How to Get a Living Privacy Fence

Privacy in our yards can be a major benefit. Not seeing the neighbors can keep easily distracted pets from roaming off. If you live in an area with smaller yards, lacking a privacy fence can mean becoming an uninvited near-guest to someone else’s family reunion. And sometimes you just want to feel like you’re more at home in your own space. But large privacy fences can get pricey and eventually require replacing. That’s assuming you can find a style you like. And you may live in an area that restricts what kind of fence you can have. That’s where a living privacy fence comes in.

To get a living privacy fence, you simply plan your landscape so that you can’t see the neighbors. You might plant strategic shrubbery or even have full trees at the edge of the property.

This option can get a little pricey, however. It can also take a few weeks to plan, acquire and plant the living fence. You may have to hire a landscaper to assist you. It also might take anywhere from a few months to years for the plants to reach full maturity and give the type of coverage you’re after. But if you want a natural way to add some lush privacy to your yard, a living privacy fence will be worth the investment.

Living Privacy Fence Full Style

Trimmed shrubs are a classic option for full privacy. Image: romakoma/Shutterstock

Decide Just How Much Privacy You Need

You’ll want to start by planning what you want out of a privacy fence. And the first aspect to look at is the level of privacy you need. Do you want complete coverage or is something you can still sort of see through okay? That will determine the type of plants you use and their spacing. Some plants only grow four feet tall, while others can go far higher.

Also, remember to check with city ordinances. Some have rules about how much you can obscure a yard. You’ll need to plan your plant coverage around any of these restrictions.

You’ll also want to assess how much of the yard you are looking to block. Do you want a privacy fence that extends the full perimeter of the yard? Or is only one direction where you currently have the least privacy acceptable? For instance, a full yard living privacy fence could be best accomplished with thick shrubbery, while partial privacy could just require one larger tree.

Living Privacy Fence Tree Style

Individual evergreen trees are just one option for a living privacy fence. Image: romakoma/Shutterstock

Types of Privacy Fences

To start, there are many different types of plants you can use to get a landscape design that affords maximum privacy. These privacy plants include:

  • Hedges, like privet or yew
  • Flowering evergreen shrubs, like pyracantha or holly
  • Bamboo
  • Evergreen trees like cedar, juniper or arborvitae
  • Flowering, full bushes, like enkianthus or lilac
  • Cactus
  • Living walls

You can plant these to have either full privacy or partial, depending on spacing.

Living Privacy Fence Partial Style

A partial fence and plant design can make a good artistic element in a yard. Image: rudolfgeiger/Shutterstock

Factor the Living Privacy Fence into Your Yard’s Style

You should also keep in mind how those plants will fit in with the style you are going for in your yard. For instance, well-trimmed hedges work best for yards that have a classic and neat appearance. Flower hedges work well with larger romantic garden spaces. Trees can offer a good option for more rustic yards that keep things on the natural side. You might even look into partial designs that can work for conceptual and artistic spaces, such as placing unconnected panels of fence alongside patches of evergreen trees. You can see an example in the photo above.

And remember to take into account the level of upkeep the living privacy fence will require. Though all living fences will need some upkeep, options like shrubbery will need regular trimming to maintain a clean look. If you’re not willing to spend a lot of time with your yard, you might choose options that don’t require regular trimming sessions, like willow trees or cactus.

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Your Spring Home Maintenance Checklist

spring home maintenance

Get your house into top shape for the warmer months with this spring home maintenance checklist. Image: Robert Daly/Getty Images

The newness and freshness of spring are inspiring and can be just what we need to tackle our home’s biggest, most daunting to-dos. And that’s why in addition to spring cleaning this is also the perfect time of year to make sure everything around your home is in working order. Use this spring home maintenance checklist to undo any damage from winter. This will let you relax during the warmer months, knowing your house is in top shape.

Overall inspection

Grab your binoculars and check your roof. Look for signs of wear and tear, like shifted shingles or nails poking up. These could create pathways for moisture to get under your roof. Look at your siding, exterior window and door seals and any other part of your home’s exterior that could have been exposed to damage over the winter. Giving your home a once-over can help you catch issues while they’re small and still easy (and cheap) to repair.

Now head indoors. Check all of your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Again, look at the seals around windows and doors. Even as the temperature gets more moderate, you don’t want to go months without spotting issues.

spring home maintenance - windows (1)

Sparkling windows can help you enjoy the spring season, both indoors and out. Image: Perry Mastrovito/Getty Images

Windows

Let the sunshine in! After the winter weather, your windows probably need a little TLC. You can hire a professional, but if your home is single-story or you feel comfortable on a ladder, this is an easy one to tackle yourself. Grab a squeegee, a soft cloth and a bucket that’s equal parts hot water and white vinegar. Use the cloth dipped in that solution to gently wipe away grime, then squeegee your windows clean and sparkling.

