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Get tips on decor, gardening, house repair at Indy event

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The snow, ice and freezing cold temperatures have forced most Johnson County residents into their homes for long periods of time.

Perhaps you’ve noticed a peeling and faded paint job, drab color schemes or dreary home decor and made the decision — it’s time for a few upgrades.

Winter is the time when home improvement visions are born. It’s the perfect season for finding unique new painting schemes, refurbishing old furniture and planning landscaping projects to tackle when the snow finally melts away.

For homeowners who have decided to take the plunge, they can find their inspiration at the Indianapolis Home Show. More than 450 vendors will have information on windows, kitchens and bathrooms, patio construction and other projects.

“People are looking at ways to decorate and improve their own homes,” said Laura Groninger, director of the Indianapolis Home Show. “It all ties in really well to people who are ready to get outside and start looking towards spring.”

Indiana home show

When: Friday to Feb. 2

Where: West Pavilion, Exposition Hall and South Pavilion of the Indiana State Fairgrounds, 1202 E. 38th St., Indianapolis

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Jan. 27 through Jan. 31; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Jan. 25 and Feb. 1; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Jan. 26 and Feb. 2.

Cost: $13 for adults ($11 if purchased online), $3 for children ages 6 to 12, and children younger than 5 are free.

Information: indianapolishomeshow.com

Special events

Marsh Day: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Jan. 27; visitors will be able to sample a variety of food items from vendors.

Hero Day: Friday; free admission for all military personnel and veterans, as well as those who work for police and fire departments.

Senior Day: Jan. 28; half-price admission for anyone age 65 or older.

Marketplace Pavilion: Friday to Jan. 26; a collection of local interior designers, artists, antique dealers and other vendors specializing in home decor.

The show will run from Friday to Feb. 2 at the Indiana State Fairgrounds.

Visitors to the show will be able to catch 10 different celebrity presenters, including Kevin O’Connor, host of TV’s “This Old House.”

He will be sharing insight into the workings of the classic television program, and revealing some of the background of the show’s current project — an Italianate home built in 1872.

He’ll open the program to questions to help local homeowners with their own home improvement problems.

“Everyone’s got a drafty attic or a leaky basement, so I always encourage people to bring their questions and talk about those types of things,” he said.

Beckie Farrant, a Greenwood resident and do-it-yourself expert, will present a program on decorating with unlikely items and trends in home decor.

Every year, the spotlight of the show is on the centerpiece home, Groninger said. Show organizers team with different home builders to construct, decorate and landscape an entire home on the fairgrounds.

This year’s version is a 4,100 square feet French manor house built by Fischer Homes. The structure includes brick exterior, four bedrooms and 3½ bathrooms.

Local interior designers A Touch of Class and Fisher have added furniture, paint schemes and decorations. This year’s theme is fresh and urban, Groninger said.

“This show has been going for 92 years, and every year, they do a home. It’s always been a mainstay of the home show,” she said.

For those more interested in exterior improvements, more than 25,000 square feet of gardens will be arranged inside the show space.

People can learn about emerging varieties of plants and flowers, as well as stonework and other accents to make landscaping pop, Groninger said.

“This weather has people climbing the walls, and people are definitely getting that cabin fever, thinking about flowers and their homes,” she said.


Who: Kevin O’Connor

What: Insight into the television show “This Old House,” which O’Connor hosts, as well as a question-and-answer session about historic homes.

Where: Indianapolis Home Show, on the Outdoor Living Stage

When: 1 and 3 p.m. Jan. 25

Information: thisoldhouse.com

People buy historic homes for the beautiful accents and antiquated features.

Gingerbread molding, decorative brackets and ornate carved posts give exteriors a fanciful look. Arched windows seem taken from a fairytale. Thick beams, hardwood floors and crown molding provide a touch of the past’s elegance.

But often, a structure built in the 19th century doesn’t meet the needs of modern life.

Kevin O’Connor’s job is to help bring that historic look into the modern era.

For the past 11 years, O’Connor has been helping homeowners get more energy efficient, transform unused basements and attics into living space and opening up cramped rooms as the host of “This Old House.”

He will be presenting at this year’s Indianapolis Home Show to share his secrets and answer questions about historic buildings.

“The biggest trend we see is people taking old houses and converting them so they serve the purposes of the modern family,” he said. “That means taking a structure that’s filled with old, small rooms, and opening up the floor plan.”

Reorganizing space by knocking down walls and opening up rooms is just one of the most pressing trends in the historic home improvement world, O’Connor said.

Though these homes are solidly built, many are not as solidly insulated as others.

“Energy efficiency is always a huge thing. And honestly, they’re trying to make their homes more comfortable,” O’Connor said. “I hear more people talk less about their pocketbook and more about the draft on the back of their necks.”

O’Connor was working on his own fixer-upper when he caught the attention of “This Old House” producers. He and his wife had purchased a 1890s Queen Anne Victorian house in Boston, Mass., with the intention of renovating the whole thing.

“It was a total gut job, but that’s what we wanted. We wanted to fix it up ourselves,” he said.

As they got into the project, more and more questions piled up. O’Connor had been a lifelong fan of “This Old House,” and emailed some of their concerns.

The producers of the show choose his questions to spotlight, and ended up filming a segment at the O’Connor home for a companion show, “Ask This Old House.”

O’Connor grew up immersed in home improvement. His father was a contractor, and he’d help with projects both at home and in the community.

So he had a natural enthusiasm for the show’s mission.

That short experience turned into an offer from the producers to host the “This Old House” shows.

“It was complete dumb luck,” he said. “They were looking for a regular guy, not an expert, someone who would ask questions.”

