Drool-Worthy Backyard Ideas for Your Summer Inspiration

We're just about one month into summer. The weather is warmer and the sun stays out longer. It's the perfect season to enjoy spending ample time outside. So why not make your backyard a dreamy retreat? Here's some of our favorite ideas to help get you started:

1. Sun Shades

Also referred to as sail shades, these giant pieces of fabric are a great, easy way to create a backyard cover without a lot of time or investment. Swedish retail giant Ikea currently has some for $24.99!

You can even enhance the space with some ambiance lighting for longer nights or a mister to keep you cool on those extra hot August days.

2. Patio Furniture

Summer is the time to invest in new patio furniture. From conversation seating, to dining tables, to bistro-style furniture - the options are varied and the styles are practically endless. You can buy furniture as individual pieces, or buy a whole matching set. (Just make sure you also invest in some furniture covers, or have extra storage, to keep them out of the elements in the Fall and Winter.) You can also wait until the end of the season to get some great clearance deals on patio furniture for next year. 

3. Privacy Walls

If you want to hang out on your front porch, but don't want your neighbors to be able to watch you, it might be worth investing in (or DIY building) a privacy wall. The Garden Glove has lots of great DIYs to keep your outdoor living area secluded, as does The Home Depot Blog. These ideas can be transfered to the backyard as well, to create separate areas within the space, or even to hide eye-sores like your HVAC unit.

4. Stone Paver and Pebble Pathways

We've seen this patio trend popping up all over the place! When laying out your pavers to make that path from one area to another, lay them a little further apart than you would think, and fill the gaps in with small pebbles. There are all sorts of beautiful variations on this theme (like using glow-in-the-dark spray on the pebbles). Just scroll through Pinterest. To get you started, check out these helpful DIY tips from The Home Depot.

5. Fire Pits

Fire pits are a classic way to add furniture and activities to your back yard. They offer a communal area to gather and enjoy those long, gorgeous summer nights with friends and family. Fire pits can be in-ground or above ground, DIY-ed or purchased off the shelf, and come in just about any style you can imagine. Just look at these gorgeous modern fire pits in Relocated Living's roundup. Or you can scroll through Wayfair and look at hundreds of different styles.

6. Outdoor Lighting

Adding lighting to your backyard is a great way to extend its use year-round, but especially in the summer. Christmas Lights, etc. has this great tutorial for planning your patio lights. You can incorporate lights in many different ways, such as these paver lights that fit right in with the rest of your pavers.

7. A Pallet Bar

Pallets are being turned into all kinds of furniture and decor. Turning a few pallets into a bar space is a great way to start an outdoor kitchen in a small space. Plus, stick a mini fridge out there, and you don't have to keep running back inside to refresh your guests drink every half hour. You can build your own with pallets, or buy one that suits your style straight from Wayfair.

8. Giant Games

Besides lounging on your new patio furniture, or roasting marshmallows over your new fire pit, you have to have activities ready so when friends come over for a summer BBQ, they won't forget that you've got the coolest backyard in town. Giant games are growing more and more popular. This is another one that can be DIY-ed or purchased. Little House of Four has a great collection of DIY games, or you can get them already made from places like Home Depot.


What are you doing with your backyard this summer. We want to hear your ideas!


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DIY Storage Closet Organization for Under $150

American financial journalist and author Jean Chatzky said,

Every minute you spend looking through clutter, wondering where you put this or that, being unable to focus because you’re not organized costs you: time you could have spent with family or friends, time you could have been productive around the house, time you could have been making money.

She's absolutely right. A cluttered space is a cluttered mind is a cluttered life.

We've been extremely busy here at the office lately. (Noted especially by the fact that this is my first blog post since December 28th.) When work (or life) gets busy, it's vital to have an organized environment to keep things running smoothly. In an effort to continue to organize the office more efficiently, last week, I tackled the storage closet.

The storage closet in its pre-organization state.

The storage closet in its pre-organization state.

Now, the storage closet wasn't in awful condition. Everything was mostly grouped by item type, and nothing was overflowing out of the closet. But it was in a state where we didn't know what we had and didn't have because office supplies weren't easy to find. For example, a couple months ago, I ordered envelope openers because we thought we didn't have any. Not including the extras that I ordered (because apparently they came in a two-pack and I can't read so I ordered two two-packs), we had two envelope openers already. But I wouldn't have known that if I hadn't gone through the entire left-hand side of the shelf they were on.

The main culprit: the daily-use office supplies.

