Posts Tagged ‘design’

Decor tips from Redecorate Today’s Jennifer Mangum and Suzan Meredith

By Anjelica Michael

A powerful Northern Virginia Duo help local homeowners redecorate.

Photo courtesy of Redecorate Today.

Redecorate Today founders Jennifer Mangum and Suzan Meredith came together in 2005 to shared their passions to create a successful redecorating business in Northern Virginia. We caught up with Jennifer and Meredith to discuss their business and what they think of current trends in home decor. 


NVM: How did the two of you start your partnership? 

Jennifer: “We started our partnership in 2005.  We both were interested in starting a design business and thought it would be much more fun to do it together.  I feel so fortunate to have such a great partner to work with, it’s especially helpful to bounce creative ideas off one another.  It’s a good to have some checks and balances when you are working on a project.  Other designers often tell us they wish they had a partner, because it can becoming daunting on their own. ”  


Q: So what do you do at Redecorate Today?

Suzan: “We are a full service design firm.  If you need a contractor, we can help you.  If you need custom window treatments, we can help you.  Floor plans, furniture and flooring, a beautiful room pallet with art and accessories is our ultimate goal for any room or your entire home.  We treat the design process as one of collaboration, not dictation and like helping people incorporate items that they already have.”


Q: What is your No. 1 tip for redecorating this season? 

Jennifer: “I would say take a look around your home and see if your current color palette is outdated.  Gray paired with vibrant hues is a great new look.  People often associate gray with a cool palette.  But there are plenty of warm toned gray’s out there, and then you can punch it up with a vivid purple, pink, orange or citrine, or all of the above. ” 


Q: How should people decide when to redecorate? 

Suzan: “Normally this happens when all the stars align and you have a budget that you have allocated for the room or project(s).  People should decide to redecorate and renovate before the bathroom remodel has already started.  Often we are called upon to help people out of mid-project design disasters.” 


Q: What do you feel like sets your business apart from your competitors?

Photo Courtesy of Redecorate Today.

Jennifer: “I would say our team approach definitely sets us apart from our competitors.  We also really try to find each of our clients individual style and have that represented in their home.  That way they love their surroundings and feel comfortable in their home.  It’s always so rewarding when our clients are happy with the end results.”


Q: What is your favorite trend in redecorating right now? 

Suzan: “The freedom of being eclectic. ” 


What do you like most about working in Northern Virginia?

Jennifer: “This area is full of such interesting and different people.  I love getting to know our clients and the different backgrounds they come from.  It’s especially fun to decorate with some of the treasures many of our clients have collected from around the world.”

Suzan:  “It is such a large and diverse area, that the type of client is different every time.  Northern Virginia homes are, for the most part, built in a traditional fashion.  Often that traditional style needs to be made more personal  - a flair of contemporary items or unconventional colors makes it the client’s own.”


To learn more about Redecorate Today and the services they offer, visit 

Photo Courtesy of Redecorate Today.




Chic design blogs can play muse to your next home project



By Lucie Silvano

Looking apply some fresh designs to your household? Inspiration for your next home project can found on these fascinating blogs.

If you’re looking to find out the newest architectural designs, hop onto Find weekly tips and helpful advice to aid you in your next home project and develop your cultural knowledge in seeking hidden gems of residential designs throughout the globe.

Think you have an idea of how the Aussies live down under? Check out the site’s incredible photos showcasing the epitome of modern-day homes in Sydney, Australia. highlights the detailed structure of a house built for a family with infants in mind. As for readers who are not yet at the home-owner status, the site also provides extensive insight and tips for the apartment-dweller. And last but not least, look to to provide the most thorough and diverse suggestions when planning your next dream getaway with their Hotels & Resorts page.

You think you’ve seen and done it all until you experience the quirky, yet sophisticated posts on the one and only

Unearth an array of images and awaken your innovative side with the site’s features including home, architecture, interior, art and more.

The site showcases an apartment in Italy that is not only already furnished but made for the contemporary in mind; each piece of furniture is built into the actual walls of this unique apartment. Get hooked on this peculiar, revealing site and find out a variety of ways to create or reinvent your home.

Northern Virginia home design blogs offer handy DIY tips

By Cassandra Sturos

Looking for some tips on how to fix up your homestead? Check out these Northern Virginia bloggers, who are building a strong following with their savvy DIY skills.


These married home innovators turned blogging sensations invite you into their house (in Virginia) and their young love, which handily enough is the title of their blog: Younghouselove.

Photo courtesy of Young House Love

Check out their savvy home decorating tips and tutorials, along with loads of other fun ideas on painting, crafts, DIY projects, money-saving tips and more. This blog has so much to offer for the DIY-er that it could make your head spin, but in the good overwhelming way.

