Most people have heard of the ancient Chinese concept of Feng Shui, but not many people know the ins and outs of the very detailed process.
It can be intimidating for someone unfamiliar, but once you’ve mastered the basics you can learn how to make Feng Shui work for you.
You can incorporate as little or as much of the theory as you want in your space, based on what you’re hoping to achieve—be it more light, better energy, or more open space!
There are three basic principles of Feng Shui that are important to master for beginners—ch’i, polarity, and bagua.
The idea that negative and positive energy are movable throughout a space is one of the most important principles of Feng Shui. Furniture, color, and other elements are key in pushing this energy along.
There are five elements at play in Feng Shui practice—water, wood, metal, earth, and fire—each has its own important role and meaning, and must be in balance to achieve good Feng Shui.
Cardinal directions are the last important piece of the Feng Shui puzzle, and are each assigned a particular area of life.
North: career (water)
North-west: helpful people (metal)
North-east: spiritual growth (earth)
West: creativity (metal)
South-west: love & marriage (earth)
South: fame (fire)
South-east: money (wood)
East: health (wood)
Put into practice
The bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen are among the most important rooms in your home to practice Feng Shui, according to tradition. In addition to utilizing the basic principles of polarity and bagua, ch’i can best be achieved through decluttering your home and bringing in plenty of natural light.
It’s also important to keep in mind that the various elements interact with one another. For example, wood supports fire, as fire supports earth, and water supports wood. In the same way, the elements may interact negatively with one another: earth weakens water, which puts down fire, and fire melts metal.
Whether or not the weather outside is turning frightful, add some warmth and spirit to your home this winter with these four fresh, simple themes. No matter which you choose, it will add a cohesive, seasonal style to your home’s interior!
Silver palace with a pop
Use mirrors to play up silver’s reflective sheen, and add a variety of bright, sparkling accents like crystals and glittery vases. For added contrast, mix shades of grey with a punchy pop of color like coral or rich fuchsia.
Details and color palette: Mirrors, glass, silver votives and trays, crystals,silver, white, grey, and a pop of coral/red
Outdoorsy and natural
Focus on the colors you see outdoors. This palette could change drastically depending on your location. From lush greenery, branches, and pine cones to starfish, seashells, and driftwood—bring the outside in, and pair with matte white accents.
Details and color palette: Anything from outside, wooden frames, white votives, lush greens, chocolate, and matte white accents
Warm, comforting, and nostalgic
Get cozy with a variety of candles that vary in height and intensity. Add a touch of nostalgia by using vintage ice skates and sleds for an outdoor display. Take advantage of texture with cozy sweater material, burlap, and branch accents.
Details and color palette: Sweater material, burlap, gold votives and trays, winter whites, soft creams, and warm golds
Playful, bright, and frozen
Perfect for kids of all ages. Have fun with characters like penguins, polar bears, and snowmen. Use your imagination by using jars filled with marshmallows and sugar cubes as decorations. Frame fun-filled photos of winter.
Details and color palette: Fake snowballs, bright bulbs, fun winter characters, bright aquas and blues, and clear-to-bright whites
Moving into a new house is more than exciting. You may even want to scream your excitement from the rooftop. Although that’s an option, throwing a housewarming party is slightly more practical. Not only does a housewarming party provide you with the opportunity to show off your new space, but also to share in that joy with your family and friends.
Extend the invite.
When it comes to a housewarming shindig, regular party etiquette can be thrown to the wayside. Instead of keeping the guest list to just close friends and family members, extend the invite to neighbors and friends of friends. Inviting new people will help broaden your circle of friends, helping you feel right at home. However, be mindful of the season. If you’re hosting a party during the summer, your backyard can work well for the extra space needed for a large guest list. During the winter, you may want to reconsider extending the invite due to space constraints.
Create a theme.
