Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Try These Tricks in Your Living Room

"IMG_1016" by Shawn Cornelius is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Holiday decorating usually leads to rearranging some furniture, which doesn’t sound like a lot of fun on the surface. However, this allows you the opportunity to experiment with the layout of the room and its furniture. Or maybe you’ve been looking for an excuse to switch things around, so you should take advantage of the opportunity! Try these tips from Apartment Therapy, and who knows, you may love your new layout so much that you decide to keep the Christmas tree up year-round!  
1. If you have room, pulling your furniture away from the wall can make conversational groupings seem cozier, and the room seem a lot more spacious.

2. Try replacing your coffee table with a smaller table, big enough to hold a book and a few drinks, that can move around the room. The space freed up by the coffee table will make your living room seem a lot bigger.

3. A bookcase behind the sofa is a great way to add a little texture — and a little storage — to your living room. (Naturally, things you don't use as much go directly behind the couch.)

4. Mixing old and new pieces is a great way to add energy to any room.

5. Balance heavier pieces with lighter ones to keep a space from feeling too clunky. The lighter pieces in this room — the coffee and side tables — provide a nice counterpoint the sofa and dresser.

6. Hang a picture ledge above your sofa for a statement-y look. If you get tired of your current pieces, you can easily switch them out.

7. Color is the key to mixing a lot of things together in a harmonious way. There's a lot going on in this living room, but the preponderance of white keeps all the different elements from becoming too overwhelming.

8. Every room can benefit from a touch of gold.

9. Keeping everything low (including the art) is a great trick to make a room look bigger.

10. Paired chairs don't have to match — try mixing two pieces from a similar era with different shapes.

11. When in doubt, add a little bit of black.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Should You Get Rid of Your Furniture?

"Repurposed trunk" by Paris on Ponce & Le Maison Rouge is licensed
under CC BY 2.0
Furniture can be an expensive investment, depending on the quality of the pieces. Because it can be so costly, throwing furniture away should be a last resort. After evaluating these steps from Apartment Therapy, consider donating it or giving it to a friend in need and, then, if all else fails, toss it.

1. Can it be used for in another room, maybe for a different purpose?
Consider the other rooms of your house, and consider your household needs. Something that you don't want in one room, might serve a different purpose in another. I had been using a small dresser as my daughter's changing table in the nursery for the past couple of years, but now that she is a toddler, she doesn't need it and the dresser was just taking up space. At the same time, I had been needing a bed side table. After deliberating about its fate, I realized the dresser might work as a nightstand. I packed up the contents of the changing table dresser and moved it into our room next to our bed. Voila! It turned out to be the perfect height for a bed side table and so it will stay.

2. Can it be updated?
There are several ways that you can give your old furniture new life with a couple of simple updates. If you are tired of your coffee table that you've had since college, take a good look at it and determine if you can give it a new coat of paint and a different style of table legs. Maybe your old dresser can be spruced up with some beautiful hardware and that might inspire a whole new life out of it. If you know how to reupholster chairs, try a whole other color or pattern to change it up.

3. Can you take it apart to use its various parts?
I've determined that our coffee table needs to go, but recently I've been eyeballing it again to see if I could use its parts of other purposes. For example, I can take the legs off and then paint the table top with chalkboard paint, and stand it up in my daughter's room as a chalkboard. Or maybe I could replace the skinny legs with sturdier ones, add some cushions and turn it into a bench for our foyer area. Maybe you have a dresser that is falling apart but each of the drawers are still in good shape; paint the drawers, add a couple of table legs, and turn that into a side table.

4. Can you sell it?
It is always worth trying to see if you can sell the item through a service like Craigslist. Check your local listings, see what similar items are being priced at and put it up for sale with a couple of good pictures. You can take the money your earn from that sale and put it towards that new replacement item you are saving up for.

5. Do you have room to store it?
If you have room to store it, consider putting it away in that attic or basement. Especially if the item has good bones, it might be worth keeping around. You might end up needing it, liking it again or gifting it to a friend or family member who needs it in a few years. Even if you don't recognize a need for it in the present moment, the item might meet a need in the future.

If you have gone through these factors and determine that you have no more use for it, and the item is still in working condition, make sure to donate it to your local thrift stores. Give someone else a chance to squeeze more life out of it!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Be a Stress-Free Holiday Host

"Guest room" by Uriah Welcome is licensed under CC BY 2.0
It’s the most wonderful time of the year...okay, and maybe the most stressful. If you are entertaining friends or family from out of town at your home, the stress levels can increase exponentially depending on what type of house guests you have. However, if you set reasonable expectations for you and your guests, their stay will go quite smoothly! Try following these tips from Apartment Therapy, and who knows, maybe you’ll have such a good time that you’ll want to host Airbnb guests year round?!

1. Properly prep the room — Clean sheets are a must, of course, but also think about things like hangers, a glass for water and a phone charger. If your guests are sleeping in a multi-purpose room like an office, try to clear the surfaces and put away personal items so they don't feel like they're snooping into your affairs simply by staying.

