Give your home a quick refresh with these budget-friendly tips

(BPT) – Whether you are buying, selling or simply remodeling, you are looking to invest in updates that will increase the value and appeal of your home. It’s natural to want it all, but before you over-personalize or break the bank, there are many simple, budget-friendly changes that can increase the value of your home without the risk.

Cassandra LaValle, interior designer and editor of the acclaimed lifestyle and design site, Coco+Kelley, offers these tried and true tips for upping your home value without overdoing it.

  • Refresh with paint: You may not be able to replace large appliances or countertops, but in the kitchen adding a fresh coat of neutral paint to outdated cabinets and swapping out hardware can go a long way in making the space feel refreshed.

  • Little luxuries in the bathroom: Replace your current shower head with a rain shower. Completely budget-friendly and easy to install – it takes less than five minutes – this showerhead can make a huge difference in an everyday routine – giving a spa-like experience with multiple high-performance spray settings.

The same goes for lighting – brightening up this space in particular can be a big selling point.

  • Don’t forget about the outside: Every home needs curb appeal. If you can’t afford major landscaping, focus on the entrance to the home. Again, updating with paint and hardware on the front door will be a welcoming touch, while a couple of really great potted plants at the entryway add to that focal point.

  • It’s in the details: Consider adding small details to rooms that will elevate the style. Framing out windows, or adding baseboards, molding or wainscoting to a space will leave it feeling a bit more polished.

No matter how big or small your projects, remember it doesn’t take a lot of money to make a big impact to any space.

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Four fast, easy kitchen projects you can complete this weekend

Focus on projects that will have maximum impact with minimal time invested. These would be projects such as restoring existing tile work or installing a tile backsplash, switching out cabinet hardware, or painting an accent wall or the ceiling rather than the whole room. Here are four simple kitchen improvements that you can do in a day or two:

1. Rejuvenate existing tile and grout – Old, stained tile and grout can make an entire surface appear dated and dingy, even if the tile itself is in good condition. Cleaning or recoloring grout can breathe new life into existing tile work, whether its countertops, flooring or a backsplash. Products like the Aqua Mix brand of tile cleaners and sealants can help remove stains and brighten surfaces without damaging grout. If your grout is in good shape, but you’re just tired of the off-white or gray color, try updating it with a grout colorant. Aqua Mix makes an easy-to-use water-based epoxy available in 24 different colors that recolors, seals and renews existing grout.

2. Create a trendy tile backsplash – Tile without hiring a professional. If you’re a do-it-yourselfer with the right tools and a little bit of know-how, you can easily add a tile backsplash featuring colorful glass or metallic tiles for that designer look in the kitchen.

“Adding a backsplash with decorative tiles creates a new focal point and at the same time brings in a fresh accent color to the kitchen. Follow through with additional touches and inexpensive accessories such as towels, a new curtain or decorative glass jars to complete the transformation,” says independent interior designer Ann Borsheim.

Products like the SimpleMat brand tile setting mat make it easy to install tile – on a backsplash, countertop or shower wall. Because the mat’s double stick adhesive sheets eliminate the need to apply mortar, so you can work at your own pace. Start with a smooth surface – you can even tile over existing tile surfaces – place the mat in position, cut as needed with scissors or a utility knife, press the tiles of your choice in place and grout immediately using a pre-mixed or single-component grout product. SimpleMat is available exclusively at Home Depot in sheets or as a value-size role for larger projects. Never installed tile before? No problem – check out the manufacturer’s instruction videos at

3. Replace dated hardware – Cabinet replacement can be costly and time-consuming – and best left to professionals. But you can easily and quickly give your cabinets a whole new look by replacing outdated hardware. If your cabinets are still builder-bare of knobs, handles or pulls, adding them can not only make them look fresh, it can make them much easier to use. It’s easy to find hardware to suit virtually any design theme or taste, with many home improvement stores carrying a wide range of designer styles from sleek, modern metallics to Victorian-inspired glass.

4. Get creative with paint – Painting is one of the most powerful, cost-effective ways to recreate the look of a room, but painting the entire space can be time-consuming. If you’re not up for a full day of painting four walls and all that trim, consider painting one wall in an eye-catching accent color. Or, for something really different – albeit a bit more work – paint the ceiling in a hue that complements the current wall color. No design rule says your kitchen ceiling must be plain white, so spice it up with a color that speaks to you.

Updating your kitchen is a rewarding home-improvement job, and can enhance the kitchen’s appearance and your enjoyment of it, as well as boost your home’s value. In fact, according to Remodeling Magazine’s Cost vs. Value Report, even a minor kitchen renovation will return more than 75 percent of its cost when you sell your home.