Don’t forget to clean your screens, too. Use a mild detergent to get them completely clean, then let them dry before putting them back on your windows. While you’re at it, check them for holes. Since you’ll probably be opening your windows during the warmer months, you don’t want to leave any openings for insects.

Gutters

Winter takes its toll on the plant life around your house, and that’s bad news for your gutters. Use the spring season as a reminder to clear fallen leaves and other debris from your gutters. You’ll be thanking yourself when the spring showers turn to downpours and all that water can safely and effectively drain away from your home!

To knock this task off your spring home maintenance checklist, climb safely up a ladder and remove anything you find in the gutter. Then, run a hose up to your roof so you can ensure proper drainage all the way through the downspout. When the water pours out, make sure it runs away from your home’s foundation. Also, check that all downspouts are still securely attached to your home and fix any that have pulled away.

spring home maintenance - hardscaping

Assess your hardscaping to pinpoint any damage winter may have caused. Image: ShutterWorx/Getty Images

Hardscaping

Winter temps aren’t easy on hardscaping. Check your driveway and walkways for any signs of damage. Smaller concrete cracks can probably be easily filled if you’re a DIYer, but larger damage to concrete or asphalt generally requires a pro.

Woodcare

Again, winter’s cold and moisture can be hard on exterior woodwork like decks and railings. This is the perfect time of year to power wash and reseal all of your home’s wood fixtures so you can enjoy clean, beautiful wood when you’re dining al fresco or relaxing in the yard once the temperatures warm up. While you’re at it, look for any signs of wood damage so you can repair them before they become a safety hazard.

spring home maintenance - grill

Get your grill ready for a summer of fun by giving it a once-over now. Image: Eirasophie/Getty Images

Grills

No spring home maintenance checklist would be complete without a little grill prep for the summer. If you have a charcoal grill, clean out any ash and grease. If you have a gas grill, check the lines for any leaks by coating them with soapy water. When turned on, gas will cause soap bubbles to form at any leak points.

No matter what type of grill you have, make sure it’s at least 10 feet from your house and five feet from anything combustible, including surrounding foliage. No sense in creating a fire hazard when you fire up the grill!

Air circulation

Your HVAC system has been pulling its weight all winter. Schedule a service visit from a qualified technician to ensure your AC unit can keep you cool all summer without any issues. You don’t want to wait until the heat sets in to find out you have a problem.

Similarly, put replacing all of your air filters on your spring home maintenance checklist. The average home needs this done every three months, so get in the habit of doing it seasonally. If you don’t, you’re wasting energy. Think about how much harder it is to blow through a handkerchief. A clogged air filter inhibits your HVAC system, making it work overtime.

spring home maintenance - lawn

Keep your yard looking lush without wasting water by checking that all of your sprinkler heads are facing the right direction. Image: Caiaimage/Martin Barraud/Getty Images

Irrigation

Before you start watering this spring, turn on your irrigation system and walk your property. Look for any signs of malfunctions and correct any sprinkler heads that might be watering your walkways or house. It will take you all of a few minutes, but it can save you from significant water waste or, worse, moisture damage to your foundation.

Happy spring cleaning and maintaining! We hope this spring home maintenance checklist makes it a breeze to keep your home in top shape. And, to help you continue doing exactly that as the seasons change, don’t forget to keep our summer maintenance guide at the ready.

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Winter Home Maintenance Checklist: 8 To-Dos Before Temperatures Drop

Winter is coming. Whether you live on the coast or in an area that gets blanketed in white for months of the year, it’s time to prep. Sure, your winter home maintenance checklist will look a little different depending on whether you’re braving temperatures of 10 below or just unpacking a few light sweaters. But even if you’re not facing ice and snow, the changing seasons are a great reminder to stay on top of the to-dos for your home or apartment.

We’ve put together this winter home maintenance checklist to help you get ready before temperatures drop. Tackle these eight tasks to be prepped for the changing weather.

winter home maintenance - heating system

Take the time to get your home’s heating system into top shape before you rely on it all winter. Image: Mihaly Slocombe

1. Check the heating system

How does your home stay warm? Whether you have a high-tech HVAC system or an old-school furnace, give it some love. Change out the air filter and test the igniter switch. If it’s been a while since a professional has serviced your system, there’s no time like the present.

If you have a fireplace that you use during the winter – whether for heat or just for the aesthetic – this is the time to have it cleaned. This is a must; the buildup in your fireplace is flammable and can pose a serious hazard.

winter home maintenance - pipes

Whether your pipes are exposed or not, make sure they won’t freeze this winter. Image: Urban Rebuilders

2. Prep pipes

A frozen pipe is a unique brand of terrible. Insulate your pipes to protect yourself against a water shortage or, worse yet, a major flood. Not only will this help keep them from freezing, it makes your home’s hot water system more efficient, saving you serious bucks throughout the year.