Start by taking the house tours of all three homes that the couple has now lived in, all the way up to their current home and check out the before and after pictures. Then to feel inspired, start in on the projects section (which is ample) or take a peek at how the couple used their knack for craftiness on their wedding day. All the home decorating excitement offered in this blog will have you itching to put down the remote control, find a paint brush and hot-glue gun and get artsy.


Pretty Handy Girl

Courtesy of Pretty Handy Girl

Brittany Bailey, who grew up in Northern Virginia, A.K.A the Pretty Handy Girl is pretty modest, because she is more than pretty handy, she is downright impressive.

Besides taking on home repair, electrical, lighting and plumbing projects,  Brittany went into labor with her second son while trying to fix a bathtub at eight and a half months pregnant! Now that’s a can-do spirit!

But don’t be put off by all the handiness, because Brittany gives great step-by-step instructions on all her home projects and how to build up your tool kit. She even owns power tools (and has tutorials on how to use them) but encourages you to start out basic and embrace becoming handy. And there’s no better way than by cruising her sight for ideas from holiday creations to installing a toilet seat.

Sales and News: Events to Attend This Week

Posted by Angela Bobo / Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

His & Hers Summer Soiree; photo courtesy of Arti Anand

Numari, the local brand that boasts made-to-measure designer wear, is teaming up with downtown-chic menswear company Bonobos for a “His & Hers Summer Soiree.” Head over to the Nation’s Capital on Thursday, August 22 from 6-9 p.m for a fun-filled event with exclusive deals, styling tips and –of couse- champagne! This is a can’t-miss chance for you and your favorite guy to get a head start on fall.


Read the rest of this entry »

The Dirt on Mudrooms

Merriam-Webster defines Mudroom as:
mud·room: noun \md-rüm, -rum\
a room in a house designed especially for the shedding of dirty or wet footwear and clothing and located typically off the kitchen or in the basement

By Jennifer Shapira


Mudroom Lockers

Photo courtesy of Pottery Barn

That definition makes the mudroom sound like a practical place, one without much fanfare. But in this area? Not so, say many local designers and builders. In most new home constructions—and especially in custom home construction—experts say the inclusion of a mudroom is practically a requirement.

Because the mudroom is often small, and not the most public of zones in the home, it provides a blank canvas for bold paint strokes. Generally inexpensive to outfit because of its size, the mudroom “is one of those areas that should be invested into as far as design,” says Sallie Kjos, an interior designer based in South Riding. “If it’s a really tight space and you don’t want to paint the walls, paint stripes on the ceiling, just to give it a little bit of extra oomph,” she says.

Noel Sweeny Mudroom

Photo courtesy of Econize

The trick is often twofold: a mudroom should meet your family’s needs, and look good while doing it. Best case scenario? It’s the home’s hub of order. More likely: Everyone in the household gets schooled in the basics of getting organized.

“Mudrooms most likely evolved as the main door of entry to the home became the door between the enclosed garage and the kitchen,” says Stephen Melman, director of economic services at the National Association of Home Builders in Washington, D.C.

That change meant the home’s front door was no longer the family’s main entry point.

“Kids were driven to and from school and activities, and they strode into the kitchen with shoes full of mud, and dumped all of their stuff at the door,” says Melman.

A mudroom “is a way to organize and hide clutter and to make the household run more efficiently. Once there is an organized plan for where each child’s mittens and coats hang as well as other daily paraphernalia, chaos recedes,” says Melman. “The mudroom floor is made for wet boots and other grimy stuff.

Noel Sweeny

Photo courtesy of Econize

During the boom years in the early 2000s, the mudroom and laundry merged to form the perfect conveyor belt to convert messy input into clean, folded output. Quality design has made the mudroom a brighter place, sometimes with a small office nook or family planning board.”

Melman says NAHB’s 2012 homebuyer preference survey, “What Home Buyers Really Want,” ranked the mudroom No. 8 among rooms rated “essential” or “desirable.” The laundry room, living room, dining room, home office, great room, den/library and sun room were higher. Some 8 percent of the potential homebuyer respondents rated the mudroom as “essential,” and another 40 percent rated it as “desirable.”

Sounds like a pretty important spot. After all, it is the household’s depository for stuff: coats, shoes, book bags. Not to mention laptops, tablets and smart phones that have necessitated a dedicated “drop zone,” often a small countertop or shelf, where everything can get charged up.



The drop zone provides an efficient way of dealing with clutter coming into the home, says McLean-based interior designer Kathy Alexander, and in many cases, goes hand-in-hand with the mudroom.

