Home Decor

Design Elements for Modern Homebuyers

As realtors, we are first-hand witnesses to the changing tides of desirable home design elements for home buyers. Seven years ago, when I became a realtor: granite and poured concrete were all the rage for kitchen counters, everyone seemed to be looking for an open concept living space, flat yards bested yards with any slope, and stainless appliances were a must-have. It's interesting to see preferences for certain types of layouts, paint colors, building materials, design elements and landscaping choices ebb and flow over time. I even notice that my personal preferences change, depending upon what I'm seeing more of. I've grown to love marble in kitchens and baths, but I can imagine that, over time, I might tire of their stark whiteness and required maintenance.

The following article from my favorite home and design blog, Apartment Therapy, talks about *modern* homebuyer preferences. While the Northampton area isn't overflowing with Sub Zero or Viking appliances, per se, I agree that the other elements of this article hold true.

 

What Modern Homebuyers Are Looking For (Hint: It's NOT Granite Countertops)

Brittney Morgan
Oct 25, 2017
 
(Image credit: Emma Fiala)
 
When looking at homes, we all have our own preferences for different home features—one person might want a huge, modern kitchen and another might not care about the kitchen as much as they care about having walk-in closets. But which features are most commonly used as selling points for homes?

Trulia pulled data from homes for sale on the site over the past year to see what design features are most popular for listers, pitting different features against each other. While some trends and design staples unsurprisingly won out—looking at you, subway tile and hardwood floors—others didn't necessarily come out on top, and some were just plain missing (seriously, no mention of granite countertops? I'm shocked!).

Here's how the most popular design features fared against each other.

Marble Countertops vs. Quartz Countertops

The Winner: Quartz countertops—they're more expensive up front, but marble countertops require more maintenance by comparison, which can add up.

Soaking Tubs vs. Claw Foot Tubs

The Winner: Soaking tubs. Claw foot tubs may seem more luxurious, but soaking tubs were far more popular according to the data.

Hardwood Floors vs. Carpet

The Winner: Hardwood floors. According to Trulia, real estate agents frequently see a strong preference for hardwood floors from clients, because they're easier to clean and long-lasting.

Basketweave Tile vs. Subway Tile

The Winner: Subway tile—although Trulia admits the numbers for each were so close, it's nearly a toss-up.

(Image credit: Hayley Kessner)

White Cabinets vs. Dark Cabinets

The Winner: White cabinets, and real estate agents point out that lighter, brighter cabinets can make a kitchen look bigger.

Sub-Zero Appliances vs. Viking Appliances

The Winner: Sub-Zero appliances—although, like the tile style toss-up, Viking appliances were just barely behind.

Bay Windows vs. Floor-to-Ceiling Windows

The Winner: Bay windows. Another close call, but bay windows were still the more popular selling point.

Electric Stoves vs. Gas Stoves

The Winner: Gas stoves—while they're more expensive initially, they save money in the long run as gas in general is less expensive than electricity. Gas stoves were far more popular than electric stoves among listings.

 

 

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.

Lighting Updates to Attract Home Buyers

One of the many services that we realtors provide our seller clients, is to preview their homes and make suggestions about affordable updates that can give a dated home, or room, a fresh appearance. It rarely makes sense for someone who is planning to sell their home to make a deep pocket investment such as a total kitchen or bathroom renovation. Style choices are subjective, and expensive renovations that a new buyer would want to "undo" can actually negatively affect the bottom-line sale price.  Sometimes a fresh coat of paint and some new light fixtures can go a long way towards making a space feel updated and attractive.

Since we do tend to have a fall upswing in home sales here in the Northampton area, now would be a good time to call your realtor for an opinion about which affordable updates to make before putting your house on the market. This recent article from the Boston Globe gives sound advice about light fixture choices:

Ask the Stager: Tips for choosing lighting that attracts buyers

   

Inspired by factories and older buildings, industrial-style fixtures are now used in contemporary kitchens.

Inspired by factories and older buildings, industrial-style fixtures are now used in contemporary kitchens. Tim Lee Photography/Staging by Staged To Move

Kara Woods - Globe Correspondent

August 15, 2017 11:00 pm

Updated interior lighting is one of the most efficient ways to get a potential buyer’s eyes to light up. Just like a fresh coat of “greige’’ (a color between beige and gray) paint, lighting has the power to change the entire feel of a room instantly. It’s an affordable fix with maximum impact.

We’re currently using the transitional style of lighting to get our clients’ homes showcase ready. A mix between traditional and contemporary, its streamlined and sophisticated look tends to appeal to the broadest audience.

Here are a few of my go-to transitional-style light fixtures:

Dining room/kitchen

The “orb,’’ or round fixture, is replacing the traditional six-candle chandelier. In addition to a dining room or kitchen, these fixtures also light up a foyer.

The Solaris 6-light sphere chandelier by Crystorama Lighting. —Photo by David Turner;Staging by Stage To Move

Kitchen pendants

When updating or installing kitchen pendants, it can be tricky to determine the size fixture you’ll need and how many will fit in the space. The rule of thumb is to space the lights 30 inches apart and 30 to 36 inches above the island surface.

