DIY: Paper fortune cookies for dads and grads


Want to send good wishes to the dads and grads in your life? Do it with paper fortune cookies. While they’re not for eating, these fortune cookies are a whimsical way to convey any greeting, such as “I love you,” “You’re the world’s best dad” or “The future looks bright.” Get creative and have fun tailoring the fortunes to your recipients, then package several of them in a takeout container for a unique gift that shows you’re one smart cookie.

What you’ll need:

– Paper or cardstock
– Scissors
– Glue gun or glue dots
– Fortunes printed on paper

Step 1

Trace a 4-inch diameter circle on a piece of colored or decorative paper. You can trace using a small plate or anything round you have at home. I used a 4-inch flower pot.

Step 2

Cut out the circle using scissors. Your circle doesn’t have to be 4 inches exactly. The larger the circle, the larger the fortune cookie.

Step 3

Fold the circle in half — but don’t crease it — and glue the point where the two sides meet. It will look like a mini taco. You can use glue dots or a hot-glue gun. Hot glue works best, but keep it away from kids.

Step 4

Hold the “taco” shape with one hand, placing your middle finger on one end and your thumb on the other. Slowly move the middle finger and thumb together to join the two ends while your index finger presses into the middle of the fold. This step gives the paper that fortune cookie look.

Step 5

Where the two ends of the fortune cookie meet, place a glue dot or a dab of hot glue and press the two ends together to hold them in place.

Step 6

Hand write or type fortunes on a piece of paper and cut them into strips of about 1/2 inch by 2 inches. Slide them inside the paper cookie.


Jonathan Fong is the author of “Walls That Wow,” “Flowers That Wow” and “Parties That Wow,” and host of “Style With a Smile” on YouTube. You can see more of his do-it-yourself projects at jonathanfongstyle.com.

DIY gift: Make a grad glad with dollar bill roses


It’s graduation season, and, as evidenced by the flower vendors lining the streets near schools (and at freeway off-ramps), it has become customary to give a bouquet to students after they pick up their diplomas.

But your graduate is extraordinary and deserves an exceptional kind of bouquet to say “Mazel tov!” — like this bouquet of roses made from dollar bills. Each rose consists of six $1 bills, so it’s easy to create bouquets in multiples of 18.

Besides graduations, these dollar bill roses also are perfect for bar and bat mitzvah gifts, as you wish “L’chaim!” to the special young person.

What you’ll need:

 

  • Dollar bills
  • Wire
  • Masking tape
  • Pencil

 

1. Pinch the dollar bill in the middle. It will look like a bow tie.

2. Wrap a wire around the middle and twist it in the back.

3. Gather six wired dollar bills, evenly spacing the dollar bill “petals.”

4. Wrap masking tape around the wires to join them together into one stem.

5. Roll the corners of the dollar bills to shape them into petals.

6. Scrunch the two middle petals to make them look more closed.


Jonathan Fong is the author of “Walls That Wow,” “Flowers That Wow” and “Parties That Wow,” and host of “Style With a Smile” on YouTube. You can see more of his do-it-yourself projects at jonathanfongstyle.com.

Interior design: Giving in to the dark side


One of the myths of decorating is that lighter colors work best because they make your rooms look larger and more cheerful, while darker colors make rooms feel small, drab and gloomy. Because of this preconception, many DIY decorators shy away from deeper shades and instead opt for old reliables such as off-white and beige. But the truth about light and dark colors is not so black and white.

Dark walls, flooring or furniture add considerable drama to a room, and they also envelop you like a warm hug. Just flip through any current home décor catalog or magazine and you’ll see that stylemakers are embracing the dark side — from navy blue walls and charcoal gray wood flooring to midnight black accessories.

So go ahead and be bold. With these tips, you don’t have to be afraid of the dark anymore.

Dark can still mean color

Think beyond black, gray or navy. A dark color palette can include deeper shades of red, green, brown or even purple. These deeper shades are, in fact, much richer than their lighter variations and add an instant chic factor to a room.

It’s all about balance

Dark colors make more impact when there’s contrast. If you have dark walls, balance them with light floors or furniture. Allow the dark elements to bring out the light ones, and vice versa.

Don’t go dark in every room

Again, contrast is key. A whole house of dark rooms would be monotonous, not to mention very “Addams Family.” It’s very comforting for the eyes — and relaxing to the spirit — to go from a light-colored room to a dark one.

Keep it simple

Dark colors are bold enough, so allow everything else in the room to be more subdued. Avoid busy textures or patterns that might fight with the intense hues.

Try an accent

If you want to just dip your toe into this design trend, choose a dark color only on an accent wall or a door. (I’m asked all the time if accent walls are still a thing, and I say “definitely.”) Dark colors also are dramatic on floorboards and window frames.

Use it in small rooms

Rather than making small rooms look tinier, as many people believe, dark colors give presence to a room and make it feel expansive. My favorite example to illustrate this point is the “Pirates of the Caribbean” ride at Disneyland, where the ceiling is painted black to suggest an infinite sky.

Add pops of color

Dark walls and furniture are perfect backdrops for bright colors such as yellow, orange and pink, which can provide striking contrast. Try these pops of color with pillows, candleholders or picture frames.


Jonathan Fong is the author of “Walls That Wow,” “Flowers That Wow” and “Parties That Wow,” and host of “Style With a Smile” on YouTube. You can see more of his do-it-yourself projects at jonathanfongstyle.com.

Photos by Jonathan Fong

DIY: Dressing up clay pots with shaving cream


Clay pots are a staple of outdoor gardening, but let’s face it, they can be a little dull. While there are many ways you can dress them up, here is a simple painting technique that creates a marbleized pattern thanks to good ol’ shaving cream.

What you’ll need:

– Clay pots
– Chalky finish paint
– Paint brush
– Shaving cream
– Plate
– Acrylic craft paint
– Skewer
– Plastic gloves
– Paper towels

1. Paint a base coat of any color on the clay pots using chalky finish paint and let it dry for at least an hour. Chalky finish paint, available at crafts stores, does not require a primer and dries to a matte finish. The matte finish is important because the paint that will be applied later would rub off if the finish were glossy.

2. Apply shaving cream to a large plate or baking dish and spread it with your fingers. You don’t need too much. The layer of shaving cream should be only about 1/2-inch thick.

3. Place drops of acrylic paint randomly on top of the shaving cream. I use paint specifically designed for outdoor patios because it withstands the elements. It is sold in crafts stores, usually right next to the clay pots. Choose two or three colors.

4. Dip a skewer into the shaving cream and run it through the paint vertically and horizontally to create swirls in the paint. Don’t swirl the paint too much. You want to create distinct swirls rather than have the paint mix and become muddled.

5. Place the clay pot at one end of the plate and roll it across the shaving cream and paint. The shaving cream acts like a “cloud” to support the pot as it rolls and picks up the paint. Wear plastic gloves to avoid getting paint on your hands.

