Understanding and Choosing Smart Home Products that Are Right for Your Lifestyle

Figure out which smart home products can work best for you.

Guest post by Patrick Hearn

Many people are drawn into the world of smart home technology by cool features like smart lights and smart assistants, because they help make life more convenient. But it can also be somewhat intimidating for people to get started when they’re faced with a bevvy of technical terms and limitless options. Getting past the jargon and understanding how smart home devices can work together can all add up to a much more convenient lifestyle.

Here’s how to figure out which smart home products can work best for you.

Consider How Devices Communicate

When you’re selecting smart home devices, you may come across the terms Insteon, Zigbee, and Z-Wave. These are different types of networks that smart home products use to communicate with one another. Insteon can communicate over a Wi-Fi network or through the existing electrical wiring in your walls, while Zigbee and Z-Wave communicate only through your Wi-Fi network.

The main thing to keep in mind is that there are compatibility differences to consider. Not all smart home products are compatible with these networks, but the vast majority of smart home products will work with Zigbee and Z-Wave.

Choose Devices that Can Simplify Your Life

The number of available smart home devices grows with each passing day. Where once there were only smart lights and security systems, now you can purchase everything from a connected oven to a smart robot that vacuums your home for you. The majority of newer products are compatible with most existing products, and even those that don’t work together straight out of the box can be made to work together through smart home hubs.

1. Security

Take a moment and think about the conveniences you want in your home. If you invest in only one type of smart home technology, make it a security system complete with security cameras. Connected home security systems make it easy to keep an eye on things around the house when you’re away, and even the presence of a security system can be enough to deter someone with malicious intent.

2. Smart lighting

For people who work out of the home, go away on vacation, or simply want an easier way to manage their lighting, smart lighting can help. With smart lights, you can control your lights from afar with a mobile app. Because smart lights have been around for a while, there are a lot of different options to fit every budget and color range.

3. Smart assistants

A smart assistant is just what it sounds like — a voice-activated device that can tell you everything from the news to the weather, control your smart home, play music, and much more. Although each device comes with varying levels of complexity, most of the difference lies in the volume level of the speaker.

4. Smart appliances

These days, you can connect everything from toaster ovens to washers and dryers. Most of these alert you via smartphone when something is finished cooking or a load of laundry is ready to go in the dryer, but certain appliances offer different features. Any homeowner with a busy schedule and lots of chores can benefit from the conveniences of managing appliances remotely.

5. Smart power strips and outlets

Smart outlets are one of the easiest ways to add smart home tech to your home without breaking the bank. Smart outlets can control the flow of power to and from a device. You can monitor the status of an outlet from your phone and turn it on or off. Are you one to leave the house and panic over whether the iron was plugged in? Next time, plug it into a smart outlet and you won’t have to worry.

6. Smart thermostats

Many people are introduced to smart home technology through a smart thermostat. These devices learn how you like your home to feel. If you keep it cooler at night and turn up the heat in the morning, a smart thermostat will pick up on that after a few days and adjust automatically. Like other smart devices, these can be controlled from your phone or via voice input with a smart assistant. They’re also an energy-saver. Homeowners who are concerned with energy efficiency would benefit from this device.

With these devices, you can get creative and customize them to the needs of your lifestyle. Services like If This, Then That (IFTTT) make it possible to connect devices together in ways you never would have imagined. You can also connect them through a smart home hub, like one provided by your internet service provider. For example, program a smart light next to your bed to simulate a sunrise if you have to wake up before dawn, and trigger your heat to turn on. Program smart lights to turn a certain color based on the temperature outside. Set your smart coffee pot to be linked to a motion sensor so that it begins brewing the moment you get out of bed. Make your life smarter, and a lot easier, with the limitless options.

Seasonal Allergies: 7 Plants to Be Aware of As the Seasons Change


Know the most common plants to be aware of as the seasons change.

As the seasons change, you should be enjoying the changing weather and scenery that come with the time of year. Unfortunately, during the spring and fall months in particular, millions of Americans are faced with a myriad of health problems that are brought on by the same culprits responsible for the seasonal beauty–plants.

