Alyssa Sparacino

"Put a bow on anything, and I'm happy."

Alyssa is the Online Editor for HGTV Magazine. She lives in a cozy brownstone apartment in Hoboken with (she likes to think) tons of charm. The older building provides character in a growing town just across the Hudson from New York City. A mirrored vanity and a gallery wall are next up in her bedroom re-do.

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Posts By Alyssa Sparacino

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The HGTV Magazine staff started out the New Year with a refreshed, refurnished, and revamped conference room! All thanks to our friends at HGTV HOME!

The redo experts took our boring office space, and transformed it into a stylish, colorful, and cozy spot for meetings, brainstorming, and okay, a little partying! Check out our before and after pictures below. Plus find details on specific paint colors, fabric patterns, and more HGTV HOME furniture and products used in the makeover.

before after conference room

Boring before. Awesome after.

Chairs: HGTV HOME Furniture Collection Dining Chair (2572 and 2572-02A) in Smoke (HG73, fabric and 9, color) with nailhead trim
Dining Table: HGTV HOME Caravan Rectangular Dining Table in Two-Tone (4386)
Credenza: HGTV HOME Caravan Entertainment Credenza in Midnight (9486)
Rug: HGTV HOME Flooring by Shaw Nirvana in Gray (00500)
Tray Tables: HGTV HOME Design Studio at Bassett Style Boost Tray Table (6HG7-K604) in Green
Pillow Fabrics: All HGTV HOME fabrics are available at Jo-Ann fabric stores or joann.com. Like a Diamond in Fog (window seat), Round Trip in Lagoon, Souvenir Scroll in Lagoon and Fog, and Chevron Chic in Harvest
Paint Colors: HGTV HOME by Sherwin-Williams in Cooled Blue (SW 6759) on the walls, and Sealskin (SW 7675) underneath the window seat.

conference collage

For more behind the scenes fun at HGTV Magazine, follow us on Twitter @HGTVMag. Want more? Subscribe here to get every issue sent straight to your door or digital device.

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HGTV Magazine always comes through for pages of cool DIY ideas, budget decorating buys and totally doable redos, but sometimes the greatest inspiration is born from eyeing some seriously stylish homes. We wouldn’t call it stealing (OK, maybe a little), but being a copycat has never looked better.

These families full of spare-time remodelers, DIY decorators, and everyday homeowners just like you opened their doors for HGTV Magazine‘s June issue, and we’re giving you pre-newsstand access. Go ahead: Take these awe-inspiring ideas for your own home. After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

June cover

For most people, finding a vintage yellow stove in the basement of their new home would only pose the question of how to remove the massive appliance. The Stephens family, on the other hand, saw only possibilities in the 20-year-old La Cornue range. They designed their entire home around the pieceand got it up and running again)!

vintage yellow stove

Shannon Quimby’s home is both brand new and rather old. Before knocking down the existing structure to build their new home, she and her husband salvaged tons of recyclable items. Fast-forward (or travel backward) into her new kitchen full of reused and repurposed DIY items to get your creative juices flowing.

Shannon Quimby kitchen

All of the HGTV Magazine house tours are fabulous in their own right, but this transformation from shack to breathtaking beach house just might take the cake. Click through the entire photo gallery to look at the amazing before-and-after images, and see how the Brooks family is enjoying their waterfront home now.

Brooks beach house

For all this and so much more (RE: expert advice on just what to buy, the right color to paint your house and a guide to get your home vacation-ready), pick up your copy when it hits stands on May 14, or become a subscriber here.

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The second installment in our Homeowner Help series comes from the moment when you’re running crazy late to an event, go to lock the side door, and (ARGH!) the key snaps off in the lock that’s been jamming lately. Now what? Well first, know that you’re definitely going to be more than a few minutes behind schedule. Now you have an excuse, right? Secondly, don’t panic, because after reading our step-by-step, you’ll know just how to tackle this problem.