6. After the pot is covered in shaving cream and paint, let it sit for about an hour so the paint adheres to the pot. If you don’t have the patience to wait, that’s fine. The paint still adheres since the base coat is matte, but the color won’t be as intense.

7. Blot off any excess shaving cream with a paper towel. Try to use numerous clean towels as you blot so that excess paint that transfers to the towels does not go back onto the pot.

8. Let the marbled pots dry for about two hours before handling and using them. When they’re ready, fill the pots with moss, succulents or any other plants — or display them on their own to showcase their newfound beauty.

DIY: Not your garden-variety Mother’s Day bouquet


Mother’s Day is a week away. Are you ready?

Mothers love to receive flowers, but they love them even more when you personally arrange them. (And they’ll love you even more, too.)

If you’re in a time crunch, this quick and easy arrangement is simple to create using some supermarket flowers and a keepsake box. It’s a beautiful way to honor the moms, sisters, aunts and bubbes in your life.

What you’ll need:

– One bunch of flowers
– Keepsake box
– Plastic trash bag
– Floral foam
– Knife
– Scissors

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1. Keepsake boxes are decorative containers used for storing small knickknacks. They are available at discount stores such as Ross and Marshalls for less than $10. They come in a variety of styles; the one I’m using in this example is an upholstered damask box from Ross. And this bunch of flowers from Trader Joe’s was $9.99.

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2. Line the keepsake box with plastic so water does not damage the box. I recommend just cutting the corner of a plastic garbage bag and placing it in the box. Don’t worry if the plastic extends past the edge of the box. You can trim it later.

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3. Trim a block of floral foam so it will fit inside the keepsake box. Floral foam is available from crafts stores such as Michaels and Jo-Ann. Be sure to buy the floral foam designated for fresh flowers instead of silk flowers. Soak the floral foam in water until it’s completely saturated and place it in the box within the plastic liner.

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4. Cut the stems of the flowers to about 3 to 4 inches and insert the stems into the floral foam. The floral foam keeps the flowers hydrated. When you’re done, look at the arrangement from every angle to make sure the flowers completely hide the foam. It’s that easy. Happy Mother’s Day!


Jonathan Fong is the author of “Walls That Wow,” “Flowers That Wow” and “Parties That Wow,” and host of “Style With a Smile” on YouTube. You can see more of his do-it-yourself projects at jonathanfongstyle.com.

Brown bag it: DIY paper bag roses


I’m not wild about silk flowers. They scream “grandma” to me. (Sorry, bubbe.) But I do love artificial flowers made from paper. Because they are so stylized, they are more of an art piece than “fake” flowers. The fact that they obviously are not real makes them glorious.

Among my favorite artificial flowers are giant cabbage roses made from brown paper bags. They look dramatic, and no one would believe they’re actually brown bags.

What you’ll need:

– Lunch-size brown paper bags
– Rit dye
– Rubber gloves
– Scissors
– Hot glue gun
– Wood skewers

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1. Place the paper bags one at a time in a dye bath of about 1 part dye and 2 parts water. I selected red dye for the petals and green dye for the sepals. (Oh, remember that rubber gloves are your best friend here.)

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2. Lay the paper bags out on plastic covering to dry overnight. For each rose, you’ll need four bags of the color of your choice and one bag that’s green.

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3. You’ve heard of double bagging. Here, you will be “quintuple” bagging, with the green bag on the outside and the four red bags on the inside.

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4. Twist the bags together tightly so you have what looks like a handle. It should be starting to resemble a rose, or at least the torch the Statue of Liberty holds.

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5. Peel back the green bag. Tear it in a few places so that it looks like the sepals of a rose.

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6. Peel back the red bags one at a time, starting from the outside in. You can leave the layers as is or tear them to create petals. And just as the inner petals of real roses are more closed, keep the innermost red bag scrunched up.

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7. The rose looks finished — but wait! There’s a second rose hidden in there. Cut the green stem at the base of the rose with a good pair of scissors. Seal the cut edge with hot glue. Then put a wood skewer into the base for a stem if desired.

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8. And that piece you cut off? As with the first rose, unroll the layers and make another rose out of that. Yeah, you’ve got this project in the bag.


Jonathan Fong is the author of “Walls That Wow,” “Flowers That Wow” and “Parties That Wow,” and host of “Style With a Smile” on YouTube. You  can see more of his do-it-yourself  projects at jonathanfongstyle.com.

Photos by Jonathan Fong

DIY alphabet art with cereal boxes


Walk into any home décor store these days and you’ll see that alphabet art is a big trend. There are big capital letters made of metal, wood, wire, plastic — and some even light up. But you can make your own alphabet artwork without spending much money by using upcycled cereal boxes. As if you needed an excuse to eat more cereal.

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

– Cereal box
– Blank piece of paper
– Black marker
– Paperweight (e.g. an old battery)
– Duct tape
– Construction paper
– Glue
– Old maps or other colorful paper

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1. Trim a blank piece of paper so it is the same size as the front of the cereal box. Then draw a large letter of the alphabet on it so it touches the top and bottom edges. Cut out the letter on the paper and trace it on the front of the cereal box with a black marker. Then flip over the letter so it’s backward and trace it on the back of the cereal box. (For some letters, such as “A,” flipping it over isn’t as important because the letter looks the same either way. But letters such as “E” or “Z” are in reverse when you flip them over.)

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2. Cut along the lines, but don’t cut out the letter from the top or bottom of the box, so that the front and back letters are connected. 

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3. Tape a paperweight to the bottom of the letter, on the inside, with duct tape. An old battery works well. This will help the letter stand without tipping over.

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4. Cover the open-ended sides of the letter with some construction paper. Measure the depth of the cereal box and cut paper strips that will overlap the sides. For example, if the box is 2 inches deep, then cut 3-inch strips — 2 inches to cover the sides and a half-inch tab on either side to wrap around the box. Cut the strips to fit each section of the letter, fold over the tabs and use glue to attach the tabs to the box. 

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5. With the same letter template that you used to trace on the cereal box, trace the letter on an old map and cut out the letter. Flip over the letter template and trace on another old map so you have artwork for the back of the letter. (Of course, you can use any type of artwork you wish besides maps — the Sunday comics, comic books, wrapping paper, etc.)

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6. Glue the map letters onto the front and back of the cereal box. The great thing about wrapping the sides first with construction paper is that the map letters don’t need to fit perfectly; the construction paper acts like a border. Display your alphabet art — no one will believe you made it out of an old cereal box.


Jonathan Fong is the author of “Walls That Wow,” “Flowers That Wow” and “Parties That Wow,” and host of “Style With a Smile” on YouTube. You can see more of his do-it-yourself  projects at jonathanfongstyle.com.

Photos by Jonathan Fong

DIY: Easy coffee filter flowers


I may be dating myself, but the first record I ever owned was Marie Osmond’s “Paper Roses.” To this day, I’m still obsessed with flowers made of paper. They add a festive touch to home décor, parties or even gift packaging. And they last forever.

