Repotting Plants: Give Them a New Home Sweet Home

How to refresh your plants’ soil and upgrade their dwellings. (Don’t worry. No mortgage needed.)

Repotting your plants might seem like a hassle, but you would be amazed at how they spring back to life in a few weeks. All it takes is a little root pruning, fresh potting mix, a larger pot — and maybe a little TLC to get them back on their feet.

Best of all, repotting gives you the opportunity to elevate your home with planters that have personalities to match your unique decorating tastes. Besides, an unhealthy plant is an ugly plant, right?

Follow these tips to give your plants a new lease on life.

Choose the right container

Soggy soil is a big killer of container plants, so use pots with drainage holes so that water will not stagnate and lead to rot. If you’re concerned about excess water damaging your floor or surfaces, place them in decorative cache pots or on saucers.

Size also matters. Pick a pot that is only slightly larger than the previous one so that the roots have room to grow. An oversized pot not only looks awkward, but the extra potting mix around the roots will stay soggy and lead to rot and disease.

Before committing to that old flowerpot you’ve been using since the ’80s, consider an upgrade. Even the humble terra-cotta pot is worth a look for its classic and earthy appeal, especially when you have a whole collection.

Glazed ceramic pots are on the pricier side, but rich colors and brilliant finishes make them invaluable additions to the home and garden. Use caution whenever using terra-cotta and ceramic pots outdoors though, since they’re prone to cracking in freezing weather.

If you’re looking for a pot that you can leave outdoors all winter, concrete and fiberglass are the way to go. Concrete planters range from rough and unfinished hypertufa troughs to sleek and boxy modern styles — but they’re heavy.

The new fiberglass pots on the market are lightweight, weather resistant, and make very convincing substitutes for whatever material you want to emulate. Best of all, they can be purchased at a fraction of the price you’d pay for their concrete and glazed ceramic counterparts.

Choose the right potting mix

Notice that the word ‘soil’ wasn’t used. Garden soil is inappropriate for container plants because it either drains poorly or too quickly, contains weed seeds and pests, and quite simply will lead to your plant’s untimely demise.

Instead, choose an all-purpose potting mix or one of its many variants. If you are planting hanging baskets, use a moisture-retentive mix, or add either peat or coir to keep the plants from drying out.

For succulents and other plants that require excellent drainage, use a cactus mix or add an amendment like perlite or vermiculite to keep the soil from getting too soggy.

Prepare plants for repotting

Water plants a day before repotting to make the roots less brittle and loosen up the potting mix to help plants better adjust to transplanting.

Have your materials together and ready to go before planting. This will limit exposure to the drying air and prevent unnecessary damage to the roots. If you have to leave the plants out for more than several minutes, wrap the roots with moist newspaper.

Gently tease the roots apart with your fingers to help them regrow and spread out quickly. If the roots are bound so tightly together that they’re impossible to break apart, use a clean knife to cut across the bottom of the rootball in the shape of an ‘x’ to quickly promote new growth.

While the plant is out of its container, inspect the roots and soil for any problems. Remove any rotted, mushy roots with a clean knife to prevent further rot after replanting.

Potting up

Once you’ve prepared the plants and have your materials ready, add enough potting mix so that you can set the plant in the pot with its crown an inch below the rim. Continue shoveling in potting mix until the pot is nearly full, then add water to help it settle around the roots.

If desired, cover the potting mix with a decorative mulch of stones, gravel, seashells, or orchid bark.

If you had to prune your plant’s roots while repotting, trim off their leaves or stems as well. They might look ugly at first, but trimming the top-growth prevents moisture loss and helps the plants recover from root-pruning.

Don’t worry! They’ll bounce back in no time and look better than ever.


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House of the Week: A Historic Farmhouse With Luxury Barn

The renovated barn holds a second barn, so the structure looks authentic inside and out.

Take a stone farmhouse from 1810, mix it with the best furnishings you can find at flea markets in Paris, and the result is this exquisitely renovated colonial home outside Philadelphia.

A walk-in fireplace graces the living room, while the formal dining room boasts French doors that open onto a screened porch. For a cozier ambiance, the library of this 4-bedroom, 3,800-square-foot home features a fireplace and picture-window views.

A beautifully upholstered floating wall was installed in one bedroom to allow a lake view while lounging in bed. A chandelier hangs above the bed, and behind it is a sitting room.


Owners Michele and Michael Friezo also remade the nearly 8-acre grounds, adding formal and informal gardens. They planted more than 300 types of flowers in a meadow with a fire pit that overlooks a private lake.

