Weekly home and garden rail, with items on bathroom upgrades, decorating tips for your outdoor space, how to start a vegetable garden in a small space, and more.

Home Improvements: Budget-friendly bathroom updates

Does your bathroom resemble the bathroom of your childhood? Does it have the same unappealing colors, cold tile floors and dated decor as the day you bought the house?

If your bathroom is stuck in the '60s, '70s and even '80s, then it's time to upgrade. But don't worry, you can transform it into a modern-day showplace without starting from scratch and spending a fortune. Here are some tips to get you started:

Apply a fresh coat of paint

Nothing cleans up damaged and dingy walls better than a new color. Because the bathroom is a high-humidity area that is also enclosed, look for paints that are mildew-resistant but don't contain harsh chemicals.

Be a little artistic with your painting as well. Find textured paints to create barely-there patterns on the walls, or use two different paint tints to create shading or bold contrasting wall colors.

Update your hardware

Bathroom faucets and accessories have evolved over the decades, and style is the new design. Today's products are able to match tastes ranging from exquisite vintage to ultra modern so you can transform your out-dated style into something perfect for a guest bath, master bath or children's fun bathroom.

Change your lighting

A single light fixture or a worn-out overhead lamp just doesn't give a bathroom the illumination or style you need. A properly lit bathroom provides comfort, charm, fashion and function. You may need lights above the sink or wall sconces to illuminate any dark shadows.

Bring comfort into the shower

A new massaging showerhead is vital to making your shower inviting. Accompany the new fixture with a beautiful curtain. Look for curtains that do not contain vinyl or PVC materials. Don't block out all that new light you just installed. Use a shower curtain that allows light into the tub area.

Warm up the floor

If you don't have the finances to install radiant heat throughout the bathroom, try a decorative rug instead to keep your feet warm. You can forget about the old shag carpets with rubber backing. The styles, shapes and colors available are endless, in materials ranging from cotton to wool.

Find a theme carpet for your children's bathroom, or a beautiful bouquet of flowers to spice up your guest bathroom.

-- ARA

Decorating Tip: Create a stylish outdoor space

- Keep the scale of your space in mind: If you have a large yard, small furniture will be dwarfed. Create a focal point, whether it's your dining table, an outdoor fireplace or a water feature. 

- Create your own outdoor cafe with a patio set: You can find sets in every style from simple to ornate and in materials from weather-resistant and easy-to-maintain resin to substantial cast iron.

- Lighten up: Candles or white string lights are often all you need to create a festive or intimate mood on a warm summer night. But for walkways and paths, make sure to keep it safe with low-voltage or solar lighting.

- Make space for your feathered friends. Beautiful birdhouses and bird feeders are a wonderful way to welcome nature into your outdoor space and bird watching can quickly become a favorite family pastime.

-- ARA

Home-Selling Tip: Consider a pre-listing inspection

Buyers will eventually conduct a home inspection. Sellers might as well know what they are going to find by getting there first. Having an inspection performed ahead of time helps in many ways:

- It allows you to see your home through the eyes of a critical third-party.

- It helps you to price your home realistically.

- It permits you to make repairs ahead of time so defects won't become negotiating stumbling blocks later, and you’ll have the time to get reasonably priced contractors or make repairs yourself.

- It may alert you of items of immediate personal concern, such as radon gas or active termite infestation.

- It can alert you to immediate safety issues before agents and visitors tour your home.

Be sure the inspector you use is insured and licensed or certified (if your state requires) or at least belongs to a professional organization.

-- www.soldbyowner.com

How To: Make home friendly to allergy sufferers

Eco-friendly practices and environmentally sensitive products can not only help minimize the symptoms of allergies and asthma, but also make your home healthier in general for you and your family.

- While more expensive than a traditional vacuum cleaner, a High-efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) vacuum contains a special filter that traps very fine particles and keeps them from getting back into the air.

- Solid surface floors should be at the top of the list for people with asthma and allergies. Hardwood, laminate and tile are all options. Marmoleum click is made of natural linoleum with a cork backing for a warm and comfortable floor that is also eco-friendly.

- Dust mite covers for mattresses and pillows provide a barrier to keep out the microscopic critters. Organic cotton or bamboo bedding is not only stylish and earth friendly but is made without chemicals that can irritate airways.

For more information on how to make your home safer for those with allergies and asthma, visit AsthmaAndAllergyFriendly.com.

-- ARA

Did You Know …

A dirt floor in a crawlspace should be covered with plastic to prevent moisture from the soil increasing humidity levels in your home. -- www.energystar.gov

Garden Guide: Use your space wisely

Have limited space in your garden for fruits and vegetables?

The good news is you don't need much space to have an edible garden. Many gardeners grow food in containers or mixed in with their flowers, shrubs and other ornamental plantings.

Look for creative ways to include vegetables in your landscape, such as mixing them with flowers in container gardens.

Try combining ornamental corn, eggplant, tri-color sage, purple ruffle basil and trailing verbena. Or use Swiss chard as a vertical accent, add a few pansies, colorful leaf lettuce or ornamental mustard and a trailing ivy or two for aesthetics.

-- ARA    

Backyard Buddies

Brightly colored butterflies can be a welcome addition to your wildlife garden, not only because of their beauty, but also because of their usefulness in pollinating flowers.

- Plant native flowering plants in the sun: Dense "clusters" of small flowers such as zinnias, marigolds, tithonia, buddleia, milkweeds, verbenas and many mint family plants generally work well.

- Plant type and color is important: Adult butterflies are attracted to red, yellow, orange, pink and purple blossoms that are flat-topped or clustered, and have short flower tubes.

- Say no to insecticides: Insecticides such as malathion, Sevin, and diazinon are marketed to kill insects. Even "benign" insecticides, such as Bacillus thuringiensis, are lethal to butterflies (while caterpillars).

- Feed butterfly caterpillars: If you don't "grow" caterpillars, there will be no adults. Bringing caterpillar foods into your garden can greatly increase your chances of attracting unusual and uncommon butterflies.

-- www.nwf.org

GateHouse News Service