Tech, Shoes, and Apparel…..My Favorite Fitness gear

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Whether you are looking to shape up, gain muscle or simply strengthen your core, you are going to need some gear to help you do so. Summer is around the corner so it is time to AMP UP and get focus on achieving your #SUMMERBODY.

I put together a list of my Favorite Fitness Gear ranging from equipment down to apparel. Because at the end of the day you still want to look good even when you sweat.

Tech

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PEAR Sports, the personalized and interactive audio coaching app, has teamed up with Wahoo Fitness, one of the top brands in the fitness category, to create a custom workout app experience. This software/hardware partnership now offers users the ability to electronically count reps and monitor their heart rate during specified workouts.

By combining PEAR’s comprehensive collection of intelligent workouts with Wahoo’s advanced motion analytics, this latest platform will train users through coached strength workouts with repetition counting for each exercise, enabling increased measurement and analytics for motions in a variety of workouts such as push-ups, squats, jumping jacks and more.

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Beast Sensor is a set of rugged state-of-the-art motion sensors that is perfect for the weight room. The Beast Sensor is magnetic, which makes it compatible with a variety of different weights, machines and bodyweight exercises.

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Beast eliminates the need for bulky lab equipment and notebooks to measure your performance. The sensor streams data about strength, power or speed for each lift on your smartphone or tablet in real-time in order to stimulate you giving the best on each training session.

Shoes

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Being a neutral runner, I didn’t need a high-end running shoe. I found these at my local DSW and fell in love right away. The Nike Lunar Tempo 2 is a lightweight running shoe that provides you with all the comfort you need to make it through those long runs.

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Equipped with the soft, ultralight Lunarlon foam, the new perforated inner bootie provides enhanced breathability and a sock-like fit. I enjoy the new single-layer engineered mesh fabric that helps keep my feet cool while offering targeted support. Flywire cables wraps my midfoot with a locked-in fit that moves with me move effectively and smoothly.

Apparel

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Masterclass Apparel creates luxury activewear for you, the discerning man. Which a combination of exceptional technical fabrics with modern silhouettes, Masterclass Apparel ensures the perfect blend of function, comfort, and style. I came across this brand back in January during the MARKet tradeshow here in NYC, and automatically was drawn towards the brands bold and detailed designs appealing for the stylish gym rat.

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Based in NYC and made in the USA, their collections features a custom-knit heavyweight polyester spandex blend engineered for performance, with 4-way stretch, silver ion antibacterial technology, and aggressive wicking properties built to keep you while squatting, or simply heading out for brunch.

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Another brand I came across while at the tradeshow was, Rhone. Rhone is doing was Lululemon did for women: making quality performance gear that feels good. The brand started in 2013 with the intent fill a void in men’s activewear.

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The brand targets the men who live, work, and sweat. I’ve had a few items in my rotation since February and have done numerous workout since then. What I can say is these garments are great for running errands, jumping on a flight, or pushing up big ass truck tires in the gym. Need some extra motivation? Each garment offers a different quotes to help get your through your workout, or just your day.

Eating Healthy On The Go in 5 Easy Steps

When I first moved to the US last August, one of the things I found the hardest to adjust to was the difference in food and dining habits. The emphasis on fast food, the large portions, and the often bland vegetables especially threw me off and made me feel like I don’t know what a person is to eat healthy on the go. After a while though, I slowly warmed up to everything NYC has to offer in terms of food, and I came up with a a few rules for myself to make sure I’m leading a semi-healthy lifestyle. Almost. If you didn’t see the obscene amount of chocolate on my Snapchat (@kkarakashyan).

Here’s what I found helpful in eating healthy on the go and maintaining a good regime. It took me some time to start thinking about these tips and get used to the lifestyle changes, but now it feels like second nature, no matter if I’m at home, out for brunch with friends or passing through the drive-thru.

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  • Consider the salad. A lot of places are now making a conscious effort to offer filling salads that are tasty and better quality than the pre-prepped burgers and fries. Nutritious ingredients to look for include eggs, grilled chicken, kale, arugula, avocado, sweet potatoes, apples, pears, broccoli, and nuts. I am actually OBSESSED with Sweetgreen and its locally-produced and organic salads that are delicious and feel like a huge meal. Sign up for their rewards program and get 3$ off your order right here.
  • Substitute fried or breaded chicken for grilled. Most fast food places now offer a grilled chicken sandwich that, garnished with the right veggies, taste fresh and doesn’t make your as sluggish for the rest of your day.
  • Stop drinking Coke and sodas. Period. Chances are you’re not drinking enough water daily, and the piles and piles of sugar in soft drinks is only making you thirstier and screwing up with your blood sugar levels. Just resist and switch to water. This also applies to going to the movie theatre. You don’t need that super-size drink to enjoy the movie. Switch to water and notice how much more hydrated you feel. Your body will thank you.
  • Try to limit the bacon and heavy sauces after breakfast. In the morning your body is in energy-burning mode, so you can get away with a heartier breakfast, actually good for starting your day the right way. When it comes to lunch and dinner, however, try to keep your meal just a bit less fatty.
  • Be aware of your brain’s tendency to cheat. Studies show that having a healthy option on the menu can appease you, but you might end up not ordering it. Seeing a healthy option is often enough to convince us we are eating well even if we choose the burger in the end. Next time you order at the drive-thru, keep this in mind and see what your instinct tells you.

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Eating well is a quest that rewards patience. You can’t make a huge lifestyle change in a day, but it really pays off to come up with a few guidelines for yourself to follow. Do you have any tips on eating healthy on the go? What is easy for you to follow? What is hard for you to resist? Let me know below.

 

10 Things That Ruin Your Sleep

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I know, it’s not a sexy subject, but improving your sleep is critical to transforming your health and fitness.

The reason is simple.

When you’re not getting high quality sleep, you throw your body’s hormones out of whack.

This leads to a downward spiral of:

  • Eating more high calorie, processed, fatty and sugary foods.
  • Moving your body less throughout the day because of your low energy.
  • And if you actually do one, your workouts suffer, thus you burn less calories.

There’s no denying it.

Long-term poor sleep will lead to fat gain, increased inflammation in the body, and increased risk of disease.

If you’re suffering from poor quality sleep, here are:

10 Things That Maybe Ruining Your Sleep:

#1. You drink caffeine too late in the day.

If you find yourself laying in bed at night, anxious, with your mind racing, you may need to lay off the caffeine after 1pm.

Over consumption of caffeine causes excess production of the stress hormone cortisol. Stick to your morning cup of Joe, then switch to water throughout the day.

#2. You don’t have a set bedtime.

When you were a kid, you had a set bedtime for a reason. Implement a regular bedtime (and wake up time) even on the weekends.

Highest quality sleep occurs when people go to bed between 9:30-11pm. Not 2-3am.

#3. Your bedroom is too hot.

To clarify, it’s too hot for the wrong reasons 😉

If you’re pumping the heater at night, turn it off. The best sleeping environment is when your room is chilled to around 67 degrees.

Cooler temperatures will allow you to get a deeper sleep.

#4. Your bedroom is not dark enough.

Your bedroom should be dark. I mean real dark. Consider getting “blackout” curtains, and removing your electronics that give off light.

Even when you’re asleep, your brain can still sense the alarm clock light through your eyelids.

#5. You’re staring at your smart device before bed.

Smart devices give off blue light which can decrease the production of the sleep hormone, melatonin.

If for some reason you have to look at your smart device before bed, use the setting to dim the light of your screen.

Or better yet, keep your smart devices in the kitchen. Your snapchat message will still be there in the morning, Mr. Popular.

#6. You’re eating too late.

Stop eating after 8pm for a deeper sleep.

Ask yourself, why do you need to feed your body energy when it’s preparing for sleep.

Think about it next time before you grab that bag of doritos.

#7. You’re working out too late.

Workouts energize the body and focus the mind. Also, in most cases you’re probably taking a caffeine enhanced pre-workout drink. Not a good combo 2 hours before bedtime.

If you can, try to get your workouts in earlier in the day or before 6pm.

#8. You’re not working out at all.

Being lazy all day doesn’t prepare the body for rest. Even if you can’t make it to the gym, go for a walk with the dog, stretch, do a home workout like any of my bodyweight workouts on Live Lean TV.

#9. You’re working out too much.

Ongoing 2-a-day workouts and long endurance cardio cause excessive stress on the body, which creates excessive production of the stress hormone cortisol.

Working out, like sleep, is about quality, not quantity.

#10. You don’t eat foods that help promote sleep.

I filmed an episode called 4 Foods to Help You Sleep. These foods help your body naturally produce sleep friendly hormones.

Are you consuming these foods on a consistent basis? Go watch that video to find out.

Bottom Line

Sleep is so important to ease the mind and provide your body with the proper rest to repair, grow, and burn fat.

You don’t grow muscles in the gym. You grow muscles during the recovery process outside of the gym.

Avoid these 10 things that ruin your sleep to ensure you’re taking full advantage of your sleep gains!

Tweet me and let me know what you think.

Check out my other post with 12 more tips to better sleep.

– Brad Gouthro

Brad is the host of Live Lean TV, creator of several best-selling workout and nutrition programs, and leader of the “Live Lean Nation”. He has been featured in several major publications and was named 1 of America’s Hottest Fitness Trainers. Go hang out with Brad at http://www.LiveLeanTV.com.

Summer Grooming

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I know what you’re thinking. Why is summer grooming even a thing? Don’t we get to press pause on adult responsibilities and just go on and enjoy our holidays extra sloppy?

Honestly, that’s all I’ve been trying to do this obscenely cold week but to no avail. After addressing dressing up sandals, 5 things to do in Sofia and even giving up and turning my attention to next season with the Dr. Martens Fall/Winter 2016 preview, I’m back with another advice column. Maybe talking about summer grooming will give me just a little vicarious enjoyment…Summer grooming is not that different from what you’d do to get ready for a good date! You want your body hair under control, your skin soft and touchable (tan lines are always a welcomed bonus in my book…) and your hair tidy but ready to be touseled!

Regarding body hair, it’s all personal preference, but I like to go clean all over and then let the chest hair grow out a bit. I recently switched over to the new Philips Bodygroom and I love the strength and the design. You literally need 30 minutes at the beginning of each next month to keep your body looking its best. No excuses![/ezcol_1third]

Skincare also doesn’t have to be a chore. Invest in a good tanning lotion with SPF and a fun speedo to get the best tan, and then switch over to a gentle organic body wash that’s nourishing and smells amazing. I’m a huge fan of the Yves Rocher line, and especially the Bio Honey and organic Muesli body wash. Double the action by getting the matching lotion and using it every night after your shower and you’re all set.

To finish off the summer grooming trifecta, get a nourishing hair mask to use from time to time. All the sea, salt and sun can become damaging to your hair after a while, especially if it’s thick and wavy. My new favorite is by Nashi and it is a real treat.

