Tuesday, November 4, 2008

50 easy ideas to improve your home

  1. Ingenious ideas and simple solutions to elevate ordinary homes to inspired spaces. Bring out everyone’s inner beauty by strategically placing lamps or candles below eye level. Candles give a soft, warm glow which creates a light to flatter even the harshest face. And low-level lighting makes it harder to spot people’s wrinkles, dark circles or red blotches.
  2. Sleep well at night and select bed sheets made from pesticide-free cotton, the most hypo-allergenic bedding material available. Unlike polyester, cotton will ‘breathe’ and absorb any sweat while remaining dry to touch.
  3. Paint is the cheapest way to instantly transform a room. Steer clear of bright feature walls and aim for softer, subtle colour schemes that turn your room into a sanctuary. Low-VOC and breathe-easy paints are safest if you have little ones or asthmatics in the house.
  4. Conjure up more space in the bathroom by installing a high shelf above the bathroom door. Roll up bulky towels in an eye-catching stack to get them out of the way.
  5. Flexible furniture makes life easy – look for side tables that double as television stands, sofas that turn into spare beds, sturdy chairs that could be used as a bedside stand or modular storage units that can be customised to suit your needs.
  6. Declutter your home by all means, but don’t destroy the soul and personality of a house by neglecting to create displays of family photographs, collected souvenirs or knick knacks you love. Grouping like items together in table-top arrangements should please the eye and the heart.
  7. The Roman blind is a light and easy way to keep winter warmth in and summer heat out. These no-fuss window treatments offer a better insulative seal against draughts than wafty curtains or vertical blinds.
  8. Instantly slash home heating bills by up to a quarter and install insulation in the ceiling – it won’t make your house look any different but it will be up to seven degrees warmer in winter and five degrees cooler in summer than a similar home without ceiling insulation.
  9. Sort, store and streamline your wardrobes at least once a year. Store unused clothing in space bags if storage space is tight – and make it a rule to throw out anything you haven’t worn for 12 months or more.
  10. A modern fireplace is a focal point for a living area. The new flue-less fireplaces like these by EcoSmart are so sleek they can be installed in an apartment. Prices start from $2200.
  11. Stomp lightly on the earth by composting your garbage. Even apartment dwellers can reduce landfill by composting food scraps in a space-saving Bokashi bin – it fits under the kitchen sink and doesn’t smell.
  12. Mirrors make a room seem brighter and are a must for a bathroom. Try hanging them opposite the window to magnify the natural light in a room.
  13. It can be cheaper to spend more on flooring materials designed to last. Natural materials like timber and stone cost more to purchase but can take plenty of wear with minimal maintenance. Use rugs in bedrooms and living areas to soften the hard floors and add a burst of colour.
  14. Sofas with modular sections can be brilliantly versatile. You get what you pay for with large furniture like couches, so look for hardwood or metal frames and quality fabrics that won’t fade in the sun or stain at the first splash of spilt milk.
  15. Clear storage boxes are best to stash things in wardrobes or laundry cupboards – you can always see inside without having to rummage.
  16. For effortless chic, treat your home to a beautiful vase or simply pluck greenery from outside and plonk it in a vegemite glass. Bringing nature inside will always perk up a space.
  17. Drowning in shoes? Buried in clothes? Blitz your boudoir with a half-day organising session. Clutter experts like Lissanne Oliver suggest making three piles – a throw-out, a maybe and a must-keep pile – and then ditching at least 30 per cent. “Most people actually feel better if they can throw out 50 per cent,” she says.
  18. Hate your kitchen but can’t afford a new one? Splash out on shiny new door and drawer handles for the cheapest quick fix. If you need to go further, think about replacing only the cupboard doors and drawer-fronts for less than half the cost of a new kitchen.
  19. Don’t just dust your ornaments, swap ‘em around. Keep your home fresh by moving things and trying different layouts.
  20. Transform your taps with low-flow heads which will cut water consumption – and your bills. Most state water utilities offer a low-cost service where a plumber retro-fits taps and toilets with water-saving devices for less than $80.
  21. Halogen downlights have become an environmental no-no thanks to their energy-guzzling bulbs and transformers. Save money by investing in downlight conversion kits from Neco which replace traditional 50 watt bulbs with bulbs that use 30 per cent less energy.
  22. Keep an Out Box by your door to regularly deposit items to donate to charity. When a new purchase comes into the house, something else has to go – it keeps your house clutter-free and your conscience happy.
  23. Posher than a poster and more powerful than a mass-produced print, digital art canvasses can be a cheap way to put pattern in a room. Try www.geniusprinting.com.au where you can have your favourite photo or design put on canvas from $68.
  24. Brighten a kid’s room or power up a hallway with these adhesive transfers called Candiy by Aussie designers blueandbrown. Order at www.candiy.com.au for $59.
  25. Oh put it away! If you don’t have room for a home office, hiding it in a cupboard really is the neatest thing to do.
  26. Nana was right – a nest of tables is a great space saver and perfect for living rooms.
  27. Banish the unsorted washing pile by allocating a basket for each family member on a shelf in the laundry. Simply throw the clean and dry washing into each person’s basket and summon them to collect it and put it away.