The main culprit: the daily-use office supplies.

STEP 1: EMPTY THE SPACE

In order to really see what we had in that closet (a 96" tall, 67" wide space), I first pulled out everything from the closet.

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I tried to pile everything in one area, but our poor little conference room got overwhelmed, and multiple piles in multiple spaces started to spawn. Here's a bit of a look at what was in the closet:

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STEP 2: VISIT THE STORAGE GODS

I spent some time on the Container Store website, browsing all the goodies they had to offer. After taking some measurements of the closet space and coming up with a fairly solid plan of how I wanted to go about organizing the closet, I hopped in the car and drove the only Oregon Container Store at Bridgeport Village (where I was helped by the mom of one of my good friends from high school - small world, much?).

(Okay, so this actually happened before anything else, but since we're going in order of taking things out of and putting things back into the closet, so we'll keep it as step two.)

(Okay, so this actually happened before anything else, but since we're going in order of taking things out of and putting things back into the closet, so we'll keep it as step two.)

Yes, I bought a shoe shelf - it was the only long shelf and I wanted something that would cover at least half the shelf space. I know I could have just bought two of the smaller ones that are marketing specifically for the office, but it was the same price for one of these as it was for two of those, and it was one less thing I had to try and wrestle out to my car and back into the office.

Yes, I bought a shoe shelf - it was the only long shelf and I wanted something that would cover at least half the shelf space. I know I could have just bought two of the smaller ones that are marketing specifically for the office, but it was the same price for one of these as it was for two of those, and it was one less thing I had to try and wrestle out to my car and back into the office.

. . . six Mini Stackable Storage Bins, two Silver Mesh CD Bins, and two Small Silver Mesh Stackable Storage Bins. Plus, I already six filing shelves, a three-drawer storage container, and a small assortment of various medium and large plastic storage bins that had been sitting in the closet just begging to be used.

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STEP 3: START GROUPING

After taking off all of the packing and tags from my Container Store goodies and setting them up, I began going through my large piles of stuff that had come out of the closet, sorting it into general categories: electronics & tech, paper goods, office supplies, and marketing.

I then started putting all of the electronics and tech away. Because we don't often get into this closet for the tech stuff, it all got stored in places that were not front-and-center real estate: the bottom corner of the closet, the corner of the shelf right above, and the very top right-hand shelf (which you can't see in any of these pictures because it sits above the exterior trim opening of the closet doors and I have to maneuver my body in complicated ways while standing on a ladder to even reach it to put stuff on it).

The paper goods are what we go into the closet for most - things like folders, labels, actual paper, notebooks, and the like - so they scored the most prime real estate. Before organizing the closet, they had all been thrown together in a few different locations, but they weren't sorted by type or use, so I made sure to put all of the envelopes together, all of the folders together, all of the files together, the colored paper, the labels, etc.

The office supplies are generally small items, so in order to keep them from going everywhere, about half of the storage containers I purchased were for them, plus some of the storage containers I already had. This area was more a matter of keeping things sorted with like-items and putting them away in such a way that they wouldn't explode all over the closet again.

And finally, the marketing items (things like plastic stands for business cards and informational brochures) got put on the highest left-hand shelf, also not visible in these pictures, because we use it so rarely

Et voilà, the finished product:

Sooo much better. Looking at this makes my heart happy.

Sooo much better. Looking at this makes my heart happy.

All in all, including my trip to the Container Store, I spent just under $150 and about 4.5 hours on this project, and it made a significant impact on the space and the office in general. My boss loves it, and we now know exactly where everything is and don't have to waste time searching through the closet to find what we are looking for

What about you - What spaces have you organized recently? How did you go about the process? What were the results?

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9 Ways to Amp Up Your Bathroom

Take your bathroom to the next level with these great ideas:

1. Shower Faucets

Arguably one of the most important features of the bathroom, the shower faucet(s) plays a big role in your day-to-day life, whether you realize it or not. 

As evidenced in the photo above, multiple shower heads, facing multiple directions, is become more and more popular, bringing that luxurious hotel spa feeling home with you. If you're not ready to go full on with your shower heads, a great way to slowly work your way there is switching your shower head out for a rainfall one.

This is the Delta Metal Raincan Shower Head (shown in their signature stainless finish), available at The Home Depot for $304.90. It's considered a low-flow shower head, saving you up to 60% the water usage of a non-low-flow shower head. Just because it's low-flow doesn't mean you should worry about the water pressure - capable of up to 80 psi, you're still getting enough pressure to make sure your shampoo actually rinses out and doesn't take forever to do so.

