Do-It-Yourself

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)

K.I.S.S.

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."

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.

Expert Advice about Room Arrangement

As a realtor, I see many houses throughout the course of my work days. I always know when a design element, or room configuration, appeals to me. I don't, however, always know how to put together a space on my own, in a way that feels beautiful, functional, and/or satisfying. Thankfully, rarely does a day go by where great ideas from sites such as Apartment Therapy don't pop into my inbox. The following article from does just that, providing great ideas about room arrangement.

Design Master Class: 6 Pro Tricks to Know When Arranging Your Room

by Danielle Blundell for Apartment Therapy

Oct 23, 2017

One-click online shopping and free shipping has made the whole furniture buying process seem super easy and accessible. But what happens when you start unboxing pieces and realize you have absolutely no idea where to put them—or worse, whether they'll even work with the rest of what's in your room? Arranging furniture is really an art form, but the good news is there are several guidelines you can follow to help you figure out the process. Let these six expert tips be your starting point in setting up your ideal space, whether you're working with hand-me-downs or starting from scratch.

(Image credit: Christine Markatos Design)

Identify the functionality of your space and the focal point

For Christine Markatos Lowe of Christine Markatos Design, furniture planning starts with setting expectations for how you want to use a room and what feature, architectural or otherwise, you want to highlight. So basically, figure out what you're working with and try not to go against the architecture in your space. "Things like entertaining, TV watching or a great view all dictate the design and layout of a room in order to best serve those needs," says Markatos. Generally speaking, you want to arrange a room so that all occupants can sit down and see the focal point, whatever it may be, and be close enough to a hard surface (a coffee table, an end table) for setting down a drink.

 

For example, if there's a fireplace in a room, furniture should be arranged around it so that people can see the fire and feel its warmth. That usually means a sectional facing the fire, or two sofas facing each other in close proximity to the fire, which makes for easy conversation between the seated. Additional chairs or benches in the area should capitalize on whatever the focal point offers. If a room doesn't have a natural focal point, make one with a large piece of art, a media cabinet with your TV (plus art!) or a big shelving unit. If your focal point is on the diagonal, try orienting furniture that way.

You'll also want to consider how many people you need to comfortably accommodate, which will influence the kinds of, sizes and number of seating options you need. You may also want multiple seating areas to anchor a really large room.

In social spaces, move furniture away from the walls

It may sound counterintuitive, but the more breathing room your furniture has from the walls, the cozier your home will feel. Yes, you need to have the space to float pieces, says Donna Mondi of Donna Mondi Interior Design, but even a few inches can make a room feel more intimate.

Keep traffic flow in mind, however, when setting up your layout. You can angle furniture and cheat if off the wall but only if people can move around freely in the space.

(Image credit: Style by Emily Henderson)
 

Don't be afraid to break the rules a bit in private spaces

Generally, Mondi advises against putting furniture taller than the window sill in front of windows because this awkwardly cuts off a room in a weird way and obstructs the view. But often in bedrooms, particularly when there isn't a designated bed wall because there are lot of windows, it's okay to get creative.

"Sometimes the best solution is to have the window act as a feature wall and put the furniture against it," says Birgit Klein of Birgit Klein Interiors. "When dressed with a great curtain and a tailored bed, the furniture placement becomes intentional." Case in point, Emily Henderson's own master bedroom is anchored around a gorgeous set of inset windows, framed by draperies.

(Image credit: Design*Sponge)

When picking a piece of furniture, factor in finish, shape and how it will relate to the rest of the room

Look at all your furniture pieces together to make sure they complement each other yet the silhouettes and finishes are varied. "You can find the perfect sofa, end tables and cocktail table, but if they all are a bit leggy, it will look awkward," says Mondi. Same is true if you have a room full of just wood or just upholstered items. That's why this dining room from Design*Sponge works so well. You have the white built-in playing off the dark table, another wood tone for the bentwood dining chairs and the Eames-style end chair that introduces yet another finish and material to the space while visually referencing the white of the built-in. Of course, there are exceptions to this breadth of variety, but if your intent isn't to be purposefully matching, then don't go there.

