9 Must-Haves for Low-Maintenance Kitchen Cabinets

Save valuable elbow grease and time with these ideas for easy-to-maintain cabinets.

The heart of the home may also be the toughest room to keep clean. Every surface in your kitchen is susceptible to crumbs, dirt, stains and splatters. This is especially true of cabinets. Fortunately, there are practical ways to keep your cabinet maintenance on the lighter side. With ideas like choosing fewer decorative details and picking the right color, these nine tips will make your cabinets easier to maintain.

1. Choose a door style with minimal detail. Raised-panel door styles have nooks and crannies that are magnets for dust and dirt. Shaker-style and slab door fronts don’t, so you won’t have to spend time scrubbing every recess of your door fronts.

If you’re designing a traditional kitchen and want a more decorative door style, select a stain or paint that has a glaze. The glaze will fill the doors’ cracks and corners and better hide the dust and dirt that your cabinet doors will collect.

2. Opt for flush cabinet ends. You normally have two options for finishing the ends of your cabinets: flush ends or matching ends. Flush ends (above) are plywood ends that match the color of your cabinets. They are smooth and sleek, which means you can run a cloth over it with a few swipes. They can certainly speed up cleaning.

Matching ends feature a panel with the same style as the door fronts, and while they can bring elegance and character to your kitchen, you face the same maintenance issues with matching ends as you do with raised-panel doors. There’s simply more to scrub.

3. Cut the trimmings. Designer details like crown molding, corbels, decorative legs and light rail molding add more to love but also more to clean, especially ornate styles.

There are other designer touches you can use that require less maintenance. Try a colorful cabinet paint, eccentric lighting or colored bar stools, like in this modern kitchen.

4. Pick a stain instead of a paint. Stains and paints have pros and cons. They can both show crumbs and fingerprints, and paint definitely shows food stains and splatters.

That said, a stain is easier to touch up than paint. You can give a scratched cabinet stain a quick spruce-up with a matching permanent marker. It’s often harder with paint for two reasons. First, it’s hard to find a marker that closely matches a specific paint. Often a touch-up kit from the cabinet manufacturer is needed. Second, paint doesn’t take touch-ups the same way that stains do. You’re more likely to notice a touch-up on paint.

5. Go for a grain with a dark stain. If you’re set on a dark cabinet stain, select a wood species that features the grain, such as oak or hickory. Grains don’t show scratches, stains and crumbs as much as a clean wood species like maple does. It’s also harder to tell that a cabinet stain has been touched up when the surface has grains.

6. Invest in hardware. If you want fewer fingerprints and less wear and tear on your door fronts, purchase door pulls and knobs for all of your cabinets. They help preserve the integrity of your cabinets’ surfaces.

Steer clear of stainless steel and chrome hardware. They show fingerprints and water spots and are harder to clean. Oil-rubbed bronze, satin bronze, polished nickel, brushed nickel and white hardware are the cream of the crop as far as easy maintenance goes. Choose the look that best suits the style of your kitchen.

7. Avoid glass door fronts. They may be windows to your kitchen’s soul, but they’re also extra surfaces to clean. They manage to attract their fair share of dust, dirt and smudges. Dirt can build up easily on glass door fronts that feature mullions. You also have to keep whatever is behind those glass doors tidy.

One benefit to glass door fronts is how inviting they can make your kitchen space feel. Luckily, there’s more than one way to design a warm and welcoming kitchen. If you want a low-maintenance alternative to glass door fronts, stick with lighter cabinet stains like golden browns. They can make your guests feel just as cozy as glass door fronts do.

8. Reduce open shelving. Open shelving is a great canvas for displaying your favorite decor and cookware, whether it’s on a wall, on an island or at the end of cabinets. But it takes more time and effort to ensure that these spaces are dusted and organized. The upkeep can become overwhelming along with your daily tasks.

To shorten your to-do list, place your decor on necessary surfaces like dining tables and countertops instead of unnecessary cabinet shelves. You can also use pillows, chairs, bar stools and lighting as decorative touches.

9. Protect your sink cabinet from moisture. This is more of a preventative measure — it will help you avoid issues down the road. There are a couple of ways to help protect your sink cabinet from moisture. You can order the cabinet with an all-plywood construction (most semi-custom and prefabricated cabinets are constructed of a mixture of pressed wood and plywood). An all-plywood construction makes the cabinet less penetrable. You can also purchase a cabinet mat, which looks like a tray and is placed at the base of the sink cabinet. It will serve as a moisture barrier and catch any liquid leaks or spills.

