TIME advice

5 Easy Ways to Make Your Dining Room More Enjoyable

Getty Images

Dining room furniture 101

Do you have a dining room or dining area that you just, well, don’t use? There could be some specific reasons why you’re not using your own space. If you want to, you could make sure your area has one (or more) of these five elements in it — you might find yourself dining in and enjoying the space more.


A small nook or space isn’t necessary to enjoy a good meal, but if you want a space that will beckon you for all meals and keep you staying there, you want to aim for a level of intimacy in your dining area. Great news if you live in a small space and the area you’re carving out for dining is already snug. But if you live in a loft or an open floor plan you just want to include elements that will tie the dining area to itself and enclose it slightly: a rug to define the area, a light fixture that adds warm light low near the action, a plant or two to help enclose the space.

Visual stimulation

Though one might argue that the food and the people should be the main show of a dining room, you (and your guests) probably aren’t going to want to hang out too long in a room with blank walls and a boring feel. And you might not ever make your way over to using your dining or breakfast area if there’s just nothing there to look at, smell, feel or experience. It doesn’t have to be a room so full of elements you can’t fit in there, but be sure your dining area has its own look and feel, and isn’t just a design after thought.

Comfortable seating

This is just dining room furniture buying 101: Make sure you can sit in your seating for long periods of time, or else you might always choose your living room couch for dinner time instead of your dining room.

Good lighting

Natural lighting is certainly preferable in many rooms, but might not be possible given your floor plan. In that case you want to supplement your dining area’s light level with good, warm lighting illuminating faces and food. You can do overhead hanging pendants if you’ve got the inclination, but sconces and floor lamps and candles in various combinations can do the trick, as well.

Location in place you’ll actually use

This is perhaps the hardest — but most influential — element to pin down of all. If you want to have a dining area that you use and enjoy, you want to work with your natural inclinations. If you prefer tucking away to your breakfast bar or nook to finish dinner rather than a formal dining room, put your design efforts there for more memorable meals. If you actually enjoy and prefer the feel of your sofa as you dine, consider creating a living area that can pull double-duty as a dining area. The point is to enhance the space you have and that you want to use, not try and force yourself into a change that just doesn’t fit your lifestyle.

This article originally appeared on Apartment Therapy

More from Apartment Therapy:

MONEY advice

Help! I get stuck with extra work when co-workers have sick kids.

Did you ever want to be a personal-finance advice columnist? Well, here’s your chance.

In MONEY’s “Readers to the Rescue” department, we publish questions from readers seeking help with sticky financial situations, along with advice from other readers on how to solve those problems. Here’s our latest reader question:

As the only non-parent, I get stuck when a co-worker has a school event or a sick child. How can I make things more fair?

Got a good answer? Submit it to us in the form below. We’ll publish selected reader advice in an upcoming issue. (Your answer may be edited for length and clarity.)

Please include your contact information so we can get in touch; if we use your advice in the magazine, we’d like to check with you first, and possibly run your picture as well.

TIME advice

How to Make Your Own Sparklers

A fun DIY project for your family

There are many motivations to DIY. Sometimes, as with stock made from scraps, it’s an economical choice. Sometimes, like with yogurt, we might prefer the end product to something store-bought. Sometimes, like with soapmaking and sewing projects, making something by hand lets us exercise our creative impulses and customize our belongings. And sometimes, DIYing isn’t cheaper or easier or faster or higher-quality, but we still try it—just to see if we can.

That’s why, for this Independence Day, I made my own sparklers. Yes, there are some scary-sounding chemicals involved; yes, it’s more expensive than buying a pack at your neighborhood fireworks stand (unless you live in NYC, where even those are hard to come by). But it turned out to be fun and empowering to make something that I’d never imagined I could do myself, and I learned a few things about chemistry along the way.

Note: Before you get started, do check your state and local regulations to be sure that sparklers are legal to use where you live! All good? Let’s do this.