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Eliminate light to sleep soundly

The majority of people are sleep-deprived, according to a report by the World Association of Sleep Medicine. The association has also developed the 10 commandments of sleep, and one of the most important is to eliminate as much light as possible.


Now there is a new way to darken your bedroom for sleep, and then enjoy gently filtered natural light plus a view when you want to relax during the day. New Silhouette A Deux window shadings deliver translucency and room-darkening all in one product.


Retailers tell us that chief among the Hunter Douglas premium line up, Silhouette shadings beautifully soften and diffuse the light with their sheer facings and fabric vanes. This new design pairs a variety of trend-forward fabrics and a room-darkening roller shade. The back roller shade operates independently of the Silhouette shading and can be positioned to provide as much or as little light as desired.


This innovative window treatment is ideal for entertainment hubs or media rooms, since they add the all-important style quotient and cut the glare on screens, while providing the option of full room-darkening.

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Three ways to give your home’s curb appeal a boost

From simple upgrades to meticulous landscaping projects and replacing an outdated roof, there are dozens of options to enhance the appearance of your home’s exterior. Improvements don’t need to break the bank or take a year to complete. By focusing on three simple areas, you can change the entire look of your home that you’ll appreciate every time you pull into your driveway.

1. Landscaping

The key to curb appeal is balancing what makes you happy with what works in your community. Take a moment to observe the types of trees, plants and flowers in your surroundings and look for ways to incorporate them into your yard.

Planting flowers is one of the easiest, most cost-effective ways to make an impact. Flowers along the sidewalk, in front of the house, inside flower boxes, pouring out of hanging baskets, or even in berms and raised garden beds, provide a giant boost to your curb appeal. Exercise your creativity by combining plants of different height, texture and color in the same container. By sticking to perennial plants native to your environment, you will not have to worry about replanting every year.

2. Roofing

Redesigning the style and color of your roof is a dramatic and effective strategy for improving curb appeal.

“Your roof accounts for 50 percent of your home’s exterior,” says Stephen McNally, vice president of sales and marketing for TAMKO Building Product, Inc. “Updating the shingles on your roof is going to make a huge impact on the overall appearance of your home – take advantage of it.”

Start by evaluating roofing choices for compatibility with your existing siding as well as the style of your home. If your home has a busy exterior with more than one contrasting color, try adding a classic, rustic color like TAMKO’s weathered wood. The shingle’s subtle blends of color and wood-like appearance complements nearly any exterior paint color.

If your home’s exterior is a more neutral shade, try adding a vibrant colored shingle to stand out in your neighborhood. TAMKO has a large selection of classic and vibrant shingle colors and styles to meet any need. To learn more visit

3. Paint

Whether you’re updating your color scheme or applying a fresh coat, painting is an easy way to update your home’s look from the street in a big way. Depending on your budget, this project can be big or small. To make the most significant impact, consider painting the entire house. This will bring new life to paint that has lost its luster or possibly a new palette of color to incorporate into your yard. Although this project can call for a larger investment, the result will pay off in the end.

If your budget is more limited, focus on the areas that catch the eye. Give shutters and trim a fresh coat of paint, or paint the front door a bright shade of red or blue.

You don’t have to make a large investment to make a large impact. Focusing on key areas of your home’s exterior will refresh the entire appearance of the home and provide a facelift that’s within your reach.

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Job-seeking tips for designers: How to appeal to potential employers

For college graduates entering the design fields, in particular aspiring interactive media and Web designers, a job search that ends well starts with socializing. Communicating and networking – in person, not just social networking online – is an important way for students to start building a foundation for their careers.

Also crucial are innovative thinking and showing a great portfolio of work, according to the academic  affairs and career services departments at The Art Institutes system of schools, a source for design and media arts graduates. 

Terry Bailey, academic director of the Web Design & Interactive Media (WDIM) programs at The Art Institute of California – Hollywood, tells her students that aspiring Web designers must not only excel in all things Web, but they must also hone their communication skills.

“Employers need to see that an employee can represent them well by speaking and writing well,” she says. Industry professionals, like those who serve on the WDIM program’s Professional Advisory Committee and help to ensure courses are staying industry-relevant, need to know that if the new employee sends an email to clients, it will be grammatically correct and coherent. “The employer wants to be assured that a new employee can stand up in front of a client and give an articulate and convincing presentation.”