Popular styles that will make your kitchen shine include:

Industrial 

Inspired by factories and older buildings, this style is now used in contemporary kitchens. Industrial-style lighting is common in Restoration Hardware designs.

Glass or clear pendants in a transitional style

Selected for its clean, linear lines, this style creates visual impact without taking up a lot of visual space. A favorite among stagers, potential buyers are able to move their eyes easily over, and through, the entire space. Stick with a polished nickel or chrome finish.

The kitchen pictured below had outdated bronze lantern-style fixtures that felt heavy and blocked the view of the large kitchen and eating area. When we installed these lighter glass fixtures, they opened up the space and showcased the full potential of this beautiful kitchen. (We also painted the cherry cabinets white, which also brightened the space.)

Bronze lantern-style fixtures that felt heavy were replaced with transitional-style glass fixtures, Birch Lane by Northport Pendant, that opened up the space. —Photo by Anthony Acocella; Staging by Staged To Move

Bathroom

Sconces

  • Stick with straight, clean lines and a polished nickel or chrome finish.
  • Avoid the glass shades that look like a bell — in other words, pronounced curves.
  • Stay away from sconces with mini shades.

Stick with clean, straight lines for bathroom sconces. Shown here is the Hewitt single sconce. —Courtesy of Pottery Barn

Overhead

  • Stick with the same rule of thumb as the sconces — opt for straight, box-like lines.
  • Stay away from curves or bell shapes.
  • Select polished nickel or chrome finishes. For overhead bathroom fixtures, select polished nickel or chrome finishes. Shown here is the Alcott triple sconce. —Courtesy of Pottery Barn

Hallway

This situation typically calls for a semi-flush-mount light, meaning there is a small gap between the ceiling and the fixture.

Hallway lighting typically calls for a semi-flush-mount light, meaning there is a small gap between the ceiling and the fixture. The fixture pictured here, by Progress Lighting, features a low-slung shade. —Courtesy of Progress Lighting

Final thoughts

A couple of things to keep in mind as you select lighting and prepare your home for sale:

1. Be sure to combine the new lighting with existing fixtures. For example, if the sconces in the hallway are brushed nickel, pick a semi-flush fixture in the same material so they coordinate.

2. Focus your staging budget on high-priority areas, which include the first floor (or public spaces), the master bedroom, and the master bath.

Kara Woods, an award-winning home staging and design professional who specializes in the luxury market, teaches at the Academy of Home Staging and serves as Northeast regional vice president of the Real Estate Stagers Association. Send comments and questions to Address@globe.com. Subscribe to the Globe’s free real estate newsletter at pages.email.bostonglobe.com/AddressSignUp.

4th of July Sales!

Since there are fewer open houses in the Northampton area, given that it's a holiday weekend, perhaps your plans include some home decor or home improvement projects? Check out this comprehensive list of in-store and online July 4th Sales from Apartment Therapy!

The 2017 Mega List of July 4th Sales

 
Tara Bellucci
Jun 30, 2017
 
 

Before the festivities and fireworks begin, retailers have already started celebrating America's 241st birthday in the best way they know how—with sales. July 4th is historically a good time to stock up on summer clothes and swimwear, snag a new grill or patio furniture, and check out outdoor sports equipment and gear. We're rounding up all the best sales for home, apparel and more that we've come across, so no matter what you're looking for, you can save this weekend.

 

Home

  • 2Modern—Save 15% on American designers
  • ABC Carpet & Home—Up to 60% off online, sample sale up to 70% off in store
  • AllModern—Extra 20% off with code USA
  • American Heirloom —Free shipping with code AMERICAN; take 50% off all hardwood cutting boards with code HEIRLOOM (codes cannot be combined)
  • Bambeco—60% off site wide with code FIREWORKS17
  • Benchmade Modern—20% off with code HAPPY4TH
  • Bunglo — 25% off with code JULY4
  • The Company Store — 15% off $100+ / 20% off $200+ / 25% off 300+ with code JULY4TH
  • Crane & Canopy—Free shipping on orders $150+ with code SPARKLERS
  • DENY Designs — 30% off with code HIPHOORAY30 through 7/4
  • Design Within Reach—Up to 70% off summer sale
  • Dormify — 20% off site wide sale with code FIRECRACKER through 7/4
  • Gray Malin—30% Off aerial beach prints with code BEACH30
  • High Fashion Home—Up to 20% off select art, valid 7/4 through 7/9
  • Home Depot—Up to 40% off appliances, $10 to $40 off select paint and more
  • Houzz—Up to 75% off
  • IKEA—20% off mattresses and more deals for IKEA Family members
  • illy—$20 off $100 with code JULY4
  • JCPenney—up to 40% off major appliances, 55% off mattresses & tons of other deals
  • Joss & Main—20% furniture, lighting, bedding, upholstery, pillows, rugs and more with code FIREWORKS
  • Laurel & Wolf—Up to 50% off the design package of your choice with code SUMMER50
  • Leesa—$100 off mattress purchase
  • Lowe's—Up to 40% off select appliances, plus rebate when buying 2 or more
  • Lulu & Georgia — 70% off warehouse sale through 7/5
  • Lumens—Up to 40% off plus free vintage string lights with purchase of $350+
  • Overstock—Up to 70% off
  • Of A Kind—30% off select limited editions with code FREE4ALL
  • RugsUSA —Additional 20% off + free shipping with code JULY20
  • Serena & Lily — 20% off everything with code HAPPY4TH
  • Solid & Striped—25% off select styles and free overnight shipping with code USA25
  • Sweetgum Textiles—20% off any order with code JULY4TH. Valid 7/1 to 7/4
  • Target—Up to 30% off on home, furniture, & patio, and extra 15% off with code AMERICA
  • Wayfair—Up to 70% off on patio, living room, rugs, and more
  • West Elm—20% off in stock furniture in stores and online, additional 20% off markdowns with code SUMMER20

