Home Decor Basics: Paint

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If you’ve never painted a wall in the past you may be quickly confused upon entering a modern paint store. Gallons of paint, treatments and finishes line the shelves without much explanation of why you’d choose on can over the next.

Take heart! There are just a few basics to consider when choosing the right paint for your home decor task you’ve begun. Paint is, simply put, a mixture of pigment, resin and a carrier agent. In general, the main (white or eggshell) pigment is the base of which small amounts of other pigments are added to obtain your chosen color.

Warm yellow paint treatment.Resin is what makes paint adhere to your wall, furniture or other surface. The carrier is the evaporative liquid that is included in the bulk of the mixture that allows you to brush or roll on the surface for an even finish. Water is the primary agent in latex paints and solvents for oil or alkyd paints. In smaller quantities, paint also contains clay or other inert ingredients used to adjust a paint’s sheen.

Past the basic ingredients, the quantity of titanium dioxide and other additives define the paint’s characteristics, quality and price.

Latex or Oil/Alkyd for Home Decor

What’s the difference?

Up until a few years ago, the first question you’d be asked at the paint store (once you chose your color) is whether you’d like to use latex or oil. For years oil (aka alkyd or solvent-based) paints were favored for trim, woodwork, most exterior and some interior surfaces for the reason that they flow uniformly, are long lasting and mold resistant. Solvent paints have excellent leveling characteristics and adhere well particularly to poorly-prepared or chalky surfaces. They even give a tough, hard-shell finish, and most of the exterior alkyds can be utilized in sub-freezing conditions. These finish looks must be considered when attempting DIY home decor.

In the last few years however, the change in paints is extreme. Very seldom would you choose oil paints today as many state and federal air-quality laws are clamping down on their use and the latex paints have developed well enough to manage all household needs. The problem, environmentally, with solvent-based paints is that they contain high concentration of mineral spirits that evaporate into the air as volatile organic compounds resulting in air pollution.

Many experts say that solvent paints that comply with ‘green’ standards don’t really have advantages over the water-based paints as they dry slower and are more difficult to apply and clean up after, not to mention that they cost 50-100% more than latex.

Choosing Between Alkyd-Modified, Vinyl-Acrylic, or Acrylic Paint

Latex paints are not all the same. The first known latex paints were named after their synthetic ‘latex’ rubber base but the synthetic rubber is not used today. Stating ‘latex’ at the paint store could refer to all and any water-borne paint. Within the latex category you will have three more decisions to make: vinyl-acrylic, 100 percent acrylic, or alkyd-modified latex.

The best option? Well, vinyl-acrylic latex is the least costly of the three and is considered appropriate for most interior walls and some short-durability exterior uses. Best known high performance interior paints are 100 percent acrylic and cost a little more. Many home decorators claim that 100% acrylic has better color retention and better adhesion than any of the types. Finally, in exterior paints, use either 100 percent acrylic or alkyd-modified latex. Although both of these types are excellent if house siding was previously painted with an alkyd or is chalking, alkyd-modified latex is preferred. It has been said that the alkyd-modified latex does an excellent job of penetrating and anchoring the coating on a chalky surface.

Country Window Treatments

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When it comes to home decorating we often choose curtains and window coverings with our hearts first: form over function. This is especially true of country window treatments.

I’m sure this has happened to you over the years of country decorating. I believe we all get caught in the ‘bought it because I loved it’ trap and then either have to learn to live with our mistakes or spend more money to fix our purchasing mistake.

Curtains – certainly country window treatments – can make or break the ambiance of a room. The entire space can change throughout the day as well as seasonal changes. As days lengthen or even just as the sun passes to the opposite side of the house. If you’re shopping for window treatments for a room that has windows on three sides you have even more of a challenge on your hands.Perfect country window treatments for your room, your use, your style.

The Perfect Country Window Treatment

First of all, don’t convince yourself that all your window treatments need to be identical around the room. You can mix and match curtains, shutters, drapes and blinds – dependent on your needs and the use of the room – and still maintain a cohesive, beautifully decorated look.

