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Category Archives: Urban living

Invite spring into your home with blooming plants

Spring is finally here, and with it a craving for new beginnings. Whether it’s a new job, new relationship, a revamped interior, or a newly-discovered passion, they all have the ability to bring a plus of energy to our existence.

For me, it’s always flowers that do the trick. I can’t imagine anything more beautiful than a garden in bloom, inviting to reverie and joyfulness.

Purple, pinnk and red tulips

My dream garden is filled with daffodils, tulips, hyacinth, roses, peonies and lilac.

Garden in bloom

And although I’m positive that I’ll get there someday, for now I have to settle for a small urban garden, pretty and refreshing nonetheless.

Plants in bloom: hyacinth, tulips, daffodils

 

If you’re looking for simple, low-cost projects to spruce up, add color or bring new life to your apartment as well, here are a few ideas to get you started.

First you need to find a good place for your plants to thrive, preferably a sunny balcony, terrace or outdoor flowerbed; window sills are also a good option to grow flowering plants, as well as other places around the apartment that benefit from natural light.

Houseplants

Phalaenopsis, White Gardenia, Rosa Rugosa

Orchids are my favorite when it comes to enhancing interior spaces. They always strike me with their beauty, so delicate yet totally impactful. I’ve collected quite a few varieties, including Oncidium, Vanda, Miltonia (scented), Cymbidium, and Paphiopedilum (or slipper orchid), and they are equally impressive.

Houseplants

Orchid varieties: Miltonia, Phalaenopsis, Yellow Oncidium; Potted plants: Fuchsia, Pansies and Petunias

Among the many commonly cultivated plants, Phalaenopsis hybrids are probably the easiest to care for. They enjoy the light behind curtains and window blinds so they are a perfect option for apartment gardening. Just keep in mind that orchids, Phalaenopsis included, are extremely sensitive to excessive watering; over-watering is frequently cited as the main reason leading to their demise, so place extra care when you feed your orchids water. The general rule of thumb for plants grown indoors is to water every 5 to 12 days, depending on the type of orchid, the temperature the plant is grown in, and the time of year.

Orchids

Phalaenopsis Hybrids and Slipper Orchid

Balconies are the closest thing to a garden that most urban dwellers may hope for. Don’t let your outdoor space go to waste and start by adorning it with hanging baskets. You can easily turn your terrace into a lush oasis by placing a couple of blooming petunia plants, fuchsias or gardenias in hanging baskets or containers. Their superb verticality will add colorful depth to the space and surprise you with their cheerfulness every time you step out into your balcony. Plus, they will bloom all summer long with a bit of attention.

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2014 in Design ideas, Outdoor living, Urban living

 

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Alternative Thanksgiving dinner ideas

I vote for a perpetual holiday atmosphere. It’s like the whole world puts on a new face, more cheerful, full of color and beautiful thoughts. It’s only fair that we let these positive vibes flood our homes as well, and more than anything, our family dinners. With Thanksgiving around the corner, it’s time we put our minds to work and come up with a menu to delight senses and complement the holiday cheer.

If you’re looking for an alternative to the traditional roasted turkey, I have come across some great recipes that involve less cooking and more celebrating.

My ‘untraditional’ Thanksgiving dinner will consist of turkey enchilada casserole, spinach and turkey salad, a scrumptious potato gratin with homemade gravy, and a delicious pumpkin pie.

This enchilada recipe is easy, but so delicious it will be the hit of your dinner party or potluck.

You will need:

2 cups shredded Cheddar and Monterey cheese blend
1 cup sour cream
2 tomatoes, chopped
24 (6 inch) corn tortillas
1 (19 ounce) can red enchilada sauce
4 boneless skinless marinated turkey breast halves

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9×13 inch baking dish with butter, shortening or cooking spray. Next, season the turkey breasts with garlic salt to taste. Put the turkey in the baking dish, cover the casserole with aluminum foil and bake in the heated oven for 45 minutes until the turkey is cooked through and the juices run clear. Shred the turkey and let it aside. You can do this step ahead and refrigerate shredded turkey.

In a small bowl, combine the cheese, sour cream and a pinch of salt.

Tear tortillas into fourths so that they absorb the sauce better and start assembling the casserole. Pour about 1/2 inch enchilada sauce in the bottom of a medium baking dish, and arrange 3 torn tortillas in a single layer. Top with 1/2 the turkey, 1/3 cheese mixture, 1/2 tomatoes. and 1/3 of the remaining enchilada sauce. Repeat. Spread remaining sauce on top and sprinkle with remaining cheese mixture. Bake 25 minutes in the preheated oven, or until cheese is melted.

