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Cheap but Stylish Lighting

Bad lighting can date a house. Fortunately, lighting is something that can be updated with a quick weekend project, and you don’t have to spend a lot of money to do it. Lighting can also be the item that comes at the end of a remodel when money is tight and you need some less expensive, stylish options. Here are 10 companies providing bright and functional lighting at reasonable prices

1. Schoolhouse Electric: What began as a lighting company has turned into a great housewares brand, but their lighting is always what I come back to for classic, retro styles in every type of light, from pendants and sconces to table lamps. Custom options are available as well.

2. CB2: The lower priced sister of Crate and Barrel has the trendiest styles for a fraction of the cost. You can easily find a great low price match to a higher priced item here.

3. IKEA: I don’t know of any place that can beat IKEA’s lighting prices. For $5 you can get a Scandi designed table lamp that emits a nice mood light. Their paper lantern shades are a classic too.

4. JCP: The new Jonathan Adler, Martha Stewart, and Conran home collections for JC Penny have revived this once stale brand.

5. Urban Outfitters: You may only know Urban Outfitters for their clothing and quirky gifts, but they have been steadily adding to their homeware range and now have a wide range of lighting no longer just focused on pink flamingo string lights.

6. Habitat: For UK readers, Habitat can’t be beat as a step up from IKEA in the lighting department, with lights inspired by iconic designs such as Anglepoise and Jielde.

7. Dyke and Dean: Another pick for the UK audience, Dyke and Dean is a pick ‘n mix lighting concept shop, so that you can go as bare bones cheap or add on all the goodies to create your dream light.

8. Lamps Plus Open Box: The online outlet for Lamps Plus features items that have been returned nationwide to Lamps Plus, with stock turning over constantly and rock bottom prices due to the open box nature of the items. You can even return purchases, which is rare with such deep discounts. Brands include Kichler, Possini, and Arteriors Home.

9. NUD Collection: The place for bare bulb pendants in your pick of cord color and numerous bulb options.

10. Urban Cottage Industries: Another UK pick n mix light supply store, with enamel shades that will work in any country regardless of voltage required.

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20 Tools A Homeowner Should Have

1. Philips screwdriver. A Philips or X-shape screwdriver is probably one of the most common tools in any toolbox. If you have a have a handle that accepts interchangeable tips, you can cover a wide range of screw types and sizes.

2. Flathead screwdriver. A flathead or straight screwdriver is invaluable; most light switch plates use straight screws, for example. Having the right size flathead can make a difference, so start with at least a set of three (small, medium and large) to be able to handle most jobs.

3. Tape measure. Your tape measure is indispensable for estimating material quantities, figuring out placement of objects, and calculating floor plans and furniture sizes. It’s always a good idea to measure more than once to make sure you’ve got it right.

4. Level. Some people are good at eyeballing whether something is level or not, but this tool takes all the guesswork away. It takes only a slight error to make objects look off-kilter.

5. Utility knife. From cutting paint around windows that are stuck closed to opening boxes, scoring drywall or even trimming the edges of carpet, the uses are so many that you’ll be surprised how you ever got by without one.

6. Hammer. Pounding nails, pulling nails, crowbar action, tapping things into place — it almost goes without saying why you need hammer. An expensive hammer is long and lightweight; its leverage can assist you when you take that wall down.

7. Putty knife. A putty knife is great for scraping dry glues and paints and for spreading putty, paste and spackle. Having a 1½-inch size for scraping and a 5- or 6-inch one for spreading is helpful.

8. Nail set. A nail set is used for sinking nail heads below the surface of the wood, so that you can then fill the hole with wood putty and sand it, to make the nail disappear. This way the hammer never has to make an ugly dent in the surface you are pounding.

9. Combination square. This multi-use tool can verify 90- and 45-degree angles for miter cuts, measure depths and short distances, and is great for scribing a straight line. It also has a vial to make sure your project is level or plumb.

10. Pliers. The serrated jaws of pliers assist with holding objects firmly, as well as with pulling, pinching or bending metal.

