when anyone enters the pool. And if you have children, it’s important to make sure they all learn to swim well, whether or not you have a pool of your own.

13. Keep your home safe when you’re away. Before you leave on a trip, take some time to put safety precautions in place. Let your neighbors know when you will be away and ask a friend to check on your house from time to time. Motion-sensing exterior lighting, timed interior lighting and well-trimmed hedges can make your home a less appealing target for break-ins. If you will be away for a longer period of time, have your mail held for you at the post office and hire a lawn service to keep your yard from getting overgrown while you are away.

Fireworks, swimming and clambakes. With summer in full swing, the month of July can seem to zip by. Make the most of your month with these to-dos.

This content was originally published here.

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5 Premium Kitchen Features One Designer Recommends

1. Pro-Style Range

A pro-style range is a designer kitchen’s crown jewel. The commercial, chef-style quality of these ranges makes them a natural focal point. Exposed gas burners coupled with hefty knobs and a substantial range hood set a pro-style range apart from a standard one. Optional features such as a grill or griddle allow for greater versatility and ease of use when cooking.

These high-end appliances often come in a wide range of colors. This bright orange Bertazzoni range and the blue backsplash work brilliantly as a complementary-color pairing that enhances the midcentury modern style. It’s also worth noting that this is a 30-inch range, proving you don’t need an oversize appliance to create a big impact.

In addition to color, you’ll have a wide range of styles to consider. From contemporary to Victorian, there’s an option that can help you define the character of your kitchen.

2. Statement Light Fixtures

Statement light fixtures read like sculpture in a room. While they provide an additional source of task lighting, they also serve to elevate the aesthetic of your kitchen by providing a bit of drama.

The kitchen island is often the best place for decorative fixtures such as pendants. The laws of good design favor odd numbers. For example, an 8-foot island can hold three small to medium-size pendants. While this is the rule of thumb, it shouldn’t stop you from playing with scale. For example, consider two large pendants over an 8-foot island.

Minnesota designer Bria Hammel added two large brass pendants over the island of this contemporary kitchen. The metallic finish contrasts with the matte black cabinetry and complements the warm wood tones of the ceiling beams and extended island eating area.

3. Charging Station Drawer

Today’s kitchen design must address the realities of modern living. A charging station drawer is a detail that will safeguard your electronics in an area of the home where accidents such as spills are prone to happen.

You can outfit your charging drawers with electrical or USB outlets or a combination of both. If you’re converting an existing drawer into a charging station, consult with an electrician to determine the best spot.

4. Pot Filler

Pot fillers combine functionality with decadence. These fancy faucets are installed above a range or cooktop and are used to fill large pots with water, saving you one trip of heavy lifting. In many ways, they’re a telltale sign of a thoughtfully designed kitchen. Consider them an elegant touch that also makes life a little easier.

Pot filler faucets come in many finishes and styles. This industrial-style version combines a matte black knob with a traditional chrome finish on the arms.

If you’re considering a pot filler for your kitchen, keep in mind that water lines must run from the nearest existing water line to the wall behind your stovetop. Depending on your layout, this could be the water line connected to the back of your fridge, dishwasher or sink. For that reason, this option can be more costly than it looks. R
unning a water line through your wall to the location of your new pot filler will likely require some demolition, so prepare to repaint walls or redo your tile backsplash.

A pot filler faucet should be mounted about 20 to 24 inches above the stove burners. The exact location will depend on the wall space you have and the style of pot filler you choose.

If you have concerns about the faucet being a potential source of water damage, look for models with dual shutoff valves. The two valves reduce the risk of water leaking from the faucet.

Of all the rooms in your home, it’s your kitchen that demands the most planning — and often the better part of your budget. Drafting a priority list can be a bit of a head-scratcher. From lighting to appliances, there’s a wide range of elements to carefully consider. As a designer, I try to make the process a little easier for clients. And if there’s still some budget to play with after the must-haves are out of the way, we start discussing the nice-to-have premium features. Everyone has their luxury dream features, but these are the five details I like to recommend.

This content was originally published here.