As for table decorating, here’s a wonderful idea that will add oomph to your Thanksgiving feast:

Thanksgiving table decor

It is fun to do something different for a change, isn’t it?

Happy Thanksgiving!

P.S. Feel free to share your favorite Thanksgiving recipes, we could all use some more inspiration!

 
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Posted by on November 26, 2013 in Apartment living, Food, Holidays

 

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Decorating for two – double the fun, double the challenge

There comes a time when even the most independent and carefree woman must settle down. And sometimes it’s no easy thing as you’re accustomed to having things done your way; even a piece of clothing thrown randomly on the living room couch may bug you terribly at first. But one of the secrets to a happy co-existence is learning to compromise. Even the most stubborn and proud personalities have to learn to compromise if they want a peaceful relationship. In return you get to experience so many beautiful things. No more lonely nights for starters; but you also gain a best friend waiting for you at home, eager to learn about your day or laugh at your jokes, or someone who’s just there in times of trouble. And on the more practical side, you get to share everything, including bills, expenses and household chores.

For some people, moving in with that special someone is just a natural step in the development of a relationship. Others may find it difficult to combine lifestyles and daily routines. Here are a few decorating tips that will help you create a nurturing environment for the both of you.

Adopt a neutral design scheme. Personally, I’m a big fan of white interiors as they induce a state of relaxation and innocence. But if you want to establish a serene atmosphere you can also use decor pieces, rugs, furniture, picture frames or bedding in shades of gray, creamy beige and brown. Or use a neutral color palette as your base and toss in a textured pillow in a fun print or a vivacious houseplant for a plus of energy.

Don’t be afraid to incorporate a few masculine touches. A rougher approach to a design scheme can actually do tons of good to a place. It adds personality, strength and a more down-to-earth feel to a home.

I for one just love what exposed brick can do to a room. It’s a bold move but the effects can be spectacular. It’s a look that many think fit for a bachelor’s pad but it can perfectly complement a contemporary, minimalist design scheme fit for two.

Keep it comfortable and cool. Luckily for us, most men don’t have strong opinions about home décor so it’s pretty much up to us to beautify the space. You must know by now what he likes to do when he’s at home or what his passions are. If he likes reading let him have a reading nook, get a comfy armchair and a lamp, put them somewhere near a window and his corner is all set. If he’s a gamer, make a little room for his PlayStation. He’ll be glad to know that you’ve been thinking about his needs, too.

Remember, it’s his home, too. I know we’re ladies and we need our makeup, cosmetics, skincare and other beauty products, it’s what keeps us looking fresh and glowing all the time, am I right? But instead of having them lying all over the place, keep them looking neat somewhere in the closet or in the bathroom.

Romantic, whimsical style is a definite no – no. No pink or orange walls, get rid of the flowery, mushy linens and oversentimental decorations. Instead, focus more on creating a pleasant, more functional environment that could transform the apartment into a real home for you both.

 
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Posted by on November 1, 2013 in Design ideas, Relationships, Urban living

 

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Give your home a vacation-inspired makeover

Summer is a time for outdoor fun, relaxation and daydreaming. And when it’s over it’s nice to have some things around to remind of its beauty, maybe let it linger a little bit more inside our apartment homes.

Whether you want to hold on to your sweet memories or just feel like engaging in a DIY project to refresh your quarters, here are a few inspiring ideas to get you started.

If you’ve had your summer vacation at the beach, chances are you’ve collected things like seashells, sea glass, pebbles or rocks you deemed interesting. If you haven’t, keep it in mind for your next escapade as these natural treasures make great decorative elements.

Pebbles used in home decor

I, for one, am proud of my collection of vacation gems; I’ve brought home little stones and rock bits from Dubrovnik, pebbles from Crete and seashells from Antalya, Turkey which I’ve used as décor pieces all around my apartment.

Decorate house plants with seashells and stones

If you’re looking for a way to add a personal touch to your home, grab a glass vase or jar and fill 1/3 of the way with dry sand; then add a few of those marine stones you’ve collected. They will look fantastic on a shelf in the living room or on the kitchen countertop, charging the space with positive feelings and a plus of energy.

Pebbles collected from Dubrovnik

However, if you forgot to fill your pockets with pebbles and conch shells, you can use the same glass recipient and fill it with sand, but replace the pebbles with a picture of yourself or a loved one. Place it somewhere where it can be easily seen, on a coffee table or mantle, to be sure it makes an impression.

