Friday, July 31, 2009

Oriental Keepsake Box

Create this oriental fabric box for your precious keepsakes.

Step 1
Cut a strip of fabric 26 mm longer than the circumference of the box and 26 mm wider than the height of the box. Cut a circular piece of fabric 3 mm smaller in diameter than the bottom of the box.

Thin white glue with water just enough to make it easy to apply. Brush it onto the exterior of box. Wrap the fabric around the side of the box, centering the box in the middle of the strip, smoothing it as you go. Overlap the ends of the fabric.

Step 3
Apply glue onto the inside of the box along the edge. Fold the excess fabric over the top edge of the box to the inside. Cut small slits along the fabric if necessary for a smooth fit.

Step 4
Apply glue to the bottom of the box and glue the fabric to the bottom. Cut small slits in the excess fabric that will be folded over the bottom of the box, to make sure the box will sit flat.

Step 5
Glue the circular fabric to the bottom of the box.

Step 6
Cut a circular piece of batting the size of the lid and glue it to the top. Cut a circular piece of fabric large enough to go over the batting and the side of the lid.

Step 7
Cut small slits in the part of the fabric that will extend over the side and glue the fabric to the side of the lid.

Step 8
Cut a piece of fabric three times the width of the side of the lid and the length of the circumference plus a small overlap. Fold the fabric in thirds widthwise and glue it around the side of the lid.

If desired, lay the inside of the box with a large circular piece of fabric and glue it only around the edge so that the fabric will hang loosely inside the box rather than conform to the box's shape.

My Office is At Home

More than ever, people are choosing to work from home. Whether it is a business run from home, telecommuting, or just bringing work from home, the need for a home office has become stronger than ever. The problem comes when we try to integrate a working environment into the limited confines of our homes.

Let's face it--the office environment, with all that it implies: the computer, fax machine, printer, filing cabinets, and other paraphernalia, can often be seen as invasive. They turn a place dedicated to relaxation and comfort to one that is concerned with the document, deadlines, and work stress. The challenge of starting a home office is to ensure that a viable work space can be carved out while maintaining the harmony of your home and its interior decor.

Some of us are lucky enough to have a room set aside as a study in our homes that can be used as a home office. Many of us are not, and have to contend with a corner of the bedroom, the living room, or even the store room. Either way, some effort is required to create the right home office, home office (soho). This not only ensures that a formal environment for work is set up, but also that the home office does not appear out of place in your home.


If you have a separate room or study that can be converted into a home office, re-modeling seems simple enough: simply re-create your impression of a modern office in it. Straightforward though this plan of action may be, you are also depriving yourself of the freedom of choice in creating an ideal workplace for yourself. Think back to the commercial offices you have seen (or worked in!): Boring cubicles, greying furniture, and utilitarian furnishings devoid of personality. Worse, office furniture of the wrong height that causes backaches or neck aches. A home office means that you can avoid all of that, and design it according to your tastes instead.
Ergonomic furniture, such as a chair that can support your back, or a desk that can be adjusted for your height, are examples of good investment when you have to spend many hours seated.

At the same time, you can ensure that the overall look of the office fits in with your home decor and personality. For example, if your home is decorated in the country style, you can continue the theme in your home office: get a traditional-looking wooden table to use as your desk. Use natural fabrics. If your home uses red, blue, or other colours as a prominent motif, do the same in your home office, but in smaller doses: maybe have one item in that colour.

Express your personality. Display your favourite photographs or art pieces, or show off the more exclusive of your collector's items on a small shelf. However, remember not to overdo it: your home office is still a place for work--too many distractions and you will find it difficult to concentrate.

Dual function office

If you are faced with option of setting up a small office in another occupied room, however, a different decorating strategy comes into play. The bedroom is usually the first choice for many home offices, as it is generally unused in the day. One important rule about creating a home office in the bedroom is to ensure that each function of the room--sleeping and working--are clearly delineated.
Arrange to sit facing away from the bed, for example, so that you won't be tempted to relax or take a nap. If not, try to screen the bed off from the rest of the room, for example, by using a movable screen. Conversely, it is a good idea to keep the work space out of sight when you are unwinding at the end of the day and preparing to go to sleep, or you may find yourself unable to take your mind off work!

The same arrangement applies if you prefer to work in the living room, the kitchen, or a generally unused corner of the home. Avoid facing your favourite couch, the refrigerator or the television. Choose a spot where there is less human traffic as well, so that there are less distractions.

In such home offices, some people prefer to use a computer workstation or cabinet that can be hidden away from sight when not in use. Others might prefer a solid desk or work top. If you choose not to hide the presence of your home office, consider how these additions can be integrated into your home decor as well. For example, you can match dark wood furniture in your bedroom with a dark wood desk. A glass-topped table looks good in a home with a futuristic theme. Continue the use of a colour or a motif to match your interior decor.
Place your desk or table near a window if possible, both to divert your attention from the distractions at home, and help focus your concentration on the work at hand. If this is not possible, you might prefer to install study lamps or lighting specifically for the work area. This helps again to separate the different functions of your room. Note: when considering sources of light (natural or artificial) on your workspace, also take into account the direction of the light to reduce both glare and shadows.

Good storage is essential as they prevent your paperwork from migrating all the rest of the room (and your home). Start with simple, clearly labelled files or shelves. Invest in a good filing cabinet or filing system if necessary; if space is at a premium, considering cabinets that have wheels so that they can be easily put away or pushed against the wall when not in use. Put up shelves near your working area to store oft-used references, stationery, and other required items. Wall-mounted shelves take up less space.

Be at home

Despite all of these, do not forget to make sure that your home office will be a place where you can enjoy your work. Play soft music if you need it to concentrate. Place a potted plant nearby so that the presence of nature can relax you. Put your favourite photograph on the table. Enjoy being at home.

