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Ask a Pro Q&A – Nail Down New Flooring: Go from slab to hardwood with these stylish flooring options

If outdated flooring has you puzzled as to the next remodeling step… our interior design pro, Jennifer Adams, is here to help. Consider these variables for a new look that your loved ones will enjoy walking all over.

Question: I live in a 1953 ranch home built on a slab. I want to install hardwood flooring throughout. However, the slab is covered with asbestos tile.  How would you install hardwood flooring?

It is possible to install wood flooring over a slab floor with asbestos tile on it. However, there are lots of variables to consider, including how level the slab is, the moisture content in the air, and the level of moisture in the slab itself. A high-quality engineered flooring product might be a better solution and give you a similar look to hardwood, especially if you can’t nail the new flooring down. To find out what products will be best for your situation, ask a professional installer or licensed contractor.

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Top 5 Pet Travel Trends for 2020

As we all know, people think differently about their pets these days.  They’re not just pets, they’re cherished and adored members of the family.  This translates into pet parents wanting to spend more quality time with their pets and to include them in activities whenever they can. As a result, an increasing number of pet parents are packing up their furry sidekicks and hitting the road.

The desire to bond and share life experiences with pets has led pet parents to plan their trips differently. Further, businesses have responded by offering expanded services due to the rise in people traveling with their pets.  We’ve done some digging to find out exactly what’s trending when it comes to pet travel in 2020.

1. Pet-centric Trip Planning
Pet parents are seeking out trips that they can enjoy with their pets. When making travel plans, pets are a key factor in making decisions about where to go, where to stay, and what to do. No matter what type of experience travelers are looking for, they can find the perfect destination to suit themselves and their pets. For instance, pets and their people who like adventures in the great outdoors can find their perfect getaway in a trip to the mountains or lake, where they can stay at a cabin, vacation rental, or campground.  Exploring trails, waterfalls, bird watching (and chasing) and taking in some good “sniffs” may be the perfect pet-centric trip!

Pet parents with water dogs know that their pup enjoys nothing more than….well, water!   These folks are planning trips to beach destinations as well as lakeside getaways.  While there, they not only can enjoy playing in the surf and relaxing on the beach with their dog, but there’s plenty of other water activities that both pooch and person can enjoy.  Kayaking, paddle boarding, canoeing, and even pontoon boating are among some of the other water dog favorites.

Extroverted pets that enjoy nothing more than being social and going out and about are taking trips with their people to more urban destinations.  There, they can dine with their pet parents at pet friendly restaurants, as well as do a little shopping and partake in some sightseeing and attractions.

For pets that really like to “chill”, take things slow, and just be with their people, pet parents are planning trips where they can do just that.  They can select from secluded cabins and vacation rentals where pets can snuggle up in front of the fire, to resorts and hotels that roll out the red carpet to both pets and their people by offering spa packages, concierge services, and room services for BOTH people and their pets.

2. Concierge Services and Amenities for Pets
Many pet friendly accommodations are expanding their offerings to include those that cater to four-legged travelers.  They understand that providing extra services and amenities for pet guests helps to win the business (and loyalty) of pet parents.

A growing number of hotels are offering concierge services for pets. Services vary greatly — from booking pet grooming appointments and arranging dog walking to providing lists of nearby pet friendly activities.

Providing additional pet amenities is also on the rise at pet friendly lodging.  Dog potty areas, welcome baskets, pet room service, pet massages and spa packages, custom pet beds, and dog play areas are just a sampling of some of the amenities now being offered.

3. More Pet Friendly Things to Do
An increasing number of businesses are opening their hearts and doors to four-legged customers.   From pooch welcoming breweries and restaurants to pet friendly tours and excursions, there are many more options for pet travelers!  Pets are able to join their people in a whole host of activities such as ghost tours, whale watching, antiquing, gem mining, winery tours, 5Ks, and the list goes on!

4. Adventure Pet Travel
Millennials can take a big part of the credit for this increasing pet travel trend.  In 2018, there will be more pet parents planning adventure trips with their pets.  Adventure travel can range from trips that inspire and  invigorate to those that involve high activity and exploration.

Some of the more active pet friendly adventures include kayaking, rafting, hiking, and paddle boarding.  Vail, Colorado boasts pooch friendly Colorado River Runs where people and their pups can experience rafting together on the Colorado River.  Then there’s the Cape Hatteras National Seashore in North Carolina, which allows dogs to join their pet parents to explore this natural wonder. High adventure trips may include a visit to Olympic Valley, California where pet parents and their pooches can hike and swim at the Squaw Valley Aerial Tram.

