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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

Laundry Hacks, Whoop!

I don't know about you, but I have a love/hate relationship with laundry. I love when it's clean, and I don't actually mind "doing" it. But I hate folding it and putting it away. With a household of 4 people and one dog - there is always laundry to be done. This time of year, I like to take advantage of the sunny Northampton skies (when they comply) and air dry most of our clothes on drying racks outside. I'm also a sucker for home remedies for stain removal, wrinkle reduction, whitening whites, etc. I found this Laundry Hack "fun fact" list on Apartment Therapy to share. Read on if you are so inclined!

The 27 Greatest Laundry Hacks of All Time

by TARYN WILLIFORD

There’s really something for everyone to hate about laundry. Impatient people hate the waiting. Easily-distracted people hate the folding. And there’s not a soul on Earth that enjoys the part where you leave piles of folded clothes in your living room for five to seven business days before reluctantly carrying them upstairs.

While we can’t come do your laundry for you, we can try to make it easier by rounding up a big list of our very favorite hacks, tricks, and techniques for making laundry day go a little bit easier. 

1. Soften Sheets with Vinegar

Run a cycle with your bed sheets and a half-cup of distilled white vinegar to give them a quick boost of softness and brightness, and to remove lingering odors.

2. Sort unconventionally, like by soil level or details.

There’s no laundry police to tell you you must sort your laundry by color. If a different sorting solution works better for your family, try it instead. For instance, large families might like to sort their laundry by person, or you can save detergent and energy by sorting by soil level—keeping filthy gym clothes or diapers separate from once-worn tee shirts and optimizing each load.

3. Throw your detergent cap in with the laundry to wash it.

You know those messy drips and sticky spots that decorate the lid of your laundry detergent bottle before too long? Don’t waste time wiping them away. Just toss the detergent lid right into the wash with your clothes (avoid delicates) to get it clean. Just make sure you remove it before it enters the heat of the dryer.

 
 

4. Keep chalk in the kitchen to treat grease stains.

Grease stains be gone! Because chalk is ultra-absorbent, you can rub a bit on any oily kitchen stains as they happen, to absorb grease and hold you over until you can throw the garment in the wash.

5. Dry clothes fast with a clean towel in the dryer.

You can speed up the machine-dry process by adding a clean, dry towel to the mix. Toss it into the dryer with your wet clothes to dry everything faster.

6. Make your own wrinkle releaser in a pinch.

Wrinkled clothes? No time to wash or iron? You probably have everything you need to make a DIY wrinkle releaser in your bathroom and kitchen cabinets. Take a spray bottle and fill it with 2 cups of water, 1 teaspoon of hair conditioner and 1 tablespoon of white vinegar. Spray the mist onto your wrinkled clothes until they’re lightly damp, then stretch and pull the fabric until the wrinkles release.

7. Fake-iron your clothes with ice cubes.

If you have a dryer in your apartment, you can quickly “iron” your clothes with an ice cube. Just toss the wrinkled clothes in the dryer with an ice cube or two, on the warmest possible setting, and let the ice cube create steam in the dryer to leave your clothes looking smooth.

 
(Image Credit: Joe Lingeman

8. Collect dryer lint in a tissue box.

If you don’t have room for a trash can in your laundry room, try repurposing a tissue box to collect your dryer lint. When the box is full, you can toss the entire thing out or — even better — compost it! Both the cardboard tissue box and the dryer lint itself is likely compostable.

9. Use shaving cream as a stain remover on the go.

Shaving cream contains similar active ingredients to many household soaps, and the foamy nature works great at lifting stains, especially in a pinch or on the go. Work some cream into the stain, let it sit, then blot it up.

10. Spray clothes with vodka.

Vodka is a natural deodorizer. Keep a spray bottle full of cheap vodka on hand and use it to freshen up your smelly clothes for a re-wear before washing.

11. Master a laundry folder.

One quick upgrade to your laundry routine is getting yourself a laundry folder. It’ll turn folding into somewhat of a game—and you’ll get through that pile of clothes faster than ever. Plus the uniformity of your folded clothes is enough to put a forever-pep in your step.

(Image Credit: Joe Lingeman

12. Lift sticky stains with ice cubes.

If you notice a stubborn, sticky mess on your clothes (like gum!) try this: Leave some ice cubes on top of the mess for a few minutes, then easily peel the gunk away once it feels like it’s hardened.

13. Put your clothes in the freezer.

It won’t kill bacteria, but an overnight stay in the freezer will help to de-stink your clothes enough to, say, wear that smokey top or pair of jeans one more time before washing them.

14. Keep socks paired in a mesh laundry bag.

Those mesh bags meant for delicates? They’re also great at keeping small items from getting lost to… wherever it is all those odd socks go. Get a big one (like one from this set), hang it near your hamper, and toss pairs of socks in there as you take them off. When it’s laundry day, zip it up and throw the whole bag in the wash. 

15. Trade your dryer sheets for dryer balls.

ICYMI, dryer sheets are not that great. Instead, opt for a set of wool dryer balls. They’ll keep air moving, smoothing out wrinkles and speeding up your drying time. And if you like to scent your laundry, you can drip a few drops of essential oils onto your dryer balls every 10 or so loads.

16. Hang your dirty clothes back up—but mark them.

Instead of piling your still-sorta-clean, wear-again clothes in a pile on the bedroom chair (where you can assure yourself they’ll be too wrinkled to actually wear again), hang them back up. If they’re clean enough to wear again, they’re clean enough to go back in the closet. To make sure you know which clothes to grab from the closet next time it’s laundry day, mark already-worn clothes with a special signifier. Some ideas? A special-colored hanger, a bread tag, safety pins, or just turn the hangers around to face the other way.

17. Hand-wash your clothes in a salad spinner.

Those hand-wash-only items can be a chore to clean. Throw them into an inexpensive salad spinner with a bit of soap (laundry detergent, baby shampoo, castile soap—whatever you prefer) to give them a wash that’ll be more powerful than hand-massaging but gentler than the laundry machine. You can also use the spinner to dry them off afterwards!

18. Use a dry erase marker to keep track of items between the washer and dryer.

There’s a simple answer to your “line dry only” forgetfulness: A dry erase marker. When you put a load of clothes in the washer, keep track of which items should be sorted out before the dryer, and write them down right on the metal surface of your machine with a dry erase marker.

19. Use a pool noodle to keep from creasing while drying.

If you’ve ever draped your freshly washed clothes over a drying rack only to have them come up with a big crease, try this: Cut a pool noodle to the length of your drying rack rods, then cut along one side lengthways to open up the noodle to the center. You’ll be able to slip the noodle around the rod of your drying rack and avoid any harsh lines on your clothes.

(Image Credit: Joe Lingema

20. Make a mega lint roller.

If you have large areas that need de-linting, or just have misplaced your lint roller, you can hack one together with duct tape and a paint roller. Just wrap the tape sticky-side out around the roller and start spinning it over your clothes or furniture.

21. Pre-soak your gym clothes in vinegar.

For an especially foul-smelling load of gym clothes, soak your clothes in a half a cup of white vinegar mixed with cold water for at least an hour before washing. This will help remove unpleasant odors and break down sweat stains and buildup. And don’t machine dry them.

