The Beginner’s Guide to the Best Smart Thermostats

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Our homes are getting smarter. Not only is this saving us from menial tasks and little issues, like struggling to remember if we have enough milk, but it’s also saving us money. The smart thermostat is the shining example of smart home technology. The best smart thermostats help us live more comfortably in our homes, conserve energy and keep more money in our own pockets. It’s a win-win-win.

But there are a lot of thermostats on the market today and all of them seem pretty smart. How do you choose the right one for your home? Which bells and whistles do you need? Is it worth paying more for the top-of-the-line option? We had these same questions, too, and now can help you narrow the field. We’ve listed six of the best smart thermostats worth checking out plus the features that really wowed us about them. Ready to get smart about this smart home technology? Check out our picks below.

best smart thermostats - ecobee

The Ecobee4 is a one of the best smart thermostats. Image: Ecobee


The latest generation of Ecobee makes your life easier through its voice control. In fact, it’s got a built-in Alexa speaker. Not only can it adjust the temperature, but it can also tell you the weather, how your favorite team is doing, a joke and more. The Ecobee isn’t Amazon specific, either. You can use it with your Google Assistant or Siri. Plus, its app is a breeze to navigate.

Aside from all the great ways the Ecobee4 can integrate with your other home tech, it’s important to note that it’s a great thermostat in and of itself. It allows you to place sensors throughout your home so it can measure temperature throughout the day, keeping different spaces the temperatures you want them on the schedule you set up. It also geofences, which means it uses your smartphone to track your location. If you leave the house, it can moderate the temperature accordingly. And it can track you as you approach, ensuring you come home to your house just the way you like it.

best smart thermostats - nest

You can program your Nest to show whichever face you prefer, including analog and digital clocks. Image: Nest

Nest Learning Thermostat

Nest was the first big name in smart home technology and has been the go-to in best smart thermostats for years. Today, other companies are giving them a run for their money, but they’re still a solid choice. The Nest Learning Thermostat builds on their strong legacy. After one week it learns and adapts to your schedule, getting smarter and saving you more energy. It also geofences and works with Alexa or Google Assistant.

Plus, if you’re looking for a totally connected home, Nest also offers security cameras (Nest Cam) and smoke and carbon monoxide detectors (Nest Protect).

If you don’t want to pay the bigger price tag for Nest’s top offering, check out the Nest Thermostat E. Built from plastic instead of Nest’s signature glass and stainless steel, the price is set lower.

best smart thermostats - lyric

The Lyric T5 from Honeywell gives you a lot of bang for your buck. Image: Amazon

Honeywell Lyric T5

The Lyric T5 is pretty regularly touted as the winner of the budget category for best smart thermostats. And it’s not very hard to see why. It’s got almost all of the bells and whistles of other smart thermostats for a fraction of the price. The Lyric T5 gives you total connectivity from your mobile devices so you can control it from anywhere. It has 7-Day flexible scheduling so you can set it up to work with you throughout the week. Plus, it features geofencing capability, smart alerts to let you know when you need a filter change and works with Amazon Echo and Apple HomeKit.

best smart thermostats - sensi

The Sensi‘s large, easy-to-read display is a major plus. Image: Sensi

Emerson Sensi Touch

The Emerson Sensi Touch is a little simpler than many of the other thermostats on this list – and that can be a good thing. Its streamlined features make it easy to use. The app makes it simple to control temperature from any location with wifi, it works with the usual suspects (Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple HomeKit) and it’s got geofencing capability. Plus it boasts a large, easy-to-read display.

That display is its main selling point. It’s got an attractive backlighting feature that can make it easier to use in low lighting, plus it glows certain colors during heating and cooling to let you know it’s on the job.

best smart thermostats - glas

The OLED display of the GLAS thermostat makes it easy to integrate into any wall. Image: Amazon

Johnson Controls GLAS Smart Thermostat

If you want a thermostat that will help you have a healthier home, GLAS is worth checking out. It’s got the basics covered – a vibrant OLED display and integration with Alexa, Google Assistant and Microsoft Cortana – plus it offers air quality monitoring. It measures relative humidity, VOCs and CO2 levels indoors plus pollen and other air quality indicators outdoors. Armed with that information, you can adjust the smart circulation and smart ventilation in your home to protect your air quality.

The GLAS also comes with an app that gives you voice control power over your thermostat from virtually anywhere, tracks energy usage and makes it simple to use the integrated smart scheduling feature.

best smart thermostats - kono

The KONO is designed to work with your existing decor. Image: Amazon

Lux KONO Smart

The Lux KONO Smart Thermostat seems like it was designed for Freshome readers. Before we get to the thermostat’s functionality, let’s talk about its aesthetic. Not only is the off-the-shelf option pretty attractive with its modular black stainless design, but it gives you options. The sections snap off so you can replace them with new covers that best suit your style. Whether you want a trending sage, a natural wood grain or a bolder look with mid-century blue or red, it can deliver.