There is also a wide assortment of adventure trips for the less active travelers.  Ghost Tours stack right up there as one of the more popular pet friendly adventure trips in this category.  Spokane, Washington’s Two Dog City Ghost Tours welcomes pups and their people to get spooked together.  Walking tours in some of the most historic and interesting cities in the country are another favorite!  DC by Foot tours lets visitors explore the Nation’s capital with their pups right alongside.

5. More Pets Buckling Up
Last but certainly not least, more pet parents are waking up and realizing how important it is to secure their precious four-legged family members in their vehicles. For far too long, pet passenger safety has been overlooked.  More parents are now properly securing their pets by way of pet seat belts, travel kennels, pet car seats and vehicle pet barriers.  Fewer “free range” pets that are allowed to roam in cars not only means fewer pets injured, but also less distracted drivers.

Article Provided by is the premier online pet friendly travel guide and was named Best Pet Travel Site by Consumer Reports. provides online reservations at over 30,000 pet friendly hotels & accommodations across the U.S. and Canada.  When planning a trip, pet parents go to for detailed, up-to-date information on hotel pet policies and pet amenities. also features airline & car rental pet policies, pet friendly activities, a user-friendly search-by-route option, as well as pet travel tips. For more information, please visit

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5 Tips to Find New and Exciting Things to Do in Your Community

Moving into a community is an adventure. Think of all the neighbors you can add to your social circle and areas to explore just for fun. Execute these simple tips to make friends and be part of the community.

Join social media groups

Social media can help you find everything there is to know about your new community. From local events to citywide activities, everything can be found by simply logging into your account. Conduct a search for local social media groups and join. Connect to others within the area while also being informed of the various options of entertainment your community has to offer. RSVP for an event and start connecting to other attendees with similar interests. Local company Facebook pages are a great way to find out what’s going on in the area.

Read mail flyers

Some of the best things to do in the community can be found right in your mailbox. Local events still rely on traditional flyers and ads in local newspapers to garner interest. Take a look through your mail as it may be the key to filling your upcoming weekend with fun and excitement.

Chat with your Neighbors

Neighbors can be amazing resources for things happening in the community. The longer they’ve lived in the area, the more familiar they will be with annual events within the community and much more. Neighbors may also know of some hidden gems that you may not have ever discovered otherwise. Turn neighborly chats into friendships.

Frequent Businesses in the Area

Skip the drive-thru next time you’re ordering something from a local business. Try to go patronize establishments within the area; many have bulletins pinned with various advertisements of local events and activities. This is an excellent way to meet new people within your community. Focus on frequenting these businesses to help you learn about your new community.


New areas can be intimidating. Put these tips into place and by the end of the week, you’ll have plenty of new and exciting things to do on the weekend.

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Easy Ways to Add Character around Your House

You can add plenty of personal style and visual interest to your home without a lot of effort or money; all you really need is a can-do attitude and a desire to improve your home.

Update lighting.

Add comfort, convenience and character with the right lighting. Update the chandelier over the dining room table. Add simple plug-in puck lights under kitchen cabinets and inside closets. Cozy up a dark corner with an accent light. Install mini accent lights above wall art or framed family photos.

Frame the views.

Dress up your windows with colorful treatments. Hang the draperies higher than the windows to make the room seem taller.

Put unused space to work.

Give an awkward area a purpose and appeal. Transform a basic bay or boxy window into a reading nook. Or furnish an empty corner of the living room with a game table and storage cabinet.

Be savvy about storage.

If you have a home that lacks closet space, place pegs and shelves in convenient nooks to provide places to hang, store and display everyday necessities.

Make way for shelf displays.

Use open shelving throughout the house to store and display collectibles. In addition to adding storage, the airy shelves can also make a small room feel larger.

Accent with architectural details.

Bring your basic builder’s kitchen to life. Frame windows with wide molding, install cornices on top of cabinets, or add bun feet or carved legs to cabinets for furniture-style accents.

Try wood underfoot.

A natural wood or bamboo floor will last longer than synthetic materials and will transform the character of your interior. Plus, it won’t trap allergens. Use machine-washable area rugs to warm the space and protect heavy-traffic areas.

Add old-fashioned appeal with antiques.