Rocky Luten/Food52

What You’ll Need to Make 25 Sparklers:

25 12-inch bamboo skewers
Corrugated cardboard box (such as the one your ingredients were shipped in)

200 grams strontium nitrate* (an oxidizer, necessary for the fuel to combust)
120 grams steel powder* (a metallic fuel that contains iron, which, in this case, makes the sparks)
32 grams aluminum*, bright flake, -325 mesh (another metallic fuel responsible for making the sparks)
2 grams airfloat charcoal* (additional fuel for modifying the burning speed of the sparkler)
6 grams boric acid* (suppresses a possible reaction between the aluminum powder and water)
40 grams dextrin* (a combustible binder used to hold everything else together)
25 mL denatured alcohol, a.k.a. ethanol (available at hardware stores as a fuel)

Wire cutters
Glass liquid measuring cup
Mesh sieve
2 medium glass bowls (the ones in your kitchen will work and can be safely washed clean afterwards)
Small glass bowl or additional measuring cup
Long spoon or spatula
Tall, narrow, preferably disposable container to hold your chemical mix, such as a tall water bottle, a canister of oats, or a Pringles can
Scale that can measure in grams
Rubber gloves
Safety goggles

*These chemicals are usually only sold by the pound, so the most cost-effective way to DIY sparklers is to double, triple, or even quadruple this recipe. Consider ordering a kit like this one containing most of the chemicals from a fireworks supplier, which provides enough to make two batches of this recipe with large leftover amounts of a few of them. By supplementing with extra orders of strontium nitrate, steel, and aluminum, you’ll have plenty of supplies to make another few batches.

How to DIY Sparklers:

1. Make a sparkler drying rack and trim the skewers. Use a skewer to poke 25 holes all the way through the bottom of a corrugated cardboard box, spacing them at least an inch apart, and trim the pointed ends off the skewers using wire cutters.

Rocky Luten/Food52
Rocky Luten/Food52

Set up the box in a location where it will be undisturbed for a few days, spreading out a layer of craft or newspaper underneath to catch any drips. Position it on its side so that the sparklers will stick out horizontally when you put them in the holes to dry (this will prevent them from dripping down onto their own handles), and secure it with a counterweight inside so that the weight of the sparklers won’t cause it to tip forward.

Note: Protect yourself during the next steps by putting on rubber gloves. Some of the powders you’ll use are very fine and can float up into the air, so you may want to wear safety goggles as well to protect your eyes from stray particles.

2. Prepare your wet ingredients. For the liquid medium holding all the powdered chemicals together, measure 25 mL of ethanol and 75 mL of water into a measuring cup and set aside to use in the next step. (If you’re planning to make a second batch, go ahead and double this batch while you’re at it.)

3. Mix the dry ingredients. One by one, use the scale and small bowl to weigh out the strontium nitrate, steel powder, aluminum, charcoal, and boric acid, and add them to the medium bowl. If any of the chemical powders are clumpy (stronium nitrate, especially), remove clumps using your gloved hand to press them through a sieve as you transfer to the medium bowl.

Rocky Luten/Food52

Stir everything together, then pour the mixture through the sieve into the second bowl. This step ensures a thorough mixing and lets you remove any missed clumps or large particles. I found it best to push the mixture gently through the sieve with my gloved hand rather than shaking the sieve, to prevent fine particles from flying into the air.

Rocky Luten/Food52
Rocky Luten/Food52

4. Make a dextrin slurry. That’s right—weigh out the dextrin into the small bowl and add about 25 mL of the ethanol/water solution you made in the last step and stir thoroughly to form a mustard-colored paste. Break up any large clumps in the paste using your spoon or spatula.

Rocky Luten/Food52
Rocky Luten/Food52

Stir this paste into the bowl of dry chemicals, then dribble in approximately 65 mL more of the ethanol/water solution. The exact amount may vary (and it’s okay if it does), so just add a small of ethanol solution a time until the mixture reaches a thick, smooth, molasses-like texture. Stir to combine, squishing out as many lumps as you can with your spoon or spatula, and watch as your powdered chemicals transform into a shimmery silver solution that makes all this weighing and mixing worth it.

