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Most recent posting below. See other articles in the column to the right.

What Do Insects Do in Winter? Some Come Inside Your Home . . .

Insects are naturally cold-blooded creatures and in order to survive the cold winters in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, they must find a way to adapt. Some bugs such as the monarch butterfly simply migrate before it gets too cold, while other insects overwinter in your home. But what exactly does overwinter mean?

To escape the winter, certain types of bugs seek the comfort of your home in insulated areas. Overwintering bugs will traditionally seek south-facing walls since they offer the greatest warmth due to sun radiation during the winter and will seek to "shutdown" in order to survive the coldest months. The bugs will also not eat, grow, or reproduce, which is why they are generally not considered an infestation.

Although the living space inside your home is nice and cozy, entering your house is actually an accident for these bugs since they typically enter your home through imperfections in your home's exterior. Once they are overwintering, often times they can wake up prematurely when it is too cold to go back outside which is when you typically see the bugs as they are exploring your home.

Some insects that have been known to overwinter are: Stink Bugs Paper Wasp Queens Elm Leaf and Lady Beetles Box Elder Bugs Leaf Footed Bugs In order to prevent the bugs from entering your home, listed below are some good preventative measures to keep overwintering bugs outside.

Caulk or seal all openings near doors and windows; around pipes, outlets, and vents.

Caulk any splits in siding and cracks in foundations and walls.

Seal cracks or openings under eaves and along roofs.

In addition to the preventative measures listed above, proactive pesticide applications by Cooper Pest Solutions can help to eliminate the invasion before it starts."

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Spicing Up a Room with Cultural Flavor

Interior designer Monique Duarte, owner of Duarte Decor, shares her ideas about design and how she works with clients to spice up a room based on their cultural background and tastes.

Tell us aboutDuarte how you integrate a home-owner’s background with interior design?

I start with preferences, then take into consideration an individual’s cultural influences. I like to push the envelope sometimes. A client might like green and not have a preference on hue, but I may give them three different hues to choose from to get a better sense of their style and how adventurous we can go. I do think color adds so much character to a space.

Even if you just paint, it makes a whole world of difference. It can make a room look like a whole new room. I do accent walls, and really push the envelope in those areas.

During the first consultation, I always like to tell them a little about myself, not only my experience in interior design but also my background. I studied abroad, in London, England for over four years and lived in Italy for about two years, working in international business and marketing. I like to share that with my clients because it influences how I work.

For example, I can relate with clients of West Indian culture, because from the age of 15, I was going to Trinidad and Tobago every year to visit family of West Indian culture. Also, having lived in Europe for many years, I was surrounded with people of all cultures from Italian, French, African, Asian, Indian, Russian, Latin and more.  So through life experiences I had an opportunity to learn about these cultures and what makes the people and their preferences in life so unique.  Through traveling and being exposed to different cultures, it has taught me how culture influences who we are. A lot of time it naturally comes out.

How do you put together a room when you have furnishings from different cultures or eras?

With interior design, there really are no rules. That is the art of design. You can mix themes. It’s taking the time to think through what is aesthetically pleasing to them and will also function well.

Some clients will say that they want an Indian feel throughout our home, because that is their culture. Or there may be a specific room, such as a children’s room, that is themed.

I have a current client who is Indian and wants that theme in their living areas, but their son loves soccer, and so his room will be reflective of that.

When you do design for a family who wants a certain cultural look, do you mix in modern colors—or do you stick with traditional colors?

We talk about what are the must-haves. What is the ultimate design look that they want.

What happens when you have two individuals from two completely different backgrounds? 

I do get that a lot. The husband loves contemporary design. The wife is more on the traditional side. Usually in that situation, I will sit down and give them some visuals, going through magazines and catalogues. There are certain aspects that they can actually come to a compromise on. They might like Provencal furniture with a French flavor.

New Jersey is very interesting because we are right near New York and Philadelphia and Delaware, all with unique pockets of clients and homes. It’s a diverse area. My experience in working with different types of clients, there’s a lot of Indian, and a mix of caucasian and Asian. We get a lot of clients from India, and want to infuse those characteristics into their interior design.

We also get Toms River area. And those are closer to the water, and want a coastal design. Those are always fun to designer, because my family’s from the Carribean, and I love the beach and the water.

Tell us about your background and how you got into design?

My mother is from Trinidad, which was an English colony. My great-grandmother was Indian. My father is African-American, from Atlanta, Georgia. My mother has her own design company in quilting and fabric arts. She was and still is an amazing artist, having won many awards, and work shown in art galleries in Virginia. My grandmother by trade had a degree in interior design & all her life made porcelain dolls, jewelry, and clothes for a living. So I naturally come from a creative family.

However, It took me longer to realize that I had a creative calling for my work in life. When I bought my first home, I was working in advertising, and decorating the house became my little baby and stress reliever. It had all white walls, and I took my time and designed it the way I wanted my home to be. I got so much joy out of doing it, and when I finally finished it, friends would come over and ask if I hired an interior designer. That’s when I knew I had a knack for this. I then went back to school to study Interior Decorating at Penn Foster University. And then I went full-force and started my business in 2012, at age 30. I’m serving mainly Central New Jersey, and I’ve been venturing out into boroughs of New York as well. In 2015, we will be launching our expansion into the Caribbean and Latin Market (Dominican Republic), focusing on coastal interior decorating, which I am super excited about. I’m looking forward to expanding into those markets.

What is a favorite project that you have done?

I worked on a project last year, and it was a challenging but rewarding project. I was working with a single professional woman, who lived alone and spent a lot of time at work. When she came home, she didn’t have a lot of organization. A lack of good systems in place to keep track of things. Things would pile up. She wanted design, but also organization.

