Sunday, January 27, 2008

Warm Up the Great Outdoors with a Fireplace

The term "outdoor fireplace" covers everything that creates heat on the patio. This can be in the form of a pit, a hearth, a ring, or the traditional chimenea. It does cover the big fancy built-ins, too. Choosing an outdoor fireplace among the many offerings isn't easy.

Those with single openings (chimeneas) will produce concentrated heat at the front. Select a large bowl so you'll always have plenty of fire. Taller chimneys will whisk smoke way better, too.

Firepits with full-surround viewing are best for ambience as everyone can gather around.

Clay pots are easily breakable. They also deteriorate over time, too.

Cast aluminum is lightweight and great for home use. If you're afraid someone with sticky fingers will cart it away, choose the heavier cast iron version.

For more details, read about Outdoor Firepit Types here.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Leather and Vinyl - A Match Made for Budget Retailing

While we're on the subject of leather furniture, there's another trend going in today's local and on-line retailing world. It's the pairing of vinyl and leather. Great prices and typically the leather part may be of lesser quality and may be what is called "bicast" leather.

Some manufacturers are keeping costs down by adding vinyl to their leather furniture goods. These are placed as panels on the sides and at the back of a sofa or club chair, for instance, where there is likely to be less wear and tear. They're beautifully matched and it's hard for those who aren't leather snobs to tell the difference.

This isn't a bad thing as long as you know what you're getting. Sometimes, those little details get left out.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Bicast - Is it Leather or is it...Not?

Leather furniture is always in style and it seems that many pieces are actually becoming downright inexpensive. There's a reason for that - it's called bicast leather. This isn't a bad thing, necessarily, but some quality leather manufacturers are up in arms about the term and are very strident in urging that consumers avoid it.

Bicast is created from the split, or inner, side of a cowhide. Sometimes it's pieced together sort of like plywood. Then, a heavy protective coating is added with adhesive to give it a natural shine and keep it from falling apart. It won't stand the test of time, in many cases, but the price is right for some budgets. Once that outer layer wears down, however, you're in trouble.

In the U.S., bicast can be called leather (minus the "bicast"). In New Zealand and the UK, it must be referred to as bicast leather or leather laminate. The push is also on to label it as "synthetic." Of course, since it does incorporate leather, even if it's inferior in quality, that may be a bit of a stretch, don't you think?

Get the scoop here on types of leather used in furniture.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Cooties Under the Covers

Not the kind that people "share," but those mites that thrive on dried skin and even our eyelashes. Pretty disgusting, but experts suggest that our bedding is a buffet for these microscopic "cooties." That accounts for some allergies, not to mention the thoughts of little characters colonizing around us each night.

What to do? You probably can't get rid of all the mites that live on and around us. However, here are a few tips to keep the populations down.

-Vacuum or clean floors once a week.
-Dust at least once a week and more often if you suffer from allergies.
-Wash bed linens once a week. Use hot water, although that and high heat drying are not recommended for highest quality sheets. Bed skirts and mattress protectors should be washed frequently, too.
-Replace pillows every 2-3 years.
-Purchase allergen coverings for mattress and pillows.

Makes you think twice about sleeping on a strange mattress, doesn't it?

Sunday, January 06, 2008

How Much Mulch?

Mathematics aside, it's not easy deciding how much mulch to buy. Plants deserve to have their own blankets in the winter and mulch provides that insulating layer. If you're going to do them a service, many experts suggest that a good three inches will keep them toasty on those colder nights. In northern states, add another inch or so.

How many bags of mulch to buy? You'll have to take care of measuring your own beds. However, based on the 3-inch layer rule, for every 100 square feet, you'll need about six 3-cubic-feet bags. If you're feeling stingy, do ahead and knock off a percentage for tree trunks and all that space those plants take up at their bases.