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5 helpers for hassle-free holiday hosting

(BPT) - While hosting the holidays can be a nerve-wracking experience, it doesn't have to completely derail the rest of the joy of the season. The truth is even the most veteran holiday hosts feel some anxiety leading up to the big day. There's a ton to do and remembering it all can be hard. To simplify your life and your holidays, renowned interior designer Nate Berkus offers his best tips for entertaining with style.

Make sure your kitchen is ready

Without fail your kitchen becomes command central, and the No. 1 place guests like to congregate. Fact. Embrace it, and use your kitchen island to set up snacks, a bar and add extra seating. You want people to feel at home, especially during the holidays.

Be ready with a pre-stocked bar

As host, you want to make sure you get to enjoy the party along with your guests. Get ahead of things by making sure your bar is fully stocked, and making a pre-mixed pitcher of your go-to holiday cocktail. Have your hors d'oeuvres ready to go and make sure you have enough ice - with LG's SmartThinQ technology, you can have your fridge make ice from your smartphone, for extra easy party prep.

Create an impressive tablescape

Stick to a neutral color scheme, even during the holidays. Then add in metallic accents for some extra shine; brass candleholders and napkin rings will instantly up the ante. You can also pull in greenery from your garden and finish off your tablescape with candles. Finally, make sure your table linens are fresh, pressed and ready to go. With the LG Styler you can hang your items (from linens to favorite holiday sweaters) and have them steamed and refreshed, in just 20 minutes.

Mix up the seating chart

Have fun with your seating chart. You want guests to get to know each other and spark unexpected connections. It can put people out of their comfort zone, so be mindful of who you bring together, and try to seat guests next to someone you know will share common interests. Use a super chic place card at each setting to finish off the tablescape.

Take something home

Send your guests home with a small reminder from the evening. If it's a sit-down dinner, it could be their place card setting. It will serve as a sweet memento from the gathering.



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Top 6 design trends for 2017 (slideshow)

(BPT) - Now that 2017 is here, that means a whole new year lies ahead, with fresh ideas to come! What is going on in the design world this year? What's hot? What's trending in 2017?



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10 tips for efficient, effective home appliances

(BPT) - Today's typical family home is a buzzing hub of activity where meals are cooked, homework is done and family game nights are contested. In the background of it all: the home appliances that keep life moving along. Focusing on a few maintenance tasks can keep appliances efficient and effective.

Maintain tools

Replace vacuum belts periodically to keep your vacuum cleaner running like new, and swap out lawn mowers' spark plugs once a year to ensure the mower is easy to start. Stock up on extra batteries for cordless vacuums, leaf blowers or other lawn equipment used frequently.

Focus on filtration

Replace vacuum cleaners' accessories often for best performance. Bags need to be replaced every one to two months, while a new filter is needed every three to six months. Washable filters should be replaced too, as they may begin to lose effectiveness after a couple of washes. For great vacuum performance, use Arm & Hammer vacuum bags and filters to capture allergens, dust and pet hair from surfaces while safely and naturally absorbing odors.

In addition, make sure to replace HVAC filters for better efficiency and higher quality air filtration.

Clean appliances

Appliances share one rule: Never, ever let spills or splatters linger. Whether it's on the stove, in the microwave or in the refrigerator, the longer deposits remain, the harder they are to clean. Keeping these appliances clean will mean that a deeper scrubbing is only needed occasionally.

* Refrigerators - Twice a year, pull out the refrigerator to clean behind and under it. Mop the floor and use a vacuum to remove dust from the coils in back. This will decrease the stress put on the motor and can prolong the life of the refrigerator. Use soapy water to clean shelves, and a damp cloth to remove fingerprints from the front or sides.

* Dishwashers - About once a month, check and clean the drain and wipe down the door seals and spray arm.

* Oven - Embrace the self-cleaning option on the oven to do the heavy lifting whenever it's needed. Wipe down the inside of the door and creases to ensure there aren't crumbs accumulating. Soak burners, knobs, racks and hood vents twice a year to keep them free of grime.

* Microwave - Clean the rotating microwave plate weekly in the dishwasher. When needed, put a bowl of water with lemons in the microwave and run it for three minutes, then let stand for five minutes before wiping down the inside.

* Washing machine - Always wipe out the machine to ensure there is no water left sitting in it. For a deeper clean, run the washer with bleach in the dispenser, pause the machine and let the bleach mixture settle for an hour, then complete the cycle before wiping it out.

* Coffee maker - Hand wash the filter tray, exposed areas and crevices weekly, and run water with a bit of vinegar through - without coffee - to clean the inner mechanisms.

* Safety first - Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are in the home to keep families safe - but they need new batteries to ensure equipment is working as it should. Every six months, change the batteries in all smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms, and make sure fire extinguishers are still in place and not expired.

Arm & Hammer bags and filters are available at Walmart and Walmart.com.



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6 home cleaning tips for pet owners

(BPT) - Having a pet may seem like the beginning of a never-ending mess, but the key to living with furry friends is preparation. Whether combating odor, keeping surfaces free of dirt and fur or removing pesky stains, taking preventative measures and using the right products can turn any mess into a simple task.

Stop dirt at the door

The weather can't be controlled, but it is possible to keep dirt and debris outside. Keep pet wipes at the door to clean paws and stop mud in its tracks. Look for an all-natural product that will not only capture dirt, but moisturize paw pads and fur at the same time. Thinking ahead and stopping pets from bringing in dirt creates fewer cleanups.

Capture fur from furniture

Pets love sitting on the sofa - and leaving hair behind. To keep furniture fur-free, use the Electrolux Ergorapido PetCare cordless 2-in-1 stick and handheld vacuum. This new tool has an innovative upholstery nozzle, making it easy to keep furniture looking fashionable, not furry.

Fight odors easily

Beyond furniture, fur finds its way to floors and every other surface of the home. Every pet owner knows that frequent vacuuming is a must. To optimize vacuum performance, vacuum bags should be replaced every month or two, and filters should be replaced every three to six months. Arm & Hammer Pet Fresh bags and filters help capture pet dander and allergens, while safely and naturally neutralizing offensive smells.

Keep clothes clean

Clearing furniture and floors of pet hair is a start, but clothes also attract fur that can stick with pet owners long after leaving the house. Homeowners should keep lint rollers by the door to quickly remove pet fur from clothing on their way out the door. Guests also will appreciate the opportunity to remove pet fur that may have accumulated during their visit.

Save woodwork

Protect valuable home items and woodwork from tooth and claw marks by taking preventative measures to deter animals. Furniture-safe products like bitter-tasting sprays will not only stop pets in the act, but also keep them away from areas where they aren't allowed. If pets do leave marks on woodwork, look for nontoxic wood fillers to mend scratches and gashes.

Stop stains

Say goodbye to unsightly carpet stains and lingering odors by opting for strong, pet-friendly products that will leave homes looking like new. Arm & Hammer Pet Fresh Dry Carpet Cleaner neutralizes pet odors and breaks down stains. Arm & Hammer Carpet and Upholstery Cleaner has baking soda and powerful stain fighters and is safe for use in all deep-cleaning machines.

By taking preventative measures and using pet-safe products, humans and their four-legged companions can be perfect cohabitants.

Arm & Hammer Pet Fresh products are available at Walmart and Walmart.com.



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5 pro tips for a hassle-free Christmas tree

(BPT) - Decking the halls for Christmas takes a lot of effort and planning. Whether you're the type to go all in or opt for a minimalist approach, there's nothing like a Christmas tree to create a festive focal point in any room.

As beautiful as they are, though, Christmas trees, both fresh and artificial, do come with their fair share of headaches. Bare branches, rambunctious pets and untangling cords all add stress to your busy holidays. This year, try these solutions to common tree hassles so you can focus on the magic of the season.

Problem 1: The tree is looking bare

Artificial trees are super convenient and look great, but after being put away and crushed in a storage box, their branches can look less than stellar. When it's time for setup, plan on taking extra time to carefully shape and fluff the individual branches to make it look as full as possible. If gaps and bare spots remain, fill these in with boughs of artificial greenery or a roll of pine garland.

Problem 2: Keeping it watered

If you have a fresh tree, you want to avoid a floor full of needles and bare branches when it's time to open gifts. But crawling around with a watering can in this awkward space is no fun, especially with the mounds of gifts and sharp-needled boughs getting in your way. To make this task easier, get creative. Try a short length of PVC pipe and a funnel. There are many questionable folk remedies floating that are supposed to preserve your Christmas tree (like adding aspirin, sugar or vinegar to the water), but according to the National Christmas Tree Association, all it really needs is its trunk submerged in fresh water.

Problem 3: Naughty 'elves' that can wreak havoc

On Christmas morning, you certainly don't want a sprawled-out tree marring the festivities, thanks to a cat attack! When there are pets or small children around, it's worth taking a couple of extra steps to secure the tree. Plywood bolted to the tree stand creates a wider base, making it much more difficult to topple. Just hide it away with a tree skirt. Then, attach a couple of fishing lines to the trunk and fasten the other ends to hooks on the wall to keep it standing tall.

Problem 4: Lack of a fresh-cut tree aroma

People love their artificial tree for the convenience, but they may miss that evocative, woodsy aroma from a real tree. Even real-tree diehards will admit the fresh scent tends to fade in a week or two. To create or maintain that fresh-cut smell, try ScentSicles Scented Ornaments in one of the six true-to-life fragrances. Whether tucked in a wreath or arranged in your tree, these scented ornaments are designed to release nose-pleasing scents like fir, pine and cinnamon for up to 30 days. Find them at your favorite retailer or order them online at https://www.scentsicles.com/products/for_trees.

Problem 5: Tangled lights and ornaments

Before you put everything away until the next holiday season, do yourself a favor and get organized. Plastic cups make a fabulous DIY option to keep ornaments safe and organized. To stash away your strings of lights without getting them tied up into knots, wind them around a rectangular piece of corrugated cardboard before you put them away. Tip: Save the container they came in and just wind the lights around the outside of the box.



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8 tips to prep your home for extreme winter...

(BPT) - As winter approaches, many cities in the U.S. have already started to experience the winter chill with temperatures below freezing and snow fall. But cold weather isn't exclusively a northern phenomenon as the majority of the country experiences extreme temperatures at some point during the winter months. Remember in January 2014 when all 50 states logged below-freezing temperatures on the same day?

Cold weather can wreak havoc on your home and your comfort if you are not well prepared. That's why it's important to prepare your home for winter and take extra precautions for when the temperatures drop, no matter where you live.

Here are some tips that can help protect your house and comfort this winter:

* Install a smart thermostat. You may not always be home when you learn of a coming cold snap or hear that temperatures have plummeted. Using an app on your smartphone, a smart thermostat can allow you to make adjustments to your home's temperature from anywhere, which means you can always come home to a toasty warm house.

* Seal windows and doors. Check weather stripping around windows and doors. If you find worn, cracked or inadequate sealing, replace it. Sealing around windows and doors helps prevent heat loss in the winter.

* Prep your pipes. Below freezing temperatures can cause water pipes to crack or burst. Insulate any water pipes that are exposed, winterize outdoor faucets and turn off the water to your home if you plan to be away for a prolonged period of time.

* Make sure your heat source measures up. Older, traditional HVAC systems can struggle to keep your home comfortable when temperatures dip below freezing. Consider installing LGRED-enabled HVAC technology to your home. LG's Reliable to Extreme Degrees (RED) heating and cooling systems can be installed in a wide variety of climates, including places that experience extremely low temperatures. They provide 100 percent heating capacity down to 5 degrees Fahrenheit, and continue to heat reliably even when the outside temperature is as low as -13 degrees.

* Take care of your roof. Inspect your roof and repair any damaged shingles before winter storms arrive. Be sure gutters are clean to help prevent an ice dam and trim any tree branches that could fall on your home if they break under heavy snow and ice.

* Tackle inside germs. Extreme temperatures often force us indoors for long periods of times. With the LG PuriCare Air Purifier, you can leave your home feeling fresh and clean while sterilization removes floating viruses and germs.

* Add insulation. The Insulation Institute estimates 90 percent of American homes have less than the minimum recommended insulation. Check out the U.S. Department of Energy's home insulation guidelines to see if you need to add more in your home. Having adequate insulation ensures your home efficiently retains heat and keeps the cold out.

* Gather emergency supplies. Extreme weather could leave you without power or unable to leave your home to get supplies or help. Keep a well-stocked emergency kit, complete with bottled water, non-perishable food, extra blankets, a battery-operated or hand-crank radio (for weather report updates), a battery or solar light source, and a solar charging device that can be used to power your smartphone. If you have a wood-burning fireplace for supplemental heat, be sure to have a supply of dry firewood on hand in case of a power outage.

Extreme weather can happen anywhere; in 2014, even Hawaii recorded a below-freezing temperature of 21 degrees. When it comes to home comfort and keeping your family warm during the winter, it's a good idea to prepare for what is to come!



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5 budget-friendly master bathroom upgrades...

(BPT) - What does your bathroom mean to you? Is it an oasis, a place to unwind, relax and let the cares of the day simply melt away? Or is it just another room in your house?

If your answer is the latter, then your bathroom isn't doing everything it could. The good news is, getting your space there doesn't have to break your bank or signal a months-long remodeling process. The truth is there are plenty of unique, invigorating ways for you to reinvent your bathroom space - some of which you can tackle yourself, and all of which can be budget friendly.

So if you're ready to turn your master bathroom from a simple location to a desired destination, do so with any or all of these five projects.

* Repainting in your image. When it comes to affordable projects that redefine the look of a room, it's hard to beat a fresh coat of paint. Changing the color of your bathroom changes the entire appearance, and if you're ready to strap on some clothes you don't mind destroying, there's no reason you can't tackle this project yourself. Pick a color that matches your tastes and your space and your bathroom will take on a whole new feel.

* Get soaking. Remember all that talk about the oasis? It really starts with the tub. The Sterling Lawson Oval Bath offers beautiful style at an affordable price with soaking and whirlpool models. The bath can be situated to fit nearly any bathroom layout, and with a headrest and lumbar support included, as well as six jets featuring variable control, the Lawson oval bath is your perfect getaway that doesn't require you to actually get away.

* Fix up the fixtures. A brand-new tub completely redefines your bathroom, and if you want to bring the rest of your bathroom up-to-date as well, replacing your existing fixtures with new models is an easy way to do it. From towel racks to faucets and shower hardware, new fixtures are an effective way to show your sense of style and bring cohesion to your space while capitalizing on the latest technology.

* Finish the flooring. Your new bathroom deserves to look good from top to bottom. Pick a flooring style that speaks to you, spoil yourself with heated floors and rest easy knowing you'll never have to grout again.

