South County Spring Home & Garden

Local pros offer inspiration and tips for making large and small changes inside and out


The sun is shining, the snow icon appears less often on our weather apps, and suddenly after months of hibernation, we’re filled with enthusiasm to take on household projects. Maybe you’re ready to start that first garden, get clutter under control and organize, and even do a little redecorating. We’ve sourced advice from local pros to help you decide what goes on the DIY list and when it’s time to call in the pros. Let’s get started!

Let’s Start a Flower Garden

By Elyse Major

Once nurseries begin displaying their flats of colorful blooms, who among us can resist wanting to try our thumbs at gardening? Even if you don’t know your aster from your perennial, Block Island’s The Farmer Florist, Mimi Arnold, has useful tips to share. Arnold grows and arranges seasonally and sustainably, and offers a seed-to-stem floral service to the community. 

“As a flower farmer and florist focusing on environmentally conscious and mindful farming practices, I arrange seasonally, and love to artfully connect my clients with color and elements of the natural world,” says Arnold.

While the term may sound like a flower that will return each year, annuals are one-season wonders. Unlike perennials which will come back, annuals are plants that germinate, flower, set seed, and die all in one season. When growing annuals, Arnold advises organizing crops into two categories: cold-hardy and tender.

“Cold-hardy annuals can tolerate low temperatures, usually planting in the fall to over winter or early spring,” says Arnold, who notes larkspur, poppies, and stock as popular examples. Tender annuals, however, “are annuals that will not survive low temperatures and should be planted after frost.” 

Once you’ve made your selection, Arnold advises doing a bit of research to learn what varieties benefit from "pinching." This is a form of deadheading, or removing the dead heads of flowers from their stem; if left on, the plant will stop producing flowers. “Pinching flowers will generate branching, and as a result, more blooms! Snapdragons and zinnias benefit from pinching.”

Another piece of advice: stay away from chemicals. “Not only do you want to stay safe in the garden, but think of those who also spend time among the flowers – children, dogs and cats, bees and butterflies.” To keep destructive insects and mildew away from her crops, Arnold leans towards things like diatomaceous earth (a rock powder), neem oil, and milky spore. “If weeds are an issue along your patio or driveway, use high-grade vinegar combined with dish soap and water.”

A key to farming healthy flowers is good, nourished soil to promote root growth and maintain a balance of water retention and absorption; this is done with added nutrients called amendments. “Amendments can get pricey, so use what's available around you. I like to use what's abundant to me on Block Island, like seaweed, fallen leaves, and horse manure.”

Ongoing work aside, Arnold wants growers to have fun with colorful harvests and holds regular flower crown workshops. “I enjoy encouraging playfulness and creative connection through flower crowns and florals where you can get creative with island-grown blooms and play with colors and textures, and leave feeling like royalty!”

Follow @thefarmerflorist_bi on Facebook or Instagram for more information on the next Flower Crown Pop-Up. Learn more at

Let’s Add a Rug

By Kim Valente

When you don’t want wall-to-wall carpeting or bare floors, an area rug is the perfect choice, but it can be hard to know where to begin. Area rugs are a great way to add coziness to your home with pattern, color, and texture, and can be used in all rooms of the house, including entries, living rooms, dining rooms, and bedrooms. Adding runners to wood stairs not only adds visual interest to the stairwell but makes the hardwood stairs less slippery and safer in stocking feet.

Open Concept

In an open floor plan, you can add a lot of visual interest by using differently patterned area rugs in the open rooms. The keys to creating a balanced look are to vary the scale of the patterns and to keep a common color between the rugs. If you have a living room, dining room, and entry all open to each other, use a large-scale pattern in one room, a small-scale pattern in another room, and a highly textured rug in the third room. The rugs could have different overall color palettes, but if they each have one color that ties them to the other rugs, they will feel cohesive. 

Material Matters

Wool rugs are great for high-traffic areas because wool is a durable and naturally stain-resistant material. Area rugs made from polypropylene are also designed for high-traffic areas and easy to clean, they’re also less expensive than wool. When selecting a rug for a high-traffic area, especially one where food will be consumed, look for a low-pile or flatweave area rug. 

Size and Shape

An area rug acts as an anchor for a room and when all of the pieces of furniture are on the area rug, it helps them feel connected. There are a few rules of thumb to follow for selecting the appropriate size of an area rug. In a living room or sitting room, the area rug should be large enough that at least all of the front legs of the chairs and sofas are on top of the rug. The rug could be larger so that the entire chairs and sofas are on the rug, but the area rug shouldn’t be so large that it goes wall to wall – you still want at least 12-18 inches of wood flooring showing between the edge of the rug and the wall. In a dining room, the shape of the rug should be based on the shape of the table – a rectangular rug under a rectangular table, a round rug under a round table. The rug should be large enough that the legs of the chairs are still on the rug when they are pulled out to sit down. 

A local professional organizer advises to begin with the kitchen

By Megan Schmit

 “If this is your first venture into organizing, instead of taking apart your entire kitchen pantry (which can be very overwhelming), start small,” advises Stephanie Pasley of NEAT Method Providence, a luxury organization service for homes and businesses. Pasley suggests emptying your “junk” or utility drawer and then “editing” – “determine what you no longer need or use that can be disposed of or put away elsewhere, and what you need to keep and put back.” Then, group those “keep” items together into categories (for example, writing utensils, tools, electronics, etc.) and corral them into smaller containers to place back into the drawer.

Set Up Zones

“Creating ‘zones’ throughout your home or business is a great way to get and stay organized and force others using the space as well.” Pasley offers the example of a “zone” in the kitchen as the lunch prep zone, which could be one or a couple of drawers devoted to reusable bags, foils, or wraps, and to-go containers. “We suggest decanting everything into containers and even labeling to ensure anyone making lunches can find everything they need!”

Label, Label, Label

“At NEAT Method, we love labels,” says Pasley, laughing. She suggests using labeled woven baskets to contain your least-used items to store on the top shelf in the pantry. “With a clearly labeled basket, you will always be able to tell exactly what’s inside without having to take out your step stool and pull the basket down.”

Revolve Around the Dishwasher

This is the most efficient way to set up your kitchen, explains Pasley. Keep your glassware, dish, and utensil cabinets and drawers in close proximity to the dishwasher to make unloading a breeze. Other most-used items should be given “prime real estate” in the kitchen after that, and least-used items should be placed in harder-to-access spaces that can be reached with a sleek step stool.

The Not-So-Lazy Susan

The rotating circular tray is one of Pasley’s personal favorites “because of its versatility.” A small wooden one, she says, can corral all of your oils and condiments in a cabinet next to the stove for a quick grab while cooking. On the other hand, a large plastic one can live under the sink to store all of your cleaners, and an acrylic divided Lazy Susan can be used to store kids’ snacks in the pantry. 


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