I’ve got to say, I had a pretty cool bedroom when I was a kid. My bed was up on a high platform with a big window at the foot looking out across a meadow — and there was lots of storage beneath for my books, Breyer horses, and other supplies. A door led right outside so I could carry my play outdoors when the weather was fair, and a low desk gave me room to spread out with pastels, homework, and craft projects. I loved my bedroom so much I kept it that way into college, when my dad moved and I had to take it apart.

What I’m saying is that I thought I had it pretty good, until I checked out some of the kids’ bedrooms on Hometalk, and wow. My dad is so fired.

A detail of a bedroom decorate with a plane theme.

I am a huge lover of planes, and I would have been head over heels in love with this funky vintage plane-themed bedroom.

We spent a lot of time traveling when I was a kid, which created a love of travel that lives on, but also a love of airplanes! This flight-themed room is fantastic and highly adaptable: while it’s designed for a younger children, a few smooth updates can help it transition as the child grows older. That’s what we call smart kids’ room decor, because kids grow up fast, and before you know it, the toddler who demanded a pink and purple room is going to be a teenager sulking because you won’t let her paint the walls black.

Continue reading “Awesome Bedrooms You’ll Wish You Had When You Were a Kid” »

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by Katie on Feb 4, 2014

There’s something about aged wood that’s truly timeless. It’s sometimes hard to put your finger on exactly what it is about aged wood that stands out, but you know it when you see it and feel it. The uneven tones and texture of wood that people have been handling for decades and centuries, for example. The rounded corners, proof of countless hands skimming along the surface of a table. The rich buildup of gloss in some areas, and dulled patina in others. People pay a fortune for antiques not just because of their historical and cultural value, but because they’re beautiful, and one reason for that is the finely aged wood.

But we don’t want to wait around for 100 years or so to get that look — especially when we’re working on DIY carpentry projects customized to our needs and desires, or when we’re restoring furniture and don’t want new components to stick out like a sore thumb. What we need is a way to accelerate the sands of time, as it were, and make new wood look like it’s been proudly gracing your house for a long, long time.

The pros have their ways of doing it, numerous companies sell their own kits for doing it, and lots of enterprising Hometalk users have created their own approaches to aging wood. I took a look at three of the more…unusual…options to see what people are up to.

A jar of coffee grounds ready to be used as a wood stain.

A solution of coffee grounds stains wood just like it stains your tablecloth!

Vinegar stains are a great way to age wood, according to testimonials from our users. Acidic vinegar starts to break down the cellulose in wood, helping to give it that slightly feathery, weathered look, while additives can change the color of the resulting staining. This vinegar and coffee ground aging mixture for wood is an example of an all-natural staining material (you can use tea, too!), and better yet, different vinegars turn out different results.

Continue reading “Little Known Ways to Give Wood the Aged Look” »

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by Katie on Jan 30, 2014

I have to admit that I’ve long held a secret fascination for shutters, which is I think in part because I grew up in a place where people don’t really use them — shutters aren’t big in California architecture, although they do pop up now and then. When I first moved to the East Coast, I was shocked and amazed by the profligate use of shutters everywhere I looked, but more than that, I started scheming with all the amazing ways you could use, and reuse, shutters in home design, construction, and decor.

As usual, I wasn’t the only one. Projects made with recycled shutters are huge on Hometalk, and they showcase some of our most amazing repurposing and upcycling skills. I decided to take a little virtual stroll through the homes of our busy users for some examples of what you can do with shutters — and inspiration that illustrates why you should hang on to old shutters whenever they fall into your hands!

A pair of shutters with greeting cards attached to them.

These shutters have been repurposed into a delightful display space for cards, photos, and other keepsakes. Love the use of clothespins as a rustic touch.

Looking for a place to keep all the lovely cards and photos you get, and not wanting to use the fridge? Shutters make a beautiful display surface for a constantly rotating showcase of items you love. This shutter card and photo display is very easy to make, and it’s a fantastic way to limit clutter: keep things you aren’t displaying in correspondence boxes, and put everything else up on the shutter to strut its stuff!