How to Live Big in a Dorm Room

Transform any dorm room into a bright, organized, spacious home away from home.

Guest Post by NorthStar Moving Co-Founder Laura McHolm

Sending your baby off to college this month? I am sure your home is full of dorm room boxes and you are full of emotions! One way to ease your worry is to ensure your college student is living comfortably. Let’s face it; traditional dorm living is often bland, overcrowded, messy and cramped. That’s an idea we can simply throw out now!

The “less is more” rule is especially true when you are living in a dorm room.  With the latest creative approach to making small spaces more livable, we can transform any dorm room into a bright, organized, spacious home away from home.

Here are some bright ideas on how to make your dorm room big livin’:

Raise It

If you have watched any of the tiny house TV shows, you know that they find storage in every corner of the space to make the most of the space. The same goes for a dorm room. Purchase bed risers to add more storage space. A lofted bed will give you more space for your shoe collection, storage containers, study desk and more.

Functional Accessories

Most dorm rooms come with the basics such as a desk and dresser. Enhance the space by adding in functional furniture and accessories such as funky storage ottomans, a bench or couch with storage inside and over-the-door organizers. These stylish accents will help keep your dorm room feeling open and relaxed, all without cramping your space or style.

Strategic Décor

With that right décor you can make a space feel bigger. Here are strategies that will open up your dorm room while showing off who you are:

  • Walls: Wall decals are the latest home décor rage, from formal homes to tiny homes. They are beautiful and meet any dorm rules about placing nails in walls, etc. Shop online or in stores for the removable wall decals that speak to you. Another way to add cheer is by draping lights and calming fabric on the walls, softening concrete walls.
  • Mirrors: Hang interestingmirrors around the room. The views and reflected light from the mirrors will make the room feel bigger. Select big and small mirrors with interesting frames to add dimension to the room.
  • Color: Brighten a dark dorm room by using bright colors, but be sure to stick with one color scheme. Too many colors can close in the space. Check in with your new roomie(s) to see what they are planning so you can coordinate. For example, if you both love blue, make sure you choose blues or patterns that coordinate.
  • One POP Item: Choose one “pop” item that really makes it your home and wows guests. For instance, a chandelier, faux fur rug or throw, elaborate throw pillows, etc. Your room will pop with that over the top piece!

Become a Pro Organizer

While you may not be majoring in the art of organization, it is time to study up on professional organization. An organized dorm room is a bigger dorm room. Here are some tips from the pros:

  • Clothing: Lay folded clothes (t-shirts, sweaters, etc.) inside your drawers vertically on their side (not stacked on top of each other). You can purchase wooden or plastic planks to use as dividers. This way you can fit more of your clothes and see them all at once when you open the drawer. Organize your closet and drawers by color, light to dark so you can always grab just what you want when you want it.
  • Laundry: Keep your laundry basket on the floor of your closet if there is room. This will leave more free space in your dorm room.
  • Books: Arrange your textbooks by size and stand them up on a shelf. That way they will take up less room on your desk.
  • Storage Containers: Clear storage boxes can be a lifesaver in a small space and they come in cool colored tints. Use those boxes for school supplies, files, seasonal clothes, phone chargers, electronics, etc. The more stuff you have stashed away the bigger your space will feel.
  • The Big Stuff: If you have skis, snowboard, surfboard or other big items consider getting a storage unit close to the campus. Split it with your roomie!

Now sit back and enjoy your huge dorm room — big space, big character. Oh wait, now you need to hit the books and one more step…. Take photos on your phone of how it all turned out so you can refer to the images if you slip up on the organization and get it back in shape in no time! While you are at it, why not brag a bit and post them for all your friends to admire!

Pare Down and Declutter By Knowing How Much Stuff Is Enough

Play the numbers game to streamline your belongings, for a neater home and a less-stressed you.

Houzz Contributor, Laura Gaskill

So you want to pare down your belongings. But how much, exactly, do you get rid of? And how can you prevent stuff from simply piling up all over again? Part of the solution to a lasting clutter-free existence may lie in numbers. As in, the number of pairs of shoes, towels, place settings and so on that you decide to keep in the house. By deciding how many items in each category of stuff you really need, those numbers become a sort of fail-safe, preventing your home from free-falling into its formerly cluttered state. Check out these ideas on how to get started, then share your own numbers in the Comments.

