Welcome to our blog! Here you will find posts about can't miss properties, local events, and more! Here at Maple and Main Realty we pride ourselves on our knowledge of the Northampton area. Feel free to leave a comment, we would love to hear from you! If you have any questions, don't hesitate to contact us

Going Solar - Changes to Local Programs!

Northampton Area Homeowners take note, there are some important changes coming to local solar programs that may effect you. If you are thinking about adding solar power to your home or property, it seems that now might be the time to do it! Read on for more details about how new tariffs instituted by the President,�and changes to local incentive programs, might effect costs for installation and use of solar power. The following article from the Daily Hampshire Gazette lays it all out.

Environment: Changes coming to solar programs

  • Phil Crafts, left, and Joan Snowdon, both of Leverett, look toward the angled roof on their house which would not allow for the installation of rooftop solar panels, Oct. 21, 2017. Instead, they had freestanding panels installed on their property.�GAZETTE FILE PHOTO/SARAH CROSBY

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

With a tariff on solar product imports, a new incentive program in Massachusetts and a change in rates from Eversource, industries and consumers using the sun's rays to generate energy are sure to see a change.

President Donald Trump imposed a 30 percent tariff -- which took effect last month -- on solar products in an effort to revive American solar manufacturing companies and create jobs. He also put a tariff on steel and aluminum. Both materials are used to mount solar panels.

Northampton-based Valley Solar general manager Patrick Rondeau said the company quickly bought up panels before the tariff kicked in.

"We've already seen our most popular panels increase in price," Rondeau said, adding that the costs have raised 10 to 15 percent.

Rondeau said homeowners looking to convert to solar could see a 3 to 5 percent increase.

"As one of the largest residential solar companies in the U.S., we are disappointed in the decision made by the Trump administration to set a tariff on imported solar panels," David Bywater, CEO of Vivint Solar, said in a statement. "We know that 90 percent of Americans, regardless of political affiliation, overwhelmingly support the expansion of solar power because they know it's a good thing for the health of our environment and economy, as well as our energy independence."

Bywater added that the company, which has a branch in Chicopee, will continue to provide customers with a better way to create energy and priorities remain unchanged.

In Easthampton, Patrick Quinlan, CEO of the start-up company SolaBlock, said that while the company will be affected by the tariff, he's optimistic for the future.

SolaBlock manufactures "solar masonry units," concrete blocks with integrated solar electric cells, according to the company's website. Quinlan said he purchases the best products he can, but products made in the United States are limited. Some U.S. suppliers have factories overseas, he added.

Sarah Zazzaro-Williams, manager of All Energy Solar in Chicopee, said the solar industry in Massachusetts is competitive and has seen steady growth within the last few years. She said many of the people who get solar panels installed do so to save money on their home's electricity costs.

While the tariff may increase costs, both Zazzaro-Williams and Rondeau said the state's new incentive program Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target, or SMART, as well as new rates from Eversource may have a more direct impact on residents using or switching over to solar. She said many of people that get solar panels installed to save on home electricity costs.

Rondeau said "demand charges" by Eversource, which will be in effect next year, will have a greater impact on homeowners switching over to solar�than the tariff and new incentive.


In January, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities approved a "demand charge" for residents using solar panels to generate energy for their home. The charge is based on a consumer's peak demand over a specified time period, typically the monthly billing cycle, according to the DPU decision.

"This new charge helps ensure we collect the costs to serve distributed generation without other customers subsidizing those choosing net metering options," Eversource wrote on its website. "It also helps Eversource recover the cost to serve net metering customers. We developed the demand charge using a cost of service model that established the minimum cost to maintain system reliability."

Zazzaro-Williams and Rondeau said the charge is based off peak energy use.

"It is unfair," Rondeau said.

State solar program

Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources spokeswoman Katie Gronendyke said the SMART program will replace SREC II, the solar renewable energy credit.

"With over 2,000 megawatts of solar now installed, Massachusetts continues to lead the nation in solar deployment and clean energy innovation," Gov. Charlie Baker said in a statement last month. "Through our next solar incentive program, SMART, and our forward-thinking solar grant programs, we look forward to doubling that amount of solar and building a sustainable and affordable clean energy future for the Commonwealth."

The main difference between the two programs is that SRECs are a tradable commodity where the market price is determined by supply and demand in a particular year, and SMART is a tariff-based incentive program, according to Gronendyke.

Zazzaro-Williams said the new incentive does not offer as much benefit as the current one, adding that All Energy Solar is pushing for customers to get solar panels fast while the current incentive is still in effect.

Caitlin Ashworth can be reached at

Great New Listing in Florence Center!

We have a new listing at 8 Middle Street, Florence MA. This immaculate and cozy 2-family home, reads like a single family home with an attached apartment. The main unit is comprised of a beautifully appointed living/dining room - complete with recessed lighting and beautiful built-ins, made by the owner (a renowned local furniture maker) . The downstairs also includes a spacious kitchen, butler's pantry and large, renovated full bath with laundry. The basement has a finished media room/play space. The upstairs includes 2 sweet bedrooms, a large full bath and gracious master bedroom, with cathedral ceilings and a lofted studio/office. The attached apartment is a well lit, one bedroom with off-street parking, a spacious entry hall, large eat-in kitchen and full bath with laundry. Sliders lead out to a private, fenced deck. The house sits on a lovely, large, flat, fenced lot, complete with beautiful landscaping and artistic touches such as the custom welded doorway into the yard. This special property could easily be converted back to a single family home, but it also works well as an owner-occupied 2 family. There are lovely artistic touches throughout. This downtown Florence location can't be beat!