As host of “This Old House,” O’Connor has access to structures that most people would never see the interior of. He’s worked on some of the most historic homes in Boston and New England.

He’s traveled to New Orleans and New Jersey after hurricanes to help homeowners rebuild.

During a trip to Washington D.C. to work on a job, they heard the Lincoln Memorial was undergoing renovation. Going to check it out, the directors of the project invited O’Connor and other “This Old House” cast members to get up on the scaffolding around the carving of Lincoln.

“There had only been one or two other times that they had done these projects, and we were one of a dozen people to get up this close. I was literally touching the back of Lincoln’s head,” O’Connor said.


Who: Joel Karsten

What: Instructional program on how to create, plant and tend to a straw bale garden

Where: Indianapolis Home Show, on the Outdoor Living Stage

When: Noon, 3 and 7 p.m. Jan. 27, and 1, 3 and 5 p.m. Jan. 28

Information: strawbalegardens.com

A lush vegetable garden can be one of the joys of summertime.

Pulling ripe tomatoes, fresh cucumbers and spicy peppers from the plot that you toiled on for weeks can be enormously satisfying.

But not everyone has a spacious backyard and the fertile soil necessary for home farming.

That is where horticulturist Joel Karsten steps in. The Minnesota resident has developed a system that uses straw bales as gardening plots. The system is inexpensive, requires little to no weeding, and can yield a harvest in even the smallest outdoor spaces.

“It’s good for people who are just getting into gardening. Maybe they’re intrigued by it, but they’re not as knowledgeable about traditional gardening,” Karsten said. “This is a really quick, easy way to be successful.”

Karsten developed the idea for straw bale gardening 21 years ago, when he purchased his first home. He was surprised to find that he only had about 1 inch of topsoil on his entire property.

As a horticulturist, he knew that would never support the kinds of gardens that he wanted to have. Raised beds were an option, but he would have had to buy the materials for the garden boxes, then buy the nutrient-rich dirt to fill it.

With tight finances, that wasn’t an option.

Instead, he remembered being a child and growing up on a dairy farm. He could recall old straw bales that they had discarded up against the barn.

“After six months or so, it would get some weeds growing on top of it, and those would be the biggest, tallest, greenest thistles on the whole farm,” he said. “I put two-and-two together, and thought that I could use straw as a substrate instead of soil, since I didn’t have any.”

The idea has sprung into a cottage industry for Karsten, who travels the country rallying urban gardeners to try straw bales. He developed a successful method for planting and conditioning the bales, and now has more than 30,000 followers who have tried his concept.

He instructs people to add fertilizer and water the bale over the course of two weeks. When the straw is properly conditioned, it’s interior will be decomposing into compost.

People can plant any type of vegetable into it, and it will grow as well, if not better, than regular soil.

“All really good, rich, black soil is just decomposed organic material. As gardeners, that’s what we’re looking for. And this is basically creating this,” Karsten said.


Who: Kimberly Lacy

What: Interior design and landscaping advice from Kimberly Lacy, artisan designer, fashion maven and the production manager of HGTV’s “Curb Appeal.”

Where: Indianapolis Home Show, on the Outdoor Living Stage

When: 4 and 7 p.m. Jan. 25 and 1 and 3 p.m. Jan. 26

Information: kimberlylacy.com

Kimberly Lacy seems to be a year ahead when it comes to the trendy new colors of the season.

She was using “kelly” green in her interior design to spice up kitchens, living rooms and bathrooms long before “emerald” was named as the color of the year.

Designers may be raving about an emerging shade of purple-pink called “radiant orchid” for the coming spring, but Lacy was all over similar colors in her designs of last year.

“I’ve always tried to surround myself with colors that make me feel good. I’m not afraid to play around with color and try different things, and my clients aren’t afraid of that either,” she said. “I’m attracted to the ways colors dance and the way we respond to them.”

Lacy, a lifelong lover of design, fashion and landscaping, has used her prescient abilities to stay ahead of the trends and build a successful career. She is the project manager for HGTV’s “Curb Appeal,” helping real homeowners turn around the appearance of their houses.

She will be appearing Jan. 25 and 26 at the Indianapolis Home Show.

Her love for home improvement stems from a childhood that was centered around making the most of your surroundings.

Her mother was an interior decorator, and her father always took great pride in his gardens and outdoor spaces.

“My mom likes to have things pretty, and it was infectious,” she said. “That was my happiness, looking to see things beautified both inside the home and outside the home.”

While order and design were innate talents that she had, Lacy admits that it takes time and practice to find the color schemes and patterns that really stand out in the home.

She worked hard to be able to place colors of all different kinds together, and that earned her an internship on HGTV’s “Design to Sell D.C.” Eventually, she worked her way up to “Curb Appeal.”

“Training the eye, that’s definitely something that you have to do. You figure out what goes well by practice. Look for what works, look in magazines and on TV,” she said.

Despite the fact that the radiant orchid is a hue she’s been employing for some time, Lacy said the color still has exciting potential for homeowners this spring and summer. She particularly is interested in mixing deep purples with fiery oranges, going in almost polar opposites to get a balance inside the home.

“It’s a color that’s masculine and feminine at the same time. With my use of color, I’m interested in not such a delicate mix of colors, but a masculine and feminine blend of both,” she said. “All of it mixes and mingles together. You almost have to keep it all tied in. You can’t be one thing or the other.”

The same is true for the outside of the home. Landscaping can be daring and expressive, she said.

New varieties of flowers and plants bring explosions of color that can make your house stand out in the neighborhood.

“Landscaping can just be the boring hum-drum marigolds and petunias. Those are great, but if you want to, push the elements a little bit,” she said.

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