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20 Ways to Personalize a New House

1. Paint the Front Door

It’s far less commitment than painting the exterior and has more bang for the buck. While you’re choosing a paint color, consider whether you want to update the hardware as well — shiny new hardware can give your home a fresh look, and you can change the locks at the same time (always a good idea when you buy a house), so it’s a win-win.

2. Buy Fresh Flowers

A bouquet of freshly cut flowers, whether from the grocery store or your backyard, can instantly make any room feel friendlier. Make a single arrangement go further by pulling out a few single blooms to display in bud vases around the house.

3. Hang Personal Photos

Getting a few favorite photos up on the wall is one of the quickest and easiest ways to make a new place feel like home, so don’t put it off. If you’re concerned about putting holes in the walls before you know for sure where everything will go, pick up some removable picture-hanging strips to use instead of nails.

4. Change the Kitchen Faucet

If the faucet in your kitchen has seen better days, consider swapping it out for a sleek new one. This one simple change can make a big impact on how your kitchen feels overall, yet costs relatively little. Just be sure to coordinate it with the existing hardware — or swap the hardware at the same time for a bigger change.

5. Paint a Wall or Two

Picking colors for your whole house can be a daunting prospect. Save yourself some trouble and just commit to painting an accent wall or two now. Getting color on the walls will make your place feel more like you and can help determine the rest of your home’s palette.

6. Wallpaper the Powder Room

Up for a bigger project? A fun statement wallpaper can really put your stamp on the powder room or bath. A less-used space like this is a great place to experiment with bold patterns and color. Just be aware that if you wallpaper a full bath (with a shower or tub), rather than just a powder room, you should choose a product that can withstand the humidity and avoid wallpapering in the “splash zone.”

7. Roll Out a Fluffy Rug

Even if you generally prefer bare floors, having at least one space with a sink-your-toes-in squishy rug makes a house feel ultracomfortable. If you’re concerned about keeping a shag or deep-pile rug clean, put it in a room away from entrances and heavy foot traffic — a bedroom or den is ideal.

8. Clean From Top to Bottom

Tap into the power of scent by using great-smelling natural products to thoroughly scrub your new home. It may sound a bit strange, but when your home begins to smell familiar, it’ll feel more like home — so you may as well do what you can to speed that process along!

9. Put Up Wall Hooks

Having hooks right where you need them can make all the difference when it comes to staying organized and keeping your home tidy. Pay attention to where you and your family members tend to drop things, then add a row of hooks there — the entry hall, bathroom and bedrooms are good candidates for wall hooks.

10. Switch Out a Light Fixture

Swapping a stylish light you love for a boring or outdated one can make a room feel new. And if there’s a space that could use an overhead fixture where none exists, pay an electrician to install one — why live with an inconvenience when you can fix it? The expense is worth it if it’ll make your daily life easier and more pleasant for years to come.

11. Give Stairs a Special Treatment

Paint them a crisp white, then add shades of a single color to the treads; or add numbers, words or wallpaper to the risers. If you have a carpeted staircase, update it with a fresh runner.

12. Make a Place For Your Keys

Save time on your way out the door by designating a spot for keys and other important items. Install a row of small hooks, or use a tray or dish; just make it convenient and use it consistently.

13. Upgrade Window Treatments

Whether you go for tailored Roman blinds or textured bamboo, simple roller shades or a layered look with curtains, having a window treatment you love (and that works) is a decorating detail that can make a space feel more polished. When selecting window treatments, choose the same liner fabric on all windows for a consistent look from the street.

14. Hang a Large-Scale Piece of Art

One great piece of artwork can create a focal point and enliven an entire room. It doesn’t need to be a priceless item, as long as it speaks to you. Seek out galleries that feature up-and-coming artists, or attend student shows at a local art school, to find reasonably priced works.

15. Tuck Plants Into Unexpected Spaces

Plants add personality and color, freshen the air — and they look great in any room. Large houseplants and potted trees are wonderful, but also try placing little pots of cactuses, succulents or ferns among the bottles on a bar cart, on the bathroom sink or on open shelving in the kitchen.

16. Create a Special Spot For Little Ones

Give young children a secret hideaway or comfy area to curl up with a favorite storybook. Just about anywhere can become a cozy nook — just add a few squashy pillows, a snuggly throw and a basket of books.