Photo frame from vacation in a glass vase with seashells via modishspace

Maps or brochures of the places you’ve traveled to can be turned into great art pieces to color up your walls. Assemble a collage of your journey logs, travel ticket stubs and maps and complement the arrangement with a vacation picture of yourself and your family. That should trigger a few happy memories every time you walk by.

Additionally, if you like buying souvenirs and pottery specific to certain cultures or regions, such as handcrafted mugs or plates, think of personalizing them with suggestive prints or photos of your vacay and put them on display on a wall or shelf. For little or no cost, you can give your apartment a whole new and invigorating look.

And for all of you mountain vacationists out there: know that a walk through the woods can get you genuine art pieces that will render your home unique in an instant. Gather a few twigs and branches and arrange them artistically in a vase; driftwood can be used as the focal point in a cottage-style design scheme for example, either placed in a vase or standing by itself, or leaning against a wall.You can also pick up pine cones and acorns which you can easily pile into a nice bowl for a most delightful effect.

 
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Posted by on October 11, 2013 in Design ideas, Urban living

 

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Smart and easy DIY projects for an inviting home

If there’s something I dislike more than a gloomy day, it’s a gloomy interior. From time to time, I feel an acute need to bring in new design elements and make my home vibrate with positive energy. If you’re anything like me, you’ll love these DIY ideas as they are easily achievable and can instantly revive your quarters.

#Jewelry holder. Any girl who cares about her image would appreciate a little visual help when it comes to matching jewelry with the day’s outfit.

I must confess I’m not a morning person, nor do I enjoy my coffee on-the-go, so I’m always looking for ways to make my mornings easier. Turns out this jewelry holder was just what I needed to start off the day right. And it’s an easy DIY. Order a cork plank online, Staples should have them in stock, and use it as backing material. Then, you can either use an old milk box (primed and repainted) like I did, or buy a frame and have it cut as per desired size. I finally dressed the cork board into a textile fabric and glued it to the wooden frame. And voila, my jewelry holder in place.

DIY Jewelry holder

Having all your jewelry pieces at hand can help save precious time when trying to mix and match. In addition, it’s a great way to color up the walls of a bedroom or add functional appeal to a plain bathroom.

#Greenery. I’ve always been a fan of greenery and its tremendous effects on the living environment. Beside playing a major part in refining home aesthetics, houseplants do a great job in cleaning the air of toxins and carbon dioxide while releasing oxygen.

Slipper orchid

Vertical gardening can be the best choice if you’re rather tight on space as most of us urban apartment dwellers are. Williams-Sonoma offers a wide selection of freestanding planters that can be placed indoors. Just fill the cells with your favorite herbs or other houseplants, and water as needed through the top irrigator; the hidden collector tray catches excess runoff.

Free standing vertical garden via williams sonoma

Make a statement by mixing freshly cut flowers with a few branches. That should add a plus of vitality to your home. You can also bunch together a group of freshly cut single stems, for a touch of simple beauty.

Contemporar flower arrangement via Flower Factor on Flickr

 
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Posted by on September 30, 2013 in Apartment living, Design ideas, Urban living

 

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Home décor for the spring enthusiast

Get inspired by this fabulous sunny weather and give your home a refreshing makeover. Many modern apartments and condos include open floor plans which are great for flexibility and can be easily re-organized to suit any taste or personality.

As it’s a perfect time for reinventing and re-energizing, think of your home as a canvas and start painting. If you’re up for a major change, you can replace your old couch with a trendy sofa and make it the central piece of the design scheme. Nothing says cozy better than a nice sectional or modular sofa with deep, plush cushions where you can sit back and relax after a hard day’s work.

Leather sectional sofa

If you live in a small apartment and don’t want to disturb the harmony of the place with a large, imposing piece, try finding a snug loveseat or a two cushion sleeper that is easy to fold and unfold.

You’ll be even more content with your choice the next time a relative or friend drops by and needs a place to crash for the night. Sleeper sofas allow the room to double as guest quarters. Rather than purchasing inexpensive, low quality furniture just to fill the room, learn to prioritize and invest in quality pieces that will pay for themselves in the long run.

To complement a simple design scheme, use patterned rugs and colorful window treatments. Area rugs are perfect for creating rooms without walls in an open space or differentiate your dining room from your living room. As rugs and blinds can be pricey, it’s important to shop around and know your options well. Keeping an eye out for bargains pays out every time.

