Queen of the Castle

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    1. Get Green: These days, it’s all about eco-friendly decor. From design, products and execution, the focus is on organic, natural, recycled and re-used products. Green design no longer has the stigma of being ugly or boring. Today’s eco-friendly home is trendy yet practical. It’s easy being green when you go to Park + Vine, the city’s first green general store, located in the Gateway Quarter downtown.


    2. Contrast: From color combinations to textures, switching it up a bit can make all the difference. For example, in the kitchen, try a man-made steel appliance juxtaposed with the roughness of a natural wood kitchen set. In the living room, bring some flair pairing up accessories or furnishings of mixed media, like a soft chenille sofa dressed with a rough textured horsehair or zebra pillow or use velvet against metal. Downtown-based High Street does an impeccable job of blending old with new. There, you’ll find soft layered on rough, sweet mixed with sass, and vintage pieces expertly paired with the most modern design cues.


    3. Multi-functionality: Today’s home decor is utilitarian yet stylish. Find utility-driven, multi-purpose furniture and decorative accessories that will make your everyday life easier, less hectic and more organized. Think futons. Sofa by day, bed by night — what more can you ask for? IKEA in West Chester (duh!) and the new Kenwood-based Container Store are the best bets for functional and stylish home dècor items.


    4. Leather with a Feminine Touch: Get ready for the softer side of leather furniture. Interior designers are digging earthy, golden warm tones such as caramel, cappuccino, cocoa and cinnamon. More “traditional” feminine colors ranging from pastel pinks to robin egg blue with contrasting accent colors of dark chocolate are also on the A-list. Blue Moon Furniture has a wide variety of leather-clad items with the unique and feminine flair. Unfortunately, Blue Moon is going out of business and they’re having a store-wide clearance for the next couple of weeks to clear out their inventory, so act quickly!


    5. White: White is the new black when it comes to the home. Think pure whites and soft ivories. No doubt, the white color family is a hit everywhere, from walls to sofas to lamps to picture frames. From furniture to finite accents, Kenwood’s new Crate and Barrel store does white right.


    6. Think Big: Save the drama for your home with over-sized lamps, chandeliers, florals, mirrors, decorative accessories and other design elements. Don’t let the name fool you because Le Petite Cottage in Glendale can help you find just the right oversized accessory for your home. Give Sherri Kohnle, the owner of this “little shop with big ideas” a call at (513) 771-0786.


    7. Cool Metals: Gray tone metals such as silver, pewter, brushed nickel, aluminum, steel, charcoal and platinum are in high demand by interior designers. Designs of the Interior in Mason has a large collection of unique treated metal art and wall installments.


    8. Zen: Find design elements that create a sense of well-being. Follow the rules of feng shui to arrange furniture, candles and other decorative accessories in each room. Cyd Alper Sedgwick is an expert in the feng shui and interior design fields. She specializes in small areas such as balconies and terraces, but has also worked with bringing the ethics of feng shui to entire homes and commercial spaces.


    9. Mirrors: “Mirror, mirror on the wall who is the chicest one of all?” Mirrors can create an effect of light and depth. When properly arranged, free-standing or wall-mounted mirrors, can transform a room instantly from “blah” to “chic.” Mirrors are a design element in feng shui. (See tip No. 8). Allied Glass and Mirror has been around for 22 years, and can help with any commercial or residential mirror need you can dream up.


    10. Wall Treatments: For years, decorative wall murals have been popular and cost-effective ways to change a room’s appearance. Wall murals can be a form of individual artistic impression. Find one that reflects your personality to create a distinctive look that fosters a warm, comforting living environment. See the Murals Your Way Web site, www.muralsyourway.com for some artistic inspiration.120108INSTORY_SIEGEL.gif


    You may be Martha Stewart in the living room, but let’s face it: Sometimes you need a helping hand for those less than glamorous tasks around the home. That’s when you call Home Services Link.


    Launched in Jan. 2008, Home Services Link is a service program in the Tri-State area that matches home owners and business with contractors. The service, free to home owners and businesses, is a consumer’s one-stop shop for odd jobs. The company works with about 200 contractors in several niches: additions and remodeling, lawn & garden, interior services, exterior services, utilities & appliances and other miscellaneous services.


    The matching process is rather simple. A customer calls with a service request and Home Services Link will recommend the appropriate contractor. The service has a clear advantage over the Yellow Pages because the staff does the footwork to maintain quality control. Insurances and licenses must be maintained, or else they are not recommended to clients.


    “We check out all the contractors and make sure they do reliable work,” partner Stephanie Clements says. “We do the leg work.” Following the job, Clements says she makes follow-up calls to gauge the quality of the service rendered. “We want to provide good customer service,” she says. “We make sure our customers are happy.”


    Another advantage is the fair pricing structure, Clements says. Despite the commission, the company does not hike up the prices. In fact, with the service customers will likely pay less than if they found a repairman on their own, she says.


    Clements says the services run the gamut from simple plumbing work to entertainment like clowns. Recently, a woman requested a stork sign to announce a baby’s arrival, she recalls.


    Whatever you need, “we’ll find it,” she says. And the 10,000 clients in the system are just as varied. 0208GIBBERMAN.gif


    “We cater to everyone. Young professionals, domestically challenged bachelors, single women. It’s all over the place,” she says. On the business side, small companies are the biggest percentage of clientele, she says.


    To find out more about the service, go to their Web site, or call (513) 271-1888.


    Photo: Neysa Ruhl Photography

    Location: The McAlpin

    Model: Tonia Murphy of New View Management Group, Inc.

    Makeup Artistry: Rebecca Long

    Hairstyling: Shay Mendenhall, of Posh Salon, (513) 821-8999