Category Archives: Home Improvements

The Zen of Living in a Nice World: My Writing

Hey, guys.
So, I write more a month, I suspect, over at Build Direct’s decorating blog more than I write here. But I want to share with you all the writings I’ve done in the last three months. Click the links below for more.
And a word to the wise? Those of us who blog commercially are oftentimes rewarded for when you “like” the blog post on the blog page, or you use the “tweet it” option, or you +1 it, or you comment. So, get involved, like the stuff, share it, and you’ll put money in my pockets. Thanks!

Heritage Homes: One Neighborhood’s Approach

Throughout North America are places that reflect the world that was, little havens of heritage.
This spring, I moved to one.
James Bay, in Victoria, Canada, is the oldest West Coast neighborhood north of San Francisco, its streets lined with a mix of homes dating as far back as the 1860s and apartment buildings built in the 1950s and ‘60s, when the city had its first population boom. READ MORE HERE.

Upcycling for Everyone!

Reusing stuff doesn’t have to be boring, you know.
Today, the trend of “upcycling” is well-established in some parts, but some would say it’s an age-old art dating back to whoever first hung a truck tire from a tree and called it a “swing.”
What is upcycling? READ MORE HERE.

Home Decor Upcycling Ideas: New Lives For Old Stuff

Scouring the Internet is a wonderful way to find inspiration for reinventing things you might’ve thought had their day.
Just because it can’t be of use as it once was doesn’t mean you can’t turn yesteryear’s obsolete items into repurposed awesome things that are of use, and fun to have, in your modern life.
Next time you’re cruising yard sales or helping someone clear out their attic, try imagining all that “junk” as something completely different. READ MORE HERE.

Stained Glass Accessories For Illuminated Home Decor

I’m new to my city and find myself walking randomly and discovering great things, like the local artist who has incorporated stained glass in his property’s fence.
Since then, I’ve noticed stained glass in so many homes, in so many ways, and I’ve found myself falling in love with its attributes.
If you think about it, most of us we spend our lives in search of light… READ MORE HERE.

Shadow Boxes: Making Clutter and Keepsakes Into Art

More and more, people are learning the lesson of clutter and how it affects us on a daily basis.
When trying to confront clutter, there are lots of ways to bring some of those rediscovered, long-lost items the respect and visibility they deserve.
One great way is with shadow boxes, which truly showcases our things. It’s the decor version of “Hey, Look At Me. I’m Special!READ MORE HERE.

Create A Home Coffee Bar: Better Living Through Home Brewing

Some joke Starbucks should be called “Fivebucks,” because coffee’s so expensive these days — but they ain’t the only ones raking it in over this magical elixir.
A necessary drug for most of us, java’s the wheel that keeps the modern world spinning.
Let’s face it… READ MORE HERE.

Outdoor Kitchen Planning: Room For Dreaming!

Not long ago that the phrase “outdoor kitchen” meant having a big barbecue and a great table, and that was good enough for us!
Now those days seem quaint and underachieving, as  one can obtain culinary awesomeness in the great outdoors. With today’s mix of old traditions and new technology, outdoor kitchens boggle the mind with possibility. READ MORE HERE.

DIY Cooking Grills And Pits For Outdoor Dining Spaces

While fancy state-of-the-art outdoor kitchens are all the rage now, there’s a lot to be said for the age-old mighty barbecue pit, old-school smokers, and even converted barrel-cookers.
It’s nice to order high-tech, but the fact is, people have been cooking outdoors since the dawn of man, and we’ve done it for tens of thousands of years before stainless steel appliances and solar panels landed on the scene. We don’t need no stinking technology!
All these newfangled gadgets are great, but… READ MORE HERE.

Accent Walls: One Wall To Rule Them All

Oh, accent walls, how I love thee.

Today, an accent wall makes a lot of sense by offering a budget-friendly way to introduce a great deal of drama in a room without having to tackle the whole room.
As a kid, my first great decorating triumph came by way of an accent wall when my mom let me pick the wallpaper for my room and I got all crazy and asked for an accent wall with pink. It worked. Since then, I’ve been addicted… READ MORE HERE.

Personal Spaces: Interior Decor & Design Rules To Be Broken

It’s an exciting time to be alive. The internet teems with ideas and worldviews that surprise and delight us constantly.
We’re in the age of open individualism. We see so much into average people’s lives now, and their lives are so different from what we’d been shown in oh-so-white traditional media before the web’s explosion.
Now, individualism is almost omnipresent. Everywhere we go, people are “characters” and spaces are becoming more unique and funky.
Quirky, creative homes now capture our imagination and give us permission… READ MORE HERE.

Outdoor Room Themes: Outdoor Living Spaces As Exotic Locales

If you’re like me, you think your backyard or deck is where you get to live a little.
It’s where you let loose and unwind, soak up some sun, read a book, entertain friends. It’s also a great place to have fun with a theme. Embrace your creative side and see what you can create in terms of a backyard that transports you to another time, place, and culture.
When you’re willing to do a little DIY, shop off the beaten track… READ MORE HERE.