Working at home requires firm discipline, but these need not be onerous. Put up a magnetic board or a cork pin-up board so that your to-do lists and other essential matters can be drawn to your attention easily. Make it a personal rule to put your things away at the end of the day. Empty your wastepaper bin regularly. It only takes a bit of effort to keep everything ship-shape.
And you'll get to enjoy your home office again the next day.

Storage Solutions

'A place for everything and everything in its place’ is the key to successful storage
Spring cleaning is the perfect time to rationalise your furniture and sort out your possessions. Be ruthless. Keep only what you really want, bearing in mind that everything should be either beautiful or useful, and ideally both. Donate what you don’t want to charity shops, or recycle it.

With space being a luxury for many, furniture these days have been designed not only to look good, but offer cleverly hidden storage space as well. When doing renovations, try to make full use of available space and create your own storage. It is often possible to build cupboards in spaces you were scarcely aware of.
Using available space

If you have bay windows, consider having window seats built with hinged lids, and you will be able to store things under them. It may be beneficial to excavate the space under the stairs. If there is already a cupboard there, consider having it expanded, or make open shelves, depending on what you want to keep there.

For some, the living room is an area to relax and entertain friends, where all ugly black boxes such as TVs and hi-fis are banned or at least out of sight. For others it is an area that needs to work as a living room, play area and dining room. Shelves hung at picture rail height or above doors are good for both display and books. Placing the TV on an open shelving system with ornaments and books prevents it from dominating the room.

A small bedroom can be made to feel bigger with a loft bed. The space under it can be used for a desk or as storage. Exploit the space under the bed and prevent dust collecting by using storage boxes. Create a dual-purpose spare room and home office by concealing shelves and files behind blinds.

Kitchens are usually fitted as they come in the home. It is a practical solution for small or irregular shaped kitchens. The trend now is towards free standing units which are flexible, attractive and give you the options of choosing what you like. Make the most of your available space with floor to ceiling cupboards and keep a step ladder handy. Consider a table where you can eat that doubles up as a work surface and can be folded away when not in use.

Bathing is one of life’s greatest pleasures, so create a sense of calm with a clutter-free bathroom. Consider cabinets with mirrors to hold toiletries and medicine. Use baskets to store small items such as tweezers and combs and stash dirty laundry in a closed laundry bin or basket. Use hooks on the back of the door to hang bathrobes and towels. Towel rails are also useful to dry towels and clothes which you may hand-wash.

Refinancing your Home

When it comes to housing loans, many people do not refinance. A significant number are unaware they have the option of switching their loan to another financier; others are simply apathetic. They stick with their very first lender and the “reward” for such loyalty tends to be higher interest rates. Due to the magnitude of housing loans and the tenure that the loan is amortized over, the interest we are talking about here can easily stretch from thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Take a look at the following factors to see whether it's time for you to consider refinancing.

Current interest rate
It is definitely a good indication for you to explore refinancing when your current interest rate is higher than available housing loan packages on the market. A first step to take is to go back to your current bank or financial institution and ask them to revise your package, otherwise known as repricing. If your lender comes back with an offer, it will usually be better than your current one. You can then compare this offer with offers from other lenders to see whether you should switch or stay put.

Lock-in and clawback periods
When you take up a housing loan, there may be a lock-in period where your mortgage lender will charge you a penalty fee, usually a percentage of your outstanding loan amount, if you were to fully repay your loan. Almost all housing loans also come with a clawback period where the lender will claim back “freebies”, such as legal subsidies, that they “gave” you when you take up your housing loan (Note: lock-in period is separate from clawback period). It may not be worthwhile for you to refinance due to such costs.

Loan quantum
The larger your loan amount, the greater your savings for the same decrease in interest rates. For example, 1% on a loan of S$100,000 is much less than 1% on a loan of S$500,000. However, fixed cost to refinancing, which comprises mainly of legal fees, do not vary much with loan quantum. The difference between your current and refinancing interest rates, therefore, has to be bigger for a relatively smaller loan as fixed cost eats into a more significant portion of your interest rate savings.

Perceived interest rate movements
Your view on how interest rates is moving can be a factor when considering whether you should refinance. If you are currently on a fixed rate package and believe interest rates are dropping, you may want to refinance to a floating rate package. Conversely, if you are on floating rates and believe interest rates are rocketing, switching to fixed rates may be a good choice.

Personal financial assessment
If there is a change in your financial state, you may want to vary your package details via refinancing. For example, you are starting your own business and do not want volatility in other areas. Give some thought to taking up a fixed rate package. Maybe you want cash to invest in another property. Consider increasing your loan quantum. Or your monthly income has increased and you want to minimise interest payments. Contemplate reducing your loan tenure.

If looking through this article is giving your a headache or you simply want to save yourself the trouble, consult a housing loan advisor (e.g. Housing loan advisors not only frees up your time but also do not charge any fees to help you get the best deal. Refinancing does not have to be a tedious process.

Furniture Fair

Furniture Fairs

Consultations with interior designers and reading issues of Wallpaper are no doubt great ways to gain inspiration about home decor, but what if you're looking for something a little more current--not to mention avant-garde--and a chance to savour the buzz and excitement of new designs?

One way to do that is to visit furniture trade fairs and home decor shows, which are usually held annually to showcase the best and newest trends in the industry. These shows are typically large undertakings, with dozens of exhibitors and participants from around the country or the world, and can feature ground-breaking and prize-winning works. Some of the top shows around the world include IMM Cologne in Germany, the Paris Furniture Show (held with Salon de meuble de Paris), Stockholm International Furniture Fair and Interiors Birmingham. Although these are held for industry professionals, they are usually also open to the public.

