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Friday, April 8, 2011


The Daily DispaTch

Spring Home & garden

FriDay, april 8, 2011

Bringing home a 3-D TV? What you should know (ARA) — Everyone, it seems, is eager for 3-D. It’s a fad that’s had its heyday more than once in pop culture, but this time all signs point to 3-D finding staying power in American theaters and homes. If you have any doubt that 3-D is hot, consider the fact that more than 100 movies — from children’s animated films to big-budget sci-fi offerings — were released in 3-D in theaters and on DVD in 2009 and 2010. And weigh the fact that nearly every major TV-maker has at least one 3-D set on the market. In fact, manufacturers are banking that Americans will embrace 3-D in their home viewing experience just as they did flat screens, high definition and Internet access. A 3-D TV may well be the high-tech investment your family opts for in 2011, but before you buy, here are a few things you should know — and consider — about 3-D television: • Cost considerations: As with any new technology, 3-D TVs appeared on the market at higher prices than what you would pay for a comparable quality 2-D high definition set. While you could easily find large flatscreens for $1,000 or less in 2010, most 3-D units sold for upward of $2,000. Prices are coming down, however, and industry watchers predict they’ll drop lower this year as the technology improves and manufacturers try to stimulate consumer interest. Many manufacturers have announced lower prices on their 3-D sets for 2011. “Prices for 3-D TVs will definitely go down this year as our production costs have been dropping with improved technology,” says Skott Ahn, LG’s chief technology officer, who also predicts that 3-D technology will become mainstream in a few years. What this means for you, the consumer, is that this year you can probably pick up a quality 3-D TV for about what you would expect to pay for a good 2-D set. • 3-D glasses: Current 3-D TV technology requires viewers to wear a pair of 3-D glasses to enjoy the technology. Most 3-D TVs use active 3-D glasses which contain a power source within the glasses. Expect to pay around $100 to $200 per pair of active 3-D glasses. Some 3-D TV manufacturers are beginning to offer a passive 3-D technology. Passive 3-D glasses do not require a power source to view 3-D content, so they are lighter and cheaper. Despite some reports that “glasses-free” 3-D TV is set to come soon, most consumer electronic experts agree that the technology is several years away from being available to consumers.

Current 3-D TV technology requires viewers to wear a pair of 3-D glasses to enjoy the technology. Most 3-D TVs use active 3-D glasses which contain a power source within the glasses. Expect to pay around $100 to $200 per pair of active 3-D glasses. • Viewing angle caveats: If you’ve ever tried to watch a big game or movie on a 2-D LCD or LED TV with a large group of people, you’ve probably experienced the issue of limited viewing angle options. Because of the technology used to put the image on the screen, LCD and LED TVs don’t always offer a good image from every viewing angle. The issue is even more relevant for 3-D TVs, according to That’s because 3-D TVs share the same viewing angle issues as some 2-D flat screens, but with the added challenge that 3-D glasses can also block light from the screen, lowering brightness and contrast. If you’re also viewing the screen from an angle, all these factors can lead to a “very underwhelming 3-D viewing experience,” the website points out. “Most industry experts argue that 3-D technology actually increases the viewing angle problem,” says Jim Wohlford, vice president of Sanus, makers of TV mounts

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Interior plants need their own brand of TLC Gardening enthusiasts often enjoy extending their gardens to the interior of their homes. Much like exterior plants, interior plants can succumb to dehydration and overwatering. Many times, men and women with interior plants wait too long to address a plant that could be suffering from dehydration or overwatering. For a plant that’s dehydrated, don’t wait for the stems and leaves to begin wilting. If a plant has been overwatered, don’t wait to address the issue until mold or fungi is growing on the surface of the soil. These are obvious signs of plants that are dehydrated or have been overwatered,

but they’re also late signs of those problems. There are earlier indications of each of these problems that, when noticed quickly, can help save interior plants from suffering. Dehydration can manifest itself in a number of ways. Plant enthusiasts should be on the lookout for the following signs of dehydration if they suspect their plants are suffering: • Slower leaf growth: If the plant is taking longer than normal to grow to its full capacity, that could be due to dehydration. • Leaves or flowers are dropping prematurely: If the plant or flower’s leaves are dropping earlier than

usual, this could indicate dehydration. • Leaves become translucent: If light can pass through the leaves the plant might be dehydrated. • Discoloration: Leaf edges become brown and dry out while lower leaves curl and yellow when a plant is dehydrated. Watering a plant can be tricky as well. Some plant owners water too much, hurting the plant as a result. If a plant is being overwatered, it might begin to show the following signs: • Leaves are falling off at the same time. When a plant has been overwatered, its old leaves and its

young leaves will fall off at the same time. • Root rot: The roots will soften and turn brown and possibly begin to smell bad if a plant is overwatered. • Mold forms on flowers: Moldy flowers have likely been overwatered. • Standing water in the container’s underliner: A properly watered plant will make use of all its water. Standing water indicates it’s getting too much.