And remember, spring décor yells flowers. Nothing comes close to brightening up a bland room as placing a pretty floral arrangement in it, be it fresh cut flowers or live plants. Potted plants can be used to spruce up any apartment, placed on the window sill or included in more elaborate arrangements. Live wall art is the new trend in home design and can instantly invigorate any environment. With a little care (and a green thumb) you could even grow a herb garden in your own kitchen. Your meals will get a whole new flavor, for sure.

Have a wonderful spring!

 

 
 

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Best dogs for apartment dwellers

So you’ve decided to adopt …Congrats! Cruising through life accompanied by a four-legged companion is always an amazing adventure. There’s nothing like having a pretty little furry face scratching the door, eager to welcome you inside after a long day at work. Living in a city apartment does limit your options of course, especially if you’re a dog person or you want a pet that’s bigger than Paris Hilton’s bag; but if you feel up to it, you can make it work.

Virtually any low-maintenance pooch can live happily in a smaller space if you see to their basic needs of daily exercise, grooming and feeding. They can be awesome companions for both adults and children, and can put big smiles on the faces of all family members. There are certain breeds like Basset Hounds or French Bulldogs that, due to their small size, can adapt perfectly to condo-living; usually they require minimal grooming and exercise, barely shed and hardly bark with no reason.

French bulldog via Puppytoob facebook page

Bulldogs are perfect for apartment dwellers. They need less exercise and minimal grooming, but they are prone to overheating in warm weather, so you should make sure they have a nice, shady place to rest. Bulldogs can be excellent family pets, mild and loving, and they are known for forming strong bonds with children.

Bulldog Photo credits sabianmaggy Flickr

English Cocker Spaniels also tend to be good condo dogs, although they are a dynamic sporting breed and absolutely need their daily dose of energetic exercise. Plus regular brushing and trimming; but the fuss is totally worth it; you won’t find another mutt that’s more affectionate, faithful, cute and friendly.

Or maybe just the Beagles. Because Beagle breeds have a merry personality and that makes them completely adorable. Curious and comedic, they can thrive as part of a family and will make a perfect companion for children. If you intend to keep them in an apartment, you’ll need to make sure they get plenty of outdoor activities, otherwise they will surely do some damage to your home. Cute damage but still.

However, there are larger breed dogs that can adapt to apartment living, provided you’re totally dedicated and have the necessary time to play with them and walk them out several times a day.

As a proud owner of a Labrador retriever, I can testify they are absolutely amazing companions; extremely intelligent, playful and happy, they will brighten up your days for sure. Labradors generally come in three colors – yellow, black and chocolate and are known for their even temperament and easy trainability.

P1010066

Very protective and devoted, Westies will also do okay in an apartment, as well as Bichons, Shih Tzu, pugs and other toy breeds that embody sheer delight.

 
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Posted by on May 12, 2013 in Apartment living, Pets

 

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Reinvent your apartment home with these easy decorating tips

A home tells a lot about a person. More often, the place we live in can be viewed as an extension of our personalities, of our interests and hobbies. All the more reason to think things through when looking for a theme to govern an interior redesign project. More than complying with some impersonal notions of beauty and glamor, your home’s décor should reflect your own personal style.

The right accessories can really pull a room together and give it a welcoming feel even if you’re not up for a major remodeling project. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Create a romantic ambiance. All of us could use a little more romance in our daily lives so it might be a good idea to add a few quixotic touches to your home. If you’re a dreamy person, go with the image of a garden in bloom and dress up your walls in floral motifs and soothing colors, either by applying lively wallpaper or some easy-to-install joyful decals. If wall redecorating goes against your apartment building’s rules, think of adding a vase of real blossoms, some perky decorations or a couple of colorful throw pillows for a plus of energy and subtle sweetness.

Shabby chic will never go out of fashion. This classic trend always finds its way back into the world of interior decorating as it allows design enthusiasts like us to easily mix a plurality of styles and elements. It offers a great pretext to bring antique treasures into the spotlight and lay emphasis on our heritage and culture. Cottage-style furnishings, antique picture frames or vintage mirrors, cotton bedding complemented by lacy curtains, a striped rug or a pitcher of dried organic lavender can magically remind one of a novel ambiance.

shabby chic living room courtesy of coastalliving

Add a masculine touch. Moving-in with a partner can be a real challenge when it comes to interior decorating. A lot of disputes rise over who gets to dominate the space. Male partners may not enjoy living surrounded by glitzy accessories and rosy décor or sleep in a girly bed covered in flowery linens. Neutrals are a great solution to this eternal gender battle. A combination of cream and plum can covey a powerful masculine vibe, cozy and energizing in the same time. Simple, clear lines and bold colors are key elements in creating a masculine look.

plum cream living room courtesy of darlingstuff.net

 
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Posted by on April 25, 2013 in Apartment living, Design ideas, Urban living

 

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Spring cleaning: Closet organization ideas

Yes, it’s that time of the year again and your closet is probably screaming: Spring cleaning! Actually, it doesn’t have to be such an ordeal, just think of all that empty space you’ll get, waiting to be filled up with brand new clothing. You might even enjoy a bit of redecorating while at it, just to breathe some new life into your home.