* Shed a whole new light. There is perhaps no room where lighting is more important than the bathroom. If your current bathroom feels more like a cave than spa, it's time for a major lighting overhaul. Modern fixtures allow you to use fewer bulbs more efficiently, and installing a dimmer switch gives you the bright light when you need it without blinding yourself in the morning. Lastly, this is a great time to replace all of your old bulbs with energy-efficient options. They'll last as much as 25 times longer, and replacing your most often-used bulbs can save you as much as $75 per year on your energy bill.

Start improving your bathroom today

Many people see their bathroom as a functional space in their home when it has the potential to be so much more. Apply any or all of the tips above and you'll turn your bathroom from a functional space to the oasis you've always wanted.



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Infuse life into the bath for a spa-like oasis

(BPT) - Today, more than ever, homeowners gravitate toward design elements that transform the bath into a spa-like oasis. Designers look to incorporate pieces inspired by the natural world to bring renewed energy into the room and create a soothing environment. From fixtures inspired by booming waterfalls, to neutral color schemes and natural light, nature infuses life back into luxury bath design for a serene sense of calm.

Neutral calm

Light colors such as cool grays and muted blues evoke tranquility and peacefulness. Neutral colors for walls and fabrics create a soothing aesthetic that fosters relaxation in the space. To create visual interest within a neutral palette, incorporate varying shades of earth tones to serve as complementary accents throughout the room - from decorative rugs and plush towels to cabinetry and tiling.

Nature's inspiration

Elements inspired by nature work together to produce a sense of relaxation in the home's oasis. Intuitive in design, the Vettis Bath Collection by Brizo combines solid proportions and angular architecture with an optional four-sided open chamber that mimics the sensory experience of a waterfall. Inspired by the strength found in nature, the defined edges of the spout create a balanced aesthetic, while subtle facets offer visual depth. Paired with natural stone accents, this collection evokes elements of natural inspiration.

Stone serenity

A freestanding stone tub makes a luxurious statement to enhance the spa atmosphere. Sleek, oval architectures provide an organic contemporary touch, while rectangular basins deliver a strong geometric focal point. Take the spa-like experience even further and incorporate the use of essential oils. Lavender and chamomile reduce stress and encourage sleep, while peppermint and lemon oils increase focus and mental alertness in the morning. From modern to transitional aesthetics, a freestanding, natural stone tub paired with the sensory infusion of essential oils creates the perfect at-home getaway.

Living accents

Natural lighting and live plants blur the line between the great outdoors and the enclosed space. Large floor-to-ceiling windows and skylights serve as eye-catching accents while also naturally illuminating the room. Hanging succulents and potted bamboo plants are additional decor options to bring nature indoors without sacrificing clean, simple design.



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Save energy and money this holiday season

(BPT) - The holidays are a wonderful time of year to gather and celebrate with family and friends. This time of year is also when expenses can soar, especially your utility bills. Thankfully, Chip Wade, HGTV(R) expert, has some advice on how you can save energy, and, ultimately, money, this holiday season:

* Holiday lighting: By choosing ENERGY STAR certified decorative light strings, you will be using 75 percent less energy than conventional incandescent light strands. Want to save more energy? Use a timer for your lights to control when they will turn on and off.

* Prevent heat loss: Find and seal air leaks in your home. 'Areas around windows and doors are often culprits for allowing heat to escape,' says Wade. Use caulking or weatherstripping to seal these leaks and keep the heat inside your home.

* Water heating: Did you know you can control the temperature of your water heater? Most households only require water heater thermostats to be set at 120 F, which is lower than what the temperature is typically set at. By lowering your water heating temperature, you're not only reducing energy but also preventing water from becoming dangerously hot.

* Adjust the temperature: Hosting a holiday gathering this year? Consider turning the thermostat down. 'More people in your home means an increase in your home's temperature,' says Wade. 'To accommodate for this, I turn my thermostat five to ten degrees lower than normal before guests arrive, so that they are comfortable.' Also, if you're traveling for the holidays, it's good to keep in mind that programmable thermostats like the YORK(R) Affinity(TM) Hx(TM) Touch-screen Thermostat can take care of temperature adjustments for you while you're away. YORK's free downloadable app allows you to control the thermostat from your smartphone, no matter where you travel.

* Maintain your heating system: Be sure to schedule regular service appointments with your local technician to keep your heating and cooling system running properly. Also, set a calendar reminder to replace your air filters once a month to maintain proper airflow.

* Choose a high-efficiency furnace: With the first day of winter on the horizon, save energy heating your home by choosing a high-efficiency furnace. 'Always consider a furnace's annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) rating,' says Wade. 'The higher the AFUE, the more efficient the furnace and the greater the amount of heat it delivers for your money. Look for models with AFUE of 90 percent or higher, like a YORK(R) Affinity(TM) gas furnace.'

There are a number of ways to save energy and money this holiday season, especially regarding how you heat your home. Being informed can allow you to not only properly choose the right heating system for your home, but also understand the importance of maintaining it for maximized efficiency. Visit www.YORK.com to learn more about residential heating and cooling, and to find a local YORK(R) contractor. You can also follow the company on YouTube, Instagram and Facebook @yorkhomecomfort and @YORKHVAC on Twitter.



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5 steps for a successful holiday gathering

(BPT) - The holiday season is about spending quality time with family and friends. Many people will host gatherings and parties during this time of year. Keep stress levels at an all-time low by taking some seamless shortcuts to pull off a get together of any size - whether a football watch party, gift exchange or even a low-key movie night with friends.

1. Prep your home. Before everyone arrives, double-check your home for the things that you won't want to bother with when you're having fun catching up with friends and family. Did you put out an extra roll of toilet paper and extra hand towels in the bathroom? Did you lower the thermostat to account for extra bodies? Did you empty the trash and recycling? Your partying self will thank you later.

2. Create simple, festive décor. Swap traditional, expensive floral centerpieces for festive, affordable table decorations, using pinecones, faux cranberries and greenery like pine or eucalyptus. Simply place a few lanterns along the center of the table and surround them with fresh greenery, cranberries and pinecones. You can even add a little bit of sparkle by adding glittery candles, ornaments or ribbons!

3. Serve unexpectedly delicious snacks. Offer guests a variety of interesting snacks, rather than a four-course meal. Easy-to-prep egg rolls, wontons, potstickers and crab Rangoon from Pagoda(R) Snacks made with fresh-cut veggies and from-scratch wrappers are an unexpectedly delicious option. Available in a variety of flavors, these hot snacks bring a crave-worthy crunch to gatherings. And let's be honest, these crispy bites are light years beyond the standard fare of chips and crackers.

4. Drink and be merry. Consider the food you're serving and pair it with complementary drinks. A custom cocktail pairing plus a selection of the traditional favorites will ensure everyone gets what they prefer and has the opportunity to try something new. Try an Asian Pear Mojito or sake cocktail, which go great with Pagoda Snacks.

5. Game on. Whether you have a room full of adults or kids, games are a great way to break the ice and encourage guests to start mingling. Most people have played Spoons, and a simple way to make it into a holiday game is to swap spoons for candy canes. All you need is a deck of cards, candy canes and willing participants. Bonus if you wrap up a mystery gift for the winner.

Now that you've learned the steps for success, it's time to plan a holiday party of you own. Follow these tips and your guests will surely be impressed.

To learn more about Pagoda Snacks and to find a store near you, visit PagodaSnacks.com.



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Entertaining tips: Worry-free ways to clean...

(BPT) - For many of us, this is the best time of the year to spend with friends, family and lots of food. The weather has turned colder, the clocks have shifted back and we're ready to invite guests over to eat, laugh and make new memories for the new year.

Let's face it, because you spend more time indoors this time of year, you're also probably a bit more anxious when it comes to keeping the house tidy and making sure you're keeping yourself and your guests healthy. So, what's the best approach to cleaning up before your get-together starts? You've likely heard this before, but it's true: Clean only what your guests see. There's no need to push all your furniture into the middle of the room to clean your baseboards or grab those dust bunnies from underneath the china cabinet. Of course, you want the guest bathroom to be shipshape, as well as a few of the following areas, before guests arrive.

Home is where the oven is: Most people like to mingle in the kitchen (hello bacon-wrapped dates!), so you want it to smell like all your wonderful food, not harsh chemicals. While you might be tempted to clean every inch of the kitchen, keep it simple and remember to clean as you go, especially during food prep. From raw cookie dough to chicken wings, you want to be careful not to cross-contaminate surfaces, so disinfect and clean those food-prep areas often, including cutting boards. (Use a product like PURELL(R) Multi Surface Disinfectant, which contains no harsh chemicals, to keep those counters and prep stations worry-free.) Don't let those dirty mixing bowls pile up, either. Rinse as soon as you can and load them into the dishwasher.

The hangouts: After the kitchen, you probably know where your guests will gravitate. Maybe the kids hit the basement or rec room and sports fans huddle in the family room around the TV. Vacuuming and dusting are a must, and put away all the non-essential items. Place anything you don't need into your laundry basket and stash it in the laundry room.

So many things to touch: Now think about all those hands touching surfaces like doorknobs, remotes, toys or playpens, especially if you have little ones crawling about or you're expecting lots of toddlers. No one wants to be sick, especially when there is fun to be had. To prevent the spread of germs, disinfect those often-touched items and surfaces with PURELL(R) Multi Surface Disinfectant, which not only kills 99.99 percent of germs on hard surfaces, but also sanitizes soft surfaces and other areas in the house where you normally wouldn't use traditional products.

Runny noses: For every hostess gift or side dish people bring, you should also expect some sniffles and sneezes. Keep your guests comfortable by putting out some boxes of tissues and an alcohol-based hand sanitizer in key areas, like near the buffet line and next to the tissue box.

A little elbow grease and some targeted cleaning should leave you plenty of time for the really important stuff: cooking, eating and enjoying time with your loved ones.



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That '70s home: 5 trends making a comeback today

(BPT) - Disco may be dead, but the spirit of the 1970s is not. In homes all across the country, people are adding their own splash of '70s style in updated, modern ways.

Here are five current top decorating trends that have an unmistakable '70s flair.

* More macramé, please. From dip dyed wall hangings to simple plant hangers, macramé is coming back in a big way. Whether you purchase these items already made or you enroll in a class to make them yourself, macramé offers an easy way to add texture and an artistic touch to your home.

* Groovy colors. The blazing orange walls of the '70s may not be back anytime soon, but homeowners are again using more dynamic colors to define the insides of their home. In fact, Sherwin-Williams has named a bold, jewel-toned blue-green color, Oceanside SW 6496, as its 2018 color of the year. 'This trendy color is perfect for a '70s palette,' said Sue Wadden, director of color marketing at Sherwin-Williams. 'The complex collision of deep blue and green in this color is somewhat grounding for more vibrant colors in a '70s-inspired palette. You can use large doses of it on the walls and then add brighter pops of color with orange or green a la Sherwin-Williams Amber Wave SW 6657 or Avocado SW 2861 on throw pillows and blankets.'

* A shagadelic rug. Yes, shag is more than an Austin Powers euphemism. It's also a resurgent design trend. Homeowners frequently purchase these cozy rugs for children's areas like nurseries and playrooms. Whether sheepskin or conventional textiles, a shag rug is something you'll go out of your way to walk across.

* Wicker man … and furniture. A staple in sun porches for generations, wicker furniture is making a big comeback this year, from headboards and chairs to mirror frames. Available in a wide array of colors and shades, wicker can be used to create the perfect centerpiece in your bedroom, living room or, yes, even your porch.

* Green living … literally. In the 1970s, people believed that there was no such thing as too many plants in their home. This affection for indoor greenery is back, and homeowners have revitalized confidence in their green thumbs. From large potted plants in the corner to hanging basket plants, green living is in and people are loving the opportunity to create an urban oasis of their own.

Bring a little '70s to your home today

From fresh colors and plants to wicker and wool, the '70s are back this year, and this modernized trend is defining homes across the country. Now is the time to experiment, so swing down to your local paint or furniture store and find the perfect '70s accent that fits your style.



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Coasting while hosting: 5 ways to keep your...

(BPT) - Many of us are already looking forward to hosting holiday gatherings this year - decorating our homes, whipping up festive foods, planning fun activities and surrounding ourselves with the warmth of family and friends.

In fact, one recent survey found 67 percent of U.S. consumers host and prepare food for holiday events, while another predicts we'll be spending an average $172 on such entertaining this season. As enjoyable as hosting is, however, the preparations can be time consuming. In a survey by Wakefield Research for BJ's Wholesale Club this year, 26 percent of U.S. respondents reported needing at least 24 hours to prepare for a holiday party. And trying to pull everything together can add pressure when we have copious other demands on our time.

'Our routines are interrupted by travel, guests, parties and the holidays themselves,' notes physician Dr. Spencer Blackman in Entrepreneur. 'If you're entertaining friends and family or organizing a work party, it takes upstream work to ensure a smooth event. Engage your support system and make a plan before things get crazy.'

Consider these host-with-the-most suggestions for keeping the joy of the season no matter how large your impending event - and for making sure it's more fun than frantic.

* Santa knows who's on the nice list. You may be head elf, but there's no reason to take on every bit of the cooking, cleaning and entertaining yourself. Recruit a secondary elf squad ahead of time, assigning specific tasks so the work is parceled out evenly. Note: Youngsters needing gift-buying money may be motivated to take on the more grueling chores.

* Visions of sugarplums. Plan your menu ahead. When you know way ahead of time what you'll be serving, most food items and utensils can be purchased in advance - and in volume - so you'll have plenty to offer even if your guest list spikes unexpectedly. The last thing you want is to run out; of the 65 percent of Americans who told Wakefield they've been at parties that went awry, 28 percent pointed to a shortage of eating utensils and 27 percent were disappointed the food ran out early. BJ's Wholesale Club has everything you need to stock up for your party - at incredible value.

* Reindeer games? Check. Do the parents (and everyone else) at your gathering a favor by anticipating how your youngest party attendees will spend their time. Can you put together a kid-friendly craft, Lego, board game or cookie decorating table? Build a blanket fort? Set up age-appropriate video games? Rent movies? Stage a snowman-building contest? Put up port-a-cribs and baby swings for the nappers?

* Haul out the holly. Fifty-six percent of Americans see decor as more impactful on holiday spirit than food, according to Wakefield. You can always go all out on decorations if that's your thing, but the most striking ones are often the simplest. Hang multiple strands of sparkling lights, add a fire to the fireplace, light sweet-smelling candles and generously place fresh red-ribboned pine boughs on mantles, around doorways and banisters and in containers. Nearly instant magic.

* Mix and a-mingle. All too often, we're so busy making everything perfect for our guests we don't have time to join in the fun ourselves. The more you plan ahead to have your food, drinks and entertainment all planned out before guests arrive, the greater your chances of being able to relax and enjoy your own festivities.