The pleasure of watching the sun from there on autumn evenings is rivaled only by watching the snow fall while sitting by a roaring fire in the barn, Michele Friezo said.

The couple also renovated the estate’s crumbling horse barn, which is a rustic version of the main home. Concerned that adding insultation would take away the barn-like appearance of the structure’s interior, they bought a second barn and installed it inside the first one.

The barn’s massive French windows face the meadow and the lake, and offer front-row seats to the nesting of two bald eagles who live in a nearby grove of pine trees.

The estate is listed for $2.795 million with Caryn Black of Kurfiss Sotheby’s International Realty.

Photos by Juan Vidal Photography.


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5 Trends in New Home Construction

What’s on the runway for home-building fashions? Experts predict 5 big “ins.”

In the world of apparel fashion, trends go in and out in a matter of months. For interior design, trends may change year to year. But home construction changes much more slowly — on the scale of decades.

Home fashions take a while to build momentum, but they are happening. Here’s a look at five trends in the world of home construction and beyond.

Solar roofing

If you haven’t been paying attention, it might feel as if the current solar renaissance came out of nowhere. Recent improvements in solar tech have moved solar panels from an expensive niche technology to a reality for many homeowners.

“What’s really made solar accessible — beyond improved efficiency — is the support it’s received from power companies, state and local governments, and eco-conscious investors,” says Brooke Nally, content strategist with Solar Power Authority. This support translates into leasing options, subsidies, and tax breaks for solar customers.

As a major home renovation, solar panels are already making waves in the home roofing space. “We see a lot of interest in solar from people who are redoing their roofs — it’s the perfect time to consider adding panels,” Nally explains.

From traditional panels to Tesla’s solar shingles, roof design is already seeing major shifts to accommodate solar.

Smart homes

It’s no secret that home automation has become a growing trend in the home building arena. Every year, new companies roll out novel technologies to help people better manage and control their homes.

Even search engine giant Google got in on the smart home game, acquiring smart thermostat company Nest for $3.2 billion.

“What we’re seeing more and more is companies trying to address needs that people never thought they had,” says David DeMille, online manager for “New devices enter the marketplace all the time, extending past basic sensors to include Wi-Fi enabled doorbells, portable cameras, and two-way speakers.”

DeMille is already seeing homes being retrofitted with these devices, and expects they will become standard in new home construction moving forward.

But this trend may take some more baking before it’s ready to really rise. Home automation can lower power bills and make your home safer, but with constantly updating technologies, they haven’t historically offered a solid return on investment.

Energy-efficient windows

Not even windows are immune to the growing popularity of home automation.

For example, data shows that windows are about 25 percent more energy efficient when locked, according to Sal Abbate, senior vice president at Andersen Windows. Imagine getting a reminder to close or lock your windows to save on your energy bills. “That kind of information sent back to a homeowner – we think could be a really interesting trend,” he explains.

Energy efficiency will continue to be a driving trend in windows moving forward, as glass films and coatings make windows better at insulating from heat and cold.

Glazing (coating windows so they can become frosty or opaque at the flick of a switch) may be the next science fiction-cum-reality development in windows, as more manufacturers experiment with how to bring the technology out of the luxury market and into everyday homes.

Barn doors

Though this one is partly an interior design trend, installing barn doors requires enough construction to qualify as a building trend. Most interior barn doors slide on a bar mounted above the frame, which presents a smaller profile for interior thresholds.

Barn doors aren’t just limited to functioning as entrances — smaller, stylized barn doors can be used to hide a TV or disguise a pantry.

Because these sliding doors offer a rustic charm while remaining functional, the use cases for barn doors are myriad. From closet doors to room dividers, barn doors are quickly becoming the solution to dozens of interior design quandaries.

Electric car charging stations

The continued growth of the electric car industry is having a lasting impact on at least one aspect of home building: the garage. As more homeowners make the switch to fully electric cars, charging stations are becoming a more common fixture in garages.

“Demand has grown a lot recently,” real estate agent Anna Sherrill reports. Sherrill handles sales for a boutique Miami property, Louver House, which recently installed four charging stations in its 24-car parking garage.

The most expensive stations are still around $3,000, while self-installed units can be as cheap as $300. Expect to see more electric car charging stations in the garages of tomorrow.

Home construction has changed drastically in the past decade with the emergence of home automation and a stronger focus on green homes. However, changes in technology and lifestyles will continue to drive home construction changes with a renewed focus on flexibility, automation, and energy efficiency.


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It’s ‘Greenery’ for 2017! How Pantone Picks the Color of the Year

In an exclusive interview, Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, takes us behind the scenes of being the authority on color trends.

