The hall in Sharon and Dave Byers' 3,700-square-foot home is long and, well, rather sterile.

As a gardener, fall is always an exciting time for me because I know it's the perfect opportunity to enrich the soil in my garden beds. With many seasons and successful gardens behind me, I know the work I do in the next few weeks to prepare my beds has everything to do with the success I have in subsequent years. I also believe it's one of the main differences between the productivity of my garden versus others' gardens I see in my travels across the country.

EVANSVILLE, Ind. - Q: My house is less than 10 years old and some of the appliances are starting to wear out. First it was the garbage disposal, had to buy a new one, then it was the sink faucet, they gave me a new one, and now it's the bath fans. One of the fans is making so much noise we no longer use it. Did I buy a lemon or is this to be expected?

When it comes to decorating ones' homes, it isn't about how much money you spend, but about creating an appealing environment that reflects your personality and how you live. While heading to the nearest boutique or big box store can be an exhilarating thrill, before you pull out that credit card, consider the more economical approach of shopping your house.

The distance between runway fashions and home decor gets shorter every season. This spring, designers such as Givenchy, St. Laurent and Altuzarra stole the stage with lustrous shine for both day and night. Lust-worthy mirrored handbags and metallic mukluks had fashionistas begging for more and sent the hearts of interior designers into alpha rhythms.

"Aprils have never meant much to me, autumns seem that season of beginning..." Truman Capote said of this languid season when the maples come into their glory. It is also the season of beginning for planting trees.

Dear Helaine and Joe:

On a chilly fall or winter night, my favorite thing to do after a long day at work is soak in a hot bath then burrow into a cozy, soft, warm bed. I'm out like a light! Since we spend so many hours of our lives ensconced in our beds, especially when the days are shorter, make sure your bedding is irresistible. At Nell Hill's we like to create bedding ensembles that are a delight to the senses so soft, warm and beautiful you'll never want to get up. Here are seven stunning looks to tempt you.

Dear Angie: I've noticed some dead spots in my grass. How can I tell if the cause is some kind of pest, improper fertilizing or something else? In spring, I noticed a vole trail and what looked like a rodent hole.

If you plant them, they will come.

Q: Dear Ed, I have read your previous columns on kitchen faucets and most have been about "pull-out" or "pull-down"-style faucets. What is the advantage of having the spray head built into the faucet spout? I would like to install just a standard-type kitchen faucet that has a normal spout with a remote spray. But, if I am missing the point, please let me know.

My neighbors were planning a large renovation to their home and they took me to dinner as a pre-apology for all of the inconveniences they knew would be coming. The sound of a jack hammer at 7 in the morning is not my idea of a great way to start the day, but that pre-apology has gone a long way toward keeping the peace ... and it got me thinking

A-list actress Meryl Streep has sold a home in Hollywood Hills West to New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez for $4.8 million.

Jeff Garcia, the retired NFL quarterback who was named quarterbacks coach of the Montreal Alouettes in early August, has called an audible on his estate in Rancho Santa Fe, north of San Diego, listing the property for sale at $7.75 million.

BERKELEY, Calif. - Back in 1930, artist Ray Boynton built a small redwood-clad cabin in the Berkeley hills, situating it with a northern exposure to receive indirect daylight - perhaps perfect for an artist's studio but a snub to the property's eye-boggling views of the bay, San Francisco, the Golden Gate and beyond.

Three years ago, my family and I drove overnight from Maine to New Jersey, trying to get home ahead of Hurricane Irene.

The word "bottlebrush" alone should make you want to grow it, but when you consider that the flowers are 4-inches wide and 12-inches long and are produced in huge quantities, it really should make you want to go shopping. If there were a poster child for underused plants however, the bottlebrush buckeye would be the spectacular winner.

The waning days of summer are a good time to make sure your home isn't putting out a welcome mat for insect invaders.

Richmond is rich in gardens.

SAN RAMON, Calif. - Fran Paxson figured to get a little credit and admiration when she replaced the old lawn around her suburban San Ramon home with drought-resistant plants.

He wanted a contemporary in the forest. She wanted a traditional home on the water. They owned a substantial piece of Orcas Island, off the coast of Washington State, along its northern beaches that could swing either way.

The house in Rancho Mirage that was thought to be purchased by President Barack Obama sold for $3.5 million to a couple from Omaha, Neb., with no apparent ties to the commander in chief.

Instead of letting your summer vacation memories fade with your souvenirs into the back of a closet, make your travel mementos a part of your home decor. Here are some do-it-yourself ideas for giving your travel tokens a permanent place in your home.

The McClatchy-Tribune News Service is pleased to announce the latest addition to the At Home package, a weekly design column by Cathy Hobbs.

Dens are often designed to be "man caves," but that doesn't mean they can't be family-friendly, too.

One of the best places in your home to showcase the bounty and beauty of autumn is on your dining table. I think of this wide open plane as a ready-made stage that's just waiting for a show-stopping presentation that celebrates the colors, textures and iconic images of fall.

Architect Alissa Pier loves north Minneapolis and its old, architecturally rich housing stock. She and her husband, Brent, have lived on the city's North Side since 1998, in three neighborhoods, and have no desire to make their home anywhere else.

At first, Baldwin Homes didn't build green. Then it dipped its corporate toe in - one home here, another there.

How would you use your home if you didn't know what the rooms were designed to be? Some would be easy to figure out, but what about all those other boxes?

In my many years of personal gardening and horticultural consulting, I firmly believe there are two factors more responsible for a healthy landscape than anything else. First, putting the right plant in the right place. It sounds simple but you'd be surprised how often this basic principle is violated. Second, do all you can to make sure your soil is healthy by providing the conditions and nutrients your plants and lawn need to thrive.

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