11. Adjustable crescent wrench. There is a screw built into the head of this wrench; turning it adjusts the size of the opening, so that it fits onto most any hexagonal nut. Turning a nut with pliers just strips the edges, making it harder and harder to get a good grip when tightening or loosening it.

12. Wire stripper. This wire stripper has a blade for cutting wire to the proper length and several notches for scoring the insulation around wires of varying sizes, which can then be pulled off. Wire has to be exposed without the plastic coating to make electrical connections.

13. Hex key tool (or Allen key). Some screws, especially bicycles and assemble-it-yourself furniture for which a flush screw is necessary, use hexagonal sockets. Multiple hex key sizes can be purchased separately and the leverage on these is better, but a jackknife-style set such as this provides everything you need in one tool.

14. Power drill. Drilling implies creating holes, and a power drill is the ultimate luxury when tired hands have turned too many screws. It adapts not only to drill bits to bore holes, but also to every kind of screw-head bit, making larger projects go quickly and with less muscle. Just be careful to stop when the fastener is tight so you don’t strip the screw head. Don’t skimp on this tool — you will appreciate having a lot of power.

15. Electrical cord. A rugged, well-insulated indoor-outdoor power cord for high-amp tools will help you extend the limited cord of your tools to your job site — and it’s suitable for yard work too.

16. C-clamp. This tool can hold pieces of wood, metal, or plastic together when you need to glue, saw or file them. Use a thin shim between the clamp and the object you are working on so the clamp doesn’t mar the surface.

17. Flashlight. Necessary repairs can happen in dark, cramped spaces and even when the power is out. Plus, everyone loves to help by holding the flashlight for you. They don’t work without batteries, so have extras on hand.

18. Ladder or step stool. Painting, reaching the light bulb, changing fixtures, trimming the hedge, stringing lights, getting into the attic and many more activities require the aid of a ladder.

19. Broom and dustpan. When projects get messy, save your household broom from harsh debris by having a dedicated set.

20. Music. Every job is made easier with music or talk radio. This is why hardware stores sell radios, although those are more rugged, with rechargeable battery packs that can also be used in your cordless tools. More rugged means when you drop your hammer on it, you just pick it up and get back to work.

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Remove Scuff Marks From Wood Furniture

Scuff marks happen when rubber is pressed and then slid across a surface. Scuff marks are common on the floors of sports arenas because rubber soled shoes are constantly dragging on the surface. In your home, scuff marks occur on wooden furniture if someone kicks it or slides a rubber mat or a tray with rubber pads on it across the furniture. Use products that won’t damage wood floors to remove these scuff marks.

Step 1

Rub a tennis ball over the scuff mark using heavy pressure. The scuff mark should transfer from the furniture to your tennis ball. Rotate the ball and continue rubbing until the scuff mark is gone or until you can’t remove any more of it.

Step 2

Rub an eraser over the scuff mark. Erasers are often all you need to remove the mark residue, but they may not work on dark stains or stains that have been on the wood furniture for a long time.

Step 3

Spray an all purpose cleaner on a terry cloth. Terry cloths have a raised nap that will help work away stains without scratching furniture or damaging the finish. Rub the cleaner into the wood furniture with the terry cloth until the scuff mark is gone.

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Kitchen Hack

De-skin potatoes without a peeler

Time to ditch the peeler again! Peel a potato in a snap by boiling it and then giving it an ice bath. The skin will separate from the potatoey center and you can pick it right off.

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Efficiency vs. Studio Apartment

Real estate listings can be very confusing, with terminology that requires a bit of translation. “Cozy” translates to small, “adjacent to” means within a mile or two and “transitional neighborhood” is a neighborhood that only a few years ago was one to avoid. Another set of terms that can cause confusion is “studio apartment” and “efficiency apartment.” The fact that many agents and landlords use them interchangeably does not help. However, some concrete features differentiate the two.

 Size

Both studios and efficiencies are typically small apartments meant for occupancy by a single person. They are designed to be basic and inexpensive. For many renters and buyers, these apartments are an affordable way to get into a convenient or upscale location.

