Home and garden trends grow on the web
With an abundance of new home and garden décor and appliances on the market this year, shopping for these items can be daunting. It takes lots of time and research to find what’s best for your home, and what will complement your existing items. The simplest approach is to use the Internet, where all the information you need is in one place.
Consider an online comparison shopping website that does all the research for you, by conveniently collecting a large amount of helpful product data and prices from retailers. Comparison shopping sites also provide shoppers with in-depth product details and unbiased product reviews from sites like Epinions.com so they can educate themselves before making a purchase.
“Filling your kitchen, home, and garden with useful, yet stylish items can be easy when you have the right tools,” says Wendy Sept, online shopping expert for Shopping.com. “One of the greatest advantages to shopping on a comparison site is having access to not just one store, but thousands. You can search by product, price and even read reviews, all from one place, so you can be confident of your purchase before you buy.”
According to Sept, home and garden is the fastest-growing category on Shopping.com. She offers insights below into the popular products and trends they’re spotting:
Pots and pans are made from many different materials and come in a variety of colors to match your kitchen décor. One of the most popular choices for functionality and style are those made from stainless steel. Stainless steel provides a sleek and clean look for the modern kitchen. For a more classic look, copper cookware is very popular. Other cooking items made from metal or ceramic come painted in a rainbow of colors and can blend with any kitchen interior.
The hottest way to keep your floors clean is with vacuums that do all the work. A popular choice is the iRobot Roomba. This vacuum works automatically to clean floors including carpet, tile and hardwood. You can preset the scheduler so that the vacuum cleans your house, even when you are away. The same model can range in price by around $30 on a site like Shopping.com.
Food processors are not only a functional item for the kitchen, but can add color to a dull countertop. Everyone wants to eat healthier and food processors are an easy way to integrate your favorite fruits and vegetables into recipes. Food processors slice, dice, chop and puree, reducing prep time in the kitchen. According to Shopping.com, some of the most popular brands for food processors are Cuisinart and Braun. Food processors are available in many colors, shapes and sizes to fit all needs.
Fire pits are one of the most popular additions to patios. They’re available in a variety of styles, sizes and colors to add a decorative addition to your outdoor entertainment area. Many have styling details such as tile, copper, ironwork, pottery and stone design to enhance any patio. Plus, fire pits provide a safer way to enjoy an outdoor fire because they contain the fire in a small area and many come with a screen or cover to contain sparks.
The details can make a garden special. One popular trend for garden décor is using stone. Items such as stone statues can add personality to a garden while still sticking with a natural look. Memorial stones are also popular. These stones are engraved with names and special sayings and placed within the garden or on a path. Bird feeders continue to be popular and come in a variety of sizes and styles to attract a little wildlife to your garden oasis. Weathervanes are also making a comeback and add rural charm to the outdoors.
Now that you are thinking of some of these trends and ideas to update your own home, go online to see which fits your needs best. Comparison shopping sites can help save time and money when deciding which items to purchase. Check out sites like Shopping.com that offer shoppers easy-to-use tools and millions of unbiased product and merchant reviews from sites such as Epinions.com.
Courtesy of ARA Content
Eliminate weed problems with the right landscape fabric
Spending time on your yard making your landscape look superb can add to your house’s curb appeal as well as your own enjoyment. But nothing is worse than putting in all that time and effort only to deal with weed problems. Not only do weeds look unappealing, they can cost you hours of frustration and hard work. The solution to the problem might be in choosing the right landscape fabric — one that’s designed for weed control.
Weed control fabric should be used in permanent settings such as in mulch beds, around trees and shrubs — places where you want to stop weeds but also want water, air and nutrients to reach the roots of desirable plants. It also is ideal for using under patios and decks, walkways or paths, around swimming pools, under sandboxes and children’s play sets.
