Month: April 2012

What’s Old Can Be New

From the mundane to the unique, the uses for salvage material in your home are endless. Builders, contractors and remodelers are realizing they’re better off disposing of left-over and replaced materials and items in salvage yards rather than in landfills and garbage dumps — which means there is a veritable cornucopia of selection available for you to use in your home.

Basic Materials

Left-over supplies are the most common thing you’ll find in a salvage yard — lumber, light fixtures, floorboards, hardware, plumbing fixtures and so on. Read up or bring an expert with you, so you know what you’re getting — often times the supplies are surplus and in nearly perfect shape, you’ll still want to inspect everything before you buy it.

salvage hardware display.jpg


Salvage yards are a great place to find doors, cabinets, sinks — ready made and often good-as-new. The key to getting the most out of shopping for salvage is to remain flexible in your vision of what will work in your home, without abandoning your design guidelines altogether. Figure out what is non-negotiable for your requirements — you want a single control faucet sink in the kitchen, you can only fit a pedestal sink in the powder room — and what you can play with décor-wise.

sinks salvage yard.jpg

Creative Design

One of the best things to come out of salvage yard shopping are new and eye-catching uses for old things. Whether old column headers for table legs, flower pots as pendant lights, or even the old but never tired tire-as-swing — salvage yards are full of things that you can use to make your home your own — and save money and help the planet at the same time.

vintage table.jpg

For more ideas on how to use salvage materials in your home, check out these resources:


How Does Your Garden Grow?

Why and How To Test the Soil In Your Yard


spring flower in dirt .jpg

What does your soil say?

Knowing your soil is, according to most garden and lawn experts, essential to getting the most from your landscape efforts. Soil tests can tell you your soil’s nutrient composition, its pH, its phosphorous level, organic content, and its composition.

  • Nutrient composition is to plants what RDA levels of vitamins and minerals are to humans — if tests show your soil lacking in certain nutrients, it’s easy to compensate with a fertilizer rich in those areas.
  • Soil pH levels tell you how acidic your soil is — a pH level of between 6.5 and 7.0 is generally fine for most types of plants. If you’re planning on a more extensive garden, it’s worth investigating the best soil levels for the plants you intend to grow — rosemary, for instance, thrives in soil with a pH level between 5.0 and 6.0.
  • Organic content in your soil helps the soil absorb and store water as well as raises the nutrient levels available in the soil

How do you test your soil?

There are many DIY kits for testing your soil’s pH, nutrient and phosphorous levels. The most reliable way to test your soil, however, is to contact your county extension agent — you can find your nearest extension office on the USDA’s site here.

To get a sense of your soil’s type and composition, there are a few tests you can do yourself with materials found in your kitchen.

  • The Squeeze Test for soil type: take a moistened handful of your soil (from the area and depth you will be planting in/to) and squeeze — coarse soil will break with slight pressure, medium texture soil will stay together and change shape easily, fine textured soil resists breaking apart.
  • The Jar Test for soil composition: scoop up one to two cups of soil and place it in a large jar. Fill the jar half-way with water and shake. After a few hours, check the jar — the sand will settle at the bottom, the silt in the middle and the clay at the top. Measure the total height of all three layers and the height of each layer to determine the percentage of sand, silt and clay.


(image from

Why test your soil?

 “Amending” your soil with feritlizer, lime, compost and/or other additives will maximize the chances that you’ll have the lawn and garden you want, and minimize the amount of frustration you’ll experience tending your yard.

For more on your soil content, check out these sites:

  1. Estimating Soil Texture: Sandy, Loamy or Clayey (Colorado State University Extension)
  2. Four Easy Do-It-Yourself Soil Tests ( Organic Gardening)
  3. Preparing Garden Soil (TLC)
  4. Improving Garden Soils with Organic Matter (Oregon State University Extension)
  5. Understanding your Soil (Rainbird)
  6. Adventures in Soil Testing: Do DIY Kits Match Pro Results? (HouseLogic)

Design Online

4 of the Best Home Inspiration, Design and Resource Sites

1. Houzz

Part social network, part online bulletin board, part design know-how and how-to, Houzz comes as both a website and an app (iPhone and iPad). People and designers hold ongoing discussions on the site about rooms, design ideas and how-to’s, resources and prices. A new feature has added green tags to photos — clicking on a tag will bring up details like price and where you can buy it.

2. Apartment Therapy

One of the most popular design sites around, Apartment Therapy is chockfull of photos, tips, question & answers geared toward “helping people make their homes more beautiful, organized and healthy by connecting them to a wealth of resources, ideas and community online.”

apartment therapy backyard_1 after.jpg

3. Remodelista

Come to this site for ideas on and guides on accessories, renovations, make-overs, and shopping tips. With a strong emphasis on design, this site is a great combination of inspirational imagery and practical advice to help you make the most of your home.

remodelista hm-kitchen.jpg

4. Design*Sponge

A blog on design that was launched in 2004 by a Brooklyn-based design writer, Design*Sponge now sports a team of writers and editors covering categories including “Before + After”  and “DIY” — ideas,  images and instruction on everything from renovated bathrooms to made-over china cabinets, and which you can search by difficulty, cost, or technique; “Spaces” — sneak peeks into and commentary on other people’s homes, searchable by size, state, even owned or rented; “Products” — showcasing new, cool, useful or just beautiful goods and gadgets; and more.

designsponge nursery closet redo.jpg