While you’re at it, disconnect hoses from their spigots so they don’t freeze in place. And, if you’re leaving town this winter, keep your thermostat at 55 degrees F or above. That way, the radiant heat from your house can keep water moving through your pipes.

winter home maintenance- windows

Check the seals around windows and doors to ensure that cold air stays out and warm air stays in. Image: Moloney Architects

3. Seal windows and doors

The hotter weather of the summer months can cause the seals around your windows to crack. You might not notice – or even mind – when the weather outside is temperate, but leaks and cracks can leave you facing a chilly home and higher heating bill during winter. As part of your winter home maintenance, feel around your home for any drafts. Recaulk or install weather stripping as needed to keep your home toasty during the months ahead.

winter home maintenance - fans

Keep your bedroom comfortable throughout the winter by flipping a switch on your fan. Image: Actual Size Projects

4. Switch ceiling fans

The simple flip of a switch can make your home more comfortable this winter. If you have ceiling fans, change their direction to clockwise. This pushes the warmer air that gathers near your ceiling down into the room. This simple swap is key in rooms where you run your fans even in the winter, e.g., if you use your fan for white noise to help you sleep.

winter home maintenance - carbon monoxide

You depend on your smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detectors to protect your family. Make sure they’re up to the task. Image: StudioChevojon

5. Check batteries

During the cooler months, you’ll likely be running your heater and keeping your windows closed. This keeps your home warmer, but it also poses a danger. Any carbon monoxide leak can quickly become fatal. Before winter sets in, change out the batteries in your carbon monoxide and smoke detectors. It’s easy to get into the habit of making sure these key devices have fresh batteries by doing it every time you change the clocks for daylight saving time. (We “fall back” on Nov. 4 this year.)

winter home maintenance - trim trees

Keep tree limbs clear of windows so storms and heavy snow don’t knock any limbs into your home. Image: Splyce Design

6. Trim trees

Winter can mean storms. Whether it brings wind, rain or snow, you don’t want to be contending with any falling tree limbs. This fall, trim the trees around your house. Make sure no limbs are overhanging your roof or skimming your windows. While you’re at it, scan your property for any limbs that could pose a hazard if they become overladen with the weight of snow.

winter home maintenance - gutters

Unclogged gutters are crucial during the winter months. Image: Zone 4 Architects

7. Clear gutters

Cleaning your gutters is never fun, but it’s also never more important than before the winter months. On a stable ladder, clear out twigs, leaves and other debris. Then flush the gutter with a hose and watch as the water comes out of the downspout. A slow drain could be indicative of a clog. If you notice anything off, detach your downspout to clear it before winter comes.

winter home maintenance - patio

Don’t leave your patio furniture exposed to the elements during the colder weather ahead. Image: Entrada

8. Protect patio furniture

You’ll likely be using your patio less during the chilly season ahead, so why leave all of your patio furniture out and exposed to the elements? No matter your climate, your winter home maintenance checklist should include putting some protections in place for your outdoor spaces. Cover patio furniture or move it inside. Alternately, if you have removable cushions, you can leave the sturdier bases of furniture outside but move the cushions that would be more affected by the elements into storage.

Get started with winter home maintenance

No matter your climate, getting your home or apartment ready for the colder months can help you shrink your energy bill, be more comfortable indoors and rest easy knowing your space is in top shape. What to-dos do you add to your list to get ready for winter? Let us know in the comments!

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Landscaping Around Your Home’s HVAC Unit

Beautiful plants can help draw your eye away from the equipment needed to keep your home comfortable. Source: Bloomwater, LLC

Outdoor home decor usually doesn’t include an air conditioning unit. This necessary appliance doesn’t have to spoil your home’s look, however. Landscaping around an HVAC system is a great way to spruce up an often neglected space and to create a seamless exterior for your home. But be careful. Trees and bushes can damage your HVAC system without proper placement and care. You don’t want decorations to disrupt your home’s heating and cooling. Discover the best ways to landscape around your outdoor system with these tips.

Choose the right plants

So much about picking the right plant depends on where you live. There are some general rules of (green) thumb to follow. When possible, look for plants that don’t lose their leaves in colder months. This will reduce the amount of sweeping and raking needed keep the area clear of debris. Hedges are a common choice, and can be trimmed to your desired shape and height.

Leave the proper clearance

To work properly and avoid unnecessary repairs, your air conditioning unit needs space. It’s crucial to leave adequate space between the unit and your plants to avoid restricting airflow around the coils. Plants should be at least 2-3 feet from the unit on all sides, and make sure your air conditioner is easily reached for maintenance and repairs. Trees or other plants growing above the unit should be trimmed regularly to keep a 5-foot clearance between them and the air conditioner.