“There may also be small cubby holes for handling mail for the family, including a recycling bin for unwanted paper. Cubbies are customized for each child to have his or her own space for their sporting equipment, backpacks, for school caps, hats and gloves,” Alexander says.

“Whether you have hooks or actual lockers, drawers or cubbies, it’s a great place to have what you need the next morning waiting for you as you go out the door.”

A Lifestyle Thing
Experts agree that only a handful of items are required to outfit any mudroom space. Those essentials include: a respectable amount of storage, ample seating, good lighting and some easy-to-reach coat hooks.


Photo courtesy of Ballard Design

But like any room in the house, the materials matter. If the budget is limitless, go luxe with custom millwork or hire a closet company to take stock of your family’s exact measurements. A closet company can translate your household’s daily tasks into an organized system that allows your family to operate as efficiently as possible.

For those with uber-sophisticated schedules, the mudroom could encompass a sort of planning center and hub of information: behind a cabinet door might reveal a daily calendar that charts the details of everyone’s activities.

On-the-go families tote kids to and from school, sports and dance carting piles of gear, loads of shoes and coats. But the mudroom is seen as an opportunity to create order out of chaos: wet, muddy boots get shrugged off into boot trays (to be rinsed off sooner rather than later); coats get hung haphazardly on each family member’s designated hook; hats and gloves belong in individually assigned and labeled bins and baskets; open-ended cubbies provide a catch-all for all other belongings.

Mudroom Musts


John Wollwerth/

A home doesn’t have to have a proper mudroom in order for a designated space to function like one.

For the intrepid DIY-er, measure a hallway space, find a little bench, paint it, or reupholster it. Then add your choice and style of baskets or bins below the seat for instant storage. Drill a couple of decorative and/or antique hooks or doorknobs above, and voila—a finished mini mudroom.

If it’s a do-it-yourself project, let the mudroom reflect your personality—swipe on a bright paint color and add wall hooks that fit your style.

In new construction and home remodels of mudrooms, says Steve Porter, owner of Dominion Associates, Inc., “the flooring tends to be pretty important. Mainly you see tile, easy maintenance, easy to clean up types of material, either a ceramic or a natural stone, slate, something along those lines, depending on the quality of the finishes.”

It may seem obvious, but a non-skid tile is often the way to go. Porter suggests using something “you don’t have to worry about if you are coming in from the elements and your feet are muddy. That you do have this kind of station to shed your dirty clothes or shoes and then keep the rest of the house clean—that seems to be the mindset of people.”

To make the space feel even more welcoming, throw down a stylish little rug than can take some wear and tear, says Kjos. Just keep in mind that it’s got to be able to handle some abuse from wet, dirty shoes, then get vacuumed or tossed in the wash.


Personal, Purposeful Mudrooms
“We have had families dictate the exact design of certain mudrooms,” says Robert McCormick, managing director and president of Architectural Construction. “Other times, it’s the architect. For large families, obviously, we’ve had to put in a bunch of different spaces. And there have been places where we’ve had to put in separate adult and child areas,” he says of Mom and Dad’s commuter center (or drop zones) for smartphones and the like, and the kid-friendly areas like custom-built benches and cubbies.



“If we’re doing any type of remodeling or redesign of existing space, I’d say 95 percent of the time [the homeowner] wants to incorporate a mudroom into that type of design,” says Porter.
Porter recalls one such project for an outdoorsy family. The garage was on the basement level so that entry point was the home’s main entrance, he says.

“It was a finished basement project, but they wanted to take a significant portion of the basement and make it a mudroom, so you were entering from the garage, like you typically would most mudrooms,” he says. “They wanted a bike rack storage system incorporated within the mudroom design.” So Porter put down a natural slate floor so that everyone in the family could ride their bikes right into the garage, jump off their bikes, and roll them right up into their appropriate racks.

Both Porter and Susan Wells, kitchen and bath designer for NVS Kitchen & Bath, have had requests for dog shower areas in mudrooms. Wells says the space comprises a dog-size tiled area about three feet high, “where you can literally put your dog in there and wash it. That’s an unusual addition that we’ve done in some mudrooms that seems to be gaining a little bit of interest,” she says.

“A lot of mudrooms that we remodel used to be laundry rooms,” she says. But as laundry rooms migrate upstairs, a lot of times, the plumbing is already in the new mudroom spot, making it even more convenient to add a powder room there, or in some cases, the dog wash zone.

Make It Feel Like Home
The most important thing is to make the space feel welcoming. The mudroom is an extension of your home, and very often the first point of entry. It is one of the most trafficked areas within the home, but rarely one of the roomiest. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be beautiful, as well as functional, says Kjos.