The key to being a great host is to prepare enough so you're not hopelessly frazzled by the time guests arrive. Plan ahead this year so you can appreciate the joy of entertaining and create stellar holiday memories for all who attend. It may be the perfect ending of a perfect day.

Let BJ's Wholesale Club partner with you in providing all the fresh and frozen grocery items you need for your holiday soiree, in addition to decor, kitchen supplies and a cornucopia of gift ideas.



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6 tips to make your bathroom sellable, and...

(BPT) - When it comes time to sell your home, not all rooms are created equal. Sure, potential buyers will walk through the entire house, but their opinion of a few primary rooms can ultimately determine whether they choose to offer or walk.

Your bathroom(s) - especially your master bathroom - are among these key rooms. As you prepare to put your home on the market, it's time to take an honest look at these spaces. What do the bathrooms say about your house? Do they say "buy me now" or "no thanks"? If it's the latter, then it's time for a few home improvements that will turn the sale of your house from stale to sold.

A sound investment?

Yes, it is. In fact, bathroom remodeling projects are some of the most cost-effective improvements you can make to a home, according to HGTV. A minor bathroom remodel has an average return on investment of 102 percent at the point of sale. A major remodel returns 93 percent of your investment. That means your newly upgraded bathroom will actually help sell your home for more money in the long run.

So what are you waiting for? Improve your bathroom today with these six tips below.

* Replace that old flooring. Carpet and tiny tile flooring - offering two different looks and feels - are both similarly outdated when it comes to bathroom decor. Alternately, hardwood floors can add a more current, upgraded touch and can be achieved with water- and stain-resistant ceramic tile that looks like hardwood. This delivers a distinctively modern look in a medium ideal for the humid bathroom environment.

* A new look for a familiar soak. Nothing conveys the comfort of an extraordinary bathroom like a luxurious soak in the tub. To set your bathroom, and your home, apart from the competition, replace your existing tub with the Studio Fold Over Edge tub from American Standard. This tub uniquely allows for a custom finish to the front apron to match wall tile and décor, creating a handsomely coordinated room. Plus, the tub's spacious bathing well and extra lumbar support mean relaxation and enjoyment for you before the sale.

* Shed a new light. Proper lighting is essential in any bathroom and up-to-date light fixtures are a great way to increase the wow factor for potential buyers. If your bathroom currently displays the outdated style of exposed bulb fixtures, try replacing them with contemporary wall sconce lights to create a look that is sure to draw your visitors' attention.

* Find a first-rate faucet. Even a perfectly functional bathroom can be discredited by potential buyers if it showcases dated brass faucets and accents. If your space is guilty, try replacing the existing faucet with an American Standard Patience bath sink faucet. Offered in widespread or single handle models, these classically chic styles allow for easy operation by all users in the home. Plus, the choice of popular polished chrome or brushed nickel finishes provides a high-style look to entice home buyers, while delivering a water-efficient performance.

* Sink that old sink. Those rounded-edge Formica sinks had their share of the limelight, but now their time has passed. Today's modern bathrooms have become edgier, especially when it comes to sinks. Straight-edge designs, made from natural stone, quartz or contemporary solid surface material, are popular sink solutions today. Replacing your old sink with a newer style helps ensure your bathroom isn't left behind. Home buyers notice sinks, and this is one project you should tackle for higher return when you sell.

* Shower your bathroom with a new upgrade. Your showering experience should be as customizable as it is enjoyable. The GROHE SmartControl thermostatic trim offers intuitive, push-and-turn button operation for water temperature and flow rate control, all in a sleek, low-profile design. Available in both round and square styles, in stylish chrome, brushed nickel or white finishes, it's the shower system you'll enjoy every morning - and so will your home's next owners.

Start your bathroom project today

The bathroom is one of the most important rooms in your home for potential buyers. It can also be one of the most enjoyable rooms while you're still in your home. Make these upgrades to your bathroom so that you can relish these improvements, as well as entice buyers when it comes time to sell.



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Top 5 features millennials look for in a home

(BPT) - For generations, homeownership has been part of the American dream. For most Americans, it's the largest, most significant investment they'll make, and because homeownership is the best way to grow their wealth, the most important investment as well.

As the youngest generation of new homeowners, millennials are entering the housing market and are eager to get a home to fit their unique lifestyles. Just as every generation has its own music, its distinct style and look, the new generation of homeowners has different expectations than buyers did a few decades ago. To shed some light on these evolving home trends, here are five of the most popular features millennials look for in a home.

1. It needs to be energy efficient. More than other generations, millennials are particularly concerned with their impact on the environment. As such, they want to be sure the home they buy will have a minimal carbon footprint. Some energy-efficient features that are a priority for homebuyers are UV-protected windows, programmable thermostats, efficient appliances and upgraded insulation.

2. It needs to be customized to their tastes. It's not enough to find a home that is merely 'livable'; millennials want a house that is an outward and inward expression of who they are. Translation: The one-size-fits-all model is no longer sufficient. This is one reason manufactured and modular homes from Clayton Homes have become so popular. They offer diverse floor plans with a number of customizable options to suit individuals' needs and unique styles. There are even built-in home features for pets!

3. Rethinking space usage. The era of buying a house as big as you can afford is on the way out. Many millennials are forgoing the extra bedrooms and enormous living rooms. These homebuyers prefer smarter ways to utilize space for their family's needs, while keeping a cozy and intimate atmosphere.

4. Open floor plan. In a world where everyone seems to be plugged into their phones and staring at their individual screens, the open floor plan has emerged as a way for families and guests to come together and share the same space. Basically, the fewer walls between the kitchen, dining room and living room, the better. This floor plan also aids homeowners with their entertaining needs and provides more natural light, which is very big for this young generation.

5. A room for a home office. The millennial workforce is a mobile workforce, and just as this generation is transforming the home market, it is also transforming the workplace. Millions of Americans work from home, and many more are often given the option to work a day or two a week from home. With this shift, many potential homeowners want to be sure there is a suitable workspace for an office.

With evolving needs and different tastes, many millennials worry that they will spend a lot of time searching for that one, perfect dream home. At Clayton Homes, we provide a range of green, energy-efficient home models that can be customized with a range of affordable options. From the kitchens to outdoor living areas and multifunctional spaces, millennials and everyone else can find the choices that will allow them to tailor their home and their living space to suit their lifestyle.



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Survey: Messy garages stand in the way of...

(BPT) - Americans would love more time to pursue hobbies they're passionate about, and time-drains like disorganized garages are a big obstacle to doing the activities they enjoy, according to a new survey conducted by Gladiator and Kelton Global.

Eighty-four percent of Americans surveyed would like more time for their passions, and nearly 40 percent said a lack of time was standing in the way, the study found. Instead of partaking in hobbies like adventure sports, arts, reading, music and gardening, Americans are spending more time running errands (41 percent) and even catching up on much-needed rest (44 percent).

Americans' passions

Hobbies aren't just for fun in the minds of most Americans, the survey found. In fact, respondents say their passions help them maintain happiness and relieve stress. Fifty-nine percent say engaging in their favorite activities is a stress-reliever for them. What's more, many feel their hobbies help define who they are; 24 percent of adventure seekers associate their hobbies with their self-identity.

What's getting in the way

While a lack of time is a significant obstacle to Americans' pursuit of their passions, it's not the only one. According to survey respondents, other factors standing in the way include:

* Not having enough money (49 percent)

* Other priorities, such as family (39 percent)

* Work obligations (23 percent)

* Resting (44 percent)

* Cleaning and organizing their home (34 percent)

Sacrificing for passions

When it comes to finding more time to pursue their passions, Americans are willing to go to great lengths. More than a third of the working Americans surveyed leave work early to engage in hobbies, and 27 percent would take a sick day.

Survey respondents say if they could have more time for their hobbies, they also would be willing to:

* Sacrifice an hour of sleep every night for a month (25 percent)

* Give up coffee for a month (25 percent)

* Get a tattoo (15 percent)

* Wear something silly in public (17 percent)

* Spend an extra half hour per day stuck in traffic (11 percent)

* Give up their cell phones for a month (12 percent)

Solutions instead of sacrifice

Many Americans understand disorganization can cut into time they would like to spend on other pursuits, including their hobbies. Of course, the gear, supplies and equipment needed for hobbies like outdoor sports, electronics and arts and crafts often get stored in garages. Getting help with garage organization could free up time for Americans to do the things they really love.

Gladiator recently launched nine new GearTrack(R) Packs designed to make it easier for Americans to organize all the accoutrements that they need to pursue their passions. Building off the original GearTrack(R) Pack, each custom kit features a unique set of hooks, baskets and storage spaces designed to accommodate items for different activities such as gardening, bicycling, basketball, football, baseball, sports bags and golf gear. Visit GladiatorGarageWorks.com to learn more.

Study was conducted by Kelton Global, a leading global insights research firm, between April 12-16, 2017 among 3,127 Americans ages 18+ with a margin of error of +/- 1.8.



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4 DIY projects to improve the visual appeal of...

(BPT) - If you love a good DIY project, then the beautiful weather of the spring and summer marked the perfect time to tackle all of your outdoor goals. Yes, these were the good times, but since then, the weather has shifted and cooler temperatures have arrived. So, is now the time to shelve your DIY aspirations for the rest of the year?

Hardly.

Colder outdoor temperatures may have forced you indoors, but they don't have to mark an end to your DIY pursuits. There is still plenty of work to be done and you can reinvent the rooms inside your home by following through on the simple DIY projects listed below.

* Make a hardware replacement. Want to remodel your kitchen or bathroom but lack the money and the skill to tackle this one right now? Not a problem. Simple hardware replacements to your cabinets, drawers and towel racks are easy projects that are cost effective and still catch visitors' eyes. Remember, knobs are preferable for drawers, while handles are the choice for cabinets. Try to select hardware that supports the overall feel of your space.

* Choose an image that defines you. Forgo paint and let your walls really take the spotlight. A custom wall covering from Murals Your Way adds personality and creates an instant focal point in any space. Choose from thousands of image options or if none feel quite right, use their Create Your Own feature. It allows you to upload any image you want (think a vista from your last vacation, or even a photo of your family) for an extra personal touch. With a turnaround time of less than two weeks and easy removable wallpaper options that any DIY-er can apply, it's the perfect way to give your home a completely new look.

* Shed a new, enhanced light. Like your kitchen or bathroom fixtures, updating the lighting in a room is an easy, inexpensive way to make a big improvement in your space. The right light can make any space feel warmer and look larger, so explore your creative side and find the lighting solution that appeals to you. Lastly, don't discount the importance of the bulb. Replacing your existing conventional bulbs with an energy-saving alternative can dramatically reduce your electricity bill.

* Decorate from head to toe. If you want your home to feel larger and provide your guests more visual appeal, employ decoration tactics that speak to the entire space. Shelving, wall murals or photo collages are all popular ways to add real contrast to an empty space, and your guests will enjoy every aspect of the project you have created.

Your time during the warmer months was well spent dramatically improving the visual appeal of your home's exterior. Now it's time to turn the tables and give your inside space the same treatment. Start with these four tips and your home will never look or feel the same again.



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Home cleaning routines for allergy relief

(BPT) - Many people turn to nasal sprays and antihistamines to combat seasonal nasal allergies or hay fever, but keeping the home clean to combat allergens, pollen and dust mite debris is just as important in the fight against allergies.

Vacuum often, and with the right filters and bags

One key to minimizing allergens at home is to vacuum at least twice per week. Start by using attachments to clean surfaces up high, working down to the floor. Make sure to vacuum curtains and upholstery as well as hard surfaces, and pay extra attention to entryways and areas around windows.

It's also important to select vacuum accessories that have been designed specifically to capture allergens. Arm & Hammer Premium Allergen vacuum bags are specially designed of synthetic material to capture even more allergens, dust and pet hair from the home's surfaces. In addition, the brand's HEPA filters trap particles 75 times smaller than a human hair, including 99.97 percent of dust mite debris, animal dander, molds and pollen.

Frequently replacing vacuum bags and filters will keep vacuums running smoothly to keep a clean home happening. New bags are needed every one to two months, and filters should be replaced every three to six months. Don't be fooled by washable filters as they too should be replaced - after one or two washes they may become less effective at capturing dust and allergens.

Wash bedding with hot water

Vacuuming high and low can help with surfaces, but bedding also should be a focus when attempting to allergen-proof the home. Sheets, blankets and comforters all attract dust mites in even the cleanest environments. Wash bedding once a week in hot water to keep allergens at bay. It's also smart to consider protective covers for mattresses and pillows to stop dust mites from getting in too deep.

Keep air dry

Too much moisture in the air can help dust mites thrive, and may also lead to mold. Using a dehumidifier, especially in humid climates or summer months, can help control the spread of mold and dust mites.

Minimize indoor plants

While plants can be a great way to build ambiance in the home, some indoor plants can amplify allergy symptoms by releasing spores and other allergens into the air. For those with a green thumb who can't live without plants at home, make sure to research the plants that are least likely to increase pollen or mold exposure indoors.

Keep the outdoors out

While it is hard to control exposure to pollen and other triggers when outside, those with allergies can avoid bringing pollen into the house with them. Keep shoes and jackets limited to the entryway or mudroom, and shower and wash hair before bedtime to stop the spread of pollen.

There is a range of Arm & Hammer bag and filter styles made to fit nearly all brands and models of vacuum cleaners, sold at Wal-Mart stores and www.walmart.com.



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Top tips for selecting unique decor gifts for...

(BPT) - As you strive for a happy holiday, do all your gift ideas seem ho-hum at best?

It's a common holiday conundrum: You want to show all your friends and family that you care, but finding the right present seems impossible. If you feel stuck, look for gifts that will enhance the home, because there is truly something for every personality. Skip the candle and coaster set and instead check out these unique, personal items that add fun and flair to any home, big or small.

Aquariums: Traditional rectangular aquariums are bulky and cumbersome, but now there are stunning new tabletop options perfect for everyone on your list. The biOrb TUBE 15 aquarium is designed to give a 360-degree view and features multi-color LED lighting with remote control for an eye-catching way to enjoy fishkeeping. The TUBE 15 is also a low-maintenance gift given its 5-step filtration that maintains a clean, healthy aquatic environment to achieve ideal pH balance. Enjoy the dazzling sight of bubbling water and an impressive light show all year long.

Decorative pillows and throws: Winter is the perfect time to cozy up at home, but that tattered old blanket just won't do. You can encourage friends and family to get some much-needed R&R by gifting them new pillows and a fluffy throw blanket. Fun pillows are available in unique designs that feature different pictures, words or phrases, so it's easy to find something just right for that someone special. Add a coordinating throw blanket and get ready to cuddle through all of winter's chilliest nights.

Restored photographs: Going for tears of joy? One home decor gift that will tug at the heartstrings is framed photography. A nice portrait is always a great gift option, but this year surprise your loved ones by finding old photography and getting it restored. That photo of Grandpa fishing or of all your aunts as children is sure to bring back memories. Place in a nice frame and it is guaranteed to be an unforgettable gift that will be proudly displayed for years to come.

