Hot Off the Vine

The Truth About Insects and Bugs

We talk about inspiration a lot here at Kudzu because our job is to provide a resource for both information and the best local service providers to help get your “inspired” home projects (both big and small) done.

Like the way the woman in this commercial was motivated to change the exterior or her home, all because of a pair of earrings…

But sometimes you have a project based on pure need, rather than inspiration.  Take pest control, for example.  Unless you want little critters crawling and flying and biting their way across your home, garden and loved ones, you need to take action.  (Hint: Kudzu is all about helping you find the right pros for these kinds of tasks, too.)

Not all pests are bugs, in the true sense of the word… as in, “These things really bug me!”  Some  are truly valuable to our eco-system.  And some, like these insects below, are truly beautiful… (Talk about inspiration!)

I have no idea what this guy is called, but he is gorgeous in the most eccentric way…


This, of course, is your everyday ladybug…


And something called a banded demoiselle


And here’s what’s called (I kid you not) “yellow-winged darter”…


A scarce swallowtail…


And a couple of absolutely spectacular butterflies…


You can’t miss these colorful guys…



(The one above is actually a type of praying mantis.  Amazing.)

Okay, getting back to reality.  SOME pests really ARE pests, like the (ouch!) dreaded red ant, so common in the south.  (Stay away from those anthills!)


By the way, in case you need more reasons to detest fire ants, keep in mind that they both “bite” AND dig into flesh with their horny little feet.  And apparently do so with great relish.  Maybe a little mustard, too.  (Sorry, couldn’t resist…)

Below is a gentler soul– the carpenter bee.  Now keep in mind a carpenter bee isn’t really harmful to people, or to most of your home and garden.  That is, until it decides it wants to burrow into your deck or other wooden structure around your home.   In that case, you need to call a professional.


Ugh.  The dreaded fly.  This reminds me of that old movie (appropriately titled “The Fly”).  Those eyes.  Those wings.  The little voice yelling, “Hehhhlp me”!  (Sorry, I digress…)  What ARE flies, anyway?  Annoying.  Just plain annoying.  ‘Nuff said.


Even worse is the cockroach.  In some areas of the south, “tree roaches” (which look exactly like their city-dwelling cousins) are also called palmetto bugs.  And they are HUGE.  Because I’ve lived in both big cities and the south, I can’t deal with either type.   If they’re in my house, I want them gone.


At last.  We come to our summertime favorite, that loveliest of lovelies (insert dripping sarcasm right here)—the mosquito.  Here in Atlanta, it will be prime-time mosquito season pretty soon.  I actually saw my first mosquito of the season two weeks ago on a tennis court around dusk, and it was as big as a full-grown moth!  (And I know many insects have tremendous value, but I can’t honestly think of anyone who thinks mosquitoes have any redeeming qualities whatsoever.)


So many pests, so little time.  There certainly is no shortage of not-so-pleasant bugs to contend with at this time of year.  (Although in the eyes of their mothers, they’re all beautiful.)

Now’s a great time to find a top-rated pest control professional, though.  (And what better place to do so than at Kudzu?)

The Tiles of March

Ah, tile.  It’s not your momma’s cold, hard bath surface anymore.  Tile has become one of the most versatile, beautiful, customizable—and useful– “accoutrements” for your home.

Tile as a flooring choice is fantastic– especially if you have kids or pets because it’s long-lasting and tough as nails.  (Not to mention the fact that it can be great for hiding minor flaws and those annoying specks of dirt that crop up every minute of every day.)

Best of all, you can install designer tiles (hand-painted like the ones below or otherwise) and lay them out in a customized pattern to produce a floor or wall that transforms into a one-of-a-kind work of art.


And tile can be used anywhere.  Below is a great use of tile in a cozy little attic space…


And tile can be made from hard materials, or soft… like the tile on the garage floor below…


Glass tile can add brightness and sparkle to a kitchen backsplash…


And can add depth above a countertop, and can create the look of stacked bricks…



A listello border can be added to either wall or floor tile, to break up a monotone (and potentially monotonous) color scheme…


Of course, if flooring’s your thing, you just can’t beat tile (unless we’re talking hardwood, of course).  Speaking of hardwood, the following is actually vinyl tile! (It’s defined as tile because of the way it’s installed.)


