29 posts categorized "Home Improvement"


Organizing Tips for June

(Illustration from RealSimple.com) 

 June is the busy month of weddings, graduations and outdoor activities.   The best organizing approach is to work in the areas that are already requiring time.  Since it is the end of the school year and the children or grandchildren will be around, one subject to consider is their spaces and the keepsakes you have been saving for them.  Of course travel is on the mind of most of us, too.

An avalanche of school papers may be arriving for you to handle this month.  My best advice is to
let the child decide which to keep.  Keepsake boxes or binders can be used for these.  Give
one to each child and let it be the only place for special saved items.  If it gets too full, let the child decide what to keep and what can go.  Resist the urge to get more or bigger boxes.  Think
about how many things you really need from your childhood to remember the good times.  Of course there are items they have made that you will store with your keepsakes, but be selective. 

Children now have time to go through their rooms and eliminate items they have not used or no longer want or like.  Clothing that no longer fits can be sorted for sale or donation.  Children grow
quickly and by fall most of what they wore during the past year will not fit.  Thankfully not much variety in clothing is need for the summer months.  If you are storing them for younger siblings, remember to label them as to sex, size and season.

Children need limits on everything except love and affection.  They should not be allowed to
collect an unlimited amount of matchbox cars, Barbie clothes, t-shirts, flip-flops or anything else.  Let the space determine how much can be easily organized in the given space and draw the line
there.  You will be teaching them good organizing habits and a lesson that there are limits in life.  Should they want a new item, remind them something they already have must go.  This is the “one in—one out” rule that we all should follow.

Too many of anything means none of them are special.  This includes collections such as china,
dolls, salt and pepper shakers, stamps, etc.  If space is limited and many of these items are stored in the attic or closets, consider saving only those that have special meaning and letting the
remainder go to other family members or donate or sell them to anyone else who will appreciate them and has room for them.  Storing keepsakes out of site does not honor or respect the memories that go with them.  Put those that you choose to keep in a place where they can be enjoyed and given the honor and respect they deserve.

Photographs are another source of keepsake clutter.  Save only the best from each activity.  No one needs 100 pictures of the beach vacation.  A few special pictures are all that is needed to capture that special time.  There are lots of ways to sort and save them in colorful scrapbooks and online in creative formats.  I am not a scrapbooker, but I do admire the projects and products available from Creative Memories and other sources.

Make a point of enjoying the outdoors while the weather is nice.  Keep outdoor umbrellas closed when not in use.  It will extend their usefulness and prevent damage during high winds or thunderstorms.  I have personal experience with this one.

And speaking of storms, this is the beginning of hurricane season.  If you live in an area affected
by hurricanes, high winds or rising waters, you should review the list of necessary emergency items and secure those now.  Be sure to update your household inventory.  More information on it can be found on a previous Blog I posted:  http://organizingtipsfromorderlyplaces.blogspot.com/2009/06/pictures-for-inventory.html

If you will be traveling this summer, create a permanent travel kit with activities for yourself and family.  If it is only used for travel, the items will appear to be almost new and more interesting. 

If you travel often and if you have storage space, create a permanent supply box or bag with items you always need.  Some of these may be duplicates of items you use everyday at home but you will not need to disturb those.

A permanent travel checklist that you keep on your computer or in a convenient notebook is a great strategy to prevent forgetting items you always need.  I keep one just for quilt retreats, my favorite travel experience! 

For information on organizing your suitcase, check out this article I posted last summer  http://hrblogs.typepad.com/homeandgarden/2011/05/organizing-your-suitcase.html

 If you have questions or suggestions, please feel free to contact us through our website:  www.OrderlyPlaces.com



Hot in Style Spring 2012

Are you wondering what is hot in style right now, well we have found the answer...Birds! Home accents are paying homage to our fine feathered friends. You can find them on Rugs, Lamps, Pillows, Bowls, Ceramic Pieces and atop mirrors. So go out and get your bird on people!

Here are a few examples where you will see the bird trend at its finest.

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Transforming your Bathroom

Want to achieve a fresh new look for you bathroom, simple embellishments can do this without breaking the bank. The elements that will pull your design together are hardware and accessories. They are the crowning touches! The old rule no longer applies; your fixtures and hardware don’t all have to match. You can mix different materials like glass, crystal, brass, metals (bronze being a top choice) and textures together.