Make the most of the shade

Shade cast on the air conditioner keeps the temperature down so the unit doesn’t have to work as hard to cool your home. Yes, it’s a fine line between casting shade and staying clear of debris, but the value is there when it’s done correctly. In addition to making the area look more natural, landscaping around your air conditioner can actually help improve its efficiency.

Screen it

Sometimes the simplest way to dress up your HVAC system is to hide it. From quaint cottage styles to more modern looks and materials, there are multiple pre-made screens you can use to cleverly disguise your A/C unit. Building a lattice around the A/C unit and landscaping with climbing plants is also a relatively simple and attractive option. Just make sure to trim plants, hedges and trees near the air conditioner regularly to maximize airflow and efficiency.

Ask a specialist

If you have any questions about your air conditioning unit or are looking for additional tips for landscaping around an air conditioner, contact your local HVAC specialist. And as always, be sure to call your local utility before you dig.

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Landscaping for Fire Safety

Certain parts of the country used to have a fairly predictable fire season, but the times are changing. California, for example, now has to be on fire alert throughout the entire year. That means there’s no time like the present to prepare your house for a fire. And that doesn’t just mean buying homeowners or renters insurance. There are some fire safety steps you can take to make your home or apartment less likely to burn in a fire. By implementing these three landscaping fire safety tips, you can better protect yourself, your family, your belongings and your property from a wildfire.

fire safety 1

Move combustible patio furniture at least 30 feet from your house. Image: Thom Filicia

Create defensible spaces

One of the top fire safety steps every homeowner and renter should take is creating defensible space. This is essentially clearing space around the walls of your abode. If you’re a renter, this can be a little trickier; get permission from your landlord first. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends removing vegetation, debris or anything else that could catch fire from the perimeter around your home. Generally, it’s considered best practice to maintain two zones of defensible space.

Defensible space 1

Imagine a 30-foot ring around your house. Now remove anything even remotely combustible from that ring. That means clearing out your gutters on a regular basis, removing fallen vegetation from your roof and trimming tree branches as needed. If you keep a wood pile, make sure you move it at least 30 feet from your home. Yes, it means lugging the wood a little further when you want to make a fire. But it also means there won’t be a big pile of kindling just waiting to go up in flames right next to your house.

If you have patio furniture that you store within the first defensible space, make sure it’s non-combustible. You may also want to upgrade your deck to a non-combustible material.

Defensible space 2

Keep up with your outdoor maintenance within 100 feet of your home, or up to your property line. This means regularly mowing grass and trimming any other foliage and clearing the ground of dead leaves and pine needles. Generally, any tree branch that’s less than six feet from the ground should be cut. If you have trees, shrubs or other plant life, think through the spacing. Trees, for example, should be at least ten feet apart so fire has a more difficult time jumping between them.

Even beyond 100 feet from your house, keeping your property thinned and pruned makes it less likely that a fire quickly reach your home.

fire safety - hardscaping

Use hardscaping to create an area around your home where fire won’t find any fuel. Image: Eric Brandon Gomez

Use hard surfaces

Hardscaping has a number of benefits. It’s easy to maintain, adds architectural appeal to your outdoor spaces and is fire safe. A wide concrete driveway, for example, can protect the front of your house. Gravel, steel and stone are other great hard surface options that resist fire and can help you protect your home.

Whether you’re taking on a small-scale outdoor task like edging your planters or renovating your deck or patio, choose hard surfaces to literally build fire safety into the fabric of your outdoor space. You can also intersperse hard surfaces within your landscaping to break up large swaths of vegetation.

fire safety - plants

Succulents store water in their leaves, making them less likely to burn. Image: Debora Carl Landscape Design

Use native vegetation

Fires need fuel. Your landscaping can be just what it needs to travel right up to your home, putting it at immediate risk. Or, it can be a help. When you’re planting the areas around your home, it’s generally a good rule of thumb to choose native species. These plants are adapted to thrive in your area, meaning they’ll root deeply and retain water more easily, making them less likely to burn. On the flip side, non-native species are more likely to get dried out by the conditions to which they aren’t naturally acclimated, making them ideal kindling for a fire.

Most areas will have resources available about which native species are most fire-resistant. In general, look for plants with leaves that have a high water content and do not create much dry wood or leaves. Succulents are an excellent example since they store water in their leaves.

Planting wisely, leveraging hardscaping and creating defensible spaces are the keys to fire safety outside your home or apartment. Use these tips to help defend against this natural disaster so you can rest easier no matter what the seasons bring your way.

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Fire Pits and Outdoor Fireplaces to Keep You Warm and Toasty in the Fall

Just because the temperatures are cooler doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy being outdoors. While you may not be able to use that outdoor shower for a while, fire pits and outdoor fireplaces are a great way to enjoy the beauty of this season. They make it easy to enjoy the perfect balance between the sweltering heat of summer and the bitter cold of winter. Whether entertaining family and friends or just enjoying the peace and solitude of your own backyard, these fire pits and outdoor fireplaces can keep you warm and toasty.