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Terms and Conditions

Offer terms and conditions:

This offer requires each of the elements to be met. Customers who held any HSBC personal account between June 6, 2016 and September 6, 2016 are not eligible for this offer. A monthly maintenance fee will be incurred if minimum balance requirements are not maintained for your account relationship. HSBC Premier, Advance, or Choice Checking account must be open and in good standing at the time of gift fulfillment. Limit one welcome deposit of $350 per customer, including all individual and joint accounts – the first line name on the joint account is considered the customer for gift purposes. The welcome deposit to your HSBC checking account will be reported on the applicable IRS form(s). In situations where multiple offers are available, HSBC Bank USA, N.A. will fulfill the highest value offer you are eligible to receive. This offer cannot be combined with other deposit account opening offers. This offer is nontransferable. HSBC reserves the right to change or terminate this offer at its sole discretion.

The Annual Percentage Yield (APY) and balance for a Premier/Advance checking account which is accurate as of September 6, 2016 is 0.01% APY on balances of $5.00 or more. APY is variable and subject to change after opening. Charges and fees may reduce earnings. Choice Checking is a non-interest bearing account.

1 If direct deposit ceases, a $15 monthly maintenance fee will apply if balance requirements are not met. Qualifying direct deposits are electronic deposits of regular periodic payments made into your Choice Checking account through 3rd parties at least once per statement cycle. To avoid a monthly $15 maintenance fee for Choice Checking, you need to maintain direct deposit or $1,500 in total combined personal deposit and investment balances.

2 To qualify for an HSBC Advance relationship, you need to open an HSBC Advance checking account and maintain combined U.S. personal deposit and investment balances of at least $10,000 OR at least $5,000 with a recurring direct deposit from a third party to an HSBC Advance checking account at least once per monthly cycle. Business owners may use their HSBC commercial balances to qualify for a personal HSBC Advance relationship. A monthly maintenance fee of $25 will be incurred if minimum balance or minimum balance with direct deposit requirement is not met.

3 To qualify for an HSBC Premier relationship, you need to open an HSBC Premier checking account and maintain $100,000 in combined U.S. personal deposit and investment balances. Business owners may use their commercial balances to qualify for a personal Premier relationship. A monthly maintenance fee of $50 will be incurred if minimum balance requirements are not maintained.

4 HSBC Personal Internet Banking is required to sign up for HSBC’s online Bill Pay.

5 Qualifying direct deposits are electronic deposits of your paycheck, pension, or government benefits (such as Social Security) from your employer or the government into your HSBC checking account.

6 Requires you be registered for HSBC Personal Internet Banking and have your credentials readily available. Data charges from your mobile service provider may apply. HSBC Bank USA, N.A. is not responsible for these charges.

7 HSBC Credit Cards are issued by HSBC Bank USA, N.A., subject to credit approval and may require a U.S. HSBC deposit relationship. To learn more, speak with an HSBC branch representative.

8 International account opening is not available in all countries and is subject to approval based on local regulations and policies of country or application.

9 This tool is a personal financial management service that allows certain customers to consolidate and manage their financial information by consolidating it in one place in an aggregated manner on Personal Internet Banking.

10 HSBC Advance MasterCard® credit cards are issued by HSBC Bank USA, N.A., subject to credit approval and require an HSBC Advance or Premier relationship. To learn more, speak with an HSBC branch representative.

11 Discounts and loan amounts depend on specific program and may require certain Premier or Advance balances, reserves, equity and automatic payment from an HSBC U.S. Premier or an HSBC U.S. Advance checking account. For home equity, the Premier and Advance APR includes an auto-pay discount of 1.00% and .50%, respectively.

12 To be eligible for an Advance Deluxe Mortgage, you must: (A) be an Advance relationship customer with a U.S. Advance checking account; and (B) have combined U.S. personal deposit and investment balances of at least $10,000 at any member of the HSBC Group located in the U.S. The Advance balance requirement must be fully funded before the closing of the mortgage loan.

13 HSBC Premier and Advance portable HSBC credit history are not available in all countries. Speak with an HSBC Representative to determine in which countries these benefits are available. Subject to credit approval.

14 HSBC Premier World MasterCard® credit cards are issued by HSBC Bank USA, N.A., subject to credit approval and require a U.S. HSBC Premier relationship. To learn more, speak with an HSBC Premier Relationship Manager.

15 To be eligible for an HSBC Premier Deluxe Mortgage, you must: (A) be an HSBC Premier relationship customer with U.S. Premier checking account; and (B) have combined personal deposit and investment balances of at least $100,000 USD or equivalent at any member of the HSBC Group (in the U.S. or home country). The Premier balance requirement must be fully funded before the closing of the mortgage loan.

United States persons are subject to U.S. taxation on their worldwide income and may be subject to tax and other filing obligations with respect to their U.S. and non-U.S. accounts. U.S. persons should consult a tax advisor for more information.

Mortgage and home equity products are offered in the U.S. by HSBC Bank USA, N.A. and are only available for property located in the U.S. Subject to credit approval. Borrowers must meet program qualifications. Programs are subject to change. Geographic and other restrictions may apply. Discounts can be cancelled or are subject to change at any time and cannot be combined with any other offer or discount.

MasterCard® and the MasterCard brand mark are registered trademarks of MasterCard International Incorporated.

Deposit products are offered in the U.S. by HSBC Bank USA, N.A. Member FDIC.

 

HSBC Premier

Minimum Relationship Balance

Maintain $100,000 in combined U.S. personal deposit balances, investment balances and qualifying commercial balances

Online tools and services
  • Money Management Tools9
  • Personal Internet Banking
  • Mobile Banking6
Personal Support
  • Premier Relationship Manager
  • 24/7 Priority Call center
Credit card rewards

Our richest Rewards Program with travel benefits through the HSBC Premier World Mastercard® credit card10

Competitive Rates
  • Our best rates11 on Premier Deluxe Mortgages15
  • Rate discount of 1.00% on Home Equity Line of Credit11
International benefits
  • Complimentary International account opening8
  • Access to HSBC ATMs worldwide
  • Portable HSBC credit history13
Monthly maintenance fee

$50 per month, no fee if monthly minimum balance of $100,000 in combined balances is maintained

HSBC Advance

Minimum Relationship Balance

Maintain linked combined balances of at least $10,000 OR at least $5,000 with a recurring direct deposit from a third party to an HSBC Advance checking account at least once per monthly cycle

Online tools and services
  • Money Management Tools9
  • Personal Internet Banking
  • Mobile Banking6
Personal Support
  • In-branch
  • 24/7 Priority Call center
Credit card rewards

2X Rewards Program Points on dining and select entertainment purchases with the Advance MasterCard® credit card10

Competitive Rates
  • Preferential rates11 on Advance Deluxe Mortgages12
  • Rate discount of .50% on Home Equity Line of Credit11
International benefits
  • 50% discount on International account opening8
  • Access to HSBC ATMs worldwide
  • Portable HSBC credit history13
Monthly maintenance fee

$25 per month, no fee if monthly minimum combined balances of $10,000 OR a least $5,000 with a recurring direct deposit from a third party to an HSBC Advance checking account at least once per monthly cycle is maintained

Choice Checking

Minimum Relationship Balance Maintain $1,500 in combined U.S. personal deposit and investment balances
Online tools and services
  • Personal Internet Banking
  • Mobile Banking6
Personal Support
  • In-branch
  • Call center
Credit card rewards Flexible Rewards Program with the HSBC Platinum Mastercard® with Rewards Credit card7
Competitive Rates None
International benefits
  • International account opening options for a fee8
  • Access to HSBC ATMs worldwide
Monthly maintenance fee $15 per month, no fee with direct deposit or if monthly minimum balance of $1,500 in combined personal deposit and investment balances is maintained

How does it work?

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Open your new account

Begin a new HSBC Choice Checking1Advance2 or Premier3 relationship by opening a corresponding HSBC checking account from September 6, 2016 through November 18, 2016.

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Complete your qualifying activities

Pay at least two bills per month from your new HSBC checking account via HSBC’s online Bill Pay4 for three consecutive months within 120 calendar days of account opening.

OR

Receive at least one qualifying direct deposit5 per month into your new HSBC checking account for three consecutive months within 120 calendar days of account opening. A minimum cumulative amount of $3,000 is required.

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Get your $350

Qualified customers will automatically receive a $350 welcome deposit into their new HSBC checking account approximately eight weeks after completing all offer requirements.

Nearing Retirement? Assess Downside Risk, Upside Potential

By ROB WILLIAMS

AUGUST 05, 2016

Investors at every stage in life should be keeping a careful eye on risk—but limiting your exposure to risk is particularly important when you shift from building retirement wealth to actually living on that money.

That’s because the distribution phase, as it’s sometimes called, is a tricky juncture where you have to address competing goals. On the one hand, you need to preserve the savings you’ve worked so hard to build. On the other hand, you still need some exposure to risk if you want your savings to keep up with inflation and grow enough to last through a potentially long retirement.

And market risk isn’t the only type of risk you’ll have to manage as you enter retirement. Here are three others:

  • Longevity risk. This is the risk that you’ll outlive your savings. The latest research on longevity shows that today’s 65-year-olds have a 50% chance of living past their mid-80s. Many financial planners use age 90 as an estimate, but it’s best for each individual to gauge how long he or she might live.
  • Loss aversion risk. Your instincts may tell you to avoid losses. But if you’re too sensitive to losses, it could have a negative long-term effect on your investments. Being aware of how fear can color your choices can help you make better decisions.
  • Sequence-of-returns risk. This is a big one. In essence: If the market dips during early retirement—when you’re first taking withdrawals—it can be harder for your portfolio to potentially recover than if you sustain losses later in retirement.

Understanding sequence risk

At Schwab, we think the best time to add downside protection is when volatility is low and markets are high. We’re bullish on the current cycle for U.S. equities, and on a well-diversified portfolio invested for the long term. However, we also expect heightened volatility through the remainder of 2016, given current market and economic dynamics, and that could increase sequence-of-returns risk for anyone beginning to take withdrawals.

The table below depicts two hypothetical retirees, Marcus and Susan, each with a $1 million portfolio. They both withdraw $50,000 in year one of retirement and gradually increase their withdrawals for 20 years to keep up with inflation. The difference is that for Marcus, the stock market falls 15% in each of the first three years of retirement and grows 10% per year thereafter. Susan has 10% annual returns at first, then three years of 15% annual losses at the end of the 20-year period.

As you can see, Susan’s total loss from those down years is greater than Marcus’s—his portfolio lost about $500,000, while hers dropped by about $1.1 million. But the real story is that Marcus runs out of money in year 18, while Susan still has $1.34 million left in year 20—all because of a difference in the timing of those bad years.

Think of retirement distributions as the reverse of dollar-cost averaging (that is, when you invest a fixed amount at regular intervals, which allows you to buy more shares when the market is down, fewer when it’s up). When your portfolio’s value is lower, you have to sell more shares to get the same amount of cash—leaving you with fewer shares to compound in the future.