Another example of vinyl flooring—this one would be great for a playroom…


Here’s an example of concrete tile—the use of horizontal and vertical patterns can really add dimension to one room, or can be used to separate two rooms (or areas of one room) beautifully.


And talk about beautiful, this Minton floor resides In the U.S. Capitol building…


Here’s a beautiful entryway that showcases stone tile so effectively…


Check out this stone tile—between the walls and the floor, it creates a ton of character in this home.  And that custom medallion… priceless.


At last we come to ceramic tile… what many people think of first when they think “tile flooring.” (Great pattern and colors here, by the way, and it carries through all the way up the garden tub steps.)


More ceramic for a patio floor and enclosure (note the custom inlaid designs on the walls)…


What a dramatic use of porcelain tile—this flooring really makes a statement!


By the way, in case you didn’t know, porcelain is ceramic’s distant cousin.  Both are made of clay, but porcelain is actually made from a more purified and refined clay.  So it’s a lot more durable and dense.

A post on tile wouldn’t be complete without a shout-out to marble…


Just keep in mind that marble does need a lot more maintenance than ceramic or porcelain.  It needs to be sealed—not only after installation—but after most major cleanings to maintain its lustrous appearance.  It’s also very porous and a lot more sensitive to temperature changes.

But, oh, it is gorgeous… especially when inlaid as a marble “rug” as shown here…


Finally, just  a quick peek at how tile can be used in all sorts of decorative ways, from table tops and chair backs…


… to knick-knacks, bookends and wall hangings…


A nice way to end this…


I’ll have more on this popular option, in a future blog post.  Next week, we’ll be all about bugs.  Yes, you read that correctly… bugs.  (It’s officially springtime, you know!)

In the meantime, if you’re looking for a reputable flooring contractor (for tile or otherwise), be sure to start by searching on Kudzu.

Spring into Landscaping

Ever look out on your yard around this time of year and think to yourself, “So much to do… so little time (not to mention money)…”?  Like the friendly-looking couple seem to be doing in this TV commercial for Kudzu:

Scratch that.  They actually look very happy throughout the spot and clearly spent a fortune on their outdoor renovation when all was said and done… adding that Japanese garden and bridge and who knows what else.  So what was my point again?

Oh yeah.  When it comes to your home’s outdoor space, a little inspiration really CAN go a long way.  Inspiration can have you outside this weekend, adding an immense vegetable garden to your back yard (with or without its own dining space, as shown here, from House Beautiful):

Of course, sprucing up your outdoors could mean something a lot more elaborate—a project that will probably require a professional landscaping service.

But you can save some money at the onset and start by sketching out a rough plan of what your “dream” landscape would look like.  You can also download a set of free plans from sites like Better Homes and Gardens.

Obviously, your costs will be determined by how much land you have, whether or not you’re doing any hardscaping and what kind of plants and materials you use.

So what follows is a little landscape inspiration.  Start with a BIG idea and then whittle it down from there, depending on your time and budget.

This country house, below, inspires me.   (And I’m always in awe of how a great design can transform a patch of land– a small portion of the entire lot, really– along with some rocks and stones, plants and flowers into this kind of a lush and picture-perfect landscape!)…


Here’s a city house with fantastic curb appeal…


Next up: A house in the ‘burbs that uses LOTS of different types of shrubbery (and even some vines) to perfectly accent this Tudor)…


Of course, this post wouldn’t be complete without a shot of a postcard-ready home with the proverbial white picket fence


And I couldn’t resist sharing this absolutely gorgeous, jazzed-up entryway (LOVE the colors, the accent trees… ALL of it!)…


Here’s a great before-and-after (see inset for the before) from a landscaping company…   Talk about curb appeal!

And take a look at a few retaining walls and borders– they not only serve a purpose, but also add dimension and depth to a landscape…





And the addition of a patio (with or without a built-in fireplace!), deck or outdoor water feature can create a true oasis in (or, rather, outside) of your home…







By the way, pricing can vary, but you can get a good idea of what your patio costs will be, here.
So… ready to transform your outdoors (even if it’s just one small bed)?  Find out about more of your lawn and landscaping options, or start searching for a landscaping professional.

Time for Spring Cleaning (AND Organizing)!

Okay, I’ll admit it—I’m a pack rat.  There.  It’s out there.  Done.