Fire Pits

Intro fire pits

This fire bowl provides warmth and beauty. Image: Power Concrete Construction & Design Center

According to Katie Flaxman, director and co-founder of Studio 31 Landscape Architecture and Garden Design, “Fire pits can be invaluable during the cooler months because they not only provide a source of heat but can also offer a core social and entertaining space.”

fire pits

A sunken patio creates a cozy atmosphere. Image: SHED Architecture & Design

Sunken pits are also popular. “A sunken terrace area with a fire pit offers shelter and protection from the elements – and also creates a unique and cozy space to huddle up,” Flaxman says. This sunken patio with a fire pit has acid etching to create a nonslip surface.

DIY Fire Pit

diy fire pits

A DIY fire pit can save you money. Image: Austin Alvarez

According to Austin Alvarez, who, along with his wife, blogs about his DIY projects at Building Our Rez, you can also build your own DIY fire pit from scratch for less than $75.  “Simply clear the ground cover or grass, spread paver base, lay your concrete blocks and fill the center with pea pebbles,” Alvarez says. The photo above is the fire pit he built himself.

If you need detailed instructions, Michael Provenzano, marketing manager of adhesives and sealants at PPG (makers of LIQUID NAILS® adhesives), offers more.

Step 1.

Choose an area at least 25 feet from your home. This should be an area with no trees nearby and no overhanging branches.  Provenzano says it’s also a good idea to research the fire regulations in your area.

Step 2.

Measure the area you want to use for the fire pit. Depending on the condition of the area, it may be necessary to create a sand bed or remove the soil’s top level. If the latter, be sure to contact your local utility company before you start digging. That way, you won’t unintentionally hit any underground utility lines.

Step 3.

Lay blocks in your desired style, placing a 1/4-inch continuous line (bead) of LIQUID NAILS FUZE*IT® All Surface Construction Adhesive roughly 1.5 inches from the front and back edges of the blocks. Install a metal insert to ensure the adhesive does not come into contact with the open flame.  

Step 4.

Wait at least 24 hours for the adhesive to cure before using any new fire pits.

Fireplace1

A wood-burning, stacked-stone fireplace. Image: PlyGem

Fireplaces

If you want a larger, more permanent source of outdoor heat, consider building a fireplace to create warmth and beauty. Whereas fire pits have a low profile, fireplaces can be built to any height. As a result, they can provide privacy and add architectural detail to the exterior of your home.

Fireplace and pergola

A complete outdoor entertaining area. Image: Paradise Restored Landscaping & Exterior Design

Along with a fireplace, well-placed and subtle lighting can make your backyard a welcoming one all year round,” says Flaxman. “Of course, for those on a larger budget, there is also the option of a pergola, which adds additional protection from the elements.”

Ventless Fireplace

Ventless fireplace

A ventless fireplace is perfect for rooftop entertaining. Image: HearthCabinet Ventless Fireplaces

Some consumers opt for a ventless fireplace. According to Arthur Lasky, president of HearthCabinet Ventless Fireplaces and principal at Silberstang Lasky Architects, ventless fireplaces use alcohol-based cartridges composed of a clean-burning mixture of alcohol and water. “They are safe and easy to use and create lively, beautiful, real golden flames that also crackle.”

No gas or electricity is needed. Lasky says the cartridges last anywhere from 2 hours to 2.5 hours, similar to a real log, but without the smoke.

Fire Safety

While enjoying the beauty of a fire pit or fireplace, don’t forget to exercise caution. Caitlin Hoff, health and safety investigator at ConsumerSafety.org, offers the following tips:

Fireplace safety

An Oriflamme Hammered Copper gas fire pit. Image: Patterson Custom Homes

Keep your children and pets away from the fire. “This is a good rule of thumb for any open flame or heating source in your home to protect your children and pets from burns or greater accidents caused by a fire,” Hoff says. “Three feet is a generally safe distance to keep between the fire and all family members.”

To avoid excess smoke inhalation while sitting around a fire, burn only dry material and use vents to direct the smoke upwards, not outwards. “Logs or sticks that are damp will increase the amount of smoke when burned.” Hoff explains that excess smoke inhalation can irritate the eyes, nose and throat. Some people may also experience breathing issues or nausea.

Fireplace safety2

This is a three-season porch. Image: Marshall Morgan Erb Design Inc

Never leave a fire unattended in your outdoor fireplace. “Even models that include a screen can allow small embers to drift out, starting a home fire,” Hoff says. “Supervision is imperative!”

Do not use an outdoor fireplace or fire pit that has seen significant rust or damage. “If the structure were to collapse while a fire is burning within, it could start a fire or injure those nearby.”

remote fire pits

A remote fireplace. Image: Kikucki + Kankel Design Group

Keep several buckets of water or sand or a fire extinguisher nearby in case of an emergency. “If you prefer a fire extinguisher, be sure to the read the directions for your specific model and understand how to properly use it should an emergency occur,” Hoff says.

