Blog Posts by Emily Hsieh, Shine staff

  • Do you have a no-shoes policy inside the house?

    I just read about a trend sweeping the New York City real estate market, where potential buyers of luxury apartments are being asked to remove their shoes before walking into showings. According to the New York Times, the reasons sellers are requesting people to do this vary, from having softer wood floors that might dent with heels to having toddlers in the house and being reticent of all the germs and dirt being trekked through on people's shoes. And though most are happy to comply, being asked to go barefoot has proved a dealbreaker for some.

    Personally, I wouldn't be offended if I was asked to take off my shoes during an open house. It's a slight nuisance, yes, but if the sellers are that meticulous about maintaining their property, chances are they've been diligent about keeping up the rest of the house. But as a seller, you definitely risk alienating potential buyers by asking them to do this, and in a tough real estate market, I'd want to be as welcoming as possible.

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  • 10 things to check before you buy a new home

    The process of buying a new home-especially if it's your first time-is incredibly intimidating. And while there are certain things you may know you're going to want to change upon moving in (like paint colors or retiling), if you've never gone through this before you may not know what else to watch out for before you sign the dotted line (just because a home is gorgeous on the outside, it's not impervious to having a bunch of costly-to-fix issues that go way beyond the surface-remember The Money Pit?). Here, via, a handy checklist of all kinds of things a potential buyer should be mindful of:

    1. Check the drains to make sure they're not backed-up. To test, do a load of laundry, fill up the tub and sinks, and try to drain them all at the same time.

    2. Open all the windows all the way to make sure they're able to open and shut completely-fixing them is not only a pain, but a financial drain.

    3. Turn on all the faucets and make sure they're in working

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  • How to choose the perfect paint color

    Paint can be one of the least expensive, most high-impact ways to completely revolutionize a room. But as anyone who has ever gone to the paint store to pick a color can attest, it can be totally overwhelming deciding between the thousands of options. There's a ton of nuance involved-and making the wrong decision can be a costly, messy pain.

    To help the rest of us navigate this process, I turned to interior designer and professional color specialist Shannon Kaye for advice. As the host of the DIY network home makeover show Fresh Coat (which is all about the transformative power of paint), and the resident paint expert for CertaPro Painters (where she also has a handy online forum to answer individual questions about colors, finishes, techniques and any other painting woes you might have), Kaye knows everything there is to know on the subject. Read on to get Kaye's take on how to select the just-right shades.

    Make Home A Haven: Where should one begin when choosing a color?

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  • How to create your own gorgeous, show-stopping flower arrangement at home

    The New York TimesThe New York TimesThere are few things that make a house come alive like fresh flowers. And while they certainly don't have to be elaborate-a bunch of daisies from the corner market can look so sweet stuffed into an old mason jar-if you have a bit of time, inclination, and know-how, a colorful, thoughtfully assembled mixed bouquet can have a dramatic, incredibly gorgeous impact on your space.

    Flower arranging can be daunting though. In inexperienced hands, mixing and matching stems can start to get really messy (which is why I've almost always stuck to buying flowers of one type and color to display at home). After reading a piece about the trend of flower arranging classes cropping up all over the country in this week's New York Times though, I'm inspired to play florist.

    The feature focused on two young women behind the Brooklyn-based Little Flower School, who teach seminars on how to make pretty, loose, organic-looking arrangements. Each class lasts for about three hours, but at $250, it's

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  • How to prevent a mildew-y shower curtain

    I just swapped out a mildew-stained shower curtain liner this weekend for what feels like the umpteenth time this year. Tired of this all-too-quick buying/replacing cycle (even after purchasing mildew-resistant curtains), I've done some research on the best, most simple ways to prevent a shower curtain from mildewing. Should you be dealing with the same nuisance, here are a few pointers:

    For starters, look for a vinyl shower curtain liner with a smooth surface, so water simply glides right off the liner-leaving less of a chance for it to fester and turn into mildew.

    Always shower with the fan on in the bathroom to draw up excess moisture.

    When you're showering, point the showerhead away from the liner. The less water gets on the curtain, the more time it will take for fungus to develop.