How to Remove a Broken Key From a Lock

What to know: If you can see a bit of the key, follow these steps. If not, bite the bullet and call a locksmith.

unclog toilet

1. Spray a lightweight oil like WD-40 or Liquid Wrench into the keyhole.

2. Using tweezers or needle-nose pliers, grab the top of the key (not the teeth) and try to pull it out.

3. If you can’t get a good grip with pliers, cut a wire hanger and bend one end into a small hook. Insert it into the lock under the key’s teeth. Wiggle it around to help you coax out the key.

Learn more from Homeowner Help

Originally appeared in the May 2013 issue of HGTV Magazine.
Illustration by Brown Bird Design

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These days microwaves have more buttons than a TV show control room, so zapping a plate of leftovers becomes a serious challenge. Not to mention the aftermath of a splatter can create a sticky mess with a huge radius. The appliance can be a real time-saver though, and one that even pros use, so to keep it humming along, we went straight to the source. Here’s what your microwave would say if it could talk:

microwave

“Microwave-safe dishes are always a good idea”
Glass and ceramic dishes that aren’t microwave-safe absorb the machine’s energy instead of letting it pass through to the food, so they can crack or become too hot to touch.

“Close my door gently, please”
Slamming it could blow the internal fuse so the machine won’t turn on. Then you’d have to call a pro to replace the fuse. Bummer.

“Use that popcorn button!”
When you press a button designated for a certain food, such as popcorn or a frozen meal, you activate the machine’s humidity sensor. This adjusts an item’s cooking time based on the amount of steam it releases, leaving you with a perfectly done dish.

“I’m easy to clean. I promise”
If you’ve let spills sit too long, mix 2 tablespoons of lemon juice with 1 cup of water in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat and let boil for three minutes; keep the door closed for five minutes more. The steam makes gunk a cinch to wipe away, and the lemon zaps odors.

“Cover with plastic or a paper towel? It depends”
If you’re cooking something that you want to stay moist—like chicken or veggies—loosely shield the dish with microwave-safe plastic wrap. But use a paper towel for foods that should stay drier or crisp, like pizza or fries.

The microwave is made for more than Easy Mac. Even chefs nuke stuff!

  • Asparagus “Sprinkle with water, salt, and a drizzle of olive oil, then heat on high for 30-second intervals.”—Geoffrey Zakarian, chef at New York City’s The Lambs Club
  • Chocolate chips “Heat on low for a minute or two until melted, then use for chocolate-dipped strawberries.”—Ellie Krieger, author of Small Changes, Big Results
  • Potatoes “I like to ‘power bake’ them whole for about six minutes on high.”—Alex Guarnaschelli, host of Food Network’s Alex’s Day Off

Some content originally appeared in the May 2013 issue of HGTV Magazine.

READ MORE
Appliance Answers: Solve Your Dryer Problems
One-of-a-Kind Kitchen Design
Dreamy Kitchen Appliances

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No matter if you’re a first-time homeowner who is basically clueless or a seasoned mortage-holder who is, well, still clueless, there are things you can learn to do around the house without calling a repairman (or your parents).

Here begins your journey to becoming the Mr. or Mrs. Fix-It of your home. Check back routinely for more from our Homeowner Help series, and you’ll walk away with a set of skills everyone should have.

How to Switch Out a Showerhead

What to know: Bring your old showerhead to the hardware store to make sure your replacement will fit the arm that’s already in the shower.

showerhead illustration

1. Clamp an adjustable wrench around the nut at the base of your showerhead. Turn counterclockwise until you’ve loosened it, then unscrew it with your hands to remove it. With a damp rag, wipe away any residue around the pipe.

2. Wrap plumber’s tape—a thin, flexible white kind used on pipes—around the threads of the shower arm a couple of times. It’ll help create a tight seal and prevent leaks.

3. Put your new showerhead on the end of the shower arm, and tighten by turning its accompanying nut clockwise with your fingers. Then turn on the shower to check for leaks. If you see any, tighten the nut again until the dripping stops.