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Freshome’s Tips on How to Entertain at Home

entertain at home

You’ve got the cake and champagne. But what else do you need to entertain at home? Image: Danenberg Design

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Whether you’ve lived in your house for years or are just moving into your first apartment, planning to entertain at home can be a big undertaking. You want your house or apartment to look its best and your guests to feel comfortable. You can cook and clean and still be left feeling like your space isn’t ready. But don’t panic! We’ve got you covered.

Our Freshome team has a very wide range of experience when it comes to entertaining at home. We all love home design and enjoy freshening up our spaces for guests, but we also know that breaking our backs to get ready for a party just isn’t worth it. So without further ado, here are our absolute essentials for when we entertain at home.

entertain at home - kitchen

The right pans, knives and lighting set your kitchen – and you – up for success. Image: Twelve Chairs

In the kitchen

Although guests won’t spend much time in the kitchen, most parties start there. Setting yourself up to cook without any issues makes hosting much easier. Here are a few kitchen items that our Freshome team leans on when we get ready to entertain at home.

Good knives

Any chef worth their salt will tell you that their #1 must-have item is good knives. And we agree. When you entertain at home, the last thing you want is to end up with a tomato mush or behind-schedule bake because your knives weren’t up to the task. If you’re ready to upgrade your current set, this 3-piece one from Williams Sonoma is a favorite of ours.

Good pans

Whether you’re roasting something in the oven all day or just frying up a quick appetizer, the right pans make all the difference. A good pan distributes heat evenly and helps your cooking along. The wrong pan can ruin a dish – and make cleanup a total headache. At Freshome, we agree that every kitchen needs a non-stick frying pan and a cast iron skillet. If you’re hunting for some for your own kitchen, Williams Sonoma has a Calpahlon Elite Nonstick Essential Pan that cooks like a dream and makes cleanup a breeze.

Good lighting

When designing your home, you probably think carefully about the type of lighting you’re going to install in the main rooms where you’ll entertain. But don’t skip your kitchen just because it might have less foot traffic during parties. Ample, comfortable lighting makes spending time in the kitchen prepping for a major luncheon or dinner party much less tiring.

entertain at home - living room

Make sure you have ample – and visually interesting – seating. Image: Allen Construction

In the living room

Unless you’re hosting a dinner party and plan to gather everyone around the dining table, the living room will probably be at the heart of your event. What makes the ideal living room for entertaining? At Freshome, we love all the design details like a gorgeous rug and an interesting coffee table, but we all agree that nothing is more important than seating. Here are a few key pieces of furniture we recommend.

A giant couch

What’s the one thing a living room absolutely has to have? A couch! And if you host people regularly, the bigger, the better. Sectionals are a favorite among our team. You can’t beat that versatility! Plus, they add structure to your space, helping you define it so your guests can understand the flow of the room at a glance. When measuring for a couch, remember that length isn’t the only thing that matters. Don’t forget depth for the comfort it adds. A deep couch, like the Lounge II from Crate & Barrel, invites everyone to kick back and relax.

An inviting chair

Not everyone wants to be squished together on the couch. Providing alternate seating helps all of your guests feel comfortable – and can make your space more welcoming. This oversized Newton Grand Armchair is a great example. It gives guests the chance to establish their own space and, when you’re not entertaining, is an ideal place to cozy up. Or, if you’re pressed for space but need additional seating, something more compact that still packs a style punch, like this Fabrizzi Mid-Century Modern Chair from Target, is a great option.

An accent loveseat or sofa

Are you sensing a trend? When you want to entertain at home, prepping your living room comes down to creating enough seating to host everyone comfortably. But don’t forget the design, either. That’s what makes accent furniture a slam dunk. It adds a pop to your room and creates a place for guests to plop down. We love velvet sofas and chairs, especially in rich jewel tones. You can grab a gorgeous one from West Elm; their Drake Sofa can be made-to-order in forest green velvet.

entertain at home - general

Creating a comfortable space makes it so much easier to welcome guests. Image: Rikki Snyder

In general

While prepping your kitchen and living room gets you off on the right foot, you certainly shouldn’t stop there when you plan to entertain. Here are a few more of our Freshome recommendations.

A comfortable space

This might seem broad, but it’s really key. In the throes of designing an entire home, it’s easy to get carried away with the way everything looks and forget about what it will be like to actually live in it. Creating comfy spaces isn’t just a plus for you and your family, either. It helps your guests relax when you have them over. A soft sofa, a cozy throw and inviting colors all help to create a room where you’ll want to entertain at home.