Rocky Luten/Food52
Rocky Luten/Food52
Rocky Luten/Food52

5. Dip. Pour the mixture into a tall, narrow, preferably disposable container like a Pringles can for the next step.

Dip and roll the bottom 7 to 8 inches of each skewer in the sparkler mixture, leaving the other 4 to 5 inches bare for a handle, tilting the container of mixture to make it easier. Let as much mixture as possible drip off the skewer back into the container by holding the skewer upside down for a few moments and shaking it gently inside the container—the more thorough you are with this step, the smoother your sparklers will be.

6. Dry. Insert each sparkler into a hole in the drying rack, cover the container of mixture to save it, and let the sparklers dry out for 24 hours.

Rocky Luten/Food52
Rocky Luten/Food52

7. Repeat twice. To finish the sparklers, you’ll need to come back for two more dips (for a total of 3), allowing 24 hours of drying time between each. You’ll likely find that the mixture in the container has thickened a bit overnight, so thin it with a few mL of the ethanol solution if necessary and stir well. Follow the same dipping/drying procedure as before. You’re still aiming for as smooth a coating as possible, but some lumps and bumps are inevitable and won’t be a problem for the finished sparkler.

After a total of three dips and a final dry time of 48 hours, the sparklers are ready to use.

Clean your bowls, sieve, measuring cup(s), and stirrer with soap and water immediately after using them. These items should be easy to clean as long as you don’t allow any sparkler mixture to dry on them—but toss them in the dishwasher after if you want to be extra safe. Be sure to wipe out any metal remains from the bottom of the sink, where they can rust if left in standing water. If any of the solution gets on your skin, don’t fret but do clean it off immediately!

When you’re done dipping, carefully discard the dipping container since it’s been in contact with the chemicals for some time (and if the spatula you used is at all porous, discard that, too). To be safe when discarding your container, newspaper, and anything else with dried sparkler material on it, soak these items in water until they are thoroughly saturated and seal them in plastic bags before throwing them away. Use this same treatment if you need to dispose of any unburnt sparklers. In addition, check your local regulations for any rules applying to disposing of this type of waste.

Rocky Luten/Food52

Using the sparklers
These sparklers can be tricky to light, so it’s best to use a lighter with a long handle (to keep your hand safe) or a candle, rather than a short lighter or match. It’s also easy to light the sparklers off one another after the first one is lit. Unless your dipping technique is perfect, these will also burn a bit less evenly than store-bought sparklers—but that’s part of the charm! If they’re difficult to keep lit, try holding them pointing downward (with the handle above the burning part) for a moment.

Rocky Luten/Food52

Unlike commercial sparklers with wire cores, the bamboo cores of these sparklers will partially burn away as the sparkler sparkles. Because the sparkler material burns faster than the wood, they won’t completely disintegrate but they could drop hot ash, so wear shoes and use extra caution.

As with any fireworks, follow basic safety precautions: Only use them outdoors and have water or a fire extinguisher on hand. Once you’ve burned them, douse the sticks in water before discarding. If you’re storing unused sparklers for later, keep them in a humid place away from heat and flame, and check for rust before using them if they’ve been stored for a while.

Enjoy your homemade sparklers during your summer celebrations (they’re also excellent as gifts and favors). Not only are you making your chemistry teacher proud (and your parents a little scared)—you’re also celebrating your own sense of adventure! You’ve got this.

This article originally appeared on Food52

More from Food52:

TIME twitter

Twitter’s Dick Costolo: Wall Street ‘Accelerates Short-term Thinking’

Twitter CEO Costolo and Twitter co-founder Dorsey walk the floor of the New York Stock Exchange during Twitter's IPO in New York
© Lucas Jackson / Reuters—REUTERS Dick Costolo

Former Twitter leader discusses pressures of going public

Twitter going public proved to be a tougher task than former CEO Dick Costolo initially expected.