I’ve made flowers out of tissue paper, book pages and comic books — they all have their unique charms. But flowers made of coffee filters are all the rage on craft and lifestyle blogs, so I thought I’d give them a try. I can see why they’re so popular. Coffee filters are cheap (150 of them for a dollar at 99 Cents Only Stores), durable even when wet and easy to dye.

This being my first time working with coffee filters, I experimented with a method that would be easy, yet still produce big, fluffy flowers. And it worked! The ones pictured here are the real honest-to-goodness first coffee filter flowers I’ve ever made. It shows that if a novice like me can do it, anyone can.

WHAT YOU’LL NEED

Coffee filters (basket style, 8-12 cup size)
Dye or food coloring
Scissors
Masking tape
Skewer or chopstick

1. Dye the coffee filters

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Using a liquid dye (such as Rit) or food coloring, tint the coffee filters with the hues of your choice. Wring out excess moisture from the filters, and let them dry in the oven set at the lowest temperature. Even stacked up, the filters will dry completely within about 15 minutes. You also can leave the filters white if you wish.

2. Fold the coffee filters

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For seven of the coffee filters, fold them in half, then into quarters, and then into eighths. (In other words, fold them three times.) For two of the coffee filters, fold them in half, then into quarters, then into eights, and then once more into sixteenths. Cut the top of each folded filter into a curved petal shape.

3. Line them up on masking tape

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Tear off a piece of masking tape that is about 12 inches long. Place the strip of tape on your work surface with the sticky side up. Then line up the folded coffee filters with the pointed end on the sticky side of the tape. Working left to right, position the two filters folded into sixteenths first, and continue with the other seven. They should overlap, with about a half-inch space between the pointed ends.

4. Roll up with a skewer

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Place a skewer or chopstick on the left end of the tape and start rolling it up in the tape. As the skewer gets rolled up, the coffee filter petals also roll up in the tape. Pinch the tape into the petals as you go to make sure they stick really well.

5. Finish taping the petals

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With any extra tape, secure the bottoms of the petals so they don’t flop down. You can also add additional tape if you need it. The folded coffee filter petals look a little funny at this point, but the flower will blossom in the final step.

6. Fluff the petals

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Spread out the petals with your fingers to add volume. Push the pedals in different directions — there’s no right or wrong way for how they should look. Don’t fluff up the two folded coffee filters in the center of the flower. Those petals should stay closed. Place the finished flowers in a vase, and sit back to admire your handiwork while enjoying a cup of coffee.


Jonathan Fong is the author of “Walls That Wow,” “Flowers That Wow” and “Parties That Wow,” and host of “Style With a Smile” on YouTube. You can see more of his do-it-yourself  projects at jonathanfongstyle.com.

Pain-free painting


A fresh coat of paint can completely transform a room, but painting walls is a job few home decorators relish.

I don’t mind it too much. Instead of hiring painting contractors, I’ve painted the walls in my house myself. Sure, it may not be as much fun as going to Disneyland, but with a little prep work and a few tricks, you can get through the job — with flying colors.

CHOOSING THE PAINT

The color

Usually, the most difficult part of getting started is deciding on a color. There is more to life than Swiss Coffee, after all. Unfortunately, the little paint swatches from the store won’t give you an accurate idea of how the color will look when it’s applied to an entire room. If possible, purchase samples of the colors you are considering and paint 12-by-12-inch patches on your walls. Then see how the paint looks in the room at different times of day. If you don’t want to test the paint on the wall, paint a piece of foam core or cardboard.

The finish

For adult bedrooms and living rooms, a flat finish creates an even, non-reflective surface that hides surface imperfections. For higher-traffic, dirt-prone areas like hallways and kids’ bedrooms, select an eggshell or satin finish — the higher sheen makes it easier to clean. And for kitchens and bathrooms, a semigloss finish will withstand the frequent cleanings. Reserve high-gloss finishes for trims, doors and windows. Remember, these are suggestions, not rules. I prefer no sheen, so even my bathrooms have a flat finish.

The type of paint

Most paint contains volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are harmful chemicals. Look for low-VOC or no-VOC paint. Because of public demand, they have become readily available at paint stores. The cost may be $10 or $20 more a gallon, but this eco-friendly choice is worth it. Also, consider paints that include a primer in the formulation. They require fewer coats.

THE SUPPLIES

Paint roller covers

Roller covers are available in various thicknesses, or  “naps.” Covers with naps of 1/4 inch or 3/8 inch are ideal for most walls that are smooth. If you’re painting over exposed brick or other rough surfaces, a thicker 1/2-inch nap will give you better coverage. Also, have a miniature (4 inches wide) paint roller handy to help you get into tighter spaces.

Extension pole

Invest in an extension pole that screws onto your paint roller. It will add to your reach and get the job done faster.

Brushes

To paint your trim, you’ll need a brush. Select a 2-inch brush with angled bristles, which will help you achieve a straight line.

Paint edgers

My secret weapon for paint jobs is the paint edger. It’s a plastic, rectangular painting tool with little wheels that glide against the ceiling or baseboards, allowing you to paint perfectly straight edges. There also are smaller edgers that work around window and door frames, and edgers that get into corners. I use all of them.

Canvas drop cloths

While it may be tempting to buy the cheap plastic drop cloths, it’s much easier to work with the canvas versions. They don’t slip as much, and can be wrapped around corners and furniture. Paint can seep through canvas, though, so invest in a heavier-weight canvas, and soak up larger spills with a paper towel.

PREPARATION

Surface prep

With a damp cloth, wash the walls, ceilings and baseboard trim to remove dirt, dust and cobwebs. For heavier stains, or if there is oil buildup, you also may need to use an appropriate cleaner. Patch holes and cracks with spackle and sand them smooth when dry. When the walls are clean and free of cracks, you can apply a topcoat of primer. (You can skip the primer if your paint has primer in it already.)

Furniture and curtains

Move furniture into the middle of the room and cover it with drop cloths. Plastic drop cloths are fine for this purpose. Remove curtains from their rods and place them under the drop cloths or in another room. (Now also would be a good time to vacuum those curtains. Just saying.)

Masking tape

Apply masking tape to baseboards, window frames and door frames. This is the most tedious step in the whole painting process, so try to make it fun. Play music, invite a friend over and reward yourself with chocolate. And instead of putting masking tape around switch plates, just remove them.

PAINTING

What first?

Although there is some debate about this matter, I prefer starting with the ceiling, then painting the walls and finishing with the baseboards and window trim. It just makes sense to start at the top and work your way down, especially since you’ll be dealing with paint drips.

The outside in

Start by applying paint with a paint edger at the ceiling and baseboard. Then use an edger on the corners and the window and door frames.  You’re basically “outlining” the walls with paint. Once the edges are painted, use a roller to “paint within the lines.”