It can be such a forgotten room, she says, and it very often “ends up being a crappy catch-all.” But it’s often such a small space, a few design tweaks can really jazz it up, without breaking the bank. If a home lacks an obvious mudroom, carve out an area of its own.

“A bench is nice because you can sit down and put your shoes on, or take them off,” she says. “Or moms can help kids put their shoes on without them holding onto your head. It’s convenient.”

Score a bench at an antique shop, paint it and reupholster it with a soft cushion in a lively fabric. Shop for bins or baskets that you can shove underneath for added storage. One of Kjos’ favorite tips is to hang one-of-a-kind, vintage-y hooks or doorknobs above for a shabby chic take on a coat rack. Add a rug in a daring print that’s luxurious beneath stocking feet—make it a departure from the rest of the home’s décor. Just have fun with the space, says Kjos.

“The mudroom is to the equipment of daily life what the pantry is to kitchen operations,” says Melman. “A way to organize, hide clutter and prepare for the next adventure.”



Mudroom Project Timeline

Many home and design professionals approach the construction of a home’s new mudroom exactly as they would any other custom or remodel project. As with any remodel or renovation, there are always a number of factors—scheduling conflicts, ordering of materials, installation—any of which can sometimes take weeks. Here is a step-by-step take on how such a job progresses from start to finish.

1. Meet with the client to discuss what the needs are.

2. Designate the intended space.

3. Measure the space.

4. Have the client collect and/or email examples of looks they like, of items that could serve their needs.

5. Ask a number of questions, such as: What does the client intend to store? What types of products are they interested in, such as custom cabinetry or cubbies? What is the look they want?

6. Present the client with scaled renderings.

7. Show the client the materials to choose from.

8. Once the materials are selected, order them, or have them custom-built. (This is often the part of the process that takes the longest, sometimes up to several weeks.)

9. If a contractor builds cubbies, shelving and a bench onsite, the project could take a few days.

10. When it’s time to add the decorative finished touches—utilitarian coat hooks, a non-slip rug, a bench cushion.


Mudroom Tips from Sallie Kjos

Despite their messy connotations as a place to shed muddy clothes and boots, mudrooms can certainly have personality, says interior designer Sallie Kjos. In fact, she says, if you’ve been risk-averse to trying color in your home, the mudroom is the perfect place to start. “Don’t take yourself too seriously,” she says. “You can be brave in there. Step out of your comfort zone and do something different. Just have fun.” Here, she suggests tips on creating an inventive entryway that takes the focus off dirt and puts it squarely on aesthetics.

◗ Use beadboard or wainscoting painted with a quality semi-gloss paint to protect your walls from dents, scratches and marks. It also cleans great. Consider having it shoulder-height for interest and a design flair.

◗ Accent one wall with a rich paint color. But don’t lose sight of the room’s purpose. Don’t go so dark that the room’s function is compromised, or too light that it looks weak.

◗ Add some pop with a really great light, like a modern chandelier or semi-flush mounted light that provides some architectural interest.

◗ Have a seating area such as a bench with a decorative cushion. I recommend using indoor/outdoor fabric to withstand daily wear and tear.

◗ Employ bins or baskets that are labeled for each family member. But be sure not to overfill: Keep seasonal items together; store off-season items elsewhere and rotate as needed.

◗ Hang decorative hooks to match each person’s personality. Or use matching ones and add a family photo above each person’s hook. It’s a great way to display framed photos of loved ones.

◗ Get a great rug. Spend $40 instead of $20 to get something that feels a little softer on your feet. Try a chevron pattern or a large damask, something that doesn’t look dated. To add some oomph and elegance doesn’t mean it necessarily costs more—just that you put a little more thought into it.


Q&A with Susan Wells 
Designer NVS Kitchen and Bath

Are mudrooms becoming more popular?
They’re definitely much more popular than they used to be. We’re seeing that people are removing washers and dryers out of (downstairs) laundry rooms, making them mudrooms, so that homeowners have a place to put things down they come in from the garage.

What are those things that get toted in to mudroom spaces, and where do they get put?
Shoes, coats, backpacks, all kinds of things. We do different locker storage units where they’re literally locker-like cabinets that you can keep book bags, coats, for each individual person in the family. We do drawers for shoe storage, for gloves and hats. We also do open cubbies underneath of a bench where you can put shoes and things like that.

How do homeowners handle this organization? Are they able to manage it?
We find that (the mudroom) really offers a lot of possibility for people for additional storage and
keeping that everyday home/life stuff away from the kitchen or the living room or the family room, or someplace like that. It’s typically the first spot when you come in from the garage. As long as you provide a place to drop something, it tends to stay functional.