Visit a flea market for vintage signs, furniture and collectibles that will fill your home with friendly charm.

Paint kitchen cabinets.

Can’t afford to purchase brand-new kitchen cabinets? Fake it by using bright paint to take your cabinets from dull to darling.

Update doorknobs.

Reinvent your entry or interior doors with antiqued brass, crystal, porcelain or colored-glass doorknobs.

Install beaded board.

Add dimension and charm to bathroom walls with beaded board. Save money by tackling the project yourself in a weekend and using panels. Panels are virtually identical to authentic beaded board, and they are sold in lightweight 4×8-foot sheets for about $20 each.

Add decorative shutters.

Make your home look good inside and out with decorative indoor shutters. Traditional wood shutters and plantation shutters add rustic appeal. Some even help insulate your cozy spaces.

Claim a plain wall for a showcase.

Transform a blank wall into a storage-and-display showcase by adding stacks of open shelves or cutting out drywall to create a recessed niche.

Enhance the exterior.

The simple and affordable addition of shutters, window boxes and planters near the front door creates a friendlier facade and provides cheerful color. Hang the window box at a height where you can care for the plants. Fill it with your favorite blooms, or add candles for a quaint touch.

Let your garden glow.

Outdoor lights, including floodlights, globes, tier lights and lanterns, are easy to install and are the perfect way to add warmth and color to your front yard. For a touch of romance, use candlelit lanterns to create soft pools of light along a garden path.

Dress up your deck.

Make a boxy builder deck look like a custom addition with decorative metal or glass balusters and post caps that double as planters or light fixtures. Add delightful details with colorful plants, pillows, furniture, outdoor rugs and accessories.



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Discover the Perfect Time for Buying a Vacation Home

If you’re lucky enough to have reached the time in your life when you can seriously contemplate buying a vacation home, there’s much to be excited about. According to the National Association of Realtors, one in eight homeowners are thinking of buying a second home. While summer may be the time of year you start to think longingly about sun, sea and sand, it may not be the best time to buy a cottage.

Here are some things to consider when you’re buying a vacation home.

Peak of season is seldom a good idea

Avoiding peak seasons makes sense in supply and demand terms. Peak season, whether you have your eye on a Vail ski chalet or a Cape Cod sea shanty, is when the area in which you’re looking is at its finest. Since vacation homes can be sentimental investments, many who’ve inherited them rent them out as additional sources of income so they can hang onto a property. They may be sharing it with siblings or have had to buy them out. They also may be part-time vacation home investment owners who got in early on a new resort but need to ensure 100 percent occupancy during peak season to make their investment pay off.

Aim for the final weeks of the high season to make your offer or hold off until just after peak season ends. If you’re looking for a summer vacation home, the time between Labor Day and Thanksgiving is the perfect window of opportunity. You’ll still take possession early enough in the year to be able to get a glimpse of what future summers can hold, and you’ll also have a chance to do any needed repairs before winter sets in. Then you can spend the winter planning what you need to do to make the place your own the following summer.

If you’re looking at a winter vacation home, spring is the best time to make an offer. While diehards may still be renting or occupying their vacation homes, hoping to get one or two more days of spring skiing or boarding in, most will have placed their properties on the market. Just be careful not to leave your offer for too late in the year if the area you’re interested in is remote. Some owners board up their properties for the off season, making it harder to get viewings. Also, don’t forget the power of spring mud. Properties accessible through three seasons may become harder to access during spring thawing and flooding.

Be sure the time is right

Before buying a vacation home, you need to think long and hard about a whole host of considerations. First and foremost is whether you will be able to use it enough to make it worthwhile for you financially. Even if you buy a vacation home and plan to rent it out to defray expenses, that means your time there will be limited. While you may love a cottage on a lake in fall, not everyone else does. If you can’t afford to spend the 4th of July at your own cottage, this may not be the time to buy.

Second, have you considered all the duplicate expenses involved? Whether you want your vacation home to mirror your principal residence in all ways, you can’t escape the fact that you’re going to need two of everything now. Unless, that is, you want to treat every weekend you spend at your vacation home like a camping trip (which may well be the case). You’re not going to want to haul lawn mowers and leaf blowers to the cottage every summer weekend. That goes double for appliances, linens and furniture. You’ll also have a second set of bills for property taxes, insurance, yard maintenance, internet and cleaning costs. In addition, there may be HOA fees, too.