Here are some tips and tricks to help you maximize your storage space.

First re-think and re-evaluate your closet space; if you have some dormant designer skills in you, now’s the time to let them loose. To have an organized closet, you need to keep things separated, each in their own spot. Knowing exactly where to look for a particular piece of clothing will make your mornings a lot easier.

Start by bringing in some acrylic boxes which can be used for storing anything from shoes and bags to belts, socks or shirts; drop-front boxes are great for storing shoes as you don’t have to unstack boxes to get the pair you want. In addition it’s an easy way to keep your shoes protected from dust while keeping them easy to access.

Drop-front shoe box courtesy of The Container Store

Wicker baskets and fabric containers can be successfully used to add some practical appeal to your closet. If you’re looking for clever way to store your accessories and want to do it yourself, take a look at this interesting post on how to fake built-in shelving.

The next step is going through your stuff, making sure you clean your closet of all the unwanted apparel you’ve collected over the years; anything you haven’t worn for about one year belongs to the “to go” pile, unless it’s got some emotional value attached to it; then you’re allowed to keep it. However, show no mercy to the prom dress you’ve been keeping hidden in the closet, deep down you know it’s just filling up space. Groups like the Princess Project will make sure your dress falls into the right hands; there are thousands of teens out there who would appreciate a fancy dress like yours but just can’t afford one. Do the same with all your belongings that you no longer need or wear. The Salvation Army or Goodwill will put them to a better use.

Now that you’ve got over the hardest part, the rest is pure fun. Prioritize your apparel; what you can’t see, you won’t wear so keep your favorites in the front rows, along with all your spring wear while all the winter sweaters, blouses and jackets go to the back of the closet. Then check for anything that needs repairs, like toppers, jeans and shoes, and get them fixed. And finally organize your stuff by category, casual, sports and elegant. Shirts, skirts and dresses are better kept on hangers, possibly all facing the same way. If you’re a neat freak you’ll have them organized by color, too. But then again, that’s not a closet anymore, it’s simply art.

 
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Posted by on March 13, 2013 in Apartment living, Design ideas

 

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Swing into spring with flowery home decor

Nobody can minimize the impact the home environment has on our emotional state and comfort. As a fan of interior design and DIY projects, I’m always looking for new ways to enhance the space I live in. But home improvement is not always easy, especially if you’re on a tight budget. One of the simplest ways to add color, style and warmth without breaking the bank is by inviting spring freshness in with some lovely blooms or flowery decor.

Wall decals can do wonders to a plain space, even if you’re living in a rental. You may not be allowed to paint but they will let you spruce up the place with some non-damaging wall stickers. And the effect is just fantastic.

Wall decals

Yet, there is no substitute for live plants and their positive influence on your quarters. Whether you go with potted plants or flower arrangements, the possibilities are endless, depending on your disposition and personality; if you’re the romantic type and want to infuse your home with subtle sweetness, choose an arrangement made of peonies, carnations,  and ivy; purple asters, hollyhocks, orchids or lilacs are also inspired choices if you’re aiming for a dreamy environment.

Lovely bedroom decor

Red roses can be used to render a classic image of beauty and style. There’s nothing more enchanting than some cheerful roses sitting pretty in simple, transparent bottles to liven up a dreary space.

Floral home decor via adorable home

For a more dramatic feel you can use dark lilies or other intense color flowers. A geometric vase of real blossoms placed on the floor may turn your home into a statement of elegance and sophistication.

Worried that your significant other won’t appreciate your flowery efforts? Know there are some masculine flower arrangements that will add oomph to your place without hurting the overall balance. You can choose bold colors and rich textures, not too perfumed or delicate, and place them in simple, clear glass vases or in heavy dark-colored ceramic containers. Lavender freesias, purple iris or cacti arrangements would perfectly complement a neutral design in earth tones.

If you want to go even further to update your apartment’s look, turn to nature inspired décor. Flowery or embroidered pillows, a vibrating, floral-patterned fabric, a chic wallpaper or live wall art can transform any room into a spring retreat.

Live wall

Additionally, check out this video if you want to learn how to make edible vegetable arrangements:

 
 

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