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DIY Life

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    If the most creative thing you've done with a phonebook is use it as a makeshift stepping stool, you're in for a treat: You can recycle your old phonebooks into everything from coffee tables to clothing.

    In a world of the internet and caller ID, does anyone really search through a phonebook? Yet we're willing to bet that you've got one or two -- maybe even more -- stashed in the back of your pantry or junk drawer. Well, now is the time to dig those yellow pages out because we've collected our favorite ways to recycle these big old books.

    recycle phonebooksOne brilliant way to recycle a phonebook. Photo: Artessen.


    Recycle phonebooks by... Making a gift bow.
    No more searching party stores for that perfect topper. Make your own! Cut phonebook pages into strips and twist into loops. Artessen has the step-by-step instructions.


    Recycle phonebooks by... Decoupaging a lamp shade.
    This DIYer gave her lampshade a unique, vintage look in only a few hours. We love how the light filters through the used-to-be-part-of-a-phonebook shade. Think you could take on this project? Get the materials list and full instructions from The Swell Life.

    Recycle phonebooks by... Creating a coffee table base.
    What's a lamp without a table to put it on? Unusual use number four is this coffee table base constructed from -- you guessed it -- phonebooks! Our advice here: Make sure you have a few of them lying around before you start this project. Top it off with glass and these pages are more useful than ever! All the details are at inhabitat.

    Recycle phonebooks by... Making your own envelopes
    We've heard of making your own cards, but now add even more of a personal touch with homemade envelopes. Super unique, and a great project to keep kids busy and entertained. The Improvised Life shows how it's done with magazine clippings, but we like the idea with phonebook pages too.

    Recycle phonebooks by... Crafting a pen & pencil holder Get your mod podge ready! This phonebook find is super cute. A few cuts and curls and you have yourself a desk accessory. We love that you can paint and decorate it however you want -- it's like two projects in one! Visit Chica and Jo for helpful instructions and photos of each step.

    And those are just our top five favorites. Why not recycle phonebooks to make...

    -Wrapping Paper: Phonebook paper as wrapping paper, like in this Crafster post.

    -Paper Mache: Newspaper is not the only source of paper mache material. Try phonebook pages!

    -Flower Press: No need to buy a flower press, just put those petals in the center of a phonebook.

    -Cleaning Tool: Not as fun, but just as useful -- clean your windows with sheets of phonebook paper.

    -Clothing: We even admit, this is a shocker. Phonebook paper is the only material listed on this label. Check out pictures of Jolis Paons' paper dress. Creative and chic!

    -Baby entertainment: After seeing how much fun ShelterPop editor Brooke Foster's baby had with a newspaper, we're tempted to try the same plan with ripped out phonebook pages.

    Two of Alex Queral's projects made from phonebooks. Photos: Projects Gallery.


    - 3-D sculptures: Not quite a DIY -- unless you're this guy -- but we had to include this 3-D artwork!

    Check out more unusual uses for items around your house, like egg cartons and cornstarch.

     

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    If pesky bugs find their way into your home, make sure you have the knowledge and proper procedures to kick them out fast.

    It's not fun, but it happens. Bed bugs, termites- no one likes to think it, but these unwelcomed guests can show up in any home. Get educated on what bugs you can get rid by yourself and when to call the professionals.

    Some problems can be tackled with homemade bug remedies, but other bugs need professional attention. Bedbugs or termites? Don't try to get rid of them on your own. Watch this video to find out why and how to call in the professionals.


    So is there anything you can do to prevent bed bugs? This video has a few ideas that are worth a try:


    If you're not sure what bug bites look like -- or worse, think you might have them, check out the clip below to identify and treat the bites.


    Still want more information to guard yourself against these bugs? Check out why bed bugs are so difficult to treat and read about the latest bedbug-fighting technologies.

     

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    We're not saying that St. Patrick's Day is the only day of the year you might spill beer on upholstery...but we figured it was a good time for a primer.

    beer stainsIt looks safe enough...but what about when it spills on the sofa? Photo: PhotoMargarita

    It happened. You were enjoying that great St. Patrick's Day party when suddenly... you spilled beer on the couch. Avoid the embarrassment (and ire from your host) by knowing immediately how to treat that stain. First, blot up as much of the spilled beer as you can with a clean, dry dish cloth. Next, mix one teaspoon dish soap with one cup of hot water. Dab the spot using the solution and a new, clean dish towel. Then, use a third dish towel dampened with water to rinse the cleaner away. Keep blotting at the stain until it begins to lift and dry.

    If the beer brew was darker, a heartier solution might be needed. Mix one part white vinegar with three parts rubbing alcohol. Dab the solution onto the upholstery with a paper towel. Continue to rinse and dry the upholstery as previously mentioned.

    Want more? Check out this video on how to get beer stains out of clothes:

     

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    This weekend, embrace the warmer weather -- while still being productive, of course. Pick one or two of these crafts or clean-ups and you'll feel like a champ on Monday morning.

    This weekend projectscombust, flickr


    With the weather finally improving, everyone's desperate to burst out of the office Friday evening and into the glorious weekend. But that doesn't have to mean two full days of sunbathing: Take advantage of the beautiful weather with these great, get-outside projects.