For country homes and farmhouses we love the light and airy look. This is especially true of the summer curtains. If you have the view of trees, fields or a stunning lake you’ll want to enjoy it every minute you’re stuck in the house after all. There is little need for privacy when you live in the country and you’ll find that you can leave your perfect coverage, extra secure, mini-blinds with thick curtains behind. Chances are slim that anyone will be peeking in your windows at night or walking past your house while you’re sleeping.

With that said there are times of the year when a good heavy curtain is more than appropriate. In French Country decor for instance, you’ll often find a heavier tapestry like curtain in bedrooms with center panels of lace. Similarly, in the north regions of Northern America heavy curtains keep out the winter drafts and create the toasty cabin ambiance during the darkest days of December. Both present challenges in country home decor.

How will you choose which curtains are right for the room, by the season and direction each window is facing?

Here are my top three considerations for country window treatments while shopping to find the right curtain set for every room of your house.

  1. Any room where the light pours in via a window is subject to faded fabrics, wall paint, and artwork. If you need to protect these types of belongings keep them back from the sunlight or choose a window covering that is solid in construction.
  2. Heavy drapes with a UV backing or wood shutters are an excellent choice but you can also upgrade your window itself to block harmful rays while still letting in all that glorious sunlight.
  3. Consider as well that your curtains will need to be cleaned regularly. While small blinds and shutters are almost as easy to clean as taking down the drapes and sending them through the washing machine, heavier drapes or large custom-made blinds will pose a challenge.

On a safety note, if you are considering blinds and children either live in or visit your home, please be mindful of the cords that regulate these blinds. Children have been known to play with, and strangle themselves, with these cords.

Have fun with your decorating whichever style, color, or fabric curtain for country window treatments you choose. Country does have an air of whimsy about it that is perfect for self-expression in non-traditional decorating.

Christmas LED Lights Add Sparkle

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It’s driving me crazy. There are these new little LED lights out now (I found the first sets at Christmas last year) yet no one can seem to decide on one universal name for them. I’ve heard, and seen on a variety of websites, these strings of super small mini lights called “fairy lights”, “rice lights”, “twig lights” and other names I can’t remember right now.

If you’ve seen them you’ll know why the nomenclature is driving me mad – you can’t help but want some of these super small Christmas lights for your decor, but surfing around online to find them is an exercise in frustration.

Blue Christmas LED Snowflake Lights
Yes, I know that everyone has different tastes and not everyone is going to love these tiny sparklers, but whichever Christmas light you have opted for in the past you’ve got to know that modern options bring a lot of pluses to the table – and to your windows, trees and frames.

There is a much wider selection to choose from and you’ll find them a better value (at the store, online and when your monthly electric bill comes in). The new lighting, LED or not, gives your home a soft, romantic holiday glow. Outside you can use the ones that light up the night and make your home a masterpiece to behold this season.

My top selection in lighting, especially Christmas lights, is in the LED lights. If you don’t already know, LED stand for light emitting diode. That is why these lights don’t take as much electrical power to use and they provide a much wider array of light.

LED lighting is super safe too. They don’t get hot for all the light they supply, unlike regular lights which are often a fire hazard. You won’t need to worry about your tree drying out quite as much as you would with the old regular Christmas lights.

LEDs also come in rope light versions. These are lights inside of tubing. These lights come in different colors and you can get them in chasing lights or still. They are perfect for hard to decorate areas and can be used indoor or outdoor. In fact, if you use rope lights to line your home’s walkway, if kids accidentally step on them, they’re stepping on the tubing instead of sharp glass that can cut them.

There are so many Christmas light options for you to choose from to make your holiday really shine in 2010 and beyond!

An Elegant White Christmas

A touch of blue in an otherwise white or silver decorating scheme adds a punch to your elegant Christmas decor.