Personalized signs: One of the year's most popular decorating trends is custom signage. Often made from wood, these signs are painted or carved with your preferred message. That means it can be customized to suit even the most difficult people to shop for. Popular verbiage on a custom sign includes the family surname with an "established" date. You could also include a literary phrase or personal mantra that your loved one enjoys. Because the message is personalized, you can make it perfect for everyone on your list.

Himalayan salt lamps: When the holiday festivities are over, it's time to settle in and deal with Old Man Winter until springtime arrives. The soft glow of salt lamps brings a warmth to rooms on the dreariest days. Made from large pieces of salt, these lamps have an almost rock-like quality with veins of white, pink and peach throughout. Some people claim they also help maintain good indoor air quality and help with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). No matter what, they are a happy addition to any room: bedroom, office or living room.

The person who has everything? Check. The hard-to-shop-for teen? Check. The newlywed couple settling into their home? Check. Home decor gifts are great for everyone on your holiday gift list, and best yet, they won't be like anything else your loved ones receive, making your gift memorable and truly cherished.



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Increase kitchen efficiency with ease

(BPT) - As the holiday season approaches and the calendar begins to populate, it's important not to allow the stress of entertaining large groups to become a burden. Below are four tips to help organize a kitchen and host with ease, creating a functional space for family and friends to enjoy.

Plan in advance

Set aside time early in the week to plan the menu, from simple appetizers to the main entree. Grocery shopping apps, like AnyList, allow the whole family to share and build lists together - which can help avoid any last-minute trips to the grocery store. Also, try to identify dishes that can be prepared in advance so more time can be spent away from the kitchen when guests arrive.

Maximize storage and counter space

Optimize counter space by designing small stations for easy access to the necessities. A coffee bar 'nook' complete with Keurig cups and mugs can help kick-start a busy day. Storage near the fridge should be stocked with foil and containers, ideal for packing up leftovers after a large party. Reserve the island counter for meal prep and the cabinets below for serving ware and glassware storage.

Keep all staples in arm's reach

Cooking can be made simple by organizing the essentials. Keep similar tools together, such as bakeware and cookie sheets in one drawer, and pantry staples in another. Spices and herbs should be alphabetized and stored near the stovetop to effortlessly add flavor. For those with design in mind, opt for open shelves to showcase dishes and small kitchen accessories, such as succulents and cookbooks, while keeping everything within reach.

Simplify kitchen cleanup

Cleaning is often the most time-intensive chore in the kitchen, but if designed right, can be a breeze for home entertainers and kids alike. The Delta Foundry Kitchen Faucet complete with ShieldSpray Technology, available at the Home Depot, offers laser-like precision to contain splatter, meaning less soaking, scrubbing and shirt swapping.



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Tips for setting the perfect holiday table

(BPT) - Every holiday season, you invest hours planning and preparing the perfect menu for each celebration you host. While easy and fun may be the name of the game for buffet-style events, when it's a sit-down soiree, the delightful cuisine you produce deserves a presentation worthy of your efforts. A beautifully set table can elevate your holiday dinner from just great to simply perfect.

'Table-setting is an art form anyone can learn to execute beautifully,' says Mary Bernardo, director of product development at Princess House, a leading provider of unique and exclusive cookware, food storage and home and entertainment products. 'Simple touches like elegant holiday plates, colorful linens and an eye-catching centerpiece ensure a holiday table looks as inviting as the food smells.'

Bernardo and the table decor experts at Princess House offer these tips for creating a beautiful holiday dinner table:

Layers look lovely

Tablecloths, placemats, table runners and chargers not only help protect your table from spills and scrapes, but they also create a lovely backdrop for dishes, glasses, stemware and - of course - the food. Layering these items adds depth and interest to the tabletop.

Consider starting off with a simple white or red tablecloth, and then add either placemats in seasonal patterns or a festive runner. If chargers take up too much room on the table (or too much of your holiday budget), you can layer dinner and lunch plates to create the same effect. For example, place a Pavillion Berry Dinner Plate from Princess House beneath a Poinsettia Lunch Plate. The solid deep red of the dinner plate is the perfect complement to the elegant creamy background and poinsettia pattern of the lunch plate.

Keep dishware seasonal and simple

'It's been said simplicity is the soul of elegance, and that's certainly true when you're setting a holiday dinner table,' Bernardo says.

Choose dishes with a basic white or cream background accented with a traditional holiday motif. Flatware should also be simple; if your everyday collection is in good condition, feel free to use it for your holiday celebrations. If you don't have enough pieces, supplement with basic flatware that's free of embellishment or heavy designs. Glassware should also be simple and, whenever possible, multi-functional. For example, stemless wine glasses can be used for soft drinks and water, as well as wine.

Add seasonal accents

Even the simplest table setting can feel festive when you add holiday-specific touches, like napkin rings in jewel green or red, a centerpiece filled with evergreen or holly and twinkling candles.

For a centerpiece that's festive and practical, consider using your favorite holiday serving bowl, such as a crystal bowl, for the foundation. Then add holiday decor items, like mini Christmas packages, your favorite Christmas tree decorations or a pillar candle in a holiday hue like red, green or snow white. Top with a few sprigs of evergreen, holly or fresh flowers and you have an easy, elegant DIY centerpiece.

Finally, don't overlook the opportunity to extend the table's festive atmosphere to the chairs as well. You can add to their elegance by adding simple decoration such as a mini-holiday wreath strung on a piece of ribbon and looped over the back of the chair.

'The dinner table is where holiday magic occurs,' Bernardo says. 'With a few special touches, you can set a holiday table that's perfect for the festive and welcoming spirit of the season.'

Want to find more holiday decor and inspiration for the table? Visit www.princesshouse.com.



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The sound of silence: How to design a quiet...

(BPT) - In today's increasingly digital world, it's no surprise that more employees are opting to work from home. While there may be a shift of physical locations - from the office building to the home - productivity is still paramount, making the need for quiet home workspaces more important than ever.

'As urbanization continues, builders and developers are focused on optimizing available land, which results in more homes, apartments and condos built near highways and airports,' says Mark Montgomery, vice president of marketing for leading window manufacturer Ply Gem Windows. 'The convergence of telecommuting and higher noise levels means there's a growing need to enhance homeowner comfort with noise reduction technology.'

If your workspace needs a sound makeover, consider the following tips. For even more information on home improvement solutions, check out websites like www.plygem.com.

Think from the outside in

Everyday sounds like traffic, trains, leaf blowers, music, barking dogs or car alarms may go unnoticed on the weekends, but can easily interrupt conference calls and concentration during the busy workweek.

To cut down on outside noise, look for windows with Sound Transmission Class (STC) rating. A typical single hung window unit without sound control glass has an average STC rating of 27. Sound control glass packages, on window lines like Ply Gem's 1500 Brickmould Vinyl Collection, have ratings of up to STC 35. This reduces outside noise by approximately 40 percent when compared to single hung window units with no protection.

'STC glass packages may not be necessary for every window in the home, but should be considered for the rooms where the reduction of unwanted noise is most important - like the home office and bedrooms,' advises Montgomery.

As an added bonus, according to the Department of Energy, new windows will boost curb appeal, reduce maintenance and can significantly improve your home's energy efficiency.

Insulate the interior … and the exterior

If your home office space shares a paper-thin wall with, for instance, a loud family room television, adding batt wall insulation for new homes, or blown-in insulation for existing homes, will help blanket sounds and temper vibrations.

For homes that face busy roadways, insulated vinyl siding is another solution. Look for options made with a premium, recycled-content vinyl siding panel permanently bonded with polystyrene (EPS) foam insulation. This wraps the home with continuous insulation to cover the entire exterior envelope - including wall studs where air and sound can penetrate.

Another quick fix for insulating the home office is to install a solid core wood or molded interior door. Many standard interior doors are hollow, which means that sounds pass through more easily. Solid core doors, which are thicker than hollow doors, act as a noise blocker. Once installed, make sure to surround the door with weather-stripping to fill any holes or gaps.

By keeping these tips in mind, you'll be well on your way to creating a quiet home office retreat and defending your workspace from unwanted interruptions.



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Home smart home: Boost your home IQ with smart...

(BPT) - If you think a Jetsons-like home of the future is still a ways off, think again. Today's smart home is here offering simple ways for consumers to operate their home, adding the ultimate in efficiency, convenience and enjoyment. It's easier than you think to create a connected home that lets you operate devices throughout your kitchen, living room, laundry room and more - and you can do it all from the palm of your hand or with simple voice commands. In fact, some of your appliances might already be able to help you cook, clean and entertain in ways never thought possible.

Here are five things smart appliances can do to make your life easier right now:

1. Serve as your sous chef

Too many cooks in the kitchen spoil the broth, but one extra helper sure could make the food prep a lot easier. Consider the SmartThinQ app for LG appliances your sous chef and use it to tackle all those extra jobs that come with meal preparation.

It can preheat the oven at a designated time - perfect for when you're sitting in traffic and need to have dinner ready in a pinch. Plus, it can download recipes and let you monitor the remaining cooking time from your phone - letting you enjoy time with your family without worrying about a burnt meal.

2. Help with housework

If you have a load of laundry in your LG TWINWash with SideKick, your phone can provide cycle status updates and alert you when the cycle is complete, helping to avoid forgotten laundry in your washer. Plus, you can even start or stop the cycle remotely when you're out of the house.

3. Speed clean your home

Cleaning the oven may be one of the most mundane and dreaded tasks. Now with your smartphone you can easily start your oven's EasyClean cycle from the palm of your hand, ensuring one of cleanup's most difficult jobs is done while you're off enjoying life's other adventures.

You can also use the app to start your robotic vacuum on your way home from work for a quick refresh or when you forget the in-laws are coming over for dinner.

4. Help you entertain effortlessly

Hosting a party or even a casual group of guests heightens the need to clean, but let's be honest, there's always a chore or two around the house that you run out of time to tackle. Your smart home can help save the day. While tackling another chore, simply use your smartphone app to tell your refrigerator to make more ice to save you a trip to the store. Or turn on your air purifier to rid the house of cooking smells or seasonal allergy culprits. Likewise, a quick touch of your phone allows you to control air conditioners in your home to set your place to the perfect temperature or adjust the temperature as guests come and go.

5. Remember your preferences

Do you ever wish your appliances knew what you were thinking? The more you use your smart appliances, the smarter they get by remembering usage habits and data to better anticipate your needs.

Home smart home

Gone are the days of wondering if you left the oven on when you leave the house or constantly checking on the laundry. Chores may be a mainstay, but with new ways to control your home, you no longer have to tackle them all on your own. Each of the examples above presents an opportunity for you to get more from your house with the touch of a button. And for added convenience, many of the latest smart appliances can also be controlled from other devices, like Google Home or Amazon Alexa. So let your touch or your voice be heard and get the most out of your appliances as efficiently as possible. You'll be glad you did.



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America's finest: 6 luxury home improvement...

(BPT) - Peruse any home improvement media and you may get the impression you just can't build, renovate or decorate a quality home without relying on foreign-made products like granite from Italy for countertops, cherry hardwood flooring from Brazil or textiles from India. However, you don't have to sacrifice quality and luxury in order to buy American for your home; some of the finest home decor products originate right here in the U.S.

Here are six of America's finest domestically made products for the home:

ANN SACKS - Every tile in the company's 14 MADE by ANN SACKS collections is handcrafted and produced in its Portland, Oregon, headquarters. Founded in 1981 by Ann Sacks, the company's tile and stone products in unique patterns, shapes, sizes and glazes are favorites of homeowners and interior designers seeking top-quality luxury and beauty for their home designs. In addition to a repertoire of standard tiles, the company also has partnered with famous designers to create innovative luxury lines. They even create custom designs to help homeowners achieve a truly one-of-kind look in their homes.

The company is also a pioneer in another aspect of American culture: the focus on sustainable business practices. The company recycles all excess raw clay, uses only lead-free glazes, filters production waste water and uses only recycled and recyclable packaging for shipping products.

Stickley - Founded in 1900 by the Stickley brothers, the luxury furniture brand continues to conduct all its manufacturing in its Manlius, New York, factory. Their furniture is known for its beautiful wood construction, durability and meticulous attention to details.

Robern - Rooted in the belief that 'your everyday routine should never feel ordinary,' Robern has been making innovative medicine cabinets, bathroom mirrors, vanities and lighting since 1968. From smart medicine cabinets with features like touch-dimmable task lighting, magnetic storage and integrated USB outlets to wall mirrors with lights, audio and defogging capabilities, all products are still made in Bristol, Pennsylvania.

Bloomsburg Carpet - Founded in 1976 to produce quality, luxurious carpet, Bloomsburg Carpet weaves all its carpets in Pennsylvania's Susquehanna Valley. Third-generation weavers produce Axminster, Velvet and Wilton carpets under one roof. The company weaves with raw, sustainable fibers that it describes as 'ecologically friendly and readily renewable.'

Viking - Founded in 1987, Viking produces professional-quality ranges and refrigerators at four manufacturing facilities in Leflore County, Mississippi. The company's products are favorites of both professionals and home chefs.

Thomasville Bedding Company - The company that began over 40 years ago in a one-room building now occupies 36,000 square feet of factory and showroom space in Thomasville, Georgia. In addition to offering a wide selection of mattress styles, the company is also one of the few remaining bedding makers who will manufacture a custom set to fit any size bed.

You don't have to sacrifice the pride of buying American to find the luxury, quality and customization you desire for your home decor. Purchasing quality American-made products is an investment that can deliver high returns in beauty, durability and satisfaction.



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5 DIY home upgrades anyone can do in a day

(BPT) - (BPT) - Do-it-yourself home projects are sweeping the nation, and it's easy to see why. DIY is typically budget-friendly and fulfilling to complete; simply find the right project to match your skill set and needs.

To get started, here are five inexpensive projects that can by tackled by any DIYer, each of which will have an impact on the entire home.

* Make a hardware swap. Replacing your kitchen cabinets changes the entire look of your kitchen - but it's expensive and requires considerable skill. For a simpler, smaller project that can still have a big impact, replace the hardware on your cabinets instead. Select the hardware type first - knobs for doors and pulls for drawers, for example - then move on to style. Crisp, sleek hardware goes best with a modern kitchen, while more detailed offerings work well with classic, traditional kitchens.

* Refresh your space with a fresh coat of paint. Repainting a wall or room is the perfect way to showcase your style, without breaking the bank. The Unity palette from Sherwin-Williams® 2018 Colormix Forecast offers unique color choices that pair together perfectly, making it easy for homeowners to create a cohesive look in their space. Try going bold with pops of peacock on an accent wall, such as Sherwin-Williams 2018 Color of the Year, Oceanside SW 6496, or you use the palette's grounded browns to put a new spin on traditional hues. It's easy to recreate a space that reflects who you are, without making expensive renovations.