    Weekend Project #1: Planting With the Kids
    Careful how you present this to kids: Picking out and planting flowers sounds way more appealing than pulling weeds. Ask them to choose their favorite blooms and help place them in your yard this weekend. This is just one of 75 tips for getting kids to help in the garden -- check out the other 74 outdoor tips.

    Weekend Project #2: Clean Out the Garage
    Yes, it's not exactly outside -- but you'll want to take on this project during nice weather so you can pull up the door. Move old, unneeded belongings out of the garage so you have more room to organize the important stuff. Need product tips? Here's one way to organize your garage. Good luck!

    This weekend projects(L) siaronj; (R) gamene, flickr


    Weekend Project #3: Make a Bird Feeder
    Warm weather means chirping birds! And what's a better craft for this weekend than making feeders for those happy birds. For all the materials, check out the full post on making a bird feeder has all the details!

    Weekend Project #4: Get the Porch in Shape
    Looking for a bigger project this weekend? Spruce up that front porch. Sweep, powerwash -- do what you must to make it ready to enjoy for low-key evenings. Or take it a step further with a full refurbishing.

    Weekend Project #5: Take it Easy
    OK, once your garden is blooming, the bird feeder is made, and your porch is spotless, treat yourself. Grab a basket and pack it with your favorite foods. Find a quiet place -- maybe it's in your own backyard -- and enjoy a picnic this weekend. We have all you need to know to picnic like a pro!

    For more to-do this weekend -- or next -- check out Low-Cost Weekend Projects and Weekend DIYs!

     

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  • 03/20/11--21:10: From Garage to Garden Shed
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    No garden shed? No problem. With some re-organizing, you can turn your garage into a lovely, functional shed for all your gardening tools and accessories.

    Check out this great DIY project -- one of our favorites from the brand new April issue of Country Living!

    garden garage

    Tools lined up in satisfying rows, scissors and twine within arm's reach, a sink just for arranging flowers-the potting area ranks up there with the mudroom as the ultimate country fantasy. Don't think you have space for one? You may want to think again. Connecticut contractor Arnold M. Karp devised this dream "garden shed" by taking full advantage of the wall space in a suburban garage-with shelves, cabinets, and peg rails. A poured concrete floor pleases the eye and provides a practical surface for parking cars. "My goal was to utilize every nook and cranny," Karp says. Mission accomplished.

    garden garageDana Gallagher / Country Living


    Garage-to-Garden Shed Tip #1: Karp set up an inventive organizing scheme for outdoor essentials with three rows of Shaker-style peg rails. Underneath, familiar containers put dirt in its (attractive) place.

    Make the most of multiples. In addition to single pegs, Karp doubled up to create spots for hanging tools, like the broom and rake above, by their heads. With three closely spaced pegs, even boots have a home. (For similar custom peg rails, $17.50 per foot; Shaker Workshops, 800-840-9121)

    Rid your floor of plastic soil bags by pouring the contents into Ikea's indispens- able trash bins. Then gussy up the cans by downloading darling labels at countryliving .com/gardenlabels and printing them on sticky paper. Download the labels (sheet 1) and (sheet 2) here.

    Where to buy: Bins, $24.99 each; ikea.com. Post-it craft paper, $10.74 for six sheets; amazon.com.

    Garage-to-Garden Shed Tip #2: Karp borrowed from kitchen design, outfitting one corner of the garage with lower cabinets, a granite countertop, and an apron-front sink to create a zone for cutting blooms and washing muddy hands. Up top, ornate iron brackets give painted lumber shelves a lift.

    Where to buy: For similar: sink, $408; amazon.com; faucet, $369.87; danzefaucetwarehouse.com; brackets, $22 each; anthropologie.com)



    garden garageDana Gallagher / Country Living

    Garage-to-Garden Shed Tip #3: A carpenter's caddy finds a new calling. Tuck plant markers, stakes, and other small tools in one of these handled (read: easy-to-tote-outside) cases.($39; wisteria.com)

    There's more than one way to recycle glass. Simply pop a cork in a beverage or condiment bottle and voilà-you have a spot for seeds or bird feed.

    Give your stuff a stylish label- literally, with these supersweet zinc tags. ($15 for six; areohome.com)

    Don't get locked into a long- term commitment. The chalkboard end panels on this rustic wooden carton free you up to change the contents as often as you'd like. ($94.99 for set of four; Hubert, 800-543-7374)


    Garage-to-Garden Shed Tip #4: Karp refined the garage walls with classic beadboard and molding, painted Restoration Hardware's Silver Sage-but skipped fixed shelving. Instead, this reclaimed-wood piece here offers mobility and space for corralling everything from pot saucers to seeds. ($1,995; vintagetub.com)

    Borrow from the library. A second- hand card catalog doubles as a brilliant filing system for seed packets. Want extra room? Any recipe box will fit the bill, too. (Card catalog, $58; etsy.com/shop/longbarnmercantile)


    Want to see the rest of the tips? Check out the full piece on Country Living. Or take a look at ShelterPop's coverage of the Country Living "What's Country Now?" party.