Here are some of the most well-known shows:

IMM Cologne ( Next show: 19th - 25th January 2009
The 2008 was a resounding success, establishing its position as the leading international fair: by the time the fair ended, more than 107,000 visitors from 130 countries had a chance to see for themselves the furniture and furnishings trends introduced. For seven days, 1,251 participating companies from 53 countries presented a comprehensive spectrum of top-class design furniture extending through to classic home furniture and furnishings worlds. With a foreign share of 66 per cent on the exhibitors' side, the event reflected the global markets.

The highlight of the show was "Art of kitchen", where premium kitchen manufacturers presented their best ideas and products, impressing visitors and buyers. Special presentations such as "Architecture Code Cologne", "Design Deutschland Case Study 08" and presentation of the "Compasso d'oro", 50 years of Italian furniture design, were also highlights.

Some of the trends brought up at the show include:
-replacement of the classic wall unit by light and flexible wall systems
-dominance of white in decor and furniture
-integration of technology in furniture, eg., flat-screens and speakers as part of furniture and furnishings
-use of LED lighting, even for bookcases, wardrobes and beside reading lamps.
-high-class kitchens
-'green' furniture, which is manufactured in an environmentally-friendly process and can be disposed of in an environmentally-friendly way.

Stockholm International Furniture Fair ( Next show: 4-8 February 2009
Held in conjunction with the Northern Light Fair, which shows the newest designs in home lighting, using LEDs, halogen lamps, glass fibre lights, the 2008 Stockholm International Furniture Fair attracted 768 exhibitors (650 at SFF AND 118 at NLF) with the main exhibitors coming from Denmark, Norway and Finland, showcasing the best of Scandinavia design and giving the show a distinct Nordic flair. In fact, it is considered the most important meeting places for Nordic design. Altogether, 23 countries were represented on 37,330 sqm of exhibition space, attracting more than 38,000 visitors. New designers are profiled, and the design competitionis often highlight delightful, quirky designs that nevertheless capture the clean, abstract lines of modern Scandinavian furniture.

Paris Furniture Show ( or Next show: 22-26 January 2009
This is a relatively new furniture show and held at the same time as Maison & Objet, the home trade fair exhibition, and the upcoming 2009 show will highlight 'The Store', a 400 sqm flagship store designed by architect Pierre-Julien Dentale that will be built within the Planete Meuble Paris exhibition centre. In all, more than 3,500 exhibitors are expected on over 300,000 sqm of space. As the name (and location) suggests, this exhibition will showcase the best of French country design, as well as abstract and highly conceptual pieces and objets d'art.

Hong Kong Internationnal Furniture Fair 2008 ( Next show: 28-21 Oct 2008.
Only in its third year, this show plays on its strengths by bringing together manufacturers and buyers from China and around the world. In 2007, the fair hosted 172 exhibitors from 19 countries and regions, and attracted over 8,100 buyers came from 112 countries. More than half the buyers were from Asia, with those from Europe and North American taking up second and third.
What is special about HKIFF is its special, premium section called IGLOO (Inspirational, Glamorous, Lively, Original and Outstanding), where high-end pieces, often showing amazing design and quality of craftsmanship, are presented.

In addition to IGLOO, there is also a Classic Furniture Zone, which displays antique or reproduction items in the classic styles of East and West. It's a great opportunity for buyers who seek to give interiors a vintage look.

The China International Furniture Fair, held in Guangzhou ( Next show: 8-11 Setptmber 2008
The show, also known as 'Asia's Furniture Sourcing Centre', is prominent for its extensive list of Chinese manufacturers who sought to sell to the rest of the world. At the same time, good-quality design and workmanship ensure that the pieces will be well-received by buyers in Asia, Europe and North America. Modern and classical furniture will still be the main attractions at CIFF, displaying exhibits such as living room, dining room, bedroom furniture, kitchen furniture, outdoor furniture, soft furniture etc, and providing a "one-stop" platform for international buyers.

Interiors Birmingham 2009 ( Next show: 18-21 Jan 2009
Among the top furniture and interior decor shows in Europe, especially for trade buyers, Interiors Birmingham places itself as a one-stop shop for sourcing needs, from high-end, bespoke furniture to volume pieces. It will have eight different halls: furniture; design interiors; furnishing assessories; soft furnishings; lighting (two halls); and outdoor pieces.

Salon Internazional del Mobile and the International Furnishing Accessories Exhibition (Milan) (,2,67,71,75). Next show: 22-27 April 2009 (Open to the public on Sunday, April 26)

As expected of a show in Milan, this showed the newest trends in home furnishings in various styles ranging from classic to modern and to designer. showcased the latest in domestic furnishing, declined in all the various styles, ranging from classic to modern to designer. The show hosted a record number of visitors (348,000), of whom nearly two-thirds came from abroad. Some of the future trends highlighted at the show included a house of the future that was designed with ecosustainability in mind
At the Saloni, 2,450 exhibiting companies ranged over a net area of 230,000 sqm. Here we were treated to a glimpse of the trends for the house of the future, designed with ecosustainability in mind, while kitchens were given a classical treatment and there were pieces and exhibits to show how technology was incorporated in furnishings.


Furniture show and fairs are some of the best ways for professionals in the industry to come together, and for laymen, these shows are great opportunities to see unique displays and fashions in interior decor. If you ever needed a statement for your living room, it can be found.

Tradition Rules

It is easy to be lured by the attractions of Western-derived, fashionable, and even futuristic forms of interior home decoration. After all, such professional, exclusive-looking images are everywhere: in design magazines, glossy coffeebooks featuring architectural marvels, and at award shows for new designers. These styles are bound to make your visitors' pop out in admiration, and cause them leave a trail of salivating jaws in your home.

But the fact is, shiny and bright as your designer-styled home might be, there are times when you long to be assert your cultural identity and your heritage. Somehow, the presence of a kopitiam-style marble-topped table in your dining room is more powerful than a glass-and-steel construction by a famous designer. It might even make you feel like eating at home for once. An old-fashioned bamboo screen adds an Asian touch to a room. Regardless of the basic style of your current home décor, it is easy to add a few traditional touches and modifications to show off your cultural heritage.