The overall design trend is moving towards a more transitional look which is very evident in hardware choices, focusing on clean simple lines, moving away from excessive detail and ornamentation. One of the manufactures classifies it as having an “Industrial Chic Touch with a Rustic Country Elegance.”

To make your design stand more apart from the crowd, change out your built in cabinetry for a free-standing decorative vanity. It’s like having a piece of furniture in your bathroom, giving it a more personal and original feeling.

Don’t forget about a new light fixture and if your budget allows, flooring. Vinyl flooring can mimic tiles and there are some very reasonably priced tiles to choose from in the market.

Making one or more of these changes can make a huge difference in your Bathroom.


Grace Ridley



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Unusual Designing Creative Ideas- Turning a Dresser into a Mini Bar

Such a Great Idea! Who said you have to have a built in bar. Just create one yourself all you need is an old dresser. Then vamp it up with some color, greenery and your personal touch. You can’t go wrong with this look!

Source: bhg.com via Tara on Pinterest


Arranging ArtWork

As with your accessories, apply the same Basic Knowledge when arranging your Art.

  • Over the fireplace, hang one work of art or a group of multiple pieces of art work


  • Strive for a loose circular or oval outline when grouping.  Avoid stair stepped arrangements. They draw your eye sharply up or down, rather than around.


  • Leave one to two inches between multiple works.


  • Position Art at eye level


  • Arrange multiple artwork on the floor first


  • A single painting hung above a sofa should extend approximately two-thirds the sofa’s width and be placed  8 to 10 inches above the sofa. If print is narrower, add smaller pieces to make a larger unit.


Layout Principles

  1. Easier to hang odd number pieces, such as three or five, but even numbers can be successful too.
  2. These are blueprints for simple displays:
    1. Horizontal Axis- works best for three pieces of art. Hang center first, then flank.
    2. Vertical Axis- ideal for four pieces. Hang two pieces on one side of vertical axis and two on the other.  Offset horizontal spacing to avoid creating a cross of negative space.
    3. Perimeter- Establish imaginary perimeter for the space and hang pieces so their outer edges touch that perimeter. Avoid creating a cross of negative space in the center.





One of the last and most enjoyable steps in the decorating process.

Beginner Basics

  • Odd-Number Rule- Group uneven number of pieces together; three or five usually
  • Include larger pieces with smaller ones to add drama to an arrangement

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  • Use both symmetrical and asymmetrical balance to visually organize objects
    • Example: Matching lamps at either end of the table or mantel visually ground a collection of vases arranged asymmetrical in its center.

    Blog accessorizing

  • Use The Designer Formula: Shiny, Matte, Tall and Flat.
    • Example:  Tall shiny candlesticks, a round vase and a matte finish plate.
  • Repeat a color in at least three objects in three areas of the room
    • Examples: Lamps, Pillows, and an Area Rug.
  • Leave unequal space between objects in a group- it allows each one to be seen clearly and provides needed rest points.
  • When adding or changing present accessories around, start out fresh- that is by removing all accessories and then studying your room. Start with one piece and then add one by one.

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 Novice Mistakes

  • Under accessorizing a room
  • Trying to pick out everything in one frenzied shopping trip
  • Using accessories that are too small or all the same size.

If you have and questions about accessorizing your home or office or are intrested in finding the right accessories for your home call us at 595-5131 or e-mail as at unusualdesigns@verizon.net



A Little Energy Geekiness and Just in Time for Christmas!

Nest 2
                As an energy geek, I love my toys.  I have a lot of energy saving toys like a thermal imaging camera, hygrometers, smoke sticks, home energy monitors, and a combustion analyzer to name a few.  I love playing with my toys.  The home energy monitor is a great toy to teach you how to save money because it shows you what you are pulling off the grid in real time.  My monitor is from TED (The Energy Detective) and it cost me about $200 a few years back.  It came with some great software that allows me to hook it up to my computer and produce some graphs.  I have one qualm with my monitor and that is that my computer has to be up and running in order to use the graphing portion of the software.  That means it has to be up and running, which means it is on even though I am not using it.  In other words, I am wasting energy to save energy.

                 I have found a solution to my problem, and just in time for Christmas!  And, of course, it is from Apple.                  Apple has proven itself as a company that completely changes the playing field in whatever field it chooses to enter, whether that is music, computers or cell phones.  Now Apple is indirectly completely changing the field of thermostats. 