     

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    A new report on house trends speculates that the living room could become obsolete by 2015.

    Check out this story from our friends at Charles & Hudson:
    house trends

    The National Association of Home Builders recently released a special report that details several home features that will likely become the norm by 2015.

    A Few Surprises
    One of the more unexpected summaries in the report? A theory that living rooms will vanish, or be incorporated into other rooms. Of course, applying this report to a home depends heavily on the definition of a living room. We grew up with living rooms as formal spaces that were usually reserved for company--they didn't have televisions, and typically had nicer furnishings and decor.

    house trendsWill the living room be a thing of the past? Photo: Getty.

    "An overwhelming majority of respondents do not expect the living room to stay in its current room," according to the NAHB report. "Instead, more than half (52 percent) expect the living room to merge with other spaces in the home, while 30 percent expect it to vanish to save on square footage."

    Great Room Grows Bigger
    The report predicts that an all-encompassing Great Room will likely replace the living room. Experts predict this will be a more open space that will encompass a kitchen, family and living rooms with few barriers to accessing each area.

    Would You Miss Your Living Room?
    Are you attached to the concept of a living room and refuse to give it up, even to save on square footage? Or do you feel this trend is part of the natural evolution of home design based on our economy, lifestyles and other defining factors?

    We'd love to hear your thoughts!

    And check out these other great stories from Charles & Hudson
    Trend Watch: Hiding Kitchen Appliances Within Cabinetry

    How To DIY With Small Children

     

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    We doubt you have big plans for those chopsticks and chicken wire -- so why not go the upcycling route and turn them into useful items?

    Look around -- you probably don't see any art in your flatware drawer or on the sidewalk during your morning commute. We didn't either until we saw these videos. Find creative ways to upcycle household items into art that you'll love.

    This video has so many upcycling ideas for chopsticks, we're kind of blown away. Wine rack? Storage boxes? You'll think twice before trashing those chopsticks next time you order in Chinese food.


    Chicken wire plus spoons equals...OK, you probably don't know. We didn't until we watched this. Whether or not this lighting is your style, you have to admit it's creative. Watch for craft details here:


    The video below is great one for children. They will love decorating the boxes and learn that recycling doesn't just mean toting cardboard out to the curb. It can be fun!



    For more recycled art, read Handmade: Make a Lamp from old media disks!

     

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    When faced with a friend's baby shower decorations, Jessica Alba would rather DIY than buy. Check out her cute crafts and get instructions on how to copy them!

    We don't flinch much at Jessica Alba gossip. But when we heard that the "Little Fockers" actress got into Martha Stewart mode while preparing for a friend's baby shower, we stalked her Facebook profile to get the details.


    "Me and some of the girls making decorations for a friends baby shower," she wrote. "Decided to go the DIY route. More personal and fun, plus we used a bunch of recycled materials. Could you all post some of the DIY party projects you've done?"

    Ah, a DIY-er after our own hearts. We bet she'd appreciate the DIY project we did to recreate her fantastic shelved mirror!

    Check out the full gallery -- and instructions on how to recreate two of our favorite crafts!


    http://xml.channel.aol.com/xmlpublisher/fetch.v2.xml?option=expand_relative_urls&dataUrlNodes=uiConfig,feedConfig,localizationConfig,entry&id=992666&pid=992665&uts=1300803386
    http://www.aolcdn.com/ke/media_gallery/v1/ke_media_gallery_wrapper.swf

    Jessica Alba Gossip: She DIYs!

    Jessica Alba and her friends are deep in the DIY zone. And how cute is little Honor, standing by?

    Jessica Alba Gossip: She DIYs!

    Yes, even celeb crafters make a mess.

    Jessica Alba Gossip: She DIYs!

    The key to great-looking paper crafts? Lots of colors and textures. The variety makes the spread look extra special.

    Jessica Alba Gossip: She DIYs!

    These flowers get a whimsical touch with a butterfly middle and lily pad backdrop. To make them at home, start with a large piece of green construction paper. Cut it into a circle and then snip out a triangle to create the pad. Then, cut three pieces of white paper into circles -- each one slightly smaller than the last. Cut scalloped edges on all the circles, cutting about 1/4 into the center. When ready, layer the three circles on top of the "lily pad" and glue them together in the center. After curling the "petals" with your fingers, place a butterfly sticker in the center.

    Jessica Alba Gossip: She DIYs!

    A super simple DIY: Buy plain white paper lanterns and use white glue to affix craft flowers and butterflies. The only rule: Make sure to space them out appropriately and use lots of colors!

    Jessica Alba Gossip: She DIYs!

     

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    Fresher produce may just be a pair of pantyhose away. Really!