Feathering

It’s impossible to paint an entire wall with one continuous stroke, so you are naturally going to be overlapping with your roller. To avoid overlap marks, try something called feathering. When your roller appears to be drying out, keep moving the roller, extending from the area where the paint is wet. The “feathered” portion is thin and does not have much coverage. After dipping the roller in wet paint again, you can paint over the feathered area. Move the roller perpendicular to the first layer to remove any overlap marks.

EASY CLEANUP

Refrigerating brushes

If you need to stop painting before the job is finished, wrap your brushes and rollers in plastic wrap and place them in the refrigerator. This way, you don’t have to wash your tools in the middle of a job.

Line your tray with foil

You can purchase plastic tray liners for your paint tray, but they move around a bit while they are being used, and they’re wasteful. An easier alternative is to line your tray with foil. When you’re done with the painting job, just remove the foil, throw it away and pat yourself on the back. But wash your hands first.


Jonathan Fong is the author of “Walls That Wow,” “Flowers That Wow” and “Parties That Wow,” and host of “Style With a Smile” on YouTube. You can see more of his do-it-yourself  projects at jonathanfongstyle.com.

WORST: Sponge painting

The best (and worst) decorating trends from the last 30 years


In the past three decades, many home decorating trends have come and gone — and come back again. In the spirit of celebrating the Jewish Journal’s 30th anniversary, let’s take a look at a few of the most popular decorating looks from the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. Some are evergreen and still on trend, while others became dated almost immediately. And don’t worry if you’re clinging to a style from the “worst” category — it’s probably going to come back with a vengeance next year.

What will the next 30 years look like in the world of home design? I’d look into my crystal ball, but mystical home accents are so ’90s.

1980s

Best: Art Deco

The decade of glamour saw a revival of Art Deco with a decidedly new wave twist. Triangles, circles and wavy lines in bold colors brought a funky, sexy attitude to furniture and home décor, making homes look like an MTV video.

Worst: Mirrored walls

Mirrors stretching across walls were bad enough, but they were also smoky or had gold crackle.

Best: Preppy

The ’80s brought us Lisa Bernbach’s “The Preppy Handbook,” and furniture and décor also got the preppy treatment. Plaids, ticking stripes and monograms all made us feel a little bit Ivy League.

Worst: Glass blocks

I admit, my bedroom has glass blocks. My house was built in 1989. I sleep in “Miami Vice.” Don’t judge me.

Best: Gray and mauve

I used to love this pastel combination, and I still do. It reminds me of what a room would look like in “Dynasty.”

Worst: Southwest design

Navajo blankets, Native American patterns and animal hides were all the rage. Please, step away from the cow taxidermy skull.

Best: Brass

The metallic finish of choice in the ’80s was brass. And it’s back in 2017, in distressed and antique variations — as if we had the brass for three decades.

Worst: Wallpaper borders

In my first apartment after I graduated from college, I hung a wallpaper border of mallard ducks. All around my bedroom. Pinterest wasn’t there to save me.

1990s

Best: Canopy beds

What ever happened to canopy beds? They were so popular two decades ago. And yes, I had one. Hanging sheer panels from the rails of the canopy created a private retreat that made for a very good night’s sleep.

Worst: Television armoires

The armoires that housed our big televisions were not a particularly bad design trend. It’s just that with the introduction of flat screens, the armoires became obsolete.

Best: Blond wood

With the popularity of Scandinavian design and the expansion of IKEA in the 1990s, blond wood was the material of choice for both floors and furniture.

Worst: Sponge painting

Everybody tried faux finishing, and the results were not pretty. Faux finishing was an “old world” look that was applied with sponges, plastic bags, broom bristles or rags. I bought a faux finishing kit at Pottery Barn and sponge painted one wall in my bedroom. It did not look like a wall in Tuscany. It looked like a rash.

Best: White kitchens

All-white kitchens had that European flair, and any color scheme of accessories worked with the stark white.

Worst: Faux greenery

Potted artificial plants were all right if you didn’t have a green thumb, but the bigger design faux pas was the proliferation of painted ivy that invaded archways, walls above cabinets and bookcases, and powder rooms.

Best: Unusually shaped furniture

home-couchThe ’90s brought us dramatic furniture silhouettes like sofas with exaggerated arches in the back and arms. This trend was epitomized by designer Philippe Starck’s quirky pieces that graced hip hotels — and even inspired a line at Target.

Worst: Big window treatments

Puffy valances and oversized swags graced our windows and blocked our views.

2000s

Best: Art ledges

home-keep-calmThese shallow shelves introduced a novel way to display artwork, and best of all, allowed people to continually change things out without having to punch new holes in the wall.

Worst: Keep calm and carry onWhen we first saw these British wartime posters popping up in home décor stores, they had a zippy, retro appeal. They have since overstayed their welcome and need to Brexit.

Best: Stainless appliances

True, they are notoriously difficult to keep clean. But the gleaming surfaces do make a kitchen sparkle. (And make you feel like a professional chef, even if you can’t boil water.)

Worst: Vessel sinks

These sinks, which are free standing and sit directly on a countertop instead of within it, may look interesting, but water gets everywhere.

Best: Global accessories

An influx of home accessories and textiles from exotic places such as India, Thailand and Indonesia made us feel like world travelers, even if the goods were really made in China.

Worst: Buddhas

home-pillowsOn the other hand, there are way too many Buddha heads in home decorating.

Best: Reclaimed materials

A concerted effort in conservation has created an interest in reclaimed materials, whether for walls, flooring or furniture. The look is rustic and industrial, yet modern.

Worst: Industrial furniture

New furniture that’s made to look like it’s been salvaged from a run-down factory, however, just screams hipster pretension.


Jonathan Fong is the author of “Walls That Wow,” “Flowers That Wow” and “Parties That Wow,” and host of “Style With a Smile” on YouTube. You can see more of his do-it-yourself  projects at jonathanfongstyle.com.

A DIY Chanukah menorah for the kids


This Chanukah, make a menorah just for the kids. This do-it-yourself menorah is made from cardboard tubes and the “flames” are actually felt, so little fingers won’t get burned. Making the menorah also can be a fun family activity that gets everyone excited about the upcoming holiday. 

What you’ll need:

– 8 bathroom tissue cardboard tubes
– 1 paper towel roll tube
– Wrapping paper
– Tape
– Stapler
– Yellow and orange felt
– Scissors
– Glue
– Clothespins

1. Wrap the cardboard tubes

2. Staple the tubes together

3. Cut flame shapes

4. Glue flames to clothespins

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DIY chuppah: How to build your own in four easy steps


When you’re getting married, expenses add up quickly, and one expense that can be pretty hefty is the chuppah rental. Many venues don’t even offer a chuppah for rent, so you have to commission a florist or wedding planner to create one for you — which is even more expensive. 

But there’s good news: You can save money by building your own chuppah. The individual elements are very affordable, and it can be assembled in a matter of minutes. I’ve made this freestanding DIY chuppah for several wedding clients, and it’s easily customizable with flowers to accommodate your budget 

So, if you have the option to make it yourself, say, “I do.”