Third, what are your vacation goals? If you want to visit every continent and are running out of time to tackle Asia and Africa, does a vacation property make sense? If you find you’re drawn to experiential vacations like hiking the Appalachian Trail, swimming with the dolphins or building someone else a home with Habitat for Humanity, a vacation home may be an anchor you don’t need.

On the other hand, if you know you can afford to invest in a second property and have a long-term plan to use it as a home base while you globetrot in retirement, or if you want your family to have the freedom of the great outdoors while they’re growing up, it might just be time to seize the day.

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How to Choose an Artificial Tree for Christmas

If you don’t want the mess of a real evergreen in your home this holiday season, or if allergies prevent you from having a live tree in your house, an artificial tree may be the perfect solution for your holiday decorating.

Buying Tips for Artificial Trees

Christmas trees are a nearly universal element in most homeowners’ holiday decorating. Some people don’t like the fuss and mess of a live tree, while others have allergies that preclude them from having a real evergreen in their house. If you’re considering purchasing an artificial tree for your home this holiday season, use these ideas as a guide:

Choosing Artificial Tree Accents

  • Pre-Lit Artificial Trees: Pre-lit artificial trees are a great way to minimize setup and cleanup (and avoid the holiday trauma of a giant ball of tangled lights). However, pre-lit artificial trees are generally more expensive, and you can’t change the size or color of the lights from year to year. Swapping burned-out lights for fresh ones may also be a challenge. If you choose a pre-lit artificial tree, look for one that is labeled “continuous on” or “with burn-out protection.” This means that if a single bulb on the strand burns out, the rest of the lights stay on.
  • Flocked or Accented Artificial Trees: When an artificial tree is flocked, its branches look like they have been dusted with snow or glitter. You can choose how flocked you want your artificial tree to be; some are dusted more heavily than others. Additional artificial tree accents also may include natural-looking elements, such as pinecones and berries. Keep in mind that these items cannot be removed, so a flocked or accented artificial tree may not match your decorating style if it changes from year to year.

Selecting Tree Height and Width

Most artificial trees for the holidays come in one of three widths, generally labeled as full, slim or pencil. Artificial trees also come in a range of heights, beginning at tabletop size and increasing, usually in half-foot increments, up to about 12 feet. To ensure the best artificial tree for your home, measure the spot where you plan to display the tree and leave enough room to maneuver around it to decorate.

Choosing Artificial Tree Material

  • Types of Branches: Artificial trees come with two types of branches—hinged or hook-in. Hinged artificial trees, which consist of just a few parts, have permanently affixed branches and are generally easier to set up. Hook-in branches are individually hooked into a specific spot on a central tree pole. These artificial trees take much more time to put together and cannot be pre-lit, but they also tend to be less expensive.
  • Types of Material: Artificial trees are made using one of two types of plastic: PVC or PE. The main difference in materials is in how the trees look. PVC needles are attached to the artificial tree branches using wires. PE artificial trees are fabricated, so both the needles and the branches better resemble those of a real tree. Branch tips may also be sculpted, which means they better replicate the look of a real evergreen.
  • Tinsel, Feather and Other Artificial Trees: While many artificial trees for Christmas are designed to resemble real evergreens, some of them are designed to fill a different decorating need. Tinsel and feather trees are two common examples; these are typically white, silver or gold. While many are often used as tabletop trees, tinsel trees are available in full-size as well.

Note: The density, or tip count, indicates how full your artificial tree looks. When purchasing, evaluate your artificial tree’s branches for sturdiness; if you have lots of ornaments, you want branches sturdy enough to hold them.

Additional Considerations When Choosing Artificial Trees

  • Price: Just as artificial trees can be found in all sizes, they can also be found in all price ranges. Ultimately, the quality of the tree and additional accents will affect the pricing. While off-the-shelf varieties are generally affordable, custom artificial trees are also available.
  • What’s Included: The general life expectancy of an artificial tree is about 10 years, and some may come with a warranty. Stands are usually included; plastic versions may be less stable than those made of metal. Some artificial trees also include additional accessories such as a storage bag. Your artificial tree should also be fire-retardant and fade-resistant.
  • Decorating with Both Artificial and Real Trees: Both artificial and live evergreens can be deftly worked into a variety of holiday styles and schemes within your home. A small artificial tree is a great tabletop choice to display a themed set of decorations or to complete a room’s color scheme, in addition to a full-size live evergreen. A miniature real evergreen can be used in a room where there isn’t lots of space, such as the kitchen or guest room, for added fragrance.