Some people find that the principles of feng-shui are useful in determining the functions and uses of one's space, but this is not essential. There are only a few simple and basic rules when it comes to the creation of a traditional home.
Perhaps the most basic principle to keep in mind is that in traditional homes, each room or space tends to have well-defined functions. This is unlike the open plan often seen in contemporary homes, where spaces flow into one another. In fact, it is one of the most striking things about traditional homes: the insistence on having a room or space for every activity The living room is used for family interaction and communal relaxation--and more formally, as a place to entertain guests. It is usually a separate space from, for example, the dining room, or the kitchen. The dining room, kitchen, bedroom, and study/home office all have their uses, and these functions do not usually merge.

There are both advantages and disadvantages to this type of floor play. On the one hand, you will not become easily distracted from your tasks, be it checking bills or making dinner, and this gives your home a well-organised, disciplined air. On the other hand, this can cause your home to become overly rigid, e.g, you can't eat dinner in the living room.

Nonetheless, if you have an open plan in your home, it is still possible to create the atmosphere of a traditional home.

Focal Points

Start off by highlighting the possible function of a room through the use of lighting, distinctive pieces of furniture, and the layout of the furniture. You can create a cosy living room space at one end of your dining-cum-living space by arranging the relevant furniture, while maintaining its use as a dining space by hanging, for example, a distinctive lamp over the dining table. Delineate spaces whenever possible or when it does not make your home too cramped.
Draw attention to aspects of your culture that are on display, such as old photographs or paintings by using spotlights, or by creating an alcove for them. Your collection of teapots, or vases, or books go onto bookshelves or an unobstrusive display unit; the contents are the focus of attention.


Keep your leather couches, and your designer coffee table, but have you thought about accentuating your living room with a piece of traditional furniture? Wooden furniture, especially in a dark wood, may look severe and dull on its own, but a pair of carved chairs, or a rosewood armchair, can become the focal point of a modern-looking room because they have so much character. It is not necessary to search for antiques; a good-quality reproduction will work, too.
If heavy looking furniture is not to your taste, perhaps you might prefer traditional rattan furniture, which adds an element of fun and whimsy to any home. There is something appealing about combining a slick, modern décor--maybe with an all-white, or all-black colour scheme--with a piece of well-made, cosy-looking armchair (or a pair of them): the mixture of textures add a touch of nature to your home, too.
Get a round table for your dining room: yes, the marble-topped table as mentioned earlier, or a just a plain wooden one. The Chinese traditionally believe that a round table promotes family togetherness, and is lucky as it has no sharp corners that might disrupt feng shui. If you can find one, add a traditional kitchen sideboard to your kitchen, harking back to the days when china and eating utensils were stored in it.
Wooden carved screens, bamboo blinds, or even an altar table--transformed into a side-table or a display table--can all help to give your home a traditional touch.


Old lamps, like simple pendant lamps of old, or more dramatic pieces like chandeliars often add to the atmosphere. We no longer need to light kerosene lamps or candles for light, but kerosene lamps and old candlesticks help to accentuate a room. Old hanging lamps, or cast-iron ones, all help to enhance the vintage look. On festive occasions, lanterns, oil lamps or candelabrums add to the atmosphere and spirit of celebration.


At first, you might assume that conversative and traditional homes make use of boring, or earthy colours like white or grey. This is not true. On the contrary, traditional homes tended to favour strong, solid colours to make a definite statement and to add character. Red is the colour of danger, but to the Chinese, it is also a colour that brings good fortune. Other ethnic groups prefer sky-blue, or a fresh, calming green. Stylized designs on the ceiling or above the skirting on walls, either painted or by the use of decorated tiles, can also add to the atmosphere.
In soft furnishings like cushions, curtains or rugs, add a traditional touch by having these items in the 'lucky' colour of your culture. Other alternatives are brightly-printed floral fabrics--maybe a batik print, or a traditional Chinese designs.

More than the superficial

But it is the little touches that truly matter. The devil is in the details, and it is the attention to the overall effect and the small additions that truly help to create the traditional home. Instead of a coffee machine, place teapot and teacups (for Chinese or English tea, according to your preference) on the mantelpiece. Hang black-and-white photographs of your family, such as those from your grandparents' generation, or put up wall decorations in the form of wooden carvings, a painting, or small curios such as souvenirs from your travels.
Plant a few pots of bamboo or bonsai to add greenery to your home. Rear fish, either in a tank or in a bowl. Install a ceiling fan, which also has the advantage of being more efficient at circulating the air. A carpet, or a rug, serves to add cosiness to a room or a passageway, especially one in a traditional design--perhaps a Persian carpet--or a homely-looking handwoven rug.
There is a lot that you can do to create a traditional home for yourself and your loved ones. These changes might not be as eye-catching, but at the end of the day when you enter your home, you can feel that it is a place that you truly identify with. You have added your personal touch to it, and it is no longer a bland, vaguely-Western inspired space.

At Home in Your Home

"The Englishman's home is his castle"--This saying best exemplifies the idea that one's home is our most important refuge from the hostilities of the outside world. At the end of a long, hard day, all that we want to do is to reach home, close the door, and relax in comfort.

However, being able to truly relax after a day of work is much easier when you consciously set out to create a stress-free atmosphere in your home. Most of the time, we regard our homes simply as a functional space for eating, sleeping or entertaining--not for relaxing. It might even be a stressful place where you are expected to work on next day's presentation late into the night. Maybe the truly relaxing place you can think of is your bathroom! But that is surely insufficient; with a little effort, you can transform your entire home into a palace for the soul.