What you’ll need:

– 4 patio umbrella stands
– 4 wooden closet rods, 6 or 8 feet in length
– 4 small eye screws
– Piece of lace, 5 feet by 2 yards
– 4 sheer curtain panels
– White ribbon

1. Start with the base

2. Place the closet rods in the stands

3. Attach the canopy

4. Cover the posts

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How to tie a perfect bow for your Chanukah gift


A beautifully tied bow elevates any gift, making even the most humble present one the recipient will ooh and aah over — even before it’s opened.

I learned this technique from a friend who used to wrap gifts at a department store. All you need is a spool of ribbon and a pair of scissors, and your bows will never be the same. 

1. Wrap a ribbon around the gift

2. Accordion-fold another piece of ribbon

3. Cut slits in the center

4. Tie the first ribbon to the loops

5. Fluff the loops

DIY: Folded turkey napkins for Thanksgiving


When it comes to your Thanksgiving table, it’s the little details that count. And these napkins folded into turkey shapes certainly will have you gobbling up the compliments.

To make these turkey-shaped napkins, you will need two square napkins for each one. I chose a plain napkin for the body and a patterned napkin for the feathers. I also used paper napkins because they’re much easier to fold than cloth napkins. As you fold, press down firmly to create defined creases.

1. Start with the napkin for the body. Crease the napkin in half diagonally.

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Give thanks with a gratitude tree


The Thanksgiving holiday is a good reminder that even when life has its rough patches, we still have a lot to be thankful for. To help us count our blessings, this gratitude tree is an easy-to-make decoration that can be a meaningful part of your family’s Thanksgiving celebration. 

Starting with a vase filled with branches, guests are encouraged to write things they are grateful for on leaf-shaped pieces of paper and then hang those leaves on the branches. By the end of the evening, the tree will be full — a colorful demonstration of the abundance in our lives. 

What you’ll need:

– Vase

– Rocks or glass marbles

– Branches

– Colored paper

– Scissors

– Hole punch

– String

1. Place branches in vase

2. Make the leaves

3. Attach the leaves

How to make a fall harvest centerpiece


I love flowers, but when fall rolls around, I prefer making arrangements with fresh herbs and vegetables. It’s a great way to celebrate the bounty of autumn, and the centerpiece can be deconstructed — and used for cooking — after you display it. This arrangement also makes a welcome hostess gift for all of your fall gatherings.

What you’ll need:

– Vase 
– Rubber bands
– Asparagus
– Raffia
– Herbs
– Vegetables

1. Line vase with asparagus spears

2. Fill the vase with vegetables

3. Use wooden skewers as stems

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How to make your own pumpkin spice sugar scrub


It’s that time of year when everything in the supermarket and coffeehouse is pumpkin spice. Some products make sense — pumpkin spice waffles and cookies make me a very happy person. But pumpkin spice hummus? Really?

If you’re a fan of fall’s favorite flavor, here’s a recipe for a homemade pumpkin spice sugar scrub that even detractors will love. You can whip it up in a matter of minutes with items you probably already have in your pantry. And it feels like heaven on your skin. 

The sugar granules exfoliate dry autumn and winter skin, while the coconut oil moisturizes it. But it’s the fragrance of the spices that makes it irresistible. Keep the scrub in the bath or shower all season long; have a jar at the kitchen sink for when you wash your hands; or fill up some jars to give as gifts. 

What you’ll need:

(Makes enough to fill three 4-ounce jars)

– 1/2 cup sugar
– 3/4 cup brown sugar
– 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
– 3 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
– 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
– 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 
– 4 tablespoons coconut oil

1. Place the sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice and nutmeg in a large bowl, and stir with a wooden spoon until well blended. Brown sugar tends to clump, so smash down any lumps with the spoon until there is an even consistency.

How to make a graham cracker sukkah


Last week, in anticipation of Sukkot, I wrote about how to make a sukkah that fits on balconies and small patios. This week, let’s shrink it down even more with a tabletop sukkah made with graham crackers. It’s a great holiday decoration for your home, and it’s also edible and fun to make with the kids. 

The sukkah shown in this tutorial measures 3 feet by 3 feet and is 6 feet high — just large enough for a small table and seating for two. If you want your frame to be bigger, just adjust the length of the PVC pipe.

What You’ll Need:

– Four 6-foot sections of 1/2-inch PVC pipe
– Eight 3-foot sections of 1/2-inch PVC pipe
– Eight 1/2-inch PVC 3-way elbow pieces
– Three shower curtains
– Cable zip ties
– Safety pins
– Six 4-foot bamboo poles
– Palm leaves
– Hemp string

Note: PVC pipe comes in 10-foot lengths at Home Depot and other stores that sell hardware. If you ask nicely, an employee might help you cut the pipe to your desired length. Or you can purchase a PVC cutter at Home Depot for around $20 and make the cuts yourself in seconds. That’s what I did, cutting the PVC pipe in the parking lot to fit it in my car.

1. Assemble the base

2. Add the vertical supports

3. Add elbow pieces to the top

4. Add the last PVC sections

5. Hang the walls

6. Secure the bottom of the walls

7. Put up the roof supports

8. Finish the roof

9. Furnish the sukkah

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Apple tealight candles for Rosh Hashanah


Add a festive glow to your Rosh Hashanah celebration with these tealight candles nestled in fresh apples. What a sweet way to dress your holiday table.

What you’ll need:

– Apples
– Tealight candles
– Pen
– Knife
– Lemon juice
– Spoon

1. Trace the opening

2. Cut along the outline

3. Scoop out some apple

4. Coat the cut section with lemon juice

5. Insert the tealight candle

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How to make a floral cake


Of all the floral arrangements in my repertoire, the floral cake is by far the most popular. This arrangement in the shape of a cake scores big time at birthday parties and also celebrations for anniversaries, baby and wedding showers, holidays, housewarmings — any time, really. I’ve made literally hundreds of them for centerpieces and gifts, and they’re a surefire way to make people smile. 

While the floral cake looks awfully fancy, it is actually quite easy to make. A true story: A few years ago, I was at a local florist ordering some flowers, and the person helping me at the front counter recognized me and said the people in the back just happened to be watching my YouTube video tutorial on the floral cake right then and there. What a strange coincidence.

A word of caution, though: The floral cake looks luscious, but it is inedible, so keep it away from kids — and hungry spouses — who might not be able to resist it.

What you’ll need:

– Floral foam Carnations – approximately 12 of one color, 24 of a second color

– Chrysanthemums – one bunch

– Button pompoms – approximately 6 (optional)

1. Prepare the floral foam

Purchase a brick of floral foam at the crafts store, making sure it’s the floral foam designed for fresh, rather than silk, flowers. A standard brick is 3 inches by 4 inches by 9 inches. Cut it in half so you have two pieces that are about the same size. Then use a knife to round out the sides of one of the halves to create a cylinder shape. (Save the other half for future use.) Soak the floral foam in water for about five minutes, and set it on a plate.