What are the essentials to any mudroom?
You definitely want convenient ease of storage, hooks, a place to sit. Even though we do sell locker storage, that’s mostly for people who don’t want to see all the stuff. But in my experience, if you make it more difficult, kids are not going to want to use it. If they have to open a door, hang a backpack, hang a coat, close the door, chances are they’ll just set their stuff on the bench. We find if we make it convenient to use, then everybody seems happy.

The Great Outdoors

Experts offer tips on achieving your perfect green space.

By Jennifer Shapira


The perfect backyard is a landscape colored with four-season interest, is high on style and low on maintenance. Achieving the combination makes for an ideal garden, but even scoring some of those details is a welcome start.

Everyone wants to make their outdoor space more inviting, more in keeping with their lifestyle. Everyone loves the idea of grow-your-own vegetables, or herbs, of being able to snip off some basil or rosemary and toss it into a summer night’s dinner.

Who doesn’t want fresh-cut flowers, like whimsical, sun-loving hot-pink cosmos or cheerful black-eyed Susans cut right from your own plot? Or sitting beneath the cool shade of a sugar maple in summer that in autumn turns a bright red? Or the gorgeous springtime sculptural dogwoods that bloom white or pink in early spring?

Sound like a fantasy? Local experts can help you make that a reality. They’ll visit your property, complete a total site analysis, paint a picture catered to your wants and needs, show you what will do well in your yard (and inform you of what won’t) by helping to identify proper plantings, suggest the right hardscaping materials and add in the all-important design accents, making it all come together.

For the creative homeowner, much of this, if not all, might seem like a series of do-it-yourself projects, but to get everything just right, it’s best to seek the advice of a professional, says Tom Harley, landscape designer at Meadows Farms Nursery. Such collective experience will keep your project on schedule and free of errors, and you will no doubt be pleased with the final results.


Getting Started

In Northern Virginia, Harley says, most of the landscaping requests he receives are modest. He hears a similar checklist from almost every homeowner. “They want low-maintenance, color all year and inexpensive—that’s what they’re hoping for,” he says.

Sounds simple enough. But plans, materials, plants and accents can start to add up. So how to proceed on a budget?

Courtesy of Tom Harley

“A lot of times people will come to me and have no clue what they’re looking for,” says Harley. “They just know they want their backyards to be beautiful. They want to soften the architecture, get plants into the ground that grow in and just keep getting better every year.”

But he, like many experts, cautions homeowners that a “no-maintenance” backyard simply doesn’t exist: One still has to water and weed.

You’ve got to do some work to get things established. But once established, you shouldn’t have to do anything ever,” he says. “You shouldn’t have to prune, or do anything, if it’s done right. That’s the whole reason we’re there.” 

Through a series of in-depth lifestyle questions: (How should your garden grow? What styles do you like?) Harley is able to dissect a homeowner’s bullet/wish list and help them to realize a vision for their outdoor space. Quite often, he says, he’ll insert himself into the design plan: If the space were his, how would he design it? What trees and plants would he choose? That’s when he says a mix of knowledge and creativity goes a long way.

“Maybe they show you a picture in a magazine,” he says. “A lot of it has to do with budget. You’ve just got to be ever-mindful of certain things: budget, drainage, engineering. Then it’s taking all those factors and coming up with a solution.”

While there are a number of common denominators, Harley, like most landscape professionals, is quick to point out that no two jobs are exactly alike. But he has noticed that more people are focused on a beautiful landscape, and that’s usually where more of the money goes.


Project Timeline (Job Process)

Tom Harley, Landscape Designer at Meadows Farms Nursery

1. Client contacts Meadows Farms.

2. Meadows assigns lead (usually within 24 hours).

3. I call client to set appointment to meet (usually day I receive the info).

4. Appointment is set with client (anywhere from the next day to two weeks out or more, depending on clients/my schedule…usually about a week).

5. Goal is to provide a plan and estimate at the time of the appointment (and to get deposit for job at that time); however, depending on the scope of the job it can take longer. Ninety percent of the appointments I go on, the plan and estimate are completed impromptu.

6. The job is entered into “the system,” a computer contract is generated which needs signature and deposit, plan all in order. (This can be done in a hour or over several days.] Then, the client has to put down their deposit, usually 50 percent down. and, it’s really up to them when they are ready to proceed.

7. Once everything is turned in and approved by management it goes to scheduling (takes about one day) and the client is called to schedule an installation date. Usually the job is scheduled to begin within two weeks of the deposit, although this can vary depending on the clients’ preferences. Most often the work is completed in one day, although depending on the scope of the work, it may take a weeks to complete.

