Wednesday, July 2, 2008

How-To: Homemade Soap - Recipes

Basic Soaps

Lard Soap- Hand stir method
2 pound recipe

Basic soap

  • 1 ½ cups of melted tallow
  • ½ cup of olive oil (can substitute with extra tallow)
  • 6oz of cold, distilled water
  • 4 Tbs. of lye
  • molds

  • essential oils or fragrance oils- about 1 tsp. per pound of fat
  • preservative of your choice
  • colorant of your choice
  1. Prepare the lye solution by adding 4 Tbs.'s of lye to 6oz of distilled water. Stir it constantly until the granules have completely dissolved. Let it sit until cooled to room temperature.
  2. Melt the fats and oils together in a large glass or stainless steel container. The fats should also be at room temperature when you mix it with the lye solution. (This can be checked by simply feeling the outside edges of the container. Never dip your fingers in to check.)
  3. When both the lye solution and the fats are at room temperature, slowly and carefully pour the lye solution into the fats. Stir immediately and continue to stir for 15 minutes (if you are using grapefruit seed extract as a preservative, this is when you should add it). You can then take a break for 5 minutes, then stir for 5 minutes (the 5-5 method). Do this until the soap mixture traces. This particular soap usually takes an hour. If you are using grapefruit seed extract, the trace time is significantly decreased. Don?t be alarmed, just be ready to pour your soap!
  4. At trace, add your essential oils, herbs, or colorants if you choose and make sure to fully incorporate them into the soap mixture.
  5. Now you are ready to pour your soap into the molds. Be careful while pouring because the mixture has active lye in it. Insulate your molds and leave them covered for at least 24 hours (old towels or blankets will do quite nicely for this purpose).
  6. After 24 hours, unmold you soap and cut into bars if necessary. Store it in a dry place with good ventilation for 2-4 weeks.

Hand Milled Soaps

Lemon Scrubber

This bar is considered to be an abrasive soap and is good for toning the skin and removing dead skin cells. Lemongrass adds a zesty aroma which is uplifting and fresh.

  • 1/8 cup of yellow cornmeal
  • 2 tsp. of Lemongrass essential oil
  • ½ tsp. vitamin E oil
  • 3 oz. Water
  • 1/3 pd. Grated soap

Lavender Scrubber
This bar is an abrasive soap and is good for toning the skin and removing dead skin cells. The lavender in the bar is antiseptic and soothing. The blue cornmeal in this bar gives it a light lavender color.

  • 1/8 cup of blue cornmeal
  • 2 tsp. of Lavender essential oil
  • ½ tsp. vitamin E oil
  • 3 oz. Water
  • 1/3 pd. Grated soap

Pumice Soap

This bar contains pumice and is considered to be abrasive. You should not use this particular bar if you have very sensitive skin due to the risk of scratching. Be sure that the pumice you use is very finely ground.

  • 1 Tbs. pumice
  • 2 tsp. Musk fragrance oil
  • ½ tsp. vitamin E oil
  • 3 oz. water (replace half the water in the recipe with goat milk or milk)
  • 1/3 pd. Grated soap

How-To: Homemade Soap - Required and Optional Supplies


A blender is in the supply list because some of the recipes in this booklet are designed to be made in the BLENDER (there are also "hand stir" recipes given). I know this may sound strange but it can save you hours of work and heartache. The only drawback to using this method is that you are limited to making 1 pound batches or possibly 1 1/2 pounds. As a beginner, it is best to start out with smaller batches anyway and begin your experimenting from that point. The blender that you use should be used only for making soap and you should never use it for edible items after exposing it to lye.


A kitchen scale which measures in ounces is needed to measure the lye. It is not necessary to purchase an expensive scale (I bought mine for $5.00) unless you want to use the exact saponification values and need a scale which reads digitally. The digital scales can usually be purchased for around $60.00 through mail order or at an office supply store.