Common allergy symptoms include runny nose and congestion, itchy eyes, sneezing, and swollen skin. You might have post nasal drip or even feel more tired than normal. If you’re an allergy sufferer, you’re not alone. Educate yourself on the most common plants to be aware of as the seasons change, and you’ll be one step closer to keeping yourself healthy throughout the year.

 1. Ragweed

Ragweed is arguably the most common trigger of seasonal allergies in North America, about one in five people suffers from a serious ragweed allergy. Ragweed counts are worse on hot, windy, or exceptionally dry days, with the highest levels of pollen being produced in mid-September. However, depending on the weather and the geography of the area in which you live, ragweed season can stretch from late July all the way to Thanksgiving.

2. Oak

Oak is grown all over the country, and many people prize these statuesque beauties for their ornamental value, making them common in residential landscaping as well as in recreational parks. However, many people are allergic to this plant’s pollen, and even if your own property doesn’t have oak on it, there’s a strong likelihood that some can drift by from a neighboring lot.

3. Mountain cedar 

Mountain cedar, technically a juniper, is part of a huge plant variety. There are dozens of trees and shrubs in this grouping that can cause allergic symptoms in people–and you might not be allergic to all types, either. Mountain cedar, however, are some of the most common trees, and one that should be on any allergy sufferer’s radar.

Juniper is common throughout most of the country, and it has a long pollen season. In some states, allergy season starts in January, and can last all the way into late June.

4. Elm 

Elm trees grow in every state in the United States, except for those with harsh winters. These trees produce their pollen in the fall and can cause serious symptoms like sneezing and watery eyes.

5. Grass pollens

There are dozens of grass types that can produce allergic symptoms, and it’s difficult for allergists to test different strains of grass. There are a handful of grass species that are significantly more likely to induce allergies than others.

Bermuda grass is a common culprit. This grass type is frequently grown on residential lawns in southern states such as Texas, and produces pollen when grass blades reach half an inch in height. It can grow throughout most of the year, producing serious problems for allergy sufferers.

Bluegrass is another common trigger. It tends to produce pollen in the summer months, and this grass type is commonly used on lawns throughout the United States. Other common grass allergens include johnson grass and ryegrass.

6. Birch 

Birch is a common allergy in the spring, as these plants begin to spread their pollen. These are easy trees to spot. Birch trees have distinguishing white bark with black stipples, and can be found throughout most of the United States. They are less common in the southern and western portions of the country, but their pollen is especially potent because many people tend to plant these trees as a landscaping feature. While they are beautiful to look at, beware of their sneeze-inducing potential.

7. Poplar 

These trees also produce pollen in the spring, and can be grown just about anywhere in the country. Their pollen is much more likely to trigger allergies in warmer climates as well as those in more polluted areas, but luckily, only the male trees make pollen. Poplar are great landscaping trees, being well-adapted to many soil types, so if you want to enjoy a beautiful yard without the running nose, consider planting female varieties instead.

While there’s not much you can do to eliminate an allergy, you can work to treat your allergies. Although growing research suggests that immunotherapy, or “allergy shots,” may be an option for reducing the body’s histamine response to certain allergens.

You can also consider taking an over-the-counter allergy medicine or antihistamine long before the allergy season begins. Limit your exposure to allergens by staying inside on warm, windy days, and use saline to help flush the allergens from your nose.

Another option is to get yourself tested at an allergist’s office to help determine which of these pollens produces the strongest allergic response. Once you are armed with this information, you will have a much healthier–and more enjoyable–allergy season next year.

Simple Water-Saving Bathroom Upgrades

Read about the three simple bathroom upgrades that have a positive impact on your wallet and the world.

Between the toilet, shower, and sink, your bathroom accounts for nearly 60% of your home’s water usage. With water scarcity estimated to affect 2/3 for the global population by 2025, water costs are bound increase. Make a water-saving change and an investment in the future, without sacrificing performance. Read about the three simple bathroom upgrades that have a positive impact on your wallet and the world.