As a smart thermostat, it covers the bases. The app is well-designed. It’s got geofencing capability. It integrates with Alexa, Apple HomeKit and Google Assistant. Plus, the KONO’s current price is a steal.

Now that you know six of the best smart thermostats, it’s a matter of choosing which has the features and price that best aligns with your needs. Talk to your local HVAC dealer about how a smart thermostat can make a difference in your monthly heating and cooling bill.

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Quiet Appliances Make a Noticeable Difference

quiet appliances

Quiet appliances can make your home a more restful, relaxing place. Hero Images/Getty Images

The noise generated by the appliances in your home can add up quickly and make quite a racket. With washers, dryers, dishwashers, heating and cooling units, vacuums and more in modern homes, the sound can easily overwhelm you. That’s why it’s important to pay attention to decibels (dB) when choosing quiet appliances for your home.

Some brands offer appliances designed to run silently or, at least, much quieter than older models. The last thing you want is for a load of laundry or your home’s heating system to drown out a conversation or your favorite TV show.

Okay, so you know you want quieter appliances. What should you look for when shopping? Here are important tips for finding quiet appliances for your home.

How to find quiet appliances

The important number to remember is 60 dB, the level of an average conversation between two people. You don’t want to buy any appliances that run louder than that. Otherwise you’ll have to compete with your dishwasher for the last word during dinner.

That said, appliances with a dBA rating of 38-40 dBA are considered to be silent. Which means you won’t hear it over your conversation and other background noise. Many common appliances do creep above the conversation range — garbage disposals and blenders usually operate in the 80’s. But these are usually less of a concern since they only run for short periods of time.

You should focus on appliances that run for extended periods, like your dishwasher, washing machine, dryer or air conditioner. When you shop for appliances that are located inside your home, look for a rating between 40-50 dB. Equipment that’s normally outside of your home, like an HVAC system, can rate a little higher at 70 or 80 dB, since you won’t be exposed to the sound all the time. To make it easy on shoppers, most product websites will display their decibel ratings. For example, Trane does this for its air conditioners and other systems.

Benefits of quiet appliances

Thinking about the sound generated by appliances in your home has several benefits. Purchasing quieter appliances can make your home both more peaceful and more energy efficient. Many quiet appliances use less energy and offers smart home applications. It can also increase the value of your home when you sell your house, if you aren’t taking the appliances with you.

When shopping for quiet appliances, remember that the average conversation is around 60 dB. Consider how long appliances will run during a normal cycle, if it’s located indoors or outdoors and how close you’ll be to the appliance during your day-to-day routine. These factors will help you decide if an appliance has the right decibel rating.

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These 4 Living Room Trends for 2019 will Inspire your Next Home Design Project

Every year, new trends hit the interior design landscape and 2019 is no different. In particular, this year there is an emphasis on  living room trends. We’ve decided to take a closer look at them today. Read on to learn about these new living room trends and tips on how to make these looks work in your home. Believe us when we say that you’ll fall in love with these popular design statements.


The bolder, the better when it comes to furniture colors this year. Image:

Colorful seating

If there’s one trend this year that’s totally eye-catching, it’s the colorful seating trend. These days, sofas, accent chairs and barstools all come in an array of bold shades that we haven’t seen in a while. In particular, jewel tones – such as ruby red, emerald green and sapphire blue – are the hues that are turning heads.

If you’re going to embrace the colorful seating trend, there is one thing that you need to keep in mind. Whichever item of furniture you choose to make colorful, it needs to be the statement piece of the room. Be sure to balance out the bold hues by using lots of neutral tones in the other areas of your design. Neutral shades will give the eye a place to rest and help keep the design, as a whole, from feeling overwhelming.


Everything gets a splash of color this year, even the ceiling. Image: Artazum/Shutterstock

Statement ceilings

Statement ceilings have fallen in and out of favor over the years and it looks like they’re set to make a big comeback. However, this time, the trends are skewing darker than they have before. There’s an emphasis on dark browns, blacks and grays that hasn’t been as prevalent in the past. We have to say that we’re loving it.

However, you should not let those colors be the only ones in your design roster. The key, here, is that you incorporate colors that you’ve used in other applications throughout the room, much like you see in the picture above. In addition, you should also consider using materials beyond paint. Wallpaper or temporary wall decals will make a fine statement on your ceiling.

wall art

When it comes to art, make it big. Image: ImageFlow/Shutterstock

Large-scale wall art

In 2019, artwork is also set to make a big splash. In particular, we’re seeing an emphasis on large-scale prints. Just like the color trends that we’re seeing this year, current wall art styles are big, bold, and in-your-face. These days, it’s not uncommon to see prints that take up the better portion of an entire wall as the focal point of the room.