The first rule to achieving a stress-free environment is simplicity. It can be achieved firstly by cutting down on the clutter, especially if space is at a premium. Remove all non-essential objects and ornaments from your home. This is especially important for your living room, the first place you see when you enter your home. Invest in proper storage spaces for your cds, books and keepsakes neatly, such as shelves and cabinets.

This will reduce the feeling of claustrophobia, especially when your home is of a moderate size, and improve air flow, which will in turn help you to feel refreshed.

You can also choose to paint walls in pale colours, or chose drapes and curtains in pastels to add a feeling of calm. Of course, removing all non-essential items does not mean you have to turn your home into a purely functional, sterile environment. Comfortable-looking furniture, accessories such as throw cushions, rugs, and flowers all help to make your home more pleasant and inviting.

At the same time, it is important to keep in mind the balance of space in your home. Too much open space, and your home will appear cold and sterile. Too little, and it feels cramped. Pick a few distinctive pieces of furniture. Create little nooks and corners to make your home more inviting, without sacrificing space. Hang a favourite photograph on the wall. Make use of small tables, or shelves to display a few items of interest, or to indulge in some aromatherapy.

All of us have our favourite spots at home: maybe the couch in front of the television; the dining room, the garden (or balcony) with its openness to fresh air, or the kitchen with its easy access to food and drink. These are places where we can let the stresses of the day fade away.

Though the kitchen is usually a place of activity, you can make it a more comfortable place by ensuring that the utensils are neatly put away. Built-in cookers and ovens give a more streamlined look as well. Use materials, such as wood whenever possible, to accentuate the homely atmosphere. Other natural materials such as stone, or marble—maybe a marble countertop—can add beauty, and achieve a more laid-back look, to counter the frenzy of activity in a kitchen.

Give your bedroom a softer, cosier atmosphere through the use of warm colours, soft fabrics such as cotton or linen, while still keeping its basic components simple.

Lighting deserves a special mention. After all, by the time you reach home, it is often late; the sun has set and night has arrived. Having to move around in your home in the glare of overly intense lighting, for example, from florescent lights, may interfere with your circadian rhythms, making it difficult to relax. In the bedroom, it might even interfere with your sleep. Avoid this by using lamps with incandescent bulbs instead. A small beside lamp that emits soft, warm light is very effective, as are candles, to give your bedroom a more romantic and intimate setting.

In other places, use a variety of lighting to add interest—perhaps to highlight a display cabinet, or simply to brighten a dark corner. Lamps, for example, table lamps, wall lamps or floor lamps, especially one in an interesting shape or colour, can add warmth and interest to any room.

Explore the various types of lighting that are available, that can help you make a home more inviting: spotlights to highlight a favourite painting or photograph; lampshades made of paper or cloth for a softer, more homely feel; or even a sparkling chandelier for a touch of luxury. Candlelight, as in the bedroom, can add a hint of mystery or romance to the mood of the room.

Other tips for a stress-free home:

Reserve a corner of your home that you can use specifically for exercise and relaxation, such as yoga, or a short workout on an exercise machine, aerobics, or just let it be your personal space for meditation, while listening to soothing music.
Clean your home regularly; the accumulation of dust and dirt is bad for your respiratory system, and may encourage household pests.

Take Charge of Your Household Finances

A neat home, besides being aesthetically pleasant, allows everyone in the family to easily find what they want, when they want to. Tidying your home also prevents it from turning into a cesspit, especially if you have children, which can only be good for the family's well-being. Similarly, regular ordering of your household finances is essential to the family's financial well-being. Here are some guidelines.

1) File your financial statements
Practically everyone has access to a computer nowadays. We now have the option to either file the physical bills and statements or better yet, input everything into a spreadsheet (for a list of common family expenditure, refer to You don't even have to fork out cash for a decent spreadsheet. There are a number of free ones on the Internet for you to choose from (e.g.

* Get soft copies of bills and statements, if possible, to save time from entering data.
* Remember to back-up all your information. On top of your harddisk, you should also save all your files in a secondary storage media such as a CD-R or thumb drive.

2) Delegate book keeping duties to your children
If you have children, consider delegating simple tasks such as data-entry to them. This, not only gives them a sense of responsibility, but also an opportunity to understand basic financial principles. Cultivate good financial habits from young.

3) Utilisation of credit cards
Do use your credit card, if you have one, but remember to repay the entire sum, not the minimum amount, at the end of the month. For the disciplined, prudent use of credit card makes sound economic sense.

4) Make it a habit
The more you procrastinate, the more it piles up. Set aside 30 minutes each week to upkeep your finances.

5) Rule of thumb
Total household expenses should ideally be not more than 33% of household income. If it is higher than 33%, it's time to cut down on expenses.

* Clean your air-conditioners regularly
* Do your laundry on full load
* Install thimbles on your taps

6) Financial planning
If your household has only one breadwinner, with no one else able to take on this role, and not much liquid assets (e.g. savings, shares etc), consider an insurance plan for the money spinner. Financial woes is not something your family should cope with in the event the sole breadwinner is incapacitated.

The Sports-Themed Home

Home decorating styles may come and go, but a true sports lover's devotion will never waver. There are golfing regulars, tennis lovers, and and never-say-die runners. Soccer fanatics and cricket worshippers. Yoga devotees. You might love your sport of choice so much that its effects spill out into your home décor--in fact you might prefer it that way, so that anyone who steps into your home has no doubt of your affiliations.

But how much of a sportsman or sportswoman are you? Are you a casual exerciser, a devoted follower, or a Black Belt fitness fanatic? With a little decorating effort, your home will reveal your interests!

First level: The casual exerciser

You go for the simple, low-maintenance activities: a game of soccer with friends, pounding the pavement in your pricey jogging shoes, or perhaps a game of golf on the weekend. Or perhaps you prefer more upmarket activities, such as working out at a gym, or attending classes in yoga. You feel smug at the glow of fitness on yourself.