The “sometimes” dilemma: What to do if you use something but only occasionally? Fancy china and highly specialized cookware come immediately to mind. If you really do love to have these things when the occasion calls for it, and you have storage space for them, by all means keep them. Just be intentional about what and how much you are keeping, and know why. Try to avoid keeping large sets of anything purely out of guilt — if you’ve inherited something you don’t want, see if someone else in the family wants it, sell it or donate it to charity.

More tips on what to do with sentimental pieces

How much to keep? Set a space limit. One way to keep rarely used items in check is to limit the amount of storage space you afford them. Instead of allowing your entertaining arsenal to multiply indefinitely over time, taking over not only cupboards but basement shelves and the attic too, decide on one space to store these items in and stick with it. For instance, keep all china in one nice china hutch — if you acquire more down the road, give away or sell something to free up space.

The Rule of Three: One in the wash, one in the cupboard, one in use. You may have heard this one before, but it bears repeating because it really works. It can be difficult to come up with what seems to be a rather arbitrary number of items to keep, but sticking with one for the shelf, one to use and one to wash keeps things simple. I follow this rule for sheets (per bed) and towels (per person).

What about guests? Unless you are running a boarding house, two sets of sheets for each guest bed and two sets of towels per guest are plenty.

The seasonal exception: Even minimalists may want to keep extra stuff on hand to rotate in depending on the season — and that’s whether or not there are chilly winters.

It can be a nice change of pace to bring out thicker blankets in warmer hues for the winter and light, airy linens in summer. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you should double the number of sets you have, if some sets work well year-round. For instance, you could decide to keep one set of sateen sheets for year-round use, two sets of flannels for winter and two cool, crisp sets for summer.

Special case: Clothes. Clothes and shoes may be the most personal (and difficult) category of stuff to put limits on. That said, even those with intense attachments to their wardrobes can find it worthwhile to do a proper inventory.

After figuring out that you actually have 100 pairs of shoes or 20 nearly identical black tops, you may decide to bring that number down … or you may not, but at least you will be informed.

Special case: Kids’ stuff. When a child’s room is overflowing with stuff, it’s hard to focus on any one thing, and pretty soon all of those lovingly chosen toys become just part of the mess. Setting space constraints is a smart way to handle this situation. Dedicate certain shelves, plus perhaps a toy closet (for toys not currently being used in the rotation) for your child’s belongings, and keep it at that. When a bin or shelf begins to overflow, or you notice that stuff is piling up on the floor (because it has nowhere else to go), take that as a cue to give something away.

The everyday stuff: Count it out. Do you know how many basic plates, bowls, cups and wineglasses you own? If you’re not sure, go count them — you may be surprised at just how many pieces of “everyday” tableware you have. Of course it’s nice to have enough of everything that the whole household can eat a meal or two and not worry about getting everything washed and dried, and you’ll want extras on hand for bigger casual dinners with family and friends if you host that sort of thing, but you won’t likely need more than that.

Not everyone wants to stick with one set of white dishes (although for simplicity’s sake, that’s surely an easy way to go). But you can still set a limit at a certain number of sets. If you go over your number, it’s time to start culling.

Special case: Tupperware. What is it about plastic containers that makes them seem to multiply when you’re not looking (but hardly ever with a matching lid)? Start by removing any lids that don’t have mates, then count what you have left. Most of us probably have too many food storage containers — really, how many leftovers are you likely to wrap up at any given time? Three? Four?

Special case: Your passions. Book lovers, athletes, outdoorsy types, musicians, crafters … you know who you are. And more important, you know how easy it is to collect more and more stuff to support your passion.

Being aware of exactly what you already own is a good first step toward reining in your collections — perhaps your yarn stash is in such disarray, you end up buying yarn you already have.

But it’s also a good idea to start paying attention to what you actually use. If you treasure your books, notice which ones you actually pick up from time to time — I realized a while ago that I rarely pick up novels after I’ve read them, so I decided to let go of most books in that category.

Pain-free ways to declutter your library

Just because you have the room to store it doesn’t mean you should. Extra space is deceptive. If you are blessed with large closets and ample storage space, you may be thinking you’re off the hook — but the truth is, everyone can benefit from paring down a little. Having fewer belongings means less time spent cleaning, moving and mending them; less time looking for things; and generally less to worry about. And if you ever need to downsize in the future, the process will be far less gut wrenching if you have already chosen to live with less stuff.