If you’re worried about picking a piece of wall art that works, take a look at our artwork sizing guide. However, conventional wisdom states that artwork should take up four-sevenths of the wall on which it is placed. To figure those dimensions, start by measuring the length and width of the wall. Then, multiply each number by 0.571, which is four-sevenths as a decimal.


Take seating arrangements to the next level. Image: United photo studio/Shutterstock

Purposeful arrangements

The last trend we’re talking about today is purposefully arranging furniture. Gone are the days where it’s acceptable to shove a couch up against the wall and leave a cavern of space in the middle of the room. The coming year will be all about creating room layouts that make sense from a functional standpoint, as well as looking aesthetically-pleasing to the eye.

In terms of what constitutes a functional layout where living rooms are concerned, it’s all about creating an inviting seating area. Start by adding an appropriately-sized area rug to help ground the space. This also adds more visual interest to the room. Then, arrange your seating around a central focal point like a fireplace or television.

What do you think of these living room trends for 2019? Let us know in the comments.

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Australian Residence Displays a Coastal Design

coastal design

WA Country Builders completed the coastal design and development of The Geographe Bay, a residence in Dunsborough, Australia. From afar, the facade of the residence appears strikingly modern. It features elements like weatherboard, stone and brickwork, in order to ensure a laid-back visual appeal.

Step inside and you also discover a vibrant beach-inspired residence with eye-catching details. “The entry of the house is complete with high ceilings which provide a sense of openness that continues throughout the home,” the architects said. “Directly off the entry is the private master suite, that features a dressing room and en-suite.”“The large free form living area is located at the center of the home, creating easy accessibility from all sides,” they add. “It features an expansive kitchen, scullery and dining space. The media room and laundry are located alongside the free form living zone.”

A generously-sized terrace also offers opportunities for outdoor family entertainment. The architects additionally placed all three of the en-suite bedrooms at the back of the residence, away from any street noise. The overall layout carefully considers these details. This is in order to ensure a certain level of privacy alongside the breezy coastal design. Enjoy the virtual tour! Photography and information courtesy of WA Country Builders

Look inside the coastal design of this Australian home

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4 Simple Ways To Use Wallpaper In A Bedroom To Create A Fresh Look

Lots of people have tried to use wallpaper in a bedroom, but only a few know how to utilize this material to its fullest potential. Wallpaper shouldn’t just be thrown up as a way to do away with blank walls. Rather, it should be a major player in the design of the room as a whole.

To that end, we’ve brought you four fresh and simple ways to use wallpaper in a bedroom. Look them over to see which suggestions will work best in your bedroom’s design. With any luck, the wallpaper may just become your favorite feature of the whole room.

wallpaper in a bedroom

Let your wallpaper dictate your color palette. Image:

Set the color palette

One way to use wallpaper in your bedroom is to have it set the color palette for the entire project. For example, you can see that the picture above features a chic monochromatic palette. In it, everything from the wallpaper to the blankets, bedding and throw pillows come together to form a cohesive look.

If you decide to go this route, the key is to pick out a wallpaper that you love first. Then, build the rest of the room around it. While you can, of course, go with any aesthetic that you’d like, remember that the size of the pattern is important. It should be in proportion with the size of the room. Bigger rooms can handle bigger patterns and vice versa.


Use wallpaper to create an eye-catching accent wall. Image:

Create an accent wall

Since wallpaper tends to be a style statement, it’s a natural fit to adorn an accent wall. Accent walls are meant to draw the eye, so this should be where you use your biggest patterns and boldest shades. Don’t hesitate to go all out here.

In this case, the placement of your wallpaper is your most important consideration. Ideally, you’ll want your accent wall to highlight the focal point of the room since it’s bound to capture viewers’ attention. Most of the time, in a bedroom, this means choosing the wall at the head of the bed. However, as you see in the photo above, sometimes exceptions can be made, especially if you’re going with a more mural-like pattern.


Don’t go without a headboard. Create one from wallpaper instead. Image:

Make a makeshift headboard

Let’s face it, furniture is expensive. If you’re not quite ready to go out and invest in a quality headboard, wallpaper could be a cost-effective solution for you. Rolls of wallpaper cost pennies on the dollar and this material can be used to fit a variety of aesthetic tastes.