(Image credit: 2LG Studio)
 

Scale is everything

According to Markatos, furniture should ideally be the right proportion for a room, in terms of length, width and ceiling height (if you have a long room, a long casegood—like this extended console seen in a room by 2LG Studio—works beautifully, for example). That said, she will always skew towards fewer over-scaled pieces rather than overcrowding a room with smaller furnishings. "Another trick is to have pieces of varying heights as it creates a much more interesting visual," says Markatos.

Plan out placement before you buy pieces, if possible

When shopping for furniture in stores or online, designers never leave home without a tape measure, and they always reference measurements when considering a space. Most also use CAD programs to completely diagram out the rooms they're creating, though most laypeople don't have access to these types of resources.

If you don't have access to fancy software, there are several apps that you can use for spatial planning instead. Lisa Adams of LA Closet Design likes SketchUpbecause it's intuitive. You could even create a paper drawing as long as it is to scale. Then you can start "dropping" items in to see if they'll work together. Adams also likes to take pictures in a space—even selfies against the walls—so you can reference the walls (and scale) when you are out shopping.

Laminate Flooring is the New Black

One of the benefits of being a realtor, is the satisfaction you gain in selling a home to friends, so that you can watch the transformation of their new home over time. Super handy friends of mine bought a house that needed a lot of elbow grease in Florence center a few years ago. It has been so much fun to watch them transform this diamond in the rough into a sparkling gem, one room and one project at at time. Their most recent project has been to finish the spacious basement. They decided to save some money by GC-ing the project themselves. They hired contractors to do some of the work - hang the ceiling, rebuild the staircase, install lighting and outlets, etc. The rest of the work they did on their own, and the results are beautiful! 

To me, the standout of this space has been their choice of flooring (well, that and the sleek and modern cable stair rail). They decided on a floating laminate floor - and it is beautiful! "Beautiful", you may ask yourself - "but that's not possible with a laminate floor!". Well, that is what I would have thought too, once upon a time. But the laminate "floorboards" they used are just that, beautiful! The photo below (though not a basement space) mimics the floor in question quite accurately. A rustic-looking "wood" floor in medium browns and tans. The fact is, laminate ain't what it used to be. Read on for a recent New York Times article about laminate flooring.

 

Under Your Feet, the Floor Show

By JAY ROMANOAUG. 6, 2008

SOMETIMES neither wood, tile nor carpeting seems like the right choice for a floor. An alternative worth considering is laminate.

“Laminates are probably the most exciting change the flooring industry has seen in the last decade,” said Tom Kraeutler, who is a host of The Money Pit, a radio show, and with his co-host, Leslie Segrete, author of “My Home, My Money Pit: Your Guide to Every Home Improvement Adventure” (Globe Pequot Press, 2008).

Bill Dearing, president of the North American Laminate Flooring Association in Washington, said laminates account for 18 to 21 percent of the retail flooring market for residential remodeling. And since 1993, he said, sales of laminates have increased by more than 10 percent nearly every year.

Mr. Kraeutler explained that earlier versions of laminate flooring were difficult to install because as each strip of flooring was laid, the tongue and groove connection required gluing and clamping of the joints.

Photo
 
CreditJoel Holland 

Laminate flooring available now, he said, is much easier to use. Glue is no longer needed as the adjoining boards snap into place, and it is also more visually appealing, with hundreds of patterns to choose from. “A laminate floor can look like any kind of wood, stone, tile, vinyl, or just about any other flooring material available,” he said. Paul Murfin, vice president of sales for Armstrong Floor Products in Lancaster, Pa., said the flooring can be anywhere from 7 to 12 millimeters thick and can have a smooth or textured finish. With laminate that looks like stone, the surface can have a stone-like texture; laminate that looks like wood could have a raised grain. Early laminates had a tendency to produce a hollow “clippity-clop” sound when walked on with shoes. Newer laminates, particularly thicker ones, eliminate that sound. In addition, Mr. Murfin said, laminates are free-floating surfaces. They are not glued to the subfloor but rest on foam.