Set your own rules. The point of this ideabook is to help you gain awareness of what kind of and how much stuff you need, so you can tailor your stuff to fit your life. And no one else can really do that for you. It may take a while to figure out exactly the right amount of stuff for you, but once you do, it’s bound to make your life a little easier.

Tell us: What are your numbers? How many sets of sheets, dishes or pairs of shoes are enough for you?

Does Your Living Room Feel Unfinished? Ask Yourself These 6 Questions

Your answers can offer clues to get from not-yet-done to perfectly designed.

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Houzz Contributor, Karen Mills

Have you ever felt like your living room looks incomplete but you haven’t been sure what to do about it? Being your own decorator can be difficult — you get used to your own furniture, and it can be challenging to think of new approaches to a space you’ve been living in for some time. If that’s the situation for you, ask yourself these six questions to jump start a new perspective and take your living room from not-quite-right to beautifully decorated.

1. Do you have a focal point? Many features in a room can be its focal point, including a fireplace, built-in shelves or even a grouping like a chest with a lamp and art overhead. If a focal point doesn’t seem to exist in your living room, think about where your eye goes naturally when entering the room and create a point of interest there with furnishings, such as a sofa table and lamp or maybe a curio cabinet with decorative items. To emphasize your focal point, add finishes or decor that will make it stand out: an accent wall can draw the eye, as can bold artwork, contrasting decor or a stunning piece of furniture.

In this photo, a wide doorway frames the focal point beyond: the sofa and art. The white sofa, light walls and rug create a bold contrast against the eye-catching red pillows and dark tables. The large artwork pulls together the different colors in the room.

In this room, the built-in shelving is the obvious focal point, thanks in large part to its fetching blue paint. The large framed art and contrasting shelf decor further draw the eye to this part of the room. It’s just as important that the sofa, end table, coffee table, gray chair and pillows provide a neutral foreground that doesn’t compete with the shelving.

Keep in mind that not every element of your room has to be special or colorful or unique — keeping some pieces simple allows the items you want to showcase to really stand out.

2. Do you have a cozy seating arrangement that enhances your focal point? Of course a wide range of options exist on furniture placement, but by placing your sofa or love seat facing your focal point with chairs laced in to create an intimate grouping, you naturally draw attention toward that focal point, whether a fireplace, artwork or view beyond. If pointing your sofa toward the focal point isn’t an option or doesn’t look quite right, try flanking your focal point with the furniture grouping instead to enhance it like in this photo.

Here, the bold green chair and colorful decor on the mantel give emphasis to the fireplace, while the yellow pillow and flowers add a cheerful pop of color.

This photo provides a great example of a U-shaped seating arrangement that enhances the fireplace focal point, providing an enticing place to sit. The striated horizontal tile and lit shelving flanking the fireplace call further attention to that wall.

3. Do you have stylish side and coffee tables? Not only are tables practical for holding lamps, drinks and decor like trays, books or flowers, but also they can make a design statement.

These quirky stacked tables are a great example of how to have an impact when mixed with simple furnishings. If you have upholstery that looks heavy — skirted, thick legs or no legs showing — try offsetting them with tables that show more leg for a lighter, balanced feel (and vice versa). In this photo, a gallery-style wall of art adds a personal touch and vibrant color to the room, as do the pillows and plants.

4. Do you have an ample-size rug that augments your design? Rugs not only help delineate spaces in open floor plans but also ground a furniture grouping, or help define it as a contained space. When selecting a rug, ensure that it supports your room’s style and that it is large enough to tuck fully under your seating area. If not, then place front furniture legs on top of the rug, as in this photo, to create a connection between the rug and the furnishings.

5. Have you added window treatments? Window coverings can range from draperies, as shown in this photo, to window toppers and hard treatments like shades, blinds or shutters. Window treatments need to be beautiful as well as functional, providing privacy, darkening, sun protection and insulation from outside elements when needed.

In this photo, the draperies add height to the room and reinforce the color palette, making the room feel more finished.

6. Does your room showcase your style and color preferences? As much as neutral schemes can be calming and beautiful, accent colors and stylish furnishings can bring a room to life. In this photo, bright orange and golden yellow pillows warm up the gray sectional along with the orange and yellow accents on the shelving beyond.

Wall shelves and a coffee table reveal an affinity for clean-lined furniture in light woods, while the rug and gold pillow fabric at the far end of the sofa demonstrate a fondness for graphic patterns.

DIY: Decorating Your Home With Photos

Decorating with photos is an awesome way to spice up your home in a really dramatic way without spending a whole lot of money. Don’t worry if you haven’t got a lot of money; your own photos are probably better than anything you’d buy.