In this example, Marcus’s portfolio is permanently hampered by early losses, while Susan’s portfolio has plenty of time to grow (in both dollar value and number of shares) before losses occur.

It would be nice if you could just delay having years of negative returns until later in retirement, but of course, no one can predict that—which is why understanding how to cope with sequence of returns and other downside risk factors is so important, especially right now.

The economic environment right now

First, let’s look at stocks. They’ve had a big run: At the beginning of July 2016, the S&P 500® Total Return Index was up over 242% (nearly 18% annualized) from the market bottom in March 2009. When select markets perform well for a sustained period, it is a good time to revisit your risk and focus on protecting the downside of your portfolio. That doesn’t mean you need to be wary of an imminent downturn if you’re invested for the long-term, but a strong defense may help protect the growth you’ve enjoyed.

Next, there’s the bond market. Bond yields are very low. That limits the ability for bond investments to generate strong total returns going forward.

The Fed is transitioning from a cycle of loose monetary policy to tightening for the first time in seven years. We believe that diverging global monetary policies—that is, tightening in the U.S., and loosening in Europe, China and Japan—could increase volatility across global markets.

Britain’s recent “Brexit” vote, negative interest rates in many developed countries, and uncertainty about global growth have led to sharp market dips and rebounds, increasing risk in our view.

The prospect of increased volatility makes this an especially smart time for investors nearing or in the early years of retirement to consider adding downside protection to their retirement strategy.

Ways to add downside protection

One classic form of asset protection is to divide your portfolio into “buckets”: For example, you could invest one portion in relatively safe, liquid assets, providing you with cash flow for the next few years. Then the second bucket is invested for long-term growth, based on your risk tolerance.

There are different ways to think about these subdivisions, as you can see in this video, but the general idea is to have enough cash to cover you in the event of a downturn—which gives the growth portion of your portfolio the chance to recover when the market does. Over the past 50 years, it took the S&P 500 slightly more than three years, on average, to recover from a downturn.

The second downside strategy to consider is the purchase of an annuity, which can act as a form of retirement income insurance. Typically, the size of your payout is based on your age and prevailing interest rates at the time of purchase, as well as the amount of your one-time premium.

Insurance that protects your retirement income

Not all annuities are created equal. First, annuity guarantees depend on the financial strength and claims-paying ability of the issuing insurance company. Second, some annuities offer better protections—with less onerous fees—than others. Whether they make sense for you will depend on how comfortable, and able, you are to manage their specific risks, and the cost of doing so. We’ll focus on two types of annuities that can potentially deliver protection against downside risk at a fair cost:

  • Fixed (or “single premium”) immediate annuity. With an immediate annuity you pay an insurer a premium, and then you’re guaranteed a fixed monthly payout, typically for the rest of your life or the life of your surviving spouse. The tradeoff for this cushion is that the money you invest in a fixed immediate annuity is no longer invested for growth.
  • Variable annuity with a guaranteed lifetime withdrawal benefit. With a variable annuity you have some control over how your premium(s) are invested. Your insurance company will have a number of sub-accounts with different investment objectives for you to choose from. When you reach the “payout phase” in retirement, your payout is based in part on the underlying value of those sub-accounts. The advantage is that your money remains invested, and you choose the types of investments you want to own, so you have the potential to earn returns that can outpace inflation over time.

But sequence of returns risk is still a concern, and that’s where the guaranteed lifetime withdrawal benefit (GLWB) rider comes into play. For an additional cost, this optional rider sets a minimum level of annual withdrawals for life, even if the contract value falls to zero.

So, by purchasing this benefit, you are creating a floor for your retirement income that remains in effect even when markets are down. And it allows for the possibility that your payout can increase, if a rising market boosts your investments within the variable annuity. Note that the GLWB is not a contract value and not available for withdrawal like a cash value. Your actual contract value will decrease with each withdrawal.

Adding an annuity to your retirement strategy doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing proposition. In fact, it is often wisest to commit just a portion of your retirement assets to an annuity. This money will be your guaranteed income stream while you invest the rest of your money for growth.

That’s the extra value of downside protection: It permits you to enjoy greater confidence that your income will last through what can be a very long life.

Important Disclosures

Variable annuities are sold by prospectus only. You can request a prospectus by calling 1-888-311-4887 or by visiting schwab.com/annuity. Before purchasing a variable annuity, you should carefully read the prospectus and consider the investment objectives and all risks, charges and expenses associated with the annuity and its investment options.

Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Forecasts contained herein are for illustrative purposes, may be based upon proprietary research and are developed through analysis of historical public data.

Variable annuities are long-term investment vehicles designed for retirement purposes. The value of a variable annuity may be more or less than the premiums paid and it is possible to lose money.

Variable annuities offer tax deferral on potential growth. Withdrawals prior to age 59½, however, may be subject to a 10% federal tax penalty in addition to applicable income taxes. Variable annuities are also subject to a number of fees including mortality and risk expense charges, administrative fees, premium taxes, investment management fees, and charges for additional optional features. Although there are no surrender charges on the variable annuities offered by Schwab, such charges do apply in the early years of many contracts.

A guaranteed lifetime withdrawal benefit (GLWB) is an optional rider available for an additional cost. Withdrawals in excess of the specified annual amount may permanently and significantly reduce future income. Certain contracts may limit you to a pre-specified selection of investment options when you elect the GLWB.

Charles Schwab & Co., Inc., a licensed insurance agency, distributes certain insurance and annuity contracts that are issued by insurance companies that are not affiliated with Schwab. Not all products are available in all states.

The information provided here is for general informational purposes only and should not be considered an individualized recommendation or personalized investment advice. The investment strategies mentioned here may not be suitable for everyone. Each investor needs to review an investment strategy for his or her own particular situation before making any investment decision.

All expressions of opinion are subject to change without notice in reaction to shifting market conditions. Data contained herein from third-party providers is obtained from what are considered reliable sources. However, its accuracy, completeness or reliability cannot be guaranteed.

Examples provided are for illustrative purposes only and not intended to be reflective of results you can expect to achieve.

S&P 500® Index is a market-capitalization weighted index that consists of 500 widely traded stocks chosen for market size, liquidity and industry group representation.

Schwab Intelligent Advisory is made available through Charles Schwab & Co., Inc., a dually registered investment advisor and broker-dealer.

(0816-JVN5)

Oops! How to Fix 5 Moving Mishaps

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Did your moving truck hit some potholes? Could your fragile items have used an extra layer of bubble wrap? Don’t despair! Follow these fixes for common moving uh-ohs.

1. Chipped Mirror

No! Anything but your favorite mirror! Mirrors are just like windshields: Many chips and cracks can be fixed, but only a pro can tackle the repair. Consider an alternative: If the chip or crack is near the mirror’s edge, buy (or DIY) a frame wide enough to hide the blemish.

2. Scratched Tabletop

If your coffee table’s surface is looking rough, get crafty. A few swipes of a wood repair penmay help a tiny scratch blend in. For larger scratches, sand and restain or paint the surface. If the damage is a gouge rather than a scratch, and you can’t bear to get rid of the piece, seize the opportunity to update your décor: Top the coffee table with a cushion — instant ottoman! Same goes for dining-room tables: If the dings are too big to fix, give the table a makeover with a fresh stain or a paint job in a graphic pattern — or just put your favorite tablecloths in permanent rotation.

3. Damaged Furniture Leg

Who knew a chair leg could snap so easily? First, mix wood glue and wood filler and reattach the leg; once it’s dry, repaint or restain the item. If the break is too severe, replace each leg with a more contemporary metal leg. If a table leg is damaged beyond repair, consider removing the remaining legs and setting the tabletop on a new base.

4. Smashed Drawer Pulls or Knobs

If a drawer pull (or four) was nicked or — worse — broken clean off, go for a makeover. Pick up new knobs and drawer pulls, choosing ones with the same number of screws as the old knobs; or fill the old screw holes, refinish the item and then install any new hardware that you like.

5. Upholstery Snafus

If your sofa’s snagged or permanently stained, but otherwise comfy, don’t count it as a loss. Hide the flaw with a throw pillow (or reverse the cushion); if that won’t cut it, a budget-friendly slipcover will put the couch back in the game.

5 Tips for Maximizing Your Under-Sink Space

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If the vanity is the only storage spot in your new bathroom, there’s no room for clutter or wasted space. Kyle Schuneman, our resident authority on squeezing stuff into small spaces, explains how to make the most of every inch in your under-sink cabinet.

1. Use Wire Shelves

You can double the size of your space when you position a wire shelving unit inside the vanity cabinet. “By going vertical under your sink, you’ll get a lot more room,” Schuneman says. Store items that have some heft and won’t slip through the shelf’s slots — think bottles of mouthwash and extra bars of soap — and place smaller, lesser-used items on the lower shelf. Before buying a shelf, measure the height and width of the cabinet space, making sure to note where the pipes are.

2. Break Out the Trays

No, not the kind you use to serve drinks (that’s for later!), but the kind you put on top of or slide inside a bathroom vanity to bring order to your stuff. “Assign different trays for different uses: cleaning products on one, makeup or shaving needs on another, etc., so you can take one tray out at a time as you need it,” Schuneman says.

3. Stack Clear Plastic Bins

Use up every precious inch of a cabinet’s vertical space and contain clutter with a few stacks of clear storage bins. (Get bins with lids to make stacking a cinch.) Any plastic organizer will help separate the eye shadow from the iodine, but only clear ones take the guessing game out of, “Where’s the cough syrup?”

4. Opt for Sliding Drawers

If your main gripe about under-sink storage is having to dig through/pull out/practically reorganize the stuff up front every time you want to grab a bottle from the back, save square footage (and your sanity) with sliding basket organizers. Need that defrizzer on a humid day? Slide open the basket to retrieve it in a snap!

5. Hang Stuff on the Door

Don’t overlook the back of the cabinet door, which is just the spot to hang an over-the-door caddy to store cleaning products. Or affix sturdy 3M hooks to hang hairdryers, flat irons and other bulky items, Schuneman suggests. It’s even a good place to hang that jumbo bag of cotton balls you bought on sale. “Poke a hole at the top of the bag, then place it on the hook.” Instant storage!

5 Ways to Make a Small Room Multifunctional

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If you find yourself wondering whether to make that spare bedroom a guest room or an office, consider a third option: Make it both. Two rooms combined in one multifunctional space means you get the best of both worlds. But how do you divide a room without erecting a wall? We consulted Kyle Schuneman, interior designer and author of “The First Apartment Book: Cool Design for Small Spaces,” for tips on setting up a space with dual purposes.

1. Combine rooms that make sense.
When considering which room types are a solid match, opt for a classic combination like a guest room/office, guest room/living room or bedroom/gym. Or match up your dining room with an office. “It’s become a huge trend since more people are working from home,” Schuneman explains. “The dining room table can double as your desk/conference table; a shelf in your buffet can be used as file storage to keep the room tidy.” Or get a rolling storage cart to keep office essentials handy during the workday but out of sight for your Saturday night dinner parties.