17. Customize the Storage

Having the right sort of storage, in the right place, is key: Get that right, and daily life suddenly becomes much easier. Take the time to plan out where you need shelving or cabinetry, and outfit your closets with storage systems to make the most of your space (this is especially important in small spaces).

18. Upgrade Bathroom Details

Can’t take on a full bathroom remodel? That doesn’t mean you can’t freshen up the bath with a few smaller swaps. Change the faucets, cabinet hardware, towel bars and light fixture, and replace an old medicine cabinet with a mirror.

19. Offer Cozy Comforts

A throw to snuggle under, a tea tray ready for last-minute guests, candles, fresh flowers and plenty of lamps — these little things are often what make a house feel like a comfortable, welcoming home.

20. Add a Fun Outdoor Feature

Think fire pit, hammock, porch swing, alfresco dining table or barbecue area — something that will entice family and friends to venture out. When sprucing up your outdoor room, remember to provide enough shade for sunny days and to maximize privacy, if that’s a concern.

This content was originally published here.

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5 Premium Kitchen Details One Designer Recommends

1. Pro-Style Range

A pro-style range is a designer kitchen’s crown jewel. The commercial, chef-style quality of these ranges makes them a natural focal point. Exposed gas burners coupled with hefty knobs and a substantial range hood set a pro-style range apart from a standard one. Optional features such as a grill or griddle allow for greater versatility and ease of use when cooking.

These high-end appliances often come in a wide range of colors. This bright orange Bertazzoni range and the blue backsplash work brilliantly as a complementary-color pairing that enhances the midcentury modern style. It’s also worth noting that this is a 30-inch range, proving you don’t need an oversize appliance to create a big impact.

In addition to color, you’ll have a wide range of styles to consider. From contemporary to Victorian, there’s an option that can help you define the character of your kitchen.

2. Statement Light Fixtures

Statement light fixtures read like sculpture in a room. While they provide an additional source of task lighting, they also serve to elevate the aesthetic of your kitchen by providing a bit of drama.

The kitchen island is often the best place for decorative fixtures such as pendants. The laws of good design favor odd numbers. For example, an 8-foot island can hold three small to medium-size pendants. While this is the rule of thumb, it shouldn’t stop you from playing with scale. For example, consider two large pendants over an 8-foot island.

Minnesota designer Bria Hammel added two large brass pendants over the island of this contemporary kitchen. The metallic finish contrasts with the matte black cabinetry and complements the warm wood tones of the ceiling beams and extended island eating area.

3. Pot Filler

Pot fillers combine functionality with decadence. These fancy faucets are installed above a range or cooktop and are used to fill large pots with water, saving you one trip of heavy lifting. In many ways, they’re a telltale sign of a thoughtfully designed kitchen. Consider them an elegant touch that also makes life a little easier.

Pot filler faucets come in many finishes and styles. This industrial-style version combines a matte black knob with a traditional chrome finish on the arms.

If you’re considering a pot filler for your kitchen, keep in mind that water lines must run from the nearest existing water line to the wall behind your stovetop. Depending on your layout, this could be the water line connected to the back of your fridge, dishwasher or sink. For that reason, this option can be more costly than it looks. R
unning a water line through your wall to the location of your new pot filler will likely require some demolition, so prepare to repaint walls or redo your tile backsplash.

A pot filler faucet should be mounted about 20 to 24 inches above the stove burners. The exact location will depend on the wall space you have and the style of pot filler you choose.

If you have concerns about the faucet being a potential source of water damage, look for models with dual shutoff valves. The two valves reduce the risk of water leaking from the faucet.

4. Charging Station Drawer

Today’s kitchen design must address the realities of modern living. A charging station drawer is a detail that will safeguard your electronics in an area of the home where accidents such as spills are prone to happen.

You can outfit your charging drawers with electrical or USB outlets or a combination of both. If you’re converting an existing drawer into a charging station, consult with an electrician to determine the best spot.

Of all the rooms in your home, it’s your kitchen that demands the most planning — and often the better part of your budget. Drafting a priority list can be a bit of a head-scratcher. From lighting to appliances, there’s a wide range of elements to carefully consider. As a designer, I try to make the process a little easier for clients. And if there’s still some budget to play with after the must-haves are out of the way, we start discussing the nice-to-have premium features. Everyone has their luxury dream features, but these are the 5 details I like to recommend.