COLDWELL BANKER

Dial up the gorgeous drama of your NYC home with a fun photo decor DIY project. Photographs, like art, can help us express ourselves in many different ways. They can help us play up our sentimental side, make important statements, and complete the canvas of our homes. Learning how to decorate with photos, as simple as it sounds, can be quite daunting once you put your mind to it. How exactly should you go about it? Should you hang provocative art in your living room where everyone can see it? Is it cheesy to hang photos of your entire family on your fridge? What’s the right thing to do?

The Right Way Is Your Way

Don’t worry that you’ll end up decorating with photos that people may think are cheesy or that are too much. Photographs are an expression and extension of yourself, so you’re hanging and displaying them to express your vision. Of course, if you have children regularly visiting your home, you don’t want to hang something for mature audiences only in a room where everyone gathers. You know who you invite into your home; use your judgment.

Use Your Own Photos

There are photographic gems you probably aren’t even aware of (or even remember exist) buried inside your very own camera or flash drives. Photos of vacations past, a child’s birthday party, a lonely street at night — any of these could be striking or thought-provoking enough to make perfect wall art. You don’t have to use the whole image; maybe it’s a detail of an image that’s frame worthy. If you don’t have the scene you’re looking for, create it: Your child’s feet as they leap off the ground; your grandmother’s smile the instant she bursts into laughter upon hearing an off-color joke; your cat’s profile as she watches a bird outside the window. The possibilities are literally endless.

 

Display Them In Innovative Ways

You can rarely go wrong with square or rectangular black frames backed by white matte when it comes to framing your pictures, but there are many different ways you can display your photos. Attach a series of photos individually on metallic clips and hang them from a metal wire grid that takes up your entire wall. Put some vintage photos inside of old mason jars. Blow up a favorite photo to life-size stats and hang it front and center in your main living area or passageway.

How to Keep a Small Kitchen Organized

It can be tricky keeping a compact cooking space tidy, but these ideas can help keep a small kitchen organized.

Houzz Contributor, Cheryl Freedman

Contrary to what you might think, you don’t need acres of counter space or dozens of drawers and cupboards to have an organized kitchen that’s a joy to cook in. If anything, a smaller kitchen can encourage you to streamline your stuff and live more simply. Who wants cabinets chock-full of unloved pasta machines and dusty bread makers anyway? Check out these easy ways to restore order to your less-than-enormous kitchen.

1. Start with a utensil rack. Not only will it give you a place to hang slotted spoons and ladles for easy access while cooking, it will also free up precious drawer space.

Even in the tiniest kitchen, you can usually find somewhere to squeeze one in — under a cupboard or shelf or above the stove. Stainless steel models work in most styles of rooms and are easy to wipe down.

2. Get a knife holder. A knife block or magnetic rack is one of those simple items that really do make a difference in how functional your kitchen is. After all, rummaging around in a drawer for a piece of kitchen gear you use frequently is time-consuming and dispiriting.

A wall-mounted rack like this one keeps things orderly without swallowing too much space. Buy decent knives if you can afford it, as they should last a lifetime. One advantage of a magnetic rack is that you can slowly build up your collection of knives, buying one at a time, rather than having to invest in one large block complete with knives, which can be pricey. If you’re starting from scratch, a bread knife, paring knife and chef’s knife are essential.

3. Assign dedicated storage areas. Kitchen clutter can easily accrue, so it makes sense to assign different cupboards a specific purpose and stick to it. And dedicate a few minutes every couple of weeks to returning stray plastic lids or pot covers to their homes and sweeping out spilled spices and coffee grounds — it really will make a difference in how pleasurable (and easy) your kitchen is to use day to day.

4. Reduce your numbers. If your kitchen is really mini, or even if it isn’t, think about doing a good edit of your paraphernalia. Be honest: Do you really need more than a handful of plates, mugs or glasses if there are only one or two of you?

Having less stuff can be immensely freeing — and will significantly reduce the amount of time you spend washing up, which is a big bonus.

5. Gather and display. This cute kitchen demonstrates how you can be organized and chic at the same time. A charming crock to hold wooden spoons, a wall-mounted crate or two to provide a home for vintage-style scales and jugs, a small wall-mounted spice rack — they all add a pretty touch as well as having a practical function.