    One great way to help lengthen the life of fresh potatoes -- and creatively store them -- is to use pantyhose. Start with either a new or old, clean pair of pantyhose and clip off the toe end. Tie a simple, semi-loose knot where the toe used to be and insert one potato into one leg from the waistband end. Tie a knot directly above the potato and then insert another potato into the same leg. Tie a knot directly above the potato. Repeat process as needed.

    potato storageIf this is your idea of potato storage, read on... Photo: Clinton Hussey, Corbis

    Hang the pantyhose from a nail or hook in a cool, dark, dry place -- we suggest inside a cabinet, unless you consider pantyhose-packaged potatoes statement decor. Having the potatoes separated from one another can add time to their life and save you trips to the market. Of course, it's the tiny holes in the pantyhose that allow the potatoes to "breathe", while still keeping them protected.

    Once you're ready to use the potatoes, simply untie the toe end knot and remove a potato. And if your spouse or kids look at you funny? No mashed potatoes for them.

    Check out other great unusual uses:
    New Ways to Recycle Phonebooks

    12 Unusual Uses For Velcro
    Cornstarch - Unusual Uses

     

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  • 03/26/11--15:28: Hollow-Core Door Makeover
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    See this drab hollow-core door transform into a black and white showstopper, complete with fancy knocker!

    Check out this creative DIY project from our friends at Houzz!

    hollow core door

    My photographer friend Christina had me over to her house recently. Naturally, she inquired as to any ideas I could offer to make her home a bit nicer. Upon entry, I wanted to say, "Well, you can start by tossing those nasty hollow-core doors out the window, then setting them on fire." But instead, the nice part of me decided to offer up a do-it-yourself upgrade - the same nice part that got tricked into staying and actually doing it. One protein bar, two pitchers of ice water and about 6 hours of conversation later, here's how we took Christina's 40-year-old, contractor-grade, hollow-core door from eyesore to showstopper:

    hollow core door




    While I recommend this project for hollow-core doors, it works just as well on those made from solid wood. High contrast offers up the most impact. Black and white is classic and goes with everything, but playing up two drastically different shades of your room's wall color works just as well.

    Check out Houzz's step-by-step hollow-core door transformation to make this DIY happen in your home!

     

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    Looking for space-saving ideas for the kitchen? We're putting this remote-controlled island on our DIY wish list.


    When our friends at Curbed and Design Milk both posted this amazing video of a retractable kitchen island we watched it twice: Once to bask in the coolness of the project and then again to try and figure out how the brilliant Tim Thaler made it happen. Behold: The centerpiece of the kitchen of the future.



    We took to Thaler's YouTube page where he's been dutifully posting answers to the many questions coming in. Here's a peek at the discussion:

    Q: Show us the inner workings! What was the pricing and installation like? How long did it take?
    A: I'll post a video of the inner workings next week! Sadly, I spend endless nights planning the logistics of it and how to do it. When I started all I knew was I wanted an island to come out of my floor, and retract back without anyone knowing it's really there... I had to figure out everything myself, as there really isn't any "how to" documents for something like this. I did the entire installation myself, bought used parts, and managed to make it for under $1000.00.


    Q: Why was it so quiet going down but noisy coming up?
    A: it's hydraulics. A motor runs to pump oil in when going up, when going down, it's just releasing the oil that is built up.


    Q: How to you maintain the hydraulics and clean the pit of inevitable grit, grime, and dropped food scraps?
    A: The hydraulics just take regular Mobil 1 5W-30 motor oil... And I clean the same way anyone would, a sweep and a dustpan. Plus, I rarely prepare food on the island, that's what the countertops are for with an undermount sink and garbage disposal...

    kitchen of the futureTim Thaler via Design Milk

    If you had the time and energy, would you take on this project?

    And now that you have kitchen islands on the brain...
    That's Smart: Kitchen Island Alternatives - Shelterpop

    Kitchen Islands: Kitset vs. DIY - DIY Life
    How to Use a Cardboard Box to Measure for a Kitchen Island

     

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    You know your house comes with a whole hosts of costs. But do you know exactly how much? Here's how to reign in those hidden expenses.

    house costsptkphoto


    Repairs, utilities, even cleaning supplies -- there are obvious costs to maintaining a home. But some costs aren't so obvious. We're unveil the hidden money-eaters that are emptying your wallet slowly. Because, hey -- you worked hard for those bills! You should decide where they are going.

    Hidden House Cost #1: Your Light Bulbs
    Your electric company bills you per kilowatt hour. And because some light bulbs just don't give you very much light per watt, you can rack up a pretty pricey monthly charge. The culprits: Any bulb with a filament (that little squiggly wire) are not giving you the most bang for your buck.

    Solution: Get rid of incandescent or any other type of filament bulbs. Replace with fluorescent, which are widely available due to new energy laws. You get the most light output for the smallest amount of wattage. For outdoor lighting, use metal halide or high-pressure sodium bulbs.

    Hidden House Cost #2: Your Washing Machine
    No matter how many people in your home, we bet you're doing laundry -- colors or towels -- at least once week. With a load always ready to be cleaned, the washing machine has a full-time job. And you need one too, to keep up with the bills!

    Solution: Wash in cold water. Really, it's that simple. You save the money it would cost to heat the water for hot or warm cycles because you are eliminating the use of an additional utility. Whether your washing machine heat is via electricity, gas or oil, eliminating that process saves a ton.