In this case, the actual application is your biggest concern. First, you have to size it correctly. You should measure out the wallpaper so that it is slightly larger than the width of your bed. A good rule of thumb is to leave a two- to three-inch border on either side. Then, there’s the placement. Do your best to apply the wallpaper on a wall that’s smooth and without pockmarks. Doing so will decrease your chances of finding annoying air bubbles in the final product.

If you’re renting and don’t want to have to deal with taking down wallpaper at the end of your lease, don’t worry. This DIY project is still an option for you. You’ll simply want to use removable wallpaper instead.


Use wallpaper to bring texture into the room. Image: 2M media/Shutterstock

Add some texture

Finally, wallpaper can be used to add a much-needed dose of texture to any room. Remember, in interior design, texture refers to the way that something looks like it feels. Incorporating a variety of textures into a room is one of the major tenets of interior design because it makes the room more visually interesting.

No matter what type of print you use in your bedroom, your wallpaper will have a texture. This is due in part to the materials used in its construction. However, you can certainly amplify the feeling of texture by choosing a rough-looking pattern like the one shown above.

For this, we recommend going with a print inspired by natural materials. Natural-looking prints like wood and stone are very on-trend at the moment and will serve you well in creating a look that’s both modern and nuanced.

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8 Non-Plant Ideas for Bringing the Outside In

We’re calling it now: 2019 will be the year of the plant. What started as a semi-hipster trend in interior design has become a full-on movement, Bringing the outside in has tons of benefits, of course, from mood boosting to cleaner air. But let’s face it: not everyone is famous for their green thumb. If you love the idea of a more natural way of decorating but can’t keep a plant alive to, well, save your life, don’t worry. Plants aren’t the only way to bring the outside in and we predict a movement to more natural decor throughout the year.

If you’re positive you’ll kill your snake plant and you’ve assassinated your last batch of succulents, try these ideas instead.

Opt for natural materials

Living room with wicker furniture

Wicker and rattan furniture isn’t just for patios. Image:

Hey, leaves aren’t the only way to bring in natural decor. There are plenty of non-living natural materials that can warm up your home and reap the benefits without the whole watering and sunlight side of things. Natural materials like wicker are perfect for airy accent furniture, while breezy linen is ideal for textiles. Even leather and faux leather can be considered a natural material and makes a great contrast to lighter colors and materials.

Use color

Minimalist bathroom with green walls

Use green paint for a fresh take. Image: ImageFlow/Shutterstock

The good news? No one has ever forgotten to water a green wall. Why not use color to bring the outside in? It can easily brighten up a room and you won’t have to have a housesitter take care of it when you go on vacation. Look specifically for colors that can be found in nature, like vibrant greens or cool, brilliant ocean blues. Choose an accent wall so you get the same pop of color you’d enjoy from a plant. Or, use color in your decor accents, like throw pillows or vases.

Try faux animal

Animal print living room

Animal print stands in for plants. Image: Artazum/Shutterstock

When you think “natural decor,” your mind usually goes to plants and trees. But don’t forget that animal print and textures can be just as natural as houseplants. A faux hide rug can bring in texture and a pop of color, while a fur throw or blanket makes a room look cozy and natural at the same time. Or, go for an unexpected print like a snake-etched ottoman or an antelope print accent rug and let your animal instincts rule.

Frame with windows

Open concept living room

Utilize windows to show off the natural beauty. Image: Breadmaker/Shutterstock

Don’t assume that you’re limited to the interior of your home when decorating and designing. Your landscape can become part of the design (and you don’t even have to hand-water it). While you might not be able to move windows to get the prettiest picture, you can spruce up your yard. Try planting a window box to add some color that peeks through the window. Or, get rid of heavy blinds that obscure the view of your favorite tree. Utilize the outdoors as a low-maintenance, high-impact design element.

Rethink transitional spaces


Bright open entryway

Use transitional spaces for added light. Image: sirtravelalot/Shutterstock

The spaces that bridge the gap between inside and outside can become some of your greatest allies in organic design. Think of restyling your front foyer, back deck, or even unused sunroom so you bring a little more of the outside in. A gazebo or roof extension makes it so you can access your grill all year long, while a glass door with screen keeps the front of your home bright and breezy. You can even repurpose and unused sunroom as a bright playroom with access to the backyard.

Use natural patterns

Living room with palm print wallpaper

Palm print wallpaper doesn’t need to be watered. Image:

So you’re a hopeless gardener; you can still bring plants into your daily decor. Decorating with plant prints is en vogue and gives you all the same peaceful, happy feelings that live plants give you. Palm-printed throw pillows, a leafy rug, or even a bold, floral wallpaper in a small space (think powder room) can give your home a greenhouse vibe without all of the upkeep.