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The Daily DispaTch

Spring Home & garden

FriDay, april 8, 2011


Mulch 101: Get to know the unsung hero of the garden mulch to create trails down over time and add (ARA) — Gardeners through planting areas or to the nutritional makeknow that mulch is a even non-planted areas, up, or tilth, of soil. Most great-looking layer of such as under a swing commonly used mulching topping on the soil in set to prevent erosion, or materials are: bark or gardens and landscapes, around a bird feeder to wood chips, leaves, grass but mulch is so much prevent fallen seeds from clippings, straw or hay, more than just a decoragerminating. Mulch is newspaper, pine needles, tive cover. Mirroring the not just for gardens and cocoa shells and compost. leaf layer found on a forlandscaping anymore. Use Each offers unique benest floor, mulch covering a two-inch layer of mulch efits, depending on use. can benefit both plants at the top of indoor plant Mulch may not get and soil. containers to help cover the glory in the garden There are many difunsightly soil, conserve or landscape it deserves, ferent types of mulch to water and keep them look- but this often-overlooked consider. Some mulch cousin of soil has a lot to contains leaves and bark ing great. Available varieties of offer. Even if you just that decompose and mulching materials are di- use mulch for its neat break down over time, verse and nearly limitless. appearance, you will still while others contain reap all of its wonderful Most preferable however, things like pebbles and benefits. are mulches that break shredded tires. Mulch’s benefits run much deeper than beauty. • A mulch layer can moderate the soil temperature reducing the effects of extreme heat or cold. • Soil condition may be improved by the decomposing matter from mulch that provides plants with added nutrition. • Mulching a garden creates the ideal environment for earthworms and beneficial organisms. • If heavy rains or soil erosion is an issue, mulch can help reduce these effects. Weeds will find it difficult to become established and grow in a mulched area. Using mulch in the flower and vegetable garden is always a good idea. Not only does it “finish” a bed, but it also creates a path through Using mulch in the flower and vegetable garden is always the garden, even dura good idea. ing wet conditions. Use

Once animals are attracted to an area and begin feeding, it is more difficult to discourage them from returning.

Take early steps to help prevent garden pests throughout the year (ARA) — Foraging damage by deer, rabbits, voles and other garden pests is most noticeable in early spring, particularly as new plant shoots break through the cold earth and reach for the warmth of the sun. Now is the time to prepare your garden against these hungry herbivores. When they’ve found a food source, they will return to it, time and time again. Once animals are attracted to an area and begin feeding, it is more difficult to discourage them from returning. Deer, in particular, are creatures of habit. Their noses will lead them to return to areas where food is tasty, abundant and safe to forage. Deer have good memories and they learn from each other. When one deer is continually turned away from an area, other deer will be reluctant to enter that area as well. Deer and other pesky garden visitors use their noses to alert them to nearby danger. Disrupt their sense of security and you’ve achieved the primary factor for turning them away. Research, conducted by the USDA Animal Wildlife Research Center in Olympia, Wash., has proven that odor-based repellents are more effective than other repellent systems, where the animal needs to taste treated plants before being repelled. Studies investigating trends in efficacy of deer repellents indicate that, of the 20 products tested, repellents with active

