Monday, December 5, 2011

How to make your bedroom unique for very little money!

I have a bedroom shaped like a small box.  Nothing architecturally stunning about it.  4 walls, 2 windows and a floor.  Yawn.

When you have a large bedroom there is just so much you can do to spruce it up.  There are amazing occasional chairs that you can put in there to form a reading nook.  Or perhaps an ornate dressing table?  How about splurging on a canopy bed much as they had in medieval times?  But when your bedroom is small, you have to be far more creative.

Most designers will tell you that you need to splurge on one big dollar item and build your room around that.  I say that's great if you have $5,000 (or more) to spend on a big wonderful bed!  However, I don't.  So my solution is to snaz up what I have and improvise.  Nearly anything can be made to look far more expensive than it is if you dress it up a bit.

Dreaming of a canopy bed?  Try this trick.

Look how elegant this is! Curtain rods attached to the ceiling and heavy drapery.  That's all you need to accomplish this look!

This is so simple! Attach a curtain rod to your wall and slap on a set of curtains! As your mood or the season can your mini canopy! Works wonders for a small room with low ceilings! AND if you put a mirror behind it?  The illusion of a window will be born!

Curtain rods can be attached to the wall behind your bed OR they can be attached to your ceiling!  You can hang heavy draperies to give it drama or hang lightweight curtains to give it an airy and light feel!  And the absolute best thing about this type of canopy bed, is you can change it out at a whim.  You're not married to any particular look, style or color scheme.

So what if you're just not a canopy kind of person?  What to do?  How about a comfy "head board" that will look great and give you a cushion for those nights when you want to sit in bed and read or watch TV?  

This head board is inexpensive, comfy & easy!

For the head board above, all you need are two (or three depending on how big your bed is) floor cushions.  Try thrift stores or bargain stores.  Don't worry if you hate the looks of them when you buy them.  You can easily change that with a bit of fabric.  Get the cheapest ones you can find, recover them, hang a couple of hooks on your wall and a couple of rings on the back of the cushions and you have a head board that will give you style AND comfort!!

What always makes a room, any room, appear larger and brighter than it really is.......mirrors!

If you have a wall that perhaps isn't right for a piece of furniture due to traffic flow or maybe it's just too close to the bed or another door such as the closet, try putting a mirror there.  It will furnish that space, allow light to bounce around and give it some style and functionality all at the same time.  Let me show you a sample of a unique mirror below.....

Old doors can be found at salvage companies, on the curb, at Habitat for Humanity outlets or maybe even in your basement or attic.  This one was just a simple unadorned door from a renovation that was going to be tossed out.

All it took was some paintable wallpaper for the inset at the top, some molding to put around the inset as well as on the top and then going to the glass store to get a piece of mirror to fit nicely in the front.  Once you have your mirror, glue it in place and put a thin molding around the edges with brad nails and glue.  This will not only give it that finishing touch, but will keep it firmly in place for generations to come!  Note: do any painting before you place your mirror otherwise you just might have a mess to clean off your mirror.

As for the door knob, take it out and using a wall repair kit that comes with a plastic screen for large holes in walls, patch the area where the knob used to be.  Once it's all dried, paint and no one will ever know it was even there.

OR you could leave the doorknob if it's an unusual piece and use that to hang your purse or scarves on.  Whatever you wish!

Enjoy and have a great time trying these tips out in your own home!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

It's Cold Outside!!! Time to plug up the holes!

Unless you live in a brand spanking new energy efficient house (and sometimes even then) you are getting cold air seeping into your home from some of the strangest places.

The normal and most obvious places are your windows and doors.  But how about your electrical sockets?  Your light switches?  The spaces between your wall and your floor?  Overhead light fixtures?  Fireplace? There are numerous places that allow cold air to stream into your home.

The easiest way to discover them?  Light a candle and walk around slowly.  When the flame flickers, there's air movement.  Once you discover the source, plug it up!  You will also want to make your room as dark as possible during the day.  Then walk around your house and look for light coming in from doors and/or windows.  Easy as pie.

If you go to your local light company, most of them will give you (for free) a weather proofing kit.  It won't be enough to do your entire house, but it's free and it's a start.  Anything else you may need will be found at your local home improvement store.

Do you have a fireplace?  You would not believe how much heat in the winter and cold air in the summer goes right up your chimney.  Even when the flue is shut air still travels upward and outward.  Also, when a cold gust of wind occurs guess what comes down your chimney??

Framed print securely taped over plastic in FP opening

How about this idea?  Add mirrored tiles to cover the opening over the plastic?