1. Install a Low-Flow Faucet Aerator

Although a sink doesn’t seem to use as much water as the shower or toilet, it can pour out around 3 gallons of water per minute (gpm). Those extra gallons add up, especially if occasionally forget to turn off the sink while you shave or brush your teeth. By installing a low-flow faucet aerator on your bathroom sink, you can cut your water waste in half, reducing it by as much as 1,400 gallons per year. Purchasing an aerator for your sink is one of the cheapest conservation renos, with aerators available for as little as $1.

2. Switch Out Your Showerhead

It’s easy to waste water in the shower—many of us use the shower to relax or perhaps leave the water running as we wait for it to warm. While taking shorter showers can definitely help with water conservation, new energy-efficient showerheads can help reduce water waste without sacrificing enjoyment.

WaterSense labeled products are certified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to help save water and are worth consideration as you search for the right products for your home. Showerheads labeled “low flow” are another option for your bathroom reno, as they deliver 2.5 gpm instead of the wasteful 5 gpm of older showerheads.

Newer models, like Evolve’s showerheads, have features like smart home technology, which conserve water and reduce energy use. Here’s how it works: instead of wasting water as you wait for the shower to warm, this technology automatically reduces the water flow to a trickle when it reaches 95 degrees. When you’re ready to shower, you pull on the showerhead’s built in lever and the flow returns to normal. No more letting energy-burning hot water flow down the drain. They estimated this showerhead technology can save homeowners 2-6 gallons of water per shower!

3. Replace Your Old Toilet

The toilet is the most water-wasteful piece of plumbing in most homes. Nearly 1/3 of a household’s total water consumption is flushed down the toilet. They can use as much as 7 gallons per flush! Luckily, toilet technology has come a long way in the past few decades. Newer energy-saving models can reduce water waste up to 67%. There are three main types of water efficient toilets:

  1. Low Flow Toilets
  2. Duel Flush Toilets
  3. Pressure Assist Toilets

Some toilets use a combination of low flow, duel flush, and pressure assist to create a conservation-friendly commode. Low flow toilets are designed to use significantly less water than older models, whereas duel flush toilets customize each flush for either solid or liquid waste. Pressure-assist toilets use an air cartridge to push water from the tank, which means using as little as one gallon per flush. With thousands of gallons a year in water savings at stake, a toilet reno is a must for water-conscious homeowners.

HomeAdvisor surveyed homeowners and found that replacing a toilet cost an average of $377. Compare that to savings up to $2,200 over its lifespan, and that’s more than a 580% return on investment.

Luckily, with innovations in water-saving technology, it’s easy to drastically cut back on water consumption without sacrificing performance. And, compared to other home updates, purchasing and installing water-saving products is relatively cheap and promise big savings on your water and energy bills. Whether you’re conserving water for your wallet, the environment, or state regulations upgrading bathroom fixtures can make a positive impact.

Why Your Backyard May Be Making You Healthier This Summer

Buying a home with a backyard can contribute to a healthy lifestyle in more ways than one.

Whether it’s dining alfresco, tending to the garden, or getting in a run, summer living is an outside affair. But, did you know that buying a home with a backyard can contribute to a healthy lifestyle in more ways than one?  Here are 5 reasons why your backyard may be making your healthier this summer:
Better Bone Health
According to the Mayo Clinic, as little as 10 minutes in the sun is thought to prevent Vitamin D deficiency.  Vitamin D, also known as the ‘sunshine vitamin’ is important to maintaining normal blood levels of calcium in the body, which helps to build healthy bones. Spending just a short time outdoors, weeding, grilling or just lounging can have a positive effect on both mind and body.
Slimmer Waist Lines
When the weather is warmer, salads are a great meal or side-dish.  Mix up any combination of fresh ingredients (fruits, vegetables, legumes or nuts), a heart-healthy vinaigrette and enjoy dinner with out any guilt.  For great ideas of summer salads, check out this collection of recipes from Cooking Light.
While the science of eating is complicated, grilling can be a healthier alternative to other cooking methods like pan frying.  Grilling lean meats like skinless chicken breasts and omega-3 rich fishes like salmon can make for a quick, tasty and healthy meal.  Add a few veggies like corn or peppers to the fire to round out a delicious summer feast.
Because it takes time to carry everything needed for a backyard meal out to the patio and back, you may find yourself more inclined to take your time enjoying the meal and less likely to be caught with your hand in the cookie jar after dinner.  Instead, opt for fresh fruit for a delicious after-meal treat.
Peace of Mind
Nothing is better for the soul than quality time with those that we love.  Spend some time away from the screens (TV, phones, tablets, etc.) and instead enjoy some down time with family and friends in the great outdoors.  Nature has proven to give your brain a break from daily over-stimulation and can help improve focus and mood.
Improved Vision
Birdwatching from the back deck may be doing more good than you realize. An Australia study has found that being outdoors can improve distance vision and lower the chance of nearsightedness.
Healthier Hearts
It’s easy to stay active in the outdoors, whether you choose a run around the neighborhood, backyard yoga, or a lap in the pool.  Almost any activity you enjoy can be done within the confines of a backyard and will not only help keep those extra ice cream calories at bay, but can increase heart health.
To find your backyard oasis, visit coldwellbankerrapid.com.