Rubber or plastic gloves

Rubber or plastic gloves are necessary to protect your delicate hands from the lye. No matter how careful you may be, there is always the possibility of spilling your lye solution or touching the soap which has the active lye in it.

Wooden spoons

Wooden spoons are necessary because you should never expose lye to aluminum. It is safe to use stainless steel but I prefer wooden for their cost. They can usually be purchased in packets with five or more for about a dollar at variety stores. This gives you the piece of mind to throw them away when you feel they have "had it"! I use only two spoons for making soap, so I have a nice supply waiting when I need them.

Measuring cups

A heavy plastic or glass measuring cup is necessary for measuring and mixing the lye solution. I use an 8oz Pyrex cup with a pouring spout. Whatever you decide to use for this purpose, you need to be sure that it pours easily. You will be adding the lye solution to the fats directly from this container and you do not want to chance spilling the solution. To weigh the lye, I simply use an old measuring cup which I place on the scale. I set the scale to zero and begin spooning in lye until I reach the desired amount.


Molds can come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Any container that can withstand heat and is semi-flexible will be suitable for holding your soaps. Some suggestions include: microwave containers; candy molds; candle molds; PVC pipe cut into small sections; or small cardboard boxes lined with saran wrap. The possibilities are endless and you will soon find yourself searching for a potential mold everywhere you go.


Lye can be purchased in most supermarkets or home centers. Simply look where they display the drain openers such as Draino and Liquid Plumber but please do not confuse these with lye. The brand which is most readily available is Red Devil and it is 100% lye. It contains crystals or granules and has a very difficult to open cap. Lye should always be stored where children and pets do not have access to it. There are safety measures you must take when handling it and always use common sense when using chemicals. The following are some general safety precautions to follow while handling lye:

  • Wear your gloves to prevent burns.
  • Try to avoid breathing in fumes from your lye solution. There will be some definite fumes at times depending on the liquid you choose to use for a batch of soap.
  • Some soapmakers may even wear goggles to protect their eyes from the fumes.
  • Carefully pour your lye solution to prevent spillage.
  • Never use your materials for anything other than making soap once they have been exposed to lye.
  • Never use aluminum utensils, pans, bowls, molds, or anything with lye. It will "eat" right through it.
  • Always remember to add the lye to the liquid, never the other way around.
  • Use a mixture of 50/50 water and vinegar to rinse your skin if you happen to spill or splatter lye on your skin.

I always measure the liquid in my Pyrex measuring cup then add the proper amount of lye to it. You must stir until the lye is completely dissolved into the liquid. The solution will become very hot during the initial chemical reaction and will often smoke and sizzle. Do not let this worry you, it is supposed to do that. The solution will soon become clear and *that is when it is ready to pour into the fat or oil (*this applies only to the blender soap method).

Fats and Oils

Animal fats have traditionally been used to make soap but today there are many vegetable source oils available. The saponification chart lists the many different oils which can be used. The process of rendering animal fat can be very time consuming and there are simple instructions given later in the booklet. Since my goal is to keep things simple, the only animal fat in my recipes is lard, which can be purchased easily at the supermarket. The recipes also call for vegetable oils and shortening. There are finer grade, more expensive oils which can be used such as coconut and palm. Feel free to use these oils or wait until you gain some experience and confidence in your soap making ability before spending more money.

The most commonly used fats/oils in soapmaking and their qualities:
Tallow- is the end product of rendering suet or beef fat. It is mild to the skin.
Lard- is the end product of rendering pork fat. It can be easily purchased at the supermarket. Lard based soaps are mild to the skin but they do not always later well.
Palm oil- comes in different grades and colors. It can be located in Middle Eastern, Asian, and African stores or through mail order. Palm oil soaps are very mild and have long lasting suds.
Coconut oil- is hard to the touch at room temperature (similar to shortening) and melts easily when heated. It can be harsh on your skin if used in large quantities in soap.
Vegetable shortening- makes a softer bar of soap but it is a good substitute for animal fats.
Olive oil- comes in many grades which can all be used in soap making. It produces very hard bars of soap which are mild, long lasting, and lather well.
Vegetable oils- come in many different varieties and give good results in soap making. They tend to lather well but they take longer to dry

These supplies are not required to make basic soaps. They are added to soap to give it special qualities and character. As you gain experience, you will probably find yourself experimenting with various fragrances, herbs, and colorants.

