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Recently I pulled up the metal stopper in my sink, and it came out in my hand. After fiddling with it for about an hour I gave up. A plumber told me the entire assembly needed to be replaced, at a cost of $135.

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I decided to live with an open drain, but after a few close calls with Contacts and earrings falling into the sink and almost going into the drain, I decided I needed another option. I found out about A sink strainer and hair catcher called Sink Shroom. It gets it’s moniker from its mushroom shape, with a system that fits down into the drain with a top that rests outside the drain. It has two tabs that keep it from going to flush against the drain.

This little device is designed to catch hair before it goes down the drain, and it can be easily removed and cleaned with a tissue or paper towel. It’s a great option if you don’t want to make an expensive repair, as in my case, or if you have a problem with clogs from hair going into the drain.

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My situation being a case in point, plumbers can cost a lot of money, and clogs can cause other problems besides inconvenience, such as requiring the use of dangerous acid-based liquid solutions to dissolve clogs. These chemicals are harmful to your pipes and also a hazard for humans, not just because they can cause skin irritation if they come in contact, but also because they can splash up and some have even been known to blind people.

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So far the SinkvShroom has been an easy fix, with no special installation required. I’m not looking forward to cleaning it regularly, but it’s a better option than clogs, and it beats losing my jewelry other items down the drain. One warning though, there is a gap of about a half an inch that allows water flow, so small jewelry can still fall down the drain, but you may get an extra second or two to retrieve it if it bounces off the Sinks Shroom.

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The Sink Shroom fits a typical utility sink drain, which is about 1.25 inches in diameter. It’s made of high-grade material that is resistant to corrosion and discoloration. Find out where you can get it at www.tubshroom.com.

cozy by the fireHome is where the Hearth is

A fire in the fireplace warms a room and casts a beautiful amber glow that creates a cozy, inviting and romantic atmosphere. But many homeowners avoid using their fireplace because of worries about safety or the hassle of starting a fire and cleaning up the mess. Jason Cameron, DIY Network star and home expert for Pine Mountain, offers these tips and ideas for getting your fireplace started and enjoying this hearth-warming feature of your home,

What are factors to consider deciding between a traditional or a gas fireplace?

In order to have a traditional, wood burning fireplace you must have a working chimney for ventilation. A chimney sweep can easily inspect this for you at a reasonable cost with prices averaging between $125 and $250. Other factors to consider are cleanliness, safety and relative cost per use.

How can I inexpensively update an old fireplace?

Fireplaces have come a long way since the traditional red brick and concrete. To achieve a sleek look, replacing dated brick with a metal surround to make your fireplace more contemporary. To achieve an expensive-looking marble look on a budget, use marble-look adhesive paper helps. Simply cut the adhesive paper into squares and cover the existing fireplace tile to transform your space. Applying the paper can bring a new focal point to your room and look like you’ve made a major upgrade. Updating the mantle is another easy option. Dress up your mantle each, like a wreath during the holidays or nautical decorations in the summertime. 

Fireplace

How do I safety and easily start a fire?

Before starting a fire, make sure your fireplace is clean to use. The National Fire Protection Association recommends sweeping and inspecting chimneys at least annually, usually taking place before your first fire of the season. This helps prevent the potential for a chimney fire.

Once your chimney is clean, starting a fire is easy. If you already have a stack of seasoned firewood to use, try a mess-free Firestarter like the new Pine Mountain® ExtremeStart™ Firestarter. Simply place the firestarter below your seasoned firewood, light it at the indicated arrows, and your fire will spark up into flames within minutes, with no need to add kindling.

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If you do not have firewood readily available, try an American Home™ by Yankee Candle® Balsam Fir Firelog. The wrapped log, which gives off a fresh scent fresh, is easy to light and requires no maintenance, so you can enjoy the ambience of the fire without having to collect or buy firewood.

 

What are some tricks to make a fire last longer?

