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Making the Most of Fireplaces

People often say you lose more heat using a fireplace than you gain. According to the EPA, fireplaces are one of the most inefficient heat sources you have because you'll lose most of the warm air going up the chimney. However estimates have at least 10-20% heat return when you use wood logs.

However, even if you maintain your fireplace well, using traditional logs can also worsen the quality of your indoor air. I mean, who hasn't closed their flue prematurely and come home to the smell of ashes throughout the whole room? Wood logs can also release unhealthy gases and matter into the room.

To get the most from your fireplace, make sure it is well maintained. Be sure it has heat-retaining features like blowers, intake tubes and radiant grates and inserts.

Use fake logs. Logs that have gone "green" using vegetable paraffin instead of petroleum-based binders, release 75% less carbon monoxide and 80% less particulate matter than real wood, according to the EPA.

Fake logs also burn hotter. That alone will make the room warmer than using traditional logs. Java logs, made from used coffee grounds, also give you a cleaner material to burn. To roll your own logs, use old newspapers, a broom handle and some water, but be sure to remove all glossy inserts (which emit unhealthy fumes).

Using Candles in Your Decorating

Even though the holiday season is not behind us, that doesn't mean you should box up your candles and candelabra. Be sure to keep them in safe locations out of the reach of children, where they cannot be accidentally knocked over and where they are not too close to combustible fabrics or other material. Silver candelabra as shown here is very elegant and perfect for formal living rooms and dining rooms or wherever you want to emphasize more sheen and reflective surfaces.

For a more informal look, choose candelabra made from rustic material, such as wrought iron or wood. Less expensive ways to display your candles include small plates, bowls, stands of various sizes and heights.

Candelabra come in all types of designs from the regal and modern straight lines to highly decorative and ornate traditional styles. Choose styles that blend with your room's decor or mix it up for a more eclectic look.

Less expensive treatments can be extremely lovely as well with the use of votives, pillars and floating candles. So there are candle treatments for every budget, color scheme and style of decor. Use them all year long as a natural part of your decorating.  Change them occasionally by merely changing the color or height of the candles. There is endless creativity at your disposal.

Adding a Sensual Touch

Sensuality is the feeling of luxury in your home. It can come from adding a luxurious fabric; or it can come from a rich blend of colors; it might be from the way the light hits parts of a room before receding and moving elsewhere. In short, it's what brings a room to life. So here are some brief tips for how you can add a touch of luxury to any room:

  • Add some surprises here and there - even some humor
  • Rely more on lamps, sconces and candles to illuminate the room
  • Layer the window treatments to take advantage of more natural light
  • Design groupings here and there from your collections
  • Make your own throws, duvet covers, tablecloths and so forth
  • Choose furniture pieces that are sculptural
  • Feature your sofa and chairs out IN the room not backed against the wall
  • Add a special chair just for you and another one just for your spouse
  • Replace a painted wall with one covered in paper-backed linen with a sheen
Look for ways to change things up a bit. Warm up your rooms with color, light, shine and good feelings.


Remodeling Tips and Advice

There is a huge difference between building a new home and remodeling an existing one. Just because a contractor is great at building homes, that does not mean he is great at remodeling. The biggest complaint homeowners have when doing a remodeling project is that the contractors do not finish as scheduled so they can get back to their privacy and normal lives. Then there's always shoddy workmanship. So you have to be careful who you hire.

Most problems arise from lack of proper planning and a lack of knowing what it really takes to tear something apart at the correct level, tie it back together again and wind up with a finished project that is as good as new or even better.

If you are considering a remodel, bear these tips in mind:

  • Make sure your contractor is experienced working around people while still in their homes
  • Make sure he will treat your home as if it were his own (but only if his own home is well maintained)
  • Make sure he has a detailed, specific plan
  • Make sure he stays on schedule every step of the way
  • Visit or contact your local trade or building association for a referral or to check on the contractor's reputation in the industry
  • Make sure the contractor is licensed and insured (get copies) and that his workers are employees and not daily workers he picks up on the side
  • Ask for references and check them out
  • Never pay for the full project in advance. Pay a small deposit of not more than 10%; inspect the final outcome thoroughly before completing any balance you owe.



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Barbara Jennings is author of 17 decorating books/ebooks:

  • Decor Secrets Revealed
  • Rearrange It
  • Home Staging for Profit
  • Home Staging for Yourself
  • A Real Estate Agent's Guide to Offering Free Home Staging Consultations
  • Staging Portfolio Secrets
  • Staging Luxurious Homes
  • Getting Paid: Financial Strategies for Home Stagers
  • Home Staging in Tough Times
  • Arrange Your Stuff
  • Advanced Redesign
  • Pro Art Consulting
  • Where There's a Wall - There's a Way
  • The Secret Art of Hanging Art
  • Great Parties - Great Homes
  • Do's and Don'ts in Home Staging and Redesign
  • Wall Groupings! The Secrets of Arranging Art and Photos


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Barbara Jennings

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