Now fashion houses can complete their 2017 collections, and designers can choose their paints. Pantone has announced the Color of the Year: Greenery, offering “the reassurance we yearn for amid a tumultuous social and political environment,” said Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute.pantone-color-of-the-year-2017-greenery-15-0343-press-release

Ahhh. Calming color, soothing words.

But Eiseman is far more than a mouthpiece for Pantone’s Color of the Year. She’s in charge of finding it, and she shared some of her secrets before traveling from her island home near Seattle to Seoul, where she unveiled the cool new hue.

Here’s what Eiseman had to say about:

Being the defining voice in the world of color

“If we believe in it enough to name it Color of the Year, manufacturers and designers will of course jump on the bandwagon and get excited by it. They’ll say, ‘Wow, pink and blue, who’d have thought [from 2016’s Rose Quartz and Serenity duo]. Maybe we need to make potato peelers — one in pink, one in blue.’ Some were already on that path before they heard us, and it helps to validate their choices.”

Feeling for the color

“We have to look for colors in ascendancy. You feel for it. You start to see certain colors on the periphery. We see little nuggets of information that come from the art world. It could be an artist who has come to prominence. For the 2016 colors, it started when I was asked by the Tate in London to critique Agnes Martin’s work. I realized she really loved blue, and all the emotional reasons why, and that she loved to combine it with other pastels, particularly in the rose tones. Her work was appearing in London, Dusseldorf, Los Angeles and New York. Then I picked up a magazine, W or Elle Decor, and there was the apartment of Wendy Murdoch, and above the fireplace was a huge Agnes Martin. Once you let the genie out of the bottle, you go down the path of where else you’re seeing this.”

The effect of home

“Living in the Northwest is a tremendous advantage, in that you get the best light here you can imagine, pure light for viewing color. I’m looking out a north window right now, where I’m seeing gorgeous greenery that surrounds us and contrasts with Japanese maples. I also bring a lee-w-pantone-fg-marsalaWest Coast perspective, which in some ways is more colorful, more adventurous in reaching out and taking chances with color.”

Defying color rules

“I just changed the color of a tiny little powder room in my own home. I have a collection of beaded evening purses that are works of art, and I don’t want to hide them in a drawer. So I redid the powder room to showcase them. It’s a maroony, a little bit purply shade, and over that is a sheer gold overlay, so it’s like walking into a jewel box. It defies the rule about painting small spaces lighter colors to make them appear bigger, but you just go in for a few minutes and leave. You should glamorize it and dramatize it.”

Playing favorites

“It’s like asking who’s your favorite child. I think every color has a redeeming feature. If real estate is all about location, location, location, then with color, it’s context, context, context. Someone might say, ‘Really, you like the color puce?’ And I say, ‘It’s classic. I could use a gorgeous topiary teal to spice it up a bit.’”

Loading up on the new hotness

“I am right on it, the minute we know that’s the color we’re going to go with, I am right out there. Sometimes it’s difficult to find that precise color, so I have to push a little bit. I love jewelry and scarves, and I find sandals and ties and fingernail polish. We have a sun porch, and I start taking stuff there, so when I go on a trip, I can deliberately start matching and putting it all together.”

Photo courtesy of Leatrice Eiseman


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Holiday Gifts That You and Your Pet Will Love

If you’re going to get your fur kid a present, you might as well make it mutually beneficial.

If you’re planning to spoil your pets this holiday season, instead of the usual toys and treats, consider a pet-centric gadget or home accessory that will not entertain your fur kid, but also enhance your home — and your pet parenting experience, too.

Microchip pet feeder

When pet food sits out, it can attracts flies and other vermin — not to mention, it becomes unpalatable after several hours. A microchip-activated pet feeder, such as the SureFeed, solves these problems because the food well is covered, and opens for mealtimes when triggered by a pet’s microchip. The lid over the feeding bowl remains open until the pet leaves and then automatically closes.

SureFeed Microchip Pet Feeder, SureFlap, $149

In a multi-pet household, this system locks out a greedy pet from other pet’s bowls; it’s also ideal for pets on different diets or a weight management program. The SureFeed feeder comes with a lightweight RFID collar tag (for pets that aren’t microchipped), and has a special training mode to help your pet adapt to using it. One limitation is that this feeder can’t accommodate large pets; it’s designed for cats and small dogs only.

Bolstered furniture protector

We all know that fur-kids love to cuddle up — and shed! — on the couch alongside their favorite people. If you still want the snuggles but not the furry furniture, check out machine-washable microsuede furniture protectors. Solvit designed a series of furniture protectors that feature a bolster to offer additional support and comfort for older pets.

