Click inside for the weekly home and garden rail, with items on dressing up your walls, tips for cleaning stone countertops, and more. Or check out the links below:


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More in home and garden

Decorating Tip: Dress up walls with murals

Faux finishes just aren't for you, and painting one wall a different color isn't enough of an "accent" for your interior design tastes. Yet you're tired of looking at the same four walls day after day.

How do you dress them up in a way that will make a statement without blowing your decorating budget? Add impact with a wallpaper mural. Easy-to-install wallpaper murals are flexible and eye-catching, plus they are cost-effective and do-it-yourself friendly.

Modern murals have gone far beyond the whole-wall look you might remember from the '70s. Technology has allowed mural makers to delve into an inspiring array of designs, create more vibrant colors and eye-opening perspectives. It's even possible to create your own custom wallpaper mural from a favorite photograph.

Here are a few ideas to use wallpaper murals to create a statement in virtually any room of your house:

- Turn a blank wall into a full-size accent with a floor-to-ceiling mural. It's possible to find a wallpaper mural to match any decorating theme -- from a view of Yankee Stadium as seen from home plate for your basement game room, to your favorite scenic photo from your honeymoon to dress up your family room.

- If a full wall is too much a statement for you, consider framing a smaller mural or a series of small murals in a central location in a room. Small, framed murals are a great way to make a snug room, or one lacking windows, feel bigger and more open.

- If your hallway is just a pass-through for your family, consider spicing it up with murals. A smaller-scale mural can create interest and flow in a hallway.

- Many contemporary designs feature architectural niches as accents throughout the home. Rather than simply hanging framed artwork in the niche, consider creating a more striking effect with a wall mural cut to fit the space. For example, if you have a niche over your garden tub, place a tropical or woodland scene or a close up of a large bloom there to bring the outdoors in and create a focal point for the room.

Using a wallpaper mural to make a statement can be a very cost-effective design tool. Creating your own custom wallpaper with the exact image you want could even cost less than traditional wallpaper.

"Your walls are the largest decorating canvas in your home," says Fong. "If you do something interesting with your walls, it can make more of an impact than any piece of furniture or accessory in the room."

On the Web:

For more ideas on how to make a statement with murals, visit www.MuralsYourWay.com, www.muralsuperstore.com, www.usawallpaper.com or www.creativewallcovering.com.

-- ARA

How to: Keep stone countertops looking new

The key to preserving your stone countertops is to use the right cleaners on the surface so you don't cause any unnecessary damage.

- Clean surfaces with a mild detergent or specialty cleaner. Thoroughly rinse and dry the surface after washing.

- Blot up spills immediately, and protect countertop surfaces with coasters, trivets or place mats.

- Don't use vinegar, lemon juice or other cleaners containing acids on marble, limestone, travertine or onyx surfaces. Don't use abrasive cleaners such as dry cleansers or soft cleansers.

-- ARA

Did You Know …
 
During winter, you should switch your ceiling fan to a low speed in the clockwise direction to force warm air near the ceiling downward. -- www.energystar.gov
 
Home Improvements: Invest in kitchen remodeling

When the time comes to sell a home, the return on investment for many remodeling projects is significant, especially in the kitchen. Here are a few tips to help create your dream kitchen, save precious time and increase your home's value. 

- Plan: A kitchen remodel is a big investment, so know how much you are willing to spend and plan ahead on the layout and design features. If you do, it will be easier to manage your budget and completion date.

- Think about the way you live: How many people will be in the kitchen at one time? In addition to cooking, will you use your kitchen for dining, entertaining or homework? Does anyone in your family have special needs? Do you need a lot of storage?

- Pay attention to detail: To give your kitchen a custom-like look, consider adding decorative accents such as molding build-ups, ornaments and corbels. Including decorative accessories such as hardware, glass door inserts and under cabinet lighting can also make the room sparkle.

-- ARA

Garden Guide: Conserve water with drip irrigation

If you’re looking for a more efficient way to water your garden, consider drip irrigation. This low-pressure, low-volume water-delivery system keeps plant roots moist while reducing evaporation and runoff.

You can also set up your system to target the exact plants that need watering, so you’re not feeding the weeds. And drip irrigation can be customized to mist and provide humidity in your garden.

For beginners, there are easy-to-install kits at many home-improvement stores. For those familiar with drip irrigation, you can buy individual parts to adjust and expand your system.

-- www.lowes.com

Backyard Buddies: Safe pesticides for your backyard

Homeowners rely on pesticides inside and outside their homes to help protect against harmful pests. While these products are beneficial for controlling pests, the proper application, use and storage of these products is vital to protecting the health of pets and wildlife of all kinds.

By the time a pesticide or a lawn and garden product makes it to the shelves in local stores, it has been registered, had its label approved by EPA, and is deemed not to pose any unnecessary risks to people, pets or local eco-systems when used according to label directions.

It's our responsibility to read and follow the label instructions regarding use and storage of all the products we choose to use.

-- ARA

GateHouse News Service