22. Iron clothes with a hair flat iron.

A hair straightener is great for getting in between buttons on a shirt or straightening out a bendy hem. Just make sure the hair iron is totally clean and dry (and not caked with product) before you clamp it down on your clothes.

23. Use white bread on stains, in a pinch.

If you’re, say, out to lunch and get a big ol’ barbecue sauce stain on your shirt, reach for a slice of plain white bread and use it to gently blot up as much of the stain as you can from the fabric to tide you over until you can get to the Tide. 

 

24. Pre-treat sweat stains with baby shampoo.

Dab a bit of baby shampoo on your sweat-soiled shirt collars and underarm areas and let it soak in for half an hour before throwing them in the washer to say goodbye to those unsightly pit stains once and for all.

25. You can un-shrink sweaters with baby shampoo, too.

Fill up a bucket with lukewarm water and two tablespoons of baby shampoo, then let your shrunken sweater soak for twenty minutes. When time’s up, drain, flatten, and lay it out as taut as possible to dry to stretch your shrunken sweater back to its original shape.

26. Try “bluing solution” to battle yellowing.

If you notice your whites growing a little warmer (a.k.a. they’re looking more “buttercream” than “icy white”), you can add something called liquid bluing solution to your wash to impart a subtle blue tint to bring your whites back into balance.

27. When you get back from vacation, dump the whole suitcase in the wash.

It seems dramatic, and there might be clean clothes in there, but dumping your vacation suitcase in the wash is a power move for anyone who struggles with their vacation re-entry moment (i.e. living out of a suitcase for a week or more).

 

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The Ellery in Northampton

When we were planning our move to Northampton in 2006, hotel options included The Autumn Inn, The Hotel Northampton, or a chain hotel out on Route 9 in Hadley. The Hotel Northampton was expensive, the Autumn Inn was dark and depressing, and we didn't want to stay on Route 9. That was 13 years ago, and the options haven't increased by much. There are more chain hotels on Conz St, but, until now, there were no cozy, clean, attractive and affordable options right in Northampton. Enter The Ellery! The Autumn Inn has received a low key makeover, and the results are fantastic! Check out the following piece from the Daily Hampshire Gazette. 

A new season for the Autumn Inn: The Ellery

The owners, both preservationists, updated the lobby without touching the room’s massive hearth. 

By Valerie Reiss

For the Gazette
Published: 5/16/2019 2:58:25 PM

In recent years, the Autumn Inn on Elm Street, a Northampton visitor staple since it opened in 1967, had started to look its age. Online reviewers of the inn had noticed, saying things like “seen better days,” “sad,” and “tired,” and “smells of… feet.” 

Enter Bob Thomas and Dierdre Savage, owners of Saltaire Properties, who purchased the inn in 2018 from Atwood Drive LLC, an affiliate of the Hampshire Hospitality Group for $2.25 million. Atwood Drive had held the property since 2001. 

Developers of mid-sized, independent New England hotels and inns, the Saltaire team had wanted to buy a property in Northampton for a while, admiring its history and culture. The team’s tagline is “Bringing new life to forgotten hotels,” which means, essentially: keeping the good while updating the old — and making everything a bit more delightful and modern for guests. Thomas holds a master’s degree in historic preservation and Savage has one in architectural preservation. “We’re always interested in the ugly and the unloved buildings,” said Thomas. “The idea of historic preservation is, fundamentally: Don’t think it’s obsolete, there’s actually a use for that building. Save stuff. It’s not just an architecture thing, it’s also an environmental thing, not to throw a building away.”

Moderate makeover, hotel edition

This meant a deep, but not structural, makeover of the Dutch colonial hotel, which is now called The Ellery, named for William Ellery Channing, a transcendentalist poet who went to school in Northampton. The renovation spanned the 32 guest rooms, a lobby, lounge area, small commercial kitchen, and the exterior. “We always want the design to start with the architecture,” said Thomas. “It’s got to inhabit the building appropriately. This is a neo-colonial building. So it should be kind of colonial, but also modern.”

Interestingly, the original owners also intended a mix. A 1967 Gazette article stated, “…plans for the inn call for an exterior resembling a fine old residence, but the interior will be ultra-modern, including color television in every unit and wall-to-wall carpeting.” 

A different 1967 Gazette article, written after the opening, said the inn was “decorated throughout in tones of coppery orange, gold and leaf green.” Those hues had long since faded, though, so the Saltaire team replaced worn red carpeting with soft, mid-tone gray carpet; painted dingy walls with fresh grays and whites; transformed the lobby floor with durable, wood-look planks; swapped out lighting fixtures; and created a design scheme that carried through the rooms. 

Plus, the HVAC system was completely overhauled, which meant being able to remove bulky air conditioners from the windows and lowering astronomical heating bills generated by the old baseboard heaters. The building was brought up to current fire code, and the kitchen was brought up to code, too. 

This work was done with the help of their contractor, plus Carrie Thomas, an interior designer married to Bob Thomas, who designs for Saltaire projects and private clients. The aim was to have the rooms feel “serene, dignified, and peaceful,” said Bob Thomas. Each has a single, large piece of art — framed block prints by designer John Robshaw, Turkish throw pillows, crisp white bedding, and black wood beds. The mattresses have been selected for comfort. “We sell sleep, at the end of the day,” said Thomas. Two items salvaged from the past were the wood framed mirrors and cast iron tubs in each room. They also didn’t touch the massive, 1967 hearth in the lobby’s lounge area, which still exudes cozy warmth. 

Outside got plenty of sprucing too. Though they had planned to keep the pool, they soon learned it “leaked like a sieve,” and also haunted Thomas as a potential danger for neighborhood kids. They filled it in and now have a rolling lawn, perfect for special events and warm weather lounging. “I’m going to get the best croquet set I can find,” said Thomas. 

Connecting to the past and to place

Devoted to the original intention of the building, they replaced plastic shutters with “architecturally correct shutters,” said Thomas. Real gas lanterns will flicker outside. Copper gutters are soon to be installed. “The idea was to take what the building aspired to be originally and make it more authentically that,” said Thomas.

There was also a commitment to keeping the hotel firmly grounded in a sense of place. “We love giving people an experience that allows them to truly feel they’re in the community that they’re visiting,” said Savage. To that end, the first thing they wanted to add was a replica of Thomas Cole’s 1836 painting of the Connecticut River, called “View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Massachusetts, after a Thunderstorm — The Oxbow.”

“It tells you about your surroundings,” said Thomas. There are also framed posters from shows at The Calvin, a photo gallery of famous Smith College alumna, and a bookshelf that Thomas stocked with books by Smith authors — think: “Orange is the New Black” and “Gifts from the Sea” — plus other writers who had a connection to Northampton.

The desire to connect the hotel to the city carried through to their business. “We really like community partnerships,” said Thomas. Woodstar’s bakery will provide the batter for their morning scones. And Florence Savings Bank helped fund the venture. “They’ve been awesome,” said Savage. “We work with community lenders so that we, hand-in-hand, are investing in the community. No Bank of America for me.” She also said that various city departments and boards in Northampton were notably supportive of the project. “It was actually a pleasant experience,” she said. “We are very grateful for that.”