Adapted from Better Homes & Gardens. Used with permission. © Meredith Corporation. All rights reserved.


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Fun and Festive Christmas Color Schemes

Get in the spirit of the holidays with color schemes that offer a new take on the old red-and-green Christmas theme.

Green, blue and silver color scheme

This light and airy holiday color scheme incorporates light green, bright blue and silver to create a sophisticated Christmas living room. Hang light green-and-blue oversize stockings from your mantel beneath potted lemon cypress trees wrapped in teal paper and green ribbon. Decorate your Christmas tree with an assortment of blue, silver and green glass ornaments, and color-coordinate a sea of blue-and-white wrapped packages to complete the color scheme.

White-and-brown color scheme

Play up a minimal living room for the holidays with brown, gold and silver accents. A frosted Christmas tree displays oversize silver and gold ornaments; white and brown wrapped packages are placed neatly beneath the tree. A glass-top coffee table holds tall apothecary jars filled with white candies and Christmas cookies.

Green, white and brown color scheme

An earthy holiday color scheme of green and brown gives a natural look to this Christmas living room. Green-and-white stockings hang from a wooden mantel, and light-brown throw pillows sit on off-white armchairs. The colors stay consistent through the tree decorations, with bright-green glass ornaments and creamy felt poinsettia flowers. Woodsy ribbon and an owl ornament wrap a light-green box under the Christmas tree, and other patterned wrapping papers play up the mellow, earthy tones.

Editor’s Tip: You don’t have to decorate your whole house in a different color scheme every year—just focus on small areas, and simply carry the scheme through wrapped presents or tree decorations.

Blue-and-white color scheme

Mimic the icy colors of winter with this blue-and-white Christmas color scheme. Birch logs, frosted pinecones and branches in white ceramic vases provide the indoor winter wonderland. Accent with blue velvet ribbon and clear blue goblets for cool pops of color.



Silver-and-gold color scheme

Let your indoor Christmas decor shine with this pretty silver-and-gold color scheme. Decorate your mantel with a silver-and-gold ornament ball wreath, cream stockings and greenery. Add in ornament-filled cloches and apothecary jars for a decorative dimension. Adorn a frosty Christmas tree with silver, gold and blue ornaments, and display gorgeous wrapped packages in the same hues to create a festive scheme that sparkles.

Turquoise-and-orange color scheme

Try a zesty Christmas color scheme using bright, contrasting colors—such as turquoise and orange—to give your holiday decor a bold look. Here, wide orange ribbon wraps large boxes covered in patterned turquoise paper, and an urn brimming with oranges dresses up the bottom of the Christmas tree. A light-blue coffee table holds a teal vase of orange flowers and a footed dish filled with oranges; a blue-and-orange decorative pillow pulls the color scheme together on an off-white couch.

Editor’s Tip: Stabilize the Christmas tree trunk with sand and gravel before adding the oranges to the top of the urn.

Red-and-tan color scheme

Red-and-tan color scheme

Swap tan for white in this Christmas color scheme to give your home a vintage holiday feel. Light brown upholstery webbing is transformed into a large bow to accent this Christmas wreath, and tiny packages fill the bed of a red toy pickup truck. A handmade burlap pillow with Christmas words and phrases finishes the natural color scheme.

Red, pink and blue color scheme

Play up the color of holiday poinsettias with this unusual Christmas color scheme. Fuchsia-color poinsettia bracts (look for Polly’s Pink variety) complement a ceramic dish filled with pink and silver ornaments in different shapes and sizes, an ideal decoration for your Christmas mantel or a holiday table centerpiece. The flowers and ornaments offset a blue-and-white striped couch with wintry accent pillows for a unique holiday look.


Red, cream and white color scheme

Give traditional Christmas colors a break by removing the green and adding cream and white for a warm and cozy color scheme. Cream and red throw pillows—with a cream rosette wreath above the chair—add a warm element to the decor, and a 3-foot tabletop tree adorned with red and white ornaments stands in a cream pot on a white table to round out the color scheme.

Multicolor festive Christmas scheme

Celebrate the season with all the colors of the rainbow—the bright hues are perfect for adding holiday cheer to a table. Create mini trees and wreaths out of ball ornaments by removing the ornament caps and hot-gluing the balls onto foam shapes.