2. Keep the room’s main job function in mind — but don’t be one-sided.
Let’s say you’re designing a hybrid office/craft room. You work from home on weekdays and work on your scrapbook on the weekends. Resist the urge to divide the room in a 50-50 split. It makes more sense to set up the space for its primary function — in this case, the place you do your 9-to-5. So make a desk the room’s focal point, but give a shout-out to its crafty alter ego with a pegboard of scrapbooking supplies (ribbons, tools, thread spools) hanging on the wall.

3. Buy multifunctional furniture.
Furniture with built-in storage is key to a room leading a double life. For example, pick out side tables with drawers to hold work supplies for a space that’s an office by day and a living room by night. Or if you’re combining a living room and guest room, get a storage ottomanwith a flip-up compartment that can store extra sheets and blankets. “Choose your pieces wisely,” Schuneman says.

4. Subscribe to the “less is more” theory.
The more furniture and accessories you add, the smaller the space will seem, so don’t go overboard when setting up. Decide on what the room really needs to serve its two purposes to keep the environment free of clutter.

5. Coordinate colors.
You’ve heard it before, and it’s still true: Nothing ties a room together like color. So pick a two- or three-shade combination while setting up the room. Even though it’s multifunctional, the room will look balanced and coordinated.

6 Steps to an Organized Pantry

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With food constantly going in and out of your pantry, it’s natural for the spice rack to become disheveled and the oatmeal to migrate near the Worcestershire sauce. But if you find yourself upending the Cheerios every time you grab a soup can, or quite literally spilling the beans on chili night, it’s time for a pantry intervention. Follow these six steps to get your pantry shipshape.

1. Purge

Pull everything — yes, everything, even that naughty little stash of plastic grocery bags — out of your pantry. Paw through the nonfood stuff. How’d that toy car get in there? Is the bottom shelf really the best place for placemats? Would the tinfoil be more accessible in a drawer? Find a new home for anything that doesn’t belong. Then discard any food that’s stale, moldy or expired. Donate to a local food pantry food or spices that you don’t plan to use but aren’t expired (we’re looking at you, canned sardines!).

2. Deep Clean

Dirt, hairballs and mystery crumbs just shouldn’t coexist with pasta and peppercorns. If you only see surface dirt, use a 50/50 mix of vinegar and water or another food-safe cleaner to scrub down the pantry’s shelves. If the damage goes deeper, give the pantry a new coat of paint using a water-based latex formula — the fumes from oil-based paint and a poorly ventilated pantry don’t mix — in a glossy finish for easy wiping. And if your pantry is dimly lit, now’s the time to install lighting so you never mistake salt for sugar again.

3. Feel Out the Crowd

If you live alone, you can organize your pantry however you please. But if you’re sharing your pantry with roommates or family, hold a quick strategy session. Talk about the items the group needs frequently and whether everyone should be able to reach them. (Fido may get two treats a day, but he shouldn’t be able to nose around the pantry and fetch them himself.) Kids should be able to grab healthy snacks and their favorite cereal, though you may debate whether to put the cookies within arm’s reach.

4. Go Shopping

Shop for organizational help in two categories: shelving and containers. Start with shelving, armed with the measurements (height, length and depth) of your pantry shelves. If your shelves are spaced close together, look for shelf risers that let you display small cans, jars and spice-size bottles on steps for easier viewing. If your shelves are spaced so far apart you see a lot of empty space, opt for standalone cabinet shelves that could double your storage. And consider an over-the-door pantry rack — just make sure you have enough interior clearance.

Then select containers to hold flour, grains, pasta and anything else with spill potential. Pick out canisters that are square — they’re a more efficient use of space than round ones — and that have tight or locking lids that keep out moisture and critters. Buy a few wire or clear baskets for snacks so they can see what’s inside, and use smaller baskets or bins to group spice packets, tea bags and loose cracker sleeves.

Oh, and don’t forget to grab a folding step stool for extra-high shelves.

5. Organize It

Bring the food back in, but don’t just throw those tuna cans anywhere. Rule No. 1: Heavy stuff on the bottom, lighter stuff on the top — nobody should have to lift a sack of potatoes over their head. Rule No. 2: Divide in zones. Group food together in categories based on how you cook. If you bake often, sugar, baking soda and muffin mix should all go on a shelf of baking supplies. If you don’t, you may only need a corner to stash your flour. Stash all of your pasta containers on the same shelf, same goes for cereal. Canned veggies should stand apart from jarred jellies. Corral your spices together (and consider a revolving spice rack). Keep it logical!

6. Keep It Nice

Embrace the zen of the “everything in its place” look and keep the newly organized pantry tidy. (You might just have to hold a family meeting to make that rule official.) Sweep up stray noodles or errant kidney beans and wipe down the shelves monthly.

5 Storage Spots You’re Probably Not Using (But Should Be!)

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Crammed every closet and stuffed every shelf but still have stuff to store? Look harder: Every home has overlooked spaces that are prime spots to squeeze in some extra storage. Bed Bath & Beyond small space authority Kyle Schuneman identifies five of the best storage opportunities hidden in plain sight.

1. The Back of a Door

Behind every door is a surprising amount of wasted space. “I like to get over-the-door hooksto hang guest towels and light jackets,” Schuneman says. If you’ve got a lot to hang, an over-the-door towel rack may be even better. Schuneman also loves hanging shoe organizers with see-through pockets, which can hold so much more than just shoes — hairbrushes, power cords, art supplies and more.

2. Above a Door

Look up! The space above that same door might be a super spot for some sneaky storage. Just install a floating shelf over the doorway. Use it to show off collectibles, or displaydecorative boxes filled with photos, craft supplies and other stuff you only use occasionally.

3. Under the Bed

Don’t let dust bunnies take control of this valuable square footage. Instead, get shallow bagsor boxes specifically made for underbed storage, and reserve them for items you don’t need daily, such as seasonal clothing, Halloween costumes and guest linens. Want even more space? “Use risers, or bed lifts, to raise the bed without taking up any more of the room’s footprint,” Schuneman says.

4. Above the Toilet Tank

An over-the-toilet stand — a space saver with closed-door shelving to keep toiletries out of sight — offers increased bathroom storage, too; secure it to the wall for added safety. If you want something less furniture-like, hang floating shelves or a wall cabinet designed to fit a small space.

5. Corner of a Room

What’s lurking over there in the corner? More storage space! Available in many sizes and materials, modern corner shelving units are decorative and functional (and don’t resemble your grandma’s curio cabinet). Teak and bamboo work nicely in a bathroom, while metal or glass is suited to a bedroom or living room.

How to Organize Four of Your Home’s Smallest Storage Spaces

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If your medicine cabinet looks like someone shook it, and your silverware drawer’s even scarier, please accept this organization intervention. Kyle Schuneman, our resident authority on small spaces, says these four household storage spots can hold a lot more than you think — if you organize them right.

1. Medicine Cabinet

First thing you should do is decide what really belongs in this slim wall unit, the best of which have adjustable shelves. Toothpaste? Of course. Face cleanser? Definitely. That bottle of hydrogen peroxide you bought in 2006 and used once? Chuck it. (You get the idea.) After paring down your toiletries to those you use every day and sorting by height, move the shelves to best fit your specific items.

Because you don’t need to shelf all 4,000 cotton swabs in their original bulky packaging, put some in a small clear jar in the cabinet instead; do the same with dental picks, cotton balls and other personal-care items you buy in large quantities. Hang toothbrushes in flat-backed self-adhesive cups installed on the inside of the cabinet door.

2. Linen Closet

If you’re afraid to open your linen closet because the avalanche of sheets and toilet-paper rolls might finally clobber you for good, there’s a simple solution: “Storage boxes and basketswork wonders,” Schuneman says, since they’re a neat and tidy way to store towels, sheets and other essentials (and are almost guaranteed to prevent an avalanche). Stack boxes with lids to make the most of the vertical space. Schuneman suggests labeling everything — sheet sets, blankets, hand towels, toilet paper, whatever — to easily find what you need.

3. Spice Rack

Where do small jars of dried oregano, cinnamon, garlic powder and thyme go to hang out? Your kitchen wall, of course! It’s a smart use of space that doesn’t involve a countertop or a cabinet. Uniformly sized spice jars keep the shelves looking neat, but be sure each unit is clearly labeled so you don’t mistake the ground cloves for cinnamon. And ditch any spices you don’t use regularly; most ground spices keep for three years, while many ground herbs keep for only a year or two. If you’ve got extra spaces in the rack, store other small bottles, such as vanilla and food colorings.

4. Flatware Drawer

Like a pack of unruly children, it’s best to separate the forks, knives and spoons, and the most efficient way to do so is with a cutlery tray — it’ll keep everything streamlined. “If it’s smaller than the drawer, store boxes of plastic wrap and storage bags around it to use up every inch of space and prevent the tray from shifting around,” Schuneman says. Still have a little extra room? Use a smaller drawer organizer to give specialized tools, such as an ice cream scoop and a cake knife, a home.

Get (and Keep!) Your Closet Organized in 5 Steps

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You can’t dress for success if you can’t find the dress (or shirt, or slacks). Take time to organize that empty new closet with an organizing pro’s foolproof strategies.

1. Get focused.
Keepsake items — your wedding dress, for example — should not find a home in your closet, nor should craft supplies or photo albums. “Evict anything that doesn’t have to do with getting dressed from day to day,” says Mindy Godding, a certified professional organizer withAbundance Organizing, in Virginia.

2. Evaluate the closet.
Maximize every square inch of space. “If you look in the closet and see bare wall, you can do more in terms of storage,” says Godding. If the closet contains just a single rod, consider adding a second one beneath it, or multiply your hanging space with a rod doubler that hooks onto the existing bar. If you’re a shoe lover or T-shirt hound, think about installing shelves, melamine boxes or racks to contain your collections. Or completely trick out the space with a modular floor or wall system; they fit various closet sizes and allow you to pick only the components you need.

3. Develop a plan of attack …
Think of your wardrobe in terms of clothing categories and seasons. Start by grouping like clothing together, placing pants with pants, dresses with dresses, etc. Then, within those groups, organize everything by season, separating long sleeves, short sleeves and so forth. Next, group items together by length. When you hang longer garments, push them as far back against the wall as possible to free up space underneath shorter clothes for more storage.

4. … Then stick to it.
Commit to transitioning your clothes at the end of each season. “This might be as simple as moving clothes from front and back,” Godding says. “You want the current season in the most accessible location. This gives you the opportunity to let go of things you didn’t wear, and freshen things up by moving current items forward and other items back.”

5. Get the goods.
Invest in items that keep your closet organized and looking sharp. Start with sturdy wood hangers for pants, jackets and structured shirts, and purchase slim, velvet-swathed hangers for delicate blouses. Bins are ideal for storing special-occasion or seasonal clothes and accessories; stackable clear shoeboxes in the same size and shape work nicely, too. And clear, over-the-door shoe pocket organizers go far beyond shoes, Godding says; use them for stashing belts, scarves and large jewelry.