When it comes to determining the theme, it doesn’t have to be elaborate. In fact, a simple theme can make planning the menus and decorations so much easier than not having one at all. Consider coupling your housewarming party with a holiday. For instance, if you go with a Labor Day theme you can use patriotic decorations and serve delicious barbecue fare. Or create a winter wonderland with festive snow-and-ice themed treats.
Skip the grand tour.
Of course your guests will want to see your new space! Instead of giving one large grand tour, aim for individual house tours to people as you meet them. This will allow you to have a one-on-one chat with everyone. Often, the hardest part of hosting is making sure that you mingle with all guests—individual tours help to eliminate this issue.
Offer bite-sized appetizers.
Who doesn’t love finger foods? To keep the vibe of the party more casual, skip a sit-down dinner and offer a variety of appetizers. Displaying the finger foods on a few tables throughout your home or on the kitchen island will encourage mingling. Be sure to label each food so guests with allergies will be able to identify what they can safely consume.
Display a guestbook.
Set up a vibrant guestbook and place it by the front door. Be sure to ask your guests to sign it and add their contact information. Typically, a few guests will go above and beyond and provide new homeowner and neighborhood tips. Not only will a guestbook act as a tangible memory keeper, it will help you put a name to a face.
This summer, create a memorable housewarming party, but don’t forget to stop and enjoy the fresh start that comes with your new home.
In most parts of the US, summer is an extremely humid season. Aside from making our hair frizzy, high levels of humidity can actually be hazardous to our health—not to mention the condition of our homes—causing problems with mold, mildew, and allergies.
If you’re experiencing extreme humidity levels in your home, here are a few simple solutions to help you combat it.
Keep air flowing.
Stagnant air is one of the most uncomfortable feelings, and can make getting a good night’s rest near impossible. Ensure the air in your home is moving by using fans to circulate it, or turning your central air conditioner to its dry setting to remove dampness.
Purchase a dehumidifier (or make one).
Dehumidifiers are specially designed to remove excess moisture from the air. Depending on what type you purchase, you can also remove other toxins and impurities, too. If you don’t want to splurge, though, you can make your own DIY dehumidifier by drilling holes in the bottom of a large bucket, placing inside another bucket, and filling the inside with rock salt or unscented cat litter. Change the litter two to three times per month.
Avoid introducing unnecessary moisture.
Taking long showers or running the washing machine frequently will bring a lot of added moisture into the air. On particularly humid days, try hanging clothes outside to dry, and keeping showers quick. If your home is more humid because of a leak, it’s a good idea to run a dehumidifier even after the leak is cleaned up, too.
Open the windows.
If it’s less humid outside than it is inside your home, improve ventilation by keeping your windows open. Natural air flow will help alleviate some of the damp air, and circulate new air throughout the house.
Don’t over-water house plants.
Having an abundance of plants in your home can create a tropical-like environment. After watering, be sure there is no stagnant water at the bottom or on top of the plants, and if possible, move some of the plants outdoors temporarily.
If you’ve purchased a home with an existing fireplace or are interested in installing one, there are a few things you should know. There are a handful of different fireplace types—each with its own unique maintenance and operating requirements—that homeowners need to be well-versed in for safety and cosmetic purposes.
Looking for a traditional type of fireplace? A woodburning version may be right for you. It requires a chimney (which adds on maintenance costs) and you’ll need to keep logs stored away in a dry place for burning.
TIP: Chimneys should be inspected and swept at least once a year.
An electric fireplace requires less maintenance than the woodburning variety, and it plugs into the wall similarly to a space heater. It doesn’t create flames or smoke, and therefore it does not require a chimney.
TIP: Electric is best for people who want to heat their home without the smell or air pollution of a real fire.
In a gas fireplace, natural gas is burned in place of wood. Most use artificial logs or stones in place of natural wood logs for a modern appearance. Ventless gas fireplaces do not require a chimney, though, for safety reasons, it’s best to stick with a vented option.
TIP: The best option for easy maintenance while keeping the appearance of a traditional fireplace.