Your home: Go for a streamlined, non-fussy décor. Hang your jogging shoes by the shoelaces for a rugged look. Set aside a corner as your personal fitness spot: this is where you can devote your time doing simple exercises, or where you can meditate.

Next level: Devoted follower

This is when things start to get exciting. You love all kinds of sports, and model yourself after well known athletes. You are known as 'the sporty one' in conversations. You are eager to spread your love of fitness to one and all, and your home, of course, must reflect this.

Your home: Golf lovers may find themselves buying miniature golf sets. Basketball lovers want to fix a basketball net to a convenient spot at home. You have turned an entire room into your personal gym or meditation room. You might even have a pool table. Instead of a simple T-shirts and shorts, you have a small collection of sportswear.

Highest level: Black Belt fitness fanatic

In many ways, this is the best level of all. You are allowed to give your imagination full reign. You train everyday as though you are slated to take part in the Olympics, and in fact, you have entered, and won competitions in your sport of choice. 'No pain, no gain' is your life philosophy. You probably consult a sports doctor regularly. You terrify the inactive with your devotion to fitness, and you are self-assured about your buff physique.

Your home: Your sporting awards are kept in a locked display cabinet, which has pride of place in your living room. In fact, your entire home is your shrine to fitness. You do not baulk at remodeling your entire home, if necessary, in order to reflect these beliefs.
Fans of games such as televised games such as soccer, golf, tennis, hockey: You follow your favourite team with devotion and may have travel overseas in order to catch them in action. You have customized display cabinets for your sports apparatus, such as for golf clubs. You have framed your favourite player's jersey on the wall. You painted your home in team colours.

Fans of extreme or uncommon sports: Your surfboard, your diving gear, or your archery apparatus are prominently displayed, so that guests may admire them, as well as your competence in them. Divers have photographs of undersea scenes, as well as souvenirs from far-off lands. Rock climbers have a miniature fake wall where they can practise hanging from a rope.

All-round fitness nut: Your weight-training apparatus is in the centre of the living room. In such cases, be sure to coordinate your furniture and wall colours so that they will harmonise with the amount of hardware in your home. White, industrial grey, or black are all suitable. A black leather sofa adds to the ruggedness of the surroundings. Be sure to install full-length mirrors in order to duplicate the gym atmosphere, and to ensure that you can always check your form wherever you are.

The yoga disciples: Practitioners of yoga and other activities such as martial arts, while seldom as loud as the other sports lovers, can be just as highly devoted to their sport. Your home is decorated in natural materials, such as wood, and you pay strict attention to the placement of your exercise mat, the incense pot, and the flowers. You prefer white in most things: furniture, drapes, floors, and walls. Again, full-length mirrors are useful to check your posture while holding those difficult positions. In other areas of your home, include details such as aromatherapy lamps, flower arrangements, and bonsai to enhance the feeling of spirituality.

Your home is not just a place to rest your head at night; it is a place where your individuality can be fully expressed, and what can be healthier than the love of sports and physical activity? If you love sports, let it show in your home décor. Not only will you be able to indulge in your favourite activity, the atmosphere of sportiness in your home will surely spur you to keep exercising and working out. Here's to continued fitness!

Clothes Maketh The Home

Just as clothes maketh the man, so do our everyday attire affect the way we think of our homes, and in turn the way we decorate it. This is because the clothes we wear are a reflection of our personality. The romantic individual may wear dark, rich colours that hint at his or her passionate nature--and use the same colours in the home. Urban dwellers might favour clean, streamlined designs that are fuss-free and low-maintenance--both in interior decor and in clothing.

But since the home is meant to be a shelter from the stresses of the outside environment, and indeed, since we often think of our home as a place where we can truly relax, one great way to turn the home into a truly stress-free place is to take our cue from the clothes we wear to relax.

What kind of clothes signify relaxation to you?

Gentlemen and ladies of old used to have smoking jackets that they could wear specifically to relax after dinner in the lounge (so named to protect one's clothes from the smoke of cigarettes). Usually worn by the upper classes, smoking jackets imparted a sense of sophistication and languid relaxation. Much like the leisure suits of the 1970s, such clothes specifically signified that the wearer was unwinding at home after a day of work.

The modern equivalent is much more varied, and at the same time, less formal. It could be the casual clothes we wear around the home, or to sleep: a T-shirt and shorts or jeans, a well-worn dress, or your favourite football jersey, paired with a comfortable pair of bermudas. Maybe your exercise outfit, or your yoga clothes, for those who work out at home. The more old-fashioned among us might vote for pyjamas. Others prefer the elegance of a bathrobe or a yukata (a Japanese summer kimono). These all have one similarity: they are comfortable, simple clothing that make us feel at home--where we are free to have a leisurely meal, read the newspapers, or catch a nap.

Wouldn't you feel even more relaxed if your home decor matched the ambience of relaxation?

That way, even without having to change out of your officewear at the end of the day, you are automatically 'clothed' in the stress-free environment of your home the moment you step inside. You are encourage to leave your worries at the door, and treat the home as the needed stress-free zone it is supposed to be.

First, consider the kinds of clothes you wear to relax. Most of us go for casual wear, but these can make a statement in your home as well. Clothing in tropical weather calls for plain cotton, as it is soft and allows the skin to breath. Linen is also comfortable to wear, as is silk, but these are expensive. Nonetheless, using these fabrics to accentuate your home softens the look, making it more homey. Cotton curtains are light and easy to clean, and can add a touch of casualness to an otherwise formal interior. Linen adds a touch of nature, while silk has a unique sheen, and adds a luxurious touch.

If you are a fan of yukatas, consider using a similar fabric in curtains, or in throw cushions. One unique way is to duplicate the motif of such clothes (often geometric or simple nature designs) in your home somewhere, perhaps by papering a part of your living room wall in it.