Continue reading “Discarded Shutters — Why You Should Hoard Them!” »

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by Katie on Jan 28, 2014

I got so tired of winter this year that I actually plan to escape to the Southern Hemisphere in a few weeks, because I’ve had just about enough of this nonsense. I’m so over waking up in the freezing cold, watching the garden wither and die (a problem made worse by not being able to water it because of drought restrictions), and not really wanting to go outside because the weather tries to bite my ear off when I do. For those of us who love our gardens and love working in the garden, the winter can be a grim time.

But in some ways, it’s actually the best time, and here’s why: winter gives you time to plan the garden, it gives you time to see which plants are going to be keepers over time, and it gives you a chance to work on garden decor — you know, all that stuff you can’t be bothered with in the heart of spring when everything’s blooming and the little birds are chirping and you can’t remember a time that you looked out the window and saw nothing but a bleak expanse.

An egg made by layering flat stone to create a garden sculpture.

No matter the season, this stone egg stands out from the rest of the garden; what a cool landscaping feature!

So, let’s talk about bringing up the color in the garden for winter!

Continue reading “Colorful Winter Ideas for the Depressed Gardener” »

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by Katie on Jan 23, 2014

Look, I’m going to make a confession: it’s not that I hate to sew, it’s that I’m really bad at it, and I hate things that I am bad at. In an emergency, I can quickly sew up a torn shirt or replace a button, but when it comes to anything more complicated than that, I definitely turn to the professionals (this is why I have a seamstress who handles my alterations). However, the problem with the pros is that while they’re talented, they’re also pricey.

So…(no pun intended) I was kind of put between a rock and a hard place when I needed some new curtains for my doors and windows to replace the ones that were getting a little tired. I wanted nice ones, but premade curtains are all really expensive. And I knew I couldn’t possibly make my own without all chaos breaking loose, because that’s what usually happens when I dip a toe into DIY home crafts. Or could I?

I started checking out the wide world of no-sew curtains, and wow, are there a lot of options out there.

A closeup of a curtain made from a drop cloth, with a toile-patterened topper.

These no-sew curtains were made with a drop cloth and toile trim to customize them. The result is charming and rustic, all for a low price!

Drop cloths are really big in curtains right now, at least according to our users, who just can’t get enough of them not just for curtains, but other home decor. They’re a great choice: inexpensive, plain, and big, they offer a ton of flexibility when it comes to using them in home improvement projects. I’d never thought of using a drop cloth for anything more than picking up paint drips, and Hometalk users sure showed me!

Continue reading “Window Shades and Curtains for People Who Hate to Sew” »

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by Katie on Jan 21, 2014

Is your oven disgusting? Or how about just a little dirty? Mine is definitely a little the worse for wear after a busy winter baking season, a potato incident I don’t like to talk about (yes, I poked holes in it first, thank you very much), and, okay, fine, a little bit of neglect. The last time I tried to peer through my murky oven glass to see something inside while it was baking, I cringed, and resolved to get to it with the appliance cleaning in the kitchen.

But, while I am frequently lazy, I’m no dummy. Rather than drive myself up the wall trying to scrub the oven, the first place I hit was Hometalk, to see how other people are handling their cleaning and organizing in the kitchen. I’ve learned through experience that these people know how to get things done, and they’ll do it better, faster, and way more efficiently than I will.

Let’s take a walk through the pages of Hometalk and see how the pros here do it when it comes to scrubbing out the oven, shall we?

Continue reading “Oven Cleaning Tricks You’ll Wish You’d Known Sooner” »

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by Katie on Jan 16, 2014

We’ve seen numerous inquiries in recent days in the wake of a nasty chemical spill in West Virginia which has released 4-methylcyclohexane methanol into the water supply, leading to a do not drink warning spanning 300,000 people and effectively closing an entire city. Many West Virginia residents are concerned about the safety of their water and want to know more about this chemical, and we don’t blame you, because public officials haven’t always been helpful. We looked into 4-methylcyclohexane methanol to get the lowdown on this industrial chemical, how it’s used, and what it could do to you if you’re exposed.

Your home security and safety are as important to us as they are to you, and that includes the safety of your water supply. Clean, healthy drinking water is a basic need for every household, and you don’t need us to tell you that!