CHECKLIST: What to Buy on Your First Post-Move Shopping Trip

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Whew — you made it! The moving truck’s gone and the unpacking has begun. One quick check, though: What did you trash while you were packing, reasoning that it was too big and heavy or too dirty and old to bother with? That list may be longer than you think.

From your not-so-fluffy bed pillows to your kitchen trash can, you probably left a lot behind when you were sorting the must-pack items from the “hmm, maybe this can go” pile. (And some you left behind intentionally — like the toilet brush, right?) Use this handy checklist to stock up on the must-have items you’ll need to get settled in your new home.

Cleaning Supplies

Floor cleaner

Dust mop

Wet mop

Dustpan & brush

Vacuum

Window cleaner

Multipurpose cleaner

Sponges

Cleaning rags

 

Bathroom

Shower curtain/liner

Toilet seat

Toilet paper

Toilet brush

Trash can

Trash can liners

Bath rug

Tub mat

Towels

Bathroom cleaner

Shower caddy

 

Kitchen

Trash can

Trash bags

Dish rack and drying mat

Water filter system

Dish soap

Dishwasher detergent

Compost bin

Paper towels

Paper towel holder

Flatware organizer

 

Bedroom

Mattress pad

Mattress protector

Pillows

Clothes hangers

 

Laundry

Laundry basket/hamper

Laundry detergent

Ironing board

Drying rack

 

Miscellaneous

Welcome mat

Hanging hardware for artwork and photos

Candles and matches

First-aid kit

Light bulbs

Smoke alarm

Batteries

Baby gates

Childproofing hardware

Extension cord

How to Decorate a Master Bedroom

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The “master” in front of “bedroom” should signify the room’s importance in your life, but too often, we pour energy (and money!) into decorating shared spaces, reasoning that nobody sees the master bedroom but the people who sleep there. Use your move as a catalyst for change and put your room first! Make the master more than a place to catch some ZZZs; follow our pros’ tips and turn that empty room into your custom sanctuary.

Stage 1: Bring In the Basics

Start off by getting the room’s most essential elements in place.

If you’ve already selected a bed, you’re a step ahead! But if you took advantage of the pre-move purge and ditched your old mattress, it’s time to buy new. Thinking about switching to memory foam? Test it out now. Always wanted to upgrade to a king-size? Now’s the time. Seize the fresh start and update your linens, too: Introduce new sheets, blankets and pillows, and consider mixing and matching patterns to create visual interest. “You could do a playful pattern for the bedskirt, and pillows with a solid duvet and coverlet, and complementary sheets,” suggests Angie Gardeck, an interior designer who owns New Perspective Design, in Algonquin, Illinois. And remember, this is your relaxation zone: If an animal-print throw catches your eye, scoop it up!

Next, evaluate your closet space. If it can’t contain your entire wardrobe, you’ll need storage in the forms of dressers or armoires. But what worked in your old bedroom may not work in your new space; don’t load your bedroom up with furniture just because you already own it. Organize your new closet first, then evaluate what still needs a home and bring in a storage piece to house it. And don’t neglect “hidden” storage areas like the space under your bed; shallow storage bins under the mattress may be a better solution than another dresser.

With your bed and furniture in place, it’s a great time to consider window treatments; you’ll know just when the sun will hit the space, and whether you need to minimize or increase daylight. Gardeck often recommends drapes instead of blinds in a bedroom. “They add a vertical element to a room that has a lot of horizontals,” she says. They also add softness, which will make the environment a soothing setting to come home to.

Stage 2: Add (Useful) Detail

Layer in a little something extra.

You’ve got the basics down; now add some polish. For spot-on sophistication, try an ottoman or bench made of leather or upholstery in a color that complements or contrasts the palette already established. Some have storage capacity — it’s like having a secret closet! — and give you a place to put extra sheets and blankets.

Placing a nightstand on either side of the bed creates symmetry and balance (and a place to park that morning cappuccino). For a modern take, use a pair of small end tables in a style that works with the room’s other furniture but doesn’t match too perfectly.

Think about additional lighting next. While overhead beams are critical for helping you find that earring you dropped while getting dressed, ambient lighting, in the form of table lamps and sconces, makes a room — and you! — glow, underscoring the relaxing vibe. “While lamps don’t have to be identical,” says Gardeck, “they should visually line up, with the bottom of the shade about 45 inches from the floor.”

If you’ve been checking yourself out in the bathroom mirror, now’s your opportunity to upgrade to a full-length version. Besides providing another vertical shape, it serves a design purpose: It adds a reflection, which instantly makes the room feel bigger.

Stage 3: Make it a Masterpiece

Load your master bedroom with items that take it to the next level.

One of bedroom design’s biggest trends is the upholstered headboard. One part cozy, many parts chic, a headboard is super comfortable when you’re up late reading the latest Stephen King novel. It also breaks up the dated look of matched furniture, says Gardeck. Shop for one in a durable, neutral fabric, or put the project on your DIY list.

Another trend worthy of the master: wallpaper in big, bold patterns. It gives walls an opulence that paint can’t match. Pick an elegant design with textural appeal, or a graphic pattern with look-at-me personality. But to keep the look upscale, balance a vibrant wallpaper with neutral furnishings. A dramatic take: “Do only the wall that your bed rests against with wallpaper and paint the others,” says Leah Gomberg, owner of Sweet Life By Design, an interior design/home staging company, in Maplewood, New Jersey. “It’ll really pop.”

Everyone loves the idea of having a TV in their bedroom, but a 55-inch screen dominating a wall can kill a luxe design aesthetic faster than you can say “Netflix.” Easy solution: Hide it in a wall-mounted cabinet or a framed reverse mirror, and binge-watch without sacrificing high design.

And a true sanctuary is more than just four walls and a bed; it’s a space where you can truly exist in a relaxed state. Bring in a comfy couch or elegant chaise lounge for long reading sessions; roll out a comfy carpet for morning yoga or meditation. Complete the space with a warm, glowing fireplace. Gardeck prefers a vented gas version for a practical reason: “It comes with a remote control and timer, so you don’t have to worry about putting the fire out when you get sleepy, like with a wood-burning fireplace.”

How to Design a Stylishly Functional Mudroom

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Get the dirt on how to make your mudroom — that hardworking drop-off and pickup spot for sneakers, boots and sporting gear — as dazzling as the rest of your home. 

Stage 1: Build Out the Basics

Start by getting the room’s essential elements in place.

Before you buy any furnishings for your mudroom, think about all of the ways you’ll use it, says Sarah Barnard, an interior designer in Los Angeles. Presumably, it’ll be your family’s go-to place for putting on/pulling off jackets and shoes, but will it serve double duty, maybe as a sewing spot or the litter-box locale? Plan accordingly so everything you need fits in the space.

Your first major purchase: a bench, so there’s a place to sit while removing shoes. “Look for one with drawers or a top that lifts off to store hats, gloves — even dog leashes,” says Jeffrey Phillip, a New York City-based interior designer and professional organizer.

If your sports enthusiasts have no place to put their lacrosse sticks and tennis rackets — the floor is not an option! — get a wood or bamboo trunk that’s big enough to store all their gear but convenient enough to let them grab and go.

Where to put everyone’s footwear once it comes off? Use a simple plastic shoe tray or a stylish woven vinyl area rug, to prevent water from getting on the floor. For boots, Phillip suggests stashing them on another tray or rug in the closet. “Hiding some items will keep the space looking neat and organized,” he explains.

To ramp up the likelihood of your family hanging up their jackets and backpacks, install wall hooks. Handier than reaching into a closet for a hanger, hooks have an “in your face” quality that’s hard to ignore and a casual vibe that nicely matches a mudroom’s informality. “Be sure to use the full height of the mudroom walls by mounting a few hooks at a kid-friendly height,” says Brooke Lang, a Chicago-based interior designer.”

Stage 2: Add Embellishments

Layer in a little something extra.

Think about specialty flooring, an upgrade that’s both functional and decorative. “Porcelain tile is very durable, even more than ceramic,” explains Barnard. “It won’t stain, and it’s affordable.” The tile is made to replicate the look of stone, marble and wood. Other good flooring choices: natural stone tile and polished concrete.

But even the hardiest floor can eventually show signs of wear and tear. “Adding an indoor/outdoor style rug is a great way to extend the life of a high-traffic area like a mudroom,” Lang says. Choose a rug with a graphic pattern — a sneaky way to hide any stains — or a natural fiber, such as jute or sisal, which age beautifully, she says.

Before running out of the mudroom door to work, school or a social engagement, check yourself out in a full-length mirror, a practical item you can dress up with the right frame to add some elegance to the environment.

When does a mudroom also become the family command center? When you install a giant erasable chalkboard or whiteboard for notes and reminders (“Jack’s dentist appt. Tues. @ 4:30 pm”). To create a custom wall chalkboard, use chalk paint in a vibrant color (not black!) inside a fun shape (diamond, triangle) made with painter’s tape.

Stage 3: Giving It the Wow Factor

Load your mudroom with items that take it to the next level.

Built-ins boost a mudroom’s storage capacity and give off a streamlined look. Open-style lockers — think of them as taller cubbies for coats, backpacks, sports gear and wicker baskets — have become a mudroom favorite. “They lend themselves to being a little more functional,” says Phillip. “People can grab things and go from their designated locker.”

Dress up your mudroom’s walls with one-of-a-kind artwork created by the youngsters in your life. “Framing their artwork is a meaningful way to make a mudroom more personal,” says Barnard. Find a frame that complements both the art and the room’s décor.

Window treatments in a mudroom? Definitely! They’ll make the space look more complete, Barnard says. “If you have lots of woodwork, you could hang linen curtains; for a contemporary home, a roller shade would work well.”

As a final touch, add special lighting. Go with a style that complements the rest of your home. Popular choices: a pendant light or a drop-down chandelier in a drum shape, which are modern choices that give off a good amount of light.

How to Design a Multifunctional Studio Apartment

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You have a bedroom, a living room, a kitchen and a bathroom. So what if you can see all of them at the same time? “Studio apartments are about function over form. Everything must have more than one use, as there is no room to spare,” says interior designer Kera Cherrey, owner of Chesapeake Staging and Design in Maryland. Strategic decorating can make even the smallest studio apartment feel homey, but finding pieces that (literally) fit your needs takes time. Work up to the challenge using these three decorating stages.

Stage 1: Build Out the Basics

Start by getting the room’s essential elements in place.

The No. 1 rule when decorating a studio: Look for furnishings that do “double duty,” suggests Tiffani Stutzman, a Louisiana-based interior decorator. For example, a drop-leaf dining table makes a great, expandable desk; storage ottomans can be used for guest seating and as a coffee table (all while storing linens inside).