Essential Oils

Essential oils add pleasant fragrances which diminish that ?lye soap smell? that can develop in some batches. They also provide Aromatherapy value and can be used for a variety of conditions.

Some commonly used essential oils include:
Lavender- provides a very popular aromatic fragrance. Lavender has antifungal and antibacterial properties. It also helps to calm and relieve the symptoms of stress headaches. Lavender is soothing to the nerves and helps to induce sleep.
Ylang Ylang- is aromatic and is said to have aphrodisiac qualities. It helps to balance oily skin.
Rosemary- is very aromatic and has astringent qualities. A good essential oil to use with lard based soaps (it covers the scent very well).
Peppermint- is aromatic and a good choice for holiday soaps.
Rose- has a sweet fragrance and is very popular. It can usually be found in the form of rose geranium. True ?rose essential oil? is very costly. Rose Geranium vitalizes and regenerates skin cells.
Patchouli- is an earthy, aromatic scent. It helps to regenerate skin cells. Patchouli is also antiseptic, anti-fungal, and anti-bacterial.
Eucalyptus- is very therapeutic for colds and allergies. It is also used as a bactericide (kills bacteria) and insect repellent.
Marjoram- is soothing to the nerves and helps to induce sleep.
Spearmint- is a cool, fresh scent that blends well with other essential oils.
Tea Tree- is very therapeutic for the skin. It helps to relieve irritation and problem skin.
Anise- is a classic fragrance used for soap making.
Lemongrass- is a fresh, clean scent that is said to uplift your spirit.
Citronella- is a distinct aroma which helps to repel insects.
Sandalwood- is an earthy scent which is antiseptic and astringent.
Bergamot- is an earthy scent. It is antiseptic and is also said to help calm nerves.
Clove- is a spicy, distinct scent. It is antiseptic and has analgesic qualities. It is also said to help repel mosquitoes and moths.

Fragrance oils

These oils are synthetic (man made) fragrances which offer an alternative to natural oils and come in a variety of scents not available with essential oils. They do not have the therapeutic value of their natural counterparts but are very useful in soap making.

Some examples of fragrance oil scents are:
Green Apple





Lily of the Valley

Baby Powder


Ocean scent

Pina Colada


Passion fruit
Tutti Fruiti

There are several other fragrance oils to choose from which are also interesting and unique. You can even purchase the oils in designer fragrance scents such as Beautiful, Dune, Opium, Hugo Boss, and Polo.

Ground Herbs, Spices, and Food Additives

Ground herbs add bulk and texture to soap while also providing therapeutic qualities. You can purchase these in the finely ground form or prepare them yourself using a small coffee grinder. Another option is to use the contents of herbal tea bags. Most herbs can be purchased in bulk form from your local health food store or through mail order. Perhaps you grow your own herbs? Well, this is yet another way for you to use those precious plants in your garden.

Food additives are also very useful in soap making. They provide their own therapeutic qualities.

