April 08: Design, living and trends for home and garden

April 08: Design, living and trends for home and garden

I screen, you screen

Summer is almost upon us with days full of sunshine, long languid evenings, barbecues…and bugs. No one likes a party crashed by insects, so now is the time to make sure your screens are in tip-top condition.

Cat got your screen? You can probably repair it yourself

The first place to check for damage is the frame. Look for loose joints, broken hardware, or corrosion. If a hole is close to the frame, it will cause the screen to sag, so it is better to replace the whole thing than to try and patch it. Otherwise, only if a hole exceeds 3" will the screen need to be replaced: smaller than that and you can patch it yourself.

Patches should be at least 2" larger than the hole to ensure complete coverage. Excess can be trimmed later. To repair with a patch, unravel some strands two or three rows into the patch and then weave them into the edges of the hole, making sure to bend them and/or seal them with household cement. For small holes, simply weave the loose strands together and apply household cement. Fiberglass and plastic screens are harder to patch and more often need to be replaced completely.—Lily Robertson

Almost-personal chef

It’s your turn to host book club, but your signature dish—chips and salsa—just isn’t going to cut it for a discussion of Pride and Prejudice. What do you do? You could call Ashley Hightower, chef and owner of Dinner at Home catering company.

Hightower—a UVA graduate who started catering in 2003 after cooking school in England and stints at the Ivy Inn and the Clifton Inn—specializes in small affairs at your home (get it?). She can do everything from plated dinners (for approximately $35 per person, depending on the menu) to heavy hors d’oeuvres (for about $20 per person). And she can either leave the serving to you (so you could pass it off as your own; although, Elizabeth Bennet would not approve of such pretense), or she can provide serving and clean-up staff.

Ashley Hightower’s a caterer, but small home affairs—not weddings for 200—are her specialty

Hightower is flexible with the menu, and she uses local, seasonal and organic ingredients as much as possible—“I don’t want to make it, if it’s not how I would do it,” she says. Hightower could also conduct a private cooking class at your party, and really, who actually talks about the book at these things anyway? Contact Dinner at Home at 296-4514 or chef@ashleysdinnerathome.com.—Katherine Ludwig

…And they will come

A recent Saturday saw five kids, assorted parents, two dogs and a single lady with knitting attend an open house hosted by Blue Ridge Cohousing (blueridgecohousing.org), one of over 100 groups across the country (including Blacksburg and Abingdon) that are dedicated to environmental and community development.

Idyllic, no? The ideals that Elizabeth Hoover and other Blue Ridge Cohousing members go beyond aesthetics to community-building.

How’s it work? Eleven families have purchased six acres in Crozet running down to Parrott Creek from a charmingly ramshackle 19th century house sitting atop a picturesque ridge. They plan to build 26 houses, leaving four acres for woods, gardens and trails. The old farmhouse is being renovated as a commons.

Equity members join the LLC and can select one of 26 sites and one of four house models (including “universal design” accommodating wheelchairs), which range from $200,000 to $400,000 with several units set aside for affordable housing.

Their agreement is the same as a homeowners’ association, with a similar monthly fee, but what people are really buying into is the idea of ready-made community, ecologically designed, with neighbors happy to share meals and help with kids, pets and quotidian emergencies. “That was how Crozet felt growing up out here. We had chickens. It’s something I’d like my kids to grow up with,” said one young woman.

Find out more at an open house, held each weekend day 2-4pm, or call (540) 250-3262.—Cathy Clary

Art for the starving

It’s not often that a passion for art and a passion for the Internet come together in such romantic harmony as at 20×200.com. Don’t expect to find any classical still-lifes in the selections; rather, founder Jen Bekman seeks to promote new, contemporary talent. She adds two new pieces per week to her online wares—one photo and one print. The result is a unique collection of bright, modern and dynamic art for your bare walls.

Darn good art—including Tema Stauffer’s “Palm Aire,” shown here—is featured on 20×200.com for shockingly low prices.

The name derives from the fact that each print comes in three sizes, priced accordingly. The smallest size constitutes the largest batch (200) and goes for $20. Next size up is the $200 size with a batch of 20, and then just two at the big $2,000 size. So even if you are spending less on art than you might on groceries, it still feels almost exclusive. Keep a keen eye on the site, as the smaller two sizes sell out pretty fast.—L.R.

What’s on your browser?

This month’s surfer: Jackie Binder, owner of Circa

What’s on her browser: www.auctionzip.com

What it is: A comprehensive site providing nationwide auction listings

Why she likes it: It’s a go-to website for Binder when she’s looking for something new. The site asks for your ZIP code, the distance you are willing to go, and provides a calendar of all the auctions in your area. Categories range from automobile to wholesale auctions, and each listing provides an inventory of items plus photos. Bidder’s heaven!


“It occurred to me that there was no challenge in building an aesthetically perfect palace if you could spend a million dollars on it. The trick was getting results for a tenth of that price.”

—Karrie Jacobs, from The Perfect $100,000 House: A Trip Across America and Back in Pursuit of a Place to Call Home