Bolstered furniture protector, Solvit, $49 – $79

The Bolster protector is available in two sizes for large and small pets, and there is also a style for a single chair. It has a fully waterproof membrane in case of accidents, and special rubberized “feet” to help keep the protector in place. When company is coming over, just move the protector to the floor or stash it in a closet. Voila! Fur-free furniture.

Video monitor with laser light

For many pets left home alone for long periods, boredom and loneliness are serious issues and can lead to severe anxiety. A pet video monitor with a built-in laser, like the Petcube Play, allows you to initiate exhilarating games at any time to ensure your pets get plenty of physical and mental activity in your absence.

Petcube Play, Petcube, $199

The Petcube Play works in conjunction with a Smartphone (or Apple watch) app, and there is also an autoplay mode that activates the laser three times every hour, creating random patterns to entertain for 30-second games. The laser is a low-powered 5mW 3R class, and certified safe around pets and people. The fun and games can be recorded using the monitor’s HD video camera, which has a 138-degree wide angle lens and night vision. There’s also a two-way microphone and speaker to keep pet parents connected to their fur kids 24/7.

Smart treat-dispensing camera

And, if you are still feeling guilty that your pets are home alone, the Petzi Treat Cam allows you to dispense some love and treats via a Smartphone app. The treat dispenser is ideal for any brand of small treats. (However, hard treats “launch” better out of the treat slot than softer varieties.)

Petzi Treat Cam, Petzi, $170. Image courtesy of

There is an audio button, so, if hearing your voice emanate from the treat “box” doesn’t spook your fur kids, you can call them over and ask them to sit before they get a yummy snack. There’s a wide-angled lens on the camera that allows you to snap some fun photographs to post to your social media channels, too.

Designer drinking fountain

Drinking fountains encourage pets to stay hydrated because they replicate an animal’s innate desire to drink running water.

The elegant Dogit Alfresco Drinking Fountain is a raised design, providing larger dogs with an ideal ergonomic drinking position to access refreshing drinking water “on tap.”

Dogit Alfresco Drinking Fountain, Chewy, $65

It’s wired for both indoor and outdoor use, and also has an energy-efficient LED light to make the water flow easy for dogs to see at night, simultaneously transforming it into a decorative home accessory.

Paw-operated garden hose water fountain

Many dogs, regardless of size, love to play with a water hose. A paw-operated gadget, like All for Paw’s Chill Out Garden Water Fountain, turns your hose into an instant drinking fountain.

All for Paws Chill Out Garden Water Fountain, Amazon, $25

With a little training, your dog can quickly learn where to step to let the water flow — the rubber pedal doesn’t take much paw-power to operate. The gadget plugs into any garden hose, and is suitable for dogs of all sizes. Let your dog help out around the home and give the lawn a little extra watering, too.

Microchip pet door

A pet door will free you up from playing doorman, giving dogs and cats independent access to a secure enclosed patio or garden. To allow pets freedoo without opening up your home to uninvited animals, try a device like the SureFlap Microchip Pet Door. It works in conjunction with a pet’s microchip (as well as a special RFID collar tag) to offer selective use to pets in the household, and can store up to 32 individual pet microchips.

Microchip Pet Door, SureFlap, $200

The door can be safely installed in brickwork, woodwork, and even glass. It also has a curfew feature allowing pet parents to block outdoor access at any time. And, if a pet is already outside, it allows them to come back in before the curfew feature is activated, so that no pet will ever be inadvertently locked out.

The door is battery-operated with an indicator light that alerts when its time to replace batteries. There is also a manual lock, which can override any microchip or tag to prevent use if necessary.

Automatic ball launcher

You’re entertaining friends, but your dog wants to play fetch. You’re preparing dinner and overseeing homework, but the dog was to play fetch. You’re taking a nap, but the dog wants to play fetch. Familiar scenario? The PetSafe Automatic Ball Launcher is a winner for all fetch-crazy dogs whose pet parents are tired of playing ball.

This contraption is designed to let dogs play on their own, both indoors and outdoors. It can launch standard tennis balls between eight and 30 feet, and features nine distance and six angle settings to keep pooches constantly engaged and entertained.

PetSafe Automatic Ball Launcher, Petco, $200

The launcher includes various safety features to ensure safe play, such as a motion sensor on the front of the unit that prevents the ball from launching if a dog or person is too close. Dogs can also be trained to retrieve the balls and restock the machine themselves. And there’s a sleep mode to ensure forced rest in between frenetic play sessions.


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