Next, consider the prominence of the bed. In a studio, your bed will be a focal point — not to mention act as the main seating and sleeping area. Choose bedding you love while considering your overall decor and color schemes. If you’ve got room, place a loveseat or compact couch opposite the foot of the bed to separate living and sleeping spaces. If you’re pressed for space, consider a sofa bed.

And don’t forget rugs and window treatments, Cherrey adds. “Layered rugs take up no space but create visual interest. To-the-ceiling window treatments add height and warmth without taking over the space.”

Stage 2: Add Embellishments

Layer in a little something extra.

In a studio, every belonging needs a place, and every piece needs a purpose — or a couple of them. Look for pieces that promote organization and multitasking, and save precious space.

“Put your bed on risers to accommodate under-the-bed storage boxes,” says Stutzman. “Decorative baskets or cubes above your kitchen and bath cabinets can hold extra cleaning supplies or holiday decorations. Freestanding cabinets should reach to the ceiling to maximize storage.”

Still need more storage? Install shelves over your bed rather than use a bulky nightstand. And a tall bookcase dividing your bed from the living area offers privacy and room for all your reading material.

Of course, not everything fits in a bin or basket: Give everything else a tidy home with hat and sweater hooks, key holders and mail shelves near the door.

Once you’ve covered storage, ensure you have enough workspace. In the kitchen, purchase a sink cover, which allows you to use the sink’s real estate as a chopping surface. In the seating area, consider a set of nesting tables: They offer two or three tables when you need them, but only take up the space of one.

Stage 3: Give It the Wow Factor

Load the studio with items that take it to the next level.

Even the smallest apartment can feel like a palace with pretty finishing touches. First, examine the walls: Because a studio apartment may not be forever, apply temporary style with removable wallpaper or decals. Or, hang oversize canvasses or photos to give the apartment a personal touch without taking up floor space. But your wall’s best friend may just be a mirror: A giant looking glass reflects light and makes a small studio feel much larger.

Then, use the double-duty mindset to accessorize: Think gorgeous wood cutting boards that double as kitchen art, and a fancy bar cart that holds booze on the bottom, and a lamp on top. “Use a beautiful vase to store pencils,” says Cherrey, “and an embossed box can add glam while hiding the mail.”

How to Build a Laundry Room You Actually Want to Be In

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Who said the laundry room had to be all work and no play? (Probably someone who never spent an hour matching kids’ socks.) Folding shirts feels like less of a chore when you do it in a stylish, inspired space. Make a splash in your new home’s most utilitarian room by building it in three stages, spelled out by pro designers.

Stage 1: Build Out the Basics

Start off by getting the room’s most essential elements in place.

Color is key to making a laundry room feel anti-dungeon, so start there. “Paint it a bright color like aqua or purple,” suggests Leah Gomberg, owner of Sweet Life By Design, an interior design/home staging company in Maplewood, New Jersey. A cheery shade will lighten the room’s mood, especially if it’s in the basement, she says, “and make it a happy place.” For a first-floor laundry room, go bright, or stick with the color of the adjacent room so it feels connected to the rest of the house and not a separate entity.

Take advantage of the presence of a moving crew and install a new washer and dryer on moving day. When you shop, don’t just base your choice on what’s pretty (red! stainless!); think about what’s practical. “Choose the style that works best for your room size,” says Angie Gardeck, owner of New Perspective Design in Algonquin, Illinois. Front loaders, the most popular style, take up less space than side-by-side models since they’re stackable; side-by-sides, however, give you counter space for folding clothes.

Then, pick up one of the hardest workers in the laundry room: a plastic laundry basket, which is indispensible for transporting clothes to and from other parts of your home. Get one with a curved design that nestles your hip to make carrying a week’s worth of towels a lot easier.

Other forget-me-nots: shelves or a rolling cart for storing detergents, dryer sheets, and other cleaning necessities; hangers and clothespins; a plastic wash basin to soak hand-washables in and, in lieu of counter space, a table for folding laundry.

Stage 2: Add Embellishments

Layer in a little something extra.

Built-in cabinets that hide cleaning and laundry products (we’re looking at you, big orange detergent bottle!) instantly de-clutter and add elegance to a laundry room. This is still a workspace, so skip the glass-fronts and hang cabinets that are solid and sturdy. (Gardeck loves a rustic-industrial feel for this space: Think reclaimed wood cabinets with nickel or wrought iron hardware.) Top off cabinetry with a granite countertop made from a remnant.

While you’re making permanent upgrades, look up: “Lighting is important, even in a laundry room,” says Gomberg. Your standard recessed lighting may be enough, but if the space feels dim, try a decorative layer (say, a pendant light over the sink), plus under-cabinet lights so you can see the tasks at hand.

If you’re organized (or aspire to be!), a laundry sorter with removable bags or compartments is a worthy upgrade, letting you separate darks from whites, cottons from silks, or your daughter’s clothes from your son’s.

You’d love to iron in the laundry room but space is tight? Not a problem. Get an over-the-door ironing board that only takes up space when in use, and the rest of the time, stores out of sight. Suit it up with a stylish cover that matches the décor, or perks you up with hearts, stripes or flowers.

When it’s time to deal with items that you can’t throw in the dryer, like certain sweaters and lingerie, a collapsible drying rack comes in handy. Find an easy spot to store it, like the space between side-by-side appliances.

Stage 3: Give It the Wow Factor

Load your laundry room with items that take it to the next level.

Once the functional aspects of your laundry room are in place, focus on form. A good first step: Installing specialty flooring in a water-resistant material, such as porcelain, stone, brick or ceramic. Gomberg also recommends interlocking FLOR carpet tiles, which can go over concrete and don’t soak up water.

Keep the flow going: Install a utility sink in a sculptural shape, a convenient place to take care of hand-washables. (Avoid sensory-activated models, which would go into overdrive with all the movement in a laundry room, notes Gardeck.)

Even in a traditional home, serious artwork in a laundry room would look out of place (and worse, could deteriorate in such a high-humidity area). A better choice: Cheeky signs, posters or prints, or a gallery wall dedicated to your kids’ finest works.

The ultimate convenience: a chute that deposits clothes from an upstairs room down to the laundry room. Imagine no more lugging baskets full of clothes from one floor to another. If you’re going to dream, dream big!

How to Build a Fun, Functional Playroom

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The kids’ playroom presents parents with a design dilemma: You’d love it to be organized, not too spendy and able to last a few years; they want it packed to the gills with toys, games and craft supplies, pronto. “Children grow out of things very quickly,” says Amy Wolff, a Scottsdale, Arizona-based interior designer. “But you can give the room a longer view by making higher-priced furnishings age- and gender-neutral.” Want to design a fun, flexible space that’ll accommodate your kids as they grow from tots to teens? Build it in these three steps.

Stage 1: Build Out the Basics

Start by getting the room’s essential elements in place.

Legos and trikes and teddy bears, oh my! The primary requirement of a playroom: somewhere to store all those toys.

Keep everything orderly with shelves, bins and boxes. But think twice before buying toy storage bedecked with purple dinos. Neutral-colored chests or credenza cabinets may be a better option. “They can be used to store toys now, and games or blankets later,” Wolff notes.

Still need more storage space? “Look for furniture that does double duty, such as ottomans or benches with storage underneath,” says Tiffani Stutzman, an interior decorator based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

“If your budget allows, consider custom built-in cabinetry along walls and under windows,” Stutzman adds.

Finally, lay down a soft area rug that welcomes kids to play on the floor. Choose one with a pattern; it will more easily disguise stains than a solid rug.

Stage 2: Add Embellishments

Layer in a little something extra.

How will your kids really use the room? Is it a toy-only zone, or will it accommodate crafting, dance practice and video gaming, too? Furnish accordingly, but skip faddish items and pint-size pieces kids will grow out of and focus on sturdy furniture that’ll survive the toddler years.

“A solid table with a wipeable finish can be used for everything from painting to puzzles,” Stutzman says. Wolff adds that it can even double as a desk later on.

Select neutral, durable fabrics and finishes for furniture. “Those made for outdoor use are resistant to spills, stains and fading,” Stutzman notes. Then, bring in bright, playful colors with throw pillows and floor cushions (look for machine-washable covers), and hang vibrant artwork—professional or made by your little artist-in-residence!—that can be swapped out as the kids grow.

“It’s all in the accessories,” Wolff says. “Pillows, throw blankets, soft rugs, art, and lamps can easily and inexpensively be swapped out as children age and their interests change.”

And consider covering a wall in cork board, so art projects can be displayed and changed out, Stutzman adds.

Finally, provide a cozy corner for kids to read or nap. “Daybeds can be dressed for any style and any age group,” Wolff says. “Sofas and chairs with slipcovers can be laundered.”

Stage 3: Give It the Wow Factor

Load the playroom with items that take it to the next level.

Regardless of how traditional or formal the rest of the house, the playroom should be fun, whimsical, colorful and bright. And above all, it should showcase the things your child loves. If that’s planes, then let him hang model airplanes from the ceiling. Castles? Use wall decals to create a scenery that will spark her imagination. Got an outdoors lover on your hands? A play tent complete with sleeping bag can accommodate spur-of-the-moment campouts. Remember, this is where your kid will come to let loose and play, so it should be Fun (with a capital F).

How to Build an Organized, Yet Comfy Craft Room

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If your new home has enough space to warrant a dedicated art zone, lucky you! But when half-finished projects as well as supplies such as glue, beads and glitter are involved, a craft room can quickly turn disorganized. With thoughtful planning and a splash of your creative juice, it can become a neat, inspiring space — and a relaxing retreat, too. Interior designer Melinda Miles, owner of Melinda Miles Interiors, in Dallas, shares how it can be done in three steps.

Stage 1: Build Out the Basics

Start by getting the room’s essential elements in place.

Begin organizing the room by imagining activity zones — maybe one for sewing, one for scrapbooking and one for writing activities — to plan how you’ll store supplies.

Then, start big: Install shelves and cabinets, or bring in a roomy armoire — or do both! To accommodate tools and materials of all shapes and sizes, keep variety in mind: Look for open cabinet spaces for baskets, thin drawers for paper and vertical spaces for wrapping paper.

You’ll need a large workspace, but Miles advises against lining every wall with cabinetry and countertops, in case you later need to convert the space for another use (like a home gym or guest room). Instead, place a large table or portable kitchen island in the center of the room; if your needs change, it can be moved. And don’t forget comfortable seating: A padded stool will ensure that you can endure many macramé marathons to come.

Stage 2: Add Embellishments

Layer in a little something extra.

Loading up on bins isn’t necessarily the best solution for storage needs. “The same type of storage doesn’t work for all materials,” Miles says. Do a thorough inventory of your craft supplies and consider how each item is best stored. Think about what belongs in a drawer and what’s better off in a basket. Before you buy, get specific: If you want to store gift bags, measure them first. And be creative: An over-the-door shoe organizer, for example, provides easy access to go-to items like tape and scissors and keeps supplies in sight.