Or just tilt a large framed print over the entrance in front of the plastic?
My fireplace is non-working.  It hasn't worked in years and I'm not inclined to spend the money necessary to make it functional again.  My solution?  I put thick plastic across the opening using duct tape to keep it securely in place.  Then I took a framed print that I like and I placed it in front of the plastic using a clear heavy duty packing tape to secure the frame to the opening.  It looks really nice and there is NO air coming or going up my chimney.

The quickest and easiest place to begin your weather proofing is to start with the electrical outlets and light switches.  Take the covers off and insert the foam insulators.  Put the cover back on and you have effectively stopped air from seeping into your home from that source.

What about the overhead light fixtures?  When a house settles, especially an older house, there will oftentimes be a crack or separation between the ceiling and the fixture.  Simply take the light fixture cover off and use a water proof silicone caulk all the way around the base of the fixture.  Replace the cover and you're done.

Windows and doors.  Every year you should check the sealant that holds your glass in place.  Over time, it shifts, cracks and eventually the sealant will simply fall out leaving tons of areas for air to seep into your home and heat to seep out.  Again, water proof silicone based caulk will do the job.  It dries clear and is easy to work with.  Wait until the time of day when it is warmest and the windows are dry then put a generous bead of caulk everywhere that the glass meets the frame of the window.  If you have the old thin windows, this will not prevent air from going through the actual glass but it will prevent a majority of seepage.

Let's not forget about caulking around the outside of your windows!
Some people hate drapery.  They prefer to have curtains or blinds which is fine.  However, if you are going for a more energy efficient house, draperies are the way to go.

What is the difference between curtains and draperies?  It all in the thickness and weight.  A curtain is usually made of a very light weight material and while very attractive and airy to look at, it does nothing to stop the flow of air either into or out of your home.  Draperies, on the other hand, are normally made of a heavier material and are oftentimes lined.  Hanging draperies on all windows can dramatically reduce the air seepage.  Open them when the sun is bright and then shut them when it's not.  They are usually more pricey than curtains but the savings in your utility bills will be apparent.  Another tip concerning windows.  It is far more important to keep your windows clean in the winter time than in the summer time.  Why?  Because grim, smoke build up and dirt will prevent a lot of the natural warmth from the sun from coming into your house.

Now to the doors.  There are rolls of self adhesive foam strips that you can buy at any DIY store.  They come in varying thicknesses.  The trick to finding the one that best suits your doors is to measure the space between the door frame and the door.  Even then, you might have a tough time picking the right depth for your strips.  Too thin?  Air still seeps through.  Too thick?  Air no longer seeps, but the door doesn't shut well and eventually the strips will wiggle loose and fall off.  These are not expensive so I recommend buying two sets of different thicknesses until you get the right one.

These strips go between the door and the door frame on both sides and the top.  Once properly applied they are hardly noticeable.  For the bottom of the door, I recommend buying a strip specifically made for door bottoms.  It is made of metal with a thick rubber band on the bottom.  These come in a variety of finishes (and prices) from white to black to silver to brass.   I highly recommend getting two for each exterior door.  One for the outside and one for the inside.  Be sure to place them as close to the bottom of the door as possible.  They are simple to place and you just screw them into the bottom of your door.  You will hear the rubber scrape the floor whenever you open or close the door, but they will absolutely stop airflow.  Because the part that meets your floors is made of rubber, it will not harm your floor in any way.

Let's discuss the floors/walls.  Most houses have strips of quarter round where the floor meets the walls.  This is preferable.  However, some do not and still others have the quarter round but due to the house settling, it may not have a tight fit any more.  Remember, air only requires the tiniest of gaps to invade your home.

I paint my trim, baseboards, quarter round twice a year anyway so while I'm down there, I always put a strong bead of paintable caulk where ever the floor meets the walls.  Spackling will do if you don't have the caulk.  Spackling is far cheaper than the paintable caulk as well.  The only thing about spackling is that it will shrink over time so it will be imperative that you check this twice a year.

Once you have resealed your quarter round and it is dry, paint and you're done until spring.  It's really not a difficult or expensive chore - it's just a bit time consuming.

What to do if you don't have quarter round?  Many houses don't.  Either the builder didn't see fit to do it or perhaps at one time, (as with mine) your house had carpeting and when the carpet was removed, no one bothered to replace the quarter round.  A lot of time when folks carpet their house, they don't see the need for quarter round so they remove and discard it. Bad idea.

If your house is carpeted, there's really no need to do the caulking step.  Simply buy some quarter round at your DIY store and brad nail it snugly where the carpet meets the walls.  You can buy the pre-painted quarter round which will save you from having to paint.  Just because you have carpet, it doesn't mean you are leak free.  This will also prevent the edges of your carpet from slipping and becoming frayed.  In addition to those benefits, it will give your room a finished look while it protects you from the cold air.