This content was originally published here.

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Cortona Kitchen – Transitional – Kitchen – Austin – by Cornerstone Architects | Houzz

This Westlake site posed several challenges that included managing a sloping lot and capturing the views of downtown Austin in specific locations on the lot,

This content was originally published here.

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Best 15 Home Improvement Professionals in Berlin, Land Berlin, Germany | Houzz

An extensive directory of Berlin, Land Berlin, Germany home improvement professionals. Find portfolios and reviews for the best home remodeling professionals on Houzz.

This content was originally published here.

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How to Organize Your Outdoor Space for Ultimate Summer Enjoyment

As with most organizing projects, my modus operandi is “declutter, organize and style” — in that order. Each project you take from start to finish can be as small or as large as you can manage. In other words, you can take one small category, such as yard games, and go through the entire process of decluttering, organizing and then styling them before moving on to another category.

Alternatively, you can do all of your decluttering first (including many categories at a time) and then organize and style afterward. The former may be less overwhelming and work well if you have only small chunks of time and you already know where you want to place things. However, the latter might be a good approach if you’re not quite sure where things should belong and you want to see what remains after you’ve decluttered.

Get Started by Decluttering

Here are some common backyard categories to consider decluttering:

Outdoor games. A lot can change in a year, especially if you have young children. Lawn games that were popular last year may not hold any interest today.

I recommend reviewing outdoor games annually, as they can take up a lot of space. If it’s something your family won’t enjoy anymore, it may be time to donate those games in good condition to someone who will. Also, look for damaged and broken games and toss the ones that no longer function well.

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Gardening tools and supplies. You know how hard your gardening tools work. Maintain them well so they can continue to be efficient and accurate for your task. Be sure to keep them dry, clean, sterile, oiled and sharp, as applicable for each tool.

Pare down the excess and ones you don’t use. Dispose of those that are broken or beyond repair, but be sure to dispose of them according to your local guidelines, as some tools may not be acceptable in your regular trash.

The purpose of gardening gloves is to protect your hands from cuts, scrapes, chemicals, blisters and more. If your gloves no longer serve these purposes because of holes or wear, consider replacing them with ones that do.

It’s not uncommon to amass a large collection of empty pots, which take up a lot of space. Even if you like the style of the pots, consider whether you’ll realistically reuse them or whether you have too many. You may be saving some to fill with plants to give as gifts. I’ve saved such pots in the past and never used them. I now know myself better and will swiftly donate ones I know I won’t use, at least in the near future.

Many people store soil, fertilizer, landscaping rocks and mulch left over from their garden projects. If you have bags of excess materials lying around, first review them to see if they’re in good condition. Dispose of any unusable soils and mulch that have foul odors, mold or insect infestations. Then decide if you want to keep the remaining usable materials. You may want to keep potting soil and fertilizer if you use it regularly, but perhaps you don’t need those landscaping rocks from a previous project and can free up some space.

Grilling tools. Be sure your barbecue tools and grill are clean and free of rust. According to the USDA, “Rust is not a food-safe material so it should not be ingested.” There are many online solutions for removing rust; if you can’t remove it, you may want to replace your tools and cooking grate.

You may want to consider purchasing individual tools instead of a set. While a set may be offered at a better value, you may actually be paying more per tool if you’re not using all of them.

Outdoor dinnerware. Take some time to review tableware dedicated to outdoor dining and entertaining to make sure everything is still relevant. If random items such as takeout utensils, hand-me-downs from the kitchen or catering trays default into your outdoor dining storage, consider parting with the items you don’t use.

From a guilt standpoint, I understand how difficult it can be to get rid of disposable items that are still fully usable. During the pandemic, you may have ordered takeout more frequently, resulting in a large stockpile of plastic utensils that would be wasteful to toss. I don’t believe in waste, but I also don’t believe in keeping unwanted items out of guilt.

You may want to research mutually beneficial options, such as donating to a homeless shelter. Another suggestion would be to check your local community or neighborhood groups to transform your trash into treasure for someone else.