Some commonly used herbs, food additives, and spices for soap include:
Lavender- Once again, this herb can be used in the dried flower form in your soap. It will add color, scent, and texture.
Chamomile- will add texture and skin soothing properties. I suggest that you use tea bags unless you can very finely grind the flowers. The dried flowers have small stems which may scratch your skin. Chamomile has a distinct apple like fragrance.
Rosemary- adds color and an extra ?punch? to the soap?s scent. It can be used fresh or dried.
Oatmeal- adds skin soothing properties to the soap. It is a very good selection for irritated skin.
Elder flower- is good for skin cleansing and soothing. Make sure you finely grind the flowers because they can scratch the skin.
Clove- in the ground form is an excellent, aromatic addition to lard based soaps. It also adds a little color to the batch.
Cornmeal- is another food item which can be successfully added to soaps. It adds an abrasive action which cleanses the skin. It also gives the soap a light yellow color.
Kelp- is a sea vegetable that can be added to soaps for cleansing problem skin. It gives the soap an earthy green color.
Clay- adds bulk to your soap while providing soothing qualities. It also helps to draw out excess oils from the skin.
Goat milk- is very soothing to the skin. It gives your soaps a creamy natural color.
Milk- adds emollient qualities to your soap. Use milk in the dry powder form.
Honey- is antiseptic and helps with problem skin.
Aloe Vera- is an ancient plant which has been used medicinally for centuries. It is soothing to irritated skin. Use it in pulp, gel, liquid, or powder form.
Ginger- is aromatic and helps to draw toxins out through the skin.
Pumice- is ground volcanic rock and should only be used if it is very finely ground. It is abrasive and helps to remove dead skin cells.
Barley grass- is rich in nutrients and gives your soap a creamy green color.
Carrot crystals- are rich in vitamin A, the ?skin vitamin?. They will give your soap an orange glow.
Dried beets- are rich in nutrients for your skin and give your soap a rosy color.
Cinnamon- is a very aromatic spice which gives your soap a speckled brown color. It will always remind you of Christmas.
Calendula- is well known for its skin soothing properties. Use it in dried or fresh form. There are also Calendula infused oils which you can add to your soaps.
Floral essence waters- come in a variety of scents. The most common are: Rose; Lavender; and Jasmine.


Colorants should be used at the soapmaker's discretion. I use them only when I know I will not like the natural color of a batch or for special occasions requiring colored soaps.

Some commonly used colorants include:
Liquid fabric dyes- can be found in most supermarkets along with your other supplies. These dyes are sodium based and should not be used by people who are sensitive to or react to sodium. You should only use a small amount, usually 1/2 teaspoon to each 3/4 pound of soap. I usually use 1/2 teaspoon or less per pound, just to be safe. These dyes work better when used during rebatching because they are not exposed to lye.
Food dyes- can be used with inconsistent results. They do not hold up well over time and you cannot depend on the color. I once added green food color drops to a batch and it turned a lovely peach color. You may have better luck if you use a cake decorating color gel rather than liquid drops. These dyes work better when used during rebatching because they are not exposed to lye.
Pigments- are natural coloring agents that are usually used for pottery. To prepare the dye, it should be mixed with a small amount of water and then added to your soap mixture. If you choose to color your soaps with pigments, refrain from using them on infants.
Natural colors-Paprika = peach, Turmeric = yellow, Cornmeal = yellow, Cinnamon = brown,
Clove = brown, Kelp = green, Barley grass = green, Goat milk = ivory, Carrot crystals = orange, Dried beets = rose
Clay- green clay, red clay, or pink clay will add color to your soap in muted tones.
Color crystals- are commonly used in candle making. Some supply houses carry crystals which can be used for coloring soap.

If you decide to use colorants in your soap, make sure you test your first batches. The suds should be white. If the suds happen to match the color of the soap it is okay to use it but you are risking staining your towels and skin! Just remember to use less color the next time.


Vitamin E oil, Lemon Rind powder, Benzion, and Grapefruit seed extract can be used to help preserve the shelf life of your soap. The question about whether or not to use preservatives is controversial. Some soap makers claim that it is unnecessary, some would never make a batch without it. So, the decision is up to you. I use vitamin E oil which is in a base of wheat germ oil for the majority of my soaps. These products can be purchased at your local health food store or through mail order.


Fixatives help to retain the scent in soap. They include benzoin, vetiver, myrrh, and castor oil.