Amberlee Virgili, a customer service representative for FloorOne.com, an online retailer of laminate flooring products, said her company sells about 16 brands of laminate flooring, with prices from less than $1 a square foot to about $5 a square foot.

Bob Middleton, technical and installation manager at Lumber Liquidators, a nationwide retailer of flooring products based in Toano, Va., said consumers should look at a product’s warranty. Laminate floors can carry warranties of 10, 20 or 30 years, he said.

Mr. Dearing of Nalfa said, “The best thing to do is to try to look at a display floor.” That is particularly helpful, he added, when a homeowner is considering a laminate floor with a textured finish. Another thing a homeowner can do is visit the organization’s Web site at www.nalfa.orgcom. The organization has established a set of voluntary standards for laminate manufacturers. Manufacturers then submit their products to the organization and can obtain a certificate, usually depicted on the packaging, that indicates that the product in the box meets Nalfa standards.

One final question that many homeowners may ask is whether laminates are right for do-it-yourselfers.

“Absolutely,” said Bob Markovich, home and yard editor for Consumer Reports in Yonkers. Mr. Markovich said his organization tested and reviewed 41 flooring products for its August issue, including a large number of laminates. “If you’re looking for flooring that’s reasonably priced, tough and realistic-looking, and you want to install it yourself, laminates are the way to go,” he said.

Winter Projects for Homeowners

This time of year, many of us find ourselves homebound on our days off (some of us choose to be homebound on our days off :)). Winter is a great time to attack our indoor homeowner to do list - since we certainly can't do any landscaping in the cold, wet, windy winter months of the Pioneer Valley. This recent article by Jolie Kerr makes great suggestions for indoor cleaning/organizing projects, best done when you don't feel like being outside!

 

 
Quick, Not Dirty: Four Projects You Can Do in 45 Minutes
 
By Jolie Kerr 
 
Quick, Not Dirty
 
(Timor Davara)

Welcome to “Quick, Not Dirty,” cleaning and organizing projects from expert Jolie Kerr. These discrete jobs are easy to pick off and will earn you the satisfaction of seeing a task to completion without an enormous amount of effort. (Read previous columns here.)

Do you ever have a day where you don’t feel like leaving the house, not out of laziness but because the weather is frightful or because the thought of having to interact with another human being is more than you can bear? I don’t mind admitting that I do! On those days, I like to survey my domain to identify a task in need of doing that will help me justify a day spent indoors. These are the kinds of projects that may not be high on your psyched-to-do list but that are well worth the time investment to make your life and your home less chaotic and more lovely. 

Mail-Pile Triage

It’s tempting to fool ourselves into thinking that in this, our golden digital age, piles of bills, magazines, and catalogs are no longer a thing that plague humanity.

Not so. Lennys, may I level? This one is so personal for me. I’m drowning in catalogs. Dear Scully & Scully catalog, you are so lovely, but from whence did you come? And would it be possible to get buyer data on the Sleek Black Walking Sticks? I must know who is buying these beauties. 

Instead of suffering under the yoke of unwanted mailings and a recycling bin in constant need of emptying, I finally sat down one day with a pile of catalogs that I’d been setting aside for just this purpose, and set about unsubscribing myself from them. Should you feel moved to do the same, here are some tips to get you on your way. 

Bills: You know that one stray bill you’ve been meaning to convert from paper to electronic? Go ahead and do it now. I’ll wait.

Catalogs: Catalog Choice can unsubscribe you from even the most insidious mailers (I’m looking at you, Pottery Barn). Are you more of an app kind of gal? PaperKarma allows you to snap a photo of the offending junk-mail label and will contact the mailer to remove you from its list.

Magazines: Head straight to the magazine’s website, where you’ll find instructions for canceling subscriptions in the customer-service or frequently-asked-questions section of the site.

Credit-Card Offers: Use OptOutPrescreen to remove yourself from unsolicited preapproved credit-card-offer lists. 