Water toys. My childhood summers in the New York suburbs were spent running through sprinklers and playing in free-flowing water.

I now live in California, and while I desperately would like to give my daughters the same fun experiences I had, I just can’t justify it with the droughts we experience here. Choosing to discontinue my childhood summer traditions and purge our lawn water slide, oscillating sprinkler and other water toys not only made me feel more responsible and considerate, but it also removed the temptations to misuse our precious water.

If you live in an area where you don’t have to worry about water conservation, make sure your summer inflatables don’t have any leaks or mildew and that you’re not using your space to store defective items.

Furniture. The elements can be hard on outdoor furniture. Even if your furniture, cushions and rugs have been covered or otherwise protected, check for mildew, dirt and rust and be sure you allow enough time after washing for the items to dry thoroughly.

Consider repairing any cushion tears that may compromise water resistance. Donate any excess pillows and blankets you’ve accrued.

Organize Your Outdoor Spaces for Current and Future Use

Keep your yard tidy by making sure off-season items are put away. Enclosed spaces will keep your items safe from weather and pests and help you avoid visual clutter.

Organizing your spaces will help make putting things away easier and therefore more likely to get done. Some solutions that have worked well for my clients include:

Shed with shelves. An outdoor shed provides a great footprint of space for keeping your belongings dry and organized. Consider installing a shelving unit inside so that all parts of the shed are easily accessible. If you stack boxes and items on top of each other, no matter how organized they are it will still be troublesome to access items in the bottom box.

Weather-resistant storage boxes. There are many styles and options for outdoor benches with storage. Benches typically have less storage space than a shed, but they may be more inconspicuous and may work well in smaller spaces where they can also serve as seating. Storage benches usually work well for keeping pillows and seat cushions dry and clean.

Potting benches. Plant and gardening enthusiasts may want to invest in a potting bench, which can neatly store your supplies and provide you with a workspace. Many potting benches can also be arranged to be a nice focal point in your outdoor space.

Hanging storage. I prefer to store items off the ground when it makes sense. It allows me to keep the ground cleaner (indoors and out), allocates a designated space for each item and makes finding specific pieces easier.

For larger tools like rakes, loppers and shovels, simple hooks or a wall system will do the job. Be sure the weight limits for the hooks are suitable for their purpose.

Set the Style and Mood You Want to Create in Your Backyard

A few minor changes can make a big impact.

String lights. There’s something very inviting and cozy about outdoor lights — nothing glams up an outdoor space more than string lights. There are many different types, from fairy lights with tiny bulbs to larger lantern-style lights. Edison bulb string lights are my favorite. These larger bulbs give my backyard a slightly more dramatic, modern vintage feel.

Outdoor rug. Consider getting an outdoor rug to give your yard an indoor-outdoor feel. A rug can serve as a focal point and also pull everything together to create the feel of being in a room.
Outdoor art. Art in any medium can bring color and personality to your space. Don’t be afraid to show your personality.

You can even use non-art items to boost the ambiance. For example, resting your surfboard in the corner of the yard and adding a few large planters with tropical plants will lend a beachy feel.

Summer is here, and you may be thinking about spending more time in your backyard. With a little decluttering, organizing and styling, you can turn your outdoor area into a fun and relaxing space for lounging and gathering. Keep reading for a few ideas to help get your outdoor space in tip-top shape.

This content was originally published here.

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Kitchen of the Week: White and Wood With a Touch of Rustic Style

“After” photos by Justin Krug Photography

Kitchen at a Glance
Who lives here: Empty-nest couple Todd and Tina Gifford
Location: Tualatin, Oregon
Size: 330 square feet (31 square meters)
Design: Gina Loewer of Northland Design & Build

Before: The previous kitchen had served the Giffords well, but there wasn’t much worth holding on to. They had grown tired of the muddy brown walls, basic oak cabinets, laminate countertops and plain white tile with a decorative strip used on the short backsplash and narrow island countertop.

The honey brown flooring seemed to blend in with the cabinets, and the placement of the aging electric cooktop in the island felt like an afterthought. Over time, the built-in desk area had become a cluttered drop zone. The refrigerator, which stood on a wall separating the kitchen and dining area, protruded into the traffic flow. “The kitchen just felt drab,” Loewer says. “It was enclosed, compartmentalized and the aisleways were tight.”