Products sold as a “Landscape Fabric” usually claim multiple functions, including soil stabilization, erosion and drainage applications, as well as weed control. Unfortunately, the properties that make it effective for stabilization and drainage uses also make it ineffective for weed control. Stopping weeds requires a material with very low permeability, yet all other applications require high permeability to allow water to pass through as it holds back soil and pebbles. It is important to understand the difference in fabrics in order to get the results you want.
The worst thing about using a fabric that isn’t designed for weed control is that it will actually make your weed problems much worse. When weed roots penetrate the fabric, they establish themselves and thrive in the moist soil below, making the weeds extremely difficult to remove. Their roots become entangled in the fabric and will tear up your landscaping as well as the fabric when you try to pull them out.
Quality and effectiveness vary widely among the weed control fabrics available in the marketplace. Almost all weed problems come from airborne weed seeds that settle and germinate in the top mulch. Most landscape fabrics on the market do not successfully combat this problem. The key is to use a fabric with limited openings; ideally a material that matches the soil’s ability to absorb water. There really are only three products on the market that offer this type of control—Weed-X, Weed-Proof, and Gardeneer Weed-Shield by Dalen Products. Weed-X in particular has been rated number 1 for stopping weeds by nine independent testing labs.
All other fabrics and films do not successfully control weeds because they are too porous. In other words, there are too many openings. All those openings are opportunities for weed roots to penetrate the fabric to the soil below.
“We feel the small pore spaces didn’t allow weed or tree roots to penetrate and get a foothold in the fabric,” explained Bonnie Lee Appleton, nursery specialist at Virginia Tech University, who has been testing various brands of landscape fabrics since 1987. “We found the Weed-X brand to have the smallest-sized pore spaces of all the fabrics tested. It also had the least amount of root penetration from weeds and nearby trees.”
Selecting the right product can be confusing because most landscape fabric packaging doesn’t distinguish between weed control and erosion control. So how can you tell the difference? Fabrics that you can easily see through are among the worst for weed control. Also, erosion control fabrics are generally a stiffer fabric known as non-woven spunbond or flatbond.
Weed-X is a patented, dual-layer material that is black on one side and light gray on the other. The small pores will help eliminate weed problems and give you the best level of control in your yard. You can find Weed-X and Weed-Proof at Wal-Mart stores. Visit www.weedxworks.com or call Dalen at (800) 747-3256 for more information.
Courtesy of ARA Content
Is your garden in style? Tips and trends for 2007
Each year, new gardening trends emerge, fueling more than 83 percent of American households to participate in lawn and garden activities, according to a recent survey by a leading gardening association.
Troy-Bilt, a leading manufacturer of lawn and garden equipment, predicts that in 2007, gardens will continue to be viewed as an extension of the family room and grow in their role as an outdoor entertaining destination.
Following are tips to ensure your garden is the talk of the neighborhood this coming year.
• Less is more — Whether it’s a rose garden on a rooftop patio or an herb garden in the kitchen, gardeners are transforming any available space into green wonderlands. And, they are finding that creating many small gardens provides them a unique opportunity to experiment.
• Add a touch of flair — Since gardens are intimate domains, many gardeners are individualizing their spaces with bird feeders, fountains, waterfalls, ponds, statues, globes — even lights. But don’t go overboard. Remember — less is more.
• Traditional container gardening is out — For the past few years, container gardens, or potted plants that line stairways, walkways and pools, have been the craze. Although plants in pots are still popular, gardeners are beginning to mix and match colored pots with bunches of various plants and flowers for a drastic but simple backyard makeover.
• Color is in — The hottest garden accessory for 2007 is color. Hot hues add contrast to a space and can help hide dull outdoor furniture. Besides colorful plants, shrubs and flowers, try adding various shapes, colors and sizes of garden pots throughout the space for depth and dimension.
• It’s about you — A garden is an intimate experience that should reflect your style. It’s a form of self-expression that focuses on your individuality, creativity and confidence. Remember, a garden is an extension of your home and should mimic your tastes.
For more tips, visit www.troybilt.com.
