'Metal' skin

Like the look of metal? On doors, countertops or even entire walls? There's a new porcelain panel product designed to skin large surfaces with a metallic-looking finish. It's called Oxide and it comes in seven colors ranging from light to dark, with metallic effects that look like they've been weathered by natural elements.

The large-scale panels (1 by 3 meters, or approximately 3 by 9 feet) are manufactured by Tennessee-based Laminam by Crossville. They'll be available locally, starting late this month, from Kate-Lo Tile & Stone, with locations in Plymouth, Burnsville and Oakdale.

DIY repair resource

If you'd rather repair it yourself than call a handyman, here's an online resource to help. RepairClinic.com, an online store for replacement parts for appliances and outdoor power equipment, recently enhanced its free Repair Help feature to help DIYers fix common problems associated with major home appliances and outdoor power equipment.

Users can select which appliance is giving them trouble, such as "washing machine," then select from a menu of problems, such as "washer won't spin" or "washer is making a loud noise" to troubleshoot a particular repair issue.

The site also offers repair videos and access to more than 1 million parts and accessories for 150 brands of appliances and power tools.


First apartments

As if creating a space you love weren't hard enough, try adding the challenges of tiny rooms, limited funds and elements you're stuck with, like ugly bathroom tile and worn kitchen cabinets.

Welcome to decorating your first apartment.

Kyle Schuneman has your back. Schuneman, the 27-year-old founder of Live Well Designs and one of House Beautiful's "Next Wave of Top 20 Designers," helps renters decorate their first digs in "The First Apartment Book: Cool Design for Small Spaces."

Schuneman puts his inventiveness and artistic eye to work on 10 apartments, including his own. He shares floor plans, tips and creative ideas for turning compact quarters into functional, comfortable living spaces, using fresh designs that play off the tenants' personalities and the vibe of the cities where they live.

"The First Apartment Book" is published by Clarkson Potter and sells for $24.99 in softcover.