Click inside for the weekly home and garden rail, with items on nature-inspired decor, how to prevent clogs in your gutters, a contest to find "funky" bird nests, and more. Or check out the links below:
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Family goes solar: 'It is economically crazy not to'
Alice Coyle: Reveling in my lawn's blades of glory
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Decorating Tip: The lighter side of nature-inspired home decor
If the words "nature-inspired decor" make you think of muted wall hues or overwrought floral fabrics, it's time to rethink your take on this design trend.
Nature-inspired design can certainly be soothing, sedate and traditional, but a plethora of new products and techniques is also bringing the bold, bright and fun side of nature indoors. Whether it's a throw pillow that looks like birch bark or a full wall mural of green bamboo, nature's brighter side is spicing up modern decor.
Here are a few ideas and items to look for:
Wow with wood
Wood has been a beloved design element in home interiors for centuries. But you don't have to invest in expensive hardwood floors. Logs are the latest, and not just in log homes.
From glass tabletops perched delicately atop natural twig and branch bases to a faux wood-grained area rug to plush throw pillows in fabric that mimics the grain of natural wood, you're barking up the right tree by incorporating the look of log into your decor.
Or simply take a stroll in the woods, gather some eye-catching branches, bring them home, tie with your favorite colored ribbon and use them as an accent piece above mantles, windows or doorways.
Way to do a wall
Forget the walls of idyllic woodland scenes that were ubiquitous during the 1970s. Modern nature-inspired murals amplify the graphic qualities and bright hues found when you take a closer look at Mother Nature's artistry.
Zoomed in close-ups of a pebble-filled beach, bright green bamboo stalks and graceful birch trunks turn familiar natural scenes into graphic design elements that emphasize color and pattern.
Some nature-inspired decor is anything but serious. From parchment votive holders made out of real vegetables to lamps that resemble a tumble of glossy stones, it's easy to find the fun side of nature-inspired accessories.
Bamboo is another versatile material that's finding fun applications in American homes. A serene stand of miniature bamboo shoots elegantly displayed on a coffee table is a perfect foil to the vibrant, joyful color of a bamboo wall mural. A spritely bamboo window film can balance the rich, practical presence of bamboo flooring.
On the Web:
Wall murals: www.DecorPlace.com
Eco-friendly accents: www.vivaterra.com
Stone-inspired décor: www.stonecreationsonline.com
Home-Selling Tip: Check windows and doors
Do everything necessary to create a positive impression for potential buyers.
Check all of your windows to make sure they open and close easily. If not, a spray of WD40 often helps. Make sure there are no cracked or broken windowpanes.
Do the same things with the doors. Be sure the doorknobs turn easily, and that they are cleaned and polished to look sharp.
How To: Prevent clogs in your gutters
A stopped-up gutter can lead to water damage and a costly fix.
You can keep leaves, twigs and other materials out of your gutters by installing protective gutter guards. There are two types of gutter guards:
- Metal or plastic screens keep debris out of the gutter but may trap leaves on top of the screen.
- Solid gutter shields are more expensive but more effective. They extend across most of the gutter width, allowing water to roll into the gutter while leaves and foreign materials are pushed over the side.
If your downspouts empty into drain lines, consider protective screens that prevent debris from entering the downspouts.
Did You Know …
A May 2009 Consumer Reports survey found 60 percent of people remodeling their bathroom went over budget.
Home Improvements: Consider a solar water heater
Using the sun to heat water can be cost-effective and environmentally friendly.
The simplest solar energy hot water systems are passive, using nothing but solar energy and gravity to circulate water between the storage tank and the collector, where the water heats up. As water in the collector heats, the hotter water rises into a storage tank placed slightly above the collector, while cooler water runs down to replace it.
Active systems are generally more reliable than passive ones, and they can be put in more places. They usually have a pump to move the water from the collector to the storage tank, so the collector can be on the roof, in the yard, or wherever is convenient.
Most solar systems are designed to meet one-half to three-quarters of a family's hot-water needs, or all of their summer needs. The remainder can be supplied by a backup system.
-- U.S. Department of Energy
Beans are easy-to-grow plants that are sensitive to cold temperatures and should be planted when the soil is warm.
They should be planted in full sun and well-drained soil. Loosen the soil to a depth of 12 to 15 inches, and add a layer of compost. Plant seeds 2 to 4 inches apart and 1 to 1-1/2 inches deep.
Beans do well with mulch so they can retain moisture. Water them during the summer if rainfall is scarce.
You know your snap beans are ready when they are firm and crisp; the seeds inside should be very small. Pick all pods to keep plants productive. For shell beans, pick them when the pods change color and the beans inside are fully formed but not dried out.
-- The Home Depot Garden Club
Backyard Buddies: Find a funky nest
The theme for the newest environmental challenge from the Celebrate Urban Birds project is “Funky Nests in Funky Places.”
For the challenge, participants may take photos, do a painting, write a story or shoot a video showing a bird’s nest built in some out-of-the-way or out-of-this-world place. Participants should be sure to avoid touching nests or disturbing the birds.
E-mail entries to firstname.lastname@example.org with “Funky Nests” in the subject line. Include your name and mailing address, and the story behind your entry. Deadline is July 31.
Visit www.birds.cornell.edu/celebration for more details.
-- The Cornell Lab of Ornithology
GateHouse News Service