Efficiencies

Efficiency apartments, also called bachelor apartments, are always small and feature a combined living and sleeping space. Most efficiency apartments are one room with a separate bathroom. Efficiencies have a kitchenette area attached to the living area. A wall of appliances and counter space is a common setup. The appliances are often smaller than usual, such as a half fridge, a one or two burner stove and a small sink with a small counter area and are more for heating food than cooking full meals.

Studios

Studio apartments are not always small, but are always one room that combines the living and sleeping spaces. Some studios may have an alcove area for sleeping or a loft area that is open to the main room. They feature a separate bath and kitchen with full size appliances.

Loft Studios

Another type of studio is the loft studio. This type of studio is a single room with high ceilings and often features industrial elements such as exposed beams or ductwork and large windows. These studios can be quite large, especially in converted spaces. They may have a distinct kitchen area with full size appliances that are incorporated into the single open space and an enclosed or separate bathroom. There may be an open, raised loft area over the kitchen and bath that can be used as a sleeping area.

Considerations

Both apartment styles are highly functional and require some specialized furniture placement and decoration in order to achieve delineated spaces. Storage is usually at a premium in these units and furniture items often have to perform multiple functions to accommodate storage needs. Privacy can be an issue if there are guests.

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How to Meet Your New Neighbors After Moving

Just because you have an opportunity to meet your new neighbors after you move into the neighborhood, doesn’t necessarily make it easier to do. But getting to know your neighbors will help you feel like you’re at home and settled into your new space.

Careful Observation

Check out your neighborhood, noting those who seem to have kids (toys out front, loud screams from the backyard and parents frantically trying to get small people into a van along with sports equipment), those who are elderly, those who seem to be always in the garden or even those who only seem to come out at night (although they’re more difficult to meet, unless you are also a night owl).

If you can find some common interest- you both have kids, your mother is elderly, or a friend talks about her garden a lot even if you don’t possess a green thumb – this will make it much easier to approach the person.

The key in careful observation is to not to be obvious about it nor act stalker-ish. Some people may feel a little strange if you seem to know too much about them.

Take a Walk

A great way to meet your new neighbors is to spend time outdoors, in your garden or by taking a walk around the block. If you have a front porch, use it.  You’ll be surprised how easy it is to meet people when they approach you first. Make sure you spend time outside after work hours or on weekends.

Make Your Move

We all have busy lives, so make sure you only approach your neighbor when it seems like it might be a good time. Avoid dinner, breakfast and early mornings (unless they’re already up and outside) and when they’re getting in their car.

Usually, if someone is leaving or coming home, they have an agenda and plan and don’t necessarily appreciate the interruption.

What to Say

If you go back to what you noticed about your neighbor, you can start there. So if you see your neighbor scrambling into her van with two girls in tow, one with a baseball glove and the other in a tutu, then you could approach your neighbor and ask about community softball for your child or where your child might take ballet lessons.

Just remember that your neighbor might be in a hurry so leave your number or ask them to drop by sometime.

What if You Have Nothing in Common?

No problem. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with just walking up to the front door, and introducing yourself or inviting them to a small get together.  Let them know you just moved in and where you moved from. If that still feels uncomfortable, then ask about garbage pickup or recycling centers in the neighborhood. Remember, while you think you might not have anything in common, you do: you live on the same street, in the same neighborhood. That’s enough to start any conversation.

Host a Get-together

While it might be the last thing you want to do while you’re still unpacking, hosting a casual get-together is a great way to meet your neighbors all at the same time. If the weather is nice, host it outside. Ask people to bring snacks or drinks or chairs or all three. Everyone know you’ve just moved in and won’t expect much, plus they’ll want to help out.

Be Friendly, But Not Invasive

I had a neighbor once who introduced himself, then misconstrued my friendliness to be a sign that I wanted an extended conversation. I didn’t, and I tried to avoid him from then on simply because I was always afraid of “getting caught” in a lengthy discussion.