The exec, who finishes his post atop the popular social media service on Wednesday, said in an interview with The Guardian that the pressures of meeting Wall Street expectations were severe.

“When we took the company public, I had an expectation that the market would evaluate us based on our financial metrics first and foremost,” he told the publication. “I probably would frame the way we were thinking about the future of the company differently, understanding how we were in retrospect evaluated.”

Costolo added: “You always want to keep focused on the long-term vision, yet when you go public you’re on a 90-day cadence and there’s a very public voting machine of the stock price that accelerates that short-term thinking.”

There’s an ongoing search to find the next CEO of Twitter; co-founder Jack Dorsey will lead the company in the interim. Costolo stepped down from the top spot unexpectedly earlier this year.

Costolo spoke with Fortune’s Christopher Tkacyzk in April to about his thoughts on leadership and free speech in the workplace.

TIME Careers & Workplace

6 Tricky Interview Questions (and How to Answer Them)

Getty Images

"What are your salary requirements?"

Have you ever walked into a job interview feeling totally prepared, only to be stumped by a tricky surprise question? You’re not alone.

Two recent Quora threads discussed the questions, “What is the toughest interview question thrown at you, and how did you answer it?” and “What are some examples of great interview questions?” To help you tackle your next interview with confidence, we pulled together some of the most surprising Qs being asked behind closed doors—as well as Quora users’ interpretations and real-life answers.

1. “Do you think you’re a lucky person?”

There are two things you want to avoid here: attributing all of your successes to luck and coming across as cynical. “I thought about this for a few seconds and came to the conclusion that they must be gauging whether I’m an optimist or a pessimist,” Quora user Philemon Onesias says. “I decided to show them I’m the former, but still quite realistic.”

2. “If you could relive the last 10 years of your life, what would you change?”

If you think this sounds like a spin on the classic “greatest weakness” question, you’re right. “Professionally, I answered, ‘I don’t think I’d change anything,’” Erin Millano says. “‘I’ve learned a lot in the past 10 years and [it’s] all helped me grow.’”

3. “What are your salary requirements—both short-term and long-term?”

Talking salary is tricky, but talking salary for both the present and future is even trickier. Kate Ross Myers took an open and honest approach with her answer: “I just truthfully said, ‘I did not expect this question.’ I guess it worked, because I’m still working for the same company.” Our take: Give a short-term range, and keep the rest vague. Something like, “I think starting in the range of X and Y is fair—and of course I’d expect an appropriate increase after my annual performance reviews.”

4. “Tell me about a time in your life when you actually failed at something.”

The best way to answer this toughie? ’Fess up about your failures. “After interviewing over a 100 people in my career, this is the question that literally separates contenders from pretenders,” James Hritz says. “It’s interesting how many candidates are loath to admit they have ever failed at anything!”

5. “What can you teach us?”

This question can be pretty illuminating for both the interviewer and interviewee: When Divya Prabhakar was asked, “What can you teach us?” in a job interview, she realized she actually wasn’t a great fit for the company. “It showed me the company valued an interactive and mutual working environment, and if I wanted to have a positive experience there, rather than feel inferior, I should be able to answer this question easily,” she says.

6. “Tell us the most effective approaches for managing you.”

What management style helps you work best? This question, from Quora user Branko Marusic, forces you into the shoes of your potential superiors. “The company wants to ensure that every new employee has the best chance of succeeding,” he explains.

This article originally appeared on Levo.com

More from Levo.com:

TIME psychology

How Warren Buffett Keeps Up With Information

Warren Buffett in an interview on May 4, 2015.
Lacy O'Toole—CNBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images Warren Buffett in an interview on May 4, 2015.

Shane Parrish writes Farnam Street

It's about having filters

A telling excerpt from an interview of Warren Buffett (below) on the value of reading. Seems like he’s taking the opposite approach to Nassim Taleb in some ways.

Interviewer: How do you keep up with all the media and information that goes on in our crazy world and in your world of Berkshire Hathaway? What’s your media routine?