Back in 1967, city board had, in fact, opposed the creation of an inn at 259 Elm Street in the first place — four years after striking down a bid to create an 80-unit high-rise on the lot. From a May 1967 Gazette: “The Northampton Board of Appeals will have a public hearing in the city council rooms tonight on the appeal of William H. Ormond Jr., objecting to construction of a 32-unit Autumn Inn on Elm St. Ormond contends the facility is a motel, not an inn, and that it would be in violation of the city’s Residence C zoning ordinance.” Regardless, the inn opened in October of that year. 

Building ahead

Savage and Thomas have been business partners for more than 10 years — starting their career in housing and then gravitating toward hotels because it was more about people and didn’t have a finite end. “It’s not like it’s just built and it’s over, said Thomas. “It kind of evolves over time.” Properties they’ve developed include The Shire Woodstock and The Stowehof, both in Vermont, and the Harbor Hotel in Provincetown. The two developers share all aspects of the business — though Savage, who has a background in commercial real estate finance, handles the banks. “I’m not just sitting there with a green visor on, though,” said Savage.

“We really both enjoy the design part, the relationship part and the operations part,” said Thomas. “What does it feel like to be a guest here? What’s the music? How are you greeted? We share those things.”

Savage lives in Gloucester and Thomas outside of Boston, but they plan to stay involved with the big picture. A management company hired by Saltaire will operate the hotel day-to-day, checking people in, hiring the employees, dealing with laundry, etc. The company also sets the rates — which vary by day and date. A quick search shows that a weekend in mid-June costs anywhere from $215-$279 a night, depending on the room.

As for the future, the team plans to thoughtfully buy and restore more hand-selected properties. “There’s no recipe for what we do, but we’re pretty good at identifying what we see as terrific opportunities,” said Savage. Their goals beyond The Ellery are twofold: “To put together a portfolio of properties that would offer people a tour of New England — and build a healthy business,” Savage said. “We’re in this for the long term.” Also, she adds, laughing: “I love new deals. It’s fun, it’s exciting.”

Visitors to The Ellery might say the same thing about that new croquet set, as they click balls across the hotel’s lawn in the New England sun.

 

 
 
 
 

Fantastic Building Lot Within Walking Distance to Downtown Northampton!

Have you been looking for the perfect spot to build a small footprint house within walking distance to downtown Northampton? If so, look no further! 0 Stoddard Street in Northampton is a unique infill lot. It has the required 50 feet of frontage but widens to 65 feet along the back lot line. In addition, the seller is willing to allow a "zero lot line" on the left hand border (from the street). The city's mandated 15 foot side setback would be *softened* up to 10 feet closer to the existing lot line - allowing for more space to build or add a garage. Stoddard Street abuts the bike path, it is steps away from the supermarket, and walking distance to town. While it's proximity to town/bike path allows for a "car lite" lifestyle, Stoddard Street is quiet, lined with quaint houses and lovely gardens. For more information, contact Julie Starr. Offered at $180,000

Plants and Antiques!

    

It's that time of year again, when the Brimfield Antiques Fair comes (close) to town! The annual fair, which takes places a number of times over the spring and summer, just down the road a piece in Brimfield, MA, opens for the first time this season starting on Tuesday, May 14th! The following article from Mass Live gives more information about the fair.

In the meanwhile, if you are looking for something fun and local to do this weekend - the 23rd Annual Plant and Garden Market, hosted by NEF and held at Smith Vocational High School in Northampton, will be held tomorrow, May 11th, from 9-12. It's a great place to pick up some Mother's Day gifts! The proceeds from the sale benefit Northampton public schools. What a great cause!

Brimfield Antique and Collectibles Show begins 6-day run on Tuesday

; Posted May 8, 2019

The Brimfield Antiques & Collectibles Show returns Tuesday to Route 20 in Brimfield.

Staff-Shot

The Brimfield Antiques & Collectibles Show returns Tuesday to Route 20 in Brimfield. 

By Keith O'Connor | Special to The Republican

Lori Faxon of Dealer’s Choice Antique Shows met her husband, Tom, at the Brimfield Antique and Collectibles Show some 35 years ago.

“I was 19 years old and really wasn’t into antiques at the time, but got into them because of Tom, who she began to help at his field named Midway Antique Shows,” said Faxon.

Love blossomed, along with marriage, and today the couple owns not only Midway Antiques, but Dealer’s Choice Antique Shows. The six-day show begins its run on Tuesday, May 14.

The “show” is actually made up of about 21 fields, stretching along Route 20 for about a mile, owned by promoters or operators such as Faxon and her husband, who lease spaces to dealers.

“We purchased the large property from the daughters of Gordon Reed, founder of the Brimfield Antiques and Collectibles Show,” Faxon said.

Reed, an auctioneer, began holding auctions outdoors on his large field, eventually growing into a popular flea market and leading the way for other field owners to do the same in the late ’70s.

According to the website brimfieldantiquefleamarket.com, “the May show is the first show of the Brimfield 2019 season, and is easiy the busiest show of the year. This is the time that you will find the freshest offers and merchandise from dealers in every field and shop.”

“Our Dealer’s Choice property is actually on the outskirts of all the fields, and people just don’t want to come out that far. Everyone is always busy on opening day, so our Dealer’s Choice field is open on just the first of the six days,” Faxon said.

“We have 400 dealers on our property, for us a mix of mid-century to modern vintage clothing, jewelry and furniture,” she added.

Most of the individual fields that make up the large antiques and collectible show sell a variety of items in addition to clothing, jewelry and furniture treasure hunters will find

fine art, glassware, toys, silver, antique farm implements and tools and much more with prices ranging from one dollar to thousands of dollars.

Although many field owners offer an array of food options to choose from, Faxon said the atmosphere is more business-like than that of a fair.

“Dealers come to buy as well as to sell. It’s serious business and for many it’s how they make a living. People come from far and wide from Japan, Germany, England and beyond. While you see a lot of buyers adding to their stock in the first part of the week, as the weekend approaches the focus is more on retail,” Faxon said.

Faxon offered some advice for attending the spring show.

“Expect the fields to be muddy and wear appropriate shoes. And, don’t expect to do the entire show in one day because it is so big. Hit one or two fields in the morning, then enjoy some lunch and then another couple in the afternoon,” she said.

Additional tips found on various Brimfield Flea Markets associated websites include:

  • Bring your umbrella and shop in the rain when attendance isn’t as heavy.
  • Cool hard cash speaks better to some dealers than a check.
  • Take a small memo pad with you so that you can write down the item that caught your eye, but weren’t ready to purchase, along with the name, booth number and field for that dealer. With so many fields, it’s easy to forget where you saw something you liked.
  • Begin your treasure hunting early to avoid the crowds and don’t wait until noon to eat lunch when everyone else is getting hungry at the same time.
  • Don’t see something that you might be looking for? Don’t be afraid to ask.
  • Check the temperature and weather for Brimfield before leaving home, and dress appropriately. Bring a water bottle with you to keep hydrated is the scorching summersun.

For those who can’t attend the May show, the next Brimfield Antique and Collectibles Show is set for July 9-14.

Spring Garden Clean Up!

Can you feel it? Spring has sprung! There's no denying the feeling that a literal dark cloud has lifted, once the days get warmer, the nights get longer, and the beautiful spring flowers start to poke through the soil. Even on a rainy weekend such as this, the warmer temps and lighter skies help buoy the spirits of us Pioneer Valley dwellers. We are ready!