2. The first layer of carnations

We’re using carnations for the cake because they last a long time and look like frosting. I buy them in bunches at the downtown Los Angeles flower mart, but I’ve also seen bunches at supermarkets. Cut the stems of the carnations to about 1/2 inch. Insert the stems on the bottom of the floral foam cylinder perpendicular to the side of the foam, pushing the stems in until the flowers stop on their own. Keep going around until a row of carnations encircles the bottom. 

3. The middle layer of carnations

I like to use a different color of carnations for the middle and top layers so that the bottom looks like a frosting trim. As with the first layer, cut the stems of the carnations to about 1/2 inch, and insert them into the floral foam so the flowers in this middle layer butt right up against the bottom layer. Continue all the way around the floral foam until this layer is complete.

4. The top layer of carnations

Repeat for the top layer of carnations, so that the floral foam is completely covered on its sides. As you complete the sides of the cake, remember to insert the stems perpendicular to the floral foam. When the stems are inserted at an angle, the cake takes on more of a dome shape rather than a cylindrical one.

5. Insert the flowers on top

After the sides of the cake are completed, it’s time to decorate the top. Flat flowers such as daisies and chrysanthemums work best to achieve that flat look of a cake. Avoid flowers that stick out too much, such as tulips or lilies. Cut the stems to about three inches and insert them into the floral foam at the top of the cake until the foam is completely covered. 

6. The polka dots on the side

For a finishing touch, I like to add button pompoms to the sides for polka dots. Any small flower will work, and this step is completely optional. Cut the stems to about four inches, poke your fingers between the carnations to find a clear path to the floral foam and insert the button pompoms. Space them out about three to four inches apart around the circumference of the cake.

How to paint confetti wine glasses


With all of the holidays coming up — from Rosh Hashanah to Sukkot to Chanukah — your celebrations deserve something more festive than plain wine glasses. And what’s more festive than confetti? Hand-paint a confetti design on your glassware and you’ll add some stylish pizazz to your get-togethers.

These glasses also make great gifts. Spoiler alert for my friend Nancy: I made the wine glasses pictured in this tutorial for her birthday. And you’ll see from the simple step-by-step instructions that this project requires very little artistic ability. Now, that’s another reason to celebrate.

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

– Wine glasses
– Rubbing alcohol
– Paper towels
– Enamel acrylic paint
– Paper plate
– Paint daubers
– Pencil with new eraser
– Paintbrush

1. Wash the wine glasses with soap and hot water and allow them to fully dry. Then use a paper towel to wipe them with rubbing alcohol to get rid of any lingering grease or soap. I bought a box of four wine glasses at Bed Bath & Beyond for $9.99 and used my 20 percent off coupon. Score! And although I used wine glasses, you can paint any type of glassware.

2. The right paint for decorating wine glasses is enamel acrylic paint, which is specially formulated to go on glass and ceramic. It comes in little squeeze bottles for less than $2 each at the crafts store. Paint labeled “multisurface” also works for glass. So that the glasses are “food safe,” you’ll be painting only the exterior of the glasses, and not closer than 1 inch from the rim where lips would touch.

3. Choose three to four colors of paint to draw the confetti. Squeeze a small amount of each color onto a paper plate. I chose two color palettes — one that was cool blues and purples, and one that was warm reds and oranges.

4. The confetti on the glasses is composed of three sizes of dots in various colors. To draw large dots that are around 3/4 of an inch in diameter, use a paint dauber, which you can find at a crafts store with other brushes. Daubers have a round sponge surface that makes applying circles very easy. Dip the dauber in paint and then press the sponge on the glass to create the circle.

5. To draw medium-size dots, use the eraser end of a pencil. As you did with the dauber, dip the eraser in the paint and then press the eraser onto the glass. If you aren’t happy with the size or shape of the circle you made, you can just dip the eraser in paint again and press another circle on top of the first one.

6. For the tiny dots, which look best toward the top of the confetti, use the wooden end of a small paintbrush — not the brush itself. Again, dip the wooden end in the paint and then press it against the glass.

7. Repeat the painting process with the three sizes of dots in each of the colors. The confetti looks best when the dots overlap; just be sure to wait for the paint to dry before adding the next layer. The paint usually dries in about a half-hour, but you can speed up the process with a hair dryer.

8. Place the painted glasses on a parchment-lined cookie sheet inside a cold oven, then set the oven for 350 degrees. When it reaches that temperature, bake the glasses for another 30 minutes. The baking cures the paint so that it will not wash off. The manufacturers say the paint is top-rack dishwasher safe, but I recommend hand-washing your glasses instead. After all, you hand-painted them.

Make a school supply cake — The ultimate teacher appreciation gift


If you have kids going back to school this month, help them ace Teacher Appreciation 101 with a teacher gift that will be the hit of the classroom. This “cake” made of school supplies is beautiful yet practical, filled with items teachers can actually use — pencils, crayons, glue — and even antiseptic wipes. It also doesn’t cost much to make: taking advantage of great back-to-school sales (boxes of crayons for 50 cents!), this cake cost less than $40. And assembling it is, well, a piece of cake.

What you’ll need:

School supplies

Tub of disinfecting wipes (105 count)
Pencils, 9 boxes (12-ct)
Crayons, 8 boxes (24-ct)
Glue (5 bottles)
Glue sticks (10 sticks)
Pencil cup
Colored pencils 

Other materials

12-inch to 14-inch round piece of cardboard
Roll of glue dots
Rubber bands
Ribbon

Note: Of course, you can vary the type of supplies you use based on the student’s grade level.

1. Position the tub of disinfecting wipes in the middle of a cardboard round. (You can cover the cardboard first with wrapping paper, if you wish.) Place glue dots on the bottom of the tub so it won’t move around.

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Dorm decorating ideas that will give you an A+ in style


Dorm life isn’t usually glamorous, but with a little inspiration, it can certainly be more chic than you’d imagine. You can up the style quotient with creative thinking for wall decor, furniture and accessories — without breaking the bank. Whether you’re a college student living on campus or a parent helping to furnish your undergrad’s home away from home, here are some decorating ideas to move your dorm room to the head of the class.

Wall tiles

” target=”_blank”>mioculture.com) are three-dimensional, 12-inch square tiles made of recycled paper that can be mounted with removable tape. Because they’re modular and sold in sets of 12, the tiles can cover an entire wall, serve as a headboard or be displayed as art. As an added bonus, they help dampen noise. I’ve been using these wall tiles for years for temporary wall installations, so I know firsthand what a practical, yet stylish wall treatment they are. 

Peel and stick

Another wall covering that makes a big design statement is peel-and-stick wallpaper, which you can customize using your own photographs at Pet pillows

” target=”_blank”>uncommongoods.com, or if you’re the DIY type, check out my tutorial on how to make your own pet pillows at Get lofty

Hang a canopy

Aesthetically, a canopy hanging above a bed provides an unexpected design touch to a dorm room, but more importantly, it can provide some privacy in very cramped quarters. And if the canopy makes you feel like a princess, all the better. (But you still have to study for your midterms.) 

