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We challenged bloggers to style a mantel in 30 seconds. See what they did and get their smart tips for decorating a mantel.

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Have you ever wanted to unlock your door with a fingerprint? Control the indoor and outdoor lights with your phone? You can do those things and more with a smart home. We show you how to get a home with connected technology and remote-operated devices that are designed to improve and simplify your life. We sift through the many options, including smart appliances, new apps, and smartphone and tablet innovation, and only bring you those that can make your life better. We give you tips and tricks for navigating the new home technologies and help you with buying decisions.

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Cast in Stone: DIY Landscape Accent

Hard as rock, concrete ornaments are easy to make. Even better, this versatile outdoor material is low cost and prettier than you might think. Try our techniques for customizing, shaping, and finishing concrete ornaments and outdoor decor.


    Everything in this slideshow

    • Having a Ball

      Concrete spheres bring lasting beauty to any garden. Cast a half sphere at a time, using 10-, 12-, or 15-inch-diameter molds. Sandwich two halves to make a round with a spread of mortar holding the pieces together. Dabs of outdoor acrylic paint add a mossy appearance that becomes even more realistic with weather and age.

    • On the Edge

      Plant some personality in your garden using concrete edging. It stands up to all kinds of weather and helps keep soil in beds, lawn and weeds out. Start with a concrete mold and a bag of extra-strength, fiber-reinforced concrete mix. Customize your creations with concrete colorants.

    • The Right Steps

      It's only natural to enhance your garden with leaf-shape stepping-stones. We used a large rhubarb leaf as a guide for sculpting these stepping-stones and completed a pretty, sure-footed path through the garden in a couple of hours. Resulting in a total cost of less than $20.

    • Step 1

      To do this project yourself, start by planning a path of staggered steps matching your stride. Carve each leaf-shape hole about 3 inches deep.

    • Step 2

      Lay a 1-inch drainable base of pea gravel topped by ½ inch of coarse sand in each hole.

    • Step 3

      Prepare the concrete, adding water slowly to half a bag of quick-setting mix (meaning it starts hardening in about 15 minutes).

    • Step 4

      Blend the concrete with a hand trowel until it is thoroughly moist and resembles chunky peanut butter.

    • Step 5

      Fill the hole evenly with concrete. Use your hands to press and sculpt the concrete into a leaf shape.

    • Step 6

      Place a rhubarb leaf vein-side down on the surface of the concrete. Press firmly to make a detailed impression. Lift off the leaf.

    • 10 of 15

      Step 7

      Enhance the veins, if you like, by deepening them using a wooden skewer.

    • 11 of 15

      Step 8

      Cover the stepping-stone with damp burlap. Keep it covered and damp to help strengthen the concrete while it cures for a week.

    • 12 of 15

      Bowled Over

      Here's a use for those lidless plastic storage containers: Make lightweight hypertufa pots (click here for instructions to make your own hypertufa mix) -- ideal for succulent plants.

    • 13 of 15

      Plastic Perfection

      Use pairs of slightly different-size containers to shape your pots. Before the concrete sets, poke a drainage hole with a cork.

    • 14 of 15

      For the Birds

      A simple basin settles easily into the garden's edge where feathered friends can drop in to drink, splash, and bathe. Form your birdbath in the garden by scooping out a shallow hole, shaping a 15-inch-wide and 3-inch-deep mold in the soil. Press bits of tumbled recycled glass into the surface of the still-wet concrete for a touch of sparkle.

    • 15 of 15
      Next Slideshow 13 Beautiful Bookcase Makeovers

      13 Beautiful Bookcase Makeovers

      Transform the boring bookcase or armoire that has been hiding in your basement for years into a fresh find perfect for any room of your house.
      Begin Slideshow »



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