So in the spirit of “spring cleaning” and “getting organized” for the season, I thought it a good time to ‘fess up to that little tidbit.  I also thought it might be a good time to INSPIRE you (and maybe, just maybe, motivate myself) to get things organized at home– whether you’re a pack rat like me or not.

We’re currently trying to organize our unfinished basement, which has become a disaster of a storage area over the last few years.  (I’ll spare you any photos—if I had any, they’d be gruesome.)

But here’s one that’s close to what ours looked like last week (found on this site)…

Actually, this screen shot is a little extreme… even for me.  I tend to be more of a disorganized packrat behind the scenes.  So in other words, things look all tidy and nice on the surface… but, oh, what lies beneath!  (Hmmm… they say you ARE your surroundings.)  But I digress…

I think it’s the same “they” that doles out that kind of advice who also says that when you’re trying to organize your home, you need to start in small bites or chunks.   That means don’t set aside a whole weekend for organizing your entire home.  It ain’t gonna happen.  And if, by some miracle, you DO get your entire home organized in a weekend, then it wasn’t that disorganized to begin with… and/or you pulled a string of back-to-back all-nighters and are heading to the office or to the school PTA meeting on Monday morning with a de-cluttering nightmare of a hangover.  Not good.

So be kind to yourself.  Start with a pantry.  Or a closet.  Say to yourself, “I’m going to turn my pantry into a place I’d LIKE to go on Saturday afternoon.” Then get to steppin’.

Here’s a pretty good example of a “before-and-after” pantry.  The “after” is a definite improvement with the wicker baskets.  Especially if you have wire shelving.  (If you do, you KNOW how those small boxes and bottles tend to constantly fall over. ) But there is still too much of a mish-mash of non-related bottles and jars on that lower shelf for my taste.  (I may be a packrat, but I’m still pretty persnickety…)

Now here’s MY kind of pantry, photo courtesy of… (not that mine looks anything like this, of course!)  See the sliding baskets and drawers?  Not to mention the WOODEN shelves.  Everything is grouped together so, *SIGH*, neatly…  A slice of organizational heaven!

And here’s a before-and-after on a closet that shows what a little time and a couple of extra shelves will do (a company called Clutterbusters was the organizer)…

There are, of course, a myriad number of ways to organize.  I personally like the “4-pile” approach.  So when removing all of the junk from these closets and other spaces, sort it all into separate piles as follows:

-          Treasure (keep)

-          Trash (self-explanatory, no?)

-          Donate/sell

-          ? (This is your “not-sure-what-to-do-with-this” pile… so you don’t get hung up making the decision!)

Back to pictures of organizational mayhem.  Here’s a split-screen shot of a closet in a kid’s room.  Rather tidy “after.”  Looks like all that was needed here was an additional hanging rod and some clear plastic crates…

(By the way, for a quick look at closet organizing AND ideas for closet systems, watch this video.)

Anyway, you get the point.  Start with the smaller areas.  Do one of those for a couple of hours each day.  THEN move onto the bigger stuff… like the dreaded kitchen…

There’s a lot going on in the “before” above, as posted on  (Hint: Store things within cabinets—not outside of them.) Much cleaner “after” look below.  (Yes, it is the same kitchen.)

So “piles” aside, it’s pretty clear that a huge part of getting organized comes down to adding or changing your storage resources.  Meaning that shelving and bins and baskets can do wonders, as seen in this garage organizational system cobbled together with great Container Store finds:

And here’s a nifty solution to organize an entryway or mudroom (LOVE that blue beaded-board wall).  Here you’ve got keys, a calendar, notes, tickets…and, of course, assorted notebooks, toys and other must-haves for the busy family.  Add a shoe bench and a unique umbrella stand underneath and you’re in business…

So circling back to where we started– that disorganized basement… I just had to share this “re-run” of a fantastic finished basement, originally found on this blog– complete with pristine workout room and uber-organized play area for the kids.  (Dare to dream!)

Ready to get going?  I can tell you–  I’m on it.  Ready to roll.  No more Mrs. Pack Rat.  (My husband is just laughing and laughing right now cuz he’s not buying it…)

Of course, if organizing your home seems like a miserable, tedious chore (it’s because it is!)—AND you want to keep your weekends free—there are plenty of organizational pros that you can find right here on Kudzu.  Be sure to check them out.  (And if a deep Spring cleaning is more up your alley, find a housecleaning service while you’re at it.)