Make your country home picture perfect by changing up your decorating scheme this Christmas. After the last two years of recession I say opulance is in order. Even if you aren’t ‘rich’ you can still decorate to give your home a super elegant look by setting a trend in white and cool color Christmas decor.

Here’s how to get that elegant country Christmas look without breaking the bank…

A touch of blue in an otherwise white or silver decorating scheme adds a punch to your elegant Christmas decor.
A touch of blue in an otherwise white or silver decorating scheme adds a punch to your elegant Christmas decor.

  • Elegance equals an understated unity within the decorating theme. This is where many people go wrong. If you suspect you’ve gone overboard start removing some items until the look feels and looks just right. Don’t over use too many colors or you may find the room or your home will look cheap, distracting, and far too cluttered or busy.

  • Vintage accents such as plaster cherubs or angels ensure that your rooms don’t become too pretentious.
  • Elegant Christmas colors are in the cool color zone. Cool colors sparkle add that air of class and sophistication. Don’t fret if your background decor is in warm tones, you can still add silver, sparkly gold and white to achieve the look. As an aside, red and green decorations (even though they’re the traditional Christmas colors) don’t project any sort of elegance when used together.
  • Add to any existing decor. The top two choices are silver or white, or silver and white together. Sprinkle Christmas decoration primarily in these colors throughout your home for cohesion. Although on the surface it will seem like white decorations don’t seem much like Christmas, once you have it all together you’ll be amazed.
  • Outdoor decoration for the holiday season. On your walkway, white luminaries leading up to the front steps or porch are stunning. And, if you have the opportunity to buy new exterior lights for the holiday, choose the smaller fairy or LED lights for super sophistication. (If you can find these in solar, even better as you’ll be able to decorate surrouning trees for an extra sparkle without any strain on your electric bill.)
  • This is true as well for indoor and tree lighting for Christmas. Add little bits of sparkle every where you can for elegance and don’t be surprised when the holiday is over and your family asks you to leave a few for mood and effect year round.
  • Elegant floral arrangements are not the standard glariing red or white poinsettias. In fact if you take a really good look at these plants you’ll find that they are actually quite gaudy. Opt instead for dozens of white roses (even silks are fine) and put them in delicate glass vases throughout your house.
  • Little extras to pull it all together include a white pillar candle on a mirror base for the tabletop. Wrapped presents propped up in corners of every room – wrapped, of course, in gold or silver paper and tied with white ribbon bows. As an alternative try wrapping gifts in white paper and use gold ribbon to form the bows. Add cool blue to the mix and you’ll get a punch of color that matches the theme.
  • Here’s another, 5 or 6 Christmas balls in your color choice, placed in a large, heavy glass bowl looks great on a side table, the dining table or the coffee table! Linens of all sorts should be bright white as well.

When you’re finished with your Christmas decorating, your home will have that elegance you’ve been striving to achieve.

Time to String Up the Lights for the Christmas Season

Outdoor lit presents add a holiday sparkle to your yard.

The nip is in the air and it’s time to light up those fireplaces, make some hot cocoa and get the Christmas decorating ideas flowing. So put on some cheerful holiday tunes from your favorite Christmas CDs and let’s get started. Where should you begin?

Since the outside of your home is the very first sight people see, you can start there and work your way inside the home or you can work from the inside out – whichever direction you take really isn’t as important as getting the job done.

Outside of your house, if you’re putting decorations on your rooftop – things like waving Santa or Santa in his sleigh or the lighted, animated reindeer, start there first. You’ll want to put them up before you string the lights.

Outdoor decoration of lighted presents add a holiday sparkle to your yard.

Yard decorations for Christmas - beautifully lit presents will add a holiday sparkle to your yard.

And remember if you have a really large amount of displays you’d like to put up, you don’t have to get it all done in one day. Don’t exhaust yourself. Next, hang the lights, the icicle lights are a hot selling item this year and look great on any home. Once you have the lights in place, don’t forget to wrap the ends where they connect with tape to keep any moisture from getting in.