6. Be clever with your cabinets. Use every spare inch in a small kitchen by building recessed shelves where feasible. Here, they surround an integrated refrigerator. With this design solution, wall space that’s too skinny or awkwardly shaped for extra cabinets can still be used to hold frequently used items. In this kitchen, it also helps open up the room and leads the eye to an appealing feature.

The other clever feature in this kitchen is the cookbook niche above the door — another neat storage trick that doesn’t take up too much room. Ask a builder if one can be carved out from an existing wall.

7. Go minimal. Are you in the process of picking new cabinets for your compact kitchen? Consider this look. Ultra-plain, handleless cabinets in a nude hue are soothing to look at and give a sense of visual order. Pick a seamless backsplash such as this slab of marble, since tiles with grout can look busy.

8. Get in a tight corner. When space is tight, an ingenious trio of pullout corner drawers is a lifesaver, helping to solve the problem of lost space in those awkward-to-access base cabinets.

If you’re remodeling, think about how you’d use such drawers — for cutlery, towels, pans, dishes? Here, a slimmer top drawer is complemented by the two deeper ones, so all the bases are covered.

9. Put the pans away. Similarly a pullout pan rack can be a gift in a small kitchen, creating an organized home for frying pans and saucepans and keeping you from tearing your hair out as you hunt around in the backs of cupboards. Also try using racks for items such as steamers or large, unwieldy casserole dishes.

10. Organize inside. It may sound like a no-brainer, but often what makes a kitchen, big or small, organized is how we arrange the insides of our cupboards. Shelf and drawer dividers, hooks, racks and other storage devices are key to keeping order. Consider what works for you and go custom if you can. Are you a Mason jar and Tupperware kind of person? Do you prefer mugs on hooks, shelves or in drawers? Storage is often about personal preference. Here, the slim slots for chopping boards and placemats are a brilliant idea, as is the slim pullout spice rack.

Tell us: How have you organized your small kitchen? Share your ideas in the Comments.

8 Summer Projects for Creating the Ultimate Backyard

Is your piece of the great outdoors feeling a little uninspiring? It’s time to add a little more fun to your backyard space. We’ve rounded up eight easy summer projects to help you design the ultimate backyard!

Is your piece of the great outdoors feeling a little blah? It’s time to add more fun to your backyard.

We’ve rounded up 10 summer projects to help you design the ultimate backyard for your DFW home!

1. Create Shade

It’s undeniable . . . DFW summers are hot! Don’t hide inside. Make your backyard more pleasant by creating shade. Install a patio awning, build a shaded pergola, or add umbrellas for instant shade.

Is it still too hot? Generate an instant breeze with outdoor cooling fans.

Summer Projects for Creating the Ultimate Backyard: Adding Shade

2. Add Fun with Lawn Games

Create friendly competition with lawn games. Set up an outdoor game station for endless summer fun. From cornhole to croquet, select a range of games for everyone.

Feeling crafty? Browse Pinterest for DIY inspiration. This giant Jenga looks so fun!

3. Set Up the Ultimate Al Fresco Dining Room

If you love entertaining, creating an outdoor dining room should be at the top of your summer projects list! Start by investing in a table or cleaning up the one your already have. Add color with outdoor cushions and pillows, and use a rug to anchor the space.

Set the table with fun and inexpensive plastic dishes and pretty linens that will last this summer and beyond. Don’t forget candles and flowers.

4. Arrange Ample Seating

Choosing the right seating is a high priority for any outdoor space. For large spaces, break your backyard into distinct areas. Set up separate spaces for eating, cooking, and relaxing.

Create an outdoor living room to relax at the day’s end, add a couple chairs in a quiet corner, hang a hammock, or place a bench in your garden. This DIY outdoor bench made from a salvaged door looks like a fun summer project.

For small backyards, a cafe table and chairs are charming and compact. Add comfort with chair cushions.

Summer Projects for Creating the Ultimate Backyard: Add Ample Seating

5. Brighten and Add Character with Lights

Make the most of breezy summer nights with a well lit backyard. Just like you would inside your home, layer lighting to create functionality and ambiance. Start by adding wall lights or lanterns to brighten the whole space. Next, add task lighting, such as mounted light by the grill or an outdoor lamp next to your favorite chair. Finally, accent your space with strings of globe lights, candles, or spotlights on landscaping.

6. Arrange an Outdoor Bar

Create the ultimate outdoor entertaining space by setting up a bar. A bar cart is the perfect place to store your favorite drinks during parties and lazy afternoons. Repurpose a vintage table or make your potting bench do double duty by clearing the top. Install hooks to hold towels and bar tools, add plenty of ice, and top the cart with a large tray to make transporting drinks and glassware easier.