* Illuminate a simple change. It doesn't always take a huge change to reinvent a room; it can be as easy as changing the light fixture. You could choose to repaint your existing chandelier, or you could give your ceiling fan a new look by replacing the blades. If you're on the crafty side, try making your own shade for an existing lamp with some of your favorite fabric.

* Invite people to your gallery. Can't decide on the one perfect image for your wall? Then why not go for several? Gallery walls are a great way to show your favorite prints and photos artistically. Pick the wall and apply a fresh coat of paint before building your gallery - after all, this wall will now be part of the exhibit. Once the wall is ready, pick your photos or prints and set them in frames you love. Now the fun part lay your works of art on an open floor space and rearrange them until you find the perfect layout. Once you've found it, grab your hammer and nails and bring your gallery wall to life.

* Bring a new vibe to your existing furniture. If a chair or love seat is starting to show its age, reupholstering it is a great way to give the piece fresh life. Remove the current fabric and replace it with new fabric of your choosing. Apply staples or stitching to hold the new fabric in place, and that old piece of furniture will have a distinctive new look.



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Shedding new light: 8 surprising facts that...

(BPT) - You step into a dark room, turn on the light switch and go about your day without giving it another thought.

But here's the thing - you should.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the average American home has approximately 50 light sockets, and most of those still contain inefficient light bulbs. These bulbs spend 90 percent of the energy they use creating heat around the bulb and only the remaining 10 percent providing any real, actual light. This is just one surprising fact about your lighting you may never have considered. To get you thinking about your lights in a whole new way, here are eight more surprising lighting facts.

* Small costs, big savings for you. An ENERGY STAR-certified LED light bulb will cost you about $2 in most parts of the country. In some areas it may be possible to buy such a bulb for $1, thanks to utility rebates. Yet over the course of its lifetime, a 15,000-hour bulb will save you around $80 compared to the cost of using a 43-watt halogen-incandescent bulb over the same time.

* Big savings for the country as a whole. If every American replaced their existing bulbs with energy-efficient solutions, the country would save $6 billion per year in lighting expenses.

* Same options in an energy-efficient offering. LED bulbs that have earned the ENERGY STAR look and act just like the conventional bulbs you are used to. They turn on instantly and provide quality light all around. Most are also designed to dim, and some even get warmer as they do so. There are even LED solutions designed to match the look of trendy vintage-style bulbs so you can have the look you want without wasted energy expenses.

* Look for the ENERGY STAR seal. The government-backed ENERGY STAR label is a 'seal of approval' ensuring that the certified product saves energy, delivers on brightness and meets myriad other requirements proven by extensive testing and third-party certification. Select products bearing this seal and you'll attain your lighting and energy efficiency goals.

* A shifting trend. Since 2016, many major light bulb manufacturers and retailers have pledged to phase out CFL bulbs and utilize only LED lighting offerings. Now is the time to be ahead of the trend.

* Adoption across the map. LED adoption is happening at different rates across the U.S., but in most states, LED bulbs made up about 20 percent of sales in 2015-2016. In 2016, the following cities were leading in LED bulb sales: Minneapolis, Seattle, Oklahoma City, Tulsa, St. Louis, Richmond, Orlando, Hartford, New Haven, Milwaukee, Nashville and Phoenix.

* Finding the right solution for your home. Like conventional bulbs, there are specific LED solutions for every socket in your home. To find the right bulb for your space, remember the ABCs: Application, Brightness and Color. ENERGY STAR offers a guide that can help you choose the right bulb for your needs by analyzing each of these categories. You can find the guide at www.energystar.gov/choosealight.

* An ever-evolving market. Today LED lighting solutions are available in many options, but the potential for the future is nearly limitless. For example, many manufacturers are integrating microchips into LED bulbs, enabling them to be controlled remotely, to turn on and off, dim or operate based on a schedule or the occupancy of space. All of which will provide ease of use, reduced energy expense and the lighting consumers need.

Turning the lights on and off in a room is a simple decision, but one that has great implications you may not be aware of. Make the change in your home today to more energy-efficient LED bulbs and you'll feel better about your decision with every flick of the switch. To learn more, visit www.energystar.gov/bulbrevolution.



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Upping your laundry room's wow factor

(BPT) - Doing the laundry is no longer relegated to dark, musty basements where no one cares to go. Thanks to modern technology, great design and access to innovative ideas online, laundry rooms have moved upstairs and come into their own. In fact, laundry rooms today are right up there with dream kitchens and dream bathrooms - and the more style, function and 'wow factor,' the better.

'Laundry rooms are no longer just utilitarian,' said Anitra Mecadon, TV personality and award-winning interior designer. 'People want stylish, healthy environments where they can relax, multitask and have some fun while doing the laundry.'

Below are four ways Mecadon recommends to ramp up the wow factor, function and allure of your laundry room:

* High-tech appliances

When looking for washers and dryers today, there are more features than you can imagine. You should consider your needs and desires before starting your search - and we're talking about more than gas or electric, front- or top-loading, color, budget and space parameters. Today's 'smart' appliances offer custom wash cycles, wrinkle removal, steam cleaning, less noise, delayed start times, moisture sensors with allergen and sanitize cycles and more. There's even a machine that washes two separate loads with different setting options at the same time. And nearly every machine today is Energy Star-certified for energy efficiency.

* Loads of style

Laundry rooms today can be decorated to complement other rooms in your home - and Pinterest and Houzz offer loads of pictures online to spark your creativity. Laundry rooms can be country French to modern, whimsical to multifunctional - and it's not unusual to see them in bold or soothing colors, with comfy chairs, statement lighting, flat-screen TVs and docking stations to play music or charge tablets and phones. They also can include windows to let in natural light. If you think white and stainless are your only color options, think again. They can be turquoise, burnt orange, glacial blue, fire engine red, kelly green and even black stainless.

* Function galore

Washing and drying are only part of doing the laundry. There's sorting, folding, hanging and ironing - and each of those steps needs its own space, supplies and storage. Baskets for sorting and carrying laundry can be wicker, plastic or wood and stored for all to see or out of sight. Counters for folding can be granite, marble, quartz, butcher block or laminate, and many people put them over their washers and dryers as well as around the room. Drying racks made of ladders or upcycled cribs can be creative and functional. Ironing boards can be stand-alone, foldable and stored in cabinets or retractable and out of sight. Washers and dryers can be big or small, stacked or all in one - and even put on pedestals.

* High-performance drywall

When laundry was relegated to the basement, part of the dread of doing laundry was the thought of being surrounded by dampness, mold and mildew - sometimes from washing machine water hose failure causing mold to grow within the wall cavity. Because your washer and dryer introduce water, moisture and heat into the room, it's important to use drywall with extra protection for your laundry room walls and ceilings - such as moisture-, mold- and mildew-resistant PURPLE XP drywall by National Gypsum. PURPLE XP - which stands for "Xtra Protection" - products are GREENGUARD Gold Certified for indoor air quality, while aiding in the creation of healthier indoor environments.

'I love that prettier and more functional laundry rooms are becoming places people want to hang out and do laundry, but it's important to think about what's behind all that style and function - and that's their walls,' said Mecadon. 'Walls and what they're made of are important and they're not all the same.'

For more information, go to www.AskForPurple.com.



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Throw a holiday party like a professional

(BPT) - As much as holidays are about tradition, many have an insatiable drive to outdo the festivities of years past and make this holiday season the most memorable yet.

How can you outshine yourself this holiday season? The answer is simple: Think big. Don't be confined to the party supplies you have around your house; stretch out and rent equipment like professional party planners use.

Here are some ideas to jump-start your holiday party planning.

1. Serve your food the right way. Preparing a holiday meal is a labor of love, but even for small gatherings, it can be a real challenge to make sure that delicious food stays warm and is served at its optimal temperature. Renting chafing dishes for main courses and hors d'oeuvres can ensure that the temperature and flavor of your food stays just right and that those masterpieces you cook up taste better than ever.

2. Add some smoke, snow or bubbles. Whether you want to bring some snow to a Christmas party or some cool smoke and fog effects to ring in the new year, renting a snow or smoke machine can create a party atmosphere like none other.

3. Drink in style. To throw a truly stellar holiday party, there are some items you must have. On the top of many people's list is a full-service bar. If you don't have a built-in bar in your home or party venue, you're in luck. Why? Because you'll have more options to choose from when you decide to rent one. Whether it's an illuminated bar, modernist style or a classic stone-top design, renting a portable bar to fit your party is key.

4. Fountains of deliciousness. To really go all out, you need to think bigger. You need to plan as though you were throwing an A-list celebrity party. Renting a champagne or chocolate fountain is a sure way to do this. A perfect blend of luxury and deliciousness, a fountain will leave guests talking about that tumbling tower of liquid chocolate or bubbling champagne for years to come.

5. Focus on the details. For many holiday get-togethers, it's all about having the right plates and serving ware. For a reasonable price, you can easily rent fine china and exquisite glassware that will wow your guests. Best of all, you won't have to spend a fortune on items you only use a couple of times a year!

Visit www.RentalHQ.com for more holiday party ideas.



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Quick tips to prepare your home for holiday guests

(BPT) - As the holidays approach, the decorator in us gets excited about how to deck the halls and drape the tinsel to create a festive home for the season. Social media is full of inspiration, but before you embark on decorating projects, the following are a few easy ideas to ensure your home is as functional and welcoming as it is festive for family and friends.

'Tis the season to repair, repaint, refresh

A pristine paint job is the perfect backdrop for holiday entertaining. Throughout the year, the walls of your home take a lot of abuse, from kids banging their toys into the corners and chairs hitting the walls, to the nail holes and cracks that appear over time. To restore your walls to their former glory, fill in those dents, holes and cracks before you repaint with ALEX Plus Spackling, which delivers professional strength and durability when making repairs on a range of surfaces such as drywall, wood and metal. If you have troublesome reoccurring cracks that just won't go away, ALEX Flex Spackling is the perfect solution for a lasting, seamless repair. And for the ultimate professional finish, use ALEX Flex Premium Molding & Trim Sealant to fill gaps and cracks around interior window and door frames and along baseboards, chair rails and crown molding for a crack-proof, seamless finish. With your walls repaired and looking like new, you're now ready to paint and decorate for a fresh, updated look.

Create a safe, cozy area for fireside chats

A warm, roaring fire is a cozy centerpiece for after-dinner storytelling and catching up with family and friends. Whether your home is equipped with a gas or wood-burning fireplace, it is important to ensure the unit is in good working order. First, inspect the area and repair any damage to key pieces, such as the baffle, damper or mantle, that may have occurred during the year. Next, schedule a time for a thorough chimney sweeping to remove excess buildup of soot and creosote. A clean, maintained fireplace not only makes for a festive environment, but can also serve as an element to heat your home, reducing seasonal stress on your furnace.

Corral guest clutter in your main living areas

There's nothing like visiting with old friends or reconnecting with family members you haven't seen in a while. Of course, with the increased foot traffic in and out of your home comes the question of where to put your guests' belongings so they are out of the way and organized. If you have a coat closet, be sure to clean it out and make room for your guests by storing your coats in another room. You might also consider using an additional coat rack and strategically placing some festive decorative baskets for holding shoes and purses.

Create a kid-friendly space

If you plan on hosting friends and family members who have small children, take some time to kid-proof your home, particularly anywhere they are likely to play. Along with putting plug covers on all of the outlets, remove any common hazards young kids might get into. Secure electrical and window treatment cords, protect hard-edged furniture and put breakables out of reach. Once the groundwork for a safe, kid-friendly space is cleared, add toys, games, comfy pillows and more, so they're entertained and feel welcome.

Prepare the outdoors, too

When it comes to prepping for holiday guests, don't forget about high-traffic areas outside the home. Be sure to clear the walkways of any snow and ice and replace outdoor lights with fresh bulbs to help guests safely navigate their way to your home.

These quick and easy preparations will help you and your guests feel more at home, setting the stage for all to enjoy the festivities and fun of the season.



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Easy winter weatherproofing: Keep the chill out...

(BPT) - Households heating with natural gas, which is almost half of U.S. homes, are expected to spend an average of $635 on heating this winter - 22 percent more than last winter, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration - but some easy seasonal maintenance tips can make a big difference.

'There are several simple, inexpensive ways consumers can save money on utility bills this winter, and still stay warm and comfortable as temperatures begin to drop,' said Jill Murphy, a home heating and energy efficiency expert with Lennox Industries. 'By taking the initiative to weatherproof their home before the start of the cold-weather season, homeowners will be able to enjoy a warmer and more energy-efficient house.'

To help consumers combat high utility bills and achieve optimum indoor comfort this winter, Murphy and Lennox suggest a few easy tips for staying safe, dry and comfortable as the cold comes:

The attic. The attic is one of the biggest culprits when it comes to heat loss. Without adequate attic insulation, your heating system will have to work harder and will be less effective as it tries to maintain a warm temperature in the home. Statistics show that older homes, especially those built before 1980, often don't have enough insulation.

Windows and doors. Air leaks caused by cracks or holes around windows and doors can enable warm indoor air to escape and cold outside air to seep in, preventing you from maintaining a consistent indoor temperature. Murphy suggests sealing cracks with caulk or weather stripping.

Exterior walls. It's also important to look for cracks and holes around the perimeter of your home. To identify air leaks in outside-facing walls, try holding a candle near suspect areas to reveal drafts and then seal leaks with caulk or weather stripping.

Fireplace and chimney. To prevent warm indoor air from escaping the home, Murphy also reminds homeowners to keep fireplace dampers closed when not in use; however, always make sure the damper is fully opened before starting a fire. You also should inspect the chimney cap to ensure that the chimney won't have a smoke or water leak when you fire it up this winter.

Heating system. Keeping your heating system running efficiently is the most significant way to reduce utility bills and stay warm this winter. To reduce the potential for a breakdown in the middle of winter, Murphy recommends having your furnace inspected by certified technicians before old man winter arrives, and consider replacing a system that is more than 15 years old.

Programmable thermostats. To further maximize savings on your heating bills, Murphy recommends installing a smart thermostat, such as the Lennox iComfort E30, which works with Amazon Alexa smart home devices and is compatible with any brand of HVAC system.

The roof. The roof is your home's first defense against falling rain, ice and snow, so it's important to inspect it to make sure shingles are in place to prevent water from seeping inside the house. If large gaps are found, hire a professional roofing company to repair the problem areas.

By making a few minor adjustments around the house, homeowners can help alleviate safety concerns and reduce the amount of wasted energy, all while staying comfortable during the chilly season. To learn more about home energy efficiency and how to save money on utility bills, visit https://www.lennox.com or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Lennox.



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It's time: Signs your heating system needs a...