Super fatting oils

Superfatting is a term used for adding extra oil to soap after saponification. Most soaps can be super fatted with castor oil, mineral oil, sweet almond oil, vegetable glycerin, and coco butter.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Stop Pipe Water Leaks

Diagnosing plumbing leaks

Pipes leak or burst for a number of reasons — freezing, blockages, corrosion, and failed joints and seals, to name a few. To stop a plumbing leak, determine if the source is the home's water-supply or water- and waste-removal system. Supply lines are under constant pressure. When a fitting or pipe springs a leak, water will spray or pour from the break. Water quickly pooling on the floor or dripping from the ceiling is a good indication of a supply-line problem. Shut the supply off, either at a fixture or elsewhere in the plumbing system, to stop the flow. Pinpointing the exact location of the leak can be difficult. Be prepared to search behind walls or remove a portion of the ceiling to make a repair. Loose fittings and blockages cause most leaks in the drainage system. Leaks usually appear as a slow drip under or near fixtures. Clearing blockages will prevent toilets and sinks from overflowing.

Temporary Fixes for Broken Pipes

After you've located the leak, there are a few quick fixes you can make. Using a hose clamp or a C-clamp and a piece of wood, secure a piece of rubber over the leak until a full repair can be made. Or buy an emergency plumbing-repair kit, available at most hardware stores. An old plumbers' tip: If you find a pinhole leak, break off the tip of a pencil in the hole and then cover it.

Shutting down the water supply

Most plumbing systems have shut-off valves at numerous locations, allowing you to isolate problems. Find the one nearest to the leak and turn it off while you make repairs. Faucets, toilets, and appliances such as water heaters have individual shut-off valves. Find the valve and turn it clockwise to stop the flow. On gas-fueled water heaters, don't confuse the flexible gas line with the water-supply line. The water-supply line usually enters through the top.

Turn off the main water supply if you can't find a valve close to a leaking or burst pipe. Normally, a single pipe delivers water to your home. Find the valve located where the supply pipe enters the house — or the one next to your water meter — and turn it off. This cuts off water to the entire house. Every family member should know where this is located. Then look for a valve closer to the fixture so you can restore water service to the remainder of the house while you fix the problem.

Stop Roof Water Leaks

Roof leaks can be very deceiving; they rarely become evident at the source. Typically, water enters through broken shingles or flashing, then flows along roof sheathing or attic rafters until it finds a convenient place to drip down (see inset at right). There are several likely sources.

Broken shingles are a good tip-off. Anything that protrudes through the roof — such as chimneys, vent stacks, dormers, and skylights — is a possible source. Scan your roof (use binoculars) and look for broken shingles or damaged flashing. If there is no obvious problem, head to the attic during daylight hours.

Look for wet spots or, in dry weather, water marks on the wood. Track the evidence of dampness to its source, then look for a small ray of light coming through the ceiling — the offending hole.

Quick Cover-up

To stop a roof leak temporarily, unroll enough 6-mil polyethylene sheeting to cover the leaky area, plus enough extra to extend several feet over the roof ridge. Wrap each end around a 2-by-4 and staple along the fold; sandwich the sheeting with a second 2-by-4. Place this assembly over the ridge, toward the non-leaking side, then spread the sheeting over the leaking section.

Repair a Broken Asphalt Shingle

1. Remove the nails from the broken shingle, taking care not to damage the shingle overlapping the broken one.

2. Nail down a new shingle. Use a utility bar to drive the nails to avoid damaging the overlapping shingle.

3. Apply roofing cement. Dab it over the new nails and under the edges of all the shingles you disturbed.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Keeping Your Asphalt Driveway in Top Shape

Maintaining and repairing your driveway on a regular basis will help ensure many years of service. Fortunately most driveway maintenance is a job that most home owners can do themselves. Although not difficult, it can be messy when it comes to applying sealer. Be sure to wear old clothes and a pair of shoes that you can throw away when you are done.

The first step in maintaining your driveway is to see what problems you will need to repair. Take a slow walk across and down your driveway. If you see impressions left by car tires or tilting, or buckling or cracking, then you will need to call in an asphalt driveway contractor to rebuild the drive. Unless your driveway is very old and has been neglected, you'll probably see minor cracks, crumbling and small chuck holes. These problems can be repaired by the average do-it-yourselfer. If your driveway has large cracks and potholes, the repair materials will need to cure before seal coating. This may take several days or longer depending on the plan accordingly.