Think interior windows

Bright kitchen with glass cabinets

Glass cabinets let light stream through. Image: Breadmaker/Shutterstock

The idea behind interior windows is to allow more light to pass through your home. Interior windows can be found anywhere from a French door leading to the living room to glass-front cabinets in your kitchen. Glass half walls and partitions can also be used to preserve light but give your home more character. And, you can use your interior windows as a nod to gardening: tuck a few faux plants or flowers behind the doors or strategically place your windows so they frame some of your home’s nature-loving elements.

Get artsy


Gallery wall with plant prints

Plant prints lend a natural vibe. Image:

Art prints are a cheap way to bring color and texture into a space. An entire wall of different leaf prints or a gallery of floral shots is a surefire way to bring a pop of greenery into your home. You can find floral prints via online photography sites, at thrift stores, or you can make your own. Teamed up with some cool vintage frames, you’ll never have to feel second-best to your green-thumbed sister again.

For those who love filling their homes with living things, the year’s plant trend is a no-brainer. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy and breezy for everyone. If you love the idea of a more organic aesthetic but can’t stand the idea of filling your house with live plants, natural decor is the next best thing. Bringing the outside in doesn’t have to mean making your own suburban jungle, but a few key pieces that look right at home.

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7 Tips for a Relaxing Feng Shui Bathroom Retreat

relaxing bathroom retreat

We love the spa retreat experience, especially when we can recreate it at home. Creating a relaxing vibe in your bathroom is about more than just candles and a fluffy robe. You can also embrace the soothing energy of feng shui with your favorite decorating style and color palette. Using these simple principals is an easy and beautiful way to create a soothing feng shui bathroom retreat.

1. Choose the right feng shui bathroom color scheme

The white Birch Lane Heritage Aurelia Bathroom Vanity Set within a neutral color scheme, warms up the cool feng shui water energy in this relaxing bathroom. Courtesy of  Birch Lane

It may surprise you to know that the best feng shui colors for your bathroom are not just blues and greens. While these cool colors can have a place in your color palette, in feng shui they represent water which is already abundant in your bathroom.  The glass, metal, and water, of your bathroom represent water, too. The simplest way to decorate your bathroom with feng shui principals is through balance, especially through color. Your goal in choosing the right bathroom colors is to balance the strong water elements with warm hues and wood accents. Blue and green can be a part of your beautiful color palette, but you’ll want to mix it up with natural accessories and colors.

2. Declutter and simplify for a relaxing bathroom retreat

Feng Shui Bathroom Storage

A single vanity can still provide ample storage, like the Davis Single Sink Vanity. Shelves and baskets can make bathroom storage beautiful. Courtesy of Pottery Barn

It’s hard to be relaxed when we’re faced with clutter. For a small room, like a bathroom, clutter is an even bigger problem. Feng shui is all about energy, or Chi. The movement of energy can get trapped in pockets of clutter, making your bathroom a place to escape from, not to.

Start by tackling bathroom counter clutter. In our rush to get ready each morning, we stop seeing the clutter we leave behind every day. By using drawer organizers and pretty storage on top of the counter, you can hide the clutter that creates stress as you begin your day. Assess your storage needs and make clearing the counter a priority. Also reassess your bathroom trash can.  If it it seems to overflow faster than you can empty it, you might need to upgrade. This is a big source of clutter stress in the bathroom.

3. Update your lighting for a feng shui bathroom

Bathroom lighting ideas

The right lighting can make your bathroom much more relaxing. Think of your bathroom lighting as layers of design. The Pottery Barn Ultimate Double Sink Storage Vanity provides unique options for lighting your bathroom.  Courtesy of Pottery Barn

Bathroom lighting is almost as important to feng shui as your color palette. How your colors (and you) appear in your bathroom can make or break your morning. Think beyond just the typical overhead light or vanity light. Look for ways to “layer” your lighting for a relaxed ambience. With the focus on feng shui energy, the right lighting is essential to your bathroom retreat, as too-bright lighting can be too energetic for a relaxing space.

If you’re not getting the look you want from your morning makeup routine, the latest LED lighted mirrors can illuminate you and your vanity beautifully. The quickest way to change your bathroom lighting is through your light bulbs. Make sure that your light bulbs are right for your bathroom by experimenting with warm, daylight and soft lightbulbs, until you get the perfect look.

4. Choose the right bathroom linens

Spa Bathroom linens

For a soothing spa-like retreat, your linens should be enjoyable to use and look at like Williams Sonoma Home, Chambers® Heritage 800-Gram Solid Towels. Courtesy of William Sonoma Home

The softest linens are a must in your feng shui bathroom retreat. Fluffy towels and robes invite you to linger and let go of stress at the end of the day. White or neutral gray and beige are the perfect colors for bathroom linens because it encourages you to be creative with your color scheme.

