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The kitchen is the heart of the home and nothing is more welcoming than a rustic-style table with bench seating. These two sets are identical. Both have beautiful plank-style tabletops in a rich finish, and both have cool, industrial-style metal details for urban flair. One is the Benchwright Collection from Pottery Barn, which sells for $639 per bench and $1,399 for the table. The other is the Tuscany Collection from Art Van Furniture, which sells for $299 per bench and just $649 for the table.

Can you tell which collection won’t break your budget? Art Van offers savings of 55% and delivers the same look. Click here to grab the better deal. We’ve got the look (for a lot less!)


If we were giving an award to the hardest working furnishing in your home, the kitchen table would be a top contender. It’s the spot for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s where homework is done, craft projects are assembled and groceries are set when you unload the car. It hosts a variety of functions, but that doesn’t mean it has to be void of fashion. A kitchen table left empty of accessories can look as unfinished as a salad without dressing.

Take advantage of this design opportunity and add accessories that give your space interest and personality. Here are a few ideas for creating an everyday table scape you’ll love:


Add Color

Because the kitchen is filled with cabinets, there isn’t always a lot of room for artwork. Your centerpiece becomes a focal point when you add a pop of color that coordinates or contrasts with the décor. A bowl of lemons or apples is an easy and quick fix, but you can also add a colorful cookie jar.

Embrace Odd

When creating a grouping, use odd numbers which are almost always more visually appealing. Depending on the size of your table, use one, three or five items, either in a row or in a circle. Show off unique salt-and-pepper shakers, make an arrangement out of stainless steel utensils or display an antique tea set.


Use Plants

A natural centerpiece will (literally) breathe life into your room. Choose fresh flowers, potted herbs or a dried arrangement. Since it’s the kitchen, skip the vase or pot and use a pitcher, Mason jar or mixing bowl.

Think About Height

In addition to odd numbers, vary the height of your items. Use items from the kitchen to provide a boost, such as a cake stand.


Think Moveable

Because your table will get frequent use, make sure your accessories are easy to move around. Choose a decorative tray, bowl or box. You can even use it to corral and dress up supplies, such as salt and pepper, napkins, candles and utensils.

Go with the Season

Kitchen tables are the heart of the home, so switch out your accessories often to reflect the season, holiday or special event.


It’s apple season in the Midwest, and the scent of pie and cider doughnuts is warming up the air. You know an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but what else do you know about this delicious fruit?

Here are a dozen fun facts to amaze your friends when you’re apple picking:

  1. The apple is actually a member of the rose family.
  2. The apple tree originated in an area between the Caspian and the Black Sea.
  3. The pilgrims planted the first apple tree in the U.S. in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
  4. In colonial times, apples were called “winter bananas.”
  5. 2,500 varieties of apples are grown in the U.S., but just 100 varieties are grown commercially.
  6. Pomology is the science of apple growing.
  7. It takes an apple tree four to five years to produce its first fruit.
  8. The largest apple picked weighed three pounds.
  9. Apples ripen six to ten times faster at room temperature than if they were refrigerated.
  10. The world’s largest apple peel was 172 feet, 4 inches long, and was created in 1976 by Kathy Wafler Madison, who was 16 years old at the time. Madison grew up to be a sales manager for an apple tree nursery.
  11. It takes two pounds of apples to make one apple pie, and it takes 36 apples to create one gallon of apple cider.
  12. The top apple-producing states are Washington, New York, Michigan, Pennsylvania, California and Virginia.

Source: USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, United States Apple Association



For the past two decades, people have designed their homes to be casual and inviting. Formal dining rooms have been converted into home offices or media rooms, and builders focused on designing open floor plans that combined living and dining.

Well, formal dining is back and so is the formal dining room. This return to elegance and entertaining has brought a renewed emphasis on dining room furnishings. One of the best things about the dining room is that it is meant to be special, and that gives you permission to choose dramatic designs that show off your style.

Here are some ideas for creating a place where you need no reservations:

Sideboard Light

Choose a focal wall. The focal wall sets the tone for the room, so take your time choosing your impact piece. An important piece of art or an ornate mirror would make a beautiful choice.


Use dimmable lighting. Lowering the lights can help set the mood, but sometimes you want to have a bright setting. Put your lights on a dimmer so you can create the right atmosphere. We love using a statement chandelier or set of pendant lamps.


Pay attention to the flooring. Choose furnishings that complement instead of matching your floor. If your flooring is light-colored wood, for example, choose a darker wood table. Or use an oversized rug to set your furniture apart.