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The Daily Dispatch

Friday, April 8, 2011

Kids’ room decor can be easy to update (ARA) — Decorating a child’s room is a challenge filled with variables — not the least of which is just how long the room’s inhabitant will actually like walls decorated with fuzzy bunnies or fire engines. In fact, the one thing you can count on is that what your child loved as a toddler is most likely not what she’ll want for her room’s theme when she’s a “big kid.” While you want your child to be comfortable in his own space, you don’t want to spend a mint if you know you’re going to have to redo the room again in a few years. It makes sense to choose decorating options that are easy to change so that a room’s decor can grow with your child. Here are some hints for decorating touches that you can easily redo or reverse. • Take it to the walls: The walls are the biggest design element in any room — and, fortunately for parents, they’re one of the easiest things to change. Painting is an easy, cost-effective way to completely change the look of a room. If your son is tired of baby blue walls, take a family trip to the local home improvement store and pick out a new color. Do try to encourage kids away from very dark colors, as those can be harder to cover up the next time you repaint. Another option is a peel and stick mural. Products like SmartStick by allow you to decorate a room without risking the integrity of the walls. Perhaps your daughter is seeking a princess room or your son is hoping for a Disney wall to depict his favorite movie. You’ll find plenty of Disney characters available in easy-to-install and easy-toremove SmartStick. A patented adhesive allows you to easily place the material on nearly any surface (walls, windows, even doors), pull it down, reposition it, even

From peel-and-stick wallpaper murals to freshening old furniture, it’s possible to give a child’s room a whole new look for not much money. move it to a different wall — all without damaging the mural or the wall beneath it. Unlike wall decals or wall stickers, the mural does not rip or wrinkle and can be reused hundreds of times. Log on to www.muralsyourway. com to learn more. • The material world: For bedrooms, linens can make a significant design statement. They’re also a flexible, cost-effective way to change a room’s look. Replacing the toddler-themed linens on your tween’s bed with something more contemporary for her age group may allow you to keep the walls, carpeting and furnishings as they are. Even if you invest in high-end sheets and a comforter, the overall cost of linens will be far less than the expense of completely redoing the room. Curtains can work the same way. They’re easy to change, and by replacing toddler-themed curtains with something more age appropriate — plus a decorative curtain rod — you can impart a classy, moregrown-up atmosphere to a room for a modest investment. For a bit more of an investment, consider reupholstering the gliding rocker that’s still sitting in your daugh-

While you want your child to be comfortable in his own space, you don’t want to spend a mint if you know you’re going to have to redo the room again in a few years.

ter’s room. The neutral tones or pastel colors might have been appropriate when you were rocking her to sleep as a baby, but she probably has more definitive color preferences now. Rather than discarding or selling the chair, why not add some bold patterned pillows and turn it into a welcoming yet sophisticated-looking spot where she can read or chat on the phone in comfort? • Art and accessories: Table lamps, floor lamps, wall hangings — even decorative faceplates for light switches — are all accessories that can help remake a room’s image without breaking the bank. If your child is old enough to have voiced his desire for a new room design, he’s probably capable of telling you his preferences in terms of accessories and artwork. Talk to your child about his vision for his room. Maybe he’d like to replace the fire engine theme with an homage to his favorite sports team. It’s easy to find a range of accessories — from waste baskets to bed sheets — that will appeal to lovers of virtually any sport. Whatever the theme your child chooses, carry it throughout with cost-effective accessories. From peel-and-stick wallpaper murals to freshening old furniture, it’s possible to give a child’s room a whole new look for not much money. And there are many ways to ensure that the updates will be simple to redo when your child’s tastes change again in the future.






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Spring Home & garden

The Daily DispaTch

FriDay, april 8, 2011


Delaying home projects could end up costing more (ARA) — Been to the grocery store lately? Filled up your vehicle with gas in the last week? It’s not your imagination — many of the items you use most often are getting more expensive. And near the top of the list of price increases are the building materials that go into remodeling projects and new home construction. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the new home that cost $85,000 to build in 2003 would cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $113,000 to build now, due to residential construction costs jumping 33 percent since 2003. “We’ve certainly seen it in our industry,” says Kent Blanchard, TAMKO Building Products vice president of roofing manufacturing. “These increased costs trickle down to the consumer as all of the raw material increases make the end-product more costly to manufacture. I’m sure to the consumer it’s seemed more like a flood lately.” Prices for nearly all the major building supplies have risen in the last several years, from concrete and asphalt to drywall and insulation. Increasing demand from developing nations like China and Brazil makes it unlikely any price relief will come any time soon. This is leading to what some analysts are referring to as a projected “sustained rise” in construction project costs and will impact both new construction and remodeling markets in 2011.