Delta also offers the HydroRain® 5-Setting Two-in-One Shower Head as well as the H2Okinetic® Pendant Raincan Shower Head, two more rainfall-style shower heads to help you relax and rejuvinate. 

 

2. Multiple Tiles

Tile is a staple in the bathroom, especially in the shower itself. But tile can get boring. So why not change things up a bit by throwing in a second (or even third) kind of tile. Just look at this gorgeous update featured on Decoholic.

There are infinitely more things to love about this bathroom than just the tile, but it is a great example of using multiple kinds of tile in one space and have it really work. Using tiles that are all in the same color palette (black and white) and in geometric styles is what makes these tiles fit so well together.

 

3. Recessed Caddies

Recessed caddies are the perfect way to create in-shower storage space and not actually take away any of your valuable shower space. They are also a great way to incorporate multiple tiles (per suggestion #2).

This one, featured on the Better Homes & Gardens website, is a great example of using multiple kinds of tile and complementary colors to really make the space pop. For more great recessed caddy inspiration, check out our Pinterest board. The best part? They aren't limited to the shower - you can put them anywhere.

 

4. A Clean Toilet

This is the American Standard Clean ActiVate Touchless Flush Right Height Elongated Toilet, a part of the Clean Collection that features easy-to-clean sides, unlike normal toilets that show you outlines of the piping.

(image source)

(image source)

We've talked about some of the benefits of this particular toilet before, but we didn't even cover how great the "Clean" style is. Look at the sides of the toilet - no outlines of pipes, making it infinitely easier to clean! Plus, this model has a motion-activated flush, so you don't have to worry about spreading germs.

 

5. Clever Storage

Smart use of space when it comes to bathroom storage is what keeps your bathroom looking in tip-top shape rather than cluttered and ignored. Consider creative cabinetry your new best friend. 

These pull outs are both excellent ideas, and a quick search of "bathroom storage solutions" on Pinterest yields endless more. Stop neglecting your bathroom's organizational needs and start enjoying your space again.

 

6. Lighting Through Windows

Properly lighting your bathroom is vital for ensuring ease of use at any time of day. No one wants to do their hair and makeup in the dark. One great way to get that extra lighting is with windows, and not just any windows - skylight windows in the shower. 

Placing the windows in the ceiling is a great way to get the light you want while still keeping the privacy important to a bathroom. You can opt for obscured glass for extra privacy without losing any great natural light.

 

7. Heated Flooring

Something I've long thought of as the ultimate in bathroom luxury, heating flooring is more affordable and accessible than ever before. Installing electric radiant heated flooring does require a bit more forethought, as is doesn't work as well with some kinds of flooring as others. It works best with tile flooring, and less great with coverings like hardwood and carpet. Just think about how wonderful it will feel to step out of a hot shower on a cold winter's day onto heated flooring. Mmmmm. Yes, please.

 

8. The Curb-less Shower

Besides being a fantastic idea for anyone who plans to age-in-place, curb-less showers offer a lot of great benefits, not to mention the their design aesthetics.

Curb-less showers are super easy to clean, and they actually make your bathroom space look larger because, by eliminating the curb, the shower becomes less of a fixture placed into the space and more a bonafide part of the space. And surprisingly, curb-less showers keep water from going everywhere more than a standard shower or tub/shower because the floor underneath the curb-less shower gets sloped toward the drain to prevent water spillage and run-off. Plus, they're just so darn visually appealing - just look at all these beautiful designs!

 

9. Statement WallS

I'm a fan of the statement wall no matter the room (of course, you wouldn't want one in every room), so when I saw that statement walls in bathrooms were starting to become popular, I latched on right away!

You can put it in the shower with some gorgeous tile or behind the toilet with some fabulous wallpaper, and the best part is, they look fantastic in bathrooms big and small. Whether you are using wallpaper or tile, or even a dramatic paint color, you can't go wrong with a statement wall. Or, you could really get ahead of the curve and go for a statement floor.

 

The average person will spend over 2 years of their life in the bathroom, so why not make it an enjoyable two years? For more bathroom inspiration, click here.


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Beyond Subway Tile

Subway tile is one of the most popular backsplashes for kitchens and bathrooms right now. And why shouldn't it be? It's cool and chic and lends itself to practically every style of decor. But with its radical rise in popularity, perhaps it's time to look beyond subway tile - afterall, you don't want your kitchen or bathroom to look like everyone else's.