The current owners have taken meticulous care of the property - inside and out. Contact Julie Starr to set up a private showing, or come to the open house this Saturday, March 3rd from 11-1 pm.

Offered at $449,000

Main Entrance, Dining Room

Dining Room

Living Room


Living Room 


Bathroom, custom built ins

Kid Bedroom #1

Kid bedroom #2

Upstairs Hallway

Master Bedroom

Master Bedroom from Loft

Lofted office/studio

Finished basement

Finished basement, built ins

Custom welded gateway to backyard

Apartment entrance hall/mudroom

Apartment living room, sliders to private deck

Apartment bath/laundry room





Northampton Touted in Yankee Magazine!

It's so much fun to happen upon articles in well known publications, touting the many highlights of our fair city of Northampton. Last week, my mother sent me a link to this article in Yankee Magazine, which muses about whether one *could* live here. We say yes! Read on to remind yourselves of the many reasons why you live here, and love it!

Northampton, Massachusetts | Could You Live Here?

When temperatures dip into the single digits, the college town of Northampton, Massachusetts, turns up the heat.

Annie Graves • January 2, 2018 • Read Comments (3) 


A young visitor lets off some steam in the Palm House--aka A young visitor lets off some steam in the Palm House—aka “the Jungle Room”—at Smith College’s Lyman Plant House and Conservatory.

Mark Fleming

On the coldest day of the winter, which is soon to lead into the coldest night, we head south from New Hampshire in search of personal climate change. Seventy miles later, we check into the Hotel Northampton, climb the hill that rises toward Smith College, and spiral up an icy-cold staircase to heaven. Or, more specifically, East Heaven. As in, Hot Tubs.

Up here in the clouds (actually, the rooftop), steam billows from a bubbling wooden cauldron that sits high over Northampton. Vapor curls into the dark, frigid air. Snow is falling, the temps hovering around 8 degrees. A pale, misty moon is barely visible above the private enclosure that surrounds our percolating pool. My hair stiffens and freezes, and I couldn’t be happier … or warmer. The air feels sharp enough to shatter—and I don’t care. Which is probably what any number of East Heaven customers have felt since 1981, when Ken Shapiro and Scott Nickerson opened this Japanese-style bathhouse. “I took more hot tubs than showers growing up,” quips Shapiro’s son, Logan, who now helps run the business: four indoor tubs and four outdoor ones, plus a spa.

One of the eight hot tubs at East Heaven.

One of the eight hot tubs at East Heaven.

Mark Fleming

Oddly, the thermostat seems to be rising all over town—cranking up even to, one might say, a tropical intensity. Blocks away from East Heaven’s 104-degree tubs, in the heart of the Smith College campus, a Victorian confection sits amid the swirling snow: It’s the 19th-century Lyman Plant House and Conservatory, shaking off winter with a humid canopy of cacao, banana, and rubber trees in its kid-magnet Palm House, nicknamed “the Jungle Room.” Close by, the transcendent Hungry Ghost Bread, effectively a bakery sauna, emits clouds of yeasty moisture whenever a customer steps inside. Cozy bookstores meld heat, escapism, and—in the case of Raven Used Books—classical music to conjure a mini vacation from the chill. And we’re just warming up.

clockwise from top left: Comfy digs in the Hotel Northampton's newer Gothic Garden building; one-of-a-kind lighting fixtures at custom furniture shop Sticks & Bricks; the atrium at the Hotel Northampton, whose guests have included David Bowie and the Dalai Lama; an artful latte alongside Kahl�a fallen chocolate souffl� at the Roost.

Clockwise from top left: Comfy digs in the Hotel Northampton’s newer Gothic Garden building; one-of-a-kind lighting fixtures at custom furniture shop Sticks & Bricks; the atrium at the Hotel Northampton, whose guests have included David Bowie and the Dalai Lama; an artful latte alongside Kahlúa fallen chocolate soufflé at the Roost.

Mark Fleming

The Setting 

This vibrant Western Massachusetts town is planted in the fertile Pioneer Valley, bordered by farmland, traversed by the Connecticut River, and surrounded by a constellation of top-notch schools—specifically, the famed Five College Consortium (Smith, Mount Holyoke, Amherst, Hampshire, and UMass Amherst). Anchoring and overlooking Northampton is Smith College, founded in 1871, its pretty campus well within walking distance of a downtown brimming with shops and cafés, many decades old. Smith alums who wandered these streets include Gloria Steinem, Sylvia Plath, and Julia Child. Calvin Coolidge was mayor here, from 1910 to 1911, before becoming our 30th president in 1923. One local writer observes: “We’re in the country, but it’s cultured. We’ve got fantastic libraries and a great book culture, but you can also have a yard and be near a forest.”


A view of the c.�1895 conservatory, which houses 3,000-plus species of plants from around the world.

A view of Smith College’s c. 1895 conservatory, which houses 3,000-plus species of plants from around the world.