It’s a catch-22 for homeowners who may be hesitant to invest in a building project in the middle of a difficult economy, but who also know they will almost certainly pay more for the same project if they wait. Industry experts recommend consumers not wait to tackle home improvement projects but start first with the projects that provide the most return on investment or address a pressing need. When it comes to essentials, there’s nothing more crucial to a home or its inhabitants than a roof over their heads. A new roof can be a major selling point and can help protect the rest of your home improvement investments. Despite the recent rise in asphalt prices, asphalt shingles continue to be the most popular and cost-efficient roofing choice for the majority of residential buildings. The Heritage Shingle series is one of the most popular asphalt shingles across the U.S. for its durability, traditional wood shake appearance and recently extended limited warranty. “They look good and perform well,” Blanchard says of asphalt shingles. “You can’t beat the combination of performance, appearance and price of a good asphalt shingle. They are the backbone of American roofing.” Another option that may require greater upfront costs, but can reduce costs in

Despite the recent rise in asphalt prices, asphalt shingles continue to be the most popular and cost-efficient roofing choice for the majority of residential buildings. the long-term are composite shingles. Composite shingles are made from a special blend of materials ranging from stone to plastic to create long-lasting, durable roofing options. Lamarite shingles by TAMKO can resemble stone slate or wood shake shingles and come in colors rated by Energy-Star and the Cool Roof Rating Council for their ability to lower a building’s cooling

costs. Lamarite shingles also come with a 50-year limited warranty. So whether planning to fix your leaky roof, add a deck for enjoyment or increase your living space, remember that $85,000 house in 2003 costs $113,000 today. Regardless of the home improvement projects you are considering, it’s important to remember that the longer you delay, the more you’re likely to pay.

Consider these projects to enhance your home’s curb appeal (ARA) — As warmer weather approaches, it’s a great time to take a look out your windows and see what the view of your home is offering your neighbors. Are there any areas of your landscaping or home’s exterior that could use a bit of an upgrade to help boost your home’s curb appeal? Whether you intend to live in your home for several years, or have plans to list your house on the real estate market soon, enhancing your home’s curb appeal can boost your enjoyment of the property and attract potential buyers. Plenty of projects can improve the look of your home without requiring you to spend a fortune on remodeling, changing the siding or landscaping the entire front yard. Here are a few ideas you can try on your house: • Upgrade the mailbox. Mailboxes over time can start to look dingy and rusted from being out in the elements. Building a permanent brick or stone structure to hold a mailbox can add appeal to your yard, and also help protect the metal mailbox from additional rusting.

• Add or update the lights by your front door or along the driveway. A beautiful glow in the evenings welcomes visitors (and buyers) to your home, at the same time providing you with additional security. Many wall, overhead, post and hanging lights styles are designed to work outdoors to add panache to your home and landscaping. • Brighten up your landscaping and decorate your house with flowers and maybe even some new shrubbery. If you can, add window boxes of vine plants mixed in with colorful blooms. Decorate along the driveway or around the mailbox with small green bushes. If you have a walkway through the front yard, consider lining it with a small and attractive fence. Or add a few pots of pretty flowers next to the garage doors to splash around a little color. • Replace your old, worn-out windows with new replacement windows. According to Remodeling magazine’s 2010-2011 Cost vs. Value Report, installing lowmaintenance replacement windows is ranked as one of the best home improve-

ment projects for your money. They can help reduce energy bills and add instant appeal to your home. Plus, windows that meet ENERGY STAR performance criteria qualify for the 2011 tax credit, adding to the overall value of replacement windows. Paul Delahunt, president of Renewal by Andersen, says of all the improvement projects a homeowner can start, window replacement is one that actually takes very little effort on the homeowner’s part, but can make your house more beautiful and energy efficient — two benefits you can enjoy for many years to come. “Our experts help homeowners every step of the way,” says Delahunt. “By selecting a professional company that can handle their entire replaceCoil ment project start-to-finish, Cleaning homeowners can sit back, SPECIAL relax and let us do all the $89.95 work.” Delahunt adds that new windows can also help with those dreaded spring clean-