Each spring, I look forward to the gardening columns from The Daily Hampshire Gazette's Mickey Rathbun. She never fails to give sound advice. The following article will help you form your spring clean up to do list. And in the meanwhile, since you won't likely make it out to your garden in the rain, check out these Northampton area (and beyond) weekend open houses. Enjoy!

 Get Growing: Embracing spring garden chores

For the Gazette 
Published: 4/5/2019 11:23:43 AM

 

Dare I say it? It’s time to start spring clean-up in the garden. Although we had a typical April Fool’s Day on Monday — cold and windy — and I am dressed for the outdoors in the same winter clothes I wore three weeks ago when I headed to North Carolina, the season has progressed considerably. The peepers started their ecstatic racket this past weekend, crocuses are blooming in sunny places and robins have returned.

The most important caution when heading out to the garden is to avoid trampling on soggy or semi-frozen soil and compacting it. Compacting soil changes its structure by eliminating the air pockets between particles. Water has a harder time sinking into the earth and tends to puddle on top. Plant roots have a harder time growing in compacted soil — think brick instead of brown sugar — and can even expire. So be careful: test for moisture by taking a handful and squeezing it into a ball. If it crumbles after a few seconds, it’s dry enough to work. But if it holds its ball shape, wait a few days and try again. If you absolutely have to walk across a garden bed lay a couple of boards across that you can walk on to disperse your weight.

Don’t be in too much of a hurry to cut things back or clear dead leaves. Beneficial insects such as bees, butterflies and moths that have nested in leaf litter need time to get moving. Wait until there have been a series of daytime temperatures of 50 degrees or higher to minimize the damage done to these precious critters.

One of my favorite spring chores is removing old patches of dead leaves and revealing tender shoots of spring bulbs and other early bloomers. This is slow, delicate work but it’s infinitely rewarding. This is also a good time to use gardening scissors or other small pruners to trim out dead leaves from epimedium and heuchera to expose new growth. A lot of epimediums’ magic happens under a tent of dead leaves; you will miss the lovely, pale green buds that unfurl into clouds of tiny flowers if you don’t clear out the debris. But take care not to cut the new growth underneath.

If you have a lawn, wait till it’s good and dry and then rake it briskly to remove thatch and give the new grass some space to emerge. April is the right time to plant and fertilize grass. Wait until the daytime temperatures are 65 degrees or higher. Seed will not germinate if the ground is too cold. UMass Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment has a lot of helpful information about lawn care; see ag.umass.edu/home-lawn-garden/ for detailed advice about growing a lush, healthy lawn.

If you grow vegetables, organize and stay on top of your planting schedule. Keep a calendar of what you plant when, and what should be reseeded when so that you have a steady supply of things like lettuce and other salad ingredients.

No matter what you grow, get your soil tested. UMass has an excellent soil-testing service. Preparing a good sample is the most important part of testing. It’s not difficult, but do it methodically for the best results. Take 12 or so samples of soil from an area that has similar soil characteristics. Dig 6 to 8 inches below the surface — a small spadeful from each site — and mix them in a clean bucket. Remove debris, stones, etc. Take a cupful of the soil and let it dry. If you have multiple areas of soil with different characteristics, make a test sample for each site. It’s a good idea to sketch a map of where you’ve taken your samples from. You can find all the necessary information and forms on their website. Paige Laboratory on campus even has short-term free parking for soil sample drop offs!

It’s not too late to straighten out your tools and clean them up for the season. Many of us are too busy in the fall to get this chore done before the snow flies. Then it’s winter, and who wants to be out in the garage or garden shed in the freezing cold scraping dried mud off trowels or scrubbing pruner blades with scouring powder?

Now that daylight savings time is here, most of us have time in the early evening to say hello to all our new arrivals. Spring happens fast once it starts. After surviving another cold, dismal winter, you don’t want to miss anything.

 

 Mickey Rathbun, an Amherst-based lawyer turned journalist, has written the Get Growing column since 2016.

 

Smith Bulb Show in Full Swing!

Cold temperatures, mounds of snow and ice got you down? Head over to Smith College for the remaining 9 days of the Smith and Mount Holyoke College Spring bulb show. The variety of flowers, array of colors and floral scents, and the recently added corresponding art installation should help lift your spirits and remind you that spring and summer are around the corner! Winter can be tough in the Pioneer Valley. Northampton residents and visitors look forward to this annual event as winter draws to a close.

Get Growing: Inside the bulb shows

For the Gazette 
Published: 3/1/2019 2:04:02 PM

Every year in late winter, when we’re all desperate for the sights and smells of springtime, the botanic gardens of Smith and Mount Holyoke Colleges bring us their fabulous annual spring bulb shows. This year’s shows will run from March 2 through 17, promising, as always, to delight visitors from all over New England. 

At Smith College’s Lyman Conservatory and Mount Holyoke’s Talcott Greenhouse, staff members and students have been busy for months preparing the stunning arrays of crocuses, hyacinths, narcissi, irises, lilies, tulips and more that will come into their own during the first two weeks of March. A question that many visitors ask is: how do you make sure that everything is ready to bloom at the right time? 

Over the many years that the colleges have been putting on the shows, they have refined the technique of synchronized blooming. To prepare for the annual bulb shows, students at both colleges pot thousands of bulbs and put them in cold storage to simulate a period of winter dormancy. 

In January, the pots are brought into the greenhouses to wake up and start growing. Spring plants grown from seed, such as pansies, are started in the fall. Because the plants all have different blooming schedules, there’s an artful science to bringing the bulbs into flower during the same two-week period.

Timing and temperature control are key to creating the spectacular display. “We can push them or slow them down if we need to,” said Tom Clark, director and curator of Mount Holyoke’s botanic garden. “And we don’t want them all to be in full bloom on opening day.” 

But there are limits to what can be done. “When the temperature hit 60 degrees a couple of weeks ago,” he said, “all we could do to keep things cool was to open all the vents in the greenhouse.” 

Snow is also a challenge, he added, because it does not melt when the greenhouse roofs are cool. “If we warm up the greenhouse to get rid of the snow, we’re making it too warm for the plants.” 

In addition to the usual spring favorites, the shows will feature smaller bulbs such as chionodoxa (glory of the snow) and muscari (grape hyacinth). “We like to have some plants that aren’t so common,” said Clark. “We like to introduce people to new things they can try in their own gardens.” One such plant is the fritillaria meleagris, or snake’s head fritillary. It grows only 8 to 10 inches and has nodding, bell-shaped flowers in colors ranging from white to dusty-wine and purple. Smith’s show this year will feature “a slew of anemone nestled together which makes for a great sight,” said greenhouse assistant Dan Babineau, who does much of the planning and execution for the show.

Both shows use “supporting actors” from the permanent collections to add dimension and texture to the displays. And both feature branches from spring-flowering trees that are forced into bloom with heat and moisture. “I'm particularly excited for the many new forced branches,” said Babineau. “The buds of cornus mas and officinalis, dogwoods, are on the way along with a couple varieties of cherry, some apple blossoms and more.” 

Last year, Mount Holyoke introduced a new feature: a complementary art installation created by students specifically for the show. The work, a sculpture evoking the college’s main gate and large fountain that created a rain-like effect, was so successful that this past fall, Clark asked sculpture professor Ligia Bouton if she might have students interested in doing a piece for this year’s show. Three students, Deborah Korboe, Emily Damon and Lauren Ferrara, took on the challenge, advised by Bouton and Amanda Maciuba, visiting artist in printmaking.  