Mark Fleming

The Social Scene 

The café life is exactly what you’d imagine in an energized college town, with a robust mix of students and professor types taking their MacBooks out for a spin and cozying up to lattes. But art lovers can also find inspiration: The Smith College Museum of Art’s impressive collection includes Monet, Picasso, Rodin, Degas, and Cézanne, and a year’s membership brings unlimited admission to high-quality escapism. Locals can volunteer to lead tours at the Lyman Plant House after intensive training in basic botany and the history of the garden, according to a volunteer. Moms and dads troop through the greenhouses with children eager to visit their favorite rooms. “This is mine,” says Langston, a lively 3½-year-old who’s engulfed by giant foliage in the Palm House (although he’s partial to the cacti in the Succulent House, too). “We come here once a month, and he runs through the rain forest,” says his mother, Sally. “I know other people like to come here and be contemplative….”


Opened on Market Street in 2011, the Roost caters to a variety of appetites with everything from breakfast sandwiches to milkshakes to wine and beer.


Opened on Market Street in 2011, the Roost caters to a variety of appetites with everything from breakfast sandwiches to milkshakes to wine and beer.

Mark Fleming

Eating Out 

Snow is still pelting down as we slip into the Roost, where steamy windows and wood-plank rusticity meet “Rooster Rolls” stuffed with egg, bacon, avocado, or possibly whipped gorgonzola (making the Food Network very happy and earning its props for “best breakfast between bread”). At Haymarket Café, midway up Main Street, contented vegetarians are still squeezing around the postage stamp–size tables (as they have since 1991), surrounded by eccentric wall art, the air alive with the hiss of espresso in the making. Casual ethnic eateries abound—including Amanouz Café, serving bursts of Moroccan flavor. A sprint through town reveals further options of Indian, Greek, French, Japanese, Thai, Mexican, Italian, and Vietnamese cuisines. But if fresh bread is your holy grail, Hungry Ghost Bread is the destination. “Artisanal” and “wood-fired” are weak words for conveying the crack of this crust, the moist cushion within, and the otherworldliness of a cranberry-maple turnover that somehow fell into our bag.

Head baker J. Stevens loading the first batch of the day at Hungry Ghost Bread.

Head baker J. Stevens loading the first batch of the day at Hungry Ghost Bread.

Mark Fleming


We found plenty of excuses to duck indoors, such as Sticks & Bricks, with its artwork, jewelry, and sleek furniture made from reclaimed materials, and Pinch, offering unusual wall art, ceramics, curated clothing, and airy home decor. Thornes Marketplace packs dozens of stores and eateries under one roof, including Paul and Elizabeth’s, a vegetarian mainstay since 1978. Scattered around Northampton is enough reading material to get anyone through winter—Broadside Bookshop, for instance, lines its walls with quality reads plus smart political stickers—but for hours of browsing, nothing beats descending into the cozy den of Raven Used Books. Abundance spills out of the shelves and onto the floor; “Middle English Texts” sits next to “Arrrrgh!” (pirates). It’s an oasis of calm, and an exploration set to the soundtrack of Handel’s Water Music.

Owner Betsy Frederick at Raven Used Books, a haven for local academics and bibliophiles.

Owner Betsy Frederick at Raven Used Books, a haven for local academics and bibliophiles.

Mark Fleming

Real Estate 

At the time of our visit, a stylish two-bedroom townhouse-style condo in a c. 1900 building once known as the Union Street Jailhouse, offering exposed brick walls and a short walk to downtown, listed at $246,888. A breezy four-bedroom renovated 1950s colonial, with granite kitchen counters and proximity to Childs Park, was selling for $399,000. And a two-bedroom eco-friendly contemporary condo with a rooftop deck, less than a mile from the Smith campus, also listed at $399,000.

Uniquely Northampton

Apart from being able to luxuriate at East Heaven (and take a free half-hour tub on your birthday), we barely scratched the surface of Northampton’s local perks. Every type of music and performance venue is represented here, from intimate institutions like the Iron Horse Music Hall to the venerable Academy of Music, the oldest municipally owned theater in the country (c. 1891), which showcases talent ranging from Irish songbird Mary Black to the witty David Sedaris. As for the visual arts scene, it explodes at the twice-yearly Paradise City Arts Festival, an extravaganza of 200-plus top-notch craftspeople and fine artists that’s been dazzling shoppers since 1995. 

Getting Your Bearings 

Just off Main Street, in the center of town, the elegant Hotel Northampton—a member of Historic Hotels of America—is ideally situated for sampling every tropical diversion. And for depths of coziness on a winter’s night, descend into Wiggins Tavern, the hotel’s 1786 tavern (moved from its original site in Hopkinton, New Hampshire), for an incomparably warming Indian pudding. 


Lovell House New Condominium Complex at 32 North Prospect St in Amherst!

Lovell House Condominiums at 32 North Prospect Street in Amherst, MA, is a new condominium complex, specifically designed for buyers who are looking for an intelligently crafted home, with high quality, energy efficient heating and cooling systems and elegant finishes, right in heart of downtown Amherst. The complex will ultimately consist of 6 units, 4 of which are new construction, and two in the fully renovated, historic Gothic Cottage.  At present, Unit 4 and Unit 5 are currently listed on MLS. Unit 3 is not yet on MLS but construction is nearing completion.  Unit 5 is slightly smaller than Unit 4, at 1785 sq. ft., this space includes 3 bedrooms, 3 full baths, a private backyard, and a small front court yard. Each unit will offer its own distinct character and personality. This quiet and peaceful setting is just steps from the library, cinema, shops and restaurants in vibrant Amherst MA.

The historic nature of the original house, "The Gothic Cottage", adds an interesting twist to this development, The design of the cottage may be inspired by A.J. Downing's pattern books, and employs romantic whimsy in combining Second Empire features with those of the Gothic Revival. This property is part of the Prospect-Gaylord Historic District of Amherst, which was designated a National Register Historic District on 2/4/93

Historic Gothic Cottage. Will be completely renovated to include 2 condos.