8. The balance due for the job is collected upon completion and this is usually the last item to be taken care of. However, there may still be additional work to be done such as add on work, any plants not on site because it was not in inventory, etc.

9. Follow up of whatever is necessary is done as soon as possible, depending on the situation. There is also a lifetime warranty on all the plants we install, so even years after the job is completed we may be called on.


Some Things to Note:

Generally, it takes about a month from womb to tomb for an average job of $1,000 to $20,000. However, if you are constructing a swimming pool in Fairfax County it is going to take four months minimum from the time you submit your plans until you to get your permit. It will take even longer if you are in an RPA (within a hundred feet of stream). Larger projects like this can take months or even years; require engineered plans, impact studies, etc. Other projects, like decks that require permits, can be in your hands in one day to two weeks. It really varies, but in general the bigger the project, the longer it takes. No permits are required for plantings or most patios and walkways.


(May 2013)

Mini Makeovers & 8 Outdoor Products

Projects any space can take.

By Jennifer Shapira

Home in Bethesda designed by Jennifer Horn of Jennifer Horn Landscape Architecture LLC. / Courtesy of Jennifer Horn Landscape Architecture

If an improved backyard is the goal, but keeping costs down is the priority, there are a number of small, inexpensive upgrades that can provide impact. Allen D. Ford, install sales coordinator at Lowe’s of Alexandria, has a number of suggestions to save some green, while incorporating style and personality to an outdoor space.

Spruce up any patio with updated furniture; shop around for a bistro set that is a step up from the traditional color palette. Cheer up the space and go bolder with a pop of rich color. Try your hand at growing your own edibles; plant your favorite herbs and vegetables and practice in small pots that sit on the steps of your deck.

You want your outdoor space to feel secluded, private, your own. Creative landscaping can be the key to providing that kind of escapist feel. Put in a simple waterfall to add interest, and in any desired look—go natural, modern, classic, formal or Asian-inspired. The bubbling sound of a water feature can do double duty: It can bring a relaxing vibe to any backyard area, while masking the hum of traffic from a nearby busy thoroughfare.

“Defining areas is a big thing,” says Ford, but it doesn’t have to be a big job.

Increase a home’s curb appeal with neatly trimmed lawn edges, and create a hardscaped zone with interlocking pavers abundantly available in sizes, shapes and colors to complement your home’s style.

Consider adding an inviting bench to a favorite garden area. “It would draw more people out into your yard to get a closer look at the landscaping you’ve done,” says Ford. “You’d see the butterflies that it draws, the hummingbirds that it draws. It’s just a way to get people out there and look around more at the yard and flowering trees.”

Another low-cost tip: Showcase a particular tree or garden feature with a low-voltage spotlight. Point the beam up or down to kick up a little DIY garden drama. For instant ambience, place a number of lights low to the ground to illuminate a stone pathway, or go even simpler with string lights threaded through a gazebo or pergola.

Harley, who lives in a forested area, has spotlights trained on favorite trees: a hemlock, oak and beech. “It makes something ordinary look extraordinary at night,” says Harley. “I really like what that does for a place.”


8 Outdoor Products


1. MoMA Store Bistro Set
Give your patio or garden area an instantly stylish update with MoMA’s zippy bistro set. Constructed from sturdy steel, the bright orange table and chairs offer an inventive take on the Parisian classic, providing the perfect outdoor perch for a morning coffee or an early evening cocktail.
Bistro Table, $246 and Bistro Chair, $99;


2. Felco Pruners
For the more-than-casual DIY gardener, a pair of red-handled Felco professional-grade pruners are a must, says landscape architect Jennifer Horn. The strong blades make clean cuts instead of pinching or tugging branches, which can cause damage. But, she cautions, “You can get tired from using them,” so expect a workout.
Felco pruners, $49.99 and up; available at Merrifield Garden Center and


3. Color-changing Waterproof LED Light Patio/Bistro Set
These geometric remote-controlled color-changing LED-lit patio pieces add a sci-fi flair to any outdoor area. Translucent white when powered “off,” the rechargeable pod-like mod seating provides a vibrant, warm glow at night, turning any backyard into a party zone.
Color Changing Waterproof LED Light Cube, $129.99;
Ibiza chair, $229.99;


4. Garlic Juice
Everyone in this area knows mosquitoes can ruin any outdoor gathering in the summer months. Landscape architect Jennifer Horn suggests spraying organic garlic juice which plants absorb, so there’s no lasting pungent garlic smell in your garden. “If you have a large, substantial, garden space, that’s a great way to help keep mosquitoes at bay,” she says.
Mosquito Barrier, $29.95 per quart; and