What to Buy

If you have cracks you will need to purchase crack filler which typically comes in a caulking tube or a pour bottle. Chuck holes require asphalt cold patch which comes in a bag similar to redi-mix concrete. To complete the job you will need a good sealer. Sealers usually are sold in a "Good" "Better" "Best" selection. Just like paint, it's best to purchase top-quality material...the job will last longer, look better, give better service and in the long run save you the time of having to re-do the job sooner.


  • Squeegee/broom for sealing Detergent
  • Trowel Masonry Chisel
  • Machinist's Hammer Stiff Bristle Broom
  • Garden Hose w/Pressure Nozzle Wire Brush
  • Oil Spot Primer Asphalt Driveway Cleaner
  • Gloves Shovel
  • Safety Glasses Tamper or 4"x4"x6'

Safety Precautions

When working with asphalt materials, avoid prolonged contact with skin and excessive breathing of fumes. When chipping or chiseling old blacktop wear safety glasses. Keep all materials away from high heat or open flames. Be sure to read all manufacturer's instructions.

Repairing Cracks

It's important that cracks be filled properly to prevent water from getting under the slab and causing more serious problems. If the crack is less than 1/2" wide it can be filled with crack filler. Anything over 1/2" must be filled with asphalt cold patch. The most important thing to remember when you are repairing cracks is that the crack must be completely cleaned or the repair will not hold. For narrow cracks, sweep out all the dust and dirt that you can. You may need to use an old screw driver and wire brush to loosen. Then use your garden hose and spray nozzle to "blast" away any dirt that remains deep in the crack. Be sure to wear safety glasses when doing this job.

If any area being repaired is covered with oil or grease drippings it must be scrubbed with a driveway cleaning agent and thoroughly rinsed. Cracks over 1" also need to be thoroughly cleaned and then filled with asphalt cold patch.

Pot Holes

Pot holes are repaired with asphalt cold patch which is a heavy duty stone and asphalt mix. First dig out any loose material and dirt down to a solid base. Then undercut the edges so they slope in slightly to provide a "key" for the patching material. Next clean all dust and debris from the hole and surrounding areas. Clean off any oil or grease that might be surrounding the hole. If the hole is very deep it should be filled within 4" of the top with gravel. Be sure to tamp the gravel before filling the hole with patch. Apply 2" of cold patch and tamp, then apply the remaining 2" and tamp. Now add enough material to form a slight mound and tamp again. The patch should be rolled which can be done by placing an old piece of plywood over the area and then driving over the plywood slowly back and forth. If you have repaired any major holes with asphalt cold sealer, you will have to allow the patch to cure before sealing. This typically would be 12 to 36 hours, although some products take as long as 30 days. Check the manufacturer's label.

Seal Coating

After all crack and pothole repairs have cured, it's time to seal your driveway. The entire driveway surface must be clean before you apply sealer. This includes dust, dirt, grease, oil, and debris. Sweep the driveway. Remove grease and oil spots with cleaner and detergent. Rinse thoroughly and squeegee water from any puddle spots. Allow the driveway to dry.

Using the squeegee/broom, apply the sealer to a small area at a time. Don't spread the sealer to thinly. Allow small cracks and weathered areas to "drink" the sealer. If you have a sloped area, you can sprinkle the area with sand before the sealer dries for better traction. Allow the sealer to cure according to the manufacturerís instructions. Block the end of the driveway with the empty cans (add water to keep them from blowing away). You may want to rope off the sides too to keep anyone from walking across the area until it dries. If you have house pets you will want to keep them away or inside the house or you might end up with dog prints across your carpet!