Crazy for Countertops

“Inspiration can come from anywhere.” Those words are the backbone of Kudzu’s latest TV commercials. (If you haven’t seen these spots, by the way, here’s one you can check out…)

When it comes to what we do here at Kudzu, “inspiration” can mean actually (finally!) getting those pesky little household tasks on your to-do list done…

OR it can mean installing a new pond in your backyard after being so in awe of the “Water Lilies” painting at last weekend’s Monet exhibit…

Or, like the cool Oxford-shirt-wearing mom in Kudzu’s aforementioned TV spot, it can mean desperately wanting new countertops after seeing the cover of your child’s astronomy book. (Actually, “desperate” is probably not the right word for her.  Pensive. Daydreaming. Wishful. Those might work.) No, desperate is really on ME—I actually want those new countertops (desperately!), but not because of my son OR his book. (He’s 8 and doesn’t even take astronomy yet.)

I want new countertops because mine are 15 years old and NOT granite (or Silestone, slate, recycled glass, quartz or any other jazzy kind). Mine are 15 years old and white. Oh, and did I mention they’re LAMINATE? Sturdy, yes. Affordable—sure. But elegant? Eye-catching? (Stain-resistant?) Uh, not so much.  Not my 15-year old stuff, anyway. But laminate has come a long way, baby.

Take a look at these, courtesy of Formica

(Yes, that IS laminate.)      

And so is this.












And so, remarkably, is this.










But getting back to other types of countertops– if you’re thinking about new ones (as I clearly have been), what follows is a little “inspiration” for your kitchen’s soul…

Glass.  A-MAY-zing. That’s all I have to say about these. Made from recycled glass—what’s not to like? These are from Thinkglass. They’re certainly gorgeous, but you couldn’t pair these with white cabinets (like mine) without making your kitchen look a bit… well, sterile. But they’re so beautiful and “peaceful-looking”– like having an ocean in your kitchen! Not to mention the fact that they’re eco-friendly. (Wait, wasn’t “A-MAY-zing” all I was going to say on the subject? Oops.)

Here’s a soapstone countertop with oiled finish, courtesy of Dorado Soapstone. Sleek. Elegant. Nice.

This is also soapstone with a more natural finish. Reminds me of a slate hearth. Good touch for a kitchen that leans more rustic…

Next up: Concrete countertops— one of the strongest materials around.  However, keep in mind that concrete isn’t stain-resistant because it’s so porous. Keep it sealed, though, and it can last for 20 years or  more.

Red quartz. How snazzy is this?  (This beauty was made by Caesarstone and installed in HGTV’s Green Home in 2010.)

Paperstone. That’s right—made from a composite material… basically recycled paper!  This example’s from Paperstone Products.

Copper countertops. Be careful with copper—it’s extremely vulnerable to scratches. So as long as you don’t use your countertop as a cutting board (like we do at our house– tsk, tsk), you should be okay.  You have to admit– copper’s unique. (We like unique.)

Wood. Yes – plain ol’ WOOD. These are NOT your mama’s butcher block countertops from the ‘70s. Stunning. Great for a kitchen island, if not your entire kitchen.

Of course I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a shout-out to world-famous Corian—still popular in many homes today, thanks to its durability and low maintenance…

And here’s another recycled countertop– this one’s by Cosentino. 75% of it is made from a variety of recycled materials such as broken mirrors, windshield glass, ceramics and more. It’s also non-porous and resistant to scratches and stains.

Finally, this post wouldn’t be complete without a look at some granite options. Granite’s still wildly popular in most areas of the country, despite the many, MANY other materials that are desperate to compete with it. (There’s that word again.)

While we’re on the topic of granite, here’s my beloved Uba Tuba—what my husband and I have been leaning towards for our renovation this spring. Our inspiration? Seeing this same countertop choice displayed in the home of our good friends. (Sometimes that’s all it takes.)  See the subtle flecks of silver and copper and gold embedded in the black stone?  Little flecks of heaven…

Uba tuba aside, I will say I’ve fallen a little bit in love with some of the recyclables out there (like that A-MAY-zing glass). Hmmm…

Feeling inspired? If new countertops are in your future, be sure to search on Kudzu for a reputable local dealer or installer. (And don’t forget to read the reviews!)

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