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The Daily DispaTch

Spring Home & garden

FriDay, april 8, 2011

Tips for starting your own veggie garden (ARA) — Vegetable and herb gardening is in and studies indicate it will continue to grow in popularity. If you’re not growing your own yet it’s time to start. Why? The reasons are as varied as the people who garden. Some do it to save money. Others want to ensure their food is chemical-free, and as safe as possible. Still others grow their own vegetables because fresher is just better. Many do it because gardening is good for you and some because it’s still fun to play in the dirt. Whatever your reason for opting to join the seven million Americans who grabbed their gardening gear and grew their own vegetables and herbs last year, your road to success is basically the same as everyone else’s — planting at the right time, making sure your soil’s in shape, weeding and watering responsibly, and feeding and nurturing your plants. This season, you won’t have to buy your fresh herbs and vegetables from a farmer’s market; you can grow them on your own, and you don’t need a farm-sized backyard — or pocketbook — to do it. Avid gardener Stan Cope, president of Bonnie Plants, the largest producer of vegetable and herb plants in North America, growing locally in 75 locations nationwide, offers some time-saving tips to make the growing easy: • Survey your soil: Your first step is to decide where you’ll put your vegetable and herb garden. Good soil is key. The best soil is loam, a soft, dark, crumbly dirt. Loamy soil holds water, allows for drainage and is easy to dig. If you encounter clay or sandy soil, add peat moss and bone meal so that these soils can also be productive gardening bases. • Size up your space: When plotting out the size of your garden, you’ll want to be sure it’s big enough to yield a good harvest to make your efforts worthwhile. But if you’re limited on yard space — or have none at all — you can grow vegetables and herbs in containers on a deck, terrace, balcony or even on the windowsill. • Let the sunshine in: Your plants need plenty of sun — at least six hours a day. A sunny and open location is your best bet for producing a plentiful harvest. • Pick your plants for your plot: Grow vegetables that are expensive to buy in the grocery store or at the farmer’s market, such as tomatoes and peppers. A tried-and-true prolific producer, the Bonnie Original Tomato, was developed exclusively for Bonnie Plants in 1967. They come in environmentally friendly, biode-

Whatever your reason for opting to join the seven million Americans who grabbed their gardening gear and grew their own vegetables and herbs last year, your road to success is basically the same as everyone else’s — planting at the right time, making sure your soil’s in shape, weeding and watering responsibly, and feeding and nurturing your plants. gradable pots that you plant right into the soil. Recent trials, planting five of these tomato plants in 25-gallon containers, averaged 100 tomatoes each at an average of 37 pounds per plant. Another tomato that will tip the scales is Bonnie’s Sun Sugar tomato, a yellow cherry type. Trial garden plants averaged 1,228 tomatoes each. If peppers are your passion, the Yummy Bell Pepper, ripening from green to apricot orange, is a best bet. Trial garden testing of five plants averaged 248 peppers per plant during the summer growing season. • Time-saving transplants: When you’re ready to begin planting, opt for transplants — seedlings that have

Gardening is rewarding. It will bring great pleasure as you bring your produce from plot to plate so you can literally enjoy the fruits of your labor.

already been started — rather than starting from seed. Transplants will buy you lots of time because plants are six weeks or older when you put them in the ground, and you’ll begin harvesting much sooner. • Feed your food: Your vegetable plants will need food and water to survive and grow. When feeding plants, try to avoid chemical fertilizers that could potentially seep into groundwater. Bonnie Plant Food is a unique, organically based, soybean oilseed extract formula that has demonstrated superior results in the health and vigor of plants. Give your garden a good watering once or twice a week, although some crops may need more water, especially if your climate is very hot. A thorough soaking, allowing the water to penetrate four to six inches into the soil, is better for plants than frequent shallow watering. Gardening is rewarding. It will bring great pleasure as you bring your produce from plot to plate so you can literally enjoy the fruits of your labor. For more information on varieties and gardening advice, visit

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Spring Home & garden

The Daily DispaTch


FriDay, april 8, 2011

Five ‘luxury’ bathroom upgrades that won’t cost you a bundle

(ARA) — It’s probably safe to say that no potential buyer ever passed on a house because the bathroom was just too lovely and luxurious. And few of us would prefer to come home at the end of the day to decompress in an outdated bathroom with a shabby shower and cabinets that have seen better days. A beautiful bathroom can help potential buyers overlook other flaws in a home. And the bath is one room where homeowners can be confident their renovation dollars will yield not only improved home value, but enhanced enjoyment as well. Fortunately, you don’t have to spend lavishly to elevate the luxury quotient of your home’s bathroom. Here are five “luxury” upgrades that can be done on a moderate — or even modest — budget: • Lighten up with a skylight: When it comes to creating a comfortable, energyefficient ambiance in a room, it’s hard to beat Mother Nature. Natural light helps reduce dependency on artificial light sources and the electricity they consume, and can have a positive effect on mood and overall health. You may hesitate to add a large, clear window to a bathroom, but skylights are a great way to add the luxuriousness of natural light without compromising on privacy. Choose a venting style which can also be a cost-effective

