Welcome to Homegirls. You'll find a sassy sampling of décor and design tips, frank conversation about everything from holidays and homekeeping to home improvement and our picks and pans of new products, stores and events.
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Looking for a great old fixer-upper? Look north -- to the Old Highland neighborhood in North Minneapolis, to be specific.
That's the advice from This Old House magazine, which recently released its annual list of "Best Old House Neighborhoods" -- 51 in the United States and 10 in Canada. (www.thisoldhouse.com/best-places.)
Minneapolis' Old Highland also made the magazine's "Top 6 Editor's Picks" and "Best Place for Fixer Uppers" list.
What makes Old Highland so great? The 30-block Victorian-era enclave boasts architectural diversity, craftsmanship and "preservation momentum," along with walkability, safety and community.
Much of the housing stock was built in the 1880s, when architects were designing residences for well-to-do merchants who operated nearby businesses. The neighborhood got its name for its location, high above Bassett Creek and Oak Lake.
Old Highland fell into decline during the 1970s when middle-class residents migrated to the 'burbs, and were replaced by absentee landlords. But residents fought back, forming an active neighborhood association.
"This area has always been stigmatized as a rough part of town, so it wasn't on my radar," resident Amy Narum told the magazine. But after moving into her partner's duplex, "I quickly realized that people here are really friendly and really close."
Old Highland (bordered by Plymouth, West Broadway, Aldrich and Girard) has a website, www.oldhighland.org.
What's your favorite "old house neighborhood" in the Twin Cities? And what do you love about it?
Well, that was fast! Just a few years ago, the fancy home theater was a must-have.
Every high-end Parade home had one, complete with a huge projection screen, plush seating with cupholders and dramatic mood lighting.
Now, it seems, the home theater is already a bygone fad, like poodle perms and "Flashdance" legwarmers.
We still like our home entertainment and electronics. But with flat-screen TVs all over the house and gadgets that move with us from room to room, we're more likely to want a charging station for our devices than a whole room outfitted for viewing.
The decline of the recently red-hot media room emerged from a survey by the National Association of Home Builders (www.nahb.org). Today's homebuyers are practical and value-oriented, according to an article analyzing the data, by Steve Kerch (http://finance.yahoo.com/news/kiss-these-10-once-popular-home-features-goodbye.html)
Other once-popular features that are now on the wane include:
1. Outdoor kitchens and outdoor fireplaces
3. Two-story family rooms
4. Two-story foyers.
5. Master-planned developments.
6. Luxury master bathrooms
7. Formal living rooms
8. Whirlpool tubs
What about you? Which of these home features do you already have? Do you enjoy them? Would you buy or build them again?
The website's name requires one of those SFW acronyms, lest you think that viewing anything described as "porn" is a one-way ticket to the Human Resources boo-boo room.
Of course, viewing Free Cabin Porn (http://freecabinporn.com) at work may be a one-way ticket to missing another deadline due to unchecked daydreaming. Among the many rabbit holes of the Internet, this one is a long tumble.
The site is a Tumblr blog featuring page upon page -- 24 and counting -- of cabins from around the world. The range is astonishing, and sometimes amusing. There are the jaw-droppers perched on precipices or tucked against waterfalls. There also are the shacks. Each of them exudes a sense of potential achieved or potential yet to come.
Don't look for mansions snarkily described as cabins. These really are smaller scaled retreats, escapes, second homes, primary homes. Many are marvels of efficiency, spareness, simplicity, self-sufficiency. Mixed amid the affordable are the aspirational.
The blog was created about three years ago by Jace Cooke and Zach Klein, the guy behind Vimeo, an online video-sharing service. He's been quoted as saying he envisioned the blog as “inspiration for your quiet place somewhere.”
Viewers are encouraged to post their own photos of cabins, but only photos. This truly is a site where pictures are meant to take the place of thousands of words. Gazing at image after image after image really can take you out of your humdrum present. The absence of words helps you forget that these are someone else's cabins. They could be yours.