Miscellaneous Junk: Sign yourself up for the National Do Not Mail List

Personal Mail: It’s nice to get personal mail, but it’s also worth acknowledging that there’s a cap on how long you should allow it to linger willy-nilly in your home. Thank-you notes, holiday cards, birthday wishes — they’re all lovely, but unless they’re especially sentimental, give yourself a time limit for how long you’ll hold on to them. A day? A week? A month? All are fair. Just pick a window that seems reasonable to you and be diligent about purging (or filing, if you plan to keep it) personal mail before it becomes clutter.

Deep Clean the Fridge

You know those fake holidays like National Pet Your Dog Day and National Eat a Pound of Bacon Day? They’re fun and all — who doesn’t love petting a dog, or eating a pound of bacon?! (Cat lovers and vegans, I suppose.) But they’re made-up and, often, are just marketing schemes created by brands like Iams or IHOP. There is, however, one very real “national holiday” that occurs on a specific day, for a specific, if terribly United States–centric, reason: November 15 is National Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day, falling as it does just before Thanksgiving to account for the demands the holidays make of your icebox.

Now, you don’t have to wait until November 15! Regardless of when you decide to tackle the fridge, here are a few tips that will help you on your way.

1. Take everything out. Everything. All of it. Nope, don’t leave the bottle of ketchup in the door, or the box of baking soda on the bottom shelf in the back. Everything comes out. Highly perishable items can be stashed in the freezer or a cooler while you scrub.

2. The choice of cleaning product, whether it’s a commercial all-purpose cleaner, a white-vinegar solution, or diluted bleach, is entirely up to you and what you feel comfortable using in a place where you keep food.

3. You should, however, get yourself a Dobie Pad, which is super handy for scrubbing dried-on splatters and spills without scratching the plastic interior of your fridge.

4. You can (and should!) wash removable shelves and crisper drawers the same way you would dishes, using dish soap and hot water. If your kitchen sink isn’t big enough to accommodate such an operation, the bathtub is a good alternative. If you have outdoor space that allows for it, shelves and drawers can also be hosed off.

5. For spills that have congealed egregiously, make a compress of sorts by wetting a rag, sponge, or thick stack of paper towels with very hot water, wringing it out, and pressing it on the sticky substance. Repeat as needed until the spill begins to loosen, then wipe it up.

6. Before putting condiments back, wipe off the exterior of bottles and tighten the caps (you may also want to open infrequently used jars to check for mold!)

If you feel so inclined, we would be tickled if you’d share before and after photos with us, like this set that a reader who wishes to remain anonymous granted us permission to share with you. If you’d like to share your own set, email me at joliekerr@gmail.com, tweet photos to me @joliekerr, or tag me on Insta @joliekerr. We may even feature the fruits of your fridge-cleaning endeavors on Lenny’s Instagram account
 
“Fridge

God, isn’t that so satisfying?!

Clean and Style a Bookshelf

Now that it’s winter, many of us look forward to getting back in touch with our inner indoor kid. You know, the one who much prefers to have her nose stuck in a book while the other kids are outside making mud pies? Sure you do, and if you identify with that description so hard, have I got a project for you! 

Cleaning and styling a bookshelf is a straightforward endeavor, but it’s still a process — and a dirty one, at that. Books, and the shelving in which we store them, are dust magnets, so be prepared for this to be a grimy job. And because the shelves themselves get so dirty, like scrubbing out a refrigerator, doing a thorough cleaning of a bookshelf requires that you remove everything from its place, rather than trying to clean around things.

Other than that one piece of advice, there’s not much to a shelf-cleaning project. But here’s a list of what the order of operations may look like: 

â— Gather your supplies, such as rags or dusting cloths, dusting spray (if using), and a vacuum.

â— Take a photo of the current arrangement if you plan to re-create it.

â— Remove all books and knickknacks from shelves.

â— If it’s a freestanding unit, move shelves away from the wall so that you can dust from the top down and vacuum the floor underneath and behind the unit.

â— If you need or want to pare down your collection, assess what you’ve got by first grouping like items together, then systematically deciding what stays and what goes.

â— Wipe dusty books with a rag or dusting cloth.