What In The Hell Does THIS Button Do?

Geez. New technology around the home is such a love-hate thing. It’s so wonky adjusting to new things.
I remember the old days of the ’70s, when you’d walk into someone’s home, there was ONE TV, if any, and that TV had a few dials and knobs you could turn, and that’s that.
You just flipped past three channels.
The “tint” dial you only used as your tube was about to die, to adjust the red/greeny-ness of it until you could take it to an actual repairman.
Not rocket science to watch anything. Click, crank, click. And you got exercise doing it, too. If you didn’t like the show, you had to actually walk eight feet to do something, AND walk BACK.
Now, you need a fucking degree to figure out which remote does what and your back gets sore from sitting so long while you’re doing it.
Don’t worry, kids. Granny Steff will figure it out.
I got the PVR thingiemajobber, it plugs into the fancy hi-def TV doohickety-theatre thingie, and then the theatre thingie plugs into the humongogianticus TV screen. Right. There you go. THAT’s simple.
That took a while to figure out, and I had to ask for advice on the interwebs, but five hours later I had sound.
Today, I’ve figured out how to play music. How exciting. I’m finally in 2012 after 18 years with the same stereo.

We’ve Come A Long Way, Baby

It’ll take me a month or so to make peace with how COMPLICATED it needs to be to listen to music and shit now, BUT I’ll be fine.
Because it looks pretty and sounds good, right? That’s how we think. We sit on the “how frustrating it is” to operate the digital world because once it gets going, it’s awesome(ish) [if graded on a curve].
But all new technology is an adjustment, and our feeble human minds don’t always adjust as quickly as we’d like. And what’s different from our expectations is often voted disappointing before we give it a big chance.
As much as I grumble about the learning curve with my fancy new shit, I think it’s amazing how far we’ve come since my childhood.
We were the first kids on the block with an Atari game system. My parents did up the guest room at the same time and picked out this wicked green carpet that felt like velvet. I remember the kids coming over to play the ONLY SYSTEM ON THE BLOCK and how we’d all park our asses on that velvetty carpet and the tweed sofa-sleeper and crowd around the Atari, playing Asteroids until the end of time.
Pew! Pew! Pow! Whizz! Pew! You’re dead. Crushed by space rock! SUCKER.
I love the tech I’ve picked up and can’t wait to master it all. I just figured out another thing with listening to music on my phone docked to my stereo. How exciting! Maybe I’m not pushing 80 after all.
I suspect I’ll be living with my new purchases for five years or more. Except the laptop. But the rest, probably a good long haul. I’m not married to the newness. I just want a stereo that works, a way to enjoy all my music in one place, and a TV that doesn’t take five minutes to warm up to a picture.
Pretty simple. It’ll be great for my new nesting life across the pond. Less of the restaurant scene, more of the hanging at home. I’d like to entertain more. Friends over for dinner, movie, chatting. I think everything I’ve got is conducive to that.

A Brave New Fiscal Entertainer’s World

Everyone’s making a fuss about the restaurant scene and griping about how expensive it’s become, and, OH, the horrors of cutting back, and the punishment it is to stay home with a movie.
When I grew up, going to a restaurant was a special occasion. We only did it once or twice a month as a family, if that. Having a movie night at home was exciting. We’d do that weekly. Popcorn! Mom’s brown sugar candy! Extra milk to drink! SKOOKUM.
Somewhere along the way, we as a society started feeling entitled to eating out and seeing movies and all that. For a while, it became kind of affordable. Then we got hooked, and then we fell for the lie that life was better with it all.
Not as many people cook as there used to be. You can get by without those basic skills now, since food’s omnipresent at stupid prices.
But once upon a time, you cooked for your friends, you watched a movie, you hung out with a bottle of cheap wine, laughed till 2 in the morning, and enjoyed the simple things with others.
There’s getting to be a return to this, but I see some people acting like it’s some kind of penalty for life choices or something. Restaurants are a status symbol now. The hipper it is, the pricier it is, the more cachet you pack for having been a part of that scene.
Me, I’m excited. I’ll make new friends soon, live in a nice central place for entertaining, and hopefully I’ll get back to the way I used to be — a host for fun nights of food and chatter, which is how I lived my first three years in this apartment.
I feel fortunate I could make these purchases and capitalize on sick sales for decent quality. I’m looking forward to a return to the kind of lifestyle my parents raised me with — friends and family over, great food, tunes, and entertainment, wonderful hosting, and real engaging with others.
This is the first step in my throwing on the brakes and doing a 180 in life. What fun.
What does THIS button do?

My Recent Decor Blogging: Links

As you may already know, I’ve had a little blogging stint over at
Here are the blog posts I’ve done in the last few weeks:

Rethinking Storage: A Personal Story

A material age presents a lot of space-making challenges. Where do we put all that stuff when urban dwellings are shrinking?
Just last week, a New York writer’s 90-square-foot apartment went viral. Opting to live in the perfect location just two blocks from Central Park and Lincoln Center, Felice Cohen compromised space to live in a convenient neighborhood, and learned to use use every square-inch of her postage-stamp-sized pad.
After watching that video, my 660-square-foot 1952 apartment sounds positively palatial, but living in it, this “palace” feels full. READ MORE HERE.