Plants and flowers

Plants are are a great addition to any room. Not only do they add texture and vibrancy to the room, they also clean the air. If you want to add some extra wow when getting ready to entertain at home, turn to potted plants and/or fresh flowers. Anywhere you feel needs an extra pop – whether that’s the center of your dining table or a small corner of the bathroom – plants can deliver.

How do you entertain at home?

All of us are still learning. We refine our party prep after every event we throw, so we’d love to hear about your entertaining essentials. What items do you stock to get yourself and your home or apartment ready for guests? Let us know in the comments!

The post Freshome’s Tips on How to Entertain at Home appeared first on Freshome.com.

Fall Wreaths Your Front Door Can’t Live Without

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There’s a quick and easy way to infuse instant seasonal curb appeal to your door and entrance: fall wreaths. If you choose wisely, you can get a lot of mileage out of fall wreaths. Add some spiders or spooky elements to yours for Halloween, swap out the bugs for pumpkins or wheat for Thanksgiving and add red and/or sparkle for Christmas.

Do something different and innovative for your fall wreath look, like this Craft Patch blog accordion fold paper wreath.

Consider a wreath the perfect set of earrings. No outfit (or door) is complete without one. We’ve scoured the web to bring you fall wreaths to add to your front porch and inspire you to dress up your front door this season.

Square Wreaths

fall wreaths

Add a modern twist to your holiday decor with a square wreath. Image: Ask Wet & Forget

fall wreaths
fall wreaths
fall wreaths
fall wreaths

Monogram Wreaths

fall wreath ideas

The team at Martha Stewart dressed up a simple vine wreath with some fall foliage, ribbon and the letter M.

fall wreath ideas
fall wreath ideas
fall wreath ideas

Feather Wreaths

fall wreaths

Peacock feathers are paired with vivid teal feathers for a unique fall wreath look. Image: Elle Decor UK



Foliage Wreaths

Nothing says fall more than a leaf-themed wreath. Image: Christine Throckmorton







Succulent Wreaths

fall wreaths

Give fall a twist by featuring a succulent wreath on your front door. Image: Cals Farms

fall wreaths
fall wreaths
fall wreaths
fall wreaths

Pinecone Wreaths

For an updated fall wreath, paint the pinecones on your wreath in the latest fall colors like olive, pink and terracotta. Image: Sunset Magazine



Wreaths With White Pumpkins

fall wreaths

White pumpkins are a fresh alternative to the traditional orange pumpkins, and they look great with green foliage like eucalyptus leaves. Image: Dovie Scott

fall wreaths
fall wreaths
fall wreaths

Buffalo Check Black and White Wreaths

fall wreath ideas

Plaid is a fall staple. This year, try a black and white buffalo plaid pattern. Image: How To Nest For Less

fall wreath ideas
fall wreath ideas

Floral Wreaths

fall wreaths

Florals have been fashionable in the last couple of years. They’re on wallpaper, upholstery fabric and dinnerware. And a floral wreath, like this one featuring rich peonies, makes a stunning fall wreath display. Image: Country Living

fall wreaths
fall wreaths
fall wreaths

Choose a fall wreath that stands out against your front door. High contrast blacks and whites or brightly colored wreaths look great against a darker door. And earthier tones featuring off-whites, pinecones and white pumpkins flow beautifully with a wood door. Which is your favorite of these fall wreaths?

The post Fall Wreaths Your Front Door Can’t Live Without appeared first on Freshome.com.

Fall Lawn Maintenance: Benefits of Core Aeration

core aeration

If you want your lawn to look its best, core aeration is key. Image: Quinlan Terry Architects

Everyone needs a break, including your yard. After a summer of use, it might be a little tired and worn down. But you don’t want to compromise it. You love your lush, green expanse and you know that it offers a wide range of benefits to your home. So what can you do to give it some space and help it breathe to look its best? The answer is simple: core aeration.

This is a lawn care process that pulls small plugs up from your lawn and leaves them on top. Over time, those plugs break down and filter back into your turf. Core aeration is an important part of your lawn care regimen and fall is the best time to do it. Here are a few reasons you shouldn’t skip this yard maintenance step.

core aeration 4

Give your soil some breathing room through core aeration. Image: Andrew Sherman Photography

It opens up your soil

Your soil needs space to allow air, fertilizer, water, and more into it. Over time, though, it gets compacted. Between you walking across your lawn, your kids playing on it, your dog sniffing around it and simple gravity, it’s no surprise that the particles of soil get packed closer together as the seasons pass. When you pull plugs out of that compacted soil, you breathe life into it – literally. The soil density decreases and everything has space to circulate. Suddenly, roots that couldn’t breathe are able to get everything they lacked.

core aeration 3

Anything you put on your lawn to help it grow will make a bigger impact if you aerate your soil. Image: The LaurelRock Company

It creates pathways for nutrients

Those plugs don’t just allow the soil to open, they also create pathways. When you apply nutrients to your yard after core aeration, they penetrate much more deeply than they would otherwise. If your turf is looking like it needs some TLC, aeration followed by the application of a nutrient like sulphur or lime could transform it. 