The following photos are of 32 North Prospect St, Unit 4 - This brand new 1865 sq. ft. unit includes 3 bedrooms, 3 full baths and a one-car attached garage, private backyard space and small front court yard. Charming archways and built-ins, a cozy fireplace, 9 ft. ceilings, a skylight, high-end finishes, stainless appliances and a full basement complete the picture.


For more information, or to schedule a showing, contact Kate Iles or Karen McAmis.


River Valley Coop Finds Space for Second Location!

It has been an exciting journey to watch the River Valley Market  grow and change since it's doors opened in 2008. Ih has become my go-to local supermarket. They have fresh, local produce, responsibly sourced dairy, eggs, meat, fish and poultry. There is a large bulk section, with convenient containers available to purchase for liquid bulk items. There is a well-culled wine and beer section, frozen foods, snacks, cleaning and pet supplies and even skin care, supplements and make up. As a member/owner, I feel thankful for this wonderful cooperative market and local organization. The River Valley Market is on my list of 100 reasons why I love living in Northampton and the Pioneer Valley! I'm happy to share the following article from - The River Valley Market is opening a second location in Easthampton!!

River Valley Co-op chooses Easthampton car dealer site for 2nd store

EASTHAMPTON -- River Valley Co-Op has plans to build a second grocery store at the former Fedor Pontiac Oldsmobile site at 228 Northampton St. in Northampton. ( Republican File)(Bob Stern)

By Jim Kinney

EASTHAMPTON -- River Valley Co-op has identified the former Fedor Pontiac Oldsmobile property on Route 10 as the best spot for its second location.

The grocery cooperative announced Monday that it has an option agreement to purchase the property at 228 Northampton St. from the Fedor family. The price was not disclosed.

The dealership is vacant, having closed in 2010 when General Motors downsized its dealer network and ended the Pontiac brand during the automaker's post-recession bankruptcy. Oldsmobile went out of production in 2004.

Easthampton mayor, buying bar with her brother, also to rent out three apartments

The State Ethics Commission said Mayor Nicole LaChapelle may not use her position to benefit her business in any way. 

River Valley Co-Op opened its 17,000-square-foot store at 330 North King St. in Northampton in 2008. But with more than 9,500 member-owners and many more regular customers, that facility is getting too busy and congested, said Andrea Stanley, River Valley Co-op board president.

"The growth of our store has been faster than people expected," Stanley said. "We didn't imagine the store would be as busy as it is. There is no way to expand at that location. Where do you go next?"

General Manager Rochelle Prunty said the co-op already has hundreds of members in Easthampton.

"We were looking for a spot that would be close enough to our current store to kind of help support our current community. But far enough away to get a little closer to some of our co-op owners and shoppers who are further away," she said.

The co-op looked at a number of possible locations. 

"We have people who come from all over," Prunty said. "Maybe ultimately we'll have a store closer to everybody."

Easthampton already has the independently owned Big E's Supermarket downtown and there is a Big Y in Southampton. Puza's Pure Food Market is also in Southampton.

Neither Stanley, Prunty nor a news release from the co-op said how much the Fedor property will sell for. But Stanely said the co-op hopes to raise $2.5 million in member loans for the project.

Those new loans would be added to an equal number of expiring member loans that are coming due and that the co-op hopes members renew for a grand total goal of about $5 million. The interest rate the co-op would pay on those loans is not set yet, Stanley said.

Prunty said the co-op has not determined all the project costs yet. Startup and construction costs for 330 North King St. totaled $10 million in 2008. The co-op spent another $1.5 million on a renovation in 2014 and 2015.

Stanley said she expects fact finding to planning to last all of this year, with groundbreaking in 2019. She hopes the new store could open that year.

River Valley plans to build new at the site, creating a store that would be about the same size as the current Northampton store. That is 11,000 square feet of sales space with additional prep areas and an office mezzanine. It would have 150 customer parking spaces compared with 92 at the Northampton location. 

The co-op expects the Easthampton store will employ 100 people. The 150 or so Northampton store employees are over 95 percent full-time with benefits and are represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1459.

Becoming a River Valley Co-op member-owner costs a $150 minimum equity investment. That investment is not an annual fee. Member-owners get discounts, coupons and can share in a patronage rebate if the co-op makes a profit. 

River Valley Co-op plans to work with Wright Builders, Thomas Douglas Architects, Berkshire Design, NCG Development Co-op and the city.


Ideas and Solutions for a Small Living Space

I was recently visiting with a friend who lives in a fairly typical for Northampton MA, late 1800's farmhouse. She is a master collector of curiosities, used-yet-hip furniture, artwork, tchotchkes, etc. She manages to pack a lot of stuff into her small home - and make it look artful, cozy and inviting. In addition, everything is functional! An antique sink (not attached to a drain) decorates the mud/laundry room, and also serves as place to stack clean laundry for her children to collect and put away. Each room has a it's own color palette, giving it a separate feel to the adjoining room. Handmade plywood painted bookcases are arranged according to color family, creating an attractive backdrop to a beloved collection of Snoopy paraphernalia, etc. I immediately thought of her while reading the following article from Apartment Therapy, which is chock full of great ideas about how to create a beautiful and functional space in a small or challenging living room. It's interesting to think about the many ways we have to recreate our spaces as we live in them. Enjoy!