After the lights are done, you can start on the bushes or trees in your front yard. The net lights make decorating small to medium hedge bushes a breeze and the cool to touch LED lights are good in trees.

If you have taller evergreens, you can decorate them like you would an indoor tree, complete with lighted gift boxes beneath the tree. When the trees are finished, set up each display in an area of your yard. As you go along, constantly test for any lights that fail to light. You don’t want to get everything hooked up and then have to begin the hunt for a burned out or broken bulb.

Line your walkway with the lollipop decorations (especially if you’re aiming for a gingerbread house theme) or candy canes-whatever you like. Put poinsettias by the front door and don’t forget to decorate the mailbox with a holiday covering.

Inside the house, decorate the mantle with garland (fresh or artificial boughs either one) and then if you’re going for a traditional look, you can weave miniature lights through the garland. If you’re aiming for a country Christmas or a Victorian Christmas, instead, loop strings of cranberry beads so that they dangle down in small loops from the top of the mantle.

Set out your Christmas villages and if you don’t have a collection of them, now is the time to start. They bring a certain nostalgia and are a lot of fun to set up. The lighted ones are perfect with any kind of theme.

If you want a complete holiday décor inside, don’t forget to replace your rugs with ones in holiday colors or with ones that have holiday decorations on them. There are many different Christmas decorating ideas you can choose from – the key to success is in taking time to plan it out.

Nativity or Christmas Village for the Mantel?

A Christmas village is just one of the ideas for decorating your fireplace mantel. What's yours?

A fireplace mantel is the perfect place to display a Christmas scene whether it be one of the cute Christmas villages or a nativity set. There are many different styles you can choose from – you can go with traditional or try something a little different this year.

What is your personal style of country decor for Christmas? Down home country? Elegant? Eco? Rustic? The style you choose for your main décor should also be reflected in your mantel scene.

Christ Stll in Christmas – Nativity Scenes

For many people, the mantel scene is usually a nativity scene complete with a manger, animals and several figurines. Nativity sets are beautiful and there are many you can choose from.

If you get a nativity set that’s made of aged wood, this would work well with a country décor. Also in keeping with a country décor, you can use a narrow sleigh filled with boughs of green, pinecones and presents wrapped in red gingham.

A Christmas village is just one of the ideas for decorating your fireplace mantel. What's yours?

A Christmas village is just one of the ideas for decorating your fireplace mantel. What's yours?

Christmas Snow Village

A snow village is another holiday scene you could grace your mantel with. If you’re worried about getting the confetti snow on your floor, you can use cotton balls to create a snow effect.

But don’t just stick the cotton balls up as is. Instead, gently pull apart the cotton balls and thin them out. Decorate the mantle with Christmas village homes and businesses and set them up so that they’re lighted. You’ll have a great focal point and the soft light will add a nice touch.

Cultural Christmas

You can set your mantel scene up to reflect scenes from other cultures. For example, if you had Chinese ornaments on your Christmas tree, your mantel would look fantastic with paper lanterns and small bowls housing Christmas balls.

In the center, you could take a photo holder – one of the ones in the shape of a miniature tree-and you could hang ornaments with Chinese writing on the branches. You can find Chinese ornaments wishing the buyer joy or luck or wealth.

Primitive Christmas Displays

Another way to decorate the mantel is in what’s called primitive style by using boughs of real garland, fruit and primitive figurines. You can find primitive Santa figurines on Primitive Country Decor .com or in our own Country Deals Catalog.

Or if you would rather have snowmen, you can decorate the mantel with primitive snowmen made from muslin or wood. Some people confuse the primitive style with the country style of decorating but they are not the same. Primitive has more of an early 1900s feel to it. You would easily be able to find some of the decorations in homes from your great grandmother’s generation.

For a more elegant mantel Christmas scene, hang a square mirror above your fireplace mantel. Place tapered silver or gold candles inside of hurricane lanterns. In the middle of the mantel, place a short vase full of white roses. Use silver beading pearls entwined with real garland to hang from the front of the mantel.