Experts Say: Artificial plants for no- maintenance green walls

Artificial plants for no- maintenance green walls

I love the look of a lush plant wall, but I do not want the hassle of looking after real plants. What are my choices?

The quickest and no-maintenance option is to get a ready-to-use framed wall garden of artificial plants, says Ms Joyce Tan of Absolut Outdoors, an exterior renovation company.

If your decor is Scandinavian, consider getting pine leaves. There are autumn-hued plants for modern country homes, lush rainforest greenery for resort homes and chequered- board greens for minimalists.

There is no minimum size and Ms Tan recommends placing a frame around smaller wall gardens to simulate a piece of artwork. A plant wall also means minimal drilling is required and, in homes where drilling is not permitted, the panels can be mobile.


PHOTO: HOMES TO LIFE PHOTO: SPH MAGAZINES; DESIGN: MUSEUM HOMES

These gardens can be used both indoors and outdoors and are designed to be exposed to rain and sunlight. All they need is a wipe-down with a damp cloth once in a while.

If you prefer real plant life, air plants (or Tillandsias) are good options as they do not require soil or any growing medium. They receive water and nutrients through their leaves. Being hardy plants, they can adapt to a wide range of environmental conditions too. But, as their name implies, they require constant air circulation.

Hang a group of glass containers with a plant in each against a wall or tie the plants to recycled wood or driftwood and hang it up. Remember to mist your plants only once or twice a week.


Use a damp microfibre cloth to clean cove lighting

I would like to install cove lighting in my living room. How should I keep it clean?

Cove lighting is a form of indirect lighting where the actual tubes or bulbs are hidden behind ceiling panels.

As the opening is large enough to allow access to the electrical wires and to replace blown bulbs, there will be enough space for you to dust around.

Mr Philippe Limes of Helpling, a home-cleaning services platform, recommends cleaning cove lighting every week as this area is often overlooked.

Start by switching off the lights and, with the help of a ladder, use a long-handled duster to trap dust and cobwebs.

"For a more thorough cleaning, use a damp microfibre cloth, or an equally portioned water-vinegar solution, and wipe the easy-to-miss coves on your ceiling. Wipe them dry before switching the lights back on."

While you are at it, give the ceiling moulding a good clean too.

If you do not have a duster, use a dry mop, but cover the mop head with a microfibre cloth or old T-shirt.


Front- or top-loading washing machines offer different advantages

What is the difference between a front- and top-loading washing machine? Which should I choose?

This depends on your priorities. If you want an energy- and water- efficient household, then front- loaders are for you. They are generally more energy-efficient than top-loaders when using warm water, require less detergent and use significantly less water.

"Front-loaders are more gentle on clothing compared with top- loaders as clothes don't get entangled," says Ms Christine Liew from furniture and home appliances retailer Harvey Norman.

If you have a large household with bigger wash loads and you want shorter cycle times, then top-loaders are better as they have large capacities (up to 15kg) and cycles that run under 60 minutes. The large ones can take even quilts and curtains.

If you intend to get a dryer and maximise space as well, then a front-loader stacked with a dryer is the ideal choice.

Finally, top-loaders allow you to add clothes midway through the cycle, for example, a hand-washed dress that you want to spin dry with the rest of the wash.



PHOTO: HOMES
TO LIFE

Keep leather sofa away from sunlight to protect it

I spent a bomb on a designer leather sofa and want to make it last. How do I do that?

Leather is a natural material that becomes more comfortable with age, says Mr Phua Bo Wen, retail manager at home furnishings store Homes To Life.

The beauty of leather lies in the fact that every hide is unique. So, expect variations and nuances of shading, evenness and texture. With proper care, they can last about five years longer than fabric sofas.

First, start with the correct placement. A sofa, whether leather or fabric, should never be placed in an area that will expose it to direct sunlight, says Mr Phua. Over time, sunlight will cause the leather to dry and crack.

"If direct sunlight is unavoidable, invest in high-quality window films that cut out ultraviolet rays to help slow down the fading or drying effect of sunlight," he says.

For routine cleaning, use a soft brush attachment on your vacuum cleaner to remove dust and dirt. Avoid using harsh soap, household detergents, oils or all-purpose cleaners to clean your sofa.

To maintain the suppleness of the leather, give it a coat of leather conditioner once every six months.

Protect the material against scratches by not placing sharp objects such as buckles, keys or toys on your sofa. Lastly, rotate the cushions to even out the wear.

• Home & Decor and experts in renovation and home decoration answer queries from readers in this series. These questions first appeared in the January issue of Home & Decor, published by SPH Magazines.

• Got a decorating or home renovation issue? Write to Experts Say, Home & Decor, Level 7 Media Centre, 82 Genting Lane, Singapore 349567 or e-mail maghomedecor@sph.com.sg. Photos and layouts are non-returnable.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 14, 2017, with the headline 'Experts Say'. Print Edition | Subscribe