It’s kind of like a facial. When you exfoliate your skin before applying any creams or serums, they penetrate more deeply. Your lawn is similar. It needs that dense, compacted top layer to get broken up so anything good you apply to it can actually make a difference.

core aeration 5

Core aeration gets rid of dead grass so your lawn can look extra lush. Image: Michael K. Walker & Associates, Inc.

It reduces thatch

Have you ever thought about what happens to all the grass you trim every time you mow? Your lawn certainly has. That dead plant matter builds up over time, limiting your live grass’s access to sunlight, water, and air. Left untouched, thatch can suffocate your lawn. Each time you aerate, you pull up some of that thatch and create openings for it to filter down into the soil, where your grass can properly process it. Plus, getting rid of that layer of dead grass helps your lawn look its softest and greenest. 

core aeration 2

Fall is the ideal time to aerate your lawn. Image: J. Paul Moore Photography

What to know about core aeration

Note that you should leave the plugs on top of your grass after core aeration. We know they might not look very pretty, but they’re part of the process! Over time, as you mow and water, they’ll incorporate back into your turf, feeding it so that it can grow to its fullest potential.

The time to aerate your lawn depends on your grass, but most lawn care professionals agree that fall is a great time. This is because the air will be cool but your soil will still be warm. Plus, tackling this task now, when your lawn is probably covered with leaves, makes the little plugs less bothersome. And it essentially guarantees that your lawn will look gorgeous come spring. 

In short, core aeration can help you reveal your best-looking lawn. It’s a major task, but the results are well worth it. And, since you’re already investing in helping your yard look its best next year, why not tackle some of these other lawn care tasks to prep your yard for winter?

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Clever Ways to Hide an Ugly HVAC Unit

Hidden HVAC

Find ways to blend your air conditioner into your home’s exterior design. Image: New Eco Landscapes

Don’t let an unsightly HVAC unit or pool pump ruin your home’s outdoor aesthetic. There are plenty of great materials and ideas available to help your air conditioner blend in with the rest of your home. While we like to think design first, your HVAC system needs to be clear of leaves and debris and placed far enough away from any obstructions that could compromise airflow and efficiency. Your local HVAC specialist is your best bet for guidance on these issues.

Here are five options that can help hide your air conditioner without sacrificing style.

wicker screen

This wicker screen enclosure by Suncast offers is an easy and attractive way to hide your HVAC unit. Image: Target

Wicker

A charming wicker screen can give your backyard a cottage garden feel and keep your HVAC unit tucked out of sight. Flexible and versatile, you can arrange them in multiple ways to fit your home’s exterior. Most are also freestanding so you don’t need to attach it to another structure. The clean white lines make an eye-catching addition to any garden or backyard.

Hedges

Hedges or larger flowering plants can naturally mask your air conditioning unit. Image: Arrow Shop

Greenery

One smart way to hide your HVAC unit is to use the greenery or shrubbery around your home. Taller plants, flowers or hedges offer a natural solution that not only disguises your air conditioner but also adds extra color and texture to the exterior of your home. If you don’t have a garden or shrubbery, faux ivy leaf netting can also mimic tall hedges. Keep in mind that you’ll need a fence to attach it to.

Wood Lattice

Wooden lattice panels use natural textures and colors to cover HVAC units. Image: Improvements Catalog

Lattice Panels

If you’re handy enough, pre-assembled panels might be perfect for your home. Natural wood materials, like cedar or fir, blend well into natural settings. You can also easily paint them to match your style. The design doesn’t have to be traditional lattice.  This will make your screen stand out — in a good way. Panels are sometimes sold individually, so you can order as many as you need to fit your space.

Outdoor privacy screen

An outdoor privacy screen lets you add color and a geometric design to your home’s exterior. Image: Dream Products

Privacy Screen

Geometric designs, like the horizontal stripes on this outdoor privacy screen, work perfectly in a modern outdoor living space. There are a variety of colors and designs to choose from depending on your home and landscaping theme. The only snag is that you’ll need a fence or wooden structure to hang the plastic mesh screen on. It may work best as a decorative element on top of one of the other wooden screen options.

Bamboo

A bamboo screen can hide your air conditioner and fit perfectly with a zen garden themed space. Image: Great Lakes Landscape Design

Bamboo

A bamboo screen, or planting bamboo itself, is a visually interesting and design-forward way to cover your HVAC unit. Bamboo is ideal for outdoor spaces with a zen garden or tropical design. It pairs well with stone pathways, water installations and garden statues. When planting actual bamboo, however, know that it does grow quickly and can require more maintenance than other plants.

What are the best materials you’ve found for outdoor design or hiding an HVAC unit? Let us know in the comments.

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