  28. Give your remote controls their own refuge – a wooden box or cute bowl placed on the coffee or side table encourages the remotes to be returned to a regular home instead of being scattered around the living room or slipping down the side of the couch.
  29. In a narrow hallway, a console table is the perfect solution as a place for mail, keys and handbags. Stashing boxes beneath the table is a neat way to carve out extra storage space.
  30. Horizontally striped rugs give the illusion of more width in narrow halls and passageways.
  31. A home grown herb garden is the ultimate gourmet indulgence – and gives you a year-round supply of flavour rather than relying on expensive one-shot supplies from the supermarket.
  32. Give life to dark corners with shiny accessories like silver vases or mirrored photo frames that light up a space.
  33. Hang a tea infuser filled with lavender over your bath tap – every time you run the hotwater, it will fill the bathroom with a zen scent.
  34. Take some time to plan your home’s storage masterplan – send the big and bulky items off-site or into the garage and cull your belongings by at least twenty per cent to instantly make your home feel calmer and less cluttered. Don’t forget to utilise the hidden corners of a home with shelving and mobile cupboards. This over-toilet shelving is from Howard’s Storage World, $99.95.
  35. Slide-out pantries and cupboards increase your storage space by making every ounce of storage space accessible. They cost more, but can literally double your space.
  36. Take pride in sourcing vintage finds, scouring fetes, markets and second-hand stores for pieces that avoid the mass-produced look.
  37. Save space in dining rooms by using benches rather than heavy dining chairs. When not in use, a bench will slide right under the table, giving you loads more circulation space.
  38. Clean up without leaving chemical microbes behind. Try using a small amount of bicarbonate of soda to clean the bathroom and polish up wet areas with a wipe of mould-killing vinegar. Wiping the entire room down with an absorbent, clean old cloth nappy will bring up a chemical-free shine.
  39. Air it out! Leaving all doors and windows open for an hour at least once a week will flush your home with freshly circulating air and keep the interiors smell naturally clean.
  40. If you have a large bedroom, use the back of a wardrobe as a bedhead-cum-room divider by plonking it one-third the way down the room and zoning off a discrete space for clothes and shoe storage.
  41. A kitchen breakfast bar is the perfect spot for the family computer – it’s out in the open and easy to supervise … and won’t take up a dedicated space in the living area.
  42. If an out-of-date bathroom is getting you down, try brightening it up with matching accessories, new hooks and towel rails – way cheaper than a full reno.
  43. House too pokey to stash all your mess? Try using a folding screen behind a sofa or bed to create a storage space out of sight but not out of mind.
  44. Don’t be intimidated into not buying art just because it seems too expensive. Hunt down smaller city and country galleries and make it your mission to fill your house with pieces that you fall in love with.
  45. All arranged! Get your lounge room into shape by arranging the seating around a focal point like a fireplace or a window (rather than a telly) and then make sure every seat is in range of a side table or coffee table where a drink can be plonked if the need arises.
  46. If you like to rearrange furniture, invest in caster wheels to make moving heavy pieces easier on your back. They’re also great if you entertain a lot and need to move furniture around to accommodate different groups of people.
  47. Installing draught excluders on the bottom of doors and insulation tape around rattling windows will keep your home cosy and warm in winter – and slash energy bills by up to a quarter. With the average home spending around 25 per cent of their energy bills on heating, small measures can amount to big savings.
  48. An electric toothbrush that’s passed its use-by date makes a great bathroom scrub-up tool – it cleans the gunk of the showerhead, grout between the tiles and scours other difficult-to-reach crevices.
  49. Wires gone whacko? Keep television and computer cords in a neat stream by tying them together loosely with plastic twist ties or slip plastic tubing over the top. Or think about threading cords through neat plastic hooks that guide them to the nearest power outlet.
  50. Instantly transform the environmental friendliness of your house by switching off that beer fridge in the garage. Refrigerators are big energy guzzlers and the older the fridge, the more likely it is to chew through electricity which also spews unnecessary carbon into the atmosphere.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Q&A Improve your wall tiles

Q.I can live with everything in my ugly bathroom except the bad wall tiles – what can I do?
A.Bathrooms are a lot like women’s fashion: what you consider passé right now could be fashionable in another two minutes. If those mission brown 1970s tiles or sappy 1960s pink, blue or green mosaics are getting you down, think how lucky you are to have a bathroom that is such a classic representation of its era! It’s better to accept your poor bathroom for what it is than try to makeover just one part of the room and risk it looking like some awful morph between modern minimalism and Tupperware party from the 1960s. Embrace the era of your bathroom – if it’s pink and gaudy, then find some cute kitsch accessories to play it up. If it’s twee timber and ye olde cottage with 1980s brass fittings, then crack out a basket of pot pourri and some Norsca bath gel. There is nothing worse than half-cocked bathroom renovations that try to patch one small part of the room. And real estate experts like L.J. Hooker managing director Warren McCarthy will tell you that most buyers can handle any style of bathroom as long as it is clean, tidy and has plenty of natural light. “Some buyers quite like the idea of adapting the bathroom to their own taste,” he says.
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