(BPT) - Temperatures are falling, pumpkin spice everything has reappeared and stores have already put out holiday displays - all signs that winter is either on the way, or already here, depending on where you live. If you haven't already had your heating system tuned up, now is the time.

Neglect is a top cause of heating system inefficiency and failure, according to ENERGYSTAR.gov. Proper maintenance can help ensure your system works as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible throughout the winter. Failing to care for your heating system now could leave you without heat or with hefty emergency repair bills if the system breaks down during very cold weather.

A tune-up is an inexpensive way to ensure heating equipment is operating properly, and provides peace of mind that no potentially harmful blockage exists in a flue or exhaust vent. While it's best to service a heating system before the cold weather arrives, it's also never too late to perform routine maintenance.

According to the home repair experts at HomeServe USA, a typical professional heating system tune-up will include:

* Inspect safety features and controls

* Check thermostats (including adjustment if needed)

* Inspect burners (with adjustments if necessary)

* Check and clean the pilot light

* Check and clean any gauges

* Flush low-water cutoff

* Inspect filters, belts, oil motors, pumps and condensate line (if applicable)

* Check the flue pipe and chimney draft

* Inspect and clean the blower assembly

A thorough tune-up before the heating season starts can help reduce the risk of a problem in the dead of winter, but you should still be aware of your system's performance. Symptoms that may warrant having a professional check the system include:

* The system takes a long time to warm the house after the furnace comes on.

* You hear unusual noises when the furnace turns on.

* You've noticed an unusual amount of dust coming from heating vents.

* The system cycles constantly.

* The burner flame is yellow or flickering. The flame should be blue in natural gas furnaces; a yellow flame means the unit is not burning efficiently and may even be producing harmful carbon monoxide.

* You notice your heating bills have increased more than you would reasonably expect given the temperature outside.

* You experience excessive moisture building up on windows, walls and other cold surfaces.

* You find visual evidence, such as streaks of soot around the furnace, rusting on flue pipes or pipe connections or the vent pipe visible from outside the home, or water leaking from the base of the chimney, vent or flue pipe.

If you act quickly at the first sign of a problem, you may be able to avoid a costly and potentially dangerous failure of your heating system. For more information about why you should schedule a tune-up, visit www.nationaltuneupday.com.

HomeServe offers home heating protection plans, including ones that cover tune-ups. A 24-hour repair hotline ensures plan holders can be connected with local, licensed and insured technicians 365 days a year. Visit www.HomeServeUSA.com to learn more.



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Barn doors go indoors: An ideal winter project

(BPT) - Known for their versatility, barn doors have been popping up in homes across the country - in contemporary and rustic designs. Read on to discover why adding a barn door is an ideal winter home-improvement project.

Transitions in open floor plans

As homeowners seek more open floor plans, interior doors are evolving. Barn doors meet homeowners' desire for fluid room flows by seamlessly connecting adjacent rooms, allowing the flexibility to close spaces off or join them.

'The rolling feature of barn doors creates a fresh look in any home,' says Brad Loveless, product development manager for Simpson Door Company. 'The functionality of a door mounted on a barn track allows homeowners to control the degree to which spaces are opened or closed.' Unlike conventional hinge-mounted doors, barn doors open previously divided rooms with an air of intentionality.

Showcasing style and personality

Like a distinctive piece of art in the home, the right interior door can showcase a homeowner's style and personality. An unexpected door style creates a great discussion point when entertaining friends and family. Is your home lacking a statement piece that inspires creativity and sparks conversation? You may find that a barn door is a simple solution to this problem with its eye-catching rolling feature.

Adaptable to changing style trends

Do you ever worry that the sweater you bought last week will be out of style in a year or two? Are you a trend skeptic since the bell-bottom era? (If those can go out of style, anything can, right?) These farmyard-meets-indoors statement pieces have actually been around for over a decade. Today you'll find barn doors with a modern, sleek look, rustic wood paneling or even made with a chalkboard.

Barn doors are available from several companies. For homeowners who like the look and feel of wood doors, Simpson Door Company offers rustic-style barn doors, as well as sleek, contemporary doors that can be mounted on barn track hardware.

Why now?

Adding a barn door while you're stuck inside for the cold months makes an immediate visual difference in your home and can provide a scenic backdrop for holiday photos.



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5 reasons to skip the stadium and watch the...

(BPT) - For many, fall is back-to-school season. It's the time for pumpkin-spiced coffee, decorative gourds, scarves and cardigans. But by far, the most exciting part of fall is when the sports world begins to heat up. As the football season kicks off, baseball playoffs begin and inevitably, one of our friends tells us about the great tickets they have to a game.

Whether you follow basketball, football, hockey or any other sport, hearing that someone has tickets to the game can make you wild with envy.

It shouldn't.

Simply put, you can have a much better time watching the game at home. Skeptical? These five reasons should convince you otherwise.

1. Better food and better everything. Would you rather sit on a hard chair like the one you sat in at elementary school and eat a soggy, $10 hot dog, or relax in a recliner and feast on a spread of dips, chips, snacks and barbecue? The answer is pretty obvious. Staying home is just more comfortable and enjoyable. Best of all, it's unlikely a stranger will spill their drink on you. Though that may depend on who you invite over!

2. You can get better-than-the-best seats. Even if you were friends with the owner and had no shortage of cash, you couldn't get closer to the action than with the proper television. There are many models out there with a lot of features, but the 2017 lineup of LG OLED TVs, from the LG OLED C7 up to the LG OLED SIGNATURE W7, is simply awe-inspiring. LG's proprietary OLED technology creates perfect blacks, offering over a billion rich colors that show up perfectly from any seat in the room. That makes every hit, goal and three-pointer come to life right before your eyes, like it never has before.

3. You're already there. Perhaps one of the worst parts of going to see a game is dealing with the traffic. With thousands of people all trying to get to the same place, traffic jams are inevitable and it's easy to get frustrated. Too often, this ordeal can spoil your mood before your team even begins to lose!

4. Why limit yourself to one game? At any given time, there are a lot of sports going on, and if you're a fan it can be maddening to decide what game to watch and which one to miss. The solution is to skip the stadium and record multiple games at once, or find a TV with a smart operating system that allows you to switch back and forth easily, such as LG's award-winning webOS Smart TV platform, which comes with LG's OLEDs and LG SUPER UHD TVs. With webOS you can record all the must-see games in gorgeous 4K quality and watch them when you want. Weekend sports binge? It's now possible, and far better than sitting in the nosebleed section and watching another game on your phone!

5. The weather is always right. Rain, snow or just cold temperatures might be alluring to some, but even the most hardcore of fans sometimes want to forgo the chills and discomfort and simply enjoy the game. And who can blame them? When you're comfortable, you get more out of the game.

Take advantage of the technology that's available! With a wide range of models of the best televisions available, LG Electronics USA is your ticket to the best season yet.



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Top tips to reap the fullest experience from...

(BPT) - With long nights and chilly temperatures, it's always good to find an excuse to stay home. Here's a classic excuse that's gone from lame to legitimate in a short time: I have to catch up on my favorite TV show.

So fix your favorite snack and pull up a sofa, because this fall, there are a ton of hot and critically acclaimed TV shows debuting and returning.

In fact, one projection says 2017 is on track to smash records. This year, as many as 500 original scripted shows have already aired and streamed, according to a report in AdWeek. That means there should be something for everyone, right?

Now’s the perfect time to check in with your set to make sure it’s up to the task of bringing you the best possible TV-watching experience.

Get cinematic: It’s not unheard of for TV shows to boast multi-million-dollar budgets that can cover elaborate costumes, locations, sets and stunning special effects that would rival any movie. If you’re looking for TV technology with the ability to accurately replicate the action and characters, consider investing in one of LG’s sets. Whether you look at their premium LG OLED TVs or one of their Super UHD TVs with Nano Cell Technology, you’re sure to get the most lifelike, advanced picture quality available.

Switch around with ease: If switching the TV display from cable to streaming is still a complicated feat that requires three remotes and a 10-minute training session that still befuddles your partner, it’s really time to update your entertainment station to something sleeker and more intuitive.

A smart set with a compatible remote can solve all these problems. For example, all of LG’s OLED and Super UHD sets come with its award-winning webOS Smart TV platform and Magic Remote, which makes flipping between content seamless and easy — all without stumbling into a screen of TV static. Plus, LG’s Magic Remote is voice-activated, making your life easier than ever before.

Get organized: Figuring out what to watch and when to catch it is half the battle. The last thing you want is a big let-down because your show happens to be on a bye week you didn’t know about. Shop around for an app that lets you manage your shows, so you know at a glance what’s coming up. Also, today’s sets come with a platform so you can keep and manage your information right where you're going to use it.

Start thinking about the series finale: When a favorite emerges, keep the season finale in the back of your mind. That’s a great reason to host an end-of-season viewing party, because plot twists and cliffhangers are so much sweeter when experienced with someone. Even if you have plenty of comfy seating to handle the crowd, make sure your TV set is suitable for screening at a wide angle. Many LCD sets have a narrow viewing range with the TV’s “sweet spot” limited to directly in front of the TV, which can mar the entire experience.

However, the superior technology of LG OLED sets pulls everyone into the drama with the widest viewing angles available, and with more than a billion rich colors and perfect blacks, your guests will only see a lifelike, high-contrast image wherever they sit. LG has the largest selection of OLED TVs on the market. If you're interested in learning more, visit lg.com/us/oled-tvs.



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Ready, set, guests: 3 paint projects for fall...

(BPT) - 'Despite the hectic chaos that comes with the back-to-school season and adapting our family schedules, I find fall to be the perfect time to tackle my home to-do list,' explains Cyndy Aldred, the do-it-yourself paint blogger behind The Creativity Exchange. 'It's perfect because fall is our favorite time of year for entertaining!'

With kids in school and summer travels winding down, fall can be the perfect time to complete quick projects to get your home ready for fall social gatherings. Whether you're gearing up for the big game or hosting next month's book club, Aldred offers her favorite paint projects that are sure to wow your guests.

* Add instant curb appeal with painted porch furniture

Aldred loves the tried-and-true trick of painting your front door, but she recommends adding an even bigger pop of color with painted furniture. For her front-porch makeover, Aldred painted her porch bench using PPG Timeless exterior paint and primer in a soothing, soft grey, Silver Reflection (50BG 54/017), and added decorative pillows to create a warm and welcoming entrance for a gathering of friends. With an open front porch, Aldred made sure to use PPG Timeless paint, available at The Home Depot, because it provides good resistance to chipping or flaking and extreme weather conditions. 'I found out that this new line of paint uses UV-Protect Technology, which uses the same technology as automotive paint, so it won't fade in sunlight or dull over time,' says Aldred.

* Declutter your home with color

Busy fall schedules often mean more school bags, homework, sports equipment, crafts and holiday decorations around the house. Aldred recommends quickly tackling a cluttered area of your home with a fresh paint job. For example, if you have bookcases in your family room or glass-faced cabinets in your kitchen, Aldred suggests painting the backs of them in a standout color, like the PPG Timeless 2018 Color of the Year, Deep Onyx (00NN 07/000). 'I love this trick because of how the eye is drawn to the color and not the clutter that might be around or behind it,' says Aldred.

* Transform your favorite gathering space with a fresh coat of paint

Kitchens, living rooms and dining rooms are often favorite gathering spaces for friends and family in the home, so they are ideal spaces to make a great impression with a fresh coat of paint. 'People always gravitate to our dining room when we are entertaining,' says Aldred, 'so I love to freshen the space each year with a new paint color. It's one of the least expensive and easiest ways to get a new look, and I love using a one-coat product to make it even easier.' Aldred recently used PPG Timeless interior paint and primer in Bluegrass White (30GG 73/048) to update her dining room. For an on-trend look, she went with a flat finish. 'Contrary to popular opinion, a flat finish in a high-traffic entertaining space is durable if you select the right product,' explains Aldred. With the paint's outstanding washability, scrubbability and stain resistance, Aldred was sure it could withstand the wear and tear of countless social gatherings.

Perhaps it is time to embrace fall with a few fresh paint projects to impress your guests and make lasting improvements to your home. For more paint inspiration, visit Diy.PPG.com or www.TheCreativityExchange.com.



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Is BPA a thing of Halloween nightmares?

(BPT) - Now that fall is underway and you're already growing tired of all the pumpkin-flavored treats, Halloween must not be too far away. That means it's time to head to the store to pick up the trendiest Halloween decor to guarantee a shocked response from trick-or-treaters. But before you do, have you considered what some of these products are made of? Chances are, some may be polycarbonate plastic made with a safe, common chemical known as BPA.

BPA is a building-block chemical used to make a certain kind of plastic known as polycarbonate, which has unique properties that make products like flashlights lightweight and durable. And its shatter-resistance makes it ideal for use in LED lights to illuminate your Halloween-scape to guide trick-or-treaters to your doorstep.

Before heading to the store, take a look at some of the common ways BPA is used to keep trick-or-treaters spooky and safe on Halloween night:

* Flashlights - For trick-or-treaters, flashlights are a must-have to avoid losing their way. Polycarbonate gives flashlights their strong, shatter-resistant outer casing so trick-or-treaters can spook their way through their neighborhood late into the evening.

* Halloween decorations - Every neighborhood has one house that spares no expense when decorating for holidays throughout the year. But did you know many of those decorations would not be possible without polycarbonate? It makes those spooky plastic tombstones and skeletons durable and shatter-resistant.

* LED lights - To keep your jack-o'-lanterns burning bright into the night, LED lights have become the lights of choice. Polycarbonate plastic allows LED lights to be more durable and energy efficient as well as transparent.

Products made with polycarbonate help keep trick-or-treaters safe on Halloween night, and using BPA to make the polycarbonate for these products is safe as well. BPA is one of the most widely studied chemicals in use today, and when it comes to BPA used in food contact materials, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) answered the question, 'Is BPA safe?' with a clear answer - 'Yes.'

With Halloween fast approaching, rest assured your trick-or-treater will have a safe and fun Halloween thanks to polycarbonate made from BPA - which isn't so spooky after all!



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Real vs artificial? Some facts to counter 3...

(BPT) - Here comes Santa Claus … and a sleigh full of confusion about Christmas trees. Better to buy real or better to buy artificial? Popular myths are that real trees are bad for the environment, artificial trees make more financial sense and real trees are just a hassle, but read on for some facts that will set the record straight and some thoughts that might turn your head on some of the more subjective sides of the debate.

If your No. 1 concern is the environment, your No. 1 choice should be a real tree. Growing, using and recycling real Christmas trees is good for the environment. Research shows that when compared on an annual basis, the artificial tree has three times more impacts on climate change and resource depletion than the natural tree. Real Christmas trees are biodegradable and can even be recycled or reused for mulch, and every year the circle of life continues. Artificial trees are petroleum-based products and most are imported from overseas. Many are thrown away seven to 10 years after they're purchased, and every year the landfills where they will stay (literally for centuries) get a little bit bigger.