7. Grow Something

No summer projects list would be complete without talking about plants!

Before you plant anything, consider how much time and patience you have for maintenance, then make a plan. Window boxes and container gardens are perfect for beginners, or if you’re more ambitious, create flower beds or a vegetable garden. For best results, choose plants that thrive in our DFW climate.

8. Create a Grilling Station

Love grilling? Then, creating your very own grilling station is a must!

Sure, you’ll need a grill, but add a cart for holding serving plates and tools, too. Use the cart to store your favorite spices, clean towels, and other grilling accessories.

When you’re finishing cooking, simply roll the cart to the table and dinner is served!

Summer Projects for Creating the Ultimate Backyard: Create a Grilling Station

Have It Made in the Shade with These Pretty, Energy Efficient Window Treatments

You don’t have to sacrifice style for energy efficiency! Here’s how to beat the heat — and boost your home’s aesthetic appeal in the process!

The following is a guest post by Erin Vaughan  of Modernize 


It’s almost that time of year where any room in the house is a welcomed relief from the outdoor heat — as long as it’s air conditioned! But your ice-cold interiors come with an associated cost for your utilities, and if you’re not careful, that first summer electric bill can be a shock.

While it’s tempting to just hop over to the thermostat at the first sign of sweltering weather, you do have other options. Efficient treatments like awnings and heavy curtains offer plenty of in energy savings, and they can spruce up your home’s windows, too. Here are some of our favorite ways to beat the heat and boost aesthetic appeal in the process.


Modern Awnings and Overhangs Add Contemporary Flair to Exteriors
Exterior window coverings have come a long way from the candy-striped canvas awnings we all know from our local pizza parlor or bodega. Custom-designed acrylic or polycarbonate canopies can be manufactured in curved shapes that make modern accents to entryways, while long angled metal awnings positioned over large windows or outdoor living spaces have a more industrial swagger.

These kind of additions can have a major impact on your cooling needs, as well. Awnings installed over south-facing windows may reduce solar heat gain (SHG) by as much as 65%, while west-facing awnings stand to lower SHG by up to 77%. The angle of the overhang can make all the difference, so if you’re designing a permanent overhang or custom awning, it may pay to consult with an architect or contractor who has experience with passive solar design.


Stylish Curtains Have Drawing Power and an Effect on Your Cooling Costs
Dramatic draperies are both fashionable and energy-forward. The Department of Energy notes that the right kind of draperies can reduce solar heat gain in homes by as much as 33 percent. What does the “right kind” mean? For starters, there’s the weave. Heavy, closed-weave fabrics, such as broadcloth or velvet, block the most sunlight and heat. If you can get them with a white plastic backing, even better. Don’t be stingy with the fabric, either: extra folds and pleats reduce the amount of heat radiated back into interiors through the process of convection. Pull the drapes shut during the day and you’ll have an instant cooling boost!

Design-Friendly Interior Shutters Are a Boon for Overall Bedroom Comfort
Looking for something unusual to fill out your bedroom decor? This year’s trendsetters have been all about solid interior shutters on bedroom windows—which, coincidentally, have plenty to offer in terms of energy savings, as well. Wooden shutters shade and cool interiors by blocking out excess heat and light. They also prevent light pollution from entering your room while you sleep, which makes your bedroom extra comfy day and night.

Solid panels make a cozy addition to any home, especially when paired with large, energy efficient windows that will allow you to throw open the shutters when you want to let a little daylight inside—without suffering the effects of excess heat in the process.

Good looks and energy smarts? This summer is definitely off to a very cool start!


About the Writer

Erin Vaughan is a blogger, gardener and aspiring homeowner.  She currently resides in Austin, TX where she writes full time for Modernize, with the goal of empowering homeowners with the expert guidance and educational tools they need to take on big home projects with confidence.

Five Tips to Identify Fixer-Upper Homes Worth Investing In

 

When shopping for a fixer-upper home, some properties have potential beyond their appearance. Keep the following tips in mind as you look for that home.