Courtesy of ARA Content
Don’t limit the warmth and ambiance of a fire to the indoors. These days, outdoor fire places, pits and rings are all the rage. They add ambiance to your backyard, not to mention warmth and light that you can enjoy all year round.
Not only meant for your living room or bedroom anymore, there are a variety of outdoor fireplaces to choose from. You can either have permanent (built in) or semi-permanent models. Prices can vary greatly depending on what material is used, the size and what fuel is burned. Not to mention the installation costs. The fireplaces themselves can range anywhere from $500 to upwards of $3,000.
• Stone – Stone is one of the more preferable elements used when constructing a fireplace. It’s durable and can be shaped to fit any setting.
• Brick – Another durable option, these types look very charming and make you feel cozy. Plus, they’re easier to clean.
• Concrete – Is the most versatile because it can be molded any way you like. And, by adding just a little pigment the fireplace can be color coordinated with the rest of your outdoor motif, making it seem like an extension of your house.
• Chimineas – These attractive, portable mini fireplaces are the least expensive. The design ensures that smoke doesn’t get in the way of your enjoyment. The clay models do require more maintenance in comparison to other models. They must be painted yearly with a water sealer and insulated on the bottom. These start as low as $30 and can be found in many chain retail stores and garden centers.
Fire pits are becoming extremely popular in many backyards. It doesn’t always have to look rustic either; there are plenty of color choices and motifs that allow you to customize the look of your pit to match nicely with your house and garden. They can be portable or built in as a permanent fixture. They range in price from $100 to as high as $2,500.
Not just for your campouts any more, fire rings are made out of iron or steal and are a less expensive way to have a roaring fire in your backyard. Many models now come with different cut outs to give it a design. You can find steel rings for $50 on up to $100 for cast iron rings.
Some facts and safety issues to remember:
• Make sure you’re burning the right type of wood for your fireplace and don’t burn fuel, leaves or garbage.
• Make sure it’s placed away from any and all fire hazards such as hanging tree branches or wires. Be sure to keep wood and burning materials down wind and away from the flames.
• Think about how weather conditions (especially wind) will effect the location.
• Check the fire codes in your area before making your purchase.
Changing the look of your kitchen: Upgrade your countertops for a new look
When thinking of remodeling, many homeowners instantly update their kitchen for a fresh look. A recent Angie’s List poll found that one of the most popular changes made in the kitchen are new countertops.
“New countertops can be one of the best ways to spruce up your old kitchen” said Angie Hicks, founder of Angie’s List. “But, the wide array of surface products can quickly make the project overwhelming, not to mention costly.”
It’s best to consider your family’s needs in addition to your budget, Hicks advises. And, just as important, no matter what material you choose, give careful consideration to how long you will own the house and what you intend to use the surface for.
Industry experts say solid surfaces are growing more popular among consumers, but there are many options when in comes to choosing countertops.
Natural Stone: This includes granite, marble and soapstone. It holds up to heat and comes in an array of colors. It is one of the most expensive materials and requires lots of maintenance including periodic sealing. The stone absorbs stains and is porous.
Engineered stone: Quartz is just as costly as granite, but easy to maintain. It has a non-porous surface that takes the heat and resists stains and scratches.
Solid surfaces: These countertops offer seamless, acrylic faces with seams that are only visible from the underside. A popular brand is Dupont Corian. Scratches can be easily sanded out and is non-porous. Does not take heat well.
Ceramic tile: Is durable and easy to clean. The grout needs to be sealed regularly for stain protection.
Laminates: Is easy to maintain, inexpensive and the most versatile. Laminate is not scratch or heat resistant, but is stain resistant. Requires no regular maintenance. This is marketed under such trade names as Formica, Wilsonart, and Nevamar.
Wood: Easy to clean, but maintenance is required. Wood can be damaged by water and stains over time. Be careful when installing over a dishwasher because the moisture could lead to warping.
Stainless Steel: Heat and stain resistant. Stainless steel is expensive, noisy and may dent.
Concrete: Heat and scratch resistant and very durable. It is porous and absorbs stains, so it must be sealed regularly.