Urban Gardening for Beginners:

Growing & Using Herbs

A nice patio container garden can really take the cold edge off living in an often-impersonal concrete jungle.
While convenient, urban living is getting more expensive, and, as food prices around the world escalate, it’s easy to cut back on groceries to keep a budget reined in, but there’s a tasty compromise a lot of city-dwellers don’t consider: an urban garden, or kitchen garden. READ MORE HERE.

De-cluttering: Understanding Clutter,

And Why It Needs to Go

Clutter, like most things in life, sneaks up on you. A couple busy months peppered with a few dozens “I’ll get to that later,” and suddenly everything from your fridge to your filing is making you nuts.
Clearly people relate to this struggle, since Rob Jones’ piece on de-cluttering is one of our most popular posts, and for good reason! Getting over clutter will change your life. READ MORE HERE.

Urban Gardening for Beginners:

14 Herbs to Grow Yourself

Last week, I wrote about how to consider your small space for a kitchen garden. Today, I’d like to tell you about all the herbs I think are great for cooking with, so you can start planning how to proceed.
Professional chefs love fresh herbs for a reason: They’re awesome!
I’m no professional, but I can’t get enough of fresh herbs. At $2.50 a pack in my area, a packet of herbs is a luxury item in winter. There’s a recession, you know. READ MORE HERE.

Interior Design Vignettes, Pt I:

Small Spaces Within Large Rooms

Rooms are big! Decorating is a challenge when you’re thinking “big picture” from the start.
Have you ever thought smaller, via creating “vignettes?”
In writing and art, “vignettes” are smaller scenes meant to have more impact. In decorating, it’s an area that’s a self-contained setting within a larger space. A little reading alcove, eating nook, or the stuff you surround your hallway table with — these are all examples of vignettes. READ MORE HERE.

De-Cluttering: Where to Start, And How

Last time, I wrote about the emotional struggle one goes through with clutter, and why de-cluttering is such a triumph when you get it done.
I’m not an organizational expert, but I’ve made it happen anyway and so can you. These techniques worked for me, and continue to work. Here’s how to start. READ MORE HERE.

Interior Design Vignettes, Pt II:

Home Decor Themes

When we were talking about creating vignettes for larger rooms, “themes” came up.
“Theme,” used in art, writing, and other areas, is generally defined as a “unifying subject or idea.”
“Theme rooms” get a bad rap because too many people abuse them.
You know how the standard “seaside theme” looks, right? Walking in, it’s like being slapped upside the head. Oh, look… How nautical: Rope ceiling trim, a porthole, and lots of blue and white. It’s like being visually assaulted by the Love Boat’s set decorator.
That’s not a “theme,” that’s a cry for help. READ MORE HERE.

I HAVE A HAMMER, Therefore I DIY Blog

HEY, people.
You know what I haven’t told you yet? I’m blogging over at BUILD DIRECT, your building supply geniuses on the web.
There, you’ll find me doing home improvement and DIY blogs on a whole range of topics.
If you like the content on the following posts, please comment on the Build Direct blog, not here. Share it, like it, tweet it — whatever you like.
Here are the summaries of my recent posts, and stay tuned for more.

  • 6 Ideas for Balcony Privacy: Honestly, sometimes the best thing about apartment living is spying on the neighbors. The flipside is, sometimes the worst thing is knowing neighbours are spying on you. In the summer, the world’s a fish bowl when it comes urban apartment balcony life. It doesn’t have to be that way. With creativity and crafty splurging, you too can enjoy a special outdoor space while not letting yourself be a spectator sport… READ MORE HERE.
  • Picking Paint Colors: It’s Personal, Not Theory: Committing to a new paint color can be nerve-wracking. A friend once taped 15 paint chips to the wall, and asked her visitors to choose their favourite — of 15 variations on beige. Her inability to break the Bonds of Beige isn’t unusual. Embracing color is a lot to ask in a neutral world… READ MORE HERE.
  • Area Rugs as Wall-Hangings: A Magic Carpet Decor Solution: It’s the oldest of decorating truisms: a house isn’t home until something’s hanging on the walls. It’s personalized touches like artwork or family photography that define your space. Today, it’s rare to see original art hanging in a home, or unique knick-knacks. As a result, we have a crisis of decorating identity… READ MORE HERE.
  • Rethinking Storage: A Personal Story: Space: Everyone wants it, but in a square-foot world, it’s increasingly a luxury. A material age presents a lot of space-making challenges. Where do we put all that stuff when urban dwellings are shrinking? READ MORE HERE.

Coming up in May, I have a whole series on DECLUTTERING the home. I also have a two-parter on growing a kitchen garden. And there’ll be other stuff coming up as well.
Are there DIY stories you wish were getting covered? Are there home-improvement ideas you’d like my thoughts on? Here’s where you can tell me that. Thank you! Enjoy the reads.