5. Add the perfect feng shui bathroom accents

Feng shui bathroom

Natural elements and deep colors enhance the feng shui elements of the Wildon Home Freestanding Soaking Bathtub. Courtesy of Wayfair

Whatever bathroom color scheme you choose, you can improve your soothing feng shui energy with the right accessories. Of course, you’ll want to keep your accessories simple to keep your clutter to a minimum. If your bathroom color palette is filled with “water colors,” your decorative accents will be the most balanced if they’re warm and natural. Teak boxes or a small bench can balance too many cool colors in your bathroom. For a dark bathroom color palette, accessories made of driftwood or whitewashed wood are the perfect touch to lighten things up.

6. Don’t forget to add soothing scents to your bathroom

Neutral bathroom decorating

Candles are a great way to add relaxing scents to your bathroom, and create soft lighting for the perfect soak behind the Willa Arlo Rieke Shower Curtain. Courtesy of Wayfair

Like the perfect spa experience, the scents you choose for your bathroom are an important part of your feng shui transformation. The elements of a retreat bathroom should engage all of your senses, and choosing natural scents is an authentic way to bring them all together.

7. Bring your feng shui design into the master bedroom

Feng Shui Bedroom ideas

Flow that amazing feng shui bathroom vibe into your master bedroom with neutral Hilda Embroidered Bedding. Courtesy of Williams Sonoma Home

Love your new feng shui bathroom vibe? Carry that same spa-style into your master bedroom. In feng shui practice, the colors and elements are different for a bedroom, but you can still achieve a soothing atmosphere. The easiest way to add comfort to your bedroom is through luxurious linens, and soft scents. Just adding a soft throw and scented candles can totally transform your bedroom and create that feng shui retreat feeling.

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These 4 Temporary Decorating Ideas Will Help You Keep Your Security Deposit Safe

Decorating a rental can feel like a tedious task. On the one hand, you want to be able to create a space that feels like your own, no matter how long you intend to live there. On the other, you don’t want to get so into personalizing the space that you put your security deposit at risk.

With that in mind, we’ve laid out some temporary decorating ideas to help you along the way. Use these to achieve a homey look that can be taken down as soon as your lease is up.

temporary decorating ideas

Use area rugs to bring visual interest to the space. Image: Breadmaker/ Shutterstock

Invest in area rugs

Area rugs are great for livening up any living space, but they’re especially useful when it comes to rental situations. Put simply, they pack a big punch of visual interest but are just as easy to roll up and put away the moment your lease is done.

As far as how to pick out a good rug, in this case, aesthetics come first. If your rental is fairly basic when it comes to decor – we’re talking white walls and neutral flooring – you’re going to want to pick a rug that easily draws the eye.

Your next consideration is size. Unfortunately, rugs come in only a few standard sizes that you’ll need to work around. To help, here are some guidelines for you to keep in mind:

  • If you’re choosing a full room rug, remember to leave room for a border of flooring around all sides. 18 inches is considered the standard border measurement.
  • If your rug will be grounding a seating areameasure the length and width of the seating area in its current layout and buy the next size up.
  • If the rug is meant to highlight a piece of furniture like a dining table, make sure it’s big enough to extend beyond the piece with room on all sides. For a dining table, 24 inches is standard. However, it should be less if you’re working with a smaller piece, like a coffee table.
  • When in doubt, bigger is better. You can always hide excess rug under a piece of furniture, but a too-small rug will stick out like a sore thumb.
temporary wallpaper

Temporary products like removable wallpaper can make a huge difference. Image:

Reconsider removable products

While you may be tempted to write off wall decals and the like as products for children, we’re here to urge you to reconsider. These days, removable wallpaper and similar applications are sleeker than ever before and they come in a range of modern patterns and hues.

With removable products, your biggest concern is the quality of the walls themselves. You want to look for smooth walls, without texture or pockmarks. Smoother walls will reduce your chances of getting air pockets under the product during installation and ending up with a bubbly look.


Layer lighting to complete the look of the space. Image:

Add your own lighting

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: having the proper lighting in place can totally change a room. Oftentimes, in rental scenarios, you start out with the bare minimum, like harsh overhead lighting that’s flattering to no one. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t round out the space and soften it up by adding lighting of your own.

Remember, dealing with lighting is all about creating layers. There are three different types of lighting that you can use to your advantage:

  • Ambient: Also known as general lighting, ambient light fills the majority of the room and allows you to move around safely. It usually comes from recessed lighting, track lighting or wall-mounted fixtures.
  • Accent: Accent lighting is used to highlight a particular focal point, such as a piece of wall art. Picture lights, wall-mounted-fixtures or track lighting are common, and dimmers are often used on these features to provide mood lighting.
  • Task: As the name suggests, task lights are used to assist you in completing a particular function. This could be anything from desk lamps to pendant lights that hang over a kitchen island.