No matter what type of countertop you choose, be aware of these factors.
Maintenance: Countertops are either porous or non-porous. Porous surfaces absorb contaminants into the surface and also absorb moisture, thus allowing bacteria to grow. Porous surfaces should be sealed regularly.
Durability: Check to see if the countertop is scratch or heat resistant. Always use cutting boards and heat pads to avoid permanent damage.
Longevity: The more durable the countertop, the longer it will last.
Special Cleaners: Check to see what cleaning agent your countertop requires. Every surface comes with different restrictions.
Price: Countertops are priced by lineal or square foot. Also factor in delivery and installation. Prices vary on a variety of factors including texture and color.
Return on investment: Because there are many variables that affect the housing market, you shouldn’t expect to get a dollar-for-dollar return on a project. A $20,000 kitchen remodel doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get $20,000 more for your home.
Living large in smaller homes: 1-in-5 respondents want to downsize
For some homeowners, bigger might not be better. In fact, in a recent poll of Angie’s List members, one in five respondents in homes of 2,000 square foot or more said they want to downsize.
Considering the average U.S. house has more than doubled in size since 1950, could the Angie’s List poll results point to a new trend toward smaller living spaces? While big houses are still the norm—the average home now measures 2,434 square feet, increasing numbers of homeowners are deciding that big isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
“Whether it’s for cost, coziness or time, some homeowners are finding that smaller living spaces better fit their lifestyle,” says Angie Hicks, founder of Angie’s List.
Among the reason poll respondents wanted to downsize, 62 percent said to have more time for things other than their house; 53 percent cited utility costs; 50 percent said empty nest; and 49 percent cited wasted space.
For those who feel smaller may be a better fit for them, Angie’s List consulted the experts and put together 10 tips to help make the most of small spaces:
10 tips for maximizing smaller spaces:
1. Be cool. Light and airy colors will help small spaces feel just a bit larger. Stick to cool colors like blue and green.
2. Go monochromatic. Think soothing tone-on-tone for paint techniques, fabrics, and patterns. Cream and white, icy blues, pale greens, and butter yellows are just a few of the combinations that can open up a small room.
3. Keep it open. Whenever possible, arrange furnishings to open up areas of floor and avoid blocking views to windows and doors. The farther you can see into, and through, a space, the larger and more open it will seem.
4. Make a match. Consider painting some of your furniture to match your walls. Even large chests and armoires will seem to melt into the background when finished in a color that’s close to the wall tone. Add tone-on-tone stencil details to doors for added interest.
5. Lighten up. Uncover windows and add additional light fixtures to avoid dark, dreary corners. Brighter spaces will automatically make the room feel larger.
5. Clear the table. Bring in some see-through style by using glass tables. They’ll provide useful surfaces as dining or end tables, yet practically disappear in a visual perception of the room.
7. Two-in-one. Maximize space with furniture that serves multiple functions. Some headboards double as bookshelves, for example – or try an ottoman with built-in storage space, which can also function as a coffee table.
8. Livin’ large. A few larger pieces of furniture will reduce the visual clutter that can result from several smaller items. Stick with simple lines and shapes to create a sense of calm and space.
9. Keep it simple. Cover sofas and chairs with plain or textured upholstery rather than vibrant prints. Neutral tones in lighter colors will usually make a room feel larger.
10. Reflect your style. Add sparkle and reflection to your space with mirrors. Place mirrors on a wall opposite the windows to increase light and reflect outside scenery.
Angie’s List is where thousands of consumers share their ratings and reviews on local contractors and companies in more than 250 different categories. Currently, more than 500,000 consumers across the U.S. rely on Angie’s List to help them find the right contractor or company for the job they need done. Members have unlimited access to the list via Internet or phone; receive the Angie’s List magazine, which includes articles on home improvement and maintenance, consumer trends and scam alerts; and they can utilize the Angie’s List complaint resolution service. Get more information and consumer tips at www.angieslist.com.