    Another washing machine tip for your house: Make sure the dial isn't on second rinse. Your clothes are washed and rinsed sufficiently with one cycle. Just be sure not to pour in too much soap, and you can eliminate the extra water usage.

    Hidden House Cost #3: Leaks
    No, we don't mean water. Your house is leaking in places you may not even know about. Miniscule openings around windows and doors can keep your air conditioner and heating system working overtime. (And your wallet paying the price.) Another source of leakage -- your roof. If insulation and shingling isn't installed tight enough, heat can escape in the winter and sneak in during the summer.

    Solution: Make sure your house is properly insulated. Check window seams and doorways for any hints of airways. Invest in caulk to seal the passages. If you think the roof is your money-eating culprit, have a professional come to your house for an inspection.

    For more money-saving tips...
    5 Ways to Save Money in the Kitchen

    How to Save Money on Electricity Video

     

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    Buying a pre-packaged tool set can lead to wasted money and unneeded tools. Instead, follow our writer's lead as she breaks down her first tool kit.

    first tool kitThe tool kit, in all its glory. What's inside? Read on... Photo: Amanda Waas.


    Some of you already have tool kits that could put Bob Vila to shame. Friends, this article does not apply to you -- but we do recommend you email it to any college students/new apartment dwellers/friends who aren't as naturally handy as you are. This is for those who keep their tool kits in the depths of the closet or in the Narnia known as underneath the kitchen sink. Even if it's not used every day, it should still contain everything you need! Here's a list of the essentials everyone should have in their arsenal, and why it matters.

    first tool kit

    Your first tool kit should have... a measuring tape.
    So you ordered a new piece of furniture, but you didn't measure the space you were planning to put it in. Now it doesn't fit, and you have the awesome pleasure of bumping into it every morning on your way to the bathroom. This is a fate that could have been avoided had you overcome your laziness and pulled out the old tape measure before you bought the furniture. Lesson learned.

    Your first tool kit should have... needle-nosed pliers: Electricians use these for cutting wires that are shoved in tight spaces. You can use them on teeny wires poking out of a lampshade or non-electrical accessories. And yes, to fix the broken clasp on the cheap necklaces you bought.

    Your first tool kit should have... a box cutter: Put down the butterknife -- you need to stop dulling out your kitchen knives by opening your mail with them. The boxcutter is a great tool to keep handy. We promise: Your stress level will go down when you easily cut into your next package, instead of hacking at the mailing tape.

    first tool kit

    Your first tool kit should have... screwdrivers: You probably already know there are two types of screwdrivers: Phillips head and flat head. You should have both on-hand because you never know what type of screw you'll encounter. Whether you're going to tighten a loose door knob or attempt to put together a bookshelf, the screwdriver is probably going to be the item in your tool kit you'll get the most use out of.

    first tool kit

    Your first tool kit should have... a hammer and nails: You're probably not going to be doing much carpentry work, so the main use of the hammer and nails is going to come when you decide to buy something new to hang on your walls. Framed movie poster? Come on now. There are plenty of better options for wall art.

    first tool kit

    Your first tool kit should have... a level: Remember that time you hung up a painting and you got into a fight with your roommate/spouse about whether it was straight or not? You're perched on a second-rate step ladder and they're telling you things like, "A little higher on the left," and then, "Maybe a little higher on the right," followed by, "Um, maybe you should move it down?" The painting is either crooked or they are blind. You can avoid these Sunday afternoon arguments by picking up a level. It'll tell you how low or high the painting is and the bonus is that you don't have to have a conversation with your loved ones at all.

    first tool kit

    Your first tool kit should have... wire cutters: Since you can barely set the sleep timer on your TV, you're probably not going to be taking on any rewiring projects any time soon. But you should pick them up anyway. Why? Because you should approach your tool kit like you approach your love life: It's good to keep your options open.

    Your first tool kit should have... a wrench: We promise, the first time you notice a loose nut and tweak it into place with your wrench, you'll feel infinitely proud -- and yes, embolded to take out that tool kit more often.

    Now that you've assembled the perfect tool kit, you shouldn't have to pawn off all of your projects on assorted friends and loved ones. And if you're feeling ambitious, check out the must-have tools for 2011.

     

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    We are always looking for new ways to use household items. In our search, we stumbled upon this creative idea -- a light bulb vase!


    We have to hand it to Ready Made, this is genius! Not only is it a super savvy way to repurpose -- which we love to do -- but it looks great too! By hollowing out a light bulb and creating an aluminum rod stand, you can make a perfect new home for a house plant -- and yes, recycle in style. Not only is this a great way to get extra use out of burnt-out light bulbs, we think it makes a pretty perfect on-the-cheap housewarming gift.

    Visit Ready Made to get the full step-by-step instructions so you can get started!

    Get More Great Unusual Uses:
    Unusual Uses For Place Mats

    Unusual Uses For Nail Polish
    Unusual Uses for Vodka

     

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    You keep your books in your house...but why not keep them on a house. A small, wooden one, that is. Here's how.