Originally appeared in the May 2013 issue of HGTV Magazine.
Illustration by Brown Bird Design

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Readers rejoice—the May issue of HGTV Magazine is bigger than ever before! That means more how-tos, more budget decorating, more house tours, more landscaping ideas, more expert tips, and more design inspiration—whew, that’s a lot more stuff.

May cover

180 pages behind this cheery cover

The issue hits newsstands on April 9, but subscribers’ mailboxes are being stuffed today. Feeling a little left out? Sign up here to become a subscriber and be amongst the crowd who doesn’t have to wait (or even leave their home) to get the latest design, decorating, and DIY advice. For now, here’s a sneak peek inside the largest issue yet.

decoupage poster dresser southern sunroom

Find seven cool decoupage crafts like this pop art dresser! Mod Podge can still be cool—we swear. Love this pretty in pink sunroom? See how the homeowners brought new life into the room and the rest of the house after recovering from damage caused by Hurricane Katrina.

paper mobile To create this non-nursery mobile, the homeowner strung paper spheres together on fishing line. See this and a zillion other unique touches inside this family’s farmhouse.

Smart Home bathroom

Step inside the 2013 HGTV Smart Home (and enter to win it yourself beginning April 11) to find a programmable shower that remembers your favorite water temperature each time, and an auto-shut-off soaking tub—and that’s just the bathroom!

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mod podge jar smallThe editors at HGTV Magazine are bringing back Mod Podge in a big way. Take a look at the projects from our May issue, and read on for tips and tricks to make the most of your own ideas

  • Any kind of paper is fine for decoupaging, but if you’re using computer printouts or photos, first spray them with a clear acrylic sealer (like Krylon Crystal Clear, $5.50, dickblick.com) to keep the ink from bleeding.
  • You can find all types of Mod Podge: matte, glossy, sparkly, fabric, outdoor, even glow-in-the-dark. Crafter’s choice!
  • Use a cheap bristle or sponge brush, since you’ll probably toss it when you’re done.
  • For curvy items, like these drawer knobs, use thinner paper, such as paper cocktail napkins or a map, which will be easier to mold.
  • After gluing on the paper, smooth out air bubbles with your fingers (for curvy items) or an old credit card (for flat surfaces).
  • Once you Mod Podge the paper on your item, you can immediately add a layer of it on top. Let that layer dry before adding more topcoats. The more layers you brush on, the glossier it will look.

Originally appeared in the May 2013 issue of HGTV Magazine.

READ MORE
Fun Idea: Decoupage Your Light Switch Plate
DIY: How to Create a Fabric Headboard
Springtime Crafts: Flower Bulbs in Eggshells

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We’re confessing—well actually, you are—in every issue of HGTV Magazine.

Our Sound Familiar column features readers, homeowners, renters, parents, and young adults just like you. They dish on their quirky household habits and everyday observations that we’re all familiar with, and now it’s your turn! Email us at hgtvmagazine@hearst.com with the subject line Sound Familiar. Clue us in on your own habits, nuisances, or helpful tips, and you could be featured in an upcoming issue! Sometimes we just need someone to say “Me too!” Read on for some of the recent submissions. We know you can relate.

couch pillows
“Why can I never get my baking sheets 100% grease-free? I scrub and scrub, but there’s always that mysterious oily film.”—Kristin Shrout, Lee’s Summit, MO

“I can’t stand when there is cooking time left on the microwave—like if popcorn’s been popping and someone takes it out before the beep. Those final seconds that stay on the display drive my crazy!”—Shannon Watterson, Worcester, MA

“I line up my couch pillows 100 times a day—even though I have a toddler who likes to dive in and say ‘Mama, look at da big, big mess.’”—Lucie Leblois, Washington, D.C.