Warren Buffett: I read and read and read. I probably read five to six hours a day. I don’t read as fast now as when I was younger. But I read five daily newspapers. I read a fair number of magazines. I read 10-Ks. I read annual reports. I read a lot of other things, too. I’ve always enjoyed reading. I love reading biographies, for example.

Interviewer: You process information very quickly.

Warren Buffett: I have filters in my mind. If somebody calls me about an investment in a business or an investment in securities, I usually know in two or three minutes whether I have an interest. I don’t waste any time with the ones which I don’t have an interest.

I always worry a little bit about even appearing rude because I can tell very, very, very quickly whether it’s going to be something that will lead to something, or whether it’s a half an hour or an hour or two hours of chatter.

This piece originally appeared on Farnam Street.

Join over 50,000 readers and get a free weekly update via email here.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME advice

How to Make Quinoa

Turn the delicious ancient grain to fluffy perfection

This article originally appeared on CookingLight.com.

More from CookingLight.com:

TIME career

10 Ways to Stay Motivated During Your First Job

Getty Images

Check in often

It’s hard to believe it was almost a year ago when I wrote, “Fears of A New Graduate.” It’s not hard to believe that, even back then, I knew one of the most difficult parts of my transition to the working world would be a job with no definite end point. To quote my freshly-graduated self, “With a new slate of classes every four months, and 10-week internships or summer jobs in between, college can foster a sort of schizophrenic way of thinking. The thought of accepting one job that will last for an indefinite period—while mostly exciting—can be a little bit frightening. If you don’t like a class, the endpoint is visible. If you don’t like some aspect of your job…well, you’re just going to have to find a solution yourself.” Thankfully, I now have a full-time job that I very much enjoy, working for and with people I like and respect. However, that doesn’t mean this particular anxiety has just evaporated. It hasn’t.

It wasn’t long after starting my first full-time job that I came to the startling realization that I had signed on for…who knows how long. I felt a little like David after Dentist… ”Is this forever?” Without a definite endpoint in mind, I realized that you have to approach work every day with a different mindset. Every day isn’t a race to the finish; it’s just piece of a much longer process. In other words: it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. And let me tell you, I’ve never been much of a distance runner, literally or metaphorically. So, I asked some experts how to stay motivated in your first long-term work situation. Here’s the best advice I got.

1. Know your “why.”

Executive coach Ray White says that Millennials need to be very clear with themselves about their “why”—go so far as to actually write these answers down and check back in with them: ”Why are you working, and more specifically, why did you choose this company? What do you want to accomplish with your life, and how will this job help you get there? How can this job help you matter and make a difference for other people? Knowing your ‘why‘ will get you through the tough times and give you a more positive attitude on a daily basis,” he says. ”It gives you the meaning in your life you need to prosper. Time will fly by if you know why you are working.”

2. Build personal relationships.

Several experts cited becoming friends with colleagues as one of the best ways to stay motivated on the job, and I couldn’t agree more. You don’t want to disappoint colleagues anyway, but you tend to want to do a great job for people you know personally, like, and respect. “You will be more productive, more successful, and have a lot more fun, if work is full of friends instead of strangers,” White says.

3. Appreciate the learning process.

As a Millennial who has experienced this feeling, Michael Ruttle gave me this great tip: “Constantly remind yourself that you are getting paid to learn.” See how lucky we are?

4. Now learn more.

One of my favorite pieces of advice for staying motivated came from entrepreneur, business plan expert, and founder of BusinessPlanToday.com Taylor Johnson, who suggests setting a goal to develop a new skill every three months, like Photoshop, SEO, coding, website design, etc. “Not only does it keep you motivated at work, but it also helps to build a resume that is chock-full of valuable skills,” Johnson says. “Let’s not forget that managers love to see employees who are motivated to better themselves and increase their value to the company.”