Still don't like the idea of cutting down a tree? Remember that just like the Halloween pumpkin you carve with your kids or the fresh-cut flowers you buy for a loved one on special occasions, real Christmas trees are farmer-planted and hand-harvested specifically for people to enjoy. And, for every real Christmas tree harvested, a new tree is planted.

If it's your wallet that worries you, keep in mind that it's no surprise that artificial things frequently cost less than real things. True, not everyone agrees 'you get what you pay for,' but there's a second economic case to be made for buying a real Christmas tree: Real Christmas trees provide real business for real farmers. Fully 100 percent of real Christmas trees sold in the U.S. are grown in North America.

Every choice is a trade-off. What you gain with the ease of an artificial tree, you lose in the experience of a real tree. To be fair, this is subjective. But years from now, which do you think you'll remember more warmly: assembling a plastic tree you pulled out of the attic that looks exactly the same year after year, or bringing home and decorating a real tree that you enjoyed hunting for with your friends and family? Selecting a real Christmas tree makes memories. The hunt for a real Christmas tree can create an experience - everything from the scent to the search - that simply can't be manufactured and that no artificial tree can replace.

Ultimately, with all of the myths aside, a real Christmas tree is a choice you can be proud of. Whether you prefer to shop at a neighborhood store, local farm, seasonal lot or even online, there's a real Christmas tree available for everyone. For more information, visit Facebook.com/ItsChristmasKeepItReal.



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Prevent falls this fall with a home safety...

(BPT) - After months of sticky heat and humidity, it's time to put away the shorts and pull out the sweaters because the autumn season is finally here. But, late September brings us more than just cooler temperatures and a wardrobe change. If you or a loved one are over the age of 65, the change in seasons is also an opportunity to think about another kind of fall - the kind that impacts one in four older Americans every year - and the steps we can all take to help prevent them.

According to the National Council on Aging, falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and account for the majority of emergency room visits for older adults. More than 75 percent of falls happen in or around the house, but fortunately there are ways to evaluate our loved ones' homes and make them safer for everyday living.

Use the checklist below, based on suggestions from the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to help guide your review of the exterior and interior of the property. Many of the safety measures listed can be made at little to no cost, but more significant modifications could require a considerable investment.

Keep in mind, there are financial options available for seniors who want to modify their homes to meet their changing needs. Area Agencies on Aging, state and local governments, and some nonprofits offer grants, loans or other assistance programs for eligible seniors in need of home repairs and modifications.

Older homeowners may also want to consider using a reverse mortgage loan to convert a portion of their home's equity into cash proceeds that can be used for many reasons, including home modifications and maintenance. Unlike a home equity loan, a reverse mortgage requires no monthly principal or interest payments and cannot be frozen or reset.

Borrowers do not have to repay the loan balance until the last eligible spouse permanently leaves the home, or if they fail to meet their loan obligations, which include staying current on property taxes, insurance and any condominium or HOA fees.

For a comprehensive overview of reverse mortgage loans and a Borrower Roadmap to the loan process, visit http://www.reversemortgage.org/Your-Roadmap, a free consumer resource created by the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association.

Home Safety Checklist

Start on the outside:

* Make sure the driveway and any paved walkways are smooth and stable. Seal any cracks before more damage is created. Crumbling or uneven concrete surfaces should be repaired.

* Porch and deck flooring should be flat, even and nonslip. Any loose or broken floorboards should be nailed down or replaced.

* Outdoor steps should have sturdy, easily graspable handrails.

* The porch and entryway should be well-lit and light switches should be easily accessible.

* Consider whether the doorway to the home can be converted to a no-step entrance way. There are many creative ways to achieve this.

Check out the inside:

* Floors should be flat and nonslip; floorboards should be stable and carpets should be free of holes and tears that could create a tripping hazard.

* Throw rugs should be fully fastened to the floor with tacks or double-sided tape, or taken out of the house.

* All stairs and steps should be flat and even, and clutter should be removed.

* Add nonslip treads to stairs that are not carpeted.

* Stairways should have solidly mounted handrails on both sides of the steps if possible, and should be well-lit.

* If you or your loved ones face mobility challenges and stairs are an obstacle to accessing different levels of the home, consider installing a chairlift that will enable them to enjoy all the rooms in the house again.



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Bringing sustainability home is as easy as ABC

(BPT) - With 67 percent of consumers from across the globe preferring products from sustainable sources, according to a recent Nielsen survey, creating a more sustainable home is the new normal. From buying down and feather products to repairing leaky pipes, making your home more sustainable is as easy as the ABCs. Here are three small ways you can make a big difference (and spare your wallet) when it comes to the sustainability of our world:

A is for AUDIT

Do a home energy audit by checking your windows and doors for air leakage, and by checking your pipes - faucets, toilet flappers and valves - for any leaks.

Air leakage from windows and doors can impact your home's energy use. The United States Department of Energy claims sealing uncontrolled air leaks will save you 10 to 20 percent on your heating and cooling bills. Check your home for drafty windows and doors and discuss leak prevention options, such as weather strips and caulk, with your local hardware store.

Fixing leaky pipes can prevent gallons of water from being lost every day. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency states that tightening pipes and repairing leaks can prevent the average household from leaking 10,000 gallons of water per year. These types of leaks are often easy to fix, which can save homeowners about 10 percent on their water bills.

B is for BEDDING

Changing your bedding to down and feather can help reduce your heating bill. Down and feather pillows, comforters, duvets and mattress toppers provide superior warmth, which in turn lets you lower the thermostat. You can save as much as 10 percent on your heating bill, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, by lowering the thermostat by 10 to 15 degrees while you sleep.

Better yet, down and feathers are a natural byproduct of the food industry. So recycling them into warm comforters means the down and feathers do not end up in our global landfills. Since down and feathers are a natural fill material, they have a lower carbon footprint than products made from synthetic fill materials. They are biodegradable and can be composted along with your food scraps or yard trimmings. Not to mention down and feather products are long-lasting with a lightweight feel, so you don't have to replace them as often. For more information about the sustainable benefits of down and feather products, visit the American Down and Feather Council website at www.DownandFeatherCouncil.com.

C is for COMPOST

Composting is the practice of recycling decomposed organic material waste with manure to turn it into rich soil. By composting in your own backyard, nutrients are restored into the ground and less waste ends up in landfills, waterways and water treatment facilities. What's more: landfills cause organic waste to generate greenhouse gasses, so methane emissions are greatly reduced when waste is composted. This practice can also help you save money, since it allows you to purchase fewer soil conditioners and bagged manures for your property. By using down and feather, a byproduct of the food industry, along with creating your own compost by using vegetable scraps, you can make composting a core part of your lifestyle.

These simple steps make it easy to reduce the carbon footprint of your home, and contribute to the overall sustainability of our Earth. By following the ABCs and making these small changes in your everyday life, not only will you be doing something good for our planet, you'll be helping out your wallet as well!



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This fall, make home upgrades with staying power

(BPT) - Fall can be the perfect time for homeowners to complete projects that busy summer schedules didn't allow. It's also a great time to look at ways to add lasting value to your property. This season, upgrade cheap fixes, freshen dated looks and incorporate lasting improvements in your home. Changes that can bring impact and also increase the resale potential of your home include:

Lose the linoleum

Linoleum has been popular in many homes since the 1950s, but these days it's not the only flooring option for durability and waterproofing in areas like the kitchen and bath. Wood-look tile has become hugely popular, and the style isn't going anywhere. Retailers like Lumber Liquidators carry an array of wood-look porcelain tile, vinyl and engineered flooring products that are versatile, water- and stain-resistant and fit with any decor.

Upgrade laminate countertops

Particleboard and laminate are affordable options, but not ones that will create impact in the kitchen. These days the options are vast for elevating countertops with butcher block, quartz, marble, concrete and more. Create a cohesive look with countertops matched to the cabinets. Updating hardware can also be an economical way to freshen the space and tie the look together.

Scrape popcorn ceilings

Common in many homes because they're easy to apply, popcorn ceilings are often one of the first things a new homebuyer wants to change. If you're looking to sell, scraping the popcorn in favor of a smooth look may win over prospective buyers. Always test popcorn ceilings for asbestos before you start.

Rethink wallpaper

Wallpaper had its day, but many new homeowners want it gone - and that's not always an easy update. Save the headache now and later and opt for neutral paint styles while bringing interest and color with your décor. Whites and neutral paints for walls and trim brighten a space and make it appear bigger.

No more wall-to-wall carpeting

Many homeowners can't wait to get rid of old, dirty and dated carpets in favor of the quality, reliability and beauty of hardwood and wood-look floors. Now there are a variety of hardwoods, bamboo and wood-look flooring styles to choose from, and it's possible to achieve the look of hardwood at an accessible price point.

The best part of making improvements like these now is that homeowners can enjoy them all winter long, and far beyond. And you'll increase the odds the next generation will love your home, too.



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Artisanal elegance for curated design in the...

(BPT) - Original, handcrafted décor brings an artisanal elegance to today's modern kitchen. Designers and homeowners alike are incorporating more one-of-a-kind pieces that bring an individualized artisanship to the heart of the home. These unique fittings and fixtures adapt to multiple style preferences, from modern and contemporary urban design to rustic elegance. When it comes to the kitchen space, handmade furniture and accessories coupled with exposed natural materials infuse a sense of artistry for unmatched style.

Authentic elegance

Handcrafted materials make for eye-catching pieces in the kitchen. An island created from reclaimed wood transforms a functional aspect of the room into a beautiful piece of art. Live-edge countertops invigorate the wood grain and serve as a centerpiece for entertaining. A hammered copper sink paired with rich gold accessories doubles as a stunning complement to earth tones. Extend wood elements throughout the entire space with exposed beams and open shelving for a unified look.

Refined fittings

Deemed the jewel of the kitchen, the faucet serves as a focal point that brings all elements of the space together. The Litze Kitchen Collection by Brizo is inspired by the revival of the arts and crafts movement to meld artisan style with clean and contemporary sensibility. Every design element - from the three distinct spout configurations to the unique handle options - makes this collection feel at home in both modern, minimal environments and urban, industrial spaces. The Brilliance Luxe Gold and split Matte Black/Brilliance Luxe Gold finishes effortlessly bring luxury and style, while knurling details add textured appeal to any artisanal kitchen design.

Curated accents

Hand-painted accessories serve as beautiful statements in the kitchen with each piece containing a story as unique as the individual who created it. Whether decorated with bold colors or a muted palette, hand-painted accessories create striking displays of authenticity and originality. Use these pieces to adorn open shelves or feature them as table centerpieces to further accentuate a curated artisanal design.

Custom hardware

Custom drawer pulls and handles make a powerful statement in kitchen design. While seemingly small, these pieces unite all elements in the room's aesthetic. Handles wrapped in leather bring both textural and visual appeal, while hand-carved wooden pulls cater to rustic elements when paired with exposed brick or mineral gray countertops.



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Inspirational tips for autumn outdoor entertaining

(BPT) - The days are shorter, the temperatures are cooler and kids are back in school. You've said goodbye to summer socials, but that doesn't mean it's time to put away your apron and stow the patio furniture. Autumn is one of the best times of the year for outdoor entertaining, and with a few smart tips you'll fall in love with hosting fall gatherings.

Extend the fun feeling of summer entertaining into the autumn months by taking a few simple steps to create a memorable experience.

Switch up dishes: The cool dishes of summer should be swapped with savory recipes that feature hearty ingredients. A roast or slow-cooker meal is the perfect option. Visit the farmers market and feature local fresh harvest foods. In addition to standard drinks like water and soda, offer a signature warm beverage, such as spicy hot apple cider.

Enjoy the night: Autumn evenings are spectacular, with cool temperatures and star-studded skies. Serve dinner al fresco and then ask guests to stay to gather around the bonfire to roast marshmallows and make s'mores. Add an element of entertainment and guests will enjoy themselves all night.

Make movie magic: To really wow guests, host an outdoor movie experience day or night. The LG ProBeam smart TV laser projector has an HD picture of up to 120 inches with impressive visibility, sharp contrast and rich blacks, even when there is abundant ambient light. Plus, with the award-winning webOS Smart TV platform, you can stream your favorite services just like on a smart TV, creating a seamless viewing (and hosting) experience.

Set up superior sound: Whether you're setting the mood with some music or enhancing the movie-viewing experience, a high-quality speaker makes entertaining easy. The LG LOUDR FH6 is a 600W Bluetooth speaker system that can fill your room (or backyard) with booming audio. Plus, with the Karaoke Creator feature, you can suppress the vocal frequencies of any song to turn it into a karaoke track, which is sure to be a hit with kids and adults alike.

Mind the weather: Fall weather can change drastically throughout a day. Encourage guests to dress in layers so that attire for daylight fun can transition into warmer wear for evening hours. What's more, keep a couple extra jackets on hand just in case people forget and need a light coat.

Create a cozy atmosphere: Whether you're watching a movie, star gazing or sitting around the bonfire, help guests stay warm by setting out a variety of throw blankets and outdoor pillows. Nothing encourages guests to cozy up and stay longer than a big blanket, a fun flick and a mug of something warm.

Light the night: Cloudy days or early evening hours don't have to ruin your good time. Add a soft glow and an element of safety by adding string lights to railings and pathways. For kids attending the party, bracelet and necklace glow lights are always a big hit. For bonfire and movie spaces, add a basket of flashlights guests can use as needed.

Perfect parting gifts: If you decide to offer favors when guests depart, embrace the fall feeling and consider goodies they can savor later while reminiscing about your party. Mini apple or pumpkin pies are cute and creative. Caramel apples are a tasty autumn delight. A container featuring a variety of tea will keep them warm all season long.

Once you try autumn entertaining it might become your favorite time of year to host friends and family. With these tips, everyone is guaranteed to have a splendid time.



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Tricks of the trade: How to maximize your...

(BPT) - Considering a kitchen renovation but not sure how to get the most out of your space and budget? Expert tips can help you focus your plans so you get the kitchen of your dreams for less money and less stress.

"Redesigning your kitchen is a big investment," says A-list designer Nate Berkus, Artistic Advisor of LG STUDIO line. "It's not just about the money; you're also investing a lot of time and emotion. There are so many decisions to make, and you want them to be the right ones. You also want to create a space that reflects the people who live there. A well-designed kitchen needs to be functional and personalized.'

That's a heavy order, but Berkus offers advice to cut through the confusion by providing seven tips for a smart kitchen renovation that any homeowner can follow.

Be realistic and research

Berkus suggests that homeowners start with a realistic assessment of their budget and a wish list. After nailing those down, spend some time online looking for images that best reflect your personal style.