    Post-shower, leave the curtain partially open to let air circulate through the area. Make sure, however, that none of the curtain folds are touching each other, which can trap water

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  • How to shop a garage sale like a pro

    I'm still reeling from this week's news about Rick Norsigian, the lucky, lucky man who, ten years ago, stumbled on a garage sale and bought a set of vintage glass negatives for $45, which are now said to be long lost works by famed landscape photographer Ansel Adams and worth as much as $200 million.

    I realize that the odds of finding trash that's super-high-value treasure are slim, but still, if that isn't motivation enough to start combing garage sales, I don't know what is! Here, as we set out onto the weekend (a.k.a. prime sale time), a few simple tips to remember in case your bargain-hunting skills are a little rusty:

    There are hundreds of millions of garage sales going on every year. Much of the time, people who are hosting a mega garage sale will have also taken the time to place an ad, so check craigslist and your local paper for listings. Make note of all the sales that sound appealing and group them by neighborhood, and take time to map them to expedite your shopping

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  • 21 alternative ways to use an ice cube tray

    An ice cube tray might be the unsung hero of any household. As it turns out, there are tons of different ways to use one beyond ice making-and beyond the kitchen too. Chances are, you already have at least one lurking around your freezer, and if you don't, they're the sort of thing you can pick up for just a dollar or two. Here, I've compiled twenty-one of the most unexpected and ingenious uses for ice cube trays I could find. If you have anything to add to this list, please share in the comments below!

    1. For leftover wine. If you haven't quite finished a whole bottle, pour the rest into an ice cube tray to use for making sauces and soups later.

    2. For freezing coffee or tea to keep iced coffees and teas cold without watering them down.

    3. For separating a week's worth of vitamins and pills.

    4. For freezing fresh lemon and lime juice by the tablespoon to avoid wasting fruit.

    5. For freezing leftover soup. Just drop a few cubes into a thermos to take to work and

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  • What’s your go-to remedy for stinky garlic hands?

    In the process of making a large batch of garlicky pesto over the weekend, after chopping clove after clove, my hands reeked of the stuff. I'd seen those stainless steel bars in stores before-the ones you're supposed to rub in your hands to remove odors-but given I didn't have one I settled for soap and water, and the next morning I could still smell garlic on my fingers.

    Just now, I happened to come across the following alternative remedy on, which, assuming you have one, involves rubbing your hands on your stainless steel kitchen sink (or faucet, if your faucet is made of stainless). Readers also chimed in that a stainless steel spoon could work instead, and some said that kneading garlicky hands with kosher salt or sugar does the trick.

    I have yet to try any of the aforementioned solutions, but I'm now curious: how do you guys get the garlic smell off your fingers when cooking?

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  • A glimpse inside Dennis Hopper’s $6.245 million Venice Beach home

    Following his death in May of this year, Dennis Hopper's mega-compound in Venice Beach, California is on the market, and it's every bit as unusual and iconoclastic as one might expect from the actor, director, and artist. As Huffington Post reports, the main home on the 15,500 square foot lot has an industrial-looking corrugated metal exterior, and beyond that there are three two-story townhouse condominiums on the property designed by famed architect Frank Gehry, plus a pool, pool house, and bungalow-style guest cottage-all yours for $6.245 million.

    [Photos: See Hopper over the years]

    The house-which Hopper supposedly used to entertain his celebrity and artist pals like Jasper Johns and Roy Lichtenstein-features an open, loft-like floorplan, with soaring ceilings, exposed wood beams, and concrete floors that add to the masculine feel of the space. The furnishings are relatively few and far between, though not entirely minimalist: next to streamlined midcentury pieces there are

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  • Spice rack overhaul

    food52.comfood52.comOn the other day-a great resource for inspiring-but-relatively straightforward recipes geared toward regular home cooks-I saw this ingenious idea for organizing spices.

    The author, Amanda Hesser, re-vamped her spice drawer by purchasing a set of lightweight tin jars with clear lids (which she ordered on the site Every spice gets its own tin, and on top, she used a fine tipped wet erase marker to identify each one (the advantage of this kind of pen is that you can swap lids and spices easily, since the ink can be wiped away). It's a great way to streamline the jumble that comes when you buy spices in all different size bottles, and the clear lids are handy for identification purposes. If you don't have a drawer, you could use a labelmaker to spell out the names of all your spices to stick on the sides of the cans, and stack them in a cabinet.

    How do you organize your spices?

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