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Love Those Dark Colors for the Fall

If you want to make your home look more inviting and warm this fall, pull in some dark colors. Just know when to quit.

Some of the colors that typically work well for this purpose are: chocolate brown, midnight blue, deep scarlet, eggplant, olive green and black. By using layers of dark colors, you make it look warm and cozy with interest. Your home will be memorable and distinct. But you don't want to overdo a good thing. So here are some helpful hints:

  • CHOOSE RIGHT ROOM - Dark colors are perfect for very large rooms. If the walls are extremely high, putting the same dark color on the ceiling as you have on the walls helps make the room more cozy. Today's large living rooms usually have plenty of windows to let in light to balance the space. Use dark colors in small spaces for drama: hallways, bathrooms. Since you spend little time in these areas, you won't feel overwhelmed. Beef up the lighting in small areas with artificial light.
  • DON'T MAKE EVERY ELEMENT DARK - Contrast is very important. Balance dark walls with light colored molding. Use pale or white window treatments. Put a dark area rug on the floor that includes lighter colors. Bring those lighter colors into the upholstery and accessories. Think about such combinations as: navy and white, dark brown and pale green, black and light blue.
  • REFLECTIONS - To change things up, think about high gloss dark paint instead of flat or eggshell finishes. Glossy paints reflect light and add sparkle to a room. But only do this if your walls have no imperfections, because glossy paint will accentuate imperfections. If your room is sunny during the day and you use it a lot during that time, you may not want to have all that reflection. In that case, use a flat paint, but bring in accessories that reflect light, such as: chrome mirrors, crystal lamps, acrylic tables, glass candle holders.
Help Plants Feel at Home

Two key ingredients to keeping your indoor plants are: care and low maintenance varieties. Many things can cause your plants to die. Over watering, too small pots and too little sunlight are the most common culprits. I'm not the best at keeping potted plants alive, but here are some tips to help you nevertheless.

  • LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION - Before you decide to buy a plant, determine where you're going to place it. Think about the amount of sunlight the plant will need and if your spot will provide that or not. You need plants that will thrive in your home: dry desert climate? low lit apartment? extra cold weather?
  • READ THE LABELS - Be sure to read any labels that come attached to the plant. Pick a plant that already looks healthy. Avoid plants that look droopy, with dropping leaves.
  • DON'T OVER WATER - When you first get the plant at home, examine it. Be sure the pot has adequate drain holes so you don't suffocate it when you water. Test the plant's tolerance for water. First measure how much you give it - then measure how much runoff you got. Over watering is the single most common death note to plants, so be careful.
  • SETTING THE STAGE - Group plants on a tray for convenient access. If you group your plants together, you'll be more likely to take care of them than if they are spread all about, here and there and everywhere.
How to Shop for Blinds and Clean Them

Buying the right type of blinds for your room and keeping them clean are important factors to consider before you buy. Blinds are an easy and functional alternative to draperies, but they can also be dust magnets that allow more light into the room than you want. Here is a brief buying and cleaning guide.

  • STYLE AND FINISH - Your taste will dictate the size of the slats and materials used. Most common choices are: wood, plastic, aluminum and faux wood. Some blinds have a "blackout" feature - others do not. Use the "blackout" feature in bedrooms.
  • MINI BLINDS - Most practical and versatile styles. Ideal for small and medium-sized windows. Can be made to fit oddly shaped windows. Vinyl are least expensive, but slats are fragile and easily damaged. Slats can also sag. Vinyls are good when renting or moving soon. Aluminum are more durable. Wood is most expensive, but adds warmth and beauty.
  • LARGE BLINDS - Can last for decades. Faux wood looks nice but doesn't last long.
  • CLEANING BLINDS - There are different ways to clean depending on the material you chose.
    1. Vacuum - Use the brush attachment. Reduces chance of scratching. Open blinds slightly so you can clean upper and lower part of slats.
    2. Dust - Clean once or twice monthly. Use soft, clean cloth. Tilt slats in both directions and clean both sides of slats. Or use a chemically treated dust cloth or feather duster.
    3. Washing - Use soft, lightly dampened sponge and small amount of mild liquid dish detergent in warm water. No abrasives. For really grungy blinds, soak them in bathtub for brief time. Rinse after removing. Hang up to dry. Wipe them down with clean, dry cloth to prevent watermarks.
    4. Spraying - Try plain water spray first. Use commercial glass cleaner for heavily soiled blinds. Add 5% white vinegar to water for extra power. A teaspoon of alcohol works too. Never use steel wool or scouring pads to clean metal or vinyl blinds.
Buying the Best Bed for You

A third of your life is spent in bed, so it pays to have the best bed possible for uninterrupted sleep and comfort. Most beds are made in Asia. Flaws and distress in headboards are commonplace. Some beds have even arrived with beetles. Always get something in writing regarding who is responsible if the new bed is infested shortly after delivery or if there are just too many defects with the quality.

Climate changes from Asian cultures to here in the United States or Canada can be very different and can cause problems. I purchased some bamboo products a year ago which were beautiful until the day I heard loud cracking and popping. Our dry, hot California summer weather made every piece of bamboo split almost all the way down the entire length of the poles.

STYLE - Overly large beds, ornately detailed bed frames will go out of style quickly. A classic wooden sleigh bed or a solid wrought-metal bed will stay stylish for a long time. Upholstered beds fall in and out of favor all the time. A neutral fabric is less likely to look dated and can go with more types of bedding. Skip children's sized beds if you want to save money and get classic wooden or metal beds. Look for styles that will suit both a 3 year old and a 17 year old. Don't worry about a headboard and footboard. You can always get that later.

DURABILITY - Look underneath the bed before buying. Horizontal cross-support slats should be thick and made of high-quality wood, not particleboard. Center support legs should look and feel sturdy. This helps to keep the mattress from caving in the center. Big price tags do not equate with sturdiness. It is not uncommon for center support legs to break off. Shake the bed at the footboard and the headboard. You want as little motion as possible. Motion wears out the joints over time. A well made bed will feel like one piece locked together.

COMFORT - Lie on top of the bed a few times, even though your mattress purchase will be separate. Note how easy or difficult it is to get on and off. Walk around the bed closely. Some beds have edges that will rub against your legs. A no-no.

WARRANTY - Read manufacturer's warranty closely. Question salesman about options and void policies. Watch out for disclaimers such as: for tiny splits or cracks considered "normal"; lifetime warranty voided if moved; rust or tarnish not being covered; staining or fabric not covered; if stain protection treatments void the warranty; if stains void the warranty; if comfort level and sagging up to 1.5 inches aren't covered. Ask who pays for shipping if there is a problem. Never remove the satin brand tag or the care label - this will void your warranty.

HOW MUCH TO PAY? - For well-made bedroom furniture expect to pay at least: $1200 (queen wood/metal) $1400 (king); $50-60 for metal frame (queen/king); $400 for wooden nightstand with drawers; $800-$1000 for innerspring mattress and box springs (queen/king); $1350-$1650 latex mattress and box springs (queen/king); $1400-$1800 visco-elastic foam mattress and box springs (queen/king). To pay less, look for good quality second hand pieces from antique, consignment and thrift stores. Never buy a used mattress.

WHEN SHOPPING - Take pictures of styles you like; your spouse or partner; bedroom measurements (including ceiling height); tape measure, fabrics in the room; lots of patience.

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