Now comes the fun part, because once your shelves are clean and bare, you can begin putting everything back in a way that pleases you. How you style your bookshelf is entirely up to you, and one of the great joys of this kind of project is getting to spend some time with your beloved books and the collection of shiny dimes that makes no sense but brings you joy nonetheless and those decorative geodes that remind you of your great-aunt Linda’s house, with its conversation pit and creeping spider plants. 

Deep Clean the Tub, Shower, and Grout

Now that you’ve spent so much time with your book collection, remembering old favorites and digging out titles you always meant to get around to, wouldn’t it be nice to grab one of those tomes and settle into a lovely bubble bath with some reading? Sure! Except maybe your tub isn’t looking so inviting? I can help with that.

Doing a deep clean of your tub, shower, and surrounding grout isn’t complicated, but let me be really straight with you and tell you that it is hard work. You will sweat, is what I’m trying to warn you of. You’ll also get a pretty righteous shoulder and back workout, so that’s nice. 

For this endeavor, you should invest in a good scrub brush (Casabella and Rubbermaidare brands that offer a variety of scrub brushes for bathroom cleaning) and a heavy-duty cleaning product — save the tea-tree oil for regular cleaning, and opt for a more powerful product, like X-14 or Zep, that will do a lot of the work for you. Not all bathrooms have the same needs, so instead of going into super detailed instructions on how to clean grout, or glass shower doors, or a porcelain tub versus a fiberglass one, I’m going to leave you this link, in which you will hopefully find answers to every bath-cleaning quandary you may encounter, and some you hopefully never will

Jolie Kerr is a cleaning expert and advice columnist. Her weekly column “Ask a Clean Person” appears on esquire.com, and its companion podcast is available on AcastiTunes, and Stitcher.
 
 

Painting Hardwood Floors to Freshen a Room on a Budget

When we pulled up the old linoleum kitchen floor in our last house in Northampton - we were excited to see fir floors beneath, just waiting to be brought back to life. I had my heart set on red floors - somewhere between the color of cherries and blood. I went to many paint and hardware stores in the Pioneer Valley to look for the right color stain, but all I could find were barn reds, mahogany reds and auburns. I consulted woodworker friends and was pointed in the direction of aniline dyes.  I purchased red and black dye from a local woodworking store, and then set about mixing up just the right hue before staining our floors. I won't go into the gory details, it was a messy process with a lot of room for human error. I did wind up with the perfect color red stain, which also allowed the wood grain to show through. 

I have always been a fan of painted wood floors. The right paint job on a floor can give a room so much personality, as well as a fresh new look - without spending a great deal of money. Whether you are interested in creating a pattern on the floor, adding a pop of color, or going with a lighter neutral, a painted floor can be a wonderful way to change up the look of your space.

The following article from the Associated Press provides food for thought about how to go about painting a hardwood floor.

Painting the hardwood: A creative Solution for Worn Floors

by Melissa Rayworth, Associated Press

(Photo: Karina Kaliwoda/Houzz.com/AP Photo)

 

Worn and faded hardwood floors can drag down the look of a room. But having scuffed floors sanded down and re-stained can be expensive and messy.

One alternative that's gaining popularity: painting older hardwood floors. You can add solid color, stripes, or any imaginable stenciled or hand-drawn patterns to a floor.

There's actually a long tradition of painted wooden floors in American homes, says Tom Silva, general contractor on the long-running PBS television series "This Old House." One hundred years ago, paint was considered a practical way to protect floors and add some beauty in the process.

In a survey done this month of more than 1,200 users on the home-improvement website Houzz.com, 15 percent said they're ready to make the leap to painting while 85 percent were still more comfortable with stained wood floors. But Houzz editor Sheila Schmitz says some of the site's members who have embraced painted floors have done so with real creativity.

"We've seen homeowners reinvent their floors with glossy white paint, oversize stripes, checkerboards with alternating natural and painted finishes, and even more fanciful shapes," Schmitz says.

It's a DIY project that requires effort but little experience.