5. Rain Barrel
Hook up a rain barrel kit to a downspout outside your home, and let the rain fall from your roof into the airtight cistern where the water will stay until you’re ready to use it. Most barrels hold upwards of 50 gallons of water, so you’ll save some green on costs associated with watering your plants, and feel good about reusing natural resources.
Rain Wizard 50-Gallon Black Recycled Plastic Rain Barrel with Spigot, $137.80;


6. Trellis
If an outdoor space is at a premium or the backyard is the size of a postage stamp, add visual interest with a simple trellis that you can easily push right into the ground, says Allen D. Ford, install sales coordinator at Alexandria’s Lowe’s. Create a sort of vertical garden with a pretty climbing vine such as clematis or a perfume-scented rose.
Garden Treasures 24”W x 72”H Zen Garden Trellis, $39.97;


7. Spotlight
Add a stylish update to any garden space with an easy-to-install spotlight. Accentuate the positive: Illuminate a favorite tree or shrub or water feature. Whether you’re hosting a gathering, or enjoying a quiet evening, the light creates ambiance and “makes something ordinary look extraordinary,” says landscape designer Tom Harley.
Portfolio Black Low-Voltage Halogen Flood Light, $18.98;


8. Bench
Enjoy the fruits of your backyard labors from a bench-style perch. Choose a classic park-style bench, or a concrete version and place it squarely in your garden among the blooms, or make it a destination at the end of a stone walkway. It will serve as the perfect spot to relax and take in your surroundings—the happy results of hard work.
Garden Treasures 50-1/2-in. L Patio Bench, $118;


Photos: Courtesy of Garlic Research Labs, Inc. (Mosquito Barrier); Courtesy of PYGAR USA Inc (Felco pruners); Courtesy of Lowe’s (trellis, bench, spotlight, rain barrel); Courtesy of Main Access (LED light patio); courtesy of MoMA Design Store (Bistro set)


(May 2013)

Metro Has the Money to Fix What’s Busted and to Test Better Station Designs; Alexandria Residents Petition Virginia to Move Express Lanes Ramp; Historic Va. ‘Bridge to Nowhere’ Disappears; Would Term Limits be a Game-Changer in Arlington Governance?; Typo Holds Up Amendment To Ease Sequestration For FAA; Volunteers Pitch In to Fix Up Homes on National Rebuilding Day in Va., D.C.

Vacclav /

April 29, 2013


Metro Has the Money to Fix What’s Busted and to Test Better Station Designs

Washington Post

Alexandria Residents Petition Virginia to Move Express Lanes Ramp

Washington Examiner

Historic Va. ‘Bridge to Nowhere’ Disappears


Would Term Limits be a Game-Changer in Arlington Governance?

Sun Gazette

Typo Holds Up Amendment To Ease Sequestration For FAA


Volunteers Pitch In to Fix Up Homes on National Rebuilding Day in Va., D.C.



(Compiled by David Schuller)

Products for Small Houses & Professional Tips

By Jennifer Shapira



Bar Cabinet/Sideboard

“Bar cabinets are popular and more readily available now,” says interior designer Dolly Howarth. “They are a nice alterative to full-size buffets and sideboards for small dining rooms.” Because they are “typically slimmer and taller than more conventional pieces, they can fit on shorter walls, and their storage capacity is significant.”

1. Justine Dining Cabinet
$2443 solid oak, $2994 in solid cherry (available in a wide variety of other woods and stain finishes);



Comfortable Seating

Small living rooms equal limited space, so Howarth recommends looking for loveseats and chairs with exposed wood or metal arms. They are often narrower than all-upholstered pieces, but the seating area is the same size. Another alternative: armless upholstered chairs. Don’t shy away from them. “They are surprisingly comfortable and have a smaller footprint than arm chairs,” she says.

2. 5008-01 Chair
Starting retail price is $1083 (price depends on fabric chosen);

3. Ravenna Chair in Atlantic Blue

4. Edward Apartment Size Sofa
Available in a variety of fabrics; $1497;



Desk as Dining Room Table

One of Howarth’s favorite tricks, and one she employs in her own home, is using a desk as dining room table. It’s a great way to furnish a small-scale dining space. And for those interested in a custom-size table, today’s options are more widely available from places like Room & Board and Alexandria’s Creative Classics.

5. Sarah Secretary Desk
Solid cherry in six finishes., $726;



Must-have Ottoman

An ottoman-slash-coffee table is a must in a small family room. Top it with a lacquer tray to hold remotes and drinks and place newspapers, magazines, tablets where they are shielded from view on the shelf below. Even small versions of this type of ottoman are big on comfort and style and just might prove to meet “all of the storage, coffee table, work surface and foot rest needs in a room,” says Howarth.

