Ten lucky home decor trends for 2013

home decor

(BPT) – Despite its negative reputation, the number 13 doesn’t always have to be unlucky. Take these top 10 decor trends for 2013 from design experts, manufacturers and trend forecasters across the country. They’re fresh, fun and sure to bring good fortune to any home.

A splash of color
Industry leader Pantone’s annual fashion color report sets the tone for home decor as well as clothing, and the spring 2013 report is no exception. Its softer-hued palette of Dusk Blue, Lemon Zest, African Violet, Grayed Jade, Linen and Tender Shoots is emboldened by Monaco Blue, Poppy Red, Emerald and Nectarine. Marc Thee, founder of the No. 1 residential interior design firm in the country, also sees a move toward pure color palettes such as cream and sea glass, khaki and white, or neutral with a pop of yellow.-

Not your mama’s wallpaper
Repositionable wallpaper is a decorating mainstay, says Todd Imholte, president of Murals Your Way, whose website, www.muralsyourway.com, is the top online destination for wall murals worldwide. The company’s10 collections of peel-and-stick wallpaper are available in such themes as Vintage, Dots, Flower Prints and Mostly Modern, and can be removed and reused hundreds of times without losing their adhering qualities. Because the company offers color matching, customers can match their repositionable wallpaper to an existing paint color, updated decor or the new Pantone color palette.

Cooking up smart ideas
Next year’s contemporary kitchen will include European frameless laminate cabinetry, multi-tasking appliances, hands-free faucets, and increased smartphone and tablet functionality, according to Jamie Gold, a certified independent kitchen and bath designer in San Diego, Calif. Value-oriented remodels will remain popular, she predicts, with homeowners incorporating existing flooring, fixtures, cabinets and/or appliances into their design plans to save money and retain favorite design elements.

Let it shine
Jeff Dross, senior product manager of Kichler Lighting, says energy-efficient LED products will continue to dominate lighting, and will be prevalent in coves, tray ceilings, toekicks, and under and above cabinets. Chrome and polished nickel will appeal to the emerging “Y” generation and baby boomers modernizing their retirement homes. Tall, slender outdoor lanterns in contemporary, cottage and transitional styles will work well for those in smaller urban spaces.

Heavy metal
Susan Goldstick of Susan Goldstick, Inc. predicts home furnishings will also shine in 2013. New metals such as rose gold and gun metal will be mixed, and pierced, hammered and oxidized textural metals will be especially popular. Vendors will add metal to their wood pieces, and faux animal print metalics will provide texture and reflective light in the textiles arena.

There’s no place like home
Even as the economy shows signs of improving, homeowners still find comfort in “cocooning” in the warmth and safety of their homes, says Graeme Smith, conceptual designer at Second Nature kitchens.- Adding an on-trend color such as cranberry or velvety chocolate to a soothing palette of muted tones and delicate detailing creates timeless interiors, and incorporating vintage pieces fosters a sense of nostalgia, heritage and solidity.

Woodn’t it be nice?
Next year’s trendy furniture will boast reclaimed wood or reclaimed-looking synthetic wood, according to Lenny Kharitonov, president of Unlimited Furniture Group, Inc. Combinations of wood and metal will be popular, such as a desk with a wood top and an iron base. Thee also sees a new freedom to mix metals, linen or stone into wood, with the juxtaposition of materials and finishes creating a beautiful combination.

Watch your step
Lori Kirk-Rolley, senior marketing director at Daltile, notes that one of the biggest style trends of the year will be porcelain tile that emulates the look of hardwood in high-traffic areas, offering the natural beauty of wood with the long-lasting durability and ease of maintenance of tile. Rectangular-sized tiles – particularly those in long, linear plank styles – will remain popular in floor and wall applications.

Back to nature
Consumers’ eco-friendly focus on using organic, sustainable materials will continue into 2013. Orange, Calif.-based Budget Blinds recommends woven wood shades made from bamboo, grasses, jute, reeds, rattan and other natural renewable resources for honest, simple beauty. Smith suggests using timber and wicker furniture, ribbed and woven finishes on accessories, and layered wool throws in the living area of the kitchen to bring a sense of the outdoor into the home.

You can judge a book by its cover
Exterior design and landscaping say just as much about a home as its interior architectural counterparts. Artist and designer Pablo Solomon touts stone, concrete and brick that blend into the environment, requires little upkeep, and is superior weather susceptible wood decks, rust-prone metals and dulling plastics. He also sees increased use of eco-friendly native plants to save water and reduce pesticides.

Painting Kids’ Rooms: Tips and Tricks

painted kid room

(Family Features) Whether you need to set up a nursery for a new baby or update a room for a growing child, painting is an easy and cost-effective way to create just the right atmosphere. But knowing how to get started can feel overwhelming. These tips will help you choose the best type and color of paint, while keeping the process quick and stress-free.


Sheen Savvy

Sheen determines how shiny your paint looks when it’s dry. Choosing the right sheen adds the perfect finishing touch on a room, and it can make a big difference when it comes to cleaning up.

Semi-Gloss – Brings a soft shine to the room without being overpowering. It’s good for kids’ rooms because it’s durable and easy to clean. You can wipe off crayon and pencil marks with common non-abrasive cleaners.

Eggshell/Satin – Has a smooth finish with a subtle sheen, and is washable and scrubbable.

Flat – A beautiful matte coating with no shine.  It is ideal for low-traffic areas and hides minor dents or nicks best.

