Blog Posts by Emily Hsieh, Shine staff

  • America’s top design talents show off the latest home decorating trends

    The annual Kip's Bay Decorator Show House is in full swing right now in New York City, which for those who aren't familiar, is a big fundraising event/decorating extravaganza whereby an army of chichi interior designers overtake a chichi house (this year's location is an Upper East Side manse that's also currently on sale-unfurnished-for $28.8 million) and each gets his/her own room to makeover however they see fit.

    It's an opportunity for some of the country's most prominent designers to showcase their talents, and since it's open to the public, it's a great time for the rest of us to catch a glimpse not only into how the other half-or really .01%-lives (there are individual side tables in there that are worth six figures!), but to check out some of the latest interior trends to adapt in our own homes.

    The decorators' styles range from old-school traditional to glamorously ladylike to unabashedly modern, and no matter how your own taste skews, there are some good tips and

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  • 12 tips for safe and flawless pumpkin carving

    With Halloween just a couple weeks away, now is the time to hit your local pumpkin patch. It's easy enough to find a great specimen (just choose one in size and shape that suits your space, look for a smooth surface so it's not hard to cut into, and make sure it's not too wobbly to avoid a fire hazard!), though carving can be a trickier, and more labor-intensive endeavor. Here, a dozen tips to create your own masterpiece jack-o-lantern:

    Sketch out a template directly on the pumpkin with a water-based marker. If you mess up, mistakes can be easily sponged away.

    Make your biggest cutouts (like the lid) with a sharp, straight-edged knife.

    For safety, always carve away from yourself, and always keep part of the blade in the pumpkin and use slow, steady strokes (as opposed to stabbing it!).

    If you're worried about you or your kids getting hurt, there are plenty of pumpkin carving kits out there that come standard with mini serrated saws, which are easier to manipulate

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  • Dishwashing secrets and shortcuts

    Even if you're lucky enough to have a dishwasher, there are plenty of times when you're going to need to hand-wash pots and dishes-which naturally seems a straightforward enough chore, and we all have our own process for completing the task. But while it's easy to assume you know all there is to know on the subject, there are actually all kinds of little tricks and shortcuts to getting things spotless. Here, via Martha Stewart, a re-cap:

    If you've got several things to wash at once, use a plastic dish tub rather than washing items individually under the tap which saves time, energy, and water. Fill the tub with really hot water and a squirt or two of dish soap (it's more economical than applying and re-applying soap onto a sponge). The hotter the water, the better shot at your glass and silver drying streak-free.

    Wash goods in order of fragility-and filth. This means starting with glassware, and moving onto plates, cutlery, serving pieces, and last your pots and pans. Drain

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  • How to zap your microwave into cleanliness

    I stumbled on the following microwave cleaning method this morning that's so ridiculously simple and so good I can't believe I hadn't known about this sooner:

    To get out all the splatters and spots that end up caking the interior, fill a microwave-safe bowl with a cup of water and a few splashes of vinegar, or wedges of lemon or lime (which of course have the added benefit of smelling terrific). Zap it on high heat for a couple minutes until the water starts to boil and the window gets steamy. Wait 15 minutes for the bowl and water to cool, and for all that steam to penetrate the stains, before opening the door. Follow up by wiping down the interior walls and rubber door gasket with a clean cloth or sponge (and if the window is still grimy, use a half water/half vinegar solution to get it shiny). That's it-so easy, right? I just tried it and am deeply satisfied with the results, the fact that I didn't need to use any chemicals, and the whole process in general, which kind of

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  • Weekend project: make your stainless steel kitchen sink sparkle

    Kitchen sinks take such a beating everyday-all those dirty dishes, pots and pans, and rinsing of who-knows-what by every member of your family, all day long, can take its toll. And even with all the cursory rinses and sponge downs you probably do on a daily basis, over time, despite the fact that it's called "stainless" you'll probably start to notice all kinds of little spots and scratches that won't just wash away. So it's a good idea to give yours some love every now and then, and it's easy, too-no fancy (or expensive) cleaning tools or agents needed. In fact, chances are, you've already got everything you need to get the job done in your pantry.

    On Apartmenttherapy.com I found the following handy guidelines. First, you'll want to clean it. Mix a paste of baking soda and water, spread it all over, and use a very fine steel wool scrubber to buff out all the hairline scratches before rinsing.

    To tackle water spots, splash some white vinegar onto a sponge to remove them. If

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  • How to line dry your clothes (so they don’t feel stiff!)