An ethanol fireplace is one of the most modern types of fireplaces, with fuel being placed within burners inside the fireplace. Users can adjust the temperature and can choose from a variety of designs. Maintenance is easy, too: just replace fuel tanks as needed.
TIP: Easy installation and lightweight materials make this a great option for wall mounting.
After a long summer, the crisp fall air is the perfect invitation you need to deep-clean your house. From the kitchen pantry to the patio, this checklist will help prepare your house for the colder weather that’s to come.
For many Americans, the winter winds are about to start whipping—making it much harder to keep our homes cozy and warm. Instead of layering up in your parka and hat while indoors, heed these simple insulating tips that can turn your drafty space into a haven from the chilly season ahead.
Conserve the heat you have.
If you’ve ever spent hours trying to heat up a specific room in your home only to leave the door open and let the cool air rush in again, you aren’t alone. Pay particular attention to the rooms you spend the most time in and focus on making those rooms as comfortable as you can. Have a central HVAC system? Close vents in rooms you don’t frequent so your system can work harder to warm the rooms you use, and don’t forget to keep those doors closed!
Make it brighter.
It might seem like a room darkening shade and closing the blinds are your best bet for keeping warmth inside, but letting in natural light is a great way to have the sun do the hard work for you (and your heating system). Don’t waste time and money running your electric bill into the ground—instead, make the most of the sun’s warmth and let the light in.
Buy (or DIY) a draft-stopper.
If you’re looking for a cheap and effective solution to put an end to pesky drafts, a draft-stopper is the way to go. These logs of fabric help keep heat in a room by eliminating the open space under a door, and are super simple to make yourself or buy at just about any hardware or home improvement store. Place one at front and back entrances that might experience the coolest air, or at the door in rooms you frequent.
Tip: Make your own draft stopper simply by sewing a piece of fabric into a long log (as long as your door, leaving one end open for stuffing. Fill with sand or unscented cat litter, and sew the open end closed.
Winterize the windows.
One of the biggest contributors to a chilly house are drafty windows. If you live in an older space with windows that have not recently been replaced, consider purchasing plastic window wrap that can be blow dried to act as a vacuum seal around gaps in the panes. Similar to a lid on a pot of soup, the plastic works to trap heat from escaping and working its way in.
Modern technology has made its way into almost every aspect of life; it has especially taken precedence in the work environment. Technology, while helpful, is sometimes disruptive to the cohesive office design. Using these tips, take your technology into your own hands, and dress it up to your own design!
Three Techy Tips
These three fresh ideas can take your workstation from cluttered and boring to organized and artistic! Keep cords together by tying them with ribbon or utilizing products such as Cable Turtles. Keep your phone and tablet within arms reach by finding a charging station that fits the theme of your office and placing it right by the computer. If you decide that you want to keep these electronics out of the way, decorative boxes or clever designs can help them blend in with the rest of your desk. Find the system that works best for you, and liven up your office decor!
Corral your phone and tablet into a designated docking station
Phones and tablets need to be readily accessible, so why not pretty up their display? Go modern with a sleek dock that also charges the device, or use one that’s more sculptural and complex for an artsy display.
Dedicate a decorative box as a charging station
For those who feel that charging is better left unseen, dedicate a decorative box as a charging station. Punch a hole in the back so that you can include a power strip—just make sure there is enough ventilation so that the strip doesn’t overheat.
Disguise a tablet behind a book
Pick a pretty book that is slightly larger than your tablet. Using a utility knife, carefully carve out the pages, and slide the cover around the device. Let it stand as a focal piece, or decorate with some more reference books that you use on a daily basis.
Other than adding a fresh coat of paint, hanging pictures and decorations can be the easiest way to make your house feel like home. But knowing how to hang those items can be a different story. From plaster to drywall, there are different tools, methods, and best practices depending on the type of walls you’re working with.
Don’t worry! We’ve curated a list of the most common wall types and the materials and tips you’ll need to get started. Here’s to happy hanging!