Monogrammed towels

Chicken wire DIY

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How to make personalized switch plates


You use the light switches in your home every day, but you probably don’t ever notice the switch plates. Granted, most switch plates are easy to ignore, given that they’re usually white or beige plastic. Decorative options are available made from wood, metal or stone. But you can add even more pizazz to your décor by personalizing switch plates with your own photographs and designs. You might feature pictures of your family or pets, show off the logo of your favorite sports team, or choose a design that matches the decorating scheme of the room. Once you realize how easy they are to customize, you just might make the big switcheroo for all of your light switches. 

What you’ll need:

  • Plastic switch plate
  • Image printed on laser copy paper
  • Mod Podge decoupage glue/sealer
  • Foam brush
  • Bowl of water
  • Hobby knife

 

1. Cut paper to size

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What I learned as a designer on a TV home makeover show


Have you ever wanted to have your home redecorated on a television show? Several years ago, I was cast as an on-camera designer for a cable home makeover series. 

It was fun being on the show, and I enjoyed the challenge. In addition to the demands of decorating a room and keeping to a strict budget and a tight timeline — all while smiling for the camera and making sure I didn’t have lettuce from lunch stuck in my teeth — I also had to please the producers and the homeowner. The experience helped me to be better at thinking of solutions on the spot, at making fast purchasing decisions and at holding clients’ hands to assuage their fears. 

The makeover show also taught me some valuable lessons about design that have greatly influenced how I approach decorating.

Color transforms a room

I’ve always loved color. But for makeover shows, a paint job is the most important ingredient of a good “before and after” video montage. Without a pop of color, there is simply not a big enough change. And we’re not talking a nice shade of tan here. The more vibrant the color, the more dramatic the reveal. 

But I also learned from filming the show that people can respond very negatively to color, especially when they’re used to white or off-white walls. On one episode, I painted a room a rich shade of green that I thought felt very “Zen.” However, the homeowner stole a peek at the room before it was ready, and she freaked out over the new color. To help get her “green light,” if you will, to continue with the makeover, I showed her other color swatches from which she could choose. She eventually chose another green hue that, in truth, was really quite similar to the one I had first chosen. The homeowner loved this new green, but I think that one of the reasons she did was that she’d had time to get used to the room not being white anymore. 

Now, when I work with design clients, I warn them that there is a chance they may hate a color when it first goes on the wall, because they aren’t used to it. With that warning, they usually end up loving it.

Clutter ruins the shot

Nothing looks worse on camera than clutter. The first time I was ever on television, my home was featured on HGTV, and the host took me under her wing to show me how things looked through the lens. She pointed to one of my bookshelves on the playback monitor and said, “Look how busy that looks. The camera picks up everything.” I never forgot that. We get used to the clutter in our lives and don’t even notice it anymore. But the camera sees it and accentuates it.

When I started doing television makeovers, I was keen to make sure clutter disappeared. I didn’t accomplish this by putting everything in the driveway while we filmed. That would be cheating. Instead, I purchased bookcases and cabinets so everything would have its place. In fact, all of my on-screen clients were short on storage spaces. They actually piled up things on the floor rather than stashing them away. I have a saying: “If there’s room for junk, there’s room for bookcases.” Organizing clutter and hiding it in cabinets resulted in some spectacular before-and-afters.

The same goes for my “real-life” decorating clients. I find that a trip to Ikea — or a similar furniture store — for a storage shopping spree is often the first step in decluttering and beautifying a home. 

Good design solves a problem

Perhaps for dramatic purposes, there was always a decorating dilemma I had to solve in each of the television makeovers I did. One person wanted her “girly” bedroom to become more adult. One needed a garage converted into a home office. Another person who worked out of his home needed his living room to be a comfortable meeting space for clients. 

But even though these challenges were put into the script to create a more interesting show, they reminded me that good design isn’t about making things pretty, it’s about making things better. Having concrete goals in mind during these home makeovers actually made the task easier, because it narrowed the possibilities. I knew exactly what the problem was, so I was able to create a solution. 

When redecorating a space, we need to think of how it fits into one’s lifestyle. What is working about it, and what isn’t? How can the design help with the space’s intended use?

I recently designed an office space for a therapist who specializes in working with teens. My objective was to create a welcoming space that would be calming for the young clients, but also reassuring for their parents. Everything I chose, from the wall colors to the style of furniture to the accessories, had those intentions in mind. The challenge of making the space suitable for teens resulted in a much better design than if I had been simply designing an attractive, but generic, office.

Personality is everything

When casting for homeowners who needed makeovers, the producers looked for people with big personalities. It made for more interesting television. And you know what? It made for more interesting design. I had one on-screen client who was a poet who exuded warmth and positivity. She was one of those people who made you feel good just by talking with her. So even though my initial assignment was to create an office space for her, I gave the space a dual purpose as a meditation room, decorating the walls with life-affirming lines from her poetry so she would be surrounded by positive insights as she worked. It captured who she was.

I’ve seen a lot of home makeover shows on which they create beautiful rooms, but the spaces end up looking alike in every episode, because they don’t reflect the homeowners’ unique personalities. That’s why I encourage people not to decorate their home so they look like a page from a furniture catalog. I encourage people to create a space that shows off who they are — quirks and all. You are not generic; your home shouldn’t be, either.

You can get it done 

On television, with the magic of editing, we tried to make it look as if it was easy for me to redo someone’s space in a matter of hours — by myself. But the reality was there was an entire team of people behind the scenes doing all of the work, from painting to carpentry to moving furniture. In fact, I didn’t do any of those things. For example, the painter would paint the entire wall, and then they’d film me holding the paintbrush doing the finishing touches. 

The lesson here that I try to impart to do-it-yourself decorators is to give yourself a break. If you can’t finish your home project in a weekend, don’t worry about it. You’ll finish it when you finish it. When I’m decorating in my own home or for a client, I don’t have the resources of a television construction crew doing all of the work for me. You probably don’t, either. So feel good knowing that, considering that you’re doing it on your own, you’re very much a design star. 

Jonathan Fong is the author of “Walls That Wow,” “Flowers That Wow” and “Parties That Wow,” and host of “Style With a Smile” on YouTube. You can see more of his do-it-yourself projects at

How to create your own backyard miniature golf course


With summer starting next week, Southern Californians are looking forward to some outdoor recreation. One of my favorite fun-in-the-sun activities is golf, although I admit I’m much better at the driving range than on an actual course. OK, who am I kidding? I’m not very good at the driving range either. But miniature golf? That’s my sweet spot.

If, like me, you don’t get to the miniature course very often, there’s a fun solution: build a miniature golf course in your own backyard. With a little ingenuity, you can turn ordinary household items into miniature golf elements and obstacles. The game is a perfect activity for summer gatherings, and people of all ages enjoy it. So follow these suggestions, and you can be master of the (miniature) links.

