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At Home: A Look Back at Lessons Learned 2012 -- Part 2

Marni Jameson reviews a year full of home and garden lessons.
BY MARNI JAMESON Modified: December 29, 2012 at 7:34 pm •  Published: December 31, 2012

In October, I ate sawdust after not believing that three Orlando decorators and a TV home-show host could design a room that I would actually want out of donated furnishings.

To celebrate World Habitat Day, the decorators and former host of “This Old House” and “Renovation Nation” Steve Thomas created the showcase room using only furniture acquired from local Habitat for Humanity ReStores. The man's den turned out classy, warm and harmonious — for less than $1,000!

Lesson: You can save money, get a great look, help others, and help the planet all by shopping at your local ReStores. (There are 780 in the United States) Proceeds build housing for those who need it.

In November, a story about a home and its owner destroyed my faith in humanity, then restored it. Eight years ago, after three hurricanes blew through the Southeast, the Orlando home where Linda Lipofsky, 66, had lived for 20 years was ruined.

The retired editor hunted for a contractor to repair her torn up roof, but all the roofers were busy. Meanwhile, the rain kept falling. The wind kept blowing. The house kept rotting. Soon the walls came tumbling and mold moved in.

It took a year before Lipofsky got some insurance money, which she used to hire a contractor, who did some shoddy work, then ran off with the rest of the insurance money without finishing the job.

She called on the courts, Congress and Oprah. “But no one did anything,” said Lipofsky, who lived in her shipwrecked shell for years, using the home's only working outlet to heat water in a hot pot to fill her bathtub.

In August, Lipofsky discovered an organization that helps homeowners who've suffered setbacks fix their houses.

Rebuilding Together is based in Washington, D.C., and has 200 affiliates, including one in Orlando. The organization got a contractor on the job, who gathered volunteer workers, who put Lipofsky's house, and life, together again. In November, eight long years later, Lipofsky moved back in, and gave me a tour.

“I feel like I'm dreaming and waking up in wonderland,” she said.

Lesson: For every crook, there's a hero. Never lose faith.

In December I promised myself I would never again do a hack gift-wrapping job. Not after talking to Nicholas Kniel, owner of Nicholas Kniel Fine Ribbons & Embellishments, of Atlanta. “The gift wrap is what everyone notices first. It should get as much thought as the gift. But it's often the last thing people think about,” said Kniel.

Lesson: Create a signature gift-wrap palette (two colors plus a metallic). It should reflect your style and work year round for every occasion, age and gender. Stock up solid-colored paper and ribbon in all your colors.

Your life will instantly be easier and more beautiful — which, dear readers, is my New Year's wish for you. Syndicated columnist and speaker Marni Jameson is the author of “House of Havoc” and “The House Always Wins” (Da Capo Press). Contact her through