Sod it: Californians turn back to grass lawns as drought shaming ebbs

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The state’s punishing drought saw neighbors scorned and water-guzzling lawns ripped up. But turf-industry insiders say grass is making a comeback

Yumi Wong adores the latest addition to her southern California home: a lush, emerald lawn.

“It just looks much nicer with all the green. It feels clean and peaceful,” she said on Tuesday, padding across the 2,800-sq-ft grass expanse. “I thought about artificial turf but I just wanted the real stuff back.”

Related: On the hunt for 'moral breaches' with California's foremost drought-shamer

Related: When in drought: the California farmers who don’t water their crops

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Is a remortgage or second charge mortgage right for home improvements?

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Say you need £30,000 for a home extension, we look at the pros and cons, and which deal will be most cost-effective

While many homeowners dream of the day they will be mortgage-free, growing numbers of people are opting to take out a second mortgage. And they’re using the money to finance everything from home extensions to IVF treatment.

According to the latest data, so-called second charge mortgage lending is galloping ahead and has leapt to its highest level since 2008. During the year to 29 February, £887m of second mortgages were taken out by homeowners. That’s 36% up on the year to February 2015, and more than three times the £293m of second mortgages in 2011-12.

Related: Home truths about remortgaging to pay off other debts

If you need to borrow a small amount of money, you are better off going for an unsecured product such as a personal loan

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Goodbye things, hello minimalism: can living with less make you happier?

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Fumio Sasaki owns a roll-up mattress, three shirts and four pairs of socks. After deciding to scorn possessions, he began feeling happier. He explains why

Let me tell you a bit about myself. I’m 35 years old, male, single, never been married. I work as an editor at a publishing company. I recently moved from the Nakameguro neighbourhood in Tokyo, where I lived for a decade, to a neighbourhood called Fudomae in a different part of town. The rent is cheaper, but the move pretty much wiped out my savings.

Some of you may think that I’m a loser: an unmarried adult with not much money. The old me would have been way too embarrassed to admit all this. I was filled with useless pride. But I honestly don’t care about things like that any more. The reason is very simple: I’m perfectly happy just as I am.

Related: Three shirts, four pairs of trousers: meet Japan's 'hardcore' minimalists

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Coming to Your Area: New Thumbtack TV Ad

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Good news: Thumbtack’s brand new TV ad will be airing in cities across the U.S. this month and into the summer. You’ll see a variation of this video that shows how millions of people are using Thumbtack to hire skilled professionals—from plumbers and painters to DJs and trainers.

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Editor’s Picks: Spring Details that Matter Most

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It’s the little things in life that count—and thank goodness. Between prepping the patio, replanting the front yard, and planning summer schedules, the idea of taking on one more project has us huddling under our (freshly cleaned) sheets in resignation.

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'I like uncluttered design': in Essex homes, the only way is modern

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Far from being the place that taste forgot, Essex has a radical past as the cradle of British modernism. We meet the owners of some of the county’s architectural gems

When it comes to the stereotyping of British counties, Essex beats them all, from Towie to fake tans, bleached blondes and brassiness. But Essex doesn’t need a makeover, only a bit of historical balance.

Last year, an initiative named Radical Essex sought to do just that, by retrieving the county’s progressive past. With its proximity to London and Europe, and relative lack of country estates, Essex in the early 20th century was fertile, affordable ground for grand plans, pioneering lifestyle experiments and, above all, modern architecture. Modernism had a difficult time crossing the Channel, but this is where it made the greatest inroads.

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Spring Cleaning with NBC’s TODAY Team

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Even the most seasoned homeowner can overlook little spots in the house that get pretty grimy (and aren’t places you want to use harsh chemicals). To help, we asked Thumbtack pros—who have collectively cleaned millions of homes—for their best advice on all-natural cleaning solutions for easy-to-miss areas.

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Spring Cleaning: The Essential Checklist

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Spring cleaning doesn’t have to be a chore. If you dread the thought of scouring every inch of your space, don’t worry. We’ve narrowed it down to a shortlist of essentials to get your home sparkling,

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Elon Musk aims to refit 5m homes with solar roofs

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SolarCity is talking up the look and longevity of solar roofing but potential costs pose questions about whether it can succeed where others have failed

Elon Musk’s solar company has its sights set on replacing 5m rooftops in the US with traditional roofing materials integrated with solar cell technology.

SolarCity’s plans, announced last month, to develop traditional roofs made entirely from solar panels are part of a goal to make sustainable homes more aesthetically appealing, convenient, and ultimately affordable to the average homeowner. It’s betting that people who need to replace their roofs will be attracted to the company’s solar cell option because it won’t require additional work or dramatically alter the look of the home.

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AkzoNobel chief urges UK to clarify future relationship with EU

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CEO says firm, which makes Dulux paint, is committed to UK but desires quick, no-nonsense approach to Brexit negotiations

AkzoNobel, one of Europe’s biggest industrial companies, has called for “quick clarity” over the UK’s future relationship with the EU.

Ton Büchner, the chief executive of the company, which makes Dulux paint and employs 45,000 people, said staff had sought reassurances about the company’s future in the UK but that he was committed to its existing investments.

Related: City figures hit out at May over lack of clarity on Brexit strategy

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