Join professional clubs and organizations. This is another tip Bailey gives to the bachelor of science and associate of science candidates in Web Design & Interactive Media programs. “This is how Web designers meet the other people in the industry they will need in their career down the line,” she explains. “Connections can help someone new find a job. They can also help someone who is working freelance or for a young company to put a team together.” By getting out and meeting people, individuals also have the opportunity to sharpen the personal interaction adeptness she promotes.

Patrick Baird, academic director of the Web Design & Interactive Media programs at The Art Institute of California – Sunnyvale in the Silicon Valley, advises students and job candidates to go beyond the expected to really wow a potential employer.
“Students need to go above just showing technical skill,” says Baird. It is generally a given and no longer the only qualification required to land a job.  “A great way to demonstrate exceptional ability is to problem solve: Identify a problem and find a solution,” Baird adds.

As the director of the Career Services department at The Art Institute of California – Hollywood, Bill Kilby works with local employers and counsels graduating students. He notes that “employers respond well to portfolios that demonstrate a similar design aesthetic  to the employer’s company and show work of comparable quality.”

“When putting together a portfolio site,” Kilby recommends,”be sure and lead with your strongest work, include only current, industry-quality work and make sure you have a captivating homepage design.”

Final tips from Kilby that apply to many job seekers in the design fields: Be creative and motivated.
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Your game plan for disaster-free, tailgating success

(BPT) – Tailgating is an investment in having fun – 42 percent of tailgaters spend more than $500 a season on food and supplies, according to a Tailgating Institute research study. When you’re spending that much on your pre-game fun, food failures, cooler crises and other disasters are not an option. Here are a handful of common tailgating disasters and your game plan for avoiding them:

Food failures

Some tailgaters grill, others bring pre-made meals, and some pack a cooler of finger foods, but one thing all tailgaters have in common is that they’re eating something. Food is as much a part of the fun as the game itself.

Choosing tailgating-friendly foods can make all the difference. You may dream of serving steak to your tailgating guests, but burgers are much easier to grill and just as welcome, especially if you give them a little extra touch. Try stuffing them with cheese or serving them with a selection of creative toppings, such as avocado, jalapeno or fried onions from the grill.

Your chips and dip are just as important. You can serve the most delicious dip, but the experience will fall flat if the chip can’t stand up to the dip. Go with a chip that has some substance, like Cape Cod’s Kettle Cooked Waffle Cut Chips. The new Farm Stand Ranch Waffle Cut works well with a variety of dip flavors, and the double-slicing of the chips makes them thicker than ordinary potato chips, and hearty enough to stand up to the thickest spread. Plus, those ridges provide plenty of lifting power to ensure the maximum amount of dip per chip.

Equipment crises

With 95 percent of tailgaters prepping food at the stadium (according to the Tailgating Institute study), equipment crises are almost inevitable. You could break out the charcoal only to find you forgot the matches, or those collapsible chairs you brought for extra seating prove to be a bit too collapsible. Equipment that doesn’t behave as planned can put a damper on the entire party.

Set yourself up for success. Find a portable grill that’s made specifically for tailgating and that relies on propane for cooking needs; it will be more reliable than a charcoal grill. Check out consumer reviews for sturdy portable chairs, as they will help you to make a smart, informed purchase. It also pays to invest in a good cooler that can stand up to some bumps and scrapes. A damaged cooler that can’t keep its contents cool can easily ruin the day.

Weather worries

Weather can also be a concern from the very first kick-off through the excitement of the playoffs. If you’re fighting late summer thunderstorms or frigid temperatures, it pays to be prepared.

During summer games, when the sun stays hot and high well into the evening, a collapsible canopy can be a great way to supply shade and keep guests dry in the event of a shower.

A portable propane heater can help keep tailgaters toasty during winter games – and don’t forget the heat you’ll get from your portable propane grill, too. In addition to the heater, be sure to provide tailgating guests with plenty of warm blankets and consider laying some cardboard under chairs to help keep feet off the cold ground. Just be sure to remove and recycle the cardboard when you’re finished.

Location, location, location

Finally, your spot in the parking lot plays an important role in the fun. You want to be near enough to the gates to get into the stadium quickly. Late-comers to the lot may end up in a tricky spot that guests won’t be able to find and you’ll be the last ones in the door when game time arrives.

Competition is fierce for prime spots, so arrive early; 51 percent of tailgaters set up three to four hours before game time, and 39 percent arrive more than five hours before kick-off, according to the Tailgating Institute.

By simply taking into account each of these suggestions, you are sure to be prepared this football season.

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