I brought in an organizing team first, before doing any design. We helped her create systems for organizing and even helped her purge old items that she no longer needed. And then, completely redesigned the home.

She said she was so grateful that her home was transformed. It’s peaceful and conducive to her life. We did more than just design her home, it helped transform her life.

A part of design is making sure the things in your space are the things that belong there. From a functional standpoint and also aesthetically.

Sometimes people don’t realize clutter has an impact on your emotions and mindset. We trained her to put mail into a specific place, a consul by the doorway, with a basket for her mail.

And now she can use her dining room table, which she can now use for dining with her friends and family. Design changes how you can use your home.

In this project, the client’s cultural preference was more based on her behaviors and being very close to her family. She always had her aunts, nieces and mom visiting her home, because family time was very important to her. So to ensure that the design of her home was in-line with this cultural characteristic, we made sure that all the design elements we proposed kept in mind that she would have family over often.  We incorporated a sofa bed into the living room, as well as a nice, plush reading chair in her guest bedroom for when her mother comes to visit. So, cultural characteristics can be infused in many different ways. It’s all about getting to know your clients and delivering on their specific needs and wants, something in-line with who they truly are.

And when you can make that kind of difference, it’s very rewarding.

Have you always combined organizing and design?

We didn’t initially offer organizing. But we saw that sometimes it was difficult designing a home without organizing first. The home has to be functional. The company we use is Honeybee Organizing. All of my clients who have done this organizing piece first have been 100% satisfied.

For ideas and inspiration, visit Monique’s website,


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Master Bath Trends for 2015

(BPT) - When it comes to renovating spaces in your home, the master bath should be top of mind. Leading master bath trends for 2015 go beyond functionality to incorporate features that complement the design aesthetic and provide a touch of luxury for lasting results.

By understanding top trends and incorporating them into your remodel, you can instantly increase your home’s comfort, style and value. Renovated master baths are not only in demand, but bathroom remodels also provide one of the highest rates of return on investment. A midrange bathroom remodel recoups 72.5 percent during resale, according to Remodeling Magazine’s 2014 Cost vs. Value report.

Here are the hottest trends in master bath renovations for 2015:

Zen-like designs meet a contemporary aesthetic
Homeowners want modern designs with uninterrupted sight lines, but they don’t want their bathroom to feel cold or calculated. Master baths are becoming spa-like retreats with upgrades that help homeowners look and feel their best. The inclusion of modern technology, like programmable water features and smart televisions, is offset by designing with organic textures, like bamboo, cotton and marble for a Zen-like feel.

Subway tiles reign king
The master bath is the perfect place to incorporate tile work – it’s durable, beautiful and water resistant. Despite the availability of thousands of tile designs, one classic option is trending: subway tile. These aren’t grandma’s bland rectangle tiles. Modern subway tiles are available in a wide array of colors to add a splash of personality to master bathrooms. A few popular subway tile colors include slate gray, cobalt blue and winter white. Tile experts mix tiles of different colors to create truly timeless, one-of-a-kind designs.

Ultra-clear glass creates luxurious bathroom spaces
Today’s homeowners are embracing free-flowing light within the master bath for an open, airy spa-like feel. In order to display beautiful showers and let light fill the room, advanced glass is in high demand for shower surrounds. For example, stunningly clear Clarvista Glass is treated with a proprietary protective coating that makes the shower enclosure super smooth and easy to clean, and keeps it sparkling clear for the lifetime of the glass – no more dullness or corrosion that builds up over time due to the presence of heat and humidity. Available in clear or acid-etched to match any bathroom design, ultra-clear Clarvista Glass eliminates green tones found in other glass and offers lifetime protection, making it a stylish way to protect your remodeling investment. Visit to learn more.

Radiant heated floors increase comfort
Cold toes are the last thing you want when enjoying your master bath, which is why radiant flooring is considered a must-have for 2015. Heated flooring is trending particularly in areas where the temperature drops during the evening or the winter is lengthy. Electric radiant heat is typically installed under tile flooring and is regulated with a temperature gauge – an effective way to add luxurious warmth to the entire master bath suite.

Spa-like showers create a personal oasis
More than just a place to get clean, homeowners are using the master bath shower as a place where they can escape the stresses of daily life and enjoy personal time. In order to create this oasis, designers are incorporating a variety of upscale features into showers. From steam showers, designed to open pores, to multiple shower heads that provide mist from every angle, the shower is more customized than ever before.

Modern metallics add visual interest
Metals used in the bathroom add visual interest and style. While stainless steel is a safe choice, higher-end bathrooms frequently feature metals that convey interesting colors and textures, such as oil-rubbed bronze and brushed nickel. Brass tones are making a comeback in unusual hues like warm-colored copper, and these options add richness to the overall bathroom design.

Big and bold light fixtures create personality
Homeowners are setting all subtleties aside when selecting master bath light fixtures. Unexpected lighting will be a statement piece for the master bath in 2015. From glamorous crystal chandeliers to clusters of hand-blown glass globes or drum pendants made with laser-cut metal, light fixtures are the finishing touch that redefines a master bath’s personality and functionality.

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House Beautiful's Color Trends 2015

We asked 11 top designers to predict the design color trends of the upcoming year. From olive greens and bright patterns, to "Monet meets Molly Ringwald," these chic combinations may be the next big thing.

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Michael Emro Painting Contractors, Inc.
Baxter Construction
Greenleaf Painters, LLC
Beco, Inc.
Julius H. Gross Inc.
Andrew Sheldon Architect
Action Lawn and Landscape
N.C. Jefferson Plumbing, Heating, & Air Conditioning
Lasley Brahaney Architecture + Construction<br>

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