                Two former employees of Apple,  Matt Rogers and Tony Fadell, have teamed up together to use the same type of engineering design that they learned at Apple and apply it to the field of energy conservation with their new firm NEST.  The NEST Learning Thermostat has all of the features that make Apple products so appealing to the masses.  It is simple, incredibly user friendly (something not many people say about their thermostat) and the best part is that it’s software is upgradable over time.  That means that this already incredible thermostat will do even more in the future which is mind boggling to think about.

                The design of the thermostat is a simple circular touch screen with no other buttons, very reminiscent of the original iPods with the single circular button controls.  To raise or lower the temperature in the house you just grab the outside of the round thermostat and turn clockwise or counter-clockwise.  Each time you make an adjustment the thermostat remembers what day of the week and time of the day that you made the change to learn what your preferences are for particular days and times.  No actual programming on your part.  No endless series of menus to flip through to simply change the temperature for Saturday morning at 8 a.m.  This is sheer brilliance.

                To make it even better, the thermostat has a little green leaf that appears on the circular face to tell you when you have made a selection that will help you save money.  Nothing like a little feedback to help you make better choices.  This amazing little device is also equipped with an occupancy sensor which knows when you are coming and going so it can make adjustments to the temperature for you.  It even learns at what time you typically go to bed and makes adjustments for that as well.

                Have guests coming in from out of town in the middle of the day and need to warm things up at your house for them?  No problem.  Just access your NEST thermostat from your cell phone or office computer and change the temperature remotely.  You have a nice cozy house to greet your guests and you didn’t have to run home to do it.

                But the greatest feature of all, this thing is a mini energy monitor without the hard wired computer connection 

                I love things that help me save money.  I especially like devices that save me money without even having to think about it ( Nest claims 30 % on your energy bills).  Check out the video for yourself at www.nest.com.  I know you will be impressed, I sure was.  These things can be preordered now for $250 and Best Buy will begin shipping them next month.  So, you think there will be people lining up at midnight to get new thermostats like they do for Apple cell phones?  I think I might just have to do that. 


Understanding the Differences between Designing and Decorating


Glove 1Designing vs. Decorating Glove 2

Which experience do you want?

There is a difference between the two. Decorating only touches the surface of your project. It is just a piece of the pie, without the design part leading and dominating the process. Decorating has a tunnel approach and concentrates on the frill and fluff. It’s the ending to the process, not the beginning.

Designing is responsible for the Interior Design which is the most important aspect of the Design Process), function and decoration of your space.

Designing embodies these Aspects:

  • A plan for your space 
  • Visual presentations
  • Knowledge of Styles, Materials and products that are used to create and furnish your room 
  • Knowledge of how Texture, Color, Lighting and other factors combine and interact
  • Understands structural requirements of plans and safety issues to name a few 

 Designing considers the whole pie and decorating only ¼ of the pie

Here are some examples of Designing , you will see different textures, colors, fabrics, and styled materials that were put together to give  each room  the "designed" principle.

- Notice the textured walls, the usage of a piece of art rather than a regular painting, and the blending of fabric incoporated in the furniture and winbdow treatments.Img0246


- Designing invloves all the detail the was put into the tile in this fireplace


Want to see more designing pictures go to Unusual Designs and see want type of designing fits your needs.


"Filling Your Room with Furniture"

Need a change and don’t know where to start? Ask yourself certain questions to help you Access your needs and the Function taking place in the space.


For example, if it is your Dining Room-

  •     Do you entertain a lot?

  •     How much seating do you need?

  •      What atmosphere do you want?

  •       More casual or formal?


 Ask Yourself

·         Do you want all new?

o   So are you starting with an empty room?

·         Are you looking to replace a piece or two filling in an empty or sparse area?

When needing to fill the whole room, you can choose to only buy the essential pieces at the best quality you can afford and acquire other pieces overtime. It gives your room an evolved and layered look. Don’t purchase complete sets. To get a designer look you must Mix it up. Introduce different accent pieces that co-ordinate with your other furniture.


                                                                            What You Need To Consider 

·         Traffic Patterns: Points of entry and exit.

o   You want to be able to move comfortably through your room making sure you have enough space between your furniture.

