ten tips to make any room better

When it comes to interior décor, there really are no hard and fast rules. The beautiful spaces on shelter sites are the results of creativity and experience. Over time, patterns emerge and principles develop—and they will change over time as trends come and go. But the basic tricks are easy to master, don’t require a great deal of creative know how, and are timeless classics that will look good no matter what the current trend. Add in stylish products that fit your lifestyle and you don’t need the rulebook.

  1. Choose your paint last. Tempting though it may be to start with paint in an empty room, you are better off waiting until you see what all the furniture and fabrics look like throughout the day. Paint can look like a completely different color under different lighting, and with different colors of upholstery. Choose your color based on what’s actually in your home.
  2. Create a focal point, and make sure it’s visible as you enter the room. Bonus points for it being visible from outside the room, as a way to draw you into the space. The focal point anchors your space—whether it’s a piece of art, furniture, a television, or a fabulous view.
  3. Leave breathing room around your furniture. Overcrowded rooms feel cluttered even when they’re not. You want space to move with ease. You don’t need to create wide-open spaces if you prefer a cottage style, but having some breathing room makes a space feel more welcoming and comfortable.
  4. Decide how you want to arrange furniture on an area rug. There are three basic approaches—all legs on, all legs off, and front legs only. The all-legs-off approach can work in small spaces, where there isn’t room for a big rug, while all-legs-on can help anchor a seating group in a large open space. Front only helps anchor a space while preserving a sense of openness.
  5. Hang artwork at eye level, that means the center of each piece should be about 57 to 60 inches from the floor—even with sky-high ceilings. There are exceptions to this one, of course, but generally you want art to be where people can enjoy it.
  6. Resist theme-overload. If everything in the room is matchy-matchy with a theme, you’ve lost the personal touch and the space will quickly look tired and dated. Go ahead and embrace a theme, but inject it with your personality to avoid the cookie-cutter look.
  7. Consider scale. If you have a giant expanse of open wall, a tiny picture frame is not going to look like much. When you’re looking at size, imagine your space and how something will look and feel in it. Will that oversized chair overwhelm the room, or will it make a dramatic statement? There is no right or wrong, you have to go by what feels right in your space.
  8. Use layers of lighting. You want task lighting for things like reading, kitchen work areas, and other places you need bright light. You want ambient lighting to make a room feel occupied and warm. Add dimmable lights, accent lights, and other lighting to create interest and visual appeal.
  9. Go ahead, be bold! Personality is what makes a space unique. Embrace the unexpected in ways that work for you. Love books? Go ahead and put library-style shelves in  your space.
  10.  Throw out the rulebook. Guidelines are a great place to start, but you’re the only one who knows what will work in your space and for your lifestyle. Go with things that you love, and that make you smile. An overly designed room looks artificial. A room filled with meaningful things has purpose, and feels welcoming and natural.
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what’s the buzz on bees…
attracting nature


Bugs are a fact of nature, and a good fact at that. They’re a vital part of the food chain, and over 75 percent of our food crops are pollinated thanks to the help of bugs. Bees are disappearing at alarming rates; impacted by everything from habitat loss to pesticide use. Butterfly populations are on the decline for similar reasons. Green gardens are vital to the health and survival of beneficial bugs. When it comes to bees, there’s more than just the honeybee to think about.

First off, don’t fear the bees. The common myth is that they’re out to sting you. The truth is, bees flitting around your garden are mostly solitary creatures. If there’s no hive to defend, they’d rather avoid you. If you want to attract more bees to your garden, leave some wild habitats for them. Loose, bare soil, brush piles, and dead trees all make attractive bee sites. Keep those bee habitats well away from seating and play areas, and avoid use of pesticides and herbicides. Plant lots of native plants to help support local pollinators. Try planting mixes of different flowering plants, like a fragrant flower garden, or flowers meant to attract butterflies.

Make sure your garden includes water that’s bee friendly—a shallow dish with rocks that are only partially submerged works well. Why not just use a pond or birdbath? Bees are like flying tanks—they’re not particularly good at landing on water. If you prefer a bath or pond feature, make sure there are bee-friendly landing zones near the water.

Want some bee facts?

  • Not all bees make honey. In fact, less than 5 percent of bee species produce honey in measurable quantities.
  • Not all bees sting. Many species don’t have stingers, which are really modified egg-laying apparatus. Which means, if it’s got a stinger, it’s a female bee.
  • Not all bees live in hives. Honey bees live in the classic, well-structured hive. Many bee species, however, are more solitary, or form loose social structures.
  • Bees don’t see red. They do see greens, blues and yellows (as well as orange shades), but the real secret to their vision is that they see ultraviolet light.
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pile on the style…
pillows make a statement

Want a fast, easy way to add color and flair to any room? Update the accent pillows. Express your personal style, update your décor for the changing season, or create a fresh new look just by adding, or changing, the pillows.

Pillows can be used in small doses, to add a single pop of color or texture, or they can be layered on for cozy appeal. Aim for a blend of colors and textures to make a personal statement, but don’t pile on so many pillows your guests have no place to sit.

  • A couple of colorful pillows creates more drama than an entire pile of neutral ones.
  • Look at your color palette, then turn to the color wheel as a guide. For high drama, choose contrasting, or complementary colors. To keep things more soothing, stick to analogous colors.
  • You can place larger pillows around a coffee table or fireplace to invite floor lounging.

Warm up your space

A mix of warm, spicy color and touchable textures makes this pillow assortment work.

10 décor lessons…
“mistakes” and solutions

We’ve all been there. We’ve given in to the too trendy décor piece, bought the chair that looked amazing but was torture to sit in, or painted our walls a color that looked great in the store. Décor mistakes. They happen, and in some ways, it’s a good thing. Each mistake is a learning process. Here are the top ten we’ve seen, and some great ways to combat them. With a little knowledge, it’s easy to find stylish, sustainably-crafted décor that not only looks great, but feels great and fits the way you live. Continue reading

the perfect housewarming…
eco-friendly gifts for everyone

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Ah, a housewarming party! They’re so much fun. Whether it’s friends who’ve left the city behind and embraced rural living, your college roomie just got their first place, friends who are expecting are moving to bigger digs, or family downsizing because they’re kids have all grown. The big question is always, “what should I give them?”

Sometimes the answer is easy. The college student who’s moving into their first place needs pretty much everything. For everyone else, it can be a little more complex. But we’ve got some ideas that are sure to please anyone, no matter what the reason for the housewarming party!

Do they have an outdoor space?

It doesn’t matter if it’s a tiny patio, or a big back yard, people with outdoor spaces love to use them. Put a smile on their faces with a hummingbird feeder handblown from recycled glass, or give them the gift of a pest free outdoors with an all-natural handblown glass wasp trap. Keep things green with an easy-to-grow organic herb garden.

Do they love to cook?

If your friend loves their kitchen, opt for things any cook is sure to love. Organic olive oil straight from Italy in four luscious flavors is a guaranteed hit. Even the smallest kitchen will benefit from the gorgeous grains of a classic, FSC-certified teak cutting board. Is it time for tea? There’s no such thing as too many tea towels, and all natural linen tea towels are a stunning, and sustainable choice.

Admit, they have everything… what now?

Even someone who is downsizing can use a little something special. For someone who already has everything they need, little things are the way to go. Perfect for the guest bath, or even the kitchen sink, natural olive oil soaps with organic herbs make an ideal gift. Light up their life with a sustainable soy wax candle in a reclaimed wine bottle jar. Like tea towels, you can never have too many reusable bags, these handy totes are made from repurposed rice bags, sewn by female artisans in Cambodia, and they’re fair trade!

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