way to help vent humidity, steam and odors from a bathroom. New models, like Velux America’s No Leak Skylight, eliminate leak worries; when properly installed, Velux skylights are no more prone to leaks than any other quality window. Visit to learn more. • Shower yourself with luxury: Ripping out that old ceramic tile and replacing it with the trendiest stone may not be in your budget, or your shower’s future, but swapping out a standard showerhead with something more luxurious probably is. It’s easy to find a variety of showerheads — from rainfall and massaging, to hand-held or dual-head and multi-jet — that will elevate your daily washing routine to a spa-quality experience. What’s more, a new showerhead is one of the easiest bathroom renovations to do yourself, even if you have no previous DIY experience. • Accessorize, accessorize: Who doesn’t love warm, plush bath towels? Or footsoothing rugs that protect tootsies from cold floors? It makes sense not to skimp when it comes to choosing towels, area rugs and other accessories for your bath. Even top-quality accessories cost less than major renovations, and they can go a long way toward making your bathroom feel polished, put-together and posh.

Individual, or grouped, Sun Tunnel tubular skylights provide balanced lighting and reduce energy costs. From good bath linens to a towel-warmer that can make them feel extra cozy, accessories are an economical, effective way to add luxurious touches to your bathroom. • Upscale downstairs: Think your downstairs powder room or first-floor master bath can’t soak up some sun? Think again. To bring natural light and warmth into a first-floor bathroom, simply add a sun tunnel. This variation on the traditional skylight uses reflective tubing connected to a low profile acrylic dome that sits on your roof to deliver diffused, natural sunlight to interior spaces, allowing you to enjoy the luxury of natural sunlight in your first-floor, window-

less bath. Add a light kit, and you’ve got a 24-hour light source. • Heat things up: If you’ve ever stepped out of a relaxing warm shower only to find yourself shivering in a cold bathroom, adding a touch of warmth to the room may seem like the ultimate luxury. You can find an array of heaters that work well in a bathroom setting, from wall units that will put warm air at body level, to overhead lamps that warm from above. You can even find combo units that both heat the bathroom and warm your towel at the same time, or exhaust fans that remove moist, cold air and replace it with warm air.

Hair Welcome spring with cost-effective home decorating tips A.B. Carpet (ARA) — You’re ready to throw winter out to the curb. It’s time to rid yourself of the dreary cold weather and freshen your house for spring by opening the windows, rolling up your sleeves to give all your furnishings a good cleaning, and shopping to brighten everything with a new spring look. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on your new home improvements. Here are some tips to help you welcome spring into your home: • Try a new paint color: It may have been years since you painted — or the walls may all still be factory white from when the house was built. A fresh coat in a warm spring tone can help waken any room from the winter doldrums. Soft pastel colors or vibrant warm hues can really change the look of your house. A gallon or two of paint is a very inexpensive way to give new life to your rooms. • Fabrics help give rooms pop: If you are

living in an apartment and can’t change the color of your walls, go with new fabrics. Visit to shop for pillows at Sears, or make your own blankets, slip covers and pillows with fabrics from You can find discounts and coupon codes for your favorite home decorating stores through this website and also receive a check back in the mail for a percentage of your purchases. • Spruce up the yard: The weight of winter’s snow probably has your grass and bushes looking flat, brown and there may be a good chance that some of your landscaping didn’t survive the harsh temperatures. As soon as the frost has left your area, give your front and back yards some bright color with beautiful flowers and new shrubs. Visit for discounts through Gardeners Supply Company to help you save money and earn cash back. If you don’t have a backyard, consider planting a container garden on your deck or add-

ing a couple of house plants to the windows of your house to bring a spring-like feeling into your house. You can plant beautiful and scented flowers or delicious fresh vegetables and herbs to add to your summery menus. • Let the breezes blow through: Those heavy drapes that helped you keep the house warm during winter won’t do you any good now that the temperatures are comfortable and balmy. Find new blinds or sheer curtains for your windows to help keep the penetrating sun rays out, but yet allow the light and airy breezes to filter in through your open windows. Freshening your house for spring doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. Do a bit of shopping online, push up your sleeves with a paint brush or a cleaning rag in hand and spread the color around to make your house look bright and airy and ready for spring.