So how do you do it, and what are some of the boldest, most interesting approaches you can take?

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Prep smart

Fans of painted floors point out that the process is less labor-intensive than staining because you don't have to sand away every old scratch or stain. But that doesn't mean you can skip the step of prepping your floors.

Clean the floor well, says Silva, then scuff it with sandpaper just enough to create a slightly rough surface. That prep work is the key to making sure the first layer of paint or primer will adhere. Primer isn't required if the floor already has some finish on it. But putting down a few thin, clear coats of primer can make it easier if you decide years from now to remove the paint.

If you do prime the floor, use sandpaper to lightly scuff that clear coat after it dries to help subsequent painted coats adhere well.

Rich red paint on the hardwood floor brings warmth and color to this stylish, gender-neutral nursery. Painting hardwood floors can be an inexpensive and easy solution, especially in rooms where the floors has become worn and scuffed after many years of use. () (Photo: Holly Marder/Houzz.com/AP Photo)

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Bold floor, neutral walls

Interior designer Camila Pavone was ahead of the trend in painting her kitchen floor in 2010. The room previously had green walls and a stained wood floor. Pavone switched the walls to a creamy white (she used Martha Stewart's "Glass of Milk") and covered the wood floor with jade green paint. She considered using marine paint but chose a formula called Break-Through!, which dries quickly and creates a harder surface than many other types of paint.

Five years later, Pavone is still thrilled with the result. The floors "always get a 'Wow' when new people come to my house," she says. "The only thing I didn't take into account was the wear and tear of two dogs and now two kids. The claws on the dogs do scratch the floors up a bit. But I try to pretend that if I saw that in a store display in Anthropologie, I would think it was fabulous. So I don't stress."

Because the kitchen is a high-traffic area, Pavone has repainted the floors once every two years to keep them looking shiny and scratch-free. But that work is relatively easy.

"It's a really fast project and normally only takes around two hours," she says. "I would totally do it again!"

 

Pick any pattern

Paint can also be perfect for entryways. Thick stripes, diamond or chevron patterns can make a small foyer seem bigger, drawing attention to an otherwise ignored space. Once the floor is cleaned and prepared, simply lay out your design with painters' tape. Be careful to measure the width of stripes or the angles of diamonds or chevrons to make sure you've laid the tape in the proper places.

Consider using large stencils to add a pattern to the floor of a larger space, like an enclosed porch. Or paint a brightly colored "rug" in the center of a room by first painting a solid rectangle, then adding a pattern once that solid coat is completely dry.

Another option: Coat the floor with a semi-transparent stain or paint that allows the grain of the wood to show through. Once it's dry, use painters' tape to create a border around the room that you'll fill with a contrasting or complementary color or pattern.

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Take time for topcoats

Once you've finished your painted masterpiece, add one or several clear coats on top for protection. Patience between layers is the key: You may be tempted to paint again as soon as one thin coat feels dry to the touch, but you'll get a much stronger and more attractive result if you leave extra time.

Silva points out that oil-based topcoats "may add a little bit of a goldish color to it, because of the oil. Water-based will give you the true color of the paint."

And, obvious as it may sound, remember: "Know where to start and where to end," says Schmitz, "so you don't literally paint yourself into a corner."

 

Clean That Roof!

As realtors, we can all confirm that condition of the roof of a house is a hot bed issue for home buyers. Maintaining the life of your roof is important for protecting your investment, whether you plan to stay put in your house for good, or whether you intend to sell at some point in the future. Living in the Northampton MA area, our homes go through many types of wear and tear with the changes in season. From the potential for ice dams in winter (and roof leaks), to the potential for algae growth in humid weather, or on shaded areas of your roof.

The following article from the Daily Hampshire Gazette, written by Angie Hicks of "Angie's List" - addresses the issue of algae growth on your roof, and how to remove it. Good stuff!

 

By ANGIE HICKS


You may have the most attractive landscaping, beautiful windows and charming mailbox, but black streaks running down your roof can ruin your home’s curb appeal.

What causes those dark marks, and what can be done to eradicate them?