5. Set goals and milestones.

“An endless anything is simply too much!” agreed workplace culture consultant Steve Langerud. “At the end of the day, control and intentionality are the keys to staying motivated in your first job. Break your work into behavioral milestones that you control, and it will make it easy to stay motivated.” Specifically, select a problem you want to address and solve it. Then on to the next.

6. Recognize that your 9-5 life funds your 5-9 life.

Casey Fisk of Millennial-run company Boogie provided this perspective: “The dream is of course to do what you love, love what you do and forget the rest, but the reality of our current job market does not always afford Millennials that opportunity or luxury. Realizing that your life isn’t over simply because beer pong on a Wednesday afternoon may not be a feasible option anymore and embracing the long-term financial security and independence that full-time employment allows can be a sobering moment for Millennials.”

I think “know your why” really factors in here as well. Your “why” doesn’t necessarily have to be related to your career trajectory. Sometimes a job is just a job—a way to earn money to do other things you want to do. To that end, make sure you have a solid financial plan in place to pay off loans and start saving. You’ll find that watching your bank account grow is a pretty effective motivator.

7. Do more than what’s expected of you.

If you’re just flat-out bored with the tasks you’ve been given, execute them perfectly and then find new, more challenging tasks for yourself. Sandy Geroux of WOWplace says, “By going above and beyond what someone asks for (either by getting a deliverable to them before the due date, or by putting more into it than requested), you show people that you’re thinking of ways to make things better. Find ways to do your own job better, faster, easier, with more collaboration, etc. Focus on small things you can do to show people WHAT you can do, and they will start to come to you for other things once you prove higher levels of engagement and competence in your own position.”

8. Check in with your boss frequently.

For me, checking in with my boss regularly and keeping her apprised of the projects I’m working on is a great motivator. I keep a grid of everything I work on and send it to her at the end of each month, so she can see clearly what I’ve accomplished and what kind of value I’m adding to the team. It’s also a great way to stay on top of things and acquire more projects.

9. Think about it differently.

Admittedly, “no end in sight” is a bit of a dramatic way to put this. Executive coach trainer Rory Cohen pointed out that merely thinking differently about the indefinite nature of the working world can make a huge difference. “Does the languaging alone change the experience of motivated?” she asked. “Instead, think of how landing your first job after college or grad school after years of internships and shorter term assignments opens a world of possibility. Instead of ‘no end in sight,’ think ‘unlimited horizon.’”

10. Find a mentor.

Last but certainly not least, finding a mentor is a fantastic way to stay motivated and focused in your first job. Millennial expert and social entrepreneur Christie Garton says, “Your first year out of college is difficult enough; luckily, there are scores of other women who’ve been in the exact place that you have, and can offer invaluable experience to get you through that first year. Women who have faced the same challenges on their own road to success, and who want to now make the path a little easier for the next generation of women by sharing their struggles, answering questions, providing encouragement, and offering powerful insights gained through their own experience.”

This article originally appeared on Levo.com.

More from Levo.com:

TIME Travel

Paulo Coelho on How You Can Become a Better Traveler

Avoid museums

I realized very early on that, for me, traveling was the best way of learning. I still have a pilgrim soul, and I thought that I would use my blog to pass on some of the lessons I have learned, in the hope that they might prove useful to other pilgrims like me.

1. Avoid museums. This might seem to be absurd advice, but let’s just think about it a little: if you are in a foreign city, isn’t it far more interesting to go in search of the present than of the past? It’s just that people feel obliged to go to museums because they learned as children that travelling was about seeking out that kind of culture. Obviously museums are important, but they require time and objectivity – you need to know what you want to see there, otherwise you will leave with a sense of having seen a few really fundamental things, except that you can’t remember what they were.

2. Hang out in bars. Bars are the places where life in the city reveals itself, not in museums. By bars I don’t mean nightclubs, but the places where ordinary people go, have a drink, ponder the weather, and are always ready for a chat. Buy a newspaper and enjoy the ebb and flow of people. If someone strikes up a conversation, however silly, join in: you cannot judge the beauty of a particular path just by looking at the gate.