Outside vents.  Most people don't worry about them.  Most people get more cold air coming up from beneath their houses then they realize - because they don't worry about their outside vents.

Exterior vents serve a very useful purpose.  However, they also allow wind to flow beneath your house and up into any cracks or crannies that exist.  Something that is nice in the summer but not so nice in the winter.  Having your exterior vents open will also promote the freezing of your pipes.

Years ago it was thought that by providing crawl space vents it would ventilate the air flow beneath the house providing a more energy efficient and healthier house.  We now know that is not the case.  It not only blows air (and dust) up into your house but allows critters to take up residence under there possibly chewing on wiring or infesting your house with fleas.

There are professional grade crawl space covers on the market that are easy to install and will last the lifetime of your house.  Below is a photo of one such product.

When the first hint of cold weather hits, I go outside and securely cover every vent in the foundation of my house.  Some houses, actually have levers on their vents that will allow them to simply pull the lever causing a flap to fall.  Mine however, do not.  Since one of the best insulators is wood, I have cut thick exterior quality wood pieces large enough to cover my vents and I place a concrete block in front of it to hold it securely in place through the winter.  As I have multiple plantings next to my house, it's not even noticeable.  What is noticeable is the amount of cold air and dust that stays away from my floors.

The power company where I live told me that if I will get 10 mil plastic and have someone crawl beneath my house and cover all the ground beneath my house with the plastic, I will save up to 14% on my energy costs and cut my dusting down to nearly never!!  I haven't tried that yet but fully intend to do so.

My grandparents lived on a farm.  Every winter, when we would visit, my grandparents house would look like a big plastic box.  That's because every winter, they practically wrapped the outside of their house in plastic to keep out the drafts.  While I don't go that far, I do still cover windows in plastic.  Especially on the north side of my house.

Thankfully the front of my house faces south, so I don't have to cover those windows.  But the other three sides of my house get covered in plastic.  You can get a huge roll of this plastic specifically designed for insulating at a relatively cheap price from any DIY store.  The higher the MIL count, the more insulation value it has.

While my grandparents applied it to the outside of their windows, I prefer to cover from the inside to prevent the plastic from being viewed from the outside of my house.

Once the draperies have been replaced, no one will ever know there is plastic on my windows.
Once I have sealed my windows with caulk, I cut strips of cardboard about an inch wide until I have enough to go around the window.  Then I cut enough plastic to cover the interior of my window.  I like to have it triple thick.  Starting in the top middle of the window, I place the cardboard over the plastic and begin to staple from the middle of the cardboard outward.  Then I do the middle bottom and the middle sides.  Next I fill the rest of it in, lower the drapes over it and I am finished with that window and ready to move onto the next one.  From the exterior it is absolutely unnoticeable and with my drapes closed it is unnoticeable from the interior as well.  You can leave this up all year round.  However, I like to open my windows in the spring so I normally take the plastic down once the last cold spell has passed.  By using staples, it hardly damages the window frame.  All I have to do is apply a tiny amount of spackle where the staples were and paint as usual.  Like I said, I paint all my trim twice a year anyway.

Why use the cardboard strips?  I have tried it the other way and as a result I spent a large amount of my time repairing the areas where the plastic worked its way from the staple and provided gaps.  The wind and moisture will cause your plastic to wiggle and everytime it wiggles, it will work itself a little bit more loose from the staple until it works itself free.  With the cardboard strips, the cardboard maintains a much tighter fit and also requires far fewer staples.  You can purchase the cardboard strips but I find it infinitely cheaper to take a box cutter and sit down on the floor and cut my own from boxes I got for free from the liquor store.

A long time ago, folks used to hang heavy drapery over every doorway.  That was back before central units.  Back when they used wood to heat their homes.  They would drop the draperies so that the heat would stay in the room with them.  I'm sure you've seen movies about people who lived in castles.  Look closely next time and you will more than likely see these draperies.

This is a photo of the dining room in the Neuschwanstein Castle.  Notice the heavy draperies at each doorway?
My grandmother did this.  She chose thick draperies and she placed a rod above each door and doorway. At night, she closed the doors and pulled the draperies closed.  It provided wonderful added insulation.

I have not gotten that diligent in my insulating habits yet, but I am contemplating it.

Aside from the obvious money saving and warmth retention that insulating your house provides, dust control is an added bonus.  If air can seep into your home, so can dust and dirt that is blown into your home from beneath your house or from your yard.  If you adequately insulate your house, your need to dust will dramatically drop.  That's always a good thing in my book!

I hope this has given you food for thought and that you stay warm, snug and dust free this winter.