Blog Posts by Emily Hsieh, Shine staff

  • Elaborate, storybook-worthy castles come to modern-day real life

    The Chateau de Guedelon, as seen on BBC NewsThe Chateau de Guedelon, as seen on BBC NewsIf you've ever been to a medieval castle or church, you too have marveled at their grandeur and also wondered how the heck people were able to construct these things centuries ago, without the aid of the bulldozers, cranes, and power tools.

    As BBC News reports, there's a French guy who's been mulling over this very issue, and as a result, decided to conduct a somewhat insane, over-the-top elaborate architectural experiment deep in the forests of central France. Local landowner Michel Guyot is in the process of erecting a real-deal castle, called Chateau de Guedelon, staying true to the building methodologies and materials of the 13th century.

    The project began in 1998, and a dozen years later, it's still far from finished (completion isn't due until around 2023!). But considering that workmen are fashioning walls out of red Burgundy clay, blacksmiths are forging nails by hand, and even ropes, baskets, and roof tiles are all made on site, it's not at all surprising.


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  • The Flip Fold: junk or genius?

    I've always been a sucker for an infomercial. Yesterday, a friend mentioned something about The Flip Fold, a contraption that sounds kind of asinine, too good to be true, and totally tempting at the same time, as all infomercial products do.

    I looked it up just now and it's basically a template/board you use to fold t-shirts and sweaters into neat, uniform stacks. While there's certainly a part of me that feels this is somewhat of a useless gadget for obsessive types (and is totally suspicious about the company's claim that the ventilated panels somehow help reduce static cling), I'm actually intrigued from a space-efficiency perspective.

    I'm constantly battling with my husband for more room in our shared closet, and I wonder if this would help maximize what I've got. The skinny flocked hangers I sprang for were totally worth every penny (seriously life-changing: it's amazing how much more stuff I've able to fit on the clothing rack with these), and I wonder if The Flip

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  • Tile painting: an easy, inexpensive fix for an old ugly bathroom

    * Post-makeover, with painted tiles, new fixtures, and pretty fluffy towels I'm hoping my bathroom will look something like this.* Post-makeover, with painted tiles, new fixtures, and pretty fluffy towels I'm hoping my bathroom will look something like this.I'm moving at the end of next month, to a 100 year-old house that, while charming in an old, pretty moldings kind of way, is also starting to show its age-and not in a good way. There are endless home improvement projects to tackle, and though I wish I had the wherewithal and the budget to deal with it all at once, I'm trying to take things one step at a time to avoid getting completely overwhelmed emotionally, financially, or otherwise.

    The first order of business is dealing with the bathroom, which in its current state is covered with tiles in a clashing jamboree of aqua, pink, and beige-y yellow (at one point the latter may have actually been white, though it's hard to say for certain). They're tired, cracked, and really quite dingy (and don't even get me started on the grout, which is a whole other mildew-y horror show in and of itself) and though I'd like nothing more than to start from scratch with new tiles, I've gotten a few bids and this would cost well into the

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  • 10 best doormats under $30

    This being summer and all, I feel like all of us are spending more time than ever running in and out of the house. The other day I realized I could really use a new doormat as a first line of defense for trapping dirt and whatnot before it ends up getting tracked all over the floor inside my apartment. I'm now more motivated than ever to buy one after seeing so many handsome, stylish, reasonably priced options on the market. Here are ten great options, ranging from $7.50 to $30. Which one's your favorite?

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  • How to clean stainless steel

    With so many kitchens decked out in stainless steel these days, you'd think there'd be more options for fantastic made-for-stainless cleaners on the market. If you've ever shopped for said products though, you'd probably agree that the choices are pretty dismal. I've tried a couple different aerosol sprays, but they were so chemical-laden I always wound up with a splitting headache after using them and the nagging feeling that inhaling the fumes was generally just a bad, unhealthy idea. So I was thrilled to see this post on recently, which outlines some simple mild-but-effective solutions to get stainless steel sparkling:

    For light cleaning (like fingerprint stains and little smudges), try a window cleaner. To amp up the cleaning power, you can also use vinegar (seriously, what can't this stuff be used for?!) and buffing spots gently with a microfiber cloth.

    Bar Keeper's Friend-which I've been meaning to try for years now after hearing so many people rave about

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  • All-natural ways to repel ants

    The other day a friend called me up concerned about the stream of ants that have forged a thoroughfare straight through her kitchen. With a 9 month-old son at home, she's wary of using chemicals to get rid of them, and asked for help tracking down all-natural solutions. I've researched a bunch of options though (thankfully) haven't had the need to experiment with any of them yet myself. Read on to see the list of non-toxic, make-them-yourself remedies (the genius here is that you probably already have all these components lying around in your kitchen). If you can personally vouch for any of them, please chime in here.

    Apparently ants hate cucumbers, especially bitter ones, so leaving a few slices at their point of entry can deter them from coming in.

    Fill a spray bottle with white vinegar and spritz any area you've seen ants (you can even do this preemptively, washing windows and countertops with vinegar to help keep the ants away). Doing the same with 1 part water to 1 part

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  • Outdoor rugs to give your backyard an easy, low-cost makeover

    The biggest trend in patio décor to emerge in the last couple years is the outdoor rug. I'm all for them: just as they would indoors, these floor coverings make any space look more cozy and more finished, and the latest crop are so much better-looking and more durable than ever. They're also a very

  • Designer pet peeve: the toilet paper holder (and how to give yours a stylish makeover)

    Grant K. GibsonGrant K. Gibson

    Lately I've been noticing a curious new trend within the interior design community: backlash against the toilet paper holder, something I hadn't really given any thought to until recently. Top decorators like Rita Konig in New York (who also pens a column in The New York Times, where she wrote about her "loathe" of the bathroom accessory) and Grant K. Gibson in San Francisco have been leading the anti-TP holder charge, and curious to hear more about why, I phoned the latter.

    "They're ugly and stick out far too much," Gibson declares. "They just get in the way, and I'm not into their usual space-age industrial look. Why not put toilet paper in something more interesting?" Gibson solves this issue in his own bathroom by replacing his with a vintage trophy. "I happened to have a trophy cup in the right size, and it makes it look special and unique rather than boring," he says.

    He gives back-up rolls the special treatment too: "If you're like me and have relatively small storage

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  • How do you use your magic eraser?

    A friend tipped me off to the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser a couple years ago, swearing it was the most genius cleaning tool she'd ever encountered. Her endorsement was so convincing I ran out and bought one on the spot. I've been using mine regularly to remove any kind of wall scuffs, and it's worked brilliantly. Last weekend when I happened to be visiting another friend, I discovered a couple new uses for the product (I watched as she buffed the rubbery tip of her Converse sneakers with one, and then also used it to clean a pair of white flip-flops-neither of which I ever would have thought of), which prompted me to research the many ways they can be utilized in and around your home. Click on to see a list of 30 ideas to make the most of a Magic Eraser. I'm curious: How are you using yours?

    1. Clean the interior of a cooler

    2. Remove sticky residue peeling off stickers leaves behind

    3. Clean light-colored suede

    4. Take off scuff marks on baseboards

    5. Clean

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  • 10 fun and functional ice cream accessories

    Watching Carolina's video with Rocco Dispirito this morning, I've got backyard barbeques on my mind. Though Rocco showed us how to make a tasty low-cal popsicle alternative for dessert using fresh berries and yogurt, one of my all-time favorite indulgences is still ice cream. This year I'm seriously


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