30 Absolutely Brilliant Ideas & Solutions for Your Small Living Room

by Cara Gibbs

Jan 17, 2018


Tour: A NYC Couple's Minimalist Retreat from Hectic City Life

(Image credit: Mackenzie Schieck)

Those pesky small living rooms always have us stumbling and second guessing what we should do to make the most of the floor plan. If you've ever struggled with how to arrange your furniture, how to fit in more seating, how to get in more light and beyond, here are 30 rooms—from genius teeny spaces full of inspiration to larger living rooms with plenty of ideas to borrow—showcasing the best ways to expand your square footage without any demolition.

(Image credit: West Elm)

Get your reflection on

Mirrors are one of the best ways to make your tiny space feel open and airy. This space from West Elm shows off the dramatic impact multiple mirrors can play, plus they reflect any and all light available in the room.

(Image credit: Cathy Pyle)

Fill 'er up

In a tiny space, you might be afraid of overwhelming things with too-large furniture, but oftentimes, if you go full throttle with a large sectional that hugs the walls, you'll get a room that #1 seats a ton of people and #2 feels super welcoming and cozy. Take notes from this home we toured in the UK that fits a family of four.


(Image credit: One Kings Lane)

Go for the wow factor

Sometimes the best way to visually increase the square footage in a space is to keep the eye constantly in motion (so you don't notice how small it is). Take a cue from entertaining expert Lulu Powers in her LA bungalow seen on One Kings Lane: pattern on pattern, bold color next to bold color—cozy perfection!

(Image credit: Design*Sponge)

Keep things linear

Try implementing varying geometric and linear prints, as seen on Design*Sponge. This gives a small space a sense of structure while also providing the illusion of additional length and width.


(Image credit: Livet Hemma)

Lose the legs

If you're looking to add storage/display surfaces to your living room, consider going leg-free and attaching units directly to the wall (like this Besta unit from IKEA in a room via Livet Hemma). Floating large pieces like this tricks the eye into thinking less space has been taken up because the floor area is still free (plus, you can use that newly found space for even more storage should you feel the need).

(Image credit: Alvhem)

Make the best of strange angles

A feature wall is a great way to properly weigh and focus a room with awkward angles, like in this room from Alvhem, that uses a bold floral wallpaper to pull the attention to the seating area.

(Image credit: Domino)

Invite tiny keepsakes & treasures into your space

In this charming living room via Domino, your attention is occupied and delighted by all the personal accents and accessories that draw you into each area of the little space.

(Image credit: Minette Hand)

A wall of books

To turn a small, sort of sad living space into your favorite room, consider taking an empty wall and turning it into a top-to-bottom mini library. It'll provide plenty of storage opportunities, but also makes such a statement and gives a luxe built-in effect. For an even more stylish push, pick a rich color, like the hunter green of this room, and add molding to polish off the custom look.

(Image credit: Josh Gruetzmacher for Style Me Pretty Living )

The power of the tuck

The main goal of any small living space is always to use every area as efficiently as possible. So that area under the coffee table (considering yours doesn't have shelving) can often feel a bit wasted, unless you mimic this clever space from Style Me Pretty Living that tucks additional poufs under for more usage.

(Image credit: House Beautiful)

Keep your space alive

It's no secret that plants add so much value to any room in the home, but you can really get creative with them in your living area. In a tour of her home via House Beautiful, Justina Blakeney shows off just that in her compact living room, and is smart about hanging greenery as to not take up any precious floor space.

(Image credit: The Apartment St. Kilda via Instagram)

Keep things monochromatic

In this space by The Apartment St Kilda via Instagram, the crisp white walls serve as the perfect canvas for the oversize jet black lighting fixture and delightfully worn-in furnishings and accents—you hardly notice the room's tiny footprint amidst the cohesive palette.

(Image credit: Suzy Hoodless)

Floor to ceiling draperies

Draperies are the quickest way to add instant height to any space. The trick is to hang them from right around where your wall meets your ceiling and let them slightly puddle on the ground, as seen in this Notting Hill townhouse via Suzy Hoodless.

(Image credit: SFGirlbyBay)

Behold the power of threes

Grouping items into threes like in this space on SFGirlbyBay is a great way to make a living room feel a bit bigger by adding more pieces to a space without taking up more real estate. (Not to mention you can move smaller furnishings like these around as needed.)

(Image credit: House Beautiful)


Keep it simple, sweetie! When you don't have a ton of room to play with but you want to inject some color, it's best to keep it simple if you're a newbie. Start with a foundation of neutrals and add in one feature color and one metallic and run with it, like this space via House Beautiful which invites varying textures and finishes to add depth while remaining light and airy on the eyes.

(Image credit: Homepolish)

Fit it all in

Packing your teeny space with lots of purpose is another way to trick yourself into thinking things are bigger than they appear. In this apartment on Homepolish, the living room seamlessly connects to an office area, feeling cohesive and interesting.

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

Layer your lighting

This living room feels big and spacious due in large part to tall ceilings and big windows, but also of note is the layered lighting. Keeping light at multiple levels (via floor lamps, chandeliers, and task lights) creates a moody yet well-lit room.

An Industrial-Modern Apartment in Brooklyn

(Image credit: Lauren Kolyn)

Don't overlook underused spots

If you have some windows in your tiny living room, put those window sills to work holding books, plants and other decorative objects.