“We gave the students a couple of possible ideas to work with,” said Clark. These included “an evocation of the Pioneer Valley” and “colorful spheres, perhaps hot air balloons, that are popular in the area.” From these themes, the students created a spectacular array of mobile pieces in metal, plexiglass and wax hanging from the greenhouse ceiling that represent fall, winter and spring, the three seasons they experience here in the Valley. 

“We liked that idea [of hot air balloons], but wanted to go with something a little more abstract,” said Damon. “We played around with the idea of hot air balloons, air, wind currents, then settled on the theme of ‘winds of change’ which is representative of the three seasons we have hanging above the flower bed.” 

The work consists of 625 handmade elements, each strung and hung individually. The delicate leaves of fall, the shimmering ice formations of winter, and the magnified spring seeds, buds and other organic shapes of spring, provide a magical counterpoint to the array of flowers beneath it. “The overall span and shape of the piece emulates a gust of wind that starts at the door and carries you through the amazing flower show,” said Korboe. “It is a journey as well as a transition. A journey between seasons while looking forward to the next and still experiencing the present.” 

“It was an amazing experience working on this project with such a creative and ambitious group of student artists,” said Bouton. “They really worked hard, and I feel the piece is a testament to their dedication, creativity and perseverance.”

The Smith College show will kick off March 1 at 7:30 p.m. with a lecture titled “Advancing Racial Equity Through Regenerative Place-Making” at the Campus Center Carroll Room. Speaker Duron Chavis is a nationally known leaer in urban agriculture and advocate for community-designed solutions to local challenges. His talk will focus on ways to mitigate the harsh realities of racism and racial inequality through place-making, a process that capitalizes on a local community’s assets, inspiration and potential, with the intention of creating public spaces that promote people’s health, happiness and wellbeing. The event is free and open to the public. 

Both shows are open March 2-17 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. The Smith Show is open till 8 p.m. Fri. to Sun. For more information about the shows, go to: mtholyoke.edu/botanic and garden. smith.edu.

Mickey Rathbun, an Amherst-based lawyer turned journalist, has written the Get Growing column since 2016.

Upcoming garden events:

Landscape architecture book launch

On Mar. 2 at 10 a.m., Berkshire Botanical Garden in Stockbridge will host a talk by well-known local landscape architect Walter Cudnohufsky, about his new book, Cultivating the Designers Mind — Principles and Process of Coherent Landscape Design. Cudnohufsky is founder of the Conway School of Landscape Design. His book is a culmination of 60 years of studying, teaching and practicing landscape design. While the book is intended for all landscape architects, architects, planners and engineers, it is both accessible to and useful for all audiences. This talk will share some of the sources of personal inspiration, discovered principles and insights made in capturing on paper the elusive task called designing. There will be ample time for planned audience engagement and questions and answers in the one hour talk. Members: $10/nonmembers: $15. For more information and to register, go to: berkshirebotanical.org

Community tree conference at UMass

The 40th annual Community Tree Conference will take place at Stockbridge Hall at UMass on Mar. 5. This event is designed for tree care professionals, volunteers and enthusiasts including arborists, tree wardens/municipal tree care specialists, foresters, landscape architects and shade tree committee members. This year’s theme is Species Selection in the Urban Environment. Topics will include creating bird habitats in the urban environment, the effects of climate change at the local level, and choosing trees for storm resistance. Cost: $95 ($75 for each additional member of the same organization). For more information and to register, go to ag.umass.edu/landscape/events

Pests and diseases in the landscape: Q & A

One positive thing I can say about winter is that pests and diseases are less of a problem in the garden. But spring is just around the corner, and it’s not too soon to start thinking about how to deal with these problems. At Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston, on Mar. 9 from 11 a.m. to noon, there will be a Q and A on the subject of insects and disease in our landscape. Gary Alia, field supervisor for Rutland Nurseries, will answer your questions about problems affecting trees, shrubs, perennials and lawns. Gardeners are encouraged to send your questions in advance to adulteducation@towerhillbg.org. Cost is included with admission.

Rainwater as a resource

The final clinic in Hadley Garden Center’s weekly series is about using rainwater as a resource around your home and garden. Mar. 2 at 1 p.m. 285 Russell St. (Rte. 9) Hadley. For more information, call 584-1423. The session is free but come early to get a seat. And while you’re there, consider buying yourself something nice for your garden to celebrate having almost made it through another winter. 

 

Get Outside!

If you live in the Pioneer Valley, there is no question that winter will be more enjoyable if you adopt an "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" mentality. Winter is long, and cold. However, with some advance planning, it can be enjoyable to spend time outdoors in our beautiful part of the Northeast. The following article from this week's Daily Hampshire Gazette, provides a list of must-have equipment (so important!), with some great outdoor hikes and even places to enjoy food and drink after you've exerted yourself. While the equipment list may sound like you are packing to climb Mt. Everest, as a frequent winter hiker in these parts, I can assure you, the author knows of which he speaks! Heed his advice and enjoy!

Combatting cabin fever: A guide to outdoor treks and warmup spots for the fit and stir-crazy

For the Gazette
Published: 2/26/2019 8:14:56 AM

This winter has been a season of extremes. One day we have -10 degrees with blizzard conditions and the next it’s sunny and 55 degrees — or more. The so-called “wobbly vortex” is messing with our standard winter conditions and making outdoor pursuits more challenging than ever. But no matter your position on climate change or your secret inner desire to winter in the Caribbean, the Pioneer Valley is a beautiful place that is easy to enjoy year-round. And, we have the added benefit of being surrounded by a gastronomical and fermentation obsessed landscape of amazing pubs, breweries and restaurants to take the chill off afterward.

Generally said, just about any summer hiking spot can be a winter spot and the Valley offers easy and difficult treks up and down and on both sides of the river for both hardcore enthusiasts and newbies alike.

But before we venture out, we have to discuss three primary concerns: traction, safety and preparedness. This winter’s lack of a dependable snowpack presents some challenges no matter what your level of experience because when there is not enough snow for skis or snowshoes, and the weather is variable, it usually means ice.

Do not underestimate the power of ice. Ice can turn the road up Mt. Sugarloaf in Deerfield into the Khumbu icefalls of Mt. Everest in no time. And while I’ve seen people scoot up that hill in twenty minutes wearing sneakers, I’ve seen them take an hour to get down, often with falls. So, no traction = no go. If you want to avoid injury on even the most basic adventures in the woods, you must add yak trax, cat tracks or microspikes to your regular hiking boots..

On top of safety, there is more safety. The number one most basic rule: don’t hike or snowshoe alone. Two heads actually are better than one when ice, cold and wind are involved. Number two: make a check-in plan with a friend or relative who is not on the hike with you. Tell Aunt Sue that you will text her when you get back to your vehicle. Tell her where you are hiking, whom you are hiking with and even what you are wearing. If she does not hear from you by 6:00 p.m., she’ll know to call the authorities.