Sideboard Bold

Go for balance. Design the space symmetrically to add to the formal, finished feel. You can also achieve balance by adding pops of color evenly around the room, such as in accessories, artwork or a rug.

Summer might be the season for vacations, but fall is the time for day trips, outings and weekend fun. The weather is just right, and the scenery is changing every day. Before the hats and boots come out of the closet, put these 10 items on your must-do fall bucket list.

1. Go apple picking. Here’s a list of the orchards in Michigan.

2. Learn to knit. You’re going to need a scarf soon. Check out this beginner’s tutorial on YouTube.

3. Jump in the leaves. Raking doesn’t have to be a chore if you’ve got a fun goal.

4. Go on a color hunt. Challenge yourself and your child to find leaves in all of their transformative colors.

5. Make a Halloween costume. Check out these no-sew versions from Martha Stewart.

6. Play touch football. This is a great activity for a fall day, especially after you watch the Detroit Lions.

7. Go on a hayride. Here is a list of hayrides in Michigan.

8. Run or walk in a 5K. Fall weather is perfect for outdoor exercise. Find a race near you with this link.

9. Visit a cider mill. Who doesn’t love cider and donuts? Here’s a list of popular locations.

10. Go to a haunted house. If you’re brave — here is a list with ratings and reviews.

Have fun and be sure to let us know how many of these items you check off this fall.



Michael Phelps is certainly a winner. The 31 year old is the most decorated Olympic athlete of all time, having earned 23 gold, three silver and two bronze medals. While it’s a little more common, Phelps recently added another title to his collection: homeowner. He and his fiancé recently purchased a $2.5 million home on an acre of land in Scottsdale, Arizona. The house is decorated in soft, soothing neutrals, with gorgeous wide-plank wood floors throughout.

We love Phelps’ dining room, which shares a fireplace with the adjoining living room. If you like Phelps’ style, too, we’ve got the look …

michael-phelps-chair michael-phelps-table

The centerpiece of the dining room is Phelps’ large wooden table, which seats 10 comfortably. The rich finish is a great contrast to the classic linen Parsons Chairs and complements the flooring, adding a second tone to the room.

Our Arlington Trestle Table is a great match. While you might have to trim your guest list – it’s 74-inches and can seats eight with plenty of elbow space – the tabletop offers a rich, cobblestone brown finish and individual planks for an urban vibe. The curved metal trestle base updates the look and adds an industrial feel.

Our Upholstered Parsons Chairs are a perfect match to Phelps’ seating. Covered in durable linen, they feature individually applied black nickel nail-head trim that outlines the shape and accents the light fabric.


Phelps uses an elegant chandelier with crystal embellishments, and an assortment of wooden candlesticks hold teal candles, for a pop of color. We decided to stick with the urban feel, and suggest adding our large-scale Arlington Chandelier. The geometric piece is a conversation starter, with a hemp-wrapped metal sphere that surrounds seven lights. Add candles and a runner that fit your décor, and you’ll have a winning look like Phelps, too.

What do you think of Phelps’ dining room? Does it deserve the Gold, Silver or Bronze?



Whether you’re a gourmet chef or take-out aficionado, you’re going to need some plates and bowls. You can simply pick the color or pattern you like, but it’s better to bring home a set that will last.

We caught up with our housewares buyer Emily Faltesek to get expert advice on purchasing dinnerware. She shares three things to consider:

Your Budget

Dinnerware comes in four types of material, and each has a different price point and characteristic.

Earthenware is the oldest for of dinnerware and is made of unrefined clay fired at low temperatures to create a glass-like surface.

“This is the lowest end,” says Faltesek. “The problem is that it doesn’t hold up to repeated use in the dishwasher, and it chips and breaks easier. You may spend less up front but you’re not getting the best bang for your buck.”

Stoneware is more durable than earthenware and is chip resistant. It’s made of refined clay and is fired at a higher temperature.

“Stoneware holds a glaze better than earthenware, and so it comes in cool designs and patterns,” says Faltesek. “It doesn’t chip as easily and holds up to the microwave. If you’re just starting out, stoneware is a good option and a good value.”

Porcelain is more durable than earthenware and stoneware. It offers a glass-like surface, and is fired at higher temperatures.

“Porcelain is made of a material that’s thinner and lighter weight,” says Faltesek. “It’s made from a finer sand, and is sturdy and doesn’t chip easily.”

Bone china is considered to be the strongest and most durable form of dinnerware. It’s fired twice at a higher temperature than porcelain and is dishwasher and microwave safe.

“Bone china is high quality; the finest fine china,” says Faltesek. “It’s super lightweight, durable and chip resistant. Animal bone ash is added to clay which makes it stronger.”