Choosing Colors

For many DIYers, choosing paint colors can be a tricky and time-intensive process. There are so many options and many people worry about making a big color mistake.

Get inspired – Look through magazines, websites such as Pinterest®, an online pinboard, and even at friends’ homes to get some ideas.

Top 10 Baby Colors

  • Celery Sticks
  • Bubblegum Pink
  • Iced Purple
  • Spring Bluebell
  • Early Morning Sun
  • Sweet Baby Boy
  • Sweet Baby Girl
  • Walnut Bark
  • Mint Shake
  • Rich Navy

Top 10 Growing Up Colors

  • True Turquoise
  • Blue Marina
  • Rich Navy
  • Sunbaked Orange
  • Spring Green
  • Refreshing Mimosa
  • Blooming Fuchsia
  • Fresh Pink Lemonade
  • Lilac Bouquet
  • Sunbeam

Try them out – Once you’ve narrowed down your color choices, try out your top picks to see how they will look in the room with your specific lighting conditions. For example, Glidden paint testers come in a variety of colors from the Glidden® Brilliance Collection® paint, which is available only at Walmart stores. The testers have a built-in brush and hold enough paint to cover three square feet so you can experiment with several colors before making a final decision.

Painting Tips

  • Consider using a combination paint and primer – it can save you time and money by eliminating the need to use two painting products.
  • Work from the ceiling down to the baseboards. Do one entire wall or area at a time.
  • Use wide masking tape to mask off areas you don’t want to paint, such as window panes or trim.
  • Use a roller to paint in blocks of roughly 4 x 4 feet. Paint adjacent blocks before each previous block dries to help blend the edges.
  • Paint molding and woodwork with a brush, in the direction of the wood grain. Use short strokes to coat the surface, then use longer, smoother strokes for an even and finished surface.
  • Make sure the room is well ventilated as you paint.
  • Pick a paint that dries quickly and has low odor, so your child can move into the newly painted space sooner.

To get more inspiration and helpful painting tips, visit www.Glidden.com. You can also try a virtual room painter or calculate how much paint you’ll need for your next project.



Glidden & Brilliance Collection are trademarks of the AkzoNobel group of companies and Pinterest is a service mark of Pinterest, Inc.


The Art of Following Your Dreams


Success is a slippery goal. It can be just out of reach one moment and a world away the next. You rarely see it clearly until it’s in your grasp. Often, close inspection brings disillusion and you realize you want something else entirely. Then what? Do you hold on to the product of your hard work, even if it brings you no joy? Or do you let it go to pursue a new – and usually equally elusive – dream?

Three years ago, Peachtree City resident Jessica Healy found herself faced with this very dilemma. She had what many would consider an enviable life. She and her husband Mike both held prominent, well-paid positions at their southern California church. They had a wide circle of friends and a nice house. Still, they weren’t particularly happy. Their careers were no longer fulfilling and they missed their son and daughter, both of whom had recently moved to Georgia. Above all, their son was about to become a father and they hated the idea of living so far away from their first grandchild.

So after lots of thought, prayer, and consultation with their families, they pulled up stakes and relocated. The move brought them within miles of their kids and their new grandson, Haydon, but Jessica struggled on the work front. She’d spent most of her career teaching classes or developing curriculum for churches and spiritual centers, but her heart said it was time for a change. A highly artistic free spirit, she longed to make her living doing something that brought her joy – and allowed her to bring joy to others – while still leaving her plenty of time to spend with Haydon. She even knew what she wanted to do: write a book and start a textile design company.

But following those dreams would come with a price. A cross-country relocation is expensive and Mike had taken a major pay cut in the move. Writing is an uncertain profession and starting a business is never easy. Yet it just felt right. So Jessica found part-time work to get her through, buckled down to learn the craft of writing, and started building a collection of designs and samples for her business.  She researched textile printers, tried out filling and backer options, developed her logo, and started looking at distribution platforms.

Within a few months, she launched Once Upon Words and began selling to friends and through websites like Etsy. Her special niche is pillows, but she also creates wall hangings, hanging headboards, and more. Her designs are whimsical, magical, and inspirational, like the seeds of a dandelion floating in the wind, or a tree with book pages instead of leaves. Her zebra design is popular with kids. Blue skies and red umbrellas appear often.

The style and feel is unique, but what makes Jessica’s pieces truly special is that each design has a message worked into the pattern. This nifty little addition is at the heart of the way she lives her life and the reason she began designing in the first place.

“All of us hear so many negative words each and every day. People say we’re not good enough not pretty enough, not smart enough. They complain about the world. And it takes a lot of positive words to counteract all that negativity. Once Upon Words is about reminding yourself that you are awesome and celebrating bliss in everyday life,” she explains.

Even the product types are intentional. After all, people spend time sleeping every day. Why not put positive messages right on the pillows? Her words are certainly uplifting enough to brighten the shortest of snoozes.

“Your dreams pull you into the unknown you were created for,” reads one pillow. “You feel it every day. Fly above defeat, reach high and believe that all things are possible.”

“Turn the pages of your life each day and follow the adventure in front of you,” instructs another.

It’s been a long road with a long way yet to go, but the business is starting to pick up. A recent Kickstarter project helped fund an expansion and Jessica hopes to continue to build. She’s planning to grow her presence on Etsy and hopes to soon begin selling to designers and boutiques. She also finished her first book and is currently looking for an agent. Best of all, working for herself allows her to watch Haydon a few times a week.