"There is so much design inspiration out there: Instagram, Pinterest, design blogs, and so many others," says Berkus. "Find out what you are drawn to and what catches your eye. Ask yourself how you want to live in the space and what's most important to you. The design needs to support that."

Invest where it counts

Appliances are expensive, but you want to buy the very best you can afford. Considering how much use they get and how long you want them to last, it's a worthwhile investment. 'The new LG STUDIO line that I helped design features pro-style design elements that instantly make a kitchen feel high-end,' says Berkus.

Stretch your renovation dollars

"It's the old adage, don't throw the baby out with the bathwater," says Berkus. "If your cabinets are in good condition, you can save a ton of money by painting them. When it comes to flooring, don't rip it out if you can refinish. Save where you can and then you can spend more of your budget on things that you really love, and are more important, like the appliances."

Add personal touches

For dressing up your kitchen, shop your home and use things you already own. "Objects from your travels, framed photographs, ceramic bowls or handwoven baskets are all things that personalize a space and make it feel layered," says Berkus.

Enhance small spaces

To maximize small spaces, do something unexpected. "Could the cabinets be painted dark gray or black? Could you use some un-lacquered brass hardware for shine? Can you add a backsplash in antique or aged mirror?" Berkus says.

Divide big spaces into zones

To get the most out of a larger kitchen, Berkus suggests using a zone approach. "For example, the island and its location will determine where the appliances sit," he says. "In addition, a large open kitchen allows the opportunity to add an eat-in area. Why not add a built-in banquette upholstered in easy-to-clean materials like outdoor fabric or leather?"

Think long-term

For an investment that lasts, Berkus says to err on the side of classic elements and finishes like stone, nickel, brass, steel, painted shaker cabinets and subway tile. "One of my go-to's is LG's Black Stainless Steel finish. It's both sophisticated, functional and will up the design ante in any kitchen. It is also fingerprint- and smudge-resistant, making it perfect for families."

Need more renovation inspiration? Check out the LG STUDIO Virtual Designer Tool to experiment with different styles and appliance combinations to create your dream kitchen.



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5 kitchen upgrades to make your inner host...

(BPT) - You love entertaining and treating guests to delectable dishes and fun times. Unfortunately, your kitchen layout, appliances and even the faucet are so downright unappealing that the thought of planning and preparing a party menu is equally unpleasant.

What do you do when you're built to entertain, but your kitchen is not? Renovate!

Reason to renovate

The kitchen is a favorite room to remodel, and a minor kitchen refresh can return more than 80 percent of your investment at the time of resale, according to Remodeling Magazine's Cost vs. Value report. But ROI isn't the top reason people renovate kitchens. According to the 2017 Houzz Kitchen Trends Study, most people who remodel their kitchen do so because they just can't stand it anymore.

So, if you love playing host but don't like the kitchen that stands in the way of your entertaining, revamping the room is the perfect way to make it more party-friendly.

Renovating for entertainment

Here are five upgrades that can help make your kitchen the perfect platform for entertaining:

1. Give yourself some space. If you've decided to go all in for your kitchen renovation, and have an older home with a closed-off kitchen, consider opening the space to the home's main living area. If your home already has an open floor plan, consider ways to tie the kitchen more intimately to the living area, such as continuing one style of flooring through both rooms, or repeating an accent color in the kitchen and adjacent common space.

2. Work smarter with a new faucet. The sink is a key point in the workflow triangle for any kitchen, and the faucet should take center stage in this performance. A contemporary faucet with task-driven spray patterns is a must for entertaining, but wouldn't an extra pair of hands also be great to have with the flurry of pre-party activities? An easy and quick solution is a hands-free faucet, such as the American Standard Beale kitchen faucet with Selectronic technology, which allows you to turn water on or off without the need to touch the faucet. This touchless technology makes food prep easier, while also helping to prevent cross-contamination of foods.

Taking hands-free technology one step further, the addition of a sleek, European-styled GROHE kitchen faucet with Foot Control allows you to control the flow of water with a tap of your toe at the base of the sink cabinet. Now it will be super simple to fill a big pot or rinse off a large skillet, using both hands to hold it securely while turning on the water at the same time.

3. Upgrade appliances. Depending on your budget, you can find appliances to help with virtually every aspect of entertaining, from dishwashers that entirely eliminate the need to pre-rinse, to refrigerators that help compile your grocery list. Even on a modest budget, you can improve on your current appliances, especially if they are older and less energy efficient. Double stoves are great for cooking a lot of food for large groups of guests, warming drawers keep food warm until ready to serve, and beverage drawers ensure you'll always have enough refreshments for everyone.

4. Choose cleaning-friendly surfaces. Did you ever wonder why stainless steel sinks continue to be a popular choice in kitchens, regardless of the room's decor? It's because stainless steel sinks not only look good, they also retain their beauty longer by resisting stains and scratches. Plus, drop-in and undermount stainless steel sinks from American Standard offer both single and double bowl options for simplifying kitchen tasks. Picking dirt and germ-busting surfaces like stainless steel, stone countertops, ceramic tile, etc., can help make it easier to keep your kitchen clean, leaving you more time for entertaining.

5. Create an island paradise. The standalone island has become a must-have for entertainment-minded homeowners. An island can serve multiple purposes when throwing a party, from providing extra workspace or hosting a second sink, to giving guests a seat closer to the action. You can even choose a multi-level island that will allow you to interact with guests while concealing work areas and sinks from view.

If your kitchen has been holding you back from blossoming into the host of your dreams, these easy upgrades can help the room better match your personality and entertainment needs.



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5 fabulous deck fix-ups

(BPT) - Are you tired of having a deck you're no longer proud to show off? You're not alone. According to the 2017 U.S. Houzz Landscape Trends Study, one of the top reasons motivating homeowners to tackle outdoor projects like deck upgrades is their open-air space is past its prime.

If you're like surveyed respondents and ready to return your fixer-upper to its former glory, the process may seem daunting. Fortunately, a little inspiration is all you need to transform your deck into a backyard beauty. With these fabulous fix-ups, your deck will be re-energized in no time.

1. Refresh your color palette

One of the easiest ways to transform a ho-hum deck into a stylish oasis is an updated color palette. Refreshing the look of outdoor accessories and furnishings is a simple and cost-effective solution. MidwestLiving.com says, 'Focusing on one or two colors adds a unifying feel to your décor. Punchy blue and green furnishings brighten the deck while not distracting from the view.' You can even swap out fabrics, accent pillows and cushions as the seasons change to keep your outdoor room looking fresh all year long.

If you're increasing the size of your deck, consider choosing decking in a color that complements your home. It will help ease the visual transition from indoors to out and create a beautiful base for planters and deck furnishings. If you are looking to make a statement, consider varying the color of deck boards, inserting feature strips or using contrasting railings to frame your outdoor room.

2. Landscape your deck-escape

To create a deck-escape that draws guests in, integrate landscaping into your design. Start small by lining your deck with planters, curving flowerbeds and grasses. A punchy mix of seasonal annuals and perennials will help encourage visitors to explore your outdoor living space. Or, go a step further and use today's versatile, moisture-resistant composite decking products to turn your deck into an extension of your garden. With proper installation, the boards can easily curve around trees or flower beds to blend your deck into its natural surroundings.

3. Provide pretty privacy

There's no reason to give up style and comfort on your deck just because you want privacy, especially if your neighbors are within close quarters. Trellises, lattices and vertical gardens can screen an exposed view and freshen up your outdoor room. Nature can also act as a beautiful barrier. Slender evergreens like arborvitae can establish a relaxed sense of privacy and create a soft, lush backdrop. You can even add different shade-providing trees near your deck, creating a secluded space with a more intimate feel.

4. Build a beautiful addition

If your outdoor room is limiting the number of guests you can entertain, a new deck addition may be just the right fix. You'll gain extra square feet and valuable space for themed outdoor areas. Try bumping your deck out on one side to make a basic square deck more interesting and gain room for an al fresco dining area or a spa-themed deck nook with a hot tub. With the right decking materials, you can even add a meandering garden path deck or curved getaway encircling a water feature.

'Composite decking with a plastic and wood blend throughout the board like ChoiceDek can be ripped, routed and bent to fit nearly any deck design,' says Randy Gottlieb, president of A.E.R.T. 'The boards are easier to curve than capped composites and traditional wood planks. They give homeowners a lot more design flexibility at an affordable price point.'

5. Create on-deck destinations

To give your outdoor room a lasting edge, create on-deck destination areas that go beyond eating and socializing. Love gardening? Build a vertical garden or use extra deck boards to create planter boxes that allow you to pass on your 'green thumb' to your children. If you're a DIYer, use complementary decking to create a corn hole set for birthday parties and gatherings. With a spark of inspiration, the possibilities for reinventing your outdoor space are virtually endless.



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How to Tackle a Dust-Free Renovation

(BPT) - Kristen Johnson* loved her home, her family and their active lifestyle. She'd never want to change a thing - except for her foyer and adjoining dining room. When she and her husband first moved into their home, they had intended to refinish the hardwood floors in those areas in a darker stain to better fit their style, but life got in the way. Twelve years, two boys and countless birthday parties, pets and indoor soccer games later, their floors were covered in scuffs, scratches and stains, and some of their walls needed repair. To complicate matters even further, they had a wraparound staircase with a wood-tone banister that would also need to be refinished if they decided to change their floor.

With their big family reunion and a house full of people just weeks away, Johnson and her husband knew it was time to make a change. However, they couldn't afford to disrupt their busy schedules, and they didn't want to deal with the hassle of renovation dust getting all over their ceiling fans, cupboards or worse - especially with their son's dust allergies. They knew if they decided to take on this renovation project, they'd need it finished quickly, and they'd need the entire project to be as dust-free as possible.

What's the big deal about renovation dust? Beyond creating a huge mess, renovation dust is also a health concern. As any homeowner who has embarked on an interior renovation project knows, the resultant dust gets everywhere - even inside closed cabinets and in adjacent rooms. However, as problematic as the mess is, dust-related health hazards are of even greater concern, particularly to allergy sufferers. Traditional methods of mitigating dust usually involve extensive prep work, like hanging plastic sheeting and taping off doors, or doing a thorough post-renovation top-to-bottom cleaning. Both options are extremely time-consuming.

Is there a better way to handle renovation dust? There is a better way to handle renovation dust: by collecting it right at the source like the pros do. Professional contractors are used to dealing with renovation dust, and given the volume of work they do, they create dust far more frequently and in much greater volumes than the average homeowner or DIYer. Rather than spend valuable time on prep work or post-project cleanup or suffer through the use of uncomfortable dust masks, they use dust collection tools that capture and contain dust immediately as it's created, before it can become a mess or airborne health hazard.

How Johnson tackled her dust-free renovation. Because of their tight timeline, Johnson and her husband decided to take on some of their renovation themselves using supplies purchased at their local hardware store, but they let the professionals handle the tricky floor/banister redo.

To repair their drywall, they patched the damaged areas using joint compound and a drywall sander, which together cost about $130. To make the sanding process dust-free, they added a Dust Deputy, which they connected directly to the drywall sander and to their wet/dry vacuum. They found that this combination captured virtually all the dust generated by the sanding. They noticed no dust in the air, and the Dust Deputy prevented the fine drywall dust from clogging their vacuum filter.

Even though they had the flooring contractor tackle the floor and banister, they saved a few dollars by removing the varnish from the banister and other hard-to-reach areas themselves. To do this, they applied a gel varnish remover using a brush (together about $20), then scraped the wet varnish residue using a Viper Scraper attached to their Dust Deputy and wet/dry vacuum. The scraper captured the residue, and the Dust Deputy contained it for disposal, without it ever reaching, or damaging, their vacuum.

Their big splurge was on the floor refinishing, which they left to the pros to tackle (about $2,500). To keep that process dust-free, they selected a dust-free contractor in their area who used a cyclonic Oneida Vortex dust collection system with HEPA filtration. In the end, they finished the project virtually dust-free and just in time for their family reunion, and they were very pleased with the results!

*Kristen's last name has been changed for privacy.



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Shared housework may be the true language of...

(BPT) - The key to a better relationship may not be in long walks on the beach or romantic dinners, it may actually be in discovering how your partner values chores. According to recent studies, chores have a direct impact on relationships more than previously thought.

For example, a recent survey of 1,000 Americans age 18 and older, commissioned by home appliance leader LG Electronics, found 58 percent believe someone who's good at chores, like folding sheets, is also more likely to be better between the sheets.

Cleaning is caring

Would you feel more appreciated when your partner does household chores or buys you a gift? Among Americans with a live-in partner, nearly half (48 percent) would rather receive a free pass from chores for a month than designer jewelry or tickets to a big game (52 percent).

To improve your relationship with chores, consider delegating according to your priorities. For example, if one partner hates the sight of dishes in the sink while the other can't stand spots on the bathroom mirror, the sink-minder can load the dishwasher while the spot-hater takes care of wiping up the bathroom vanity. There's no better way to say 'I love you' than a sink free of dishes and a spotless mirror.

Sorry with suds

Do you prefer to come home to a clean house after a feud rather than to a romantic dinner? Clean dishes, vacuumed floors and folded laundry are preferred over an apology by most Americans. In fact, nearly one in five Americans would rather have a partner do household chores after a fight than apologize.

Get help with saying 'sorry' from appliances that make cleaning chores easier, like the LG QuadWash(TM) dishwasher. It uses four high-pressure spray arms instead of the standard two to get dishes clean the first time, without the need to pre-rinse before placing items in the dishwasher. Plus, this ENERGY STAR-rated dishwasher is Wi-Fi enabled and uses smart technology to improve energy- and water-efficiency. Say sorry and save enough time to still grab flowers on your way home.

Good, clean flirting

Have you ever bragged to your partner about cleaning the bathroom or doing the dishes? Women (57 percent) are more likely than men (46 percent) to get turned on when their partner does a chore.

Couples should discuss division of housework and establish a plan for who will do what. Don't focus on a 50-50 split. Instead, emphasize working together as a team, and looking at chores as teamwork, rather than 'your work' and 'my work.' This can also be a way to spend time together while having some good, clean fun.

Payback is a dish

Have you ever purposely mixed your partner's laundry after a fight? Surprisingly, you're not alone. One in four admit to messing up their partner's laundry intentionally when angry with their significant other.

While seeking revenge through household chores may seem like a relatively harmless way to express anger, try more constructive ways to communicate.

If your partner is one to leave dirty dishes in the sink as revenge, it's ok because loading the dishwasher is a breeze with the LG QuadWash. Thanks to its new EasyRack(TM) Plus technology, you can quickly and easily adjust the height of your dish rack with the push of a button, making it great for pots and pans or stemware.

While every couple is unique, it turns out the love of shared chores is fairly common - and it may just be that housework is the true language of love.



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Articles last updated at Dec 13, 2017 08:07:04am.
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