Your Needs

How many pieces you need depends on the size of your family and how often you entertain. Faltesek says enough to serve 12 is a traditional amount to purchase, but this number can be adjusted based on your needs and available storage. Dinnerware is sold in one of three ways:

Boxed sets come in 16- or 20-piece sets and provide service for four. They usually come with a dinner plate, salad plate, soup bowl, teacup and saucer.

Place settings are the most common way porcelain and bone china is sold. A place setting comes with five pieces: dinner plate, salad plate, bread plate, teacup and saucer.

Open stock is dinnerware that is sold by the individual piece. This is a good option for someone who might not need separate salad and bread plates, or if you want to add to what you already have.

Faltesek recommends open stock. “I always buy open stock because if you break a plate or want to replace a scratched add bowl, it’s easy,” she says.

How many different sets to buy is another consideration. “Conventional wisdom says you need two sets: casual, for everyday use, and something more formal,” Faltesek says. “That’s not true anymore.”

Instead, determine if you’re frequently having big formal dinner parties. If you’re not, one set will do.

Your Style

Finally, you need to find dinnerware that represents your personal style. You’ll find options in every color imaginable, but you can never go wrong with white, says Faltesek. “White dinnerware is a big trend, especially in modern style,” she says. “You can use it for any occasion; it’s always appropriate.”

While you can use it alone, white dinnerware also serves as a foundation. “Layer fun colors or metallic with salad plates or bowls,” says Faltesek. “You can be trendy and fun for the season without spending tons of money replacing everything later.”

The best thing to know about dinnerware is to buy what you love. “Have fun,” says Faltesek. “Otherwise dinnerware is just taking up space in your cupboard.”

You experience your home with all of your senses, and smell can be one of the most powerful. Welcome in fall and apple season with the scent of baking apples with cinnamon. Here’s a recipe from Trisha Yearwood’s cookbook, Trisha’s Table: My Feel-Good Favorites for a Balanced Life. Be sure to check out her Dining Collection available at Art Van Furniture, while you’re in your kitchen.


  • 4 large baking apples, such as Honeycrisp
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Wash and core apples, leaving enough of the core at the base of the apple to contain the filling.

Combine the butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and chopped pecans in a small bowl. Roll log shapes of the mixture and press enough into each apple to fill the core.

Fill a 2-quart baking dish with about 3/4 cup water, or enough to cover the bottom. Place the apples upright in the dish. Bake one hour or until the apples are soft and the filling is browned.

When it comes to home décor styles, few are as fancy as Victorian. This era of design comes from the Industrial Revolution, when the middle class became more prosperous and status conscious, and the act of upgrading home décor became a priority. Victorian Style mixes a variety of historical styles and global influences for a look that’s over the top.

Today, Victorian Style gets a modern twist, toning down some of the embellishment but keeping the feeling of specialness. Victorian rooms feel romantic, creating a fairy tale life inside your home. Take a look at classic characteristics of Victorian Style:


Color. Victorian Style takes advantage of warm, subdued colors, including grey, cream, plum, teal, rose and lavender. The palette has a feminine vibe that can soften some of the furnishings that have ornate details.


Pattern. Victorian Style embraces a variety of patterns used on everything from upholstery to wallpaper to rugs and toss pillows. Especially popular are floral, toile, damask and velvet. Victorian Style patterns are often complex and detailed, and combining patterns is a great way to layer interest in the room.


Furniture. Victorian furniture has a sense of opulence, and pieces range from delicate to oversized. The common thread is ornate details, carvings and decorations. And pieces have a sense of intimacy.


Details. In addition to fancy lines and patterns, Victorian-style furnishings are often adorned with details like tassels, embroidery and trim. The result is a feeling of plush and rich living, which feels romantic and welcoming.


Rich Wood. Furniture in the Victorian Style is often crafted of rich wood, such as cherry and mahogany. The dark pieces ground the room and blend well with the ornate patterns and soft colors.

While the calendar is still officially summer it’s time to do some fall home maintenance to prepare your home for winter. You want to keep the cold air outside and warm heat inside, so it’s important to seal up cracks. Here are three projects that you can finish this weekend:

1. Seal openings. Check your foundation for cracks, and caulk areas around windows and doorframes, and places where pipes or wires enter the house.

2. Inspect your roof for loose shingles. Snow and rain can get beneath them causing damage when they freeze and expand. Repair any areas that are loose.

3. Check your windows and doors for air leaks. Apply weather stripping and caulk to these areas will help cut down on drafts.