(Image credit: VT Wonen)

Opt for floating shelves

When floor space is at a premium but you've got tons of books and whatsits to store, you'll want to consider floating shelves. Keep them the same color as your wall for an even sleeker look (and don't be afraid to get creative with sizes, like these scattered smaller shelves in a room from VT Wonen).

(Image credit: Sherrie and Oliver )

Go big

With a rug that is. A large rug like this one in the West Village apartment of Lee Lenox makes a tiny space feel much bigger than it actually is.


(Image credit: Architectural Digest)

Go bold (but neutral!)

Designers Cloth & Kind opted for an impressive statement wall when it came to this petite space featured on Architectural Digest, and the mix of patterns is fresh and lively, while a subtle, neutral palette keeps things from feeling overdone. This is a genius way to inject serious personality into a small space.

(Image credit: Marie Claire Maison)

Stack storage

Spotted on Marie Claire Maison, this non-traditional "sofa" is perched atop vintage storage bins—chic and smart!

(Image credit: IKEA via Domino)

Forego traditional pieces

We're so conditioned by the living room formula sofa + coffee table, but what if you focused on doing what works for you and how you live instead? In this space from IKEA via Domino, a quarter of slipper chairs sit where a sofa might be (how modular!) while a coffee table is absent in place of a rolling cart off to the side and cushy floor rugs.

(Image credit: Domino)

Design on a tilt

The best way to shake up a space is to give it a fresh furniture layout. If you're bored of your little living room, consider angling a few key pieces to keep things interesting like this room on Domino (via Airbnb).

(Image credit: Sigmar)

Get creative with storage

Okay, so this one is reserved for homeowners who can invest in custom solutions, but how enviable is this media center designed by London-based firm Sigmar?

(Image credit: New Darlings)

Go vertical

Blankets are a must for a cozy living room experience but when you're short on space to store said blankets, you don't have many options. Sure, you can stash them in a basket, but that takes but valuable floor space. A better option? The leading ladder (as seen here in the home of shelter bloggers New Darlings).

(Image credit: Alpha Smoot for Cup of Jo)

Skip the coffee table in place of an ottoman or pouf

This space from Cup of Jo is by no means a small living room, but let's pretend for a second that it is to learn a thing or two from it. See those two poufs on the other side of the coffee table? Those could easily swap in for the actual coffee table itself in a tighter space, which gives the room's user flexibility in surfaces. Opting for ottomans or poufs over larger furnishings is a smart way to still have a spot to place a drink or remote, but be able to move things easily around as you please (and even maybe create more seating).


Heart & Soul in a Jewelry Designer's Providence Condo

(Image credit: Anna Spaller)

Thinking clearly

Acrylic or glass furniture has long been a designer trick for small spaces. They serve a purpose (i.e., holding drinks, etc.) while basically disappearing into the space. The result is a room with all the function you need, but without all the visual clutter.

(Image credit: One Kings Lane)

Be delicate

Similar to the above trick, choosing accent furniture with delicate frames is another way to keep down the visual noise. This tiny seating living room (the home of content strategist Cole Wilson via One Kings Lane) feels full sized thanks to the delicate gold base and glass top coffee table, thin framed accent chairs and floor lamp.

(Image credit: Better Homes & Gardens)

Be matchy-matchy

While some might tell you that all-white rooms are the key to stretching a small space, we're here to tell you that no matter what paint you go with, the effect of color is a lot more nuanced than that. A trick that always works, though, no matter what's on your wall? Matching your drapes (bonus points if they're a sheer material) to your wall. Here, from Better Homes & Gardens, off-white walls seem to go on forever as the visual line is not interrupted by different colored curtains. If you flip this and decide to go dark and moody, stick to draperies in equally dramatic tones for a super cohesive, polished look perfect for a small living room.

(Image credit: Domino)

Trompe l'oeil, FTW

Featured in Domino, the home of denim darling Nicole Najafi (founder of Industry Standard) showcases many talents, but the biggest takeaway here was her tip on a trick every small space needs to follow: "My apartment is full of eye tricks to make it look larger than it actually is. The shades, for example, are mounted a few feet above the windows to make them look taller. There's actually just wall behind them."

Hamshire College Goes 100% Solar!

We wanted to take a moment on this balmy, wet winter morning to kvell a little bit about one of our local 5 Colleges. Hampshire College, in Amherst, MA - is the first United States residential college to be fully reliant on renewable energy! What a shining example for the rest of the institutions and individuals in our fine country.  One of the many reasons my family chose to live in Northampton specifically, and the Pioneer Valley in general, is for of reasons such as this. We are so lucky to be a part of this vibrant community which values environmental sustainability! Happy Weekend and read on for the article in the Daily Hampshire Gazette about Hampshire College

Hampshire College moves to 100 percent solar energy

Solar arrays on Hampshire College’s campus. On Jan. 5, 2018, the college announced that they would begin to operate 100 percent on solar power. SUBMITTED PHOTO/Hampshire College

Hampshire College moves to 100 percent solar energy

AMHERST — Hampshire College has moved to 100 percent solar energy on campus, which the college says is a first for a U.S. residential college.

The announcement of the complete transition to solar comes after the utility company Eversource gave the college final approval late last month to operate its 19-acre solar-energy system. Previously, the college had been operating half of that system.

“I think it is terrific that a little college in snow country can go 100 percent solar,” college President Jonathan Lash said. “If we can do it, anybody can do it.” 

The way Hampshire College is able to do it is the same way many homeowners are able to install rooftop solar arrays: through a power-purchase agreement with a solar company.