A few more good tips: Check out the entire day’s weather to avoid surprises. Start small and hike or snowshoe something you know. Experiment with new or unfamiliar equipment before you get two miles from your vehicle. Try things on. Adjust straps. Fall into the snow and get yourself up — a test that can be a real indicator of your preparedness. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to turn back if you are tired, unsure of the terrain or concerned you may be overdoing it. As the saying goes, the mountains and trails will be there waiting for your return. Just getting outside in winter means you have succeeded and any unfinished hike or peak becomes a goal for the future.

Gather your gear

The list below may seem like a lot of stuff, but keep in mind that winter requires a few extra precautions because daylight is short, fewer people are outdoors, hikes take longer and the weather can change suddenly. Note: Water bottles can freeze, so use lukewarm water and cover your bottles with a wool sock. Cell phone batteries also die faster; store your phone inside an old glove deeper inside your pack. Before you head out, try your best to pull together the following:

Warm, layered and breathable clothing — preferably a bright outer layer (required)

Insulated boots (required)

Ski/trekking poles (recommended)

Snowshoes, cross-country or backwoods skis (required in deep snow situations)

Cat tracks (small teeth), yak trax (bigger teeth), microspikes (even bigger teeth) and crampons (giant teeth) (best in light snow/ice situations)

A decent day-use backpack with basic medical supplies (required)

Headgear and goggles (required)

Water (see note above), headlamp, snacks, a detailed plan and a map (required)

While it goes without saying that being outside usually involves the cold, one of the biggest challenges is actually overheating and managing trapped moisture from sweat. That combination can lead to hypothermia and hypothermia can lead to, well, bad things.

When dressing for strenuous winter exercise, stick with warm, layered and breathable gear. No cotton. Cotton loses all of its warming value with the slightest bit of moisture. Polypropylene long underwear and layered wool are best. Jackets that can be peeled off and stored in a pack are good, too. For lack of a better way to think about it, what would you wear and bring if you had to run a mile, do one hundred pushups and then sit in a snowbank overnight by yourself? It could happen.

OK, now for the fun stuff. Let’s get outside with three great treks. Each of these can be skied, hiked in microspikes or on snowshoes, it all depends on the weather, snow depth and what gear you possess.

City Special: Whiting Street Reservoir & Mt. Tom Ski Area in Holyoke

Getting there: Take Rte. 5 to Mountain Park Road and head up the hill to the end of the road. There’s a small parking area at the top that is generally plowed. To the south, a gate leads down a road a bit and then connects to the reservoir. To the north, another gated road wraps around the park and then up a steep hill to the Mt. Tom base area. The Mountain Park concert area is fenced off in the middle. Both roads lead to a bunch of options.

Option #1: (Reservoir) Head through the gate to the south and connect to a trek around the reservoir. You’ll enjoy a mostly flat 3.8 mile loop that offers great views of Mt. Tom, lots of light with a few streams and a glimpse or two of wildlife. This is a moderate effort taking approximately 2 hours if spiking or snowshoeing.

Option #2: (Reservoir + Loop) Take the road to the north. It’s approximately 1 mile to the base area (mostly uphill). After you crest the hill (great views) and head downwards, note an industrial dumpster (yes) on the left. Behind i is the path that connects to the reservoir. After poking around the base area, head back and then down the short but steep trail. Take a left and you can make it a 2 mile loop along part of the reservoir by taking the left at the pump house and following the road back to the parking area. This is slightly more strenuous and takes about an hour and a half. Note: if you take a right, it’s most of Option #1 above.

Option #3: (Reservoir + Ski Trails) This was my choice using snowshoes on a recent snowy day. I reversed Option #2 and made it to the base quickly and then headed straight up the ski trails. It’s a pretty strenuous climb of approximately 750 vertical feet but well worth it. You’ll see the old lifts and shacks and when you take a break and turn around, you’ll see the Holyoke Range to the north, Hadley across the river, Holyoke in the foreground and Springfield to the south. It’s pretty strenuous overall. Allow 2 hours depending on how far up the hill you go.

After your adventure, head over Rte. 141 to warm up at the Daily Operation in Easthampton with some replenishing made-to-order food (and perhaps a local beer.) Dave Schrier, Jessica Pollard and Dave Clegg recently decamped from the Alvah Stone up in Montague to open this spot, and their funky, filling, casual and creative Asian-influenced food never disappoints. My favorites include the blackened fish sandwich, cheesy fries, Sichuan cabbage salad and Jessica’s black bottom maple pie. As for beers, $3 gets you a can of Genny Cream Ale and $5 gets you the brews from nearby Fort Hill Brewery.

360 Degree Views: Mt. Toby Telephone Trail/ Firetower in Montague

Getting there: Take Rte. 116 to Rte. 47 North in Sunderland. Wind your way along and then turn onto Reservation Road. The parking area is about a ½ mile up on the right. If there are no maps available or you forgot yours, take a picture of the large map on the information sign, better to have at least that as a reference when you head out. Just a heads up: It’s a pretty popular spot on the weekends, especially if the temperatures are warm. Much like Mt. Tom, there are a bunch of options depending on your time, fitness and appetite. Skiers should probably consider Tower Road out and back vs. the Telephone Trail.

Unsure of what the recent warm ups and re-freezes would bring, my wife and I popped on the microspikes, brought trekking poles and carried crampons in our packs. The microspikes were the right call. From the parking area, take the Tower Road fire road that heads gently south into the forest. Ignore the Hemlock Trail on your first visit. Stay on Tower until you reach the Telephone Trail marked with blue blazes (at about ¾ mile). Take a right and begin heading upwards. You’ll come to a junction with the Upper Link Trail after another ½ mile. If you’re tired, head across the Link and reconnect with Tower Road for an easier way to the top. If you like a challenge, stay to the right. Most of the 900-foot vertical gain now stacks up to a frozen stream staircase for about .4 miles to the top. Climb the fire tower on a sunny clear day for a 360-degree view and you can see the ski areas in Vermont, the Berkshires and Mt. Monadnock in New Hampshire — in addition to the entire Valley. Head back down the same way or for an easier (but longer) loop, head down the Tower Road and take a left at the Link or stay on Tower. (Telephone Trail up and back is strenuous and slippery, about 2 hours. Looping is a little easier, but adds time.)

After your hike, continue up Rte. 47 for a couple more miles to the Montague Bookmill. The Lady Killigrew Café will get some replenishing carbs back in your body fast. A simple but hearty menu provides perfect options for something warm or cold that will get your body back in line. They also have four great local beers on tap. I opted for a pint and a grilled basil, tomato and mozzarella sandwich with a nice side salad. (I strongly suggest their delicious cupcakes.)

Quick Historical Loop: Bullitt Reservation in Ashfield and Conway

Getting there: The Bullitt Reservation is a 3000-acre Trustees of Reservations property accessible from Bullitt Road in Ashfield. Take Rte. 116 up from Rte. 91 or from Williamsburg Road. (The Poland Road approach is not plowed in the winter.) William Bullitt was the first ambassador to the Soviet Union and the family’s summer home and farm has been preserved for our benefit.