“Details like that really simplify your life,” Miles says. “They make you want to use the items, and they make it more fun.”

After you’ve stocked up on storage supplies to make the room functional, focus on honing a truly creative space. Hang framed photos of family or vibrant nature scenes, and stack a few oversized coffee-table books within easy reach. Add a few aromatherapy candles to put you in the crafting mood. And always keep a plain sketchbook and pencils front and center — you never know when an idea will strike!

Stage 3: Give It the Wow Factor

Load the craft room with items that take it to the next level.

Despite its utilitarian purposes, a craft room should be a comfortable hangout. Outside of craft time, how might you use the space? Make it a part-time office by placing a desk on one side of the room. Or create a reading nook by a window, with a comfy chair, an ottoman and a floor lamp.

For one of Miles’ clients, the craft room is a place to relax with a cup of tea. “She hides out in there and can hear herself think,” Miles says.

Serious crafters should also consider investing in window coverings that maximize daylight but are adjustable; the color of paints and clay will look ever so slightly different, depending on the light, so your window treatments may better allow you to control your medium. Of course, the craft room’s a perfect place to hang a loud, bold valance!

How to Design Kids’ Bedrooms That Last for Years

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One year it’s butterflies; the next it’s ballet. And somewhere along the way, there’s a dinosaur fad. Kids’ constantly changing interests can make it challenging to decorate a bedroom they’ll like for years to come, but that doesn’t mean their new rooms have to be boring blank canvases. As founder of Little Crown Interiors, in Irvine, California, Naomi Alon specializes in interior design for children’s spaces; she shares her tips for designing kids’ bedrooms that can grow up with them.

Stage 1: Build Out the Basics

Start by getting the room’s essential elements in place.

Alon says key furniture pieces such as a bed and dresser should last into adulthood (which probably disqualifies the race-car bed). “Choose pieces that are versatile — more or less neutral in design, not themed furniture,” she says. “Things you can use until they go to college.” Just be sure that kids can easily open lower drawers; those will be the main storage for clothes until closet rods can be reached.

Bedding, though, can be replaced periodically as kids’ tastes mature, so feel free to say yes to that robot blanket. Invest in multiple sets of inexpensive sheets rather than a single set of high-end ones; you’ll thank yourself when you peel back the blanket to find a stash of Cheerios!

And don’t forget to buy window treatments early on: Children, especially younger ones, can be sensitive to light and may require thicker blackout shades to sleep well.

Finally, let your kiddos pick the very first piece of décor: their own special night-light. One child may like a cartoon character and another may prefer a light that displays constellations on the ceiling — either way, when kids get to choose, they feel more comfortable in their new space.

Stage 2: Add Embellishments

Layer in a little something extra.

Where there are kids’ bedrooms, there are toys. Give them a nice home — even if they don’t often end up there. Bins, baskets and boxes are useful, especially those that can be hidden under a bed. But as with bedroom furniture, Alon says, consider storage solutions that last through the ages. “If you buy a nice bookcase,” she says, “you can buy bins that will fit on the shelf.” When the kids outgrow their blocks and balls, simply remove the bins and use the shelves to store comics, collectibles, novels and trophies.

Another idea: Storage ottomans can hold plenty of toys for now, and then take on other uses (such as a hiding spot for a diary!) later in a child’s life.

Also consider adding a sturdy, timeless desk sooner rather than later. Eventually, kids will need a spacious surface for homework, but even toddlers can use a desk as a craft table, a block-tower construction zone or a secret fort.

Stage 3: Give It the Wow Factor

Load the kids’ rooms with items that take it to the next level.

Add color and cuteness, starting with a rug — ideally a patterned one that can conceal a juice spill. “The sooner you get the right rug, you can easily find other things to match,” Alon says. Rugs add nonpermanent color and texture to an otherwise neutral room and invite kids to play on the floor — a win-win!

Next, purchase a lamp or two for young readers (or for kids who sleep better with a little light). If there’s room for seating, select a comfy oversized chair that you like, too — it’ll become your home for story time. Then, add themed pillows to the bed or chair; if that’s not enough, try a throw blanket. “You can fold it up and put it away if they’re sick of it,” Alon says. “Or if you’re sick of it!”

Now, cue the butterflies — or whatever the theme of the moment is — by incorporating framed artwork and décor, such as wall decals. “They’re inexpensive, removable and they can be rearranged,” Alon says. Kid-friendly calendars and maps do double duty: Sure, they’re educational, but they also provide pops of color and graphic elements, adding further layers into the room’s design.

How to Build a Fresh, Functional Bathroom

bathroom_makeover

Is your new home’s bathroom dated and dreary? Or just boring and … blah? Sure, it does the job — all a bathroom truly needs is a working sink, a tub/shower and a toilet. But considering how much time you spend in the space, wouldn’t it be nice if it were fun, fabulous and more functional? “You use your bath every day, so make it a high priority,” urges Amy Wolff, a Scottsdale, Arizona-based interior designer. From brightening the basics to adding five-star (but functional) touches, here’s a three-step plan for a beautiful bathroom.

Stage 1: Build Out the Basics

Start by getting the room’s essential elements in place.

If you didn’t purge before the move, now’s the time to clear the clutter. “Get rid of items you haven’t used in the last six months,” says Wolff.

A coat of paint will give the room a fresh backdrop. “Try a soothing aquatic blue, or, if your bath needs some verve, venture into warm saturated yellows and oranges,” suggests Jeff Fiorito, owner of Fiorito Interior Design, in Northern California.

Now, go shopping. Swap out the shower curtain for a new one in a color, print or texture that fits the room’s style while letting light into your shower stall. (Don’t forget a rod, curtain hooks and a liner!) A coordinated bath ensemble with wastebasket, soap dispenser, toothbrush holder and tumbler will give the room a polished, put-together look.

Update towels and rugs — and know that they don’t need to match. “Get the best quality you can afford,” suggests Wolff. “For powder rooms, look for a little bling; guest towels with beading or embroidery add a fun, funky or elegant touch.” Layer detailed towels over fluffy bath sheets, and buy plenty of spares for a spalike look. On the floor, lay down a plush terry rug in a solid color, or add visual interest with a small, patterned area rug.

Stage 2: Add Embellishments

Layer in a little something extra.

Tailor the bathroom to how you bathe! If your new stall’s shower head sprays a sad, weak drizzle, update it; choose a soothing rain shower or a powerhouse shower head with a hand shower attachment. Is your shampoo collection a veritable beauty buffet? Install functional storage to keep bottles orderly. And if you love a toasty towel (or two!) when your bath’s over, consider adding a super-luxe towel warmer.

Show off pretty perfume bottles and jewelry on a mirrored or marble tray. And invest in attractive storage boxes for not-so-attractive workhorses, such as your hair dryer, curling iron and pedicure equipment.

“Display pretty candles and soaps in lovely containers. It’s easy, inexpensive and smells good,” says Wolf.

And nobody ever said you can’t hang art in the bathroom: Frame and hang prints or family photos.

Stage 3: Give It the Wow Factor

Load your bathroom with items that take it to the next level.

You don’t need to tear the bathroom down to the studs to take it to the next level.

Everything will look better (including you!) with fresh, brighter lighting. “In addition to recessed LED ceiling lights, I like sconces on either side of the mirror, so light illuminates your face without shadows,” Fiorito says.

“Have fun with the powder room — it’s a great place to go a bit over the top. A chandelier or large pendant in the powder room really says ‘wow!’” Wolff adds.

New hardware will update the room and help make a style statement. “Fabulous knobs and pulls are like jewelry for cabinets,” Wolf says. While you’ve got the screwdriver out, swap out the faucet and showerhead; shiny, new fixtures breathe new life into the vanity and can make your shower stall a true escape.

Update windows with gorgeous top treatments or valances. “For a fuller, custom appearance, buy double what the package specifies,” Wolf says. “And use attractive rods.” If privacy’s a concern, consider installing blinds or window film.

Finally, frame “builder stock” mirrors, or replace them with hung versions to make the space look customized. Dealing with a dated medicine cabinet? Swap it for a fresh, oversized version to maximize storage and bring the look into the 21st century.

How to Build a Better Bed

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Ever wake up extremely well-rested in a hotel bed and think, “Why don’t I sleep like this at home?” The reasons? Your droopy mattress and worn-out linens have seen better days. As you move, consider getting rid of your old bedclothes (they make great drop cloths) and start building the bed of your (sweet) dreams with these five items.

1. Mattress

A good night’s sleep starts with a good mattress. If your current mattress is older than seven years, it likely needs replacing. Dr. Emerson Wickwire, director of the Insomnia Program at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, says mattress selection is almost entirely based on personal preference. He recommends the “Goldilocks method.” “Set aside a couple of hours, go to a quality mattress store and try the mattresses out with your bed partners. Make a date of it!” Dr. Wickwire suggests. “Test firmness, material and overall comfort. Wear comfortable clothes and try as many beds as you need to until you find the fit that is just right.”

If you’re looking at inner-spring mattresses, coil count isn’t the only indicator of quality. Instead, feel out the firmness and avoid flimsy edges that won’t stand up over time. If you’re leaning toward memory foam mattresses, try them all out, because not all foams are created equal. And if you can’t decide, test out adjustable-air mattresses and hybrid models that top a traditional spring mattress with a layer of foam.

And think about what size mattress your bedroom will support. You may covet a California king, but your doorway might thwart your desires. Dr. Wickwire suggests taking advantage of your mattress dealer’s return policy. Sleep on your new mattress for a few days, and return it if you don’t love it.

2. Mattress Topper

If all that’s between your mattress and sheets is a paper-thin mattress cover, you’re missing a whole new level of luxury. You can customize your mattress with a topper — cloudlike feather beds give a firm mattress a plush factor, whereas foam toppers provide cushiness without the price tag of a new mattress. Other mattress toppers include pads designed to repel allergens and odors, performance-fabric models designed to cool down hot sleepers and electric pads to keep the bed warm on chilly nights.

3. Pillows

A pillow should align the neck and spine, so the pillow that’s right for you will depend on how you sleep. Stomach sleepers need soft support, side sleepers need firmer support, back sleepers need medium support — and if you change positions throughout the night, you may need to test-drive a few models. Down- and synthetic-filled pillows are softer, while foam ones tend to be thicker and firmer. Find the right combination of thickness and softness that keeps your neck in a neutral position.

4. Sheets

“Hotels spend a lot of time working to make sure you have a good night sleep, and the sheets are always clean when you arrive,” Dr. Wickwire says. “There’s a lesson there!” Indeed, it’s not necessarily that hotels have sheets that are so much better than yours — it’s that they’re always fresh.

Yet even a wash won’t bring tired and worn sheets back to life. In that case, you should spring for a new set. First, decide what texture you like. Do you like the T-shirt feel of jersey, the slickness of sateen or the crispness of percale? If you like the feel of cotton, consider the thread count — a higher number means more threads per square inch — but don’t obsess over it. A lower thread-count sheet in a high-quality cotton fiber like Egyptian or pima may feel softer than one with a higher number and low-quality cotton.