Tips From the Pros

  • Prior to sealer application, turn buckets upside down to help aid in the ease of mixing.
  • Beat the heat by working in the early morning hours.
  • Brush sealer in a side to side motion starting from your home and working toward the street.
  • Check your driveway surface monthly. Small problems should be corrected quickly to avoid costly repair.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Shutters: A Hot New Architectural Element

Shutters have been a traditionally favored trim that has been used on the exterior of American homes for many years. In recent years, however, shutters have made an appearance not only as an exterior window covering but also as an innovative architectural element gracing the interior of contemporary homes.

Classic shutter styles may be purchased at virtually any home improvement center. You may also be fortunate enough to locate shutters at yard sales and flea markets. A great place to search for unusual shutter designs is at a new "hang out" for many interior designers. Commonly referred to as "Architectural Salvage Yards", one can find everything at these design treasures, from mismatched fencing and fountains that have minor flaws to vintage trims and moldings.

Classic wooden shutters can be painted or stained in any color of the rainbow. Shutters also lend themselves to many of the innovative faux paint techniques that are currently hot in today?s design market. Other decorative options include rubber-stamping and stenciling of patterns onto shutters.

With a bit of imagination and a dedicated investment of time, a do-it-yourselfer can transform a wooden shutter into various creative uses and applications. Shutters can easily be hinged together (standing vertically) and used as decorative screen dividers for a designated space. Or, place hinged shutters behind any bed and you've got a brand new headboard, for significantly less of an investment than had you purchased the headboard at a retail store.

If you are looking for an inexpensive coffee table, why not design one, by transforming two classic shutters? Simply cut one shutter in half and attach each half at either end of the uncut horizontal shutter. You have created an instant whimsical coffee table. Customize by applying a coordinating paint technique that matches your room?s interior.

Create a faux window for a dark room by hanging hinged shutters on a wall leaving space for your imaginary window between the shutters. Close shutters in the evening or open up to expose your faux window on the wall.

Shutters are popping up quite often in contemporary homes in the form of unique wall art. One idea is to hang a shutter on either side of a favorite framed print, to provide symmetry. Shutters used as wall art add depth and texture to an otherwise flat wall.

In children's rooms, consider converting simple shutters into shelving and use for storage of toys and books. With the help of your local hardware store or home improvement warehouse, it is often easier than you may have expected to devise a simple plan that will bring your home improvement project to life.

For a modest price, shutters can dress up a decorative wall niche near the ceiling. Simply prop up a hinged shutter and place in a grouping with an interesting piece of pottery, behind a silk or dried flower arrangement or adjacent to an interesting piece of artwork. Shutters often provide the much-needed height to compliment the tops of kitchen cabinets, a hutch or an armoire.

On your next shopping adventure, if you are fortunate enough to spot a closeout, marked down or slightly damaged pair of shutters, grab them and create a stylish decorative accessory that will blend in with most any room of your home.

Wallpaper: Spruce Up Your Home; Enhance Your Mood

Take a fresh look at your surroundings and consider redecorating. Whether you are considering some touches to simply brighten a room and celebrate the season, or a major decorating project, wallpaper is one tool you should not overlook.

The New World of Wallpaper

Today's technology has transformed the world of wallpaper that our grandparents knew. From the wide range of patterns available, to its ease and affordability, consumers are discovering a whole new world of wallpaper. Wallpaper can help you create a fresh new look in your home. In today's hectic, fast-paced society, the most important thing about decorating your home is to create an environment that provides you with a sense of comfort and serenity. A home should soothe your soul and offer a warm, comfortable retreat that you enjoy going to each and every day. Wallpaper can transform a room and help you can create almost any mood you like.

Wallpaper is Turning Up Everywhere

Although kitchens and baths are the two most popular rooms to wallpaper, you should consider wallpaper's potential for every room in your home. You can wallpaper entire walls or simply choose a special border to add personality or create a particular ambiance. Consider working with a select manufacturer that has a few selections to choose from with the same pattern or color scheme; you can mix and match wallpaper patterns from the same "family" - instantly creating a pulled-together look.