Mounting ambient lighting to the walls may not be possible in a rental. However, a variety of task lights like floor and table lamps will certainly do the job.


et stylized surfaces round out your design. Image: Image:

Stylize your surfaces

Lastly, keep in mind that decor does not need to be hung on the walls in order to play a role in your home. Stylized surfaces like coffee tables, dining tables and shelving units go a long way towards making your rental feel like it allows your personality to shine through.

Effectively stylizing surfaces is all about creating groupings of accessories. They can match, like the place settings on the dining table in the picture above, or they can simply coordinate, like the items on the shelves.

When selecting items to go in your grouping, you want to ensure that they’re different enough to create visual interest while still having a common thread to tie them together.

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5 Classy, Modern Ways to Decorate with Hearts

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Hearts are a common theme around Valentine’s Day, but they can easily run the risk of looking tacky. For instance, you’ll see many Valentine’s Day décor designs featuring bright pink paper hearts, which are great for an elementary school classroom or a child’s room. However, if you want to take decorating with hearts to the next level, below are some high-class ways to incorporate hearts into your décor style. Also, a wonderful aspect to many of these designs is that they don’t necessarily have to be only for Valentine’s Day. You can decorate with hearts year-round if you do it carefully.

Decorate with Hearts Frame

Heart shapes make great art collages. Image: Busra Ispir / Shutterstock

Use Frames to Decorate with Hearts

Art collages are a classy way to get just about any look in a home. In the photo above, you can see how a small heart-themed art collage is a great way to decorate with hearts. These hearts are more bold, but feel free to work with muted neutrals to give a more modern look. Another idea is to use small accents of hot pink to keep it subtle, yet fun.

You might also try a gallery wall style using different-sized frames in random places for a more funky, modern look. You could also hang this design year-round, or you could easily hang and take it down around Valentine’s Day.

Decorate with Hearts Stick Design

Focus on texture to make hearts go perfectly with a room’s design style. Image: Tom Gowanlock / Shutterstock

Go for Natural Textures

Another idea to decorate with hearts is to focus on texture. An example is the photo above, where you can see the textured stick heart on the wall.

By focusing on different textures like this, you can incorporate hearts into any style. For instance, a metal heart could fit in with an industrial theme. A lace heart wall hanging could fit in with a Victorian theme. A distressed wooden heart could fit in with a country or other rustic theme. Or a basic outline of a neutral-colored heart could fit in with minimalist or modern homes. And it could work year-round.

Decorate with Hearts Tile Design

You can also redo tile to get a heart shape. Image: onsuda / Shutterstock

Get Creative with Tile

Speaking of ideas for year-round designs, the heart in the photo above is definitely more of a permanent fixture. The red heart on the dark background also keeps the design looking bold. Though you could do a neutral color with the heart to keep it more modern. And placing a large heart design in the middle of the wall would allow it to be a focal point.

You don’t have to just stick to the bathroom for this idea, either. You could also place a modern heart design in the backsplash of a kitchen. Hearts could even go on floor tiles. It’s a very versatile option, if you’re open to more of an involved remodeling project.

Decorate with Hearts Plant

Garden accents can make a classy addition to a space, indoors or out, as is the case with this Heart Plant Pot Decoration, Courtesy of Etsy.

Try Classy Garden Accents

Another idea to decorate with hearts is to use them in the garden, like in the photo above. Since Valentine’s Day is still on the cool side in most climates, however, you might want to use this idea in house plants. You can easily place gardening decorations in large potted plants.

The piece in the photo above is actually a great idea for keeping hearts on the more modern side, too. The rust texture gives more of an industrial look that combines well with brick textures. Yet the heart is very subtle and not too overpowering in the space like bold red hearts can be.

Decorate with Hearts Photo Collage

A heart-shaped photo collage is classy and can hang year-round. Image: Daniel Lindholm / Twenty20

Make a Photo Collage

The photo above proves you can creatively work a heart shape into just about anything. A creative photo collage like this is a classy way to use a heart shape. Forming family photos into a heart shape is also a cute, emotional way to display them.

You could either keep the photos plain or mount them onto a clean white canvas with a modern, minimal frame. So you could hang a piece like this in even the most modern and minimalistic of spaces. And going for a large design would make the collage an attractive focal point in any room.