5. Comforter

A thin blanket’s fine for summer, but the rest of the year requires better insulation designed to keep you snug and as warm (or cool) as you like. Synthetic comforters are less expensive than down versions and often preferred by those with allergies, but down is still the gold standard.

Shop down comforters by looking at the fill power numbers, which indicate the amount of down per ounce. A thicker fill power (600 or above) indicates a fluffier comforter that’ll provide warmth; a lighter fill power yields a thinner comforter that hot sleepers may desire. Look for stitching that forms a grid pattern to ensure the down doesn’t shift too much over time.

Protect your investment with a washable duvet cover that matches your bedroom décor, or buy an extra flat sheet if you prefer the triple-sheet method most hotels use.

We’ve Moved! 8 Creative Ways to Share Your New Address

address

On the move? Don’t forget to share your new address with friends and family by sending a thoughtful card or e-mail. Here are eight ways to stand out among a cluttered mailbox (or inbox).

1. Just like the good old days: It sounds obvious, but a handwritten note is a pleasant surprise in this digital age. Buy a box of attractive moving announcements at your local brick-and-mortar stationery store, and personalize your note with a snapshot of you in front of your new house.

2. Keep it custom: Sites like Shutterfly, Tiny Prints and Minted offer customized moving announcements in an abundance of stylish designs. Bonus: Some sites will mail your cards directly to your recipients, saving you a trip to the post office.

3. Go old school: Scour eBay for vintage postcards from your new home state (search “Greetings from” to find those nostalgic favorites.). Jot or stamp your new address on the back and — voila! — instant moving announcements, retro-style.

4. Postcards without the pen: With the ByPost Postcard Maker app, you can create and send honest-to-goodness printed “We’ve moved” postcards from your iPhone. Just upload a photo from your image library, design your postcard, choose recipients from your address book and hit send; in a few days, the cards will arrive in your friends’ mailboxes. Similarly, the Ink Cards app allows you to create and mail personalized photo greeting cards from your iPhone or iPad.

5. Get crafty: Pinterest is chock-full of creative DIY moving announcement ideas. A few of the most popular pins: using classic manila shipping tags as cards; making postcards out of moving-box scraps cut to size; or crafting cards, using printed Google maps that have your new address pinpointed.

6. Go digital: Sure, you could send a plain old email, but more interactive (read: more fun!) options are just a point and click away. American Greetings, Blue Mountain and Hallmarkhave selections of free e-cards and also offer monthly or annual memberships that grant you full access to their collections of talking, singing and music-playing messages for any occasion.

7. The free way: If the budget’s tight, a free digital greeting card is the way to go. BothPaperless Post and Punchbowl have stylish selections of gratis online moving announcements.

8. Dare to be different: Make sure your new address sticks by sending a photo magnet bearing your new contact info and a snapshot of your family in your new digs. You can order them via Vistaprint, TinyPrints or Shutterfly.

12 Tips for Hosting a Stress-Free Housewarming Party

housewarming

What good is a fabulous new home if nobody sees it? Throw a housewarming party to show off your new digs to old friends and new neighbors — but don’t fuss over the invites, food and festivities. Embrace the we-haven’t-completely-unpacked-yet look (hey, cardboard boxes make for excellent breakdancing surfaces!), and host a stress-free, toned-down gathering with these dozen tips.

  1. Wait a few weeks — at least. Tempting as it may be to invite the whole gang over right away, wait until your home is in reasonable shape (furniture in place, most boxes unpacked) and you’ve settled in, which could even be a few months.
  1. Email invitations a few days or a few weeks ahead. No need to get fancy with invites, and emailing them is quick and easy. (And let’s be honest: Who can find where the stamps are packed, anyway?) As with any other party, ask guests to RSVP so you can plan the food and drink.
  1. Organize it as an open house. If your guest list is no match for your home’s small square footage, throw an open house, which means people can drop in anytime during a span of several hours — say, 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. — rather than everyone showing up at 2:00 p.m.
  1. Tell your new neighbors to stop in. What better way to get to know the local folks than to invite them to your soiree? Then, next time you see them at school or the grocery store, you’ll already be buddies.
  1. Give it a theme. Up the fun factor and pick a theme! A popular one: Stock the Bar, where you serve your favorite cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, and guests bring wine, liquor and gifts like glasses, coasters and shakers. Other favorite themes involve gardening, crafting or recipe swaps.
  1. Set up a bar. Clear off a table in a central location (but away from the front door) and stock with liquor, soft drinks, glasses and napkins.
  1. Keep the food simple. Since most of your cookware may still be in boxes, or you’re too busy unpacking to prepare a feast, order bite-size foods that can be kept at room temperature, as well as pre-cut fruit, cheese and cookie platters.
  1. Use paper products. Save time on cleanup by using paper plates made from recyclable materials; they’re sturdy and totally appropriate for such a casual event. Bonus: If you’re still living out of cardboard boxes, you won’t have to hunt down the one that contains your appetizer plates.
  1. Get the living room in order. You should have the main party spot — likely the living room — as unpacked and organized as possible. Take the drop cloth off the sofa and tables, and lay the rug down.
  1. Plan a grand tour. Give guests what they came for — a guided tour of your new home — or invite everyone to wander on their own. Don’t worry if you still have some boxes to unpack and the windows are bare: It’s all part of the “just moved in” charm!
  1. Set the atmosphere with music. Check out the housewarming playlists on Spotify, or make your own upbeat grouping. Bonus points for sneaking in moving-related songs, such as “Our House” by Madness, or “Movin’ Out” by Billy Joel.
  1. Let the games begin! It’s goofy, but good fun: Make up a trivia game about your house, your town or even your habitat history (“How many roommates did Jeannie have when she lived in Chicago?”). Or group people into teams, and then send them on a mini scavenger hunt throughout your new place.

10 Under-$20 Finds to Cozy Up Your New Home

The moving boxes are unpacked and the furniture is arranged, but you’re missing the creature comforts of home. Luckily, you can create cozy living spaces that welcome you home with just a few budget-friendly finds.

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Fringe Benefits

Give your new kitchen some quick personality (and a pop of color) with cotton dish towels detailed with colorful stripes and fun fringe.

Fouta Kitchen Towels

 

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Saving Seats

Wood dining chairs (and your backside) benefit greatly from comfy seat cushions in bright hues.

Chair pads

 

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Tea’d Up

Wind down from a day of unpacking with a warm cup of chamomile — and let a perky-colored tea kettle do the hard work.

Circulon Sunrise tea kettle

 

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Hip to Be Square

For less than $20, this great-for-small-spaces ottoman is a major score. The seat/footrest offers hidden storage and folds up neatly, so you can tuck it away.

Anthology Jolie folding ottoman

 

pillows

Pillow Talk

Throw pillows will add a pop of color to your new living room décor — and easily swap out when you want a change.

Madison Park Delray Diamond square throw pillows

 

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Walk All Over Me

Give guests a warm welcome before they’ve stepped through the door, with a low-maintenance, durable doormat that’s cute to boot.

Vinyl-backed coir door mat

 

candle

Making Scents

Scent is a powerful tool when it comes to personalizing a space, which proves especially helpful when the previous occupants had pets (or a love of kimchi). Erase the ghosts of scents past with WoodWick’s candles, available in sniffworthy scents such as At the Beach.

WoodWick At the Beach 10-ounce jar candle

 

frame

Picture This

They say a picture’s worth a thousand words, so why is your treasured family photo displayed in that shabby-but-not-chic relic? Upgrade those plain Jane frames, pronto, with something more sophisticated.

Prinz Whitman 5-by-7-inch antique copper metal frame

 

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Night Lights

Twinkly string lights add instant cheer to a patio or deck.

20 Count Clear String Lights

 

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Sleep Tight

Kids nervous about their new rooms? Add some soft light to help them sleep soundly.

SKIP*HOP® Zoo Take-Along Owl Nightlight

 

 

Buy Two! 12 Essential Double-Duty Items

You don’t need a special organizer for every item in your home; instead, when you shop for these 12 items, buy two — they all do double-duty to get clutter under control.

overthedoorshoerack

Over-the-Door Shoe Rack

A compartmentalized over-the-door rack is a smart way to organize a shoe collection. It can also keep cleaning products organized in the broom closet, keep toys tidied up in kids’ rooms, and keep ribbons and tissue sorted in the craft room.

 

winerack

Wine Rack

Organize more than your pinot noir: Add another wine rack in the bathroom to keep rolled towels organized and within easy reach.

 

showercurtain

Shower-Curtain Liner

If a shower liner can confine water to your tub, it can contain messes in your car, too. Line your trunk with a shower-curtain liner and never worry again about grocery mishaps and muddy shoes.

 

hangers

Pants Hangers

Buy a pack of pants hangers for your slacks; another to hang tablecloths; and another to organize accessories, such as scarves and long necklaces. They’re also great for hang-drying and for displaying art prints (or your kids’ finger paintings).

 

coathooks

Coat Hooks

Coat hooks can do for your shoes what they do for your jackets. Install a few hooks in your foyer, mudroom or closet, and use them to hang sneakers and flats.

 

pillowcases

Pillowcases

Buy enough pillowcases for your bed, and buy a few extra for your clothes. Cut a hole in the closed end of a pillowcase, just large enough for a hanger hook; then, next time you pick up your dry cleaning, pull off the plastic (which can seal in moisture and odors) and slip on a breathable, mildew-free DIY garment bag.

 

magazine_racks

Magazine Rack

While you’re picking up magazine racks to corral back issues, buy extra to keep accessories such as clutches, small purses and wallets within view in your closet.

 

spice_racks

 

Magnetic Spice Containers

Spice jars with clear lids have dozens of uses beyond storing peppercorns and parsley. Usemagnetic spice containers to get organized everywhere: paper clips, staples and other supplies on your desk; Legos and tiny toys in the playroom; batteries, electronics and tiny glue containers in the workroom; beads, stickers and sewing needles in the craft room; and even lashes and makeup in the bathroom.

 

dishes

Formal Dishware

Next time you pick up pretty serving plates and bowls for a dinner party, buy extras for displaying cosmetics in your bathroom and creating a pretty spot for keeping keys, change, concert tickets and more on your entry table.

 

garment_bags

Garment Bags

Garment bags are great for keeping dust off of your favorite dresses and suits. They’re also a convenient, portable way to prevent tubes of gift wrap from taking over your closets.

 

hamper

Laundry Sorter

In the laundry room, a sorter is a hero, neatly separating your whites, darks and colors. Buy a second for the garage to tame your family’s sports equipment; footballs, Frisbees, tennis rackets and more fit easily inside.

 

toothbrush_holder

Toothbrush Holder

Control the clutter on your bathroom vanity: Grab a second (or third!) toothbrush holder to collect makeup brushes and applicators in one convenient spot.