Most Important Summer Home Maintenance Projects

Being proactive when it comes to your home’s maintenance can save you time and money! Focus on maintaining these 5 areas.

With the bright sunlight and warm temperatures that accompany summer, you may be spending more time outside — and you may be noticing areas of your home’s exterior that need repair. But there’s more reason to tackle your home maintenance projects this summer than simply cosmetic appearance. Maintaining your home will prevent major leaks and damage that may eventually require professional help, usually when its most expensive and inconvenient for you.

Being proactive when it comes to your home’s maintenance can save you time and money, and it makes sense to do it when you’re more likely to be outdoors in the comfortable summer months. Here are five areas of your house that are most important to keep updated.

  1. Windows

Start by cleaning the exterior of your windows with hot soapy water and a sponge or squeegee. If you’ll need a ladder, make sure to review safety guidelines.

While you’re washing, inspect each window pane for cracks. Double or triple glazed windows with damaged seals or cracks may need to be replaced. Think back: Have your windows had excessive condensation inside through the winter and spring? That’s another sign that the seal might have been compromised and that your window might need to be replaced.

You’ll also want to inspect caulking and weatherstripping around your windows. Recaulk any spots where the caulk is loose or chipping away, or consider applying new caulk for a tight seal. Summer is a perfect time to do this because the warm temperatures and low humidity will help the caulk set perfectly.

Finally, wash window screens and replace any screens that have rips or holes. 

  1. Roof

Visually inspect your roof every summer for missing or broken shingles, shakes and panels. Again, if you’ll be using a ladder and climbing up to your roof, make sure you follow safety guidelines. If you have any concerns about using a ladder or moving around on your roof, or if you’re unsteady on your feet, call your roofing company. Most roofers will make inspections and do basic maintenance for you.

While you’re up on your roof, you’ll also want to check flashing and seals around vents, chimneys and skylights. Apply caulk around any areas that haven’t been re-sealed in the past year.

Algae and moss can plague even new and well-maintained roofs. Apply a moss killer designed for roofs or install zinc strips that can help keep algae and moss from taking hold.

Your gutters should be cleaned and checked for holes or other damage. Look for water stains around your gutters and downspouts that indicate a problem.

  1. Exterior


Check high and low over your exterior and look for holes, gaps and cracks in your siding. It’s less expensive to replace siding that is just starting to deteriorate than to wait until it’s broken down completely and impacted your home’s structure, insulation and inside walls.

While you’re walking around your home, look for any signs of pests. Termites and carpenter ants can be devastating to your home’s structure, while ants and wasps can be a nuisance and cause minor damage to your home’s exterior. Check vents and crawl-space access doors to make sure rodents and other wildlife can’t get in.

  1. Foundation

Check your foundation for any cracks and signs that there has been a leak, such as water stains. Any small cracks can be repaired, but larger cracks should be inspected by a pro. Once you repair small cracks, re-seal the foundation with a good waterproof masonry sealer.

Pull out any larger plants growing close to your home that might impact the foundation. Besides the risks of roots growing into your foundation, watering plants close to your home can cause water to pool around the foundation and lead to damage.