For those who prefer to wear exercise clothes at home: a sporty decor incorporating some exhibits of your favourite activity--be it yoga, judo, golf, or table tennis--immediately helps you to look forward to relaxing at home. Bright, bold colours help to energize the spirits and spur us to start exercising immediately.

In particular, sportswear is that sector of clothing that is both comfortable and relaxing to wear, while continuing to be at the forefront of fashion. Sports merchandisers and makers of sporting goods present new and fresh designs every season, hoping to entice customers to buy yet another jogging outfit, or more football jerseys. The upmarket clothing chains have polo shirts with neat, discreet labels that sell a lifestyle of leisure and healthy sports participation. As retailers do, so can the home decorator. Fashion trends in casual are just as important a consideration in creating a relaxing home, since nothing is more depressing than a home that looks dowdy, mismatched, and outdated.

Other than the use of colours typically used in sportswear--bold blues and navy shades, white, cream, reds and greens--consider using the newest trends to add freshness to your home. Knitwear is often used in sportswear, but can be easily adapted for the home, for example, in a rug, or in a throw for accentuating your sofa. New materials that are used in sportwear, such as spandex, make an interesting addition to your home decor. Wrap your sofa in a spandex blend fabric, maybe in a darker shade, for that sleek, shiny look that is warm and comfortable as well.

Right now, casual fashion calls for clothes that you can slouch in, with an emphasis on beachwear, especially since spring is here and all of us await summer with anticipation. Therefore, give your home that sunshiny, holiday feeling with cheerful colours. Colourful striped patterns on your sofa, or your curtains, give the impression of being away at the beach. If you have a lounge chair, make it the focus point of your living room. Better still, string up a hammock in a corner of your home (taking into consideration the support needed for this) or on your balcony. Wear flip flops in the kitchen. And for the final touch? Place a pair of sunglasses on the living room table.

The fact is, fashion design's principles lie in tailoring clothes to suit function, body type and aesthetic preferences. It is similar for home decor: the function of the room, the lifestyle of its occupants, and their aesthetic preferences determine the final appearance of the home. Good design ultimately comes from the balance of space and form, the use of colours and attention to detail. By taking inspiration from the clothes you wear to relax, and keeping in mind these precepts, you will be able to sculpt a home that is both comfortable and fashionable.

Bonus: For those of you who wish to relax in surroundings with an Old World feel, imitate the leisurely class and decorate your home in dark woods and and dark silks, perhaps by installing a home bar. Or go retro with a 1970s look: let your home be a place where you can 'chill out'. Then buy a smoking jacket made of velvet or satin, or a leisure suit, and you are set to make your home the best, most relaxing place on earth.

Aromatherapy Sachets For Mother

Scent Ropes
Materials needed:
Plastic or wooden ring approx. 2.5” in diameter
1 ball of thick wool/yarn of any colour
3 pieces of fabric squares approx. 6”x6”
4 pieces of ribbon 8” long, 0.2” wide
Cotton wool
Essential oils

1.Using pinking shears, trim the sides of the fabric squares.
2.Cut 9 pieces of wool approx. 2 metres in length
3.Gather the 9 pieces of wool together, fold in half and loop the folded end through the ring to make a knot. You should end up with 18 equal lengths of wool.
4.Divide the 18 lengths into 3 of 6 lengths each and braid the wool leaving the last 3” unbraided.
5. Using 1 piece of ribbon, secure the braid by tying a bow at the end.
6.Place some cotton wool in the centre of a piece of fabric square.
7.Add a few drops of essential oil to the cotton.
8.Gather the ends of the fabric and pinch the folds in the middle and secure with a piece of ribbon by tying a single knot
9.Repeat steps 6 to 8 for the remaining 2 fabric squares.
10.Using the ends of the ribbon, tie each sachet to the braided rope with a bow, spreading them out evenly along the rope.

Glamour on a Shoestring

10 Ways to Glamour on a shoestring

With the economy in the doldrums, it seems folly to think about redecorating your home. After all, doesn't that take a lot of money - especially when it is important to trim expenses and cut down on extra spending? However, there is another school of thought that in these troubled times, it is more important than ever to keep one's spirits up, continue to spend (what we can) and keep life going on an even keel.
Do this by bringing some luxury and style into your home. But at the same time, you do not want to overspend. Here's a list of 10 simple things you can do to give your home a breath of fresh air while keeping your expenses low.

1) Paint

The easiest, and most dramatic way to change the look of your home is of course, a fresh coat of paint. Perhaps the walls have been looking a little faded anyway. Perhaps now that you're spending more evenings at home, those plain white walls are starting to look a little boring. Or maybe you're just tired of those pastel shades your mother had suggested the last time.

Why not brighten up your home with a cheery sunshine yellow in your kitchen, a restful yet invigorating green in your living room, and in your bedroom, go for a rich, romantic purple? Blue goes well with the study and red in the dining room will make conversation lively while stimulating your appetite. You don't have to repaint the whole house, of course, or turn the entire house into a patchwork of colours, but even just one makeover in say, your living room, can inject excitement.

For something more unusual, paint stripes! Use two complementary colours, or use different shades of the same colour, and alternate them in vertical stripes. This immediately breaks up the monotony of having just one colour, but to avoid an overwhelming effect, you may want to have this only as an accent, or only on one wall. Other tricks you can do with paint include using stencils or stamps to create the effect of expensive wallpaper, or even (for a touch of luxury) a hint of gold paint. Or more simply, repaint a table, a cabinet, or even your windows - change that you can do in just one day.

2) Floor coverings

You don't have to re-do your floors: just disguise them with rugs and carpets. Inexpensive floor coverings are now widely available, and they can make a world of difference to the appearance of your home. The effect can be as varied as you like, depending on your personal taste and style: smaller rugs placed here and there to give your home an air of casual elegance. Don't just have one: get three or four rugs, and let them overlap on the floor, giving the impression of plenty.