Roof experts who are highly rated by members of Angie’s List say the source is an algae called Gloeocapsa magma. And depending on the age and condition of your roof, cleaning may be the most cost-effective solution, since it’s about 5 to 10 percent of the price of a roof replacement, which can be as much as $10,000.

Algae-caused marking isn’t preventable but can be removed, though not always permanently. The algae survive through photosynthesis and by feeding on limestone filler used in asphalt shingles.

Black marks became a problem about 20 years ago, when manufacturers began adding limestone granules to add weight to material used to coat shingles.

Roof experts tell our researchers that though other components are being added to shingles to hinder algae growth, they still get calls to deal with black marks on relatively new roofs. They say that while shingle manufacturers offer products treated with copper or zinc to inhibit algae growth, their effect wears down over time.

Most black streaks form on the northern slopes of roofs, where it’s darker and wetter - ideal for algae growth. 

Areas of the country with low humidity have fewer instances of roof streaks, while the problem is relatively common in the Southeast, where it’s more humid and warm. 

The algae appear blue-green when the organisms form an outer coating to protect themselves from ultraviolet rays. Algae turn black when it decays.

While the dark streaks are unsightly, experts tell our team that the greatest danger to the roof is from moisture retention or root damage that algae and other life forms can cause. Also, algae and fungus can grow together to form lichen, the roots of which can wrap around and feed on the granules covering the shingles. Once established, lichen is not easily removed. Even if it dries out, it can come back to life with the next rain. Scrubbing or power washing lichen will only cause more damage.

Before determining whether having your roof cleaned is the right option, be sure you have a sense of your roof’s age and condition, and compare costs accordingly. 

A cleaning can cost around $200 to $1,500, depending on the size of the roof, its pitch and height.

When hiring a company to clean your roof, consider this advice, gathered by our research team, which talked to multiple highly rated roofing experts:

? Make sure the cleaners don’t use high-pressure washing systems, which can remove granules coating shingles, and lower their life expectancy.

? Ask what kind of cleaning solution the company uses. One highly rated roofing expert said he uses a chlorine-based chemical wash with a soaping agent. Also, make sure the company has a plan for preventing possible damage to your home or landscaping from runoff. That same roofing expert said he has one worker apply the cleaner while another saturates nearby areas with water to prevent damage.

? Ask how long the cleaning method should keep the roof algae-free. A range of two to five years is normal.

As with hiring any contractor, ask family and friends for references or check online consumer reviews from a trusted source, get several bids, seek and contact references, and confirm liability and workers’ compensation insurance.

And then, prepare to once again enjoy how your home looks without those dark ugly roof streaks.

Angie Hicks is the founder of Angie’s List, a resource for local consumer reviews on everything from home repair to health care.

 

Thinking Ahead to Fall

It has been a beautiful summer, much needed after the winter that wouldn't end. I'd like to be more zen, have more of a "be here, now" attitude and continue to enjoy these summer moments, however, as realtors, we tend to be thinking ahead much of the time. In winter, we often meet with sellers to advise them about prepping their homes for the selling season in the spring. In summer, we may be speaking to them about gearing up for the upswing that tends to happen in the fall market. In addition to this, as Northampton residents, here in the heart of New England with its' many seasonal changes, we need to think ahead with preparing our homes for the colder seasons. To that end, I happened upon this helpful piece on the Apartment Therapy website today that I thought I would share with our readers here.

 

10 Things to Get Done Before Labor Day

 
 

Esther and Brandon's personality-filled home

 

This is a public service announcement: The Halloween stuff is already out at craft stores. And I'm not sure how fall came to have a mascot, but I know that autumn is on its way when I hear people start talking about how much they miss pumpkin spice. While there are still several weeks left to enjoy the summer, it might be a good time to start thinking about the tasks you need to get done before cool weather really sets in.

1. Clean the Grill

After all those summer parties are over, give your outdoor cooker a deep clean before putting it up for the season. And you might want to think about getting a grill cover if you don't have one already.

2. Paint, If You Plan To

If there are any indoor painting projects on your docket, tackle them now while the weather's warm enough to keep your windows open for ventilation.