Red, white and blue color scheme

Red, white and blue color scheme

You’ve heard of Christmas in July, but now bring the spirit of July to your Christmas decor in December. Red, white and blue is a classic color scheme that suits the holiday. Create stockings from red and blue felt; embellish with snowflake appliqués. Attach stockings to antique wooden skis or other cold-weather icons for a winter scene.

Teal, white and cranberry color scheme

Twist a classic color combination with cranberry and teal. For an easy tablescape, cover your table with a teal tablecloth and create place cards from family photos. Copy the photos onto light red paper. Make a cardboard frame for each photo and attach the photo to the back of the frame. Place each framed image in a holiday-inspired photo clip or place-card holder.


Pink and green color scheme

Typically thought of as a springtime combination, pink and green will add cheer to your home during dreary winter months. For this bright centerpiece, place a metallic bottle-brush tree in a heavy planter, weight as necessary with rocks or gravel, then cover the base with fake moss. Accent the room with patterned pink and green pillows to emphasize the color scheme.

Red, white and green color scheme

If you prefer a more traditional approach to holiday decorating, try a red-and-white color scheme with added pops of green. This festive place setting combines the three colors with white chargers, a red place mat, and sprigs of evergreen tucked into folded napkins. A burlap runner, pots of moss and apples offer inexpensive finishes.







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Easy Exterior Home Tweaks

Whether your home is an often-renovated Cape Cod or Craftsman or a relatively new build, chances are good there’s something you don’t like about the exterior.

A complete exterior home remodel can be expensive. Luckily, there are some easy tweaks you can do yourself that will boost your home’s curb appeal and transform it into a house everyone wants to visit. Read on for a few suggestions.

Change Outdoor Lighting Fixtures

You may only need one light to see by in order to get your key in the lock, but does it have to be ugly? Does it have to be centered over the door? Think about your home’s symmetry when replacing light fixtures and choose a design that works with your home’s style. Eclectic exteriors can quickly become neighborhood eyesores, so “ye olde carriage lantern” fixtures are unlikely to work on a Craftsman style house.

Make Your Door the Focal Point

If you’ve got an old or standard builder’s door, think about replacing it with a door that welcomes visitors. Red doors signify welcome to travelers in American tradition, and in feng shui red is believed to drive away evil forces and promote positive energy. There may, of course, be some exterior colors that just won’t work with a red door. But if you can pull it off, it’s well worth it. If your interior entryway is dark, buy a door with a decorative glass pattern at the top and consider installing glass panels on either side of the door. It gives the illusion of a much bigger, more expansive entryway. If you worry about privacy, you can always apply adhesive panels that let light in but prevent people from seeing your interior hallway. Door panels come in dozens and dozens of designs these days, and they’re another way to showcase your home’s personality.

While you’re working on your home’s entryway, consider replacing your street numbers with ones that are easily visible from the street.

Rethink Front Yard Landscaping

There is lush and there is jungle. As your home matures, trees, shrubs, and perennials expand to fill the space available to them. While there’s no doubt the shade from a deciduous tree can lower your cooling costs significantly, it can also darken your interior in a way you can’t control. If you have mature trees that are reaching the end of their lifecycle, consider removing some of them and installing shutters instead. That way you can keep heat out when you need to and let light in when you want it.

As our summers get hotter, replacing standard grass that needs constant watering with drought-resistant plants and lawn cover that never needs mowing makes sense. You can still get a lush, bursting out all over midsummer look you want by installing hanging baskets and porch-flanking flower containers. You can donate perennials you no longer want at plant exchanges, and you may be surprised by the visual impact a less-is-more approach to landscaping can have.

Paint and Restore

Sometimes builders or previous owners just don’t get it right. A combination of brick, stone or stucco on one part of the house with the wrong color siding on the rest of the exterior can be jarring. The good news: brick, stonework and stucco can all be painted, and this is one of the cheapest and most dramatic exterior transformations there is. If you decide to replace the siding instead, remember you can always replace the siding at the front of the house and leave the existing siding on the sides and back for a later date.

If you live in an older home whose exterior has been renovated in a way that doesn’t match its original design, consider restoring it. Wrought iron porch railings are never going to work on a Craftsman home, and replacing them with something more in keeping with the home’s original design will eliminate the visual disconnect.