Maybe you still love subway tile and aren't quite ready to move on yet. One way to ever-so-slightly change things up is by changing up the orientation of your tile. Check out this wall where the tile runs top to bottom rather than side to side:

This simple difference completely changes the style and makes it much more unique, even though all they did was lay it in a different direction.

An important step to leaving subway tile behind is to add a bit of color. Subway tile is nice a white, so while it looks beautiful when it's clean, it can get kind of boring. This Dove Gray piece by MS International is just the ticket:

Next, it's time to think about size. The standard subway tile sizing is 3" x 6". This beautiful Marazzi tile is a long and skinny 6" x 24", with great color variation to it:

Or you could go for shorter and taller, like this 12" X 24" MS International Carrara:

Instead of going bigger, go smaller. Sheets like these are great options for a mini-subway tile look:

Another beautiful look  is mirrored subway tile, and it can go around fireplaces (like below), as well as in kitchens and bathrooms, adding just that extra bit of sparkle and glamour to a room.

Branching really far from the classic rectangular-look of subway tile is the arabesque shape. You can opt for a basic white, a colorful look, or even a tile with intricately carved details.

Arabesque tile has those lovely curves that keep the eye moving, and it lends a bit of a old world feminine flair to a room.

A style that's becoming more and more popular is octagonal tile. You can get it in big individual tiles like these:

Or in smaller sizes on sheets, like these:

And of course, there's a sparkly option for that extra glitz:

If you kind of like the look of octagon tile, but you aren't completely sold, you could try a rhombus mosaic tile that is laid in a hexagonal-looking pattern but has three-times the grout lines.

There's also the slightly simpler hexagon style:

To really vary it up, consider having an area of tile that's different from the rest as an accent piece:

Penny tile is a classic look, and you can also get it in varying sizes.

One of my personal favorites is the Moroccan fish scale tile, like this eclectic boho beauty:

Tile comes in so many different patterns. Here's just a few more options:

For a really natural, textured look, something like this is a great option:

And there's always the classically seamless look of matching the countertop to the backsplash, which ends up looking something like this:

Whether I've been able to change your mind about subway tile or not, hopefully you're now more aware of the hundreds of styles of tile out there. (And hopefully you're not too overwhelmed by it.) 

Besides your typical home improvement store, a great place to find fun tile is Wayfair. And you can always get inspiration on Pinterest.


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Thriving in Place: A How-To

Aging is become more and more of a concern for the population as baby boomers continue to retire in masses. A topic quickly gaining in popularity for home renovations is making a home safe for "aging in place." Beyond just aging in place, we want you to be able to thrive in place. Your home is just that, your home, and you probably want it to stay that way. Here are our remodeling tips to help you thrive in place. We call them the 7 R's:

1. Re-view the Laundry

If you're washer and dryer are front load, (as most are these days), you'll definitely want to put in a stand (approximately 6" tall) to raise them up and limit back pain from constantly bending over while doing laundry. Another thing to consider is the location of your laundry - the less stairs the better, and so much better if you can move it straight into the master closet.

2. Remove the Bathtub

The bathtub definitely presents an issue when it comes to stepping over the side. Remove the bathtub in favor of a low-profile shower. (We work with a great company called Onyx to install low-profile and ADA compliant shower stalls. Onyx makes a great in-shower seat, too.) Or, if you can't bear to part with your tub, get a walk-in bathtub.

3. Raise the Bar

The grab bar, that is. Install at least one grab bar in your shower and consider adding one next to your toilet as well. We recommend this one from Moen; it comes in three sizes.

4. Ramp It Up

Remove front entry and backyard stairs in lieu of wheelchair-accessible ramps. Add rails for extra safety.

5. Re-think the little things

Door handles and faucets should all be changed to lever-styles to make them easier for your hands to grab and maneuver. Change cabinet knobs to bars that won't get clothing caught on them, like these Delta ones.

6. Radiate light

Bring in all the exterior light you can get by making windows taller where possible, adding new exterior doors with glass panes inside, and adding recessed canned lights to the ceiling anywhere that needs more light for safety (like over the staircase or in the kitchen).

7. Rid the trips

Smooth, potentially slippery surfaces are just trips waiting to happen. Save yourself the trouble and install grip tape in places that could become a hazard such as the steps of a staircase or the tiled entryway. 

 

Whether you plan to stay in your home as long as you can, or you are looking to downsize, we hope that our 7 R's help you thrive in place.


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