DIY Paper Decorations for the New Year

Whether large or small, a New Year's Eve gathering requires festive decorations. Here are some fun and affordable paper decorations that you can make yourself, perhaps using leftover wrapping paper from the holidays.

At left, a DIY Modern Paper Ornament from How About Orange; it looks complicated but the instructions are super clear and easy to follow. At right, Martha Stewart's Shimmering New Year's Streamers are reminiscent of the Times Square ball.

These Custom Sparklers were a wedding project featured on Style Me Pretty. They could easily be adapted for a New Year's party.

At left, Personal Poppers featured on Delish. You can make these treat-filled favors using empty toilet paper or paper towel rolls, tissue paper, and ribbon. At right, a pretty Wrapping Paper Star; instructions are at Family Fun.

And don't forget the confetti, which you can make using a paper shredder or hole punch. Happy 2011!

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7 Simple Ways To Green Your Home

As we welcome a brand new year, it's an excellent time to commit to being more green in and around the home. Whether you rent or own and live in a small space or a big one, there are plenty of simple but effective actions that just about anyone can do. Here are a few ideas … and please share your own in the comments!

  • Make your own cleaners. Simple ingredients like baking soda and vinegar are not only effective but also better for the environment, your health, and your wallet. Check out these tips for eco-friendly carpet cleaning plus Re-Nest's recipes for homemade kitchen and bathroom cleaners.
  • Use cloth napkins. Replace disposable napkins or paper towels with cloth ones and bring a bit of elegance to your table! Make or buy a few sets so you always have plenty on hand. I often find nice ones on Etsy.
  • And towels, too. Paper towels may be convenient but they are wasteful. Fortunately, there are some great reusable options out there. I especially like SKOY cloths, which are absorbent, durable, and 100% biodegradable.
  • Eliminate plastic bags. By now many of us are carrying reusable grocery bags and the next step is reusable produce bags and trash bags. I use organic cotton produce bags from Reuseit.com and World Centric bags for trash.
  • Banish vampires. Energy vampires, that is. Appliances can suck electricity even when they're turned off, so unplug them when not in use or get a smart power strip. Learn more about vampire power and various other solutions at Worldchanging.
  • Switch to CFLs. An ENERGY STAR Qualified Compact Fluorescent Light bulb (CFL) uses 75% less energy than a standard incandescent bulb and lasts up to 10 times longer. If you rent, ask your landlord about using CFLs in common areas or entryways (it'll save them money, too!).
  • Save water. Install low-flow shower heads and faucet aerators. At our house, we also converted our toilet with a HydroRight dual flush – no handyman skills required!

(Image: Flickr member Rashley licensed under Creative Commons)

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Tile Love: Lush Henry Road

I love the bold, colorful textile designs of Los Angeles-based design studio Henry Road. Designer Paula Smail says that her aesthetic is influenced by the Marimekko blinds that hung in her childhood home in South Africa, “women wrapped in swathes of stunning African cloth,” and artists like Mark Rothko.

Earlier this year Henry Road collaborated with modern glass tile company Modwalls, and the results are stunning with a wallpaper-like effect. The five Henry Road designs in the collection are kiln fired to the back of Modwalls’ Lush glass tiles. They come in several colorways with custom options available.

I’m considering using the daisy-colored Gloria Cloud tiles for a mini kitchen backsplash but really wish I could do a big project. Wouldn’t those blue Circles tiles look lovely in a shower or even a swimming pool?

See more at Modwalls.

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Fireclay Debris Series: Trash Into Tiles

Would you decorate with tiles that had once been toilets?

It might sound a little off-putting to some, but I find it totally exciting that Fireclay Tile is turning discarded toilets and other porcelain products into beautiful ceramic tiles! Based in San Jose, California, the company works closely with local city recyclers to retrieve porcelain-based products, which are then ground and incorporated into their Debris Series Recycled Ceramic Tile.

In 12 months, they have set aside over 150 tons of porcelain waste. Incorporating this waste into the tiles will bump up the recycled material content from 60 percent to 70 percent. (The tiles also contain material from recycled glass bottles.)

NPR recently did a neat story on the company's porcelain recycling effort. Check out the Fireclay blog for the link and more pictures of the "trash to treasure" process.

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Cool Tools: Colr Pickr

Where do you find color inspiration? One of my favorite, endless sources of inspiration is Flickr, along with useful search tools created by independent developers. Among these is Jim Bumgardner's Colr Pickr. Move the slider, pick a color, and voilà – a collection of images drawn from the photo sharing site! 

The resulting images are modest in number, but they include any photos uploaded to Flickr, not just Creative Commons ones like most other color search tools. Clicking on each thumbnail takes you to the Flickr page.

In addition to the general color search, there are specialized Colr Pickrs, such as Flowers, Macro, Textures, and Urban Decay. Pictured above are the results of a Doors and Windows search, which could be especially fun to play with if you're thinking of doing some house painting!

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