Transform Your Porch

An enclosed front porch can be claustrophobic if it’s too small, and unless you use it often, you might want to consider ripping it off and installing a portico instead. The inherent drama of a classic, column-supported portico gives your house instant curb appeal and the open front and sides give the same impression of space as high ceilings do in a home’s interior. This is one of the easiest exterior home remodels you can make. And if you invest in stylish bistro set and some nice pavers, you may find yourself sitting out in your front yard more than you ever thought possible.

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Ask a Pro Q&A – Selecting the Perfect Backsplash: Tie your kitchen’s look together with these tips

Don’t let a little water damage make your next backsplash a wash out with these designer tips. Jennifer Adams, our interior design pro, answers this reader’s kitchen remodeling question after a hurricane hit her home.

Question:  We were flooded during the hurricane and have to rebuild most of our house. My kitchen has bamboo floors, alabaster white cabinets and Blanco Azul granite with black stainless steel appliances and stainless handles. I am trying to figure out a good backsplash to tie it all together. Any help would be great.

Whether your countertop patterning is dramatic and bold or quieter and more textural, a backsplash that is simple will be better. Oversized rectangular tiles in light tones to match the whites in your granite, along with matching grout, will look great. For a more textural approach, choose a monotone tile mosaic in whites or pale grays. Even classic subway tile with gray grout will bring in a bit of pattern without being over the top or competing with your granite.

For a finishing touch, tie in the bamboo tones throughout your kitchen with accessories and art in the same color.

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5 Ways to Get Involved in your Community by Participating and Volunteering

When you’ve just moved into a new community, getting involved with your neighbors and neighborhood can be a great beginning to a happy life. Our communities can be pillars of support when we need them or friendly faces we’re happy to see each day. Through volunteering, joining clubs and groups, taking part in community sports activities and hosting events, you can bond with those who live around you and create a wonderful home for yourself – and others.

Here are 5 ways to get more involved in your community:


  • Join a community garden


Join a community garden in your neighborhood, and if you don’t have one, start one. Growing organic produce on a shared plot is a great way to connect with people near you. It also helps everyone involved develop a deeper understanding of the importance of keeping the air, water and ground clean and safe in a community.

While you till, water, plant and harvest, try to get to know the members of your community. Tell stories of where you came from and ask others about their backgrounds. If you have kids, get them involved with a beginner’s food scrap garden and encourage neighbors to bring their children participate too.


  • Start conversations


Learn more about the people who live near you by starting conversations within your community. This is easily done through book clubs or groups that come together to make jewelry, create art, cook and learn new languages. Ask your immediate neighbors if they know about any clubs or meetups you can join. If there aren’t any, start one yourself.

If you have a community center or other public space available, use it to form friendships while you learn something new. Sometimes taking turns meeting in members’ homes, either weekly or monthly, is a good way to break the ice with small talk or enjoy truly enriching conversation. Think about planning a series of special gatherings or ongoing drop-in events.


  • Become a community volunteer


Volunteer in a local clinic, hospital, nature center, library or community center. Volunteerism is a superb way to meet people and contribute skills and talents to those who might need them. Not only will you probably experience a sense of accomplishment after sharing the gifts you have to offer, your neighbors will likely notice your contributions and consider you a valuable member of the community.

How can you help those who share your small part of the world? Perhaps tutoring, offering legal aid, mentoring, teaching a language, organizing a food bank or visiting the elderly in your community resonates with you. Children can often be persuaded to join the community volunteer force by teaching older adults all the ways of the Internet.


  • Get active in after-school programs


Families can get to know neighbors by becoming active in after-school programs. Even if you don’t have kids, meet new people in your neighborhood by volunteering your time to these activities.

Children often enjoy becoming members in Girl or Boy Scout-type groups, YMCA memberships, parks and recreation classes or mommy and me groups. Often, parents of kids in these programs go on to become friends for life. If you don’t have little ones, it’s still possible to coach, teach a craft, be a dance instructor and get involved in your community in other ways.


  • Attend or host charity events


Many big cities and small towns have carnivals, holiday gift boutiques, formal dinners and similar charitable events to bring the community closer together. Attend these events and enjoy being a part of shared experiences. You’ll likely meet people who have many of the same interests as you do, which is a good way to form friendships.

The good thing about getting involved in your new community is that if there aren’t gardens, clubs, organized activities, volunteer opportunities or other programs in place for you to meet people, you can always be to facilitator of these types of gatherings. Your new neighbors will probably be glad you took the initiative to provide ways to connect.