  1. Heating and Cooling

You’re going to want to make sure your air conditioning is ready for the heat ahead, so replace filters and remove and clean your unit’s fan and condenser. Make sure you turn off power to the unit before you tackle any work.

At the same time, your furnace should be checked and readied for use again at summer’s end. Vacuum out the burner and blower cavities, and vacuum and brush the blower blades. Change the filter so the furnace is all ready to go when it’s time to turn it on again.

Your home is a big investment, and it’s important to keep it in good “health.” Spend some of your summer days inspecting and making minor repairs and you’ll reduce your chances of needing a big repair later.

7 Awesome Outdoor Entertaining Ideas for your July 4th Cookout

Ok, so you’re planning on hanging up that huge American flag like you do every year, but what other decorations have you got lined up for this 4th of July?  Here are 7 awesome DIY July 4th decorations that will absolutely ‘wow’ your guests and turn your cookout into a patriotic presentation of red, white, and blue like they’ve never seen before! It’s time to show your true colors and get a little crafty.

1. Paint the Lawn with Giant Stars

Image: Jeannine/The Concrete Cottage

Turn your lawn into a huge green canvas, by covering it with giant painted stars in red, white, and blue. Your neighbors and guests will be totally floored when they see this proud and design, and as long as you use temporary marking spray paint, your grass will be green again in no time. (Here’s how)

2. Decorate Plasticware with Patriotic Washi Tape 

Image: Nikki/Tikkido

Plasticware is great for big parties, or if you don’t want to spend the night washing dishes, but sometimes it’s just not celebratory enough. Solve that issue easily and on a budget, by covering plasticware handles in star spangled and blue-striped washi tape! (Here’s how to do it)

3. Upcycle Glass Bottles into Summer Decorations

Image: Dusty/All Things G&D

Turn empty glass bottles into stunning party decor, with a little paint and a lot of patriotic spirit! Make sure to get a couple bunches of red, white, and blue flowers (irises count!) to fill these pretty centerpieces, and then line your table with them, for an easy and awesome July 4th look. (Get directions here)

4. Create Your Own Decorative Firecrackers

Image: Leslie/Gwen Moss Blog

Using paper towel rolls and tissue paper, create firecrackers filled with treats that double as fun placecards for your formal cookout. This is one way to start the party off with a bang, and get everyone (especially the kids) super excited for the night’s festivities. (Directions here)

5. Turn Mason Jars into Star Spangled Luminaires


Image: Myra/My Blessed Life

Create some rustic American charm, by wrapping mason jars in twine and patriotic colored ribbons and trims, and setting a tea light in each. Perfect for dressing up your tablescape and adding some intimate lighting to your outdoor event, this little DIY is easy and oh, so charming! (Learn to make them here)

6. Make Quick Patriotic Placemats

Image: Chelsea/Making Home Base

Cut these sweet personalized placemats out of simple drop cloth, to get the perfect canvas for some red, white, and blue starry-eyed love. These patriotic placemats take just 20 minutes to create, and they’re the perfect detail for your cookout table. When the food is finished, you can roll them up and save them for next year! (Tutorial here)

7. Line Your Walkway with Colorful Lights

Image: Heidi/Honeybear Lane

Carefully poke holes through empty cans to create themed messages, letters, and pictures, and turn them into luminaries to light the way for guests. This simple design idea looks truly warm-weather whimsical and makes your cookout feel like a 4th of July parade! (Here’s how to do it)

All the Ways Your Front Entrance Can Sell Your Home

If only selling your home was as simple as snapping your fingers. We’d love that, and we’re sure you would too.

Unfortunately, reality is rarely that kind. Instead, there are a thousand little details that go into selling your home from hiring a real estate agent to home staging and curb appeal enhancements. It’s every piece together that brings in the buyer.

But if you’ve focused mostly on finding the right realtor and too little on curb appeal, you could be putting yourself at a disadvantage. Never underestimate the power of a great first impression, which starts with the outside of your home.

Staging a House to Sell

When getting your home ready to sell, the first area you want to focus on is the exterior. This is what a buyer will see first before they ever step a foot inside, so it needs to look polished and attractive. The question then is, “What should I concentrate my budget and time on?”