    For a myriad of reasons, I've started hanging my clothes on a drying rack outside instead of tossing them in the dryer. First, because it's a lot gentler on fabrics, so your stuff actually lasts a lot longer. Second, because it doesn't cost anything-and this is particularly relevant for those of you out there who cycle through the linens in your household every day or two-all the gas/electric it takes to power your dryer can actually really add up. And much as I get a lot of satisfaction out of the crisp, sun-dried scent of clothes that have been aired out naturally, and also love knowing I'm saving both energy and money in the process, there's one issue I've been running into that I definitely don't like: my clothes are stiff.

    I finally decided to do some research and figure out if there was anything I could do about this problem, and as it turns out, there are a couple potential culprits. For starters, I could be using too much detergent. We've covered this before in this

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  • Sanitize your linens—and fight off a cold

    We're just at the beginning of cold and flu season, and now's the time to put a little extra thought and effort into minimizing sickness-inducing germs and bacteria from spreading among your family members and throughout your home. And one of the simplest and most straightforward ways to do this is by keeping your linens spic-and-span.

    Though how often you wash your sheets is clearly a personal decision, there are scientific arguments for washing your bedding weekly to benefit your health. According to ehow.com and examiner.com, laundering sheets weekly (in hot, 130-or-more degree water) gets rid of the dead skin cells (fodder for bacteria) and allergy-inducing dust mites that accumulate after a few nights' sleep. If you or someone in your family is prone to sweating-or if you've got Fido cozying up with your in bed-consider washing every couple days to rinse out dirt and pet dander. Don't ignore your mattress pad either-it's a good idea to wash it bi-weekly or at least

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  • How often do you wash your towels?

    I recently interviewed an interior designer on the subject of bathroom décor, and when talk turned to the number of towel sets one should have, her take is we should all have at least four sets per person in your household. Which to me seems really excessive. The argument for this number is that it's good to have sufficient towels so that at any given time you could have one in the hamper, one in the wash, and one hanging on your towel bar (plus a spare for good measure)-which I suppose makes sense if you're someone who washes your towel after every use. Which I, for one, do not.

    This also got me thinking and researching whether or not, from a germs perspective, I ought to be washing my towels more than my usual 5-7 days. According to Discovery Health, bathrooms-which are generally warm and humid-make an excellent breeding ground for bacteria when coupled with the dirt, oils, and dead cells from your skin. Washcloths are especially risky territory, since they're actually used to

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  • Tricks to whip your linen closet into shape

    A linen closet is one of those easy-to-ignore spots in your home-the kind of place that can quickly turn into a crazy jumbled mess before you know it. Every so often (I suggest doing this annually) you're going to want to take stock and get things back on track. Here's what to do when you're ready to give yours an overhaul (having just gone through this myself and despite dreading the task, it really was a more fast, painless, and totally gratifying undertaking than I would have guessed).

    First things first: Start by pulling every last item out of your linen closet, separating the contents into "keep" and "donate" piles.

    You may want to use this opportunity to adjust the height of your shelves. 10 inches is a good amount of space for table linens and sheets, while 12 to 16 inches is better for towels, and 18 inches or more is ideal for bulky blankets and comforters. Give sheets and towels the prime, easiest-to-reach shelves, since you'll be accessing them most frequently.

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  • Katy Perry and Russell Brand’s new $2.7 million "crash pad"—we've got pics!

    On the heels of their recent brush with the law in Los Angeles, Katy Perry and Russell Brand are becoming New Yorkers...sort of. As the Daily Mail reports today, the couple just plunked down $2.7 million for a swanky two bedroom, two bath Tribeca pied-a-terre. They're calling the apartment an east coast "crash pad"-which according to The New York Post, may be a strategic gesture to minimize their state income taxes (Perry and Brand own primary residences in L.A. and London).

    [Video controversy: Katy Perry duet pulled from 'Sesame Street']

    However they use the space, the soon-to-be-newlyweds will be nesting in style. The apartment spans 1,500 square feet (a palace by Manhattan standards!) and has its own private rooftop terrace overlooking the city. Soaring wood beamed ceilings and an open floorplan give the space an urban feel, and it's got all the usual amenities-slick, spa-like marble bathrooms, a state-of-the-art chef's kitchen-you'd expect from any A-list abode. Check out our Read More »from Katy Perry and Russell Brand’s new $2.7 million "crash pad"—we've got pics!

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