“I use this trick every time I’m late getting home at night: As soon as I walk in the door, the first thing I do is set the table. Even thought dinner hasn’t even been started, it makes my family think things are in progress.”—Deb Erickson, Holdrege, NE

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For the April issue of HGTV Magazine, we rescued, rehabbed, and resold five pieces of used furniture. Some items went flying off the online shelves, while others required a little more negotiating and patience. We learned that making money off redos can get tricky, but there are key strategies that can help. Read on for our secrets to selling success, and take a look at our before and afters here.

Sheffield Vintage banner
Come up with a cute name
All sites require a seller ID—give yours a catchy name and logo to draw more attention. We called ours The Sheffield Vintage and created a logo that conjured up the stylish, DIY look we wanted.

Sell on more than one site
Expand your reach by setting up shop in multiple places. We posted all of our projects
on online marketplaces ebay.com, etsy.com, and furnishly.com (a Craigslist-style site for furniture). Or go offline and try local flea markets.

Price it right
Look up what sellers with products similar to yours are charging. Listing your items too high could get you passed over.

Be very descriptive
When providing info about your products, offer plenty of details, including dimensions, finishes, and materials. If you don’t tell potential buyers up front, they’ll ask later or just move on.

Post at least five pics
And make them good! That means clear, well-lit photos with plain backdrops and different angles, including close-ups.

Be patient
It can take months to make your first sale. Some of our items didn’t move for what felt like ages. We used that time to tweak our listings to attract more buyers, and we eventually sold everything we rescued!

Originally appeared in the April 2013 issue of HGTV Magazine.

READ MORE
Flea Market Flips
Transform a Yard-Sale Lamp
Simple DIY Art Projects

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Imagine that your dryer could talk. No, you aren’t suddenly a part of “The Brave Little Toaster.” The editors at HGTV Magazine asked themselves what this laundry room appliance would have to say about how to keep it running smoothly. Don’t take it from us—listen to your dryer.
washer and dryer
“Dryer sheets can gunk me up”
If you use softener-coated sheets, keep in mind that, over time, the residue sticks to the lint filter and clogs it. Twice a year, scrub the filter with a nylon-bristle brush and an all-purpose cleaner. Then rinse the filter and pop it back in place.

“Yikes, I may not be up to code”
If the vent pipe (the hose that leads from the dryer to the outside) is flexible plastic, it no longer meets fire codes—the dryer’s heat could cause it to collapse and catch fire. Get a metal duct instead.

“Wipe away stains, stat”
See ink or dye on your dryer’s interior walls? Clean them with a solution of 1/4 cup bleach to 1 gallon water before the stains become permanent. Then tumble dry some damp rags to catch any ink residue that could transfer to future loads.

“Wrinkles? Run a smaller load”
The more room clothes have to move around, the less likely they are to wrinkle. So fill your dryer only half to three quarters full. But if you’re drying just one thing, toss in two similar items to balance out the drum and ensure even tumbling.

“I hate, hate, hate lint!”
A lint-jammed dryer not only takes longer to work, it’s also a major fire hazard. Clean the lint filter after every cycle. And every year or so, hire a service technician to clear out the vent pipe and the inside of the dryer’s front panel.

Still perplexed about what certain settings mean? Give these cycles a spin:

  • Permanent press: Uses medium heat to protect colored clothes from fading and prevent wrinkles from forming. It’s best for synthetic fabrics like nylon and polyester.
  • Steam refresh: A 15-to-20-minute cycle that blasts dry clothes with steam or heated mist to help remove wrinkles or static without washing.
  • Reverse tumble: Alternates the direction the dryer drum spins to prevent loads from twisting and wrinkling—good for delicate clothes when you don’t have time to iron, and bulky items like bedding.

Some content originally appeared in the April 2013 issue of HGTV Magazine.

READ MORE
HGTV Dream Home 2013: Inside the Laundry Room
Beautiful and Efficient Laundry Room Designs
Quick Tips for Organizing Your Laundry Room

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