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Sneaky Sustainability: 7 Ways to Design a More Efficient Home

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If you’re interested in building a more sustainable, eco-friendly home, you probably already know most of the basics: installing solar panels for power, opting for water-saving fixtures in the bathroom, you know the drill. But while that takes care of some of the biggest uses of power and water, you might be overlooking some of the smaller factors. Fixtures, solar panels and sustainable landscaping can definitely reduce your environmental impact, but the very design of your home could help you shrink that impact even more. Some of the smartest ways to increase sustainability might actually be the sum of a few small changes to your home’s design. Consider these sneaky sustainability hacks for a more energy efficient home.

A two-story home is often more energy efficient. Image: Omni Customs

1. Size Matters

It’s no secret that a smaller home is typically more energy efficient than a larger one. But it might not be just the size of the home, but how you use it. Consider two homes of the same square footage: one is 2,000 square feet on one level and the other is two levels, with 1,000 square feet on each. Which is the more efficient home? Stacking your square footage is almost always more energy efficient than a sprawling space, which costs more to heat and power.

Think about how much space you need and how it can be configured for energy savings. If you can get everything you want in a smaller, more compact footprint, it’ll be more sustainable in the long run.

2. Think Passive

Your mother-in-law might be passive aggressive, but an energy efficient home should be just plain passive. Passive design means creating a home that can basically take care of itself. When your home is designed so that it takes in the most sunlight during the winter, you can spend less on heating. The same home can offer shades to draw against hot summer sun, or windows that are situated for a cool breeze. Think of the ways you can decrease your home’s energy expenditure simply by where it sits on your lot or its layout.

Modern home with landscaping

Think about shade trees to keep your home cool. Image: 186 Lighting Design

3. Smart Landscaping

When talking about landscaping for sustainability, you’re usually referring to plants and grass that naturally do well in your home’s climate. It’s definitely a great way to save money on water and energy, but you can also use landscaping for even more sneaky sustainability. Simply plantings trees so they provide your home with natural shade and coverage helps you save on energy costs. Choose a leafy deciduous for hotter climates and you won’t need to crank up your A/C. Just make sure you plant trees where they’ll block sun in the summer, yet allow the sun to keep your home warmer in the winter.

4. Reclaim and Recycle

Building a home isn’t always the most eco-friendly way to procure a place to live. Even if you’re designing for a sustainable space, having new materials manufactured and delivered to your building lot requires a lot of energy. Thinking about how you source various materials can help you lessen the environmental burden. Choosing materials that are recycled or reclaimed from other projects reduces your environmental impact while giving every inch of your home more character. You can check with local builders, scour online classifieds and even check out demo projects to see if you can find solid materials with life left in them. If not, choose materials created from recycled goods whenever your contractors offer the option. Your environmental footprint will thank you for it.

Living room with large windows

Opt for natural light whenever possible. Image: Art of Architecture

5. Let in the Light

Indoor lighting can definitely drain you when it comes to energy costs. Besides a hefty electric bill, you’re also left with the burden of buying and swapping out bulbs. Instead, ask your architect to design your home for optimal natural lighting. It’s not just a question of installing windows, but utilizing your home’s orientation to make sure you get more light without sacrificing heating or cooling.

You can also sneak in sustainability by opting for LED fixtures and bulbs. Don’t worry about sacrificing ambiance: new-school LED bulbs can cast a natural, warm light. They’ll be more expensive up front but last much longer than traditional bulbs. What’s more, they’re cheaper to use because they consume less electricity.

6. Home Automation

Making your home a smart home can seem like an unnecessary expense. If your goal is a more efficient space, however, you might want to rethink technology’s role. Home automation puts some of your home’s energy-wasting processes on autopilot. The result? A more efficient home that adjusts itself when necessary. A smart thermostat can adjust the temperature based on when you spend time at home. Smart blinds can close themselves to block out hot sun in the middle of the day. Home automation isn’t just about convenience. It can create a space that is hyper-efficient and easy on your wallet.

Bright modern kitchen

Utilize organization for smaller, smarter spaces. Image: Tim Moss

7. Organization Solutions

An organized home means everything has a place. And when everything has a place, you can use less space storing your stuff. Smart organization solutions allow you to reduce the size of your home and storage space so you make less of an environmental impact. Whether it’s installing outlets in some of your most-used cupboards and drawers or building shelves into tight corners, think about organization from a sustainability point of view. Shelving, cabinets, attic spaces and closets can be retooled so they take up less room and store more stuff for a more efficient home.

When designing a more sustainable home, it’s important to think about how you’ll live in the space. Solar panels and energy-efficient appliances are great, but day-to-day sustainability might come from a smaller master bedroom or better kitchen windows. By working with your architect, you can design a space that is beautiful, functional and energy efficient.

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