Yet she’s the first one to admit that it hasn’t been easy. Finances are tight. Date nights are few and far between. And not everyone is supportive of her dreams. But she and Mike feel strongly that this is their path. Faith and family help get them through. Her advice for others standing at career crossroads?

“Consider the cost,” she advises. “Believing in yourself is a tough thing, especially when things don’t go the way you planned. There’s a lot of uncertainty. You don’t know what people are going to like or whether they’ll buy what you make or whether the business will work or what it’s even going to look like when you’re through. And there will be things you have to give up.

“You have to look inside your heart and ask yourself if your dream is big enough to get you through the scary times and the hard decisions. My dream is huge. And I’m going to make it happen.”


Southern Style, Simplified

Photos by Michael Melton

Photos by Michael Melton

Many Georgia homes have fascinating historic roots, classic charm, and exemplify the phenomenon of “Southern hospitality.” Just one glance towards a sprawling white wrap-around porch is enough to make your taste buds tingle as you remember the flavor of sugary-sweet iced tea. The inviting, carefree, and unpretentious charm of an old plantation home is a setting that is highly sought after by many decorators. Whether you have a Southern-style house or simply adore the style, keep reading to uncover the secrets to achieving true Southern charisma.

Comfort and consideration of the outdoors have always been apparent in the architecture of Southern homes. Older homes were constructed with the features necessary to withstand life in warmer climates, including enormous wrap-around porches to provide abundant shade. In order to remain comfortable during days of high heat and humidity, houses were built with plenty of tall windows, plantation shutters, and high ceilings to encourage cross-ventilation. Hard wooden flooring and wide hallways also contributed to the comfort of the residents during the warm months. Over time, many of these practical features became icons of Southern style and are now repeated in newer homes to add flair rather than functionality.

Whether or not your home has the architectural “bones” of a Southern plantation, Southern-style décor can still be achieved—especially on the inside. Step one: see what you have and what you can reuse. Southern gals have always been known for their resourcefulness. (Remember Scarlett O’Hara’s green drapery dress?) In southern homes, the repurposing of inherited items is very common, and hand-me-downs are usually plentiful. Old trunks can find new lives as coffee tables, cane back chairs can be recovered and painted, and old fabrics can be sewn into throw pillows. Whether you have a heirloom from your grandmother or a lucky flea market find, always ask yourself: “Can this be repurposed, refurnished or upholstered to add an element of charm to the space?”

Antique and vintage collections are also abundant in Southern-style homes. Colorful quilts, vintage toys, antique games, and pottery all make lovely Southern accent pieces and display items. Everything from baskets to glass jars to black-and-white photographs can be collected, showcased, and displayed in virtually any room of the house. If you already have a collection, start by gathering the items together and arranging them into smaller groupings based on similar colors, shapes, and sizes.

Although all the items are related, displaying them with their matching counterparts will create a more organized look. Depending on how large your collection is, consider displaying it on a wall, in a shadow box, or on a tabletop box with dividers. Basket collections can be displayed in many ways—even artistically hung in a bunch. Simple white pottery or ironstone collections are another popular choice for decorating and can be tastefully displayed on a ledge or hutch in the kitchen or dining area. Vintage family silver is another signature Southern item that warrants being on display.

For the guest bedroom, the addition of antique accents can evoke a nostalgic, historical “period” feel and create a sense of gracious living. Display a row of white or tea-colored linens next to soft, billowing curtains to contribute to the room’s open and breezy atmosphere. Incorporate farmhouse-style furniture with natural wood elements to heighten the room’s feeling of sensibility. Embroidery samplers are another vintage accent that can add simple charm to your décor; the modest patterns create visual interest when hung on a wall or displayed on a bookshelf. Bringing the outdoors inside to the room adds a soft, sweet accent. Nothing says Southern hospitality like a guest bedroom outfitted with clean linens and a vase of fresh, colorful hydrangeas on the bedside table.

As you decorate, keep in mind that Southern style focuses on keeping the interior rooms casual, relaxed and enjoyable. From the open-aired architecture to the indoor casual charm, every Southern-style living space reflects a grand, yet sensible, style and an open door to hospitality.

The Art of Repurposing


The need for change is a natural desire, especially with the changing of seasons. Often times it seems as though redecorating a home can only be made possible with a large wallet, but this is far from the truth. With a little time and creativity, the items in your home can be revamped and used in new inventive ways.

Consider items that may be tucked away in the attic or under the guest room bed. Perhaps you will find those candlesticks you received as a wedding gift and thought you would never use. So, you don’t like the color? Try painting them a new color that coordinates with your master bath and use them to create a relaxing ambiance around your bath tub.

If new dining furniture doesn’t exactly fit the budget, get creative with what you have. To give your kitchen a little pop of color, paint your bar stools an orange or green instead of the cherry color you’ve been looking at for the last five years. If you have recently replaced your bar stools, don’t get rid of your old ones just yet. Do a little thrift shopping to find a round or octagon table top that you can drill into the top of the bar stool to create a nice size side table or nightstand. Once you have the top attached, paint and sand to create a distressed look or apply a fresh coat of paint. Good, quality furniture is expensive, so if you have a nice piece of furniture, try repurposing the wood before going out to purchase something new to put in its place.

Take the time to dig around in your attic or garage and see what you have been storing away over the last couple of years. Is there an old stepladder propped against the wall of the garage that hasn’t been used in a while? It’s time to give it a new lease on life. Give the stepladder a face lift with new paint and use it next to your bed for holding books and a reading lamp.