A farmhouse-style kitchen sink.

Leave those taps off for now!

Jeff McIntyre, President of West Virginia American Water, vaguely stated that “I can’t tell you that the water is unsafe, but I also can’t tell you that the water is safe” when press asked him about the do not drink warning. The precautions in West Virginia inform residents not to use the water for any purpose, including drinking, hygiene, or cooking, and to use water from alternate sources, including from drop-off points set up by government agencies. On the plus side, you can still flush the toilet with it. The President has declared disaster status, allowing West Virginia to access assistance with getting clean water to residents until the crisis is resolved.

The bottom line, unfortunately, is that McIntyre is largely right. Not a lot is known about the risks of 4-methylcyclohexane methanol, also known as crude MCHM, because it hasn’t been studied extensively in lab environments. We know that it’s probably not good to inhale, ingest, or handle the chemical, and that it can cause mild irritation, so it’s not a good idea to be exposed to it, but the levels of safe exposure aren’t clear — which is why authorities decided to err on the side of caution and issue a no drink warning for safety.

Continue reading “4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol and Water Drinking Safety” »

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by Katie on Jan 14, 2014

If there’s one thing I love more than containers (and seriously, I have a love for containers bordering on the fetishistic), it’s printables. Oh man, you guys. LABELS! CALENDARS! CHECKLISTS! They are so great. Take labels: an ideal tool for any organizer, they make it easy to sort things, find them once they’re sorted, and direct people where they need to go when they’re searching for something in your house.

Instead of “uh, somewhere in the linen closet, I think, but maybe in the right hall closet,” you can say “oh, yeah, extra sheets for the guest bed are in the linen closet, second shelf, basket labeled “guest linens.” And when it comes to trying to hunt down your knitting needles or the right weight yarn, labels in the craft room are a lifesaver. How about managing the family schedule? A printable on the fridge is totally the way to go when it comes to holding everyone accountable.

The point is, printables are awesome, and when the calendar flips over to a new year, tons of people make free printables for your use…but let’s be honest here, not all of them are very good.

We rounded up some of the BEST and the BRIGHTEST for your new year organizing (and more!), because we love spreading the label love, and we love free stuff as much as you do. All you need is a printer, plenty of ink, and suitable paper — you can use your basic printable label paper or custom papers (for making things like laminated tags or labels that slip into your luggage…).

Are you ready? We’re not sure you are. Here’s a brief video of Cookie the Penguin from the Cincinnati Zoo, being tickled. That noise she’s making is akin to the one I make when I discover a new line of exciting basketry:

Okay, I’ll get serious now.

Continue reading “FREE Organizing Printables and How to Use Them” »

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by Katie on Jan 10, 2014

Now that you’ve swept up all the confetti and found the last lurking champagne cork, is your kitchen getting you down? Feeling cramped? Colors not quite what you want? Disorganized? We’ve got ten tips to make your kitchen feel like a brand new room this year, and here’s the great part: they’re all DIY projects that won’t have you forking over what little remains of your holiday bonus to get them done.

A kitchen done in dark, rich wood tones with subdued lighting.

This custom kitchen is a delight, with casual bar seating, formal dining, butler’s pantry, and more!

Continue reading “10 Instant Kitchen Updates for the New Year!” »

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by Katie on Jan 8, 2014

Few things in this world are quite so delightful as sticking your nose into a handful of healthy, delicious compost. It’s dark black and crumbly, wriggling with worms, and it has a rich and, well, earthy smell. Compost smells and feels like what dirt should be, and when you add it to your garden, what you end up with is dynamite. It enriches the soil with vitamins and minerals to support plant growth and ongoing soil health, making sure your garden stays gorgeous and keeps producing for years.

A gloved hand holding up some compost.

This fantastic compost is dark, rich, and alive with worms.

Some farmers say that while you might think they’re growing crops, they’re actually growing dirt, and there’s some truth to that statement. Maintaining good soil conditions is critical for vegetable and flower gardens, and there are two basic ways to do it: organically, and with chemicals. Organic techniques, including compost, tend to be both less expensive and more sustainable.

Continue reading “Compost for Beginners” »

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by Katie on Jan 3, 2014