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Welcome to Krrbside Questions, a column created solely to answer your queries about living local and being the good neighbor we know you all are. Taking a stab at your home decorating woes this time around is Megan Meany, televison host and secondhand hobbyist. With her finger on the pulse and a knack for turning furniture from drab to fab, we’ve asked her to answer your burning questions. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any.
Q: I really love the look of indoor plants but with no green thumb, I can hardly keep them alive for a week or two. How can I create a lush environment in my home without going down the silk plants (ew!) route?
A: The first step is assessing what kind of light you get in your home. Different plants need different amounts of sunlight. The best indoor plants are plants that require little maintenance and can live in low light.
Here are some options:
- Ferns: These lush and bright plants simply require watering a couple times of week. Hang one from the ceiling or get a tall floor fern also called a “palm” to put in the corner of a room. You can also make a big statement or group smaller potted ferns on a kitchen windowsill — bringing the outside in.
- Spider Plants: These adaptable plants will produce white flowering buds and over time may need to be repotted into a larger pot. Provide them with well-drained soil and bright indirect light. Water them well but don’t let the plants get too soggy. Let them dry out a bit between waterings.
- Orchids: Hands down one of the easiest house plants to care for. Buy one that has already flowered and is noted as an indoor orchid. The flower will fall off at some point but it will rebloom and come back over time. Avoid getting the leaves wet when you water it and keep it in a warm location. Water your orchid once a week.
- Get a grocery store dye like RIT, sprinkle it in to boiling water and stir. You’ll need a large plastic basin or tub-like vessel so your slipcover is not bunched up. Also, watch for spilling and staining things around you. Be sure to prep your area with a waterproof drop cloth!
- iDye is a cool new approach. The dye goes directly in the washing machine. You run the machine for 30 minutes adding salt or vinegar and wash out. Voila!
Another au courant plant-life look for indoors is a terrarium. These are glass vessels filled with moss and other natural materials and sometimes figurines to create a unique environment. They look cool as a centerpiece on a table or displayed on a shelf or on an entryway console – even in a bathroom. The affect is like sculpture. And the best part? They are dummy proof. Just mist your terrarium once every two to four weeks and keep it out of direct sunlight. That’s it!
I really like the creations by Twig Terrarium but you can also create your own with materials from your local hardware store, greenhouse and florist.
Q: New York City apartment kitchens are the worst. I don’t have enough counter space, shelf space or floor space. Most of all, I don’t know what to do with the almost 2-foot space above the cabinets. It seems like a waste. Please help.
A: Cramped, tight kitchens are a reality in New York City but there are solutions to finding more space. Let’s start with that two foot clearing above your cabinets and then we’ll tackle ways to make the most of every inch of floor space. (Ed. Note: Check out Krrb’s Organize, Categorize, Systemize Pinterest board for more ideas.)
Get a matching set of containers to line up across the top of the cabinets for extra storage. Try vintage tins with lids, open woven baskets, industrial chic metal crates or large glass jars with lids. Choose any style you like but just keep the look consistent so it translates as a stylish storage solution and not clutter. Use the containers to store things you don’t need to access regularly like extra napkins, your rarely-used hand mixer, lightbulbs or your surplus pasta and grains.
Another space saving product I really like are the Grundtal magnetic containers from Ikea. These stainless steel containers come with clear tops and stick to the side or front of your refrigerator and are ideal for storing spices. That’s one drawer you have just freed up for something else! You can also go the DIY route and glue strong magnets to mini mason jars or other unique and light containers, and get the same outcome.
Is there any space between your refrigerator and the wall? There’s often a narrow sliver that you could slide a tall narrow rack or shelf on casters. Think of it as a portable pantry. You could also find a handyman to build a custom piece to access your peanut butter, soup cans and more.
Next, consider the insides of your cabinets. Get hanging racks to hold your parchment paper and aluminum foil. Chances are you can install a paper towel rack under the cabinet and gain back that counter space. Look into appliances like microwaves that can be mounted under cabinetry to free up more surface area in your kitchen.
Finally, look up! Do you have a high enough ceiling to hang your pots without hitting your head? Install a rack that bolts to the ceiling or simply install metal hooks on your own with a little guidance from the local hardware store.
Q: My best friend is having a baby and I’m in charge of planning the baby shower. I could use a little direction. Pinterest is a little overwhelming. Giant cakes of diapers doesn’t really speak to my aesthetic. I want something classy and simple.
A: Start with a color scheme for the party decor. White and cream or pale pink and off white (for a girl) or baby blue and gray (if it’s a boy) are all understated choices.
Once you’ve got your color scheme, buy plates, napkins, cups, wrapping paper in those colors only. Keep it classy by using sturdy bamboo plates rather than paper plates. Buy some fresh flowers in your color scheme and place them in glass mason jars around the party room. You could buy some silk ribbon to tie around the jar or jute string for a more earthy look.
For a fun element, ask your pregnant friend’s parents for photos of her when she was a baby and try to get photos of her husband as a baby too. Take the pictures to your local photo store and print them in black and white large scale sizes. Decorate the room with the photos by poking holes in them or attach loops and hanging from a string like streamers from the ceiling, across a doorway or simply display on shelves, walls and tables.
Don’t forget about the food. Invest in one professionally done menu item like the cake. Leave the fancy frosting work (done in your color scheme, of course) to a pro.
Q: What are your thoughts on white furniture? In theory if you’re childless and petless, it should work, right? My slipcovers don’t seem to stay clean and I’m thinking of dying them or something. Any ideas?
A: I love white. I’m not afraid of white. Even if you do have pets or kids, don’t be wary of white furniture. One way to go is white leather because it’s easy to wipe down. White cotton duck slipcovers or white denim are also durable in addition to being machine washable. My son once covered an entire white chair cushion in colorful crayon and it came right out after one wash. White microfibers like suede or indoor/outdoor Sunbrella fabrics are also easy to keep clean.
But let’s be real. White does show dirt more and requires some upkeep, but you benefit from the simple, chic, clean look. As for your slipcovers, dyeing is definitely an option. It’s best to dye a lighter color to dark so you’re already off to a good start. Keep in mind that you want a half ounce of dye per every two pounds of fabric. Always wash your fabric in warm water to rinse out all the excess color after the dying process. And finally stick to all-natural cloth, like cotton or linen, that isn’t water-resistant or permanent-press for best results. Don’t use wool.
Here are a couple of my favorite approaches to dying furniture fabrics:
Before you break out the dye, think outside of the box. What if you tie dyed your slipcovers? How about a spiral pattern tie dye sofa cushion? Spread your fabric on a flat surface and find the center. Grab the center with your middle finger and thumb and begin twisting. Keep twisting until the entire piece of fabric is in a spiral round bunch. Secure the fabric in the spiral position with a few rubber bands. Then drop it into your dye! Remove the bands when you are done to see the tie dye affect.
You could also take it to the next level by giving your couch an ombre shading effect. These subtle gradations of color from dark to lighter will look stunning on a piece of furniture. Dip each end of your fabric in separate dye baths with two different colors. And spoon dye from both of the baths over the middle section to create a third color. This will work best with a slipcover that is smaller and symmetrical like a square seat cushion or chair back cover.