6. Avery Ottoman
Solid Maple base available in a variety of stain finishes; $684 fabric, $722 leather;



Elfa Shelving

Interior designer Shanon Munn and her sister Sandy Grabowski are devotees of the Container Store’s fit-anywhere, chameleon-like elfa shelving. From corresponding wood veneer shelves to platinum ventilated racks, standalone or no, the elfa solution will always fit and store, no matter a room’s style.

7. Elfa Shelving
Prices vary;




Leaning Desk

A sleek, wall-leaning laptop desk is a perfect space-saving solution for the person who needs a place to park a few essentials (small computer, a few books, a slim storage box) and is able to minimize clutter.

“The leaning office shelves incorporate a desk to create an office area that doesn’t look office-y,” says Munn.

8. Linea Leaning Desk



Sapien Bookshelf

For a creative way to display the spines of favorite books in a home library, consider this sturdy vertical bookshelf. Constructed from steel, the free-standing Sapien has a weighted base that will support even the heaviest hardback tomes. Sleek and stylish, it looks great in any room, even adding some color and personality to a corner spot.

9. Sapien Bookshelf



Storage Boxes

Add some punch to a small home office with Container Store’s storage boxes. Available in primary colors, sherbet tones and florals, these sturdy containers come in several shapes and sizes and will suit basic filing needs and complement your home’s hues. They’ll make any desk or shelf look neat and orderly. For the extra-organized, slip a homemade label into the provided slot.

10. Bright Stockholm Office Storage
$9.99 to $12.99;




Professional Tips

McLean-based interior designer Shanon Munn, who helped outfit sister Sandy Grabowski in her fashionable one-bedroom Rosslyn condo, shares some of her favorite tips for making the most out of small space living.

Keep clear sight lines between each room. Do not block the visual flow with “separating” furniture pieces. Instead of using my sister’s sofa as a divider between the living room and the dining room, the spaces open to each other.

The closet in the bedroom was too small so there is a free standing elfa unit in the bedroom that goes floor-to-ceiling. There is a sliding (fabric) panel that slides in front of the unit to hide it from the rest of the bedroom.

Munn hung off-the-rack silk draperies floor-to-ceiling and wall-to-wall in the living room, creating unity between the dining and living areas and making the entire space brighter.

The leaning office shelf incorporates a desk to create a work area that doesn’t look “office-y.” When a chair is removed from the workspace, the unit is simply a wall-length decorative shelf. Munn adds that when you can see the wall show through a piece of furniture, a room instantly feels larger.

Mirrors, mirrors, mirrors! They make any space brighter and larger, and an architectural piece can add style and dimension.


photos: courtesy of creative classics (Bar cabinet/sideboard, Edward Sofa, sarah secretary desk, avery ottoman); courtesy of Lee Industries (5008-01 Chair); courtesy of World Market (Raveena Chair); courtesy the container store (elfa shelving, leaning desk, stockholm storage boxes, sapien bookshelf)


(April 2013)

DIY: Paper Flowers and Painted Tacks

Photos and copy courtesy of Decor8

If you are looking for an easy and budget-friendly way to redecorate for spring this DIY should do the trick.  Design diva and best-selling author, Holly Becker shows you how to add some much needed floral flair to any room.

Supplies Needed: Origami paper, metal tacks, nail polish
Tools Needed: Scissors, cardboard petal templates (various sizes)

photo courtesy of

Step 1: Grab some metal tacks and paint the tops with 2-3 coats of your favorite nail polish color – let dry – I left mine out overnight.

Step 2: Fold origami paper (or paper that is perfectly square) in half, then half again so you have a small square. Cut into the square to create your flower using scissors. Petals do not need to be perfect, have fun and experiment. You can also free hand flowers if you like or you can cut out some cardboard templates in various sizes, trace around them and cut out your flowers. This works if you want to create larger blooms as well.

Step 3: Cut into the paper to create different sizes of petals and mix different papers and patterns, too. I use 4-5 layers to create my flowers. You can even mix up texture – try incorporating newspaper (I love the look of Japanese and Chinese newspapers), crepe paper and tissue paper for some layers along with paper.

Step 4: Stack your petals to see how they look and rearrange or cut new ones as needed.

Step 5: Grab your thumb tack and stick it through the center! Now you can tack anywhere you’d like! You can also glue the petals in the center as you layer them and top it with a button or a circle you’ve cut using paper and add them to gifts, lamp shades or where you think you could add a little flower power in your home!

photo courtesy of

Don’t hesitate to get creative, and eco-friendly, by using old magazines and comic strips from newspapers. This is a simple spring upgrade for any home! You can find other great DIYs on Holly’s website Décor8.

Page 1 of 512345