  1. Create a Gorgeous Front Entrance

Homeowners who update their entry door can recoup a significant amount of the cost of installation. In particular, you should consider installing a steel entry door.

In addition, you want to clean your entire entrance. Remove any clutter around your entrance including furniture, pots, and entry mats and thoroughly clean everything, making sure to repaint or touch up as needed. You’ll also want to polish any metal knobs or fixtures. A great entrance can ensure that every other part of your home is more inviting as well.

  1. Repaint the Exterior

Repainting the outside of your home is a big job, but it’s worth the results. A new coat of paint can seriously improve your home’s curb appeal. Just make sure you do your research before you choose your exterior house colors. Not only do you want to choose colors that appeal to you, but colors that fit your neighborhood.

We recommend choosing bright and welcoming colors for your home, especially when it comes to your front door. A bright red or blue door really pops. As for the overall color, we recommend choosing a light gray/blue color. A great color can help you sell your home faster and for more money.

  1. Update Your Landscaping

Poor landscaping can distract from an otherwise beautiful house that has exceptional home staging. That’s because no matter how great your furniture and walls look inside, if they can’t get past the lack of imagination and poor curb appeal outside, it won’t matter.

Make sure your shrubs are trimmed and not blocking windows and opportunities for natural light. Add color with freshly potted flowers and plants. Manicure your lawn and ensure there are no weed gardens and all mulch is in place.

A stunning landscape can make a buyer automatically assume and be ready for an equally stunning house.

  1. Ditch the Clutter

When prepping the interior of your home, you don’t leave junk everywhere. The same should be said for the outside. Streamline your exterior by removing evidence of a busy family life such as garden tools, bikes, toys, and trash cans. You’ll also want to remove any extraneous furniture. Keep everything parsed down to the minimum.

  1. Make it Livable

Finally, you’ll want to make a great outdoor living space, if you can. Outdoor rooms are attractive to potential homebuyers. Consider adding a seating area to your deck or creating a barbeque area with a fire pit. A few small items can expand your home’s living space outside, adding to its attraction for buyers.

The reality is that buyers have very little imagination. If your home looks too much like you, then they won’t be able to see themselves in your home. The goal is to make your home a blank slate that they can see fitting into seamlessly.

By focusing on improving your curb appeal, you focus on making a great first impression that will last throughout the buying process. After all, getting buyers in the door is the hardest step. Once they’re inside, your real estate agent and you can take care of the rest.

9 Unique Ways to Decorate Boring Blank Walls

Boring walls driving you bonkers? Try these ideas from our friends at HomeTalk!

An empty wall is like an empty canvas – a missed opportunity. Don’t let your walls sit around undecorated and underwhelming. Instead, try one of these outrageously creative wall decor ideas from innovative Hometalk bloggers. Whether it’s painting the wall, covering the wall, or hanging decor on the wall, all of these ideas will take your blank spaces and make them stop-and-stare beautiful.

Paint a Bold Black Bordered Wall

Image:Jenna/Rain on a Tin Roof

One step up from the ordinary painted accent wall, this bold bordered wall demands your full attention, making it the perfect place to hang your gallery wall or display your favorite piece of furniture. You can use more subdued colors for a less intense statement wall or brighter colors on a darker base. (Here’s how to do it)

Turn It into a Watercolor Masterpiece

Image:Kellie/Design Asylum

This unique painting technique will turn your blank wall into a piece of art. Give that empty space a watercolor-style makeover, with different paint colors blending and mixing into each other, for a totally serene and relaxing theme. (Tutorial here)

Create a Wall-Wide Photo Gallery

Image:Amber/Amber Oliver in the Loop

There are many different ways to create a gallery wall, but instead of designating a small section of your wall for photos, let your gallery span your entire wall, from corner to corner. This layout lets you add even more pictures, plus it redesigns the wall around it, instead of simply hanging on it. (Get the how-to here)

Plank a Herringbone Accent Wall

Image:Amy/Always Never Done

Use beautiful reclaimed wooden planks to cover one smaller wall of your bathroom or bedroom, to get this very cozy cottage look. Different types and stains of wood will make all the difference, so make sureyou choose a wood color that suits the room and decor. (Here’s how to do it)