This property has a great history, sublime views and a couple of nice options for a snowshoe, ski or hike. Parking is available at the barn and homestead and the trail entrance is located back up Bullitt Road. The primary trail here is the “Pebble” trail, a 1-mile loop hike that gains some elevation on its way to the “Pebble,” a huge erratic boulder that appears wedged between supporting trees. It’s a fun feature for the kids if you’re with the family. The loop is not stressful, but if you are interested in doing more, the Three Bridges Trail to Chapel Brook is 4 miles round-trip and will definitely fill your afternoon. When I went in early February, four inches of fresh snow had blanketed an icy crust beneath, skiers had made their way to the Chapel Brook cutoff and a few other hearty snowshoers had done the Pebble. Short on time and daylight, the Pebble was a perfect 45 minute loop. Be sure to print a copy of the map from the Trustees website before you head out.

After your hike, make sure you warm up the car a bit because the options are a little dispersed. I was craving pizza, so I opted to double back and head to Magpie Woodfired Pizza in Greenfield for an amazing grilled Caesar salad and a tasty handcrafted pie. Best of all? The atmosphere is warm and inviting so you won’t look out of place with a little “hat head” or in ski pants.

 
 
Patrick Kandianis is a serial entrepreneur and CEO of the education finance startup Pay4Education. An avid snowboarder, hiker, mountain biker and fly-fisherman, his freelance work has appeared at REI.com, in Coastal Angler and in Blue Magazine. He lives in Holyoke with his wife and two dogs. Drop him a line at patrick@pay4.education

A Case for Bold Colors

Generally speaking, when we realtors are called in to advise potential sellers about readying their homes for sale, we generally recommend neutral wall colors over bolder choices. However, as a homeowner, I am a big fan of rich colors. We recently hired local interior design team Workroom Design Studio to assist us in our color and decor choices for a house we are renovating. I would say that our design theme is historically relevant "jewel tones". Our WDS designer, Sally Staub, encouraged me along the way not to be afraid to use rich colors. With a mix of neutrals and jewel tones, the overall feel is welcoming, homey and playful. We couldn't be happier with the results! The following article from Apartment Therapy, also discusses the use of bold color combinations that work together beautifully. Enjoy!

6 Color Combos That Shouldn't Work But Totally Do

Adrienne Breaux
Feb 7, 2019

There are any number of color "rules" you can follow when you're picking out your home's palette. The classic 60-30-10 Rule is a place to start. You can lean on the smart suggestions of a color expert. Those looking to add dark colors in a small space might even want to consult some online guidance. But the six stunning homes in this post prove that you can play around with what some might consider "clashing" color combos and pull it off beautifully.

 
(Image credit: Susie Lowe)

Pink, green, and blue in Emily Murray's kitchen

A mossy green comprises a bold chevron pattern emblazoned with tiles on the kitchen backsplash. The cabinetry consists of a dusty blue reminiscent of a foggy sky. A perfectly hued pink makes up the tiles that hug the kitchen island base. How on earth are all of these colors working together in a way that doesn't resemble a baby's nursery? Well they're all quite balanced—each of the three colors show up in roughly the same percentage. But more importantly they all have the same medium, grayish-hued tone. It's not hot pink with an earthy blue and green. There's no neon green screaming the attention away from a pale blue and pink.

Three seating options, three strong colors in Holly Conrad's loft

It's not unusual to see one boldly colored sofa in a living room. Sometimes even two. But three different large-scale seating options... in the same room... all a different strong color? How is that working? Well, in this case, all the colors belong to an established, known color "family," called jewel tones. Jewel tones—likely modeled after the rich hues seen in actual jewels—all go together because we've decided as a society they do. Also helping here is the art piece that contains all three main colors, as well as a soft gray-and-white rug that seems to ground the room.

(Image credit: Sylvie Li)
 

Nine or more strong colors in one space, as seen in Cécile Gariépy's apartment 

I spy with my eye at least nine strong different colors in this room photo alone. How can so many disparate hues coexist so peacefully? In this illustrator's home, it's about using a lot of white or negative space, incorporating strong black and white graphic elements as the focal points, and then sprinkling little pops of strong color around the space. I know "pops of color" is a very cliche thing to say these days, but it's stuck around so long because it's a tried and true method of using a lot of different colors while not making your room feel out of control. Like a composition on paper or on the screen, Cécile's sprinkled pops of bold color throughout the room in a visually balanced way, crafting a room that feels calming yet colorful, at the same time.

Four strong colors in less than 300 square feet in Matt's tiny house

"Arsenic" lights up the living room, "India Yellow" is splashed in the kitchen, "Cook's Blue" emboldens the bathroom, and "Red Earth" adds a warm glow to the bedroom. Do you know what all the wall paint colors in Matt's tiny house have in common? They're from the same brand, Farrow and Ball. Does that mean that any time you pick four random colors from the same manufacturer they'll magically go together? I wish. But by going with a high-end, tightly curated company like Farrow and Ball, you decrease your chances of clashing simply since many of the colors flow together nicely. In fact, many paint brands today build their own "themed" color palettes of carefully chosen colors that all "go" together. Start there if you're unsure.

Just going for every color in Chad Burton and Burger Kim's Toronto apartment and Cherub Stewart's New Jersey home

 

 

Two different countries, two different styles, and two very different color schemes, yet these two homes have something very important in common—they are going all the way with color and not apologizing for it. I wish I could point to any one "reason" why these two homes—filled with color on the walls, the furnishings, even the floors—work. I think the idea of, "If you're going to go over the top, go way over the top" applies here. The inhabitants didn't dip their design toes into color... there's no small pop of bright color here or there. Every square inch of these spaces is dripping in bold hues, and that's why it works.

 

Renovating an Older Home

I came across this article in the Daily Hampshire Gazette today and thought it worth a repost. If you are looking for real estate in the Northampton area, you will quickly learn the most of the inventory is comprised of older homes. Housing stock might easily include homes that date 80 to 125 years old, or better. As the saying goes, they don't make 'em like they used to. Houses of that age were built to last. In looking more deeply into an older home, you might find hand hewn beams, wide plank floors, original clapboards, fieldstone foundations, handmade nails, beautiful moldings, etc. However, you may also come across damaged plaster walls, limited-to-no insulation (or horsehair!), lead paint, asbestos wrapped pipes and the like. Depending on the age, a home may have very shallow or limited closet space. Back in the day, people may have used wardrobes vs closets, and they had fewer clothes as well. If a house is very old, you may notice uneven floors due to settling over time. So, if you love the look and charm of an older home, you'll have to do some research and prioritize which elements to keep and/or preserve, and which elements to update.

When we took on the renovation of a 125+ year-old farmhouse, we decided to consult with (and ultimately hire) a local design/build firm to complete our renovations. There are local businesses that specialize in older homes, and there are local professionals who can assist with retrofitting older homes to make them more energy efficient. I can say from experience, that the more energy efficient you decide to make your older home, the less of the original charm it will retain. Luckily - you can choose elements that mimic the era during which the house was built. From moldings, to hardware, to tile, to fixtures, to paint colors -- everything old is new again. Read on for the article in the Gazette.

How to renovate an older home without compromising its charm

  •  

HomeAdvisor 
Published: 1/18/2019 9:05:38 AM

There’s a lot of talk these days about the many ways to bring historic homes into the modern era. But if you’ve purchased an older home — or watched enough of the TV shows featuring their renovations — you know that the original features can lend the most charm. Here are some things to consider as you work to maintain the integrity of a vintage home through updates, upgrades and renovations.