Golf clubs

Although you can use actual putters, you might want to fashion alternative clubs so there can be one for everyone. Try PVC pipe, broom handles or even pool noodles. You really just need a long stick to make contact with the ball.

Golf balls

Real golf balls are fine to use, but they are heavy, so test your makeshift golf club to make sure it is strong enough to move the ball. If not, try lightweight alternatives, such as pingpong or Wiffle balls.

Marker flags

You will want to create flags that mark each of your holes so players will know how the course is laid out. Write the hole numbers on pieces of paper and glue them to long wooden skewers. Then insert the skewers in the grass.

Castle element

One of the most iconic miniature golf elements is a castle, usually with a door or drawbridge that goes up and down. Make your own castle using empty cereal boxes, cut to include castle features, like battlements. Fill the boxes with rocks so they won’t tip over, and paint them or cover them with duct tape. Be sure to cut a hole at the bottom for a doorway that the golf ball will pass through.

Windmill

It’s just not a miniature golf course without a windmill. Glue two rulers perpendicular to each other for the windmill blades, and glue the blades to a small clay pot that has been turned upside down. Then place the clay pot on an upside-down plastic bucket that has a hole cut out at the bottom for the ball to enter.

Tunnels

Create several elements that your ball will have to travel through. Old mailing tubes and tin cans that have been painted or wrapped in paper make stylish tunnels. You can also assemble books that are standing up like tents to form a maze for the ball.

Obstacles

Give the players a challenge by adding a sand trap. Fill an aluminum baking pan or cookie sheet with sand, and place a “bridge” made of stiff poster board above the sand. You can also create a lake for balls to land in by filling the baking pan with water instead of sand.

Last hole

Treat your last hole like a finish line. Use string to tie a piece of paper between two bottles of soda. When the golf ball goes between the bottles, the paper gate swings open to signify that the player has finished the round — which means it’s time for a refreshing drink.


Jonathan Fong is the author of “Walls That Wow,” “Flowers That Wow” and “Parties That Wow,” and host of “Style With a Smile” on YouTube. You can see more of his do-it-yourself projects at jonathanfongstyle.com.

7 indoor plants your home needs now


Back when I was little Johnny Fong in middle school, I did not dream of becoming a design maven. No, I wanted to be a botanist. It even says so under my picture in the eighth-grade yearbook. 

I was probably interested in botany because of my fascination with indoor plants. My parents filled our home with foliage, and I loved helping take care of all the plants and watching them grow. While I never became a botanist, I still love houseplants. And as an interior decorator, I’m a big advocate for bringing the outdoors in. Indoor plants add a splash of greenery that can act as a backdrop to your furnishings or fill in unused spaces in the corners of a room. 

More important, though, houseplants provide substantial health benefits. They help us with our breathing by releasing oxygen and absorbing carbon dioxide. A study by the Journal of Physiological Anthropology found that interaction with indoor plants can reduce stress and lower diastolic blood pressure. And a NASA study showed that indoor plants can help clear the air of common household toxins such as formaldehyde and benzene.

You may already have some houseplants in your home or office. My advice: Get more. The rule of thumb is to have one potted plant per 100 square feet. You can start with these to create a living space that’s a breath of fresh air — literally and figuratively.

Fiddle-leaf fig

Tillandsia

Snake plant

Pothos

Aloe 

Madagascar dragon tree

English ivy

Word of warning

Keep in mind that many of these plants are poisonous to humans and pets, so keep them away from anyone or anything that will nibble on them.


Jonathan Fong is the author of “Walls That Wow,” “Flowers That Wow” and “Parties That Wow,” and host of “Style With a Smile” on YouTube. You can see more of his do-it-yourself projects at

DIY pinwheel paper fans for Celebrate Israel Festival


If you’re heading to the What you’ll need:

Scrapbook paper (blue and white preferred in this instance)

Scissors or X-Acto knife

Spray adhesive or glue stick

Double-sided tape

1 3/4-inch circular paper punch, or scissors

Stars of David printed on card stock

Hot glue gun

Wood skewer

1. Cut strips of paper

2. Adhere the thinner strips on top

3. Accordion-fold the paper

4. Create a loop

5. Flatten the cylinder

6. Glue a handle to the back

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Florist secrets for a perfect Mother’s Day arrangement


Mother’s Day is this Sunday, which means many people will be making a trip to the florist. Or, because of the lower cost and greater convenience, some of us will be picking up flowers at the supermarket instead. That’s what I do. But rather than presenting the flowers in the cellophane bag they come in, I arrange the blooms in a vase so it looks like I ordered them from a high-end florist. 

Creating your own floral arrangement from supermarket flowers can save you a lot of money. The flowers for this project, which I bought at Trader Joe’s, cost about $20, and the glass vase from Michael’s was less than $3. Yet the finished arrangement could easily retail for $80 to $100 — or even more — at a florist. 

If the thought of putting together your own floral arrangement scares you, don’t worry — it’s pretty easy. I learned by sticking my fingers into arrangements florists delivered to the office where I used to work to analyze how they were assembled. I’ve also had the privilege of working with several top-notch florists in Los Angeles, who have shared their tricks of the trade with me. They swore me to secrecy, so, naturally, I’m passing their tips on to you. 

Get the right proportions

One secret very few people know is there’s an ideal proportion of vase size to number of flowers. I usually work with a 1:4 vase-to-flower ratio, meaning the diameter of the flowers should be approximately four times the diameter of the vase. For example, I wanted the flowers in my arrangement to be about 12 inches across, so I selected a vase that is a little more than 3 inches in diameter. This ratio makes your arrangement look full. If you use a larger vase with the same volume of flowers, the arrangement can appear skimpy. 

Create a support grid

Go monochromatic

Mix textures

Prepare the stems

Separate flowers by type

Another trick I use when arranging flowers is to keep the different types of flowers separate. Like the child at mealtime who won’t let his potatoes touch the peas, I keep each kind in its own section in the vase. This makes floral arranging so much easier, because it takes the guesswork out of how to combine the arrangement. And again, I find this type of arrangement also looks more modern and high-end.

Fill in gaps with greenery

After you’ve filled the vase with flowers, you might still see a few empty spots here or there. Fill these gaps with greenery, using leaves or succulents from your garden. (Just be sure that only the stems are submerged in water.) Bushy blooms like hydrangeas also make great fillers. 

Hide the stems

If your vase is transparent, you will see the stems in the water, and seeing submerged stems is a no-no in professional arrangements. They need to be covered up. One florist friend calls this “hiding the underwear.” Many florists cover the stems by lining the inside of the vase with large leaves. It’s a great look, but the leaves will contribute to bacteria growth. The simplest solution is to wrap a ribbon around the outside of the vase, adhering it in place with double-sided tape. Of course, if your vase is opaque, you don’t need to hide your stems. Still, wrapping a ribbon around the vase can add a nice finishing touch.

Jonathan Fong is the author of “Walls That Wow,” “Flowers That Wow” and “Parties That Wow,” and host of “Style With a Smile” on YouTube. You can see more of his do-it-yourself projects at