DrywallMaterials for Light Items:
Additional Materials for Heavy Items:
Before you start hammering or drilling, be sure to measure where you want the object to hang, and mark the area with a pencil. Once you’ve marked your spot, hammer the nail at a 45° angle, hang the item, and check that it is level. For heavier items, you’ll need to use a stud finder so you can hammer directly into a stud and an anchor for added support. Once you’ve marked your spot, using the drill bit, drill a guide hole in the wall slightly smaller than the anchor. Hammer in the wall anchor, and then use the screwdriver to insert the screw—then you’re all set to hang.
Coolant such as mineral oil or water
Carbide- or diamond-tipped drill bit
Hammer wall anchor
As with all wall types, measure where you want the object to hang, and then use a pencil to mark it on painter’s tape. The tape will help protect the tile later in the process. Next, dip the drill bit in the coolant for ten seconds, and then slowly begin drilling. Apply light pressure, and then gradually increase the drill speed until you have reached the desired depth. If the drill bit begins to overheat at any point, simply take it out and dip it in the coolant again. Finally, using a hammer, drive the wall anchor into the wall, then drill in the screw and you’re ready to hang.
PlasterMaterials for Light Items:
Additional Materials for Heavy Items:
Measure where you want the object to hang, and then mark with a pencil. With plaster walls, you’ll want to put a piece of tape under your hole on the wall, like a basket, to catch any discarded plaster. Use another piece of tape to mark the spot where you want to drill. Drill a pilot hole through the tape (to help prevent your plaster from cracking), and hammer in your nail. For heavier items, drill a larger hole for the wall anchor, and then drive in the screw. Finally, hang your item and check that it’s level.
Stone or Brick
Drill with masonry bit
Before you get started, measure where you want the object to hang, and mark the spot with a pencil. Next, use painter’s tape to mark an inch from the tip of the drill bit so you don’t drill too far. Drill the spot you marked, making sure to stop once you reach the tape on the drill bit. Using a hammer, insert the wall anchor into the hole, and then drive in the screw. Hang the object and then make sure it is level.
Drill or hammer
Screw or nail
Before you start hammering away, measure where you want the object to hang, and then mark it with pencil. Using your drill, start a small pilot hole first to help minimize splitting. A nail will suffice for wooden walls, but a screw provides great holding power. Use your selected material, hammer or drill, and then hang your object—checking to ensure it’s level. For thinner wooden walls, such as paneling, follow this same process, but use a wall anchor that will spread out behind the wall.
Virginia designer Sara Hillery set her creative sights on her own family home renovation, with an eye toward a light and airy space with a palette of blue, white, and neutral colors.
What is your background when it comes to design?
I majored in art as an undergrad at the University of Virginia and worked for a local design firm in Richmond. I enjoyed the work that I did there enough to go back to school and get my master of fine arts in interior environments from Virginia Commonwealth University. I worked for Lucas/Eilers in Houston for seven years doing large-scale residential projects and then started my own business after having my first child.
Where did you grow up? How does that experience inform the way you design?
I grew up largely in Richmond, but I spent time in Pennsylvania and Texas. The East Coast’s love of English and Early American history taught me to love brown furniture, especially antiques and classics, like Duncan Phyfe and Sheraton. Texas loves a little more French influence and a more casual environment, so I possess a deep appreciation for a crusty old paint finish and an atelier style. Texas doesn’t have the same history as the East Coast, and there’s a much more modern philosophy of building new history. I think this melting pot of locations forged my love of eclectic environments that aren’t all one style and that tell the story of the clients’ varied interests.
What is your earliest memory of looking at a room and wanting to redesign it?
My mom always let me have input in my room; she even let me choose a cat theme at one point. She has always been crafty and enjoyed a love of homemaking, so design was encouraged in our house.
What traits make you well-suited to be a designer? What have you had to adjust about yourself in this business?