Maybe you're looking for ideas for your existing cabin. Maybe you're contemplating your first. Maybe you're OK with, or resigned to, just dreaming. (Remember: dreaming is tax-free.)
In any case, just as gardeners rev up their exterior dreams nowaways thanks to the flood of seeds catalogs, Free Cabin Porn gives those of a more interior ilk their own excuse for faraway looks.
Consider the site SFD - suitable for dreaming.
I just spent a week eating my way across southern Spain. Paella, tapas, decadent pastries and rich cheeses .... I indulged in them all, and washed them down with lots of sangria and rioja.
Yet I arrived home two pounds lighter than the day I left. How? I walked. And walked. For hours every day, savoring the sights, sounds and scents of Seville, where my collegiate daughter is studying this semester.
I ate twice as much as I typically do at home but felt fitter and healthier and slept better every single night -- even on unfamiliar hotel beds. Yes, I was on vacation, so I had the luxury of time. Yes, Seville is warm in March, so it's a lot more pleasant to be outdoors than it is in Minnesota.
And, yes, there are plenty of places to work out in Minnesota, including the employee fitness center on the floor right below the butt on which I'm now sitting as I type this.
But it's not the same as having physical activity naturally incorporated into daily life the way it seemed to be in Seville -- even for Spaniards who weren't on vacation. (Overweight folks were a rare sight on its streets, sidewalks and urban bike paths.)
When I lived in Minneapolis, I also found it much easier to weave activity into an average day because I lived only a short walk from a grocery store, a video store, a drug store and a coffee shop. I could easily combine a walk with an errand, and there were many appealing places to stroll.
But since moving to suburbia 14 years ago, my life has gotten a lot more butt-centric, and my neighborhood is at least partly to blame. I still sit on my butt most of the time I'm at work. That's unavoidable. But now I also sit on my butt during my longer commute and every time I have to run an errand. My cul-de-sac has no sidewalks. And there's absolutely nothing within walking distance except for other cul-de-sacs. Sure, I can take a "walk." But I can't walk TO anything. And that makes walking a lot less enticing and a lot less frequent than it was for me in Seville -- or Minneapolis, for that matter.
That walker-friendliness is the thing I miss most about living in the city.
I'm heartened to know that developers are now incorporating walkability into more suburban subdivisions. And I find it interesting that you can now check a neighborhood's "walk score" (www.walkscore.com) before buying into it, as my fellow Homegirl Lynn Underwood blogged about a few weeks back. (My 'hood rates a dismal 22 out of 100.)
What about you? Do you think I'm just making excuses? And if you live in car-dependent suburbia, how do you work activity into your regular routine?
Remodeling is a hot topic — judging from the record turnout at the AIA Minnesota/Star Tribune “An Evening of Architecture and Design" event at International Market Square last week.
More homeowners are staying put and exploring ways to make their homes better, which means more energy-efficient, functional and smarter for the way they live today -- and for the future.
A panel of four AIA accredited architects gave advice on “Designing to Stay” and answered questions about the latest green building materials, working with a contractor and how architects charge for their work. They said they will design and advise on almost any size project and offer a wide range of services. You can just meet for a one-hour consultation, if that’s all you want.
New York architect Dennis Wedlick’s amusing presentation of the 12 Home of the Month winners put any doubt to the notion that architects don’t have a sense of humor. A juried panel chose the dozen recently built or remodeled homes from around the Twin Cities. The projects run the gamut -- from a modern sustainable steel-roofed home (photo pictured by Troy Thies ) to a revamped Hastings farmhouse with a kitchen to die for.
I hope you’ll check out our Home of Month photo spreads and stories on the first Sunday of the month in the Homes section. They just might inspire you to knock down some walls and open up your living spaces, put on a four-season porch or update your cheerless 1980s laminate kitchen.
I’m fed-up with my narrow front foyer because there’s no room to greet or say goodbye to guests. I wish I could bump it out 10 feet.
What bugs you the most about your home? What do you want to change?
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