Remember to think innovatively about the items you have in your home. Just because it’s called a “door knob” doesn’t mean it has to be used on a door. Beautiful antique door knobs work great in the closet for hanging scarves or ties. Take several old coat hooks, mount them to a wooden plaque and use them for sorting mail during the week. Consider mounting a rod iron planter to your kitchen wall to use for placing magazines as they come in the mail instead of stacking them on the island in the middle of the room.

Some of the easiest ways to give your home a fresh new look is to rearrange furniture, change out pictures or sew new slip covers for your pillows. Take some time to walk through your home and move pieces around. Consider finding a new purpose for your existing furniture before rushing out to buy something new. Tired of the clutter? Add shutters or doors to your bookshelf or entertainment center. Looking for fun storage ideas? Take old dresser drawers and cover the insides with vintage style wall paper. Then turn them on their side and stack as shelves. Is your kitchen feeling a little drab? Change out the hardware on your cabinets for an instant pop! Never give up on the idea that you cannot enjoy a newly decorated home simply because you cannot afford to go out and buy all new furniture. Often times, creating with what we already have makes for a much happier and inventive home.


Stylish Settings for the Thanksgiving Table


Every seasoned holiday host knows that a successful Thanksgiving event starts with a great menu idea, and when accompanied by the right atmosphere, turns into a warmhearted gathering. Similar to a deep, spicy aroma, a welcoming ambiance can percolate throughout the house, swirling through the air amongst guests’ friendly smiles and chatter, before finally culminating around the dinner table.

Just as flour and sugar are basic ingredients for baking a pumpkin pie, décor and lighting are the fundamental elements that create a welcoming environment. The details of your menu and the theme of your dinner table act as the basic foundations from which you can begin to build the rest of the experience.

Your own style preference, number of guests, and menu choices for the occasion will typically dictate what type of entertaining atmosphere you will have and how the space will feel. Do you envision hosting an intimate, candle-lit family gathering with a traditional feast of roasted turkey, luscious red cranberries, and golden-crusted pumpkin pie? Or perhaps you imagine yourself entertaining a bustling crowd of friends and neighbors who are eagerly sampling a variety of seasonal appetizers in a chic autumn setting.

For an intimate gathering and customary Thanksgiving feast, creating a vintage, harvest farm table setting will evoke memories of warm family traditions. A rustic, square wooden table is ideal for this setting and can be furnished using a variety of farm-inspired materials and textures, such as natural-colored burlap placemats. Start by laying wheat-colored cotton napkins, each folded into a rectangle across a place setting, then accessorize them with a single red or brown maple leaf to add a touch of autumn color. Write your guests’ names on vintage, tea-colored tags and tie them around the napkins loosely using jute string.

For the centerpiece, gather a variety of seasonal vegetables, such as golden-colored squash, orange mini pumpkins, and multi-colored Indian corn, and arrange them inside a dark brown wicker basket. Add long faux pheasant feathers to the middle of the basket to add height. Finish by placing amber-colored glass candle votives on the table to provide a warm, illuminating glow. Use extra cotton napkins to line smaller, dark wicker baskets and fill with warm dinner rolls for a hearty, warm aroma.

Creating an autumn-inspired atmosphere in a chic and modern setting perfectly complements a menu of seasonal appetizers and wine. If you are planning on hosting an informal gathering in a room with high, airy ceilings, choose simple and symmetrical accents to create a feeling of sophistication. The ideal type of table to use is a long, dark rectangular table or bar. For centerpieces, line up tall cylindrical glass hurricane vases along the center of the table and fill each one with mini pumpkins, stacking one above the other. Add dried, twisted grapevine pieces to the vases to add dimension. In between the pumpkin-filled vases, place shorter glass cylinders with pillar candles lit inside. Next, roll up crisp linen napkins and secure them with grapevine napkin rings. Use mini pumpkins as place card holders by simply attaching tags to them using a pin. If you are having wine with the appetizers, include a display of glass goblets near the candles to encourage reflective twinkling light.

Similar to how the right combination of cooking ingredients can create one delicious dish, the blending of all natural senses into one environment can create an unforgettable atmosphere. This year, begin with a tasteful menu, and then use these decorating ideas to build the Thanksgiving gathering of your dreams.



The Biltmore Estate – An American Treasure

Fayette Woman editor Kristin and her family visit the Biltmore for the first time

Fayette Woman editor Kristin and her family visit the Biltmore for the first time

If you are an American history buff or just love spectacular mountain scenery, beautiful gardens and magnificent architecture, make a visit to the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina a priority this year. The Biltmore House is the largest privately-owned residence in the United States, with an estate that includes 8,000 acres of managed forest, stunning gardens and the most-visited winery in the country.

The Biltmore House

The Biltmore House, perhaps our most impressive monument to the Gilded Age, was built by George Washington Vanderbilt and completed in time to welcome guests for Christmas in 1895. He hired renowned architect Richard Morris Hunt to build his “country home,” a French Renaissance-style chateau with the backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The result is a monument to opulence. The sheer size of the residence is impressive – over four acres under one roof – about 175,000 square feet. There are 250 rooms, 65 fireplaces, 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, a bowling alley, gymnasium and indoor swimming pool. The home contains a priceless collection of original furnishings, paintings and 16th-century tapestries, 40 bronze sculptures and a library that contains over 10,000 books and even

Mrs. Vanderbilt’s bedroom is decorated with sumptuous cut velvet and silk fabrics.