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Spring Home & Garden

The Daily Dispatch

Friday, April 8, 2011

Live large in living room for $100 or less (ARA) — There’s a reason we call it “the living room.” We might all spend most of our time in the kitchen, but when we want to relax with family and friends to watch a movie, take in a TV show or just enjoy some good conversation, we head to the living room. Between the kids playing trampoline on the couch or taking the “throw” in throw pillows literally, the family dog decorating the carpet with her hair, and the overall wear and tear the room gets, it may be hard to imagine living large in your living room anymore. The good news is, refreshing the room and making it a showpiece of your home again needn’t cost a bundle. In fact, you can give your living room a facelift by making some key changes that each cost $100 or less. From wall decor ideas to furniture fixes, here are some easy, do-it-yourself decorator moves that can update the look of your living room for less than the cost of a designer handbag:

Accessorize, accessorize, accessorize Just as the right shoes and a bright scarf can add pizzaz to an otherwise so-so outfit, the right mix of accessories can add power and pop to your living room decor. Accessories can also help conceal a host of flaws, from worn-out upholstery to stained carpeting. Hit a discount home goods store and replace tired accent pillows with new ones in bright colors. Add designer-inspired tiebacks to the same old drapes after you’ve freshly laundered them. Scatter plush throws around the room. Cover carpeting that’s seen better days with an area rug that looks fresh, new and fun.

Back to the wall She who wields a paint roller well (or is even just reasonably OK with one) has the power to completely change a room — for less than $30 a gallon. Paint is a fast, cost-effective way to make a lived-in room look move-in ready again. And since you spent so little redoing three walls, consider a wallpaper mural for the fourth. Murals like those found at can transform any room with a nature mural or images that evoke a tropical getaway, a vibrant cityscape, an undersea wonderland or a rustic Tuscan villa. On the website, you’ll find plenty of easy-to-install murals for less than $100. You can use yours to create a focal point in your living room, accent an architectural feature, make a small space feel more open and airy, or add interest to an otherwise boring wall.

Fire it up Wish your living room had a fireplace, but find yourself without several thousand dollars to have a real one installed? You can evoke the warm, cozy atmosphere of a

Murals like those found at can transform any room with a nature mural or images that evoke a tropical getaway, a vibrant cityscape, an undersea wonderland or a rustic Tuscan villa. fireplace in a number of ways. Purchase a small chiminea for less than $100 and invest in a pillar candle to place inside it. The candle will create a warm glow (and appealing aroma if you choose a scented one) with less fire risk than burning wood in the chiminea. Just remember to follow good fire-safety practices, and keep children and animals away from all open flames. Spend a little bit more, and you can construct your own faux mantel and place several pillar candles in the hearth area of the mantel.

Furniture fixes If your wooden furniture is still sturdy but suffering

from scratches, dings, dents and watermarks, consider refinishing it yourself. One gallon of wood finish can cost less than $30, and cover a lot of wood furniture. Or, you can check out used furniture stores, flea markets and yard sales in search of gently used items in better condition than what you have. Another option would be to visit a big box store that sells unfinished furniture and do the finishing yourself. Living large in your living room again is possible, and you don’t have to have the large budget of a home improvement show to achieve it. Some creativity and the willingness to try some fun do-it-yourself projects can go a long way toward making your tired old living room look and feel new again.

Pet owners can keep their animals — and protect their hardwood floors Pet parents may resign themselves to the fact that hardwood floors aren’t practical. But that doesn’t have to be the case. It’s possible to have and maintain hardwood floors and still enable pooches to enjoy rooms with wood floors. • Keep dogs’ nails trimmed short so that they do not scratch or scuff wood floors. • Place runners in high-traffic areas so that the dogs have an easier time of walking from room to room. • Clean the bottom of paws when the dog comes inside from the yard so that dirt won’t mar or ruin the floors. • Choose distressed-looking floors, so if scratches resulting from dogs’ nails do occur, it will blend in with the flooring and not stick out like a sore thumb. • Ask to have a thick layer of clearcoating applied to the floors to further protect them. • Do not encourage doggie horseplay on the wood floors, even if it is humorous watching the pooch slide around and try to get footing.

• Consider a floor wax product to improve a dogs’ traction on the floors and reduce their propensity to claw-in to get a good grip. • If dog bowls are kept on the floor, use a mat that will protect against spills, drips and slobber. Something that will not allow moisture to bleed through onto the floor is ideal, as is a mat that will contain spills. • Dogs that tend to grow long fur between the pads of their feet may need to have that fur trimmed as short as possible. This will help improve the traction the dog will have when walking on the wood floors.

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Spring Home and Garden - April 8, 2011