For example, some designers or homeowners put a border or molding along the walls (horizontally) so they can mix and match two different wallpapers on either side. With wallpaper you can be creative and develop almost any look you like. Today, designers are finding unique ways to use wallpaper, from lining the interior of special armoires, to glow-in-the-dark wallpaper borders for young boys and girls. The possibilities are endless.

The Importance of Light and Color

Light and color are two of the most critical considerations when decorating and have a significant impact on the final result. Here are just a few important guidelines:

  • Using light bright colored wallpaper can make a room appear larger and airy.
  • Using large patterns help create the feel of a small and cozy space.
  • Small patterns create a feeling of more space.
    Consumers can also solve a wide range of decorating challenges with wallpaper. For example, vertical stripes make a ceiling appear higher, while horizontal stripes make a narrow room seem wider.

Color for 21 century

Spice colors such as terra cotta, sage, red, and olive tones are especially popular right now. Spice colors create a warm and inviting feeling and can be used in lighter shades, too. Another emerging trend is the use of white and black, in a wide spectrum of hues, from pale grays to deep grays.

Metallic colors are also hot this year, such as silver, gold, pewter and copper. The most important color of the year is blue. Blue will increasingly be found in many hues, from icy blue to country rich blue, traditional blue and white combinations, and navy blue. Blues create a cooler feeling and "open" a room. One of the hottest color combinations of the season is a metallic color, such as silver and blue. Color is one of the most important tools to consider when decorating because it can change your mood and the feeling of a room.

Adding Texture to Your Walls

There are many different types of textiles used to create a variety of textures in wallpaper. Some of these include fabric, vinyl, grass cloth, fiberglass and silk or satin. Vinyl wallpapers are the most durable and can help protect your walls from mold, mildew, stains and other problems. Not all wallpapers are stain resistant, but if you clean an unexpected stain correctly and do not let the stain penetrate the wallpaper texture, almost any stain can be easily removed.

International Flavor: Bringing Home the World

Today's global society doesn't just impact how easily it is to communicate and travel. It means more decorating options. When designing your home with wallpaper, there are an endless variety of ways to bring the rich flavor of other cultures to your home. Asian and ethnic design has become a leading influence and more and more consumers, decorators and others are creating a Zen-like Asian feeling in a broad spectrum of rooms in the home.

Using elements from nature has also become popular. Large botanicals, animal skins, pressed leaves and insects are increasingly being seen in wallpaper patterns and throughout the home. You can also bring depth and texture to a room by using architectural elements such as columns. Simply using a special border featuring architectural details can transform a room.

Nature Comes Indoors

"Bringing the outdoors indoors" has become another popular way to create a certain mood when decorating. Leaf patterns are being seen more often than ever and create a feeling of being home with nature. With leaf, flower and bird motifs, you can create an airy, rustic and nature-loving theme in any home.

Pre-Pasted Wallpaper

Wallpaper has been around for many years. Through the development of technology and the ever-changing interior design trends, wallpaper is more popular than ever. Wallpaper is very accessible to the average consumer and it is a cost effective and economical way to decorate and improve your home. Many wallpaper borders and papers even come pre-pasted today.

Consider how to transform your surroundings and bring new life to tired walls. Remember, your home is a reflection of your personality, and you have the power to create a your own special, personal space. The following are more spring spruce-up suggestions:

  • Paint your bedroom door a bright, canary yellow.
  • Add light - open the shades, buy more lamps and let the world in.
  • Special pillows in bright colors are an inexpensive way to add new life to a couch and a room.
  • Flowers, flowers, flowers! There is nothing like a fresh bouquet of flowers to brighten and room.
  • Potpourri can instantly change your mood by adding wonderful fragrance to your environment.
  • Are you a budding photographer? Take your camera outside to capture the season. Buy inexpensive frames for your home and create a montage of photographs that bring the season indoors.
  • Use special bowls and crystal to arrange colorful, fresh fruit on a variety of tables in your home.