I love being creative, and I look at design as a fun form of problem-solving. I like the challenge of taking a space and making it better. I also really enjoy getting to know people. I’ve had to learn how to be organized so that I can be creative and still run a business.
What types of design feed your creativity on a daily basis?
I am definitely inspired by fashion. I also love seeing other designers’ work, especially designers who are working on projects that are very different than my own. There’s always something to learn from seeing how others design a space.
If you could have a design superpower, what would it be?
The ability to read people’s minds about what they really would like their space to be and look like.
How would you describe your design style?
No matter how modern, casual, or formal my designs are, I always incorporate an element of elegance. At the same time, my style is also practical and flexible.
Tell us about this project. What were you looking to accomplish?
I wanted the design to be affordable and incorporate much of our existing furniture, be child-friendly for our three kids, and have open sight lines for windows and doors so that the house would feel more spacious and flowing and be a place where we could entertain both kids and adults formally and more casually.
What were your first steps in conceptualizing the design of the house?
The first thing we did was line up all the sight lines for natural light. We let that determine the arrangement of the furniture and cabinetry.
Will you talk about the reorientation of the furniture in the family room?
We wanted the cooking fireplace, which is such a unique piece, to serve as the nucleus of the room. We made it into a conversation area and gathering space that purposely doesn’t include a television. I wanted to encourage the art of conversation in this tech-obsessed age.
Where did the inspiration for your color palette originate?
The whole house incorporates a lot of blue, white, and neutral colors so that the design flows from one room to the next. I was inspired by the Texas sky: big, blue, light, airy, and sunny.
What was the biggest challenge?
Light is really important to me, so the low ceiling height, boxy architecture, and small windows were a challenge. We opened up walls to get more light in. I often tend toward light fixtures that incorporate a lot of height, but the ceilings aren’t high enough, so I had to get creative.
The original space had wood paneling in the family room and bedroom. Why did you decide to keep it? How do you feel about the trend of painting over it?
Originally, I thought I was going to paint over it, but I realized that reversing it would be timely and costly. On top of that, the paneling is old heart pine—you can’t get that particular grain anymore, so I felt like there was no going back. I’ve found that stains are more forgiving than paint and are lower maintenance. The paneling is warm and inviting, plus it’s brown, so it acts as a neutral.
What wasn’t working for you in the kitchen, and what were you able to salvage?
We ended up gutting the kitchen: we ripped out all the cabinets, took down walls, and completely changed the layout. The original kitchen had an old, peninsula-style counter and didn’t really work—there was no circular flow. We designed the kitchen with the idea that multiple hands, including little ones, are often preparing meals these days. The modern island design with multizone cooking suits us much better and is more welcoming when we are entertaining. We did salvage the white dishwasher. And we put in pine floors to make the room match with the others and not appear disjointed from the rest of the house.
Is it easier or harder to design your own space versus someone else’s?
Harder! When I work on someone else’s space, I am setting aside the time and really devoting myself to the design process because it’s my job. For my own space, it’s more of an experimental playground. I’m grabbing fifteen minutes here or there and trying to make the design come together.
What is your biggest design pet peeve that you see out in the world or in other people’s houses?
Overscale furniture, because it messes up the balance of the space. There’s a certain zen quality when everything is well-proportioned in a room, even if the colors don’t match perfectly. Sometimes people will have me come and look at a space because it feels “off” and they can’t pinpoint why. It’s often an issue of scale. But I truly welcome and am inspired by all types of design.
What is your philosophy on design and life?
You only have one life. Design (and life) should make you feel good, it should be livable, and it should inspire you to be your better self. That being said, be yourself!
What are some hobbies or passions you pursue other than design?
I love to travel and explore new cultures. I’m also passionate about getting involved with and supporting local parks. And anytime I can support arts causes or other artisans, I’m in.
If you weren’t an interior designer, what would you be?
I used to want to be a doctor, so I would have continued to pursue medicine to improve people’s health. Instead, I get to improve their environment.