Napoleon Bonaparte’s chess set and gaming table!

Your admission ticket will include a detailed brochure of the house to use on a self-guided tour. For a more in-depth experience, you can buy an audio tour that covers the history of all the rooms open for public viewing, or you can purchase specialty behind-the-scenes tours of areas not open to the public.

The Biltmore Gardens

While you will be enthralled by the mansion, serious and casual gardeners alike will be even more captivated by the grounds. Frederick Law Olmsted, considered the father of American landscape architecture, designed the gardens. Travel and Leisure magazine has named the site one of the top ten botanical gardens in the world.

You will want to get an early start if you expect to savor all the garden “rooms” and features throughout the massive estate. From the house, you will notice a long esplanade with a statue of Diana sitting on a hill directly opposite the mansion. As you walk downhill toward the conservatory, you pass the Italian Garden where you can imagine the Vanderbilts whiling away an afternoon with their guests, playing croquet and lawn tennis. Continuing on, you can stroll through the Shrub Garden with more than 500 varieties of trees, shrubs and other plants, including North Carolina’s largest Purple Leaf European Beech.

The formal four-acre Walled Garden is a stunning focal point, massed with seasonal garden displays like blooming spring tulips and a rose garden filled with heirloom roses that were popular during the Vanderbilt’s era. Don’t miss the Conservatory nearby that houses tropical and exotic plants and creative displays of containers. Just below the Conservatory is a favorite gift shop, A Gardener’s Place, where you can buy plants and unusual garden gifts. Continue your walk along charming pathways through the Spring Garden, Azalea Garden and down to the Bass Pond.

Thousands of tulips dazzle at the Estate’s Walled Garden during the Festival of Flowers.

Planning Your Visit

For the best deal, purchase your Biltmore tickets online at least seven days in advance for a savings of $15 per ticket off the regular admission price. Your admission includes free parking, self-guided tour of the house, access to the gardens and a visit to Antler Hill Village and Winery, where you can dine, shop and enjoy free wine tasting and guided tour.

If you really want to splurge, plan a stay at the Inn on Biltmore Estate or at the world-renowned Grove Park Inn. For those on a tighter budget, you will find numerous hotels and bed-and-breakfasts in the Asheville area. Check out www.exploreasheville.com for tips on lodging and dining in Asheville.

For more information on planning a visit to Biltmore Estate, go to www.biltmore.com.

A 19th-Century Mansion:
Fun for the Whole Family? You Bet!

At the end of a long and exciting day, Ethan unwinds a little at the Inn at Biltmore’s pool; the hotel overlooks the Blue Ridge mountains.

Biltmore Estate is renowned for its beauty and opulence: awe-inspiring architecture, medieval tapestries, 18th c. antiques, a house tour that takes you through a good portion of 250 amazing rooms. But the Biltmore also promotes itself as a getaway vacation for families, and my husband Erik and I decided to test this claim over the Easter weekend with our three kids: Anika (age 11), Ethan (age 7) and Owen (age 3 1/2). I had no doubt that Anika would enjoy the house and the gardens, but as for Ethan and Owen, my expectations were less about enjoyment than about survival: would we make it through the house tour without one of them knocking over some Ming-dynasty vase? Or having a complete meltdown in George Washington Vanderbilt’s private sanctuary?

As it turned out, though, it was one of the nicest weekend getaways we’ve ever experienced as a family. Saturday morning, with its low-70s temps and bright sunny sky, was perfect weather for appreciating the estate’s stunning gardens, with thousands of tulips in bloom. Then, because of an early-afternoon appointment at the stables, we had time to tour only the downstairs of the house, still giving us plenty of time to marvel at the architecture and décor. Our abbreviated visit turned out to be for the better, since it kept our viewing of the amazing and elegant mansion manageable for the boys (which, to be honest, they had very little interest in), while Erik, Anika and I had enough time to appreciate the stunning house and grounds.

Anika gets her first taste of horseback riding at Deerpark Stables at Biltmore Estate.

After the house tour, Erik took the boys to more familiar territory—the McDonald’s across the street—while Anika and I went for our first horseback ride together at the estate’s Deerpark Stables, a one-hour ride through the trails and forests of the estate that was capped by a stunning view of the Biltmore house. It was relaxing, peaceful, and quiet, and our entertaining guides treated us to interesting facts and tidbits about the house and the estate, pointing out spots along the trails where parts of movies like Forrest Gump and The Last of the Mohicans had been filmed.

After the ride, we rejoined Erik and the boys and spent the rest of the afternoon at Antler Hill Village, a newly debuted section of the estate that includes the Winery, shops, restaurants, and kid-friendly activities such as the grape stomp. We peered into the Biltmore Legacy museum, where several of the Vanderbilts’ items were displayed and storyteller explained to an audience of children what life was like in the mansion in the late 19th century. Then, after a delicious early dinner al fresco at Cedric’s Tavern (with wiggly Owen in tow, we were happy to have the outdoor space to let him move around while we ate), we walked over to Antler Hill Farm, a recreated of a turn-of-the-century farm, including a blacksmith, woodworkers, and craft demonstrations. Anika and Ethan made Easter baskets at a craft station while Owen and I shopped at an old-fashioned Mercantile shop. Later, we walked over to the farm animal petting area, where Owen chased chickens and petted sheep, and Anika and Ethan got to hold baby chicks and pet the horses.