·         Focal Point: Every room should have one







Layout/Floor Plan 

·         Draw your room and pieces of furniture to scale.

o   The most frequent mistake made is getting furniture too large or small for the room.

o   Drawing it to scale is a must!

·         Having a floor plan allows you the flexibility of moving the pieces around to see possible or multiple configurations for your room.




The design process is very multi layered. It takes time and effort. A professional Interior Designer can make the process much easier and headache free for you.

We would love to know how you filled your room with furniture, you can contact us by stoping by our store, Unusual Designs in Newport News, VA, through our website alwaysunusuldesigns.com, or e-mail us at unusualdesigns@verizon.net. We hope our information is useful when decroating your home.

Unusual Designs


Mercury in Your CFL's

                I have been telling everyone that I don’t have any incandescent lights at my house at all.  Years ago we made the switch to CFL’s and we love them.  But I recently found myself changing out a light bulb and I realized that it was an incandescent and when I replaced it I dug around in the basement and found that box of old incandescent bulbs and I replaced it with another incandescent.  Are you shocked?  Someone like me who touts saving money on my electric bills and pushes CFL’s on everyone I meet and here I am replacing a burnt out incandescent with another incandescent?

                I know it sounds crazy, but I have found a use for those old incandescent and they are doing exactly what I want, producing heat.  We raise chickens.  I have two coops full of chickens.  I don’t know if my chickens actually get cold or not, they can’t tell me.  But just to be on the safe side I install a light on a photocell in their coops so they can have a source of heat through the night. 

                As much sense as switching to CFL’s makes, I still run into people who are resistant to making the change.  One of the reasons I hear against CFL’s is the fact that they contain mercury and that could be hazardous if they should happen to break.  You can rest assured that if one of your CFL bulbs should break, your house will not turn into a superfund site.

                CFL’s do contain mercury.  In fact, according to the energystar.gov website, they contain 4mg a piece.  This number is going down and as recently as this past year one manufacturer had gotten the mercury content of their bulbs down to under 1 mg.  Advancements in the technology are increasing rapidly.  Usage of the light bulb binds the mercury to the interior of the glass of the light bulb.  So even if you did break one, the entire 4 mg isn’t going to even make it onto your floor.  There are guidelines for cleaning up a broken CFL on the energystar.gov website, most of which is common sense like wear gloves and wipe with a cloth that you will not be using again.

                To help you better understand how much is 4 mg, think of the thermometers that we used when we were kids.  You know the ones without batteries.  They contained 500 mg of mercury which would be like 125 CFL bulbs.  I remember breaking one in college chem lab and chasing the little balls of mercury around the lab and I lived to tell about it.

                The single largest source of mercury in our environment is from the production of electricity.  When you burn coal, the largest source of energy in the U.S., you pump mercury into the atmosphere.  This mercury is then rained down onto the surface of the earth and will generally collect in our water bodies after the next rainstorm.  Once in our rivers and lakes, it is absorbed by the fish population which is then caught and eaten by humans.  Fish is then the largest source of mercury ingested by humans, not CFL’s.  Are you still eating fish?

                There is a great table on the energystar.gov website that compares an incandescent to a CFL.  Let’s assume that both of these two light bulbs burn for 8000 hours.  During that time period, the incandescent will use much more electricity because it takes more Watts for an incandescent to put out the same amount of lumens (measurement of light) as a CFL.  The amount of mercury released into the atmosphere from the coal burned to illuminate those two light bulbs will be 1.2 mg for the CFL and 5.5 mg for the Incandescent.  Now let’s say that you do a very bad thing after those 8000 hours and you don’t recycle your CFL, but rather throw it into the landfill, crushing it and releasing the mercury within it.  This would add another .44 mg bringing the total contamination to 1.6 mg while the incandescent bulb remains at 5.5 mg since it contains no mercury.  As you can see 5.5 mg released due to the use of the incandescent is more than 4 times the amount of mercury released by the CFL.  And you can even reduce that amount further by disposing of the bulb properly by taking it to a CFL recycling center like one of your big box hardware stores.

                So you see that using a CFL is better for you and the environment in every way.  So go ahead and change out those old light bulbs, even if they are still working and put in some CFL’s and start saving yourself some money!  You can tuck those old ones away for chickens.  That’s about all they’re good for.