3. Wash Windows and Glass Doors

Summer comes with a lot of grime. Give all the glass around your place a good wipe down as fall creeps in.

4. Clean and Repair Your Outdoor Space

Take mental notes of any pressing tasks that need to happen on the balcony or around the backyard, then get going on them while there's still plenty of daylight and good weather.

5. Check for Leaks Around Windows or Doors

You'll want to inspect these areas for air drafts before the crisp fall air comes breezing in. Then install weather stripping as needed.

6. Vacuum the Vents

Clean built-up dust from vents, room fans, baseboard heaters, dryer vents and the range hood.

7. Test Your Heater

Don't get caught in a freeze with a broken heating system. HVAC repair professionals are notoriously busy towards the end of the calendar year, so get a jump on it and check now to see if your home is ready for heating.

Finding New Uses for Household Items

As realtors, this time of year can be very busy.  Whether we are helping buyer clients find a new home, or helping seller clients sell their home, the spring market tends to be jam-packed with real estate-related activity in Northampton.  As with any career person during their busy season, it's good to take some time throughout the day to put down the phone or walk away from the computer and do something else... Ok, so I often sit near my phone and stay at my computer and look at other information online when I need a break, but still - it is a break of sorts. 

As I have mentioned many times, as a former NYC resident of many years, I still love to read the Apartment Therapy blog whenever time permits.  It has so many great tips and ideas for freshening up ones' living space. The following blog post has some great ideas that maybe I will get around to during the winter season in real estate, which tends to be a bit slower than spring!

Read on, and remember, please be kind to your realtor, he or she is working very hard for you!

 

REALLY UNEXPECTED USES FOR OLD THINGS AROUND THE HOUSE

You'll never believe what this little greenhouse is made from!

We see makeovers all the time, mostly of the "let's sand this table and repaint it" variety. So we get overly excited when everyday household objects get remade into really surprising things with a completely different purpose. Here are common things you may no longer have use for, and inventive ways to adapt them into entirely new household objects.

1. Old picture frames are a dime a dozen at yard sales, flea markets and thrift store. Emily of The Wicker House gathered a bunch and made this pretty indoor terrarium.

2. This home from Chic Design Investments cleverly used old wooden doors in lieu of traditional stairway railing. The use of salvaged material throughout the house lends the space a lot of character. Want some more ideas for old doors?

3. We recently featured this vintage ice bucket that Brooke from Prettyographyhacked to make a countertop compost bin. And, if you have other flea market stuff:

4. For this project from Sugar & Cloth, bundt pans were painted and repurposed as cute hanging planters.For more ideas on how to repurpose stuff from the kitchen:

5. When the children leave for college, that baby furniture has to go somewhere. Try change a changing table into a potter's shelf like this one from Shelstring. If you also get your hands on a crib, try:

 

6. Using old cookware found at secondhand stores, Eric Smillie fashions new lamps using enameled pot lids as the shades.

Spring Clean Up!

The snow has finally melted in our yard!  I am amazed that the piles of leaves which I didn't manage to clear out in the fall have been perfectly preserved underneath the snow.  In my fantasies, they had broken down and disappered during the long, cold winter.  Alas, I still have some spring (formerly fall) clean up to accomplish.  I thought I had left behind the motto of my 20's - "why do today what you can put off until tomorrow".  but apparently, old habits die hard.  

Every year, as spring unfolds, I have big ideas about all the yard work and landscaping I want to accomplish.  I recently came across this wonderful landscaping/gardening blog away to garden.  This particular piece gives great advice about tackling spring clean up, and prepping your yard for the spring planting season.  There are a step-by-step instructions about which tasks to tackle first, so as not to get overwhelmed.  Living in the Northampton area, we have a lot of spring and fall clean up to attend do, due to the many varieties of deciduous trees specific to the area.  So unless you plan to hire one of the many landscaping outfits in the Pioneer Valley to do your clean up and landscaping/gardening for you - check out this helpful blog post.

 

photo credit: awaytogarden.com