That evening, we returned to the Inn at Biltmore; although the kids were in awe at the impressive luxury and amenities of the hotel, it still appealed to them with its long expanses of lawn (perfect for some “father-son time” of throwing the baseball) and, of course, the swimming pool. Situated on the top of the hill, with the mountains in the distance, all five of us were able to relax and enjoy the heated pool and the spa. It was an absolutely perfect way to end the day.

The next day, Easter Sunday, all three of the kids lined up on the vast lawn of the estate along with hundreds of other kids of all ages; on cue, they all dashed around and filled their baskets with plastic eggs, turning them in for treat bags after the hunt. We then returned to the house to finish our tour of the house (upstairs and basement; this time, Ethan was actually interested in features like the one-hundred-year old swimming pool and bowling alley), enjoyed lunch outside at the estate’s Stable Café courtyard (kid- and budget-friendly pizza and ice cream), then walked up the hill across from the house, the Vista, where we relaxed and enjoyed the view for a while.

When it was time to head home, we all agreed: it was one of the best times we’d experienced, ever. It turned out there was no need to “survive” this weekend; all we had to do was enjoy being together as a family in an amazing and beautiful vacation spot.

FW’s editor and her family enjoy a photo-op moment on a circa-1900 wagon, one of the many nineteenth-century reproduction at Biltmore’s Antler Hill Village.

Last Chance to Enjoy Christmas at Southern Living Idea House in Senoia

Keeping Room off the Kitchen hosts a cozy fire and a Christmas tree.

The holidays are upon us and you won’t want to miss celebrating the season at the Southern Living Idea House in Senoia before it closes its doors on December 12. This elegant brownstone at Abercorn Place is tastefully and subtly decked out with natural and faux materials, using some very southern elements like magnolia leaves. The decorations blend beautifully with the muted greens, blues and browns in the overall design scheme. Southern Living and the wonderful volunteers from the American Cancer Society who host the annual Cattle Baron’s Ball teamed up to create the Christmas magic at the Idea House. The Cattle Baron’s Ball is the charity recipient of a portion of the proceeds from the Idea House and their volunteers cheerfully greet those who tour the home.

The Southern Living Idea House is open until December 12 on Wednesday – Saturday, 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. and Sunday from 1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. The cost to tour the home is $10.

My favorite area is the sitting room (or keeping room) right off the fabulous kitchen. Here you will find a cozy fireplace with a beautifully decorated mantel. The main attraction of course is the impressive Christmas tree in the corner. You can imagine relaxing here for hours with a cup of hot chocolate or wassail. The kitchen table is set with a lovely arrangement ready for the Christmas feast.  Wander all four levels of the townhome and you will get plenty of inspiration for your own home décor.

Keeping room off the kitchen hosts a cozy fire and a Christmas tree.

The informal dining area in the kitchen is set for Christmas dinner.

Christmas trees made out of buttons make a charming statement in the master bedroom.

Wreaths made from buttons hang over a great tub. Who wouldn't want to soak here after a day of holiday shopping!

Don't forget to add some holiday cheer to your outside space.

Don’t just stop at the Idea House…plan to spend some time in charming and historic Senoia. By purchasing a ticket to tour the Idea House, you will receive 10% off at many of the shops and restaurants in town. There is an eclectic selection of fabulous shops and cozy restaurants to experience.

You'll find great gift ideas at the shops in Senoia .

Light Up Senoia is the town’s annual holiday event and parade that takes place on December 4 from 4:00 – 8:00 p.m. You’ll enjoy music and live entertainment and the lighting of the town Christmas tree on the square. You can also view a live Nativity at the First Baptist Church. Santa will be the guest of honor, and kids will be able to make their own holiday purchases at Santa’s Secret Workshop.

The Light Up Senoia parade and tree lighting will be held on December 4

The Southern Living Idea House will officially close after the Candlelight Tour of Homes in the Senoia Historic District on December 12. Between 5:00 and 8:30 p.m. you can tour four historic Senoia homes, the Idea House and enjoy live Christmas music on the hour in the lovely sanctuary of the First United Methodist Church. Tickets are $15 and available at downtown Senoia businesses or can be purchased day of the event at the United Methodist Church. Get in the holiday spirit and visit Senoia!

10 expert tips for home staging

It's the first thing they see, so spend time (not necessarily money) to present your home well.

There are more than 3.8 million homes currently for sale in the United States. How can you make your home stand out from the rest and increase the chance of selling?

Leading Slipcover and Home Solution Company Sure Fit (www.surefit.com) has quite a bit of experience when it comes to transforming a space quickly on a tight budget, and has put together their top 10 home staging tips to make your home look bigger, brighter and ready to buy.

1.       Consider curb appeal

You may not have the funds for a professional landscaper, but homeowners should make sure lawns are freshly mowed, leaves raked, and paths cleared. Scrub the front door, porch, railings and steps, pick up a new mailbox and welcome mat, and add a fresh coat of paint where needed. Add seasonal potted plants and a bench to the entryway to welcome visitors into a clean, fresh and relaxing space.

2.       Forgo Family Photos

You may consider it the crown jewel of the living room, but future buyers will see outdated family photos as years of wear and tear. Clear the room of family portraits and other items that say “you don’t live here” to buyers.

3.       What Once Was Old, Should Be Newly Slip-covered

No need to splurge on new furniture and home assets when your budget is already tightened up, especially in the midst of a move. Cover up outdated, worn and loud furniture with neutral colors. SureFit.com offers a wide variety of products, with over 130 styles of fitted and tailored slipcovers, as well as throw rugs and even coordinating curtains and dining room sets to make your home décor look like new.