    Check out this creative DIY project from our friends at Curbly!

    book stand

    There are a few things that simply seem to belong on a bedside table: a lamp, alarm clock, perhaps a pair of glasses, and a few magazines or books. Then, once you add a few personal items (mine usually include a crossword puzzle or two and a glass of water), and there's not a lot of extra space for any accessories or "decor" items.

    book standAn adorable book stand. Photo: Curbly.


    So, I wanted to make something to add a little bit of fun and style, but that doesn't take up too much prime nightstand real estate or interfere with the other items.And so, you see the results above: an alternative take on the bookmark (which I never seem to use anyway), in the form of a clean, Scandinavian-style wooden home. If using it to support your books isn't your thing, no worries. Who wouldn't want a tiny little wooden house to accessorize any space?

    True, I do have a bunch of fancy woodworking tools, and I used them here, but everything here can be done with simple hand tools, like a $20 pull saw or coping saw.

    Head over to Curbly to get the full step-by-step!

    And check out other great DIY projects:
    A Dramatic Hollow-Core Door Makeover
    This Weekend: Projects to Keep You Outside!

     

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    The heir to the British throne is a champion of environmental conservation. And HRH's latest venture has taught us a thing or two about eco-living.

    The whole world is waiting with bated breath for the nuptials of Prince William and Kate Middleton. However, the groom's own father is at least one member of the royal family who hasn't been completely consumed by wedding preparations.


    A long-time environmental activist, who has been dedicated to causes like renewable energy and organic farming long before they were chic, the Prince of Wales has become even more active in promoting these eco-causes. In fact, he recently told Vanity Fair,"I am absolutely determined to be the defender of nature. Full stop. That's what the rest of my life is going to be concerned with." Strong words for the heir to the British throne. Prince Charles latest green project is a earth-friendly model home designed by his foundation, The Prince's Foundation For The Built Environment.


    The "Prince's House",a model eco-conscious house, is one of the main attractions at this year's Ideal Home Show (March 11-27) in Earls Court in West London. While the royal model house is a far-cry from Buckingham Palace, the low-carbon domicile is a treasure trove of eco-friendly ideas. Here's what we learned from the Prince's House.

    1. Green can -- and should -- be beautiful. The Prince believes that energy-efficient can also be attractive and this model home proves his point.

    2. The suburbs are greener than the country. The Prince's Foundation believes that the most earth-friendly choice is to build homes near shops, schools and other amenities so that people can easily bike or walk to their destinations.

    Recycled art is chic. In the master bedroom, a pair of framed baby dresses stands in for artwork: A lovely and earth-friendly way to preserve memories.

    Upcycled furnishings can be stylish. Several pieces of furniture and accessories were made using materials that would have ended up in a landfill.


    You don't need high technology to go green. The Prince's house relies on decidedly low-fi technology, like an insulated roof for the majority of its energy efficiency.

    Nature makes the best insulation. The house uses nature's best for insulation: Lime-hemp and sheep's wool (really!) in the roof and floors and plain old air is trapped in a space between the interior and exterior walls.


    Old-fashioned can be earth-friendly. The house is built using traditional design and building methods that have been proven to work over time.

    The "buy local" edict isn't just for food. The Prince's House was made using materials from British companies in order to cut down on its carbon footprint.

    A beautiful home is ultimately greener. The Prince's Foundation believes, "If a building cannot be loved, it is more likely to be demolished within a relatively short span." We couldn't agree more.

    Looking for more articles on eco-living?
    Eco-Lingo: Ecological Footprint

    Yes, Please: An Eco-Spin on A Classic Design
    Green Cleaning -- Spring Cleaning Guide

     

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    One more thing to love about butcher block countertops? No matter what shape they're in, it's easy to make them look brand new. Here's how.

    A butcher block countertop is a hard-working, hard-wearing, long lasting classic choice for your kitchen. The natural wood is treated simply with oil to lock in moisture and to protect the wood. Damage to these counter surfaces can be sanded or scraped away and the surface can be re-oiled to get back to its original beauty.

    Photo: David Young-Wolff, Alamy


    Over time, the oils in these counters can sometimes build up. But don't worry -- there's a way to bring them back to glory!

    Step 1: If the surface seems sticky and oily, run a wide plastic putty knife over the surface to remove as much of the residue as you can.

    Step 2: Mask of the remainder of the kitchen with plastic sheeting and pull on a sanding mask and goggles.

    Step 3: Use a palm sander and a sixty-grit sandpaper to remove all of the surface scratches and damage. Work slowly and only in the direction of the grain. Going across the grain can cause more damage than good. Also, remember to keep the sander moving so you keep the surface nice and even. (Make sure you change the paper as soon as it gets gummed up with mineral oil.)

    Step 4: When the surface is smooth, change to a hundred-grit paper and sand the whole surface again. Then work down to a hundred and fifty grit paper and finish up with a superfine two hundred grit paper for a smooth finish. Remember to clean the surface between each grit.

    Step 5: Once all of the sanding is finished and all of the dust has been cleared, treat the surface with plain mineral oil and a soft cloth, which you can pick up at any drugstore, rubbing it well into the surface. Then let the oil soak in completely before you start using your counter again.