KNOW WHAT YOU’RE GETTING INTO 

Historic homes are popular for a reason. They exude charisma and character, and they typically have a lot to offer homeowners looking to personalize a home to make it their own. Of course, there are also other things to consider. Be aware of common issues like lead paint and asbestos in older homes, both of which will need to be addressed before you can safely move in. And also be sure to check the structural integrity of the home’s foundation. Hiring an inspector experienced in older homes will help to ensure that you find and address any non-cosmetic issues at the outset.

BECOME A HISTORIAN 

It’s important to figure out as much as you can about your home right off the bat. Knowing things like when it was built or how the crown molding was done can assist you when it comes time to renovate. Being aware of your home’s history can help you preserve the most important parts of the design, like transom windows, boot scrapers or Dutch doors. Not to mention, all of that historical knowledge will help you appreciate your space that much more. (Who knows? Maybe you’ll even find out about a resident ghost.) 

BE PATIENT AND GENTLE 

Don’t treat a vintage home like a new home — it was built differently; the materials are older and it requires more attention. A good rule of thumb is to be patient and gentle in all things when working on your older home. Take your time with upgrades or remodels — it’s always better to get the job done right than to throw something together in haste. And by using mild cleaners, protecting fragile design elements and touching up dings and scratches as they come, you’ll be giving your older home the care it needs and deserves.

MIX AND MATCH 

Despite superior craftsmanship in older homes, there will always be wear and tear. Paint chips and fades, mortar crumbles and appliances go out of style. When one of the home’s original features starts to deteriorate, it can seem like the end of the world. But you do have a few options. One is to match colors and styles as closely as possible during upgrades. Many people are able to pull this off with little trouble. But if you truly cannot replicate part of your vintage home, it’s OK to mix it up with modern styles. Many contemporary fixtures work surprisingly well in older homes, and it’s easy to make an old tile pattern new again with some creativity

 

FEELING OVERWHELMED? 

There is a lot to consider when it comes to taking care of a historic home. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t be afraid to reach out to the experts at your local historical society. They’ll be more than happy to equip you with tools and information you need to make this transition a breeze. Plus, they should also know of some local contractors who specialize in renovating and preserving older homes. 

 
 

Time to Declutter and "Spark Joy"

OK, I admit it, I've written about this topic a time or two in the past. The truth is that this is an ongoing issue in my own household. Many of us in the 21st find ourselves surrounded by too much stuff, at a loss for how it got there, and how to (responsibly) dispose of it. In addition, as a realtor and self proclaimed homebody, I know how important it is to me that my living space be a peaceful haven. When I have too much clutter, it makes me feel stressed! There are professionals right here in the Pioneer Valley whom you can hire to help you deal with your personal clutter (contact your Maple and Main Realtor for some recommendations if this is of interest). To that end, I direct your attention to the following article from the Daily Hampshire Gazette. I admit, I'm a Marie Kondo fan. She is the "spark joy" woman from Japan who is referenced in the following article. I also admit that I, too, was bothered by how the show doesn't reference how to responsibly dispose or (or recycle) the items you choose to get rid of. Luckily, the following article makes many good local suggestions. Don't overlook the Hartsprings Foundation and Salvation Army who will come pick up your unwanted items! Also ThredUP. OK, I've got to go fold my clothes into tiny little squares now!

Declutter, donate or dispose? The trend of tidying up hits Northampton

  • Jean Pao-Wilson drops off donations at the Cancer Connection Thrift shop with Chris Hannon, a volunteer organizing donations. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Staff Writer

 
Published: 1/11/2019 12:15:52 AM

NORTHAMPTON — As more Americans turn to decluttering as a way to not only improve their living spaces, but to enrich their lives, some local thrift shops are seeing a spike in donations. 

Author-turned-Netflix star Marie Kondo’s “KonMari” method, which emphasizes only holding onto items that bring joy, is playing a role in increased donations, according to management at Cancer Connection Thrift Shop in Northampton. So is post-holidays winter cleaning.

“We do notice upticks in donations at certain time of the year, but I’ve heard a lot of people mention the tidying up thing, so that could be part of that,” said Christine Quinn, assistant manager at Cancer Connection, who has seen a few episodes of Kondo’s new Netflix series, “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo,” which premiered on Jan. 1 and applies many of the ideas from her bestselling book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.” 

Busy times of year include long weekends, holidays and the start of a new year, she said. “Generally, when people have time to sit at home and reflect on how much stuff they have.”

Nancy Case, manager at Cancer Connection, also noticed an uptick in donations, adding that the store hasn’t always been this busy in past years

“We used to have a downtime,” Case said. “We no longer do have a downtime.”

Susan Drzewianowski, manager at Hospice Shop thrift store in Northampton, has also noticed Kondo’s ideas catching on among her clientele. While Hospice Shop “normally sees a drop in traffic after Christmas,” donations have been going strong this month, she said.

Customers mention “a couple times a week” ideas commonly championed by Kondo, such as “I have too much... it brought me joy,” Drzewianowski said. “It’s something I’ve never heard here before.”

Case said she’s “not entirely convinced” surges in donations are only related to Kondo’s Netflix show, but noted that several patrons have mentioned the show as an inspiration for decluttering their lives.

But Case believes that the influx of donations seen at local thrift stores goes “beyond trendy.”

“People are just becoming more aware,” she said.

Jean Pao Wilson of Easthampton, a customer and donor at Cancer Connection, said that she has been making an effort to donate more often in general as a way to declutter her own life without being wasteful.

“A lot of us have a lot of stuff, and I like to simplify and donate rather than throw it in the trash,” Pao Wilson said.

“It’s like a muscle,” she added. “The more you use it, the easier it gets.”

Decluttering responsibly

Quinn said that she had read “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” and watched a few episodes of Kondo’s Netflix series in response to its recent buzz. She agrees with Kondo on many concepts. But simply tossing clutter in the trash doesn’t necessarily warrant a pat on the back, Quinn said, adding that Kondo’s book could use more emphasis on how to properly dispose of unwanted items.

“It’s simply focused on the people themselves clearing out their house,” Quinn said of the book. “They never address where things are going to, so it seems like people could be throwing things in the trash, which sort of bugs me, because people are throwing out things that could be going to good use.”

Susan Waite, waste reduction and recycling coordinator for the Northampton Department of Public Works, also stressed that “the greenest item is the one that already exists.”

“The whole popularity of decluttering is wonderful, but there are people that can use some of the material, so I wince when people say just get a dumpster and toss everything,” she said.

At the same time, people should be mindful of what can and can’t be donated, Quinn said, adding that some people will bring in items that are broken, moldy or otherwise unhealthy or unsafe to handle, believing they can be refurbished by the store. But especially with smaller organizations, such as Cancer Connection, this often isn’t the case.

Wendy Taylor-Jourdian, manager of The Parson’s Closet thrift store in Easthampton, said that her shop has also experienced issues with people dropping off items that the store can’t accept, which leads to the donations endingup in the dumpster.

The volume of donations is “cyclical” at Parsons, Taylor-Jourdian said, although the holiday season can sometimes see people donating unwanted gifts or decluttering in preparation of the giving season.

But while people should take care that they are donating appropriate items, thrift shops such as Cancer Connection are always depending on new donations from patrons, Case said.

“Just because (a donated item) doesn’t spark joy for them doesn’t mean it won’t spark joy for someone else,” she said.

 
 
Jacquelyn Voghel can be reached at jvoghel@gazettenet.com.