The kind of wood you’re working with is important. Damp or green wood cause creosote buildup and do not light easily. Stack up with dry, seasoned firewood which burns cleaner and longer. Also, keep the display simple. Place larger pieces of wood on the bottom, then place additional pieces of wood in the opposite direction.  Place smaller pieces above this in the opposite direction. This simple patter will keep a fire roaring for hours.

Is there a “wrong” way to use a fireplace?

Manu users overlook safety measures for proper fireplace use. Even if you hire a professional chimney sweep once a year, it’s important to also self-clean your fireplace and chimney. This extra can remove dangerous creosote buildup in your chimney. Creosote is the chemical mass of carbon formed when wood is burned that needs to be periodically removed.

One easy way to remove creosote is with a Pine Mountain® Creosote Buster® Firelog.  Simply add the log to an existing fire at the start of the season and after every 40 fires. When heated, the powder in the firelog changes to an active gas and attacks the creosote in the chimney.

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If you opt to start a fire with wood instead of a firelog, choose hard woods like oak and maple that  produce an intense, sustained fire, so you to burn less wood. Minimize soft woods like pine. Pine starts easily but burns quickly and gives off less heat than hardwoods. Pine also contains sap which can cause increased creosote build-up in your chimney.

The Brown family was immersed in technology in their daily lives at work and school, but at home, their living room was still in the dark ages. Here is how Los Angeles interior designer Andee Ferrer took on the task of transforming the “great room” of their 1930s Spanish-style duplex into a contemporary, smart and connected hi-tech haven.

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Out with the old

As a designer of the digital age, Ferrer didn’t need to leave her laptop to reset this room with all the latest devices, décor and computer comforts of modern life. First thing Ferrer did was send the Colonial-style entertainment center off to the woodpile, via TruckBuddy. Next the sagging drab olive sofa and loveseat, bulky coffee table, 26” TV, DVD player, stereo receiver, five-CD changer, external speakers and other vintage electronics and furnishings, found new homes via craigslist. Then, it was time to refresh the scene.

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Technology and function

While a TV is the centerpiece of a traditional family room, Ferrer eschewed the eyesore of a wall-mounted TV and tucked it away in a custom-built Cabinet Tronix television cabinet.  With a touch of a button, the TV emerges, neatly and discretely, connected to half a dozen media peripherals, including a Blu-Ray player and X-Box, which are also hidden away, enclosed in a compartment at the bottom of the unit.

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Inside the cabinet, the family’s former tiny TV was upsized and upgraded with a 43″ TCL Roku TV.  Since streaming is the new cable, the family cut the cord, and cost, and now uses a TERK Trinity Indoor Amplified HDTV antenna to get basic channels sans subscription.

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Atop the cabinet, a stylish Sonos Playbar connects to the TV via optical cable and lends rich AV sound. The app-controlled system connects with other Sonos speakers in the house to stream free and paid playlists from sites like Pandora, Amazon Music, and Spotify. To amplify Wi-Fi throughout the house, a TP-Link VR900 modem/router is paired with the eero extender system to boost bufferless audio and video streaming.

Above the lift cabinet, Ferrer used the wall space as a projection screen for a  ZTE Spro2 projector. The palm-sized tablet-like projector transforms the living room into a cinema, streaming directly from the device or connecting to other devices via USB or HDMI cable.

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After some research, Ferrer learned that the best color wall for projection was not white, as one might expect, but grey.  She chose Sherwin-Williams Passive Gray to make the colors pop and show vividly on the wall.

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Get smart

To outsmart kids prone to leaving lights on, the Lutron Maestro motion sensor automatically turns lights on and off, and to set the mood lighting, the handy Lutron Caseta Wireless controller dims lights and raises and lowers blinds while iDevices switches wirelessly control the Robert Abbey Delta Emerald Glazed Table Lamp and floor fan, while the heat and AC are controlled by a Honeywell Lyric thermostat.  Both wireless controllers and the thermostat respond to app or voice commands by Amazon Echo, which can also play music, update a Google calendar, report the news, and even read the kids a story. The family can play it safe anywhere in the home with Samsung smartthings hub home monitoring kit which sends alerts via app if anyone passes a sensor or opens or closes a connected door or window.