2. Stockpile essentials — No guest wants to have to ask their host for extra toilet paper or toothpaste. Set out a few extras of the essential things they might need and avoid awkward rummaging around in the linen closet in the middle of the night. And fyi, an extra blanket at the end of the bed is never a bad idea.

3. Be crystal clear — Don't make your guests guess what's okay to use or do in your house. You want them to feel comfortable, and the best way to make that happen is by giving them them the full scoop right off the bat. Is all food and drink up for grabs? Are there rooms that are off limits? Especially important when hosting a crowd, getting everyone on the same page will prevent problems all visit long.

4. Write everything down — If you're leaving your guests or a house sitter alone in your home then they're going to need something to refer to. Sure, you told them to jiggle the handle of the downstairs toilet and that the TV needs to be on channel three, but trust us, too much info all at once means they retained very little. Write it all down to save them frustration and prevent any house disasters to boot.

5. Give your guests a schedule, but don't smother them — It's great to spend time together (that's why they're there) but remember that downtime is important, too. They may have a few things they want to do solo like going for a run in the morning or seeing another friend in your town. As the host, strike the perfect balance by planning a few group activities with some breaks in between (which will also give you, the host, some alone time). Say something like, "This afternoon is free time but we'll see you at home for dinner at 7," so everyone knows the plan and can organize their time accordingly.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Happy Budget-Friendly Thanksgiving

"Thanksgiving Turkey" by tuchodi is licensed under CC BY 2.0
The holidays can be a stressful time of the year, especially if you’re living on a tight budget. In addition to your regular monthly spending, there are also presents, decorations and extra outings to take into account. The holiday season kicks off with Thanksgiving, so let’s explore how to save money on this holiday so you have a little more to spend on Christmas. Try these tips from Apartment Guide:

Handling the Turkey
Many grocery stores run promotions on their turkeys, offering them up as loss leaders. The turkeys are a standard part of the Thanksgiving dinner, so you’re going to buy one no matter what.

The grocery stores want to get you in the door to purchase all the extra fixings that go along with this meal. Some stores offer free turkeys if you have enough reward points through their programs, while others price their turkeys at under $1 per pound.

If you have the space in your fridge and you don’t mind waiting for the turkey to thaw, get even more for your money by opting for frozen turkey. It takes a few days to completely thaw a turkey, so keep that in mind if you want to go this route. Avoid running the turkey under water to thaw it out, as this results in a dangerous temperature level for food safety.

Keep an Eye on Coupons
Another way to cut down on your Thanksgiving meal costs is by maximizing coupon use for your local stores. Check the grocery store sites and manufacturers’ websites the closer you get to Thanksgiving. Wait for your grocery stores to coupon match existing coupons so you get double the value.

Create a Meal Plan
Before heading to the grocery store, create a complete meal plan so you don’t end up purchasing far more than what you actually need. When you purchase only what you need, you won’t have to worry about significant food waste after the festivities.

After all, you’ll have plenty of leftovers to deal with in the week after. Another benefit of creating a meal plan is having a concise grocery list to consult when you’re making your purchases. To save the most amount of time, organize your grocery list according to the aisles in your store.

Skip the Boxed Options
Boxed and prepackaged sides are tempting when you’re cooking for a large group, but creating everything from scratch is less expensive, healthier and gives you better control over what you’re putting in the food.

Stock up on ingredients such as butter, flour, eggs, sugar, bread and other essentials necessary for creating classic Thanksgiving dishes. Many recipe sites provide step-by-step instructions, or even videos, to help with creating these dishes. You don’t have to be a master chef to create a memorable Thanksgiving for your friends and family at your apartment.

Understand Your In-Season Options
One thing that drives up your costs is attempting to buy produce out of season. Not only do you get lower quality produce, you’re also paying a premium because it is shipped across the country, or even internationally.

Watch for the in-season options in your area, such as Brussels sprouts and other late harvest vegetables. If you must have something not in season, go to your frozen food section. These vegetables are flash frozen when harvested, so they are at peak quality compared to the out-of-season produce offerings.

The exact type of produce available varies based on your geographic location, and if you’re lucky, there may be a farmers markets continuing into November to provide you with farm-fresh produce.

Consider a Thanksgiving Meal Potluck
Want to really cut down on the cost without asking your friends and family to pitch in monetarily? Ask them to bring side dishes, drinks or desserts for a Thanksgiving potluck. A potluck is also great if you have vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free or friends with other dietary restrictions who worry they won’t have anything to eat beyond a veggie platter at your dinner.

If possible, create a collaborative list so all your guests see who is bringing what to your get together. With a collaborative list, you won’t end up with three bowls of pasta salad and no extra desserts. Handle the basics yourself, such as the Thanksgiving turkey, gravy, stuffing and cranberry sauce.

What tips do you have to offer on saving during Thanksgiving?
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