4.     Rearrange Refresh

Arrange the room in a conversational way. You may have preferred for every piece of furniture to face the television, but potential buyers will appreciate more of an open room vignette.

5.       Kitchen Clean Up

Kitchens play a big part in home resale value, so make sure buyers are impressed. Spend extra time scrubbing, cleaning and de-cluttering, and make sure counters are clear of appliances. Re-stain shabby cabinets, replace any mismatched hardware, add fresh cut flowers, turn on lights and open curtains for a clean, bright and attractive gathering space.

6. Let In Some Air

Keep stuffiness and odors at bay by opening windows for at least 10 minutes prior to showing. Go easy on the air freshener, but bring in fresh cut flowers for a natural look and smell.

7.       What’s Behind Door #3?

While shoving everything into a closet has been your go-to cleanup plan since your teen years, potential buyers will undoubtedly look behind every door in your home. Keep bedroom, linen closets and storage spaces neat and tidy to avoid any embarrassing surprises.

8. Scrub Until it Sparkles

Clean bathrooms until they look like the model sets at Home Depot. Signs of use, like soap scum and toothpaste stuck to the sink, will turn buyers off. Replace any outdated fixtures with sleek and modern ones, and add fresh cut flowers to help with aroma and appearance.

9. Sleep Tight

Keep bedrooms neutral, comfortable and spacious. Buyers want to picture themselves relaxing here, so use soft colors, light scents and earth tones to “set the mood.” Make bedrooms appear larger by limiting items in the room to a bed, dresser and small seating area for the Master Bedroom. Update any outdated bedding and use a lavender oil diffuser to keep relaxation a priority here.

10.  Better Backyard

Outdoor living spaces have become exponentially more important to potential buyers. Treat your back deck or patio like any other room in your home. Scrub down patios, touch up worn fences and banisters, and make sure your yard is free of clutter. A few decorating touches can make your space much more than just a “backyard.” Cover a worn picnic table with a bright tablecloth and replace worn chair cushions with new ones.

Priceless Comfort

Grandma's salt shaker.

My great-grandmother, Hattie.

Many of us desire a connection to our family’s past, especially as we age and say goodbye to another generation.  It brings us comfort and a feeling of belonging.  It gives us clues to our identity.

For some of us, the draw begins early.  I was always fascinated by my grandmother’s old photos.  I loved snuggling up with her on the couch as she paged through her albums ticking off the names of the people in the black and white photos.  Some had strange or funny names like Aunt Pansy and Aunt Faustie.  I loved to look at their clothes – so formal by our standards.  I always imagined I could see my likeness in their faces.

A grouping of photos of my mother in the hallway.

The photo albums are now mine and I treasure them just as much, if not more, than I did as a young girl.  I started going through boxes in my parents’ garage just days after my mother’s death in 2003, looking for the photo albums.  I was desperate for a glimpse of those people long gone – the people my mother now joined.  I would cry each time I opened a box and unwrapped a framed picture of my mother as a child.  My husband suggested I hold off for a while, that it was too soon – but I had to find those photos.  I knew they would give me comfort.

I recently finished reading Objects of Our Affection: Uncovering My Family’s Past, One Chair, Pistol, and Pickle Fork at a Time by Lisa Tracy (Bantam Books, 2010).  In the book, the author and her sister auction their mother’s china, antiques, collectibles and the like, ten years after her death.  Each chapter covers a specific item, such as the “George Washington Chair,” and the history behind it, which makes for fascinating reading if you enjoy history as I do.  However, the last part of the book was rich with personal thoughts – even a little regret.  One thing she kept was her mother’s salt shaker – which still had salt in it:

Grandma’s salt shaker.

“I stand staring at the salt petrified in its slender glass container. It touched her hands. She ate of it. It is a last, very concrete and yet so ephemeral thread connecting me to the woman who brought me into this world I now inhabit. Like magic, it will disappear if I wet it. The container will be clean and ready for new use.”

I was stunned.  Because in my china cabinet sits my grandmother’s salt shaker – still full of salt.  My husband tried to clean it a couple of weeks ago, but the cap was practically cemented shut with twenty-five year old salt.  After reading Tracy’s book, I now see the beauty in it.

Last weekend my in-laws came for a visit. I showed my sister-in-law another book I’d just finished, Living With What You Love: Decorating With Family Photos, Cherished Heirlooms, and Collectibles by Monica Rich Kosann (Clarkson Potter, 2010).  We were both so inspired that we spent all day Sunday hanging photos and artwork (with help from the guys) and I’m thrilled with the results!

One of my favorites is the “baby wall” we hung in the entry way.  I love the idea of mixing the old with the new.  We are, after all, creating new memories every day.  I feel such a sense of warmth and belonging when I walk through the door now.  Sometimes I catch my son Michael staring at the faces on the wall – and I wonder if he sees his likeness too…

The baby wall.

Outdoor Living Spaces

Many outdoor kitchens are fully equipped with everything needed to prepare a gourmet meal

Outdoor living spaces have grown in popularity for the past several years, and will continue to be popular upgrades

While many folks long for a distant summer getaway, others are finding a relaxing retreat in their own backyard. Outdoor living spaces have grown in popularity for the past several years, and the American Society of Landscape Architects reports that 94.4 percent of residential landscape architects believe outdoor living spaces will continue to be popular home upgrades this year.