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Creature Comforts

A couch is fundamental in a family room, so Ferrer started by replacing the old sofa and loveseat with a bright, comfortable contemporary sectional with a lounger sidecar from Article.  Ferrer also found beautifully floral-patterned side chairs and marble top sofa tables by La-Z-y Boy, gray lacquered BluDot Strut Square coffee table, a ghost chair from InStyleModern,  two Safavieh benches from Wayfair for extra seating, a gold geometric gardening stool by IMAX to serve as an end table, and a modern IKEA large-shade floor lamp.  Other textile pieces included Sanela room darkening draperies in light turquoise and faux skin rugs for the stools from IKEA, a Safavieh Hand Woven Natural Kilim Ivory Wool Rug and comfort padding from Overstock, Roman Shades by Pottery Barn, and fabric panels for the Cabinet Tronix lift cabinet, featuring Robert Allen fabric in Tiny Pebbles Parchment design.

To help brighten the room when it was not in use for projection viewing, Ferrer mounted two bright satin brass Robert Sonneman Palo Wall Sconces, which freed up space where floor lamps once stood.

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To help brighten the room when it was not in use for projection viewing, Ferrer mounted two bright satin brass Robert Sonneman Palo Wall Sconces, which freed up space where floor lamps once stood.

It’s all about the vase

No makeover is complete without the accessories. In keeping with an underlying gold and silver theme, Ferrer found an elegant silver bowl with bronze beading from Beatriz Ball collection, which complemented other metallic décor in the room including gold-accented vases and geometric shapes from Gold Leaf Design Group and unique Wall Play wire designs she used to sculpt and frame the projection “screen” to create anticipation on the wall.  Adorning another wall were two bird prints by Wooden Pencil Company, featuring a California quail and Virginia red cardinal, representing family member’s two home states. Across one wall Ferrer displayed a collection of black and white family photos created on aluminum by WhiteWall, a German company specializing in gallery-quality prints.

Centered above the sofa hung a Nurai Mora 2015 Artist Event Print from IKEA, which carried through the geometric design theme from the wire sculpture, the table sculpture and the leaded glass windows.

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Ferrer softened the room with geometric-patterned pillows from Fab and luxurious linen and wool throw blankets from COAST New Zealand.  She picked up all the remaining tchotchkes she needed, including silk flower arrangements, at HomeGoods.

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Good study

Because the room served as a home office for parents and a study room for kids, Ferrer placed a Liberty Furniture Brookview Writer’s Desk in one corner, which held the sleek workhorse Intel-powered HP Envy 34” Curved All-in-One PC, loaded with Windows 10 and featuring a Bang & Olufsen audio system, which serves as both entertainment center and homework base.  Homework or play can become a family affair by using the Nyrius Aries Pro wireless HDMI transmitter to stream content from the desktop to the TV or projector or other HD device.

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Good clean fun

Just as the Tronix cabinet was a sophisticated hideaway solution for the TV, Ferrer wanted to make the room multifunctional as a family play space and a place where adults could entertain, without being surrounded by kids’ playthings.  Three Casement black sideboards from Crate & Barrel, with the glass covered with frosted glass film, served to neatly and discreetly store all of the family’s board games, toys, and electronic peripherals.

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IT room

In case you worry that you have to be an IT genius to set up and enjoy this room, fret not.  Even if you have trouble programming your universal remote, anyone can be king of their smart domain with the help of HelloTech, the “Uber of tech.” All in all, it took one of their hero tech a few hours to unbox and get all of the electronics in the room and throughout the house up and working together.

(Photography by Katya Grozovskaya)

Editor’s note:  Companies featured in this article provided product samples or services for reviews, but the all opinions expressed belong to the author.


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