Hampshire is working with SolarCity Corporation, a subsidiary of Tesla Inc. Under the agreement, SolarCity owns and operates the college’s 15,000 photovoltaic-panel arrays, and the college purchases electricity from the company at a fixed rate.

Lash said that as an experiment, Tesla has also provided a bank of batteries that the school will be using for emergency backup power.

Over the course of a year, the college expects to generate more power than it uses. Of course, on a short winter day that’s probably not feasible, but on a day in the middle of June, it should generate far more power than it uses.

The college estimates the project will eliminate 3,000 metric tons of greenhouse-gas emissions every year — the equivalent of taking around 650 cars off the road. 

“We’re doing it and saving money,” Lash said, adding that the economics just make sense. The college estimates that the solar system will save it $8 million over 20 years. 

“This isn’t a quixotic gesture because I’m an environmentalist, though I sure am,” Lash said.

The solar-power system is also being used to educate students, including for ecological thesis research.

“Our students are going to live in a world which has to move toward zero-carbon economies, it just has to,” Lash said. “We involved students every step of the way.” 

The move toward 100 percent solar energy has been several years in the making. The college’s environmental committee began planning for that transition in 2014, and the board of trustees approved the construction of the solar arrays — on two fields — in 2015.

The project is also somewhat of a capstone in the Hampshire tenure of Lash, himself a well-known environmentalist who will be retiring this year. 

Lash was the president of the environmental think tank World Resources Institute before being named Hampshire’s sixth president in 2011. He also co-chaired President Bill Clinton’s Council on Sustainable Development, and was instrumental in creating the U.S. Climate Action Partnership.

“Actually installing green power at Hampshire, and having the institution go 100-percent solar is deeply satisfying,” he said. “It feels very real and very empowering.” 

Dusty Christensen can be reached at

Eastworks Holiday Pop-Up Store in it's Sixth Year!

Still need to do some holiday shopping? The Eastworks Holiday Shop in Easthampton will be open through December 31st. I've found lovely and affordable gifts, made by local Northampton area artisans, every time I've made time to visit this pop up store, now in it's 6th year. Conveniently located in the Eastworks Building in downtown Easthampton, it's well worth a visit, so put it on your pre-holiday to-do list!  More information in the Daily Hampshire Gazette article to follow. Happy Holidays one and all!

NORTHAMPTON — Now in its sixth year, the Eastworks Holiday Pop Up Store continues to provide the wares of local artisans to those searching for the perfect gift.

Meanwhile, a very different kind of “pop up store” has made a seemingly permanent home in Absolute Zero, selling penguin-themed merchandise — and nothing else.

Beth McElhiney founded the Eastworks Holiday Pop Up Store the year she moved to Easthampton, and into Eastworks, from Martha’s Vineyard.

“I live in the building,” said McElhiney, who said that it made running the pop up all the more convenient for her.

The store runs from Nov. 1 to Dec. 31, although McElhiney said that she may extend its duration into the new year this time.

The shop only sells items from local craftspeople and sellers, most of which are made in Eastworks itself, although there are also vintage items for sale. All told, 26 artists are represented in the shop this year.

McElhiney said that customers are often surprised that the store is a pop up shop, given the quality of what is offered.

“People are pretty stunned,” she said.

This is not McElhiney’s first store, however. In addition to having once owned a store on Martha’s Vineyard, she operated a shop on Madison Avenue in New York City.

One of the artists represented at the shop is McElhiney herself, who makes and enamels new jewelry and resurfaces vintage metal tabletop pieces. The process that McElhiney uses not only resurfaces antique pieces with modern colors, but makes them suitable for serving food at all temperatures and dishwasher safe.

McElhiney’s only employee at the pop up, Carol Ostberg, is another artisan who sells her wares there, offering hand-painted furniture and ornaments. McElhiney’s boyfriend also helps out with big events.

McElhiney said that she intends to keep bringing back the pop up as long as she can find a space. 

“Maybe eventually,” she said, on the prospect of making the pop up a year-round affair.

Penguins and ice cream

Eric Bennett has been selling penguin-theme merchandise since 1984, thanks to a penguin-loving girlfriend and a fateful visit to Faneuil Hall shopping center.

Now Bennett, who moved his business online in 1999, has set up a small shop in Absolute Zero selling all things penguin.

“It’s one of these things where everybody’s a winner,” said Bennett.

While on a walk in September, Bennett asked Absolute Zero if he could set up the shop after he noticed that the business projects a spinning penguin onto the sidewalk at night.

“They should have penguins,” was Bennett’s opinion upon seeing the logo.

However, he noted that it took a few weeks to convince Absolute Zero of this.

“We’re an ice cream store, not a penguin store,” is what Bennett said he was initially told.

In the end, an agreement was made in which Bennett would stock shelves in the store with a variety of penguin items, including socks, plush penguins and toys. They can be purchased at the counter at Absolute Zero, which then receives a cut.

“At the end of the month, we settle up,” he said.

Bennett has two of each of 30 to 40 penguin items at the store.

“It’s like Noah’s Ark,” said Bennett.

On his website, however, Bennett offers around 500 different types of penguin-theme products. Indeed, running Penguin Gift Shop is his full-time business.

Bennett first got into the penguin business after visiting Faneuil Hall with a penguin-loving girlfriend, and getting the thought that the cutest store idea would be one dedicated to penguins. However, he decided that he wouldn’t be willing to move from New York City to Boston to do so.