If your budget is little larger, invest in a carpet. Not wall-to-wall carpeting. Think large, pilè carpets that are right out of old houses, that you can place under your living room furniture, or maybe a smaller one just under your favourite armchair. You feel like you've walked into classy hotel room: there is no greater decadence than walking into a deep, plush carpet, and feeling your feet sink into that welcoming softness.

3) Canopy bed

This is a glam treatment specifically for the bedroom. Adding a canopy instantly spices up the bedroom, gives it a more romantic feel and makes the place even cosier. One quick way to do this is to suspend a wooden dowel or a bamboo pole over the bed, and hang long swathes of thin chiffon over it, letting the fabric fall to the floor.

For those of a practical bent, add functionality to your canopy by draping a length of mosquito netting instead.

4) Rearrange your furniture; reuse furniture in a new way

Tired of the same old look of your furniture? You don't have to replace them, but this is a good time to think about rearranging them. Instead of pushing your sofa against the wall, for example, place it at an angle and arrange your armchairs and coffee table to create an intimate space for interaction between family members, just the way those high-class cafés do it. This immediately alters the flow of space in your living room, for example, and gives your eyes a break from the same old pattern. In the bedroom, move the bed away from the wall: let some space flow between, to give the impression of depth.

Or perhaps you might want to move your furniture around to give a fresh look, or give old pieces a new lease of life. Pull your favourite armchair into the bedroom. Your kitchen buffet might look good as a display case in the living room. Mix dining chairs with your sofa. Put your bookcase in the dining room, so you can read while sipping your coffee (put your receipe books there too). That pendant lamp you got for your kitchen could look just as fantastic in the living room. Best of all, this costs nothing.

5) Mirrors

The French monarch, Louis XIV, styled himself as the Sun King and his palace has become famous for - among other things - great halls of mirrors in gold and brass frames. Re-create a little of that luxury by painting the frames of large mirrors gold using paint, and hanging them on the walls. For the full effect, you can fill up the wall. At night, light candles and place them in front of the mirrors, just the way they used to do it in Versailles.

6) Picture frames

When there isn't enough space, go vertical. This applies not just to bookshelves and display cabinets but also to photo and picture frames. One way to create an air of casual elegance is to cover a wall, or a section of it, with frames, large and small, from the floor level right up to the ceiling. Mix round frames with square ones, oval frames with rectangular. Mix wooden and metal frames so that it looks as though it was all thrown carelessly together.

To surprise the eye, vary the size of the frames and the matting. Don't worry about putting a small picture or photo in a large frame. The contents of the frames can be family snapshots, formal portraits, or old postcards, prints, paintings, charcoal sketches, black-and-white photographs... anything you can put your mind to. The eclectic mix will keep things fresh and exciting.

7) Soft furnishings, including curtains, tablecloths, cushions

Soft furnishings such as upholstery, cushions, curtains and tablecloths can alter a home dramatically. Many people, for convenience's sake, use mid-length curtains or even just have blinds. However, floor-to-ceiling curtains add instant drama, as well as adding a sense of height to a room. Perk up a coffee table by using a table-runner, and add a long tablecloth to your dining table (it can be whipped off for meals).

Think about how you are using fabrics: luxury fabrics such as silk and chiffon, with their glow and shimmer, can soften and glam up a room, while solid cottons give rooms a sturdy, country-fresh look.

8) Cleaning and tidying; paring down clutter

After a home has been lived in for sometime, its occupants tend to become careless. Possessions are acculmulated, knick-knacks acquired and often, they are placed haphazardly around the home. The dining table piles up with junk mail. Shoes are shoved into a corner. Old newspapers are stuffed under the coffee table. Instead of glamorous, the home starts to look messy.

Actually, one of the best ways to smarten up your home is to tidy it up. By getting rid of clutter and making sure the shoes go back into the shoe cabinet, cups and plates back into the kitchen cabinet and reshelving your DVDs, your home instantly looks welcoming again. Invest a little time to weed out your holiday souvenirs; dust, vacuum, and wipe up those coffee stains.

After all, one of the reasons that a hotel room looks so nice is that it is free of clutter and random items - and it is clean.

9) Things of nature

Although these seem like minor details, often it is a small addition of nature that provides a contrast to a room full of wood and metal. Instead of artificial plants or flowers, think about using graceful sprays of orchids or large, dramatic fresh blooms. Avoid fussy arrangements or unkempt-looking pots of money plants. Instead, have just one or two small bonsai plants.

Fruits can be used as decor items too. A large bowl of oranges on a plain coffee table creates a splash of colour in a living room, or perhaps a row of green apples placed on a rectangular plate. The air will smell better too, with these fruits adding their perfume - more subtle than scented oils - and you can eat them too. Go for hardier fruits such as oranges and apples.

10) Create a corner

This is a trick that public buildings, museums and hotels do. If you have a spot of low-traffic space, create a point of interest by hanging up an interesting painting or a photograph, or a small mirror. Or place an unuusal vase on a small end table, or just a chair that you particularly like - perhaps even a bar-stool - against the wall. This instantly breaks up the flow of space and, much like the recessed spaces in a church, creates a space where one can relax in.

More generally, invent space for yourself. Remember that your home is not just a functional space to eat and sleep; it is also a place where you can be yourself. Need a quiet spot to read, to play a musical instrument, or to rearrange and catalogue your photograph albums? Maybe a corner of your living room can be transformed, by just setting up a small desk, or or rearranging your furniture to give yourself some privacy and space.

At a time when people are cutting down on spending outside and spending more time at home, it's a fantastic idea to make sure your home is as welcoming and beautiful as possible. Make it a treat to be at home, rather than feeling as though you have been deprived by the lack of say, a glamorous holiday somewhere. Instead, enjoy glamour in your own home - and save money too!