When shopping for a new home, be aware of properties that have potential beyond their current appearance. Home buyers often overlook a great property because they are too focused on the cosmetic appeal, which can be easily altered. Keep the following tips in mind as you search for your perfect home:

  1. Finding the Best Neighborhood for You
    Location is one of the most crucial factors to consider as you look for possible homes. Unlike the style and even structure, no amount of time, effort, or money can change a home’s location. To find the best neighborhood for you, it can help to visit the area multiple times at various hours. This will help reveal the local culture and activity to be expected from neighbors.
  2. Identify a Cost-Efficient Fixer-Upper Home
    Look for a home with sound fundamentals and an appealing floor plan. Cosmetic improvements like new paint, lighting fixtures, and flooring are relatively cheap and easy to change, while work on plumbing, electrical systems, structural walls, or cabinets are more difficult and expensive. Typically, the most expensive change involves altering a home’s structure.
  3.  Hire a Contractor Before Buying a Home
    You may want to hire a contractor in your search if you know you want to make changes to a home you plan to purchase. A contractor can help you better understand what kind of commitment a given home will require. Many remodelers will visit a potential purchase at no charge to give an estimate of how much the work would cost. This is valuable information when comparing different homes with one another.
  4. Know What to Check Before Buying an Old Home
    Examining a home can be a complex process, and looking for one with unused potential can make it more difficult. Keep in mind that homes older than 50 years are likely to have similarly aged plumbing, electrical, heating, and other systems. The home may also be worn out or too outdated to remodel.
  5. Real Estate Agents Can Help
    Real estate agents are valuable resources. They can help you understand a home in the context of its neighborhood and area, and may be able to offer advice on how to increase the value of the property after purchase.

8 Tips and Tricks to Get More Storage From a Small Closet

Get ideas for arranging your clothes closet with 8 combinations of shelves, hooks, rods and drawers.

Houzz Contributor, Laura Gaskill

Large, luxurious walk-in closets may be the stuff dreams are made of, but they are not always the reality. If the closet space you have to work with is on the petite side, there’s still plenty you can do to make the most of it. From ultraslim shelving to wall-mounted storage, here are steal-worthy ideas from eight closets that put every inch to work.

1. Dresser + hanging rod + curtains. Replacing the closet doors with curtains has freed up some much-needed space in this small bedroom, allowing access to every inch of the reach-in closet. Inside the closet, a high shelf holds baskets (perfect for storing less-used items) over a hanging rod, with a dresser below. The dresser top is put to work too, with a wire storage basket and space for a few pairs of shoes.

Best for: Reach-in bedroom closet.

See more of this bedroom

2. Tall bookcase + hanging rods + wall hooks. A tall, shallow bookcase anchored to the wall provides ample storage space for folded clothes and accessories in this petite closet. Opposite the shelving, rods hold hanging clothes and a set of wall hooks provides a handy drop spot for scarves and jackets.

Best for: Narrow walk-in closet.

3. Shelves under eaves + short hanging rod. Shelves in graduated sizes make the most of this space beneath a sloped ceiling. Two wide drawers hold folded clothes below, and a short rod provides space for hanging items.

Best for: Bedroom with sloped ceiling.

4. Wall-mounted shoe rack + hanging rod + high shelf. A slim wire shoe rack mounted on the wall holds plenty of pairs without taking up precious floor space. At the back of the closet, two high wire shelves over the hanging rod hold luggage and other infrequently used items.

Best for: Deep, narrow closet.

5. Shelves + crates + lidded boxes. A simple setup with wall-mounted shelving is made more functional with the addition of crates to keep bulky items from toppling over. Wall hooks hung both low and high keep bags and belts neatly stowed, and lidded boxes provide a spot for stashing small accessories.

Best for: Small closet with more folded than hanging clothes.

6. Hanging rod + high shelf + floor basket. An easy setup for a petite closet, this allows room for hanging items on the single rod, with a storage shelf above and a basket on the floor to hold accessories (or clothes to be dry-cleaned). If your closet is a bit wider, add shelving to the wall opposite.

Best for: Small closet with more hanging than folded clothes.

7. Extra-high hanging rod + step stool. Take advantage of a space with a high ceiling by hanging a second rod extra high, and use it to store off-season or less-used clothes. This frees up the lower portion of the closet for shelves, with wire baskets to keep small items and accessories neat. Be sure to keep a step stool handy to reach the upper rod.

Best for: Petite closet with high ceiling.

8. Shelves + drawers + dressing table. With shelves on one side, a short hanging rod on the other and dresser drawers in the center, this petite closet fits in a little bit of everything. The mirror against the back wall turns the drawer unit into a dressing table with room for jewelry, perfume and other getting-ready essentials. Open bins on the highest shelves keeps less-used items out of the way but still easily accessible.