Or Faux Plank a Full Wall

Image:Patra Jones

If planking with wood sounds like more effort or trouble than you’re interested in, fake it! You can cover an entire wall in thin vinyl wood strips that look just like the real thing. They’re easier to put up and much simpler to care for and clean. (This is how)

Add a Metal Gate Feature Made from Door Mats

Image:Kimberly/Saving More Than Me

Metal gates are a pretty antique feature and they look truly lovely when hung on display, but they can be tough to come by and expensive when you do. Instead of searching for a real salvaged gate, check your local home and garden store (or Dollar Store) for a pretty latticed rubber mat and turn it into a gate! (Get directions here)

Paint One Wall to Look Like Whitewashed Brick

Image:Cat/Pocketful of Posies

Some lucky homeowners get to enjoy real brick walls, but for the rest of us, there are a number of options to fake the look. Plastic brick paneling is a great way to go, but you can create a beautiful brick look using nothing but paint! This clever crafter used different shades of light brick hues and created an amazing accent wall. (Here’s how to get the look)

Cover It In a Large Sheet of Fabric

Image:Leigh Anne/Houseologie

For a super simple wall cover that doesn’t include repainting, striping, or any work too exhausting, try covering an entire wall in fabric! You can turn fabric into a patterned and pretty textured wall paper by simply sticking it up to your blank wall with fabric starch! (Tutorial here)

Stencil Metallic Details All Over It

How To DecorateBlank Walls

Image:Albion/Albion Gould

Stencils are a favorite among DIYers, and why not? They’re easy to use and they make anyone paint like a perfectionist. But to make your stenciled look even more effective and eye-catching, use metallic or metallic tinted paint! Giving your wall a patterned shimmer is a sure way to make it looks its best. (Get directions here)

For tons more amazing DIY wall decor ideas, check out the wall decor page on Hometalk!

How to Personalize Your Outdoor Space

Transform your patio, deck or outdoor room into a personal oasis that reflects your special sense of style.

As the temperatures rise and the days get longer, it’s time to create an outdoor space that’s a welcoming extension of your home. The inside of your home is a reflection of your style, and your outdoor space should be no different. Struggling with how to bring your design taste outdoors in a way that’s unique to you? With a few special touches, you can transform any patio, deck or outdoor room into a personal oasis that reflects your special sense of style.

Choose Furniture Based on Size and Lifestyle

To get started, consider the size and function of your space to select the right furniture. Whether you have a huge backyard complete with a large patio for alfresco dining or a small balcony in a city apartment, make your outdoor space completely your own by focusing on how you can enjoy it most within the space limitations. For example, your balcony space may not support a dining area, but it might comfortably fit two lounge chairs and a bistro table, perfect for outdoor dining.

If you’re looking to create a cozy, personal getaway to curl up with a book, choose a few chairs, a side table and a chaise lounge. If you love to host outdoor parties during the spring and summer months, consider adding a full outdoor dining set, multiple lounge chairs and even an outdoor bar cart. If you want a place for a large family to gather under the stars, choose a sectional. Everyone’s outdoor style is different, so think about how you envision using the space. Start with what you need, and know that you can always add pieces as your needs change.

Select Accents that Speak to Your Decorating Style

Once you’ve chosen outdoor furniture and decided how you’ll use your space, you get to have some fun decorating! This is where you can truly let your personality come through and give your outdoor space the fun touches that will make it shine. Here are the elements to consider:

Colors. Start by choosing your favorite color scheme. If you like bright colors, go for a bold combination of yellows, blues or reds. Navy is a great option for a poolside retreat. For a contemporary look, blues, whites and greys all blend well. Love a minimalist style? You can’t go wrong with classic black and white.

Textures. With your color palette in mind, search for outdoor rugs and textiles that create a cohesive look. Then, add finishing touches such as copper lanterns, twinkling string lights, stylish planters or metal wall art. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s something you really love and that feels personal.