Then the South Street Seaport opened in Manhattan and Bennett, fresh out of college, decided to open a penguin store there in 1985. In 1997 he set up a website to sell his products, becoming an early commercial user of the internet, and in 1999 he moved out of his space in the seaport, bringing his business entirely online.

He and his family moved to Northampton in 2009, and he said that he enjoys living in the city.

Bennett said that he likes having the shop in Absolute Zero.

“I haven’t really had a retail presence since 1999,” he said.

He also said that he wasn’t sure how the shop would shape up when he first started it, but that he has no intention of doing away with it now. Thus, even though he’s characterized it as a pop up shop, this all-penguin establishment appears to have popped itself into permanency.

Time to Winterize Your Home!

Yes, it's that time of year again when your friendly neighborhood realtors remind you to make sure your home is properly winterized. Although we haven't yet seen snow in the Northampton area, history suggests we can count on it's arrival at some point in the not-too-distant future. It makes sense to have your ducks in a row before the first big snow storm and low temperatures descend upon us. To that end, I include the following article from the Realtor Association of the Pioneer Valley website. It provides a thorough laundry list of how to prepare your home for winter.

Avoid Costly Repairs With These Winter Maintenance Must-Dos

Failure to prepare your home for the upcoming winter months can have dire consequences on your wallet, as well as pose a safety hazard for others. Even those in warmer climates will want to be careful this time of year: Everyone can benefit from an annual maintenance tune-up, and even in the South a winter frost can come as a nasty surprise.

Fortunately, there are some relatively easy preventative measures you can implement in the fall months to help ensure a smooth winter. The list below provides a few of the low-cost measures you can take now that will save you from the hassles of repairs and from the cost of winter issues.

Winterize pipes and outdoor spigots. As the temperatures start to dip below freezing, any water that is exposed to the lower temperatures will freeze. When water freezes, it expands; water left in a hose has nowhere to expand to. The copper piping that feeds the water to the hose will eventually split because of this expansion.


The easy fix here is to remove all the hoses and make sure that there is no water left in them. Also, for more protection, you can place a foam box over the spigot.

Additionally, if you live in a place where the temperatures drop dramatically or stay cold for an extended period of time, you need to make sure the pipes inside the home are protected. This is very important if your home has a crawl space underneath the house with exposed pipes. Simple and inexpensive foam pipe covers can accomplish this.

Clean roof gutters. If your home has gutters you need to make sure that you inspect how they are attached to the roof and that they are clear of debris. You want to make sure no dams or clogs are created. The best time to check is after all the fall leaves have dropped and then again during the spring thaw. Cleaning the drains will help ensure that the drains do not get ripped off from the roof and that water will not back up, which can cause a leaky roof.

Remove foliage and potential tree hazards. Trees and foliage provide great shade for your home in the summer and help keep the heat at bay. However, you want to make sure that you do not have branches and other foliage over your roof or potentially covering electric lines, cable, gas or any other cables you may have running to your home. It is easiest to trim back or remove any potential problems in the fall. Snow on branches can weigh them down and potentially cause utility problems or even roof damage.

Inspect your furnace. Winter typically requires the use of a heater. Schedule an inspection of your furnace to make sure it is venting properly and will not be obstructed by winter weather. Check and/or replace your carbon monoxide alarms, which is a low-cost fix that may just save your life.

Dryer exhaust.  Much like your furnace, inspect your dryer vent. Make sure no lint is backing up the exhaust and that winter weather will not cause any issues. A backed-up exhaust can lead to house fires.

These few safety precautions will help ensure that the winter months pass safely and that your home is protected. Take a few minutes and make your home as safe as possible for you and your family.

Northampton Annual Toy Exchange Is Happening Next Weekend!

It's wonderful to live in a community like Northampton, which values the idea of repurposing. Between local clothing swaps, consignment stores, the re-center and local recycling events - we Northamptonites (and other local communities) like to do our part in the effort to reduce/reuse/recycle. This time of year where we celebrate our connections to one another, it's so great to be able to pass things along to others who might benefit from them. To that end - the Seventh Annual Toy Exchange is almost upon us! It will be held on December 9th at Smith Vocational High School, 80 Locust Street, Northampton. Toy donations will be collected in the school cafeteria from 4:00 PM-8:00 PM on Friday, December 8, and will be available to the public free of charge at 10:00 AM Saturday morning.

Do you have some toys to donate or exchange?

Northampton's Annual Holiday Toy Exchange is scheduled for Friday December 8 and Saturday December 9. Eight years ago a small event started at Nonotuck School where friends exchanged toys at holiday time, and has now grown into a city-wide event where hundreds of people contribute toys and other gifts. Hundreds of other people come to the Smith Vocational High School cafeteria to take home gifts for their children.

Here's the info if you'd like to donate something: 

Donated items must be clean, in working order and complete (no missing pieces). The following items are sought: musical instruments; action
figures/dolls; books, games & puzzles; model kits & building toys; arts/craft kits & creative learning toys; cars & trucks; outdoor toys &
structures; stuffed animals; electronic toys; video games & DVDs; and baby and preschool toys.
Collected toys are offered to toy donors and residents referred by community agencies early on Saturday morning and to the general public from 10:00 AM-11:00 AM. Participants are asked to leave children safely at home in the care of others on Saturday.
The Toy Exchange is coordinated by the Northampton Department of Public Works and the Reuse Committee and is co-sponsored by the Northampton Public Schools/CFCE via grants from the MA Department of Early Education.