    A beautiful counter brought back to life in a few easy steps. I'm Mrs. FIXIT and it's just that simple!

     

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    You know overhauling your home can take a toll on your wallet and your patience. But it also can affect your marriage, if you let it. Our writer explains how to avoid the traps.

    marriage adviceThe writer and his wife, hard at work. Photo: Charles & Hudson.


    Home improvements -- even small repairs -- can provide us with a sense of achievement, pride, and the beauty or peace of a job well done.

    That's the upside. Yes, there's seperate marriage advice for those going through a remodel. Here's how your marriage can survive the overhaul.

    But they can also become high-pressure stress machines, especially for spouses working together.

    And the higher the stakes (think full kitchen renovation versus a wallpaper border) the higher the fallout when things go wrong. Note: Things always go wrong.

    Budgets get blown, timelines tank and communication is chaotic. Sometimes problems escalate into "I'm sleeping on couch" disagreements. That's why Mike Holmes of Holmes on Homes and Holmes Inspection calls the marital fallout from projects "Divorce Dust."

    For example: When Ken and Melly from Tyngsboro, MA decided to re-do their bathroom, both were excited. The idea was to start by taking apart the linen closet.

    Ken, who's handy, got to work on his day off while Melly headed to the office, both unaware of the problem they'd just created.

    Melly figured that Ken should remove the shelves and trim. Ken (knowing the bathroom was a full gut) thought they had agreed on deleting every shred of the closet en route to the demolition eventually required. Once he got into it, he realized two things: Once you take the skin off the walls, all the bones are connected. Also, that there was no clean stopping point. And that's how the entire linen closet wound up in trash bags in the driveway.

    Imagine Melly's surprise when she got home.

    Though trying, projects can also be an opportunity to learn more about each other and explore new ways to get along. My wife Theresa and I have found ways within our own marriage -- and the complete remodel of hundred year old house -- to short circuit these challenges. Call it the guide to avoiding divorce dust, call it marriage advice for remodelers -- either way, I hope it helps.

    1. Slow Down, Look, Listen
    Both of you will approach your projects from different perspectives. Call it Mars-Venus, different life experiences, whatever. The point is slow down --both of you-- and listen to one another. And make lots of eye contact when talking. Even when you don't want to.

    2. Manage Expectations
    Things go wrong in projects. It's not always someone's fault either. A house is a complicated system and having respect for that going in will serve you as you roadblocks arise.

    3. Plan First
    Many people suffering from home improvement headaches are in trouble because they got ahead of themselves. They tear down the deck without a detailed plan for the new one. Write an outline of the steps involved. How long you think they'll take and when you'll do them. Make materials lists. (Builders call this a "critical path.") Also plan to be wrong and to improvise.

    And for jobs that require them, pull permits. This is so worth it, for a zillion reasons.

    4. Budget
    Money is a hot-button issue and lots of couples find themselves starting angry sentences with "But you said it would cost...."

    What happened is that a realistic budget wasn't written (you didn't include the $800 in tools you'd need along with the materials) or there was an unknown (rotten roof decking under the garage shingles, for example). Or both.

    Or, you over-estimated your abilities thinking you could frame a wall/run wire to code. Once you realized it was harder in real life than on TV, the walls started closing in (figuratively, I hope) and you needed to hire a professional.

    All this boils down to this: Make a realistic budget. Include everything you can think of, then add 10%. Then, make sure you have some cash reserves beyond that because you'll probably use that 10%. Finally, try really hard to stay on budget.

    5. Establish Leadership "Islands"
    Theresa and I learned that working in parallel is only effective to a point. She's better at some things, I'm better at others. We call those things our "islands" and we're captains of them. For example, if she designs something, I work out if it can be built within the constraints we have (time, budget, etc.) It's not that we don't visit each other's islands sometimes, but due deference is paid when we're visiting.


    6. Get Ready for Dust, Dirt and Inconvenience
    The bigger the project, the worse it'll be. Different people have different tolerances for this. Everything from doing dishes in the bathtub to piles of tools in the corner on Christmas Day to dust in a room not being worked on. It gets to you eventually. Our favorite solution to this is to put hiring a maid into the budget. Which brings us to...

    7. Schedule Changes
    I can't tell you how many DIYers we've seen -- both on TV and in real life -- who don't alter their daily activities to meet the demands of their project. Seriously, their houses are blown apart, they're hemorrhaging money, both parties are furious, and still they take the dog out for a leisurely stroll, start working at 10:30 in the morning, chat with neighbors, or otherwise seem completely unaware that they're burning time. And they wonder why they can't finish?

    If there's one bit of advice to take above all others, it's this: You need long swaths of uninterrupted time working to get hands-on projects done. You can't hang crown molding and talk on the phone. Follow this rule and others will fall more easily into place.

    Ed Sanders of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition can attest. This woodworker is building the interior doors for his home where he lives with wife and four children. He's milling hardwood using a machine called a shaper, cutting the rails, styles and raised panels. And only after all that can he hang them in the opening. When we talked with him last year, he had the first doors done and was excited to finish. Then he got busy. A year later when we asked how the project turned out he, well, answered: "Oh...yeah...those doors..."

