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Design Notes

> Picture this

Do you find yourself with idle picture frames around the house -- ones you bought on clearance or scooped up at a garage sale? Here are some ways to put them to use -- other than for their intended purpose, as suggested by the Washington Post:

* Swap the glass in any frame with a mirror. A grouping of shapes and sizes on a wall can be striking, and bounces light around.

* Turn a large, sturdy frame into a tray for an ottoman. Display a collage of photographs or postcards behind the glass, or let the fabric of the ottoman show through.

* Buy decorative cupboard handles and attach them to the sides of a frame, creating an accent piece and an organizer on a dressing table or nightstand.

* Let the frames be the artwork: Take out the glass and backing, and let painted or papered wall show through.

* Hang frames at odd angles, turning a square into a diamond, for instance, with or without art inside.

> Design tip

Decorating your home for fall can expand beyond pumpkins and gourds. Consider draping glass tabletops with shawls and throws, for example. Or add autumnal colored candles to your mantelpiece (along with those pumpkins and gourds, of course). Fall-themed table runners are another option.

> What next?

The Hammacher Schlemmer Holiday Preview catalog has arrived, and a few items give one pause. First, there is the "Light Display Projector" designed to create "the illusion of gently falling snow on the exterior of your home" ($79.95).

Also for outdoors is the "Animated Santa Motorcycle" with 700 lights and animated wheels, spokes and wheels that appear to be moving (($1,099.95, slightly less for the Mrs. Claus version.)

And we haven't even gotten beyond page 6 of the 88-page catalog (although we hear there's a "Life-Sized Lighted Toy Soldier" on page 50.).

> On the web

To create a healthy home environment, occupants need to keep it clean, dry, safe, well-ventilated, well-maintained and free from contaminants and pests. Now, a new Web site, offered by the National Center for Healthy Housing, describes what people need to do -- and for how much money.

A basement dehumidifier, which removes excess moisture, will cost about $130 for a typical two-story house, for example. Two non-skid pads for carpet runners will cost about $25 each. For more tips, click on

> And finally . . .

"Houses are meant to be lived in! Living is a messy business. We have to learn to relax when the bed isn't made and the living room rug needs to be vacuumed." -- Alexandra Stoddard, designer/author, in her new book "Time Alive: Celebrate Your Life Every Day" (Collins, $19.95).

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