Month: February 2012

Light Your Home Like a Pro

3 lighting tricks that will make your home look like a million dollars

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1. Light from floor to ceiling

The number one trick up designers sleeves is lighting a room on multiple levels. Recessed lighting, pendant lighting, lamps on tables, wall light flowing up from the floor or down from the ceiling — the more levels of light you place in a room, the more luxurious it will feel. Layers and levels of lighting make a room look bigger, more interesting and richer.

  • Try running a long light underneath a pretty buffet or dresser on legs — place it near the back to create a glow under the piece and the surrounding wall.
  • For pretty draperies, place a cool temperature uplight just in front and light up the folds and pattern.
  • If you’re lucky enough to have beefy crown molding or soffits on your ceiling, try tube lighting tucked against the back.
  • Sconces can wash a wall with light to create a soft atmosphere

For more ideas about multi-level lighting check out Lighting and Uplighting on

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2. Light to feature and display

Light is one of the best ways to show off your home’s features — not to mention your own prize possessions.

  • Aim a ceiling mounted pin light at favorite photos or paintings
  • Pin lights can also be used to showcase sculpture and works of art on shelving and table tops
  • Uplighting plants is an easy way to add drama and interesting light to any room
  • Highlight architectural features in your home — illuminate a niche by washing light up from the floor or guide visitors to a window seat with subtle strip lighting running under the edge of the seat
  • In the kitchen, under-cabinet lighting is not only functional, it can add to the visual appeal of the room

For more ideas on lighting your home, check out Home Depot’s tips to Design with Light.

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3. Lighting as art

In and of itself, lighting can be beautiful and interesting.

  • Crystal chandeliers and modern pendant lamps capture and refract light a thousand times over
  • Lamps can be works of art in and of themselves — look for pretty and distinctive lighting fixtures and lamps that make their own statement.

Kartell Cindy Table Lamp (available from


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Arco Floor Lamp from DWR or try the similar Meryl floor lamp from Crate and Barrel

Dim the Lights, Your Home is About to Glow

How to transform your home (and save money!) with the power of light

Spanish Inquisition or Romantic Dinner for Two?

One of the quickest ways to set a mood is with lighting. Notice how you never walk into a nice restaurant for dinner under the glare of bright light? Or how nice it is to sit in your living room at night during the holidays with just the holiday lights or a fire? Adjustable lighting gives you easy control over the feel and mood of the rooms in your home.

Dim the Lights

The number one easiest way to control your lights is to replace standard on/off switches with dimmers — dimmers come in all varieties, from your basic $5 round push and turn version to full fledged smart controls with memory settings, remote controls, vacancy sensors and scene controls (like the one below from Leviton, available at The Home Depot).

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Save Energy

As a bonus, using dimmer controls on your lights can also reduce your electricity bill. The lower the light, the less energy it requires. Lutron, a leading manufacturer of lighting controls, has an online Energy Calculator on its site — enter bulb type, quantity, wattage  — to see how much electricity, money and replacement costs you save with different dimmer settings and use.

 dimmer rocker slide lutron


Energy efficient light bulbs are also now available in dimmable versions — there are dimmable CFL bulbs and LED bulbs. You can pick up a two-pack of 65W equivalent dimmable CFL bulbs at The Home Depot for about $15.

Don’t Light Empty Rooms

Dimmers are available with occupancy sensors (like the Lutron dimmer below, available for about $40 from The Home Depot)— turning lights off automatically when the room is empty. Some occupancy dimmers can also be set to turn on automatically when someone enters the room, while others offer a variety of control combinations — e.g., come on automatically when someone enters while requiring a manual turn off.

dimmer lutron occupancy sensor



Next week: Choosing and Placing Lights to Make the Most of Your Rooms

Home Automation Is Coming To A Home Near You

New entry level systems bring wider accessibility to home technology

Will 2012 be the year that home automation moves from a luxury reserved for the millionaire next door and becomes a possibility for the everyday home owner?

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According to the editors over at Home Toys, the answer is yes. And for one simple reason — the variety and quality of entry level systems now on the market. Those systems are taking advantage of advances in technology, mainly in the wireless and power line arenas, to tackle what used to be the major obstacle for the average home owner: installation. Gone are the days of buying miles of expensive cable and then fishing it and retrofitting it into your home.

Home automation — defined

At the most basic, it’s remote and/or automated control of the functions in your home — from lights to security, from music to the coffee maker, from HVAC to TV.

Home automation systems — described

Home automation systems range from global systems that manage everything to targeted solutions that focus on just one function (e.g., lighting, security, locks, etc.).

Home automation — there’s an app for that

Along with the advances in power line and wireless technology, which may be invisible to the everyday consumer, there have been significant advances in web and mobile-based apps. Today, most every home automation solution allows you to monitor and manage your system from the web and from your phone, no matter where you are.

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Home automation systems — free or minimal cost  (via

  • Home Seer — “control lighting, climate, audio/video, security, irrigation and more”
  • mControl“take control of metering systems, lighting solutions, climate controls, security systems, cameras, audio/visual equipment and beyond” (this company is currently looking for beta users/testers for the latest version of its system, mControl v3)
  • Think Essentials“leverage your existing computer investment to set up, configure, and control your smart home with ease”
  • Indigo — “communicate with dozens of different home automation modules, providing control of lighting, lamps, appliances, sprinklers, thermostats and more”
  • VeraLite“created for users that already have a WiFi router and want to add home control at the most affordable price”
  • Encore“end-to-end, multi-source/multi-room music system providing superior audio distribution and sound quality”
  • Insteon“the standard for lighting, appliance and home control applications. Over 1,000 manufacturers are involved in INSTEON R&D, spanning products in every imaginable home application”
  • Nexia“Unlock the door or adjust the temperature for a visitor while you’re working at the office… oversee and control your home via web and smart phone mobile interfaces”



Spruce Up Your Home — With One Dollar

4 surprising things you can do for just a dollar

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1. Make it sparkle

For sparkling windows, mix equal parts distilled water (particles in tap water can leave a residue and streaks) and white vinegar in a spray bottle. Spray and wipe. If you’re cleaning your windows for the first time, you might want to add 1/2 teaspoon of dish soap to the mixture, to get rid of any residue on your windows from commercial window cleaners. Find three different vinegar window cleaning recipes on Care 2 Green Living.

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2. Make it shine

For a clean oven — no fumes, no scrubbing — sprinkle your oven with baking soda, then spray with water until completely damp, but not soupy. Wait until the mixture is dry, then spray again. If you don’t have a spray bottle, you can mix up the baking soda and water into a paste in a bowl and then spread it in the oven. Let sit overnight, then scoop up the mixture, along with all the dirt and grease, with a sponge. With a clean rag or sponge, wipe down the remaining white residue.

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3. Make your own light show

For pretty candles that don’t cost an arm and a leg, try this trick from HGTV’s Emily Henderson: take an ordinary candle from the 99 Cent store (if it has a label on it, use a blow dryer to soften the adhesive and peel it off) and paint it with metallic paint (available in small jars from toy stores) or left-over glossy paint from another project.

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4. Make a bookshelf from a book

Before you throw away those old hardbacks — with a few screws and an L bracket, you can turn old hardback books into shelves for more books. Genius. For step-by-step instructions, visit Instructables.