Whether creating a fully-equipped outdoor kitchen or a simple sitting area, the outdoor living area should maintain a sense of continuity with the rest of the home and act as somewhat of a transition from the interior of the home to the outdoor elements beyond.

One way to create a transition from the indoors to the outdoors is to introduce large potted plants into the patio or deck area. To make the transition even more seamless, the potted plants can be some of the same varieties that are growing throughout the landscape. In addition, one can bring some of the indoor living space to the outdoors by mimicking the indoor color scheme outdoors. For example, if the living room opens out onto the deck, one might choose to use the same color scheme of the indoor upholstery or wall colors for the outdoor upholstery.

Previously, outdoor cushions and upholstery quickly became faded, worn and flattened. However, outdoor upholstery fabrics have come a long way in recent years. New acrylic fabrics are resistant to the elements and are able to face the sun’s harsh rays without fading. Acrylics have also become softer and more comfortable in recent years.

Wood is another popular option for outdoor furniture. The natural material is fitting in an outdoor setting.

While acrylic is the most common material used for outdoor fabrics, outdoor furniture is available in a range of materials, including plastic, aluminum, wrought iron and wood, all of which hold up relatively well to the elements. Plastic furniture is generally the least expensive, but it is also not as sturdy as the other options. Aluminum furniture is a very popular option because of its light weight, durability and resistance to corrosion. Wrought iron is much heavier than aluminum and is, therefore, ideal for furniture that is not often rearranged. Wrought iron is also susceptible to corrosion over time, while aluminum has a natural resistance to it. These drawbacks have allowed aluminum to surpass wrought iron in popularity in recent years. However, many are still drawn to wrought iron for its timeless, ornate beauty. The elegant curving vines and foliage often depicted in wrought iron furniture are not something easily replicated.

Wood is another popular option for outdoor furniture. The natural material is fitting in an outdoor setting. Cedar is an ideal option because it is resistant to rot and insects, while pine is popular because it is plentiful and when treated, can resist rot for a relatively long time. Lastly, wicker can be a fitting and comfortable material for outdoor use.

While expansive outdoor living rooms and dining rooms have grown in popularity, another trend is the outdoor kitchen. While outdoor cooking traditionally meant grilling meats on a freestanding grill, outdoor cooking has become much more sophisticated in recent years. Many outdoor kitchens are fully equipped with everything needed to prepare a gourmet meal. With built-in grills, warming drawers, stove tops and steamers, everything from steaks to peach cobbler can now be prepared and served outdoors.

Even grills themselves have become more complex and versatile in recent years. Today’s high-end grills offer a range of cooking options. For example, one of Fire Magic’s popular models features a thousand degree difference in heating range. On low it can function as a slow cooker, and on high it is hot enough to transform its silver stainless steel into an infrared glow.

Another popular element of many outdoor living spaces is a fire pit. Fire pits can prolong the enjoyment of the outdoor living space well into the fall and winter months when the brisk air makes an outdoor evening questionable.

An evening with family or close friends gathered around a fire or an afternoon relaxing on a comfortable lounge chair can offer some of the same uplifting benefits as a weekend getaway without leaving the comfort of home.

Many outdoor kitchens are fully equipped with everything needed to prepare a gourmet meal

Wedding Decor That Goes Beyond the Blooms

Centerpieces don't have to rely on flowers. Here's how brides are making their statements.

Centerpieces don't have to rely on flowers. Here's how brides are making their statements.

Brides and grooms looking to save a buck here and there are turning to another option that doesn’t seem like a big sacrifice – non-floral centerpieces for the reception. Last year, brides spent about $1,300 on floral arrangements for their wedding day, and centerpieces accounted for about 30 percent of the cost, according to The Wedding Report.

Giving up on flowers isn’t a gut-wrenching decision for couples, say industry experts, who like the idea of incorporating something new and different into their wedding. They note that flowers are still part of the big day, from the bridal party’s bouquets to the décor at the ceremony.

“Couples definitely love flowers, but they realize they can save money and incorporate something meaningful into the event,” says Jennifer Hronek, owner of Joie De Vivre wedding planning services in Los Angeles.

Candles are a top choice for the clients of Laurie Davies, owner of Five Star Weddings and Events in Laguna Niguel, Calif., especially in evening weddings. Davies suggests using displays of large cylindrical vases and colored glass with floating candles.

Edibles are another alternative, such as cookies, cakes and candy, says Kristeen Nunziati, a blogger and wedding consultant in San Francisco. A recent client of Davies chose wedding cakes as table centerpieces set on risers and surrounded by candles. Each table showcased a unique tier, such as a flower or champagne bucket.

Centerpieces can also reflect a couple’s love of an activity or sport. Oenophiles can create wine baskets and golfers can set up vases of multicolored golf balls or tees or both . Hronek worked with a bride last year who studied glass blowing, so she selected remnants of her designs – purple, cream and clear tubes -and clustered the works of art on risers.

One easy way for couples to figure out the theme of the table decoration is to look at the seasons. Hollowed-out pumpkins lit up with candles set amid fall leaves are a festive addition to autumn weddings, says Davies. Winter weddings can get punches of color with tabletop poinsettias and candles. Miniature Christmas trees or bowls of holiday ornaments can reflect the winter theme as well.

For brides, however, set on a wedding decorated with an abundance of flowers, there’s always Plan B in trimming the budget.

“Those couples that love flowers will not give them up,” Davies says. “[We’ll] cut costs in other places.”

Source: CTW Features