    He graciously and hysterically told the whole story about what it's like living without interior doors ("It's amazing what you can do with sheets!"). And his tale is emblematic of what home improvement is and what it really means.

    See, once you start, you've begun a journey. One way or the other, whether you come to the end of it or not, you're on it. And the best way to enjoy it -- and improve your home and feel that pride and peace -- is to get along with each other. Let carpentry problems stay carpentry problems; money problems stay money problems (at least try your best to). Journeying the home improvement path together might change some things, but it doesn't change who you are.

    So trust each other -- a lot. Give each other reasons to deserve the trust. And work together. It's what marriage -- and home improvement -- is all about.

    Still have remodeling issues on the brain? Read about another marriage-meets-DIY situation in New Wife, New Kitchen.

     

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    Our writer tried to be thrifty and ended up losing $1,000. Here's how to avoid the same fate.

    I once had the brilliant idea that I could paint the interior of our rental condo myself. We were between tenants and the walls needed some freshening up before we could rent it again. The place was only 1500 square feet. How hard could it be?

    Photo: Alamy


    My husband assured me it would be better to hire a painting company to do the job. They have the proper tools and sprayers and ladders. They have experienced painters. They have insurance.

    I would have no part of it. I was raised to be self-sufficient and frugal. Why should I pay someone to do something I could do myself?

    My husband shook his head at me with a knowing look in his eyes and drove me to the paint store. We bought gallons of white paint, brushes, rollers, pans, tape, drop cloths, rags, spackle and paint remover. Fortunately we already had a ladder.

    We started our painting project early one Saturday morning. A small bedroom would be our first room, just to get a feel for what we were doing. We removed all of the window blinds, light switches and outlet covers. We dusted the window sills and door frames. We vacuumed the rug. We took a sponge with soapy water and scrubbed the baseboards and window tracks. We filled in all the picture-hook holes with spackle and waited for them to dry. Finally we were ready to paint!

    Well, not exactly. I forgot we still had to tape around the door handles, the door frames, the baseboards and the closet doors. Oops, we needed to remove that closet system too. Taping takes a long time. Just when you think you are making progress, you realize the tape is slightly crooked and you have to start over from scratch.

    When we finally started to roll the paint onto the walls, we moved quite quickly. The result looked great and I was proud we had done it ourselves. And it only took four hours. Then, my husband reminded me that we still had to do a second coat. And, we had only painted one small room. And the ceilings in the living room were 25 feet tall. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea?

    As we had full-time jobs, we were only able to paint on weekends. It took us three weekends to complete the project. We gave up on the living room ceilings and decided to leave them alone. They were simply too high to reach.

    The overall result was pretty good. The condo looked fresh and clean; it rented quickly. Then my wonderful husband gave me that knowing look and told me we had just lost about $1,000 by doing the job ourselves. How could that be?

    Apparently a professional painter with sprayers and a couple of helpers could have completed the job in two days at a cost of $1,450. Since it took us three weeks to complete the paint job, those were three weeks we could not collect rent on an empty condo. At $3,200 per month in rent, we lost $2,400 during those three vacant weeks. Add in the $50 we spent on supplies that a professional already has and we were out $1000. $2,400 (lost rent) + $100 (supplies) - $1,500 (hire painters) = $1,000. And this equation assumes our time is worth nothing.

    Live and learn. Now we only hire professional painters.

    Still have painting on the brain? Check out...
    How to Dispose of Leftover Paint

    Painting Tips: From Choosing a Color to Tackling the Ceiling

     

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    To boost your home's curb appeal and its value to potential buyers, just paint a door!

    paint-a-doormonkeysox, flickr



    A quick color change is the most satisfying way to give your front entry a facelift, but it turns out there's a better way to paint a door, in just one easy step. The key is to use porch and floor enamel. This type of paint dries to a hard, colorfast, moisture- and mildew-resistant surface. (All without needing a primer coat.) It's ideal for front doors because the enamel dries to a super-strong coating that offers unparalleled protection against scratches. Once you paint a door with it, the color will stay bright and fresh-looking for season after season.

    And, um...it also prevents the wood from rotting, something that most of us don't detect until things get really gross. Trust me, you do not want that happening. (But if it isn't too out of control, small bits of wood rot can be fixed with epoxy.)

    The caveat: Enamel dries to a very glossy finish. So if you aren't a fan of the look, try an oil-based enamel, which has the same benefits of porch and floor enamel, but comes in eggshell finishes. Just be prepared for a slightly longer drying time.

    I know, painting the front door is a chore. But you'll save time if you decide to tackle this project now, rather than later. Why? Because May is the ideal time to paint in most parts of the country. The general low humidity and friendly 50-70 temperatures present the ideal conditions for that coat of paint to dry quickly to a pristine finish. And if you're putting your home on the market, the fresh coat will signal to potential buyers that this home has been cared for, increasing its relative value.

    Need a little brush-up before you paint a door? (Especially you, home sellers!) Check out...


     

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