After: Loewer removed the back wall to open the kitchen up to the dining area, and she extended the kitchen into the dining room a little to add about 24 square feet to the kitchen. “When you take the wall down, you’re going to increase the natural light for both spaces,” she notes.

A two-tier peninsula now splits the rooms, with tall storage cabinets on the dining side and a new range on the kitchen side. A decorative hickory beam with custom stain over the peninsula gave the homeowners some of the warm rustic style they were looking for. “We were over-the-moon excited when Gina proposed it,” Tina says. “We always wanted warm and neutral with a touch of rustic, but neither of us thought it would be something that would work.”

Loewer brightened the room with a lighter color scheme that includes white maple cabinets (Extra White by Sherwin-Williams), greige walls (Pale Oak by Benjamin Moore) and crisp white ceiling and trim (Pure White by Sherwin-Williams).

The new island has a hickory base that coordinates with the beam and refinished floors. The countertops are a marble-look quartz. “It’s nice to have that wide-open space for baking pies and entertaining,” Tina says. “It’s so much more functional not having the cooktop there.”

The backsplash is 2-by-8-inch white ceramic tiles with a bit of texture. “We tried to look for ways to bring in rustic elements,” Tina says. “I wanted to bring in a handcrafted style of tiles, and this is what Gina and her team brought to us. They’re wonderful.”

The greige walls, gray composite sink, stainless faucet, light pewter grout color and cabinet pulls in a gunmetal finish create cohesive gray-tone elements that provide subtle contrast to all the whites.

Faucet: Sleek, Moen; cabinet hardware: Belcastel in Gun Metal, Hardware Resources

A stainless steel hood hangs over the new pro-style 30-inch range in the peninsula. “I love the location,” Tina says. “Given the original cooktop was in the island with only one functional burner, having this Wolf range is dreamy.”

Wide drawers on either side of the range keep pots and pans within easy reach. Each top drawer has an integrated spice rack and dividers for utensils.

This side of the island has numerous drawers for essentials like mixing bowls and stockpots. “We wanted this island to be heavy on storage,” Loewer says.

Bronze pendants with glass dome shades keep sightlines open through the kitchen. Recessed LED ceiling lights and undercabinet LED tape lighting provide a layered lighting design.

Loewer relocated the new paneled fridge here. “This refrigerator is great because you have two doors instead of one,” she says. “We had to be careful and not go with a large one-door fridge that would swing into the aisleway.”

Double wall ovens sit to the left, a tall pantry is on the right and a tip-up cabinet above provides storage for seasonal items.

A cabinet above the ovens divides cookie sheets and serving platters. “It’s so much more efficient, utilizing the space that way,” Tina says.

A drawer beneath the ovens holds baking and roasting pans.

The custom pantry cabinet has five deep rollouts for dry goods. “People are nervous when you remove a wall in a kitchen, when it comes to storage,” Loewer says. “This is a great way to have a highly functional pantry with deep rollouts that doesn’t take up lots of space.”

A new beverage center takes the place of the built-in desk. Glass-front upper cabinets show off Tina’s favorite collectibles. Drawers offer storage for napkins, corkscrews and other entertaining supplies. A beverage refrigerator makes it easy for guests to grab a drink without getting in the way in the main work zones.

Before: This wide view of the former kitchen shows an informal breakfast nook on the left. The large, rectangular table created a traffic flow problem. “Previously with the dining room being walled off, we needed that size of table there,” Tina says. “We made it work, but it was definitely too large for that area.”

The beam features integrated LED lights. “We went back and forth about it, but I’m so glad we have those added lights there over the peninsula,” Tina says. “They’re fantastic.”

The upper level of the peninsula gives the couple a buffet space when entertaining.

This photo shows the pop-out-style electrical outlets placed around the kitchen. This one is on the end of the island across from the range. When not in use, the gray cube portion can be pushed inside the plate area for a sleek look.

The now-open dining room enjoys a closer connection with the kitchen. “It absolutely reclaims real estate that has been forgotten for years,” Loewer says. “Now this dining room has a connection with the kitchen, and the flow between the spaces is great.”

This content was originally published here.