Add One-of-a-Kind Elements

Of course, no space is complete without a few special touches. You probably don’t want to subject family photos or treasured souvenirs to the elements, but you can still personalize your outdoor space with decor pieces that hold special meaning. Choose touches like a hand-painted birdhouse or homemade musical wind chime. If you have a green thumb, plant your favorite flowers in planters for a sweet reminder every time you see them. However you choose to decorate, you’ll know yours is a one-of-a-kind outdoor space.

How to Keep Your Pets Stress-Free During a Move


Guest post by Laura McHolm

If you are moving this summer you probably already feel the stresses of moving, but have you thought about what your four-legged family member may be feeling? Dogs and pets do feel the stresses of a move and often even more stress than their human companions are feeling.
Imagine: you can’t read, understand all of the chatter around you and all you see is the chaos of boxes. Your home is in an upheaval plus there are stressed out humans everywhere. Sounds even more stressful, right? That’s why it is vital to take special care of your furry friends during the moving process.

Moving doesn’t have to be a dog-gone cat-astrophy. The good news is that with a paw-ful of wise tips you can ease the trauma on your pets. Here are ten vet approved tricks that have been to keep Fido and Fluffy cared for during the moving process:

1. Before Moving Day

Become familiar with pet rules and regulations. Landlords and homeowners’ associations may have specific pet rules. Become familiar with your new area’s leash laws, pet ordinances and/or pet licensing requirements. Your pet may need additional vaccinations, medications or certain certificates depending on where you are moving. A call to the local animal control facility should answer your questions.

2. Talk to Your Current Vet

Your veterinarian is a great resource. If you have an animal that dislikes traveling, your vet can suggest behavior modification techniques or medication that can make traveling less stressful for your pet. When talking to your vet, also discuss getting Fluffy or Fido micro-chipped, a vital step in reuniting pets with their owners. Make sure the pet’s microchips information is tied to a cell phone number that will move with you.

3. Find a New Vet

Find a new vet in your new area before moving day. Your current vet may be able to make recommendations for colleagues he or she knows in your new area. When finding a new vet, it is recommended to set up an appointment as soon as you move in order to get established. It always important to make sure you are comfortable with their practice before they are needed in an emergency.

4. Get Medical Records

Before you leave your old home, make sure you get a copy of all of your pet’s medical records to give to your new vet and be sure to find the closest emergency animal hospital and keep that phone number handy.

5. Update Your Address

Don’t forget to have new identification tags with your new address and phone number made for your pet’s collar, and if your pet has an identification microchip, remember to update your contact information in the database.

6. Keep Things Normal

Instead of pulling an all-nighter to pack, try to pack over a long period of time so that your pet thinks everything is normal. This will keep their stress level down. If you are moving with cats, it can help to bring out their carriers out a few a weeks before the move. Put their favorite treats and toys inside their carriers so they can get used to it before the big moving day. Don’t pack the food away! Keep your pet’s food, water, bowls, medication and any other important supplies (like that favorite squeaky toy) off the moving truck and with you.

7. Moving Day

During the actual moving day, where boxes and furniture are being moved, pets should be removed. Find a friend who wouldn’t mind pet sitting or find a place away from all the noise of moving such as a doggy day care or cat care center. If you can visit them during a spare moment, it can help reassure the pets that nothing is going on. Keeping pets locked away in a room during moving day can make them anxious from all the noise and new people that might be in your home. If you must keep them locked away, find a quiet room, water bowl and put a HUGE sign on the door.

8. Travel with Your Pet

Unless your move is long distance or international, your pet will likely be traveling by car with you nearby. By driving them yourself you can care for them and give them a sense of familiarity as they move. To prepare your pet for this trip, drive for short distances with your pet to prepare them before the final move. Also, remember to plan ahead for any special carriers your pets may need for transportation. There are even special seat belts for large dogs.

9. Air Travel

If you are moving your pet by air or internationally, check all rules and regulations far ahead of the day you plan to leave and remember to keep your pet’s special documentation at hand.

10. After Moving Day

Don’t let pets roam around the neighborhood until they are acclimated. Take them out on a leash to explore their new territory and show them how to get home. If you let them out in a new place right away, they might get lost or run away due to stress. Make sure your pet’s new identification tags are secured to their collar.

Now snuggle up with your furry friend and enjoy the new home!