3. Be open. The best tour guide is someone who lives in the place, knows everything about it, is proud of his or her city, but does not work for any agency. Go out into the street, choose the person you want to talk to, and ask them something (Where is the cathedral? Where is the post office?). If nothing comes of it, try someone else – I guarantee that at the end of the day you will have found yourself an excellent companion.

4. Try to travel alone or – if you are married – with your spouse. It will be harder work, no one will be there taking care of you, but only in this way can you truly leave your own country behind. Traveling with a group is a way of being in a foreign country while speaking your mother tongue, doing whatever the leader of the flock tells you to do, and taking more interest in group gossip than in the place you are visiting.

5. Don’t compare. Don’t compare anything – prices, standards of hygiene, quality of life, means of transport, nothing! You are not traveling in order to prove that you have a better life than other people – your aim is to find out how other people live, what they can teach you, how they deal with reality and with the extraordinary.

6. Understand that everyone understands you. Even if you don’t speak the language, don’t be afraid: I’ve been in lots of places where I could not communicate with words at all, and I always found support, guidance, useful advice, and even girlfriends. Some people think that if they travel alone, they will set off down the street and be lost for ever. Just make sure you have the hotel card in your pocket and – if the worst comes to the worst – flag down a taxi and show the card to the driver.

7. Don’t buy too much. Spend your money on things you won’t need to carry: tickets to a good play, restaurants, trips. Nowadays, with the global economy and the Internet, you can buy anything you want without having to pay excess baggage.

8. Don’t try to see the world in a month. It is far better to stay in a city for four or five days than to visit five cities in a week. A city is like a capricious woman: she takes time to be seduced and to reveal herself completely.

9. A journey is an adventure. Henry Miller used to say that it is far more important to discover a church that no one else has ever heard of than to go to Rome and feel obliged to visit the Sistine Chapel with two hundred thousand other tourists bellowing in your ear. By all means go to the Sistine Chapel, but wander the streets too, explore alleyways, experience the freedom of looking for something – quite what you don’t know – but which, if you find it, will – you can be sure – change your life.

Paulo Coelho is a Brazilian lyricist and novelist.

This article was originally published on Paulo Coelho’s blog

TIME advice

Upgrade Your Bathroom With These Budget-Friendly Ideas

Getty Images

A small investment can make a big splash

These fresh takes on wainscoting, tile, flooring, and more make it easy to trade up to one-of-a-kind style.

1. Subway Wall

Create an accent wall with tile in a warm neutral color, like this soothing gray. Taking the tile all the way up to the ceiling will make the room appear taller.

Similar to shown: U.S. Ceramic Tile in Tender Gray Matte, about $30 for a box of 80 tiles; The Home Depot

2. Salvaged Shutters

Forgo pricey shades and dress up a window with painted shutters instead. Louvered-on-top designs like the ones here offer privacy without blocking light, and the adjustable slats let you direct the sun’s rays.

Similar to shown: Check out etsy.com for salvaged shutters, starting at about $25 each.

3. Mixed-Material Floor

Add some variety underfoot by combining textures—in this case, wood planks and pebble tile—for an unexpected twist that brings the great outdoors inside.

Similar to shown: Polished wine pebble tile, about $12 per square foot; Strata Stones

4. Beadboard Canopy

Give the ceiling a lift by covering it in beadboard and extending it down the walls a bit for a canopy effect. Paint it a tranquil shade of sky blue to evoke the porch ceilings of yore.

Similar to shown: 5½-inch-by-8-foot PVC beadboard panel, about $15; Lowe’s. Paint: Benjamin Moore’s Aura Bath & Spa paint in Sea Isle, about $70 per gallon; benjaminmoore.com

5. Sink Stand

Add a curvy console towel rail and gleaming chrome legs to a wall-mount basin—or even swap out a pedestal base—for a style and storage boost.

Similar to shown: American Standard Console Leg Set in chrome, about $330; The Home Depot

Read the full list HERE.

This article originally appeared on This Old House.

More from This Old House:

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com