easy flooring and lighting for outdoor “rooms”


Balcony season will be here before you know it (promise). You don’t have to settle for cold concrete floors and overhead porch lights! It’s easy and relatively inexpensive to add warmth, charm and style to your small outdoor space and turn it into more of an outdoor room.

Start with the floors! Try these simple suggestions:

· Tile “rug”: Interlocking tiles can look like wood or ceramic, and they interlock or stay put with a light adhesive. An added plus is that they can be made out of recycled materials.
· Weather-resistant rugs: Made of polypropylene, they can look like more expensive oriental or floral area rugs, and they come in many sizes and colors, like these Terra Mats spotted at ThisNext.
· Reed mats: For a more organic feel, anchor these lightweight mats with carpet tape. These should be used in more protected areas, but they’re also available in woven plastic for those preferring the organic look but need a more durable material.

Lighting is an often overlooked feature, both inside the house and out, but it’s one of the quickest ways to add ambience and warmth to any space. If you have a balcony or patio, one of these ideas could do the trick for you:

· Chiminea: Perfect for small spaces. If you aren’t allowed to have open flame on your balcony, add a string of white Christmas lights for a beautiful glow.
· Lanterns & Lamps: Hang colorful and inexpensive Chinese lanterns from your ceiling, or add a lamp on a small table. Floor lamps also work well in tight corners. Check out this DIY for the great-looking dotted tissue paper lantern at The Swell Life. For plug-in lighting, look for an IP rating of x3-x5 for maximum safety.
· Solar Lights: Place inexpensive solar lights in your planters for added subtle lighting.

Paying attention to a variety of lighting sources can really add a finishing touch to your outdoor decorating and create coziness to your seating area. And trust me, it’s easy, quick and inexpensive! — Jenny P.

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this weekend: great backyard bird count 2010


Today is the kickoff of the annual Great Backyard Bird Count. If you haven’t participated yet, it’s pretty painless. Download the checklist, then simply watch and count the birds you see for a 15-minute span on at least one of the four days of the count, February 12-15. Last year, more than 94,000 people turned in checklists, giving reseplaceers a better idea of the health of bird populations. (Happy to know I am not alone in my bird love geekdom.) If you’re not sure of the identity of a bird, there are two iPhone/iTouch apps for birding and just enough time left to run to your bookstore and pick up a Peterson’s. Of course, the great thing about the GBBC is that you really don’t need anything other than time and a good view. The GBBC site has a link to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s All About Birds page. — Sarah L.

Woodpeckers knocking on your house? There’s hope

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From our partners

recycling glass bottles beyond the bin


Confession time: I love glasses bottles as candleholders. It may be clichéd, but a green glass bottle covered with dripping wax always puts me in a romantic mood. Not only are they beautiful, they’re also simple way to recycle glass bottles. Design Sponge takes the idea a step further with a tutorial on how to make a more refined version. Etsy sellers YAVAglass and Nick Paul both rework old bottles into funky jewelry, coasters, and barware. Lifehacker has instructions on how to make cheap and stylish torches out of old wine bottles. I’d love to hear your ideas! — Katie D.

DIY hanging jar chandeliers
Bottle as automatic plant waterer
Bottle tree

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his say: it’s a pretty axe, but is it worth $250? nope!


I was reading a story in New York Magazine, “The Urban Woodsman,” and found myself drawn to this gorgeous tool from the Tribeca, NYC-based Best Made Company. I immediately wanted one because of its sleek curves, bright color, and elegant “courage” stamp, but the price ($250) set me back. I’d love to hang it above our fireplace, but that seems silly — especially when there’s a tree in our backyard that my wife is convinced I cannot cut down by myself.

The Best Made Co. shapes and masks off the handle, “then we prime it and spray on multiple layers of high-quality graffiti paint.” High-quality graffiti paint?! Sorry, Best Made Co., you had me at “courage” but lost me at “graffiti paint.” (I do give them credit for out-sourcing the important part — the ax head — to a 100-year-old company in Maine, where they make the fine-grained steel heads by hand.)

I now find myself Googling “wood axe,” which strikes me as one of the most un-manly things I could be doing. I could pick up a simple, cheap axe from Lowe’s (Kobalt 3-1/2 Lb. Michigan Axe with Hickory Handle, $30). But I think the best compromise would be the Gransfors Bruks Scandinavian Forest Axe, $120.

courage_ax_2 It’s made by a small, Swedish family-operated company formed in 1902, and is as beautiful as the trendy one from Tribeca. And besides, I could always paint my own orange handle. Timber! — Chad H.

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