Gifts

  • Ban.do—Free shipping on all orders + free sunglasses with purchase of $50+
  • MoMA Store—Extra 20% off with code SUMMERSALE
  • Rifle Paper Co.—20% off everything + four free postcards with every purchase
 

Kids

  • OLLI+LIME — 20% off sitewide with code SUMMER20 through 7/5
  • Oeuf — 40% off spring/summer styles + free shipping (including furniture) through 7/5

Apparel

Great Items to Spruce up Your Kitchen and Home!

Recently we've been drooling over recipes and home decor ideas from the Food52.com website. If you are a homeowner who enjoys unique decor and kitchen items, or someone who loves to cook, it's a great website to peruse! 

As we have written in previous posts, it's not always necessary to completely overhaul or renovate a home in need of some cosmetic updates. You can do a lot with paint, wallpaper and decor to give your home, or rooms within your home, an updated and fresh appearance. This recent post shows four gorgeous new patterns of "easy on, easy off" adhesive wallpaper. What a great way to transform a room with one accent wall and no long term commitment!

Easy On Easy Off Wallpaper from Food52.com

Photo by James Ransom "Hojos Cubanos" pictured above

 

A statement item, such the Mediterranean Vinyl Kitchen Mat can help brighten up a monochromatic space. It looks like Mediterranean tile, and provides cushioning in high traffic areas such as the kitchen where tend to spend a lot of time on your feet. A small investment to help freshen a well-used area in your home. 

Looks as if we are going to be indoors for longer than we hoped this winter, given the recent No'r-Easter "Stella" who just dumped a bunch of snow on Northampton and the Northeast. These wire plant stands are perfect for bringing your indoor/outdoor plants in for the winter - while creating a lovely indoor garden scene, vs. a cluttered-looking corner of the house.

And for the DIY person in your life, here is a great selection of gifts from the Food52 online store. One example is:

Pictured above is the DIY deluxe Hot Sauce kit

 

 Just some helpful hints from your friendly, neighborhood real estate agency, Maple and Main Realty in Florence MA : )

Houseplants that Improve Indoor Air Quality

Who knew that having a green thumb could help with air quality in your own home? As the winter months set in, we are sealed up inside of our ever-more energy efficient homes. The "tighter" the home, the less fresh air that will naturally circulate within that home. I know that in our household, it seems my family members and I take turns feeling lousy this time of year. We live in an energy star rated home with a circulation system to keep fresh air moving through the house - but still, access to fresh air is limited as compared to warmer months. I have often thought that the lack of fresh air can lead to this increase in illness or allergic responses. The following article from Northampton's The Daily Hampshire Gazette on Tuesday, January 17th, makes helpful suggestions about how homeowners can keep indoor air cleaner during the winter. I love that adding beautiful plants to your home has the added benefit of making the air cleaner!

Plants, techniques to keep indoor air clean in winter

  • Peperomia, seen at Hadley Garden Center, is a plant said to purify air.

  • Poinsettias, seen at Hadley Garden Center, are plants said to purify air

  • Chinese evergreen, seen at Hadley Garden Center, is a plant said to purify air.

  • English ivy, seen at Hadley Garden Center, is said to purify air. GAZETTE STAFF/Jerrey Roberts - Buy this Image

  • Orchids, seen at Hadley Garden Center, are flowers said to purify air.

  • Angela Karlovich, who works at Hadley Garden Center, beside a display of plants that are said to purify air. At left a close-up of a Chinese evergreen. Gazette staff/Jerrey roberts 

  • A spider plant, at Hadley Garden Center. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS 

  • Angela Karlovich, who works at Hadley Garden Center, holds an aloe vera plant, one that is said to purify air, Dec. 12, at the store.

  • Chinese evergreen, seen at Hadley Garden Center, is a plant said to purify air


By LINDA ENERSON
For the Gazette
Tuesday, January 17, 2017
 
The ravages of winter drive us inside, where we take comfort in a warm home well protected and insulated from the elements.

But while a weather-tight home is great for saving energy and resources, that efficiency often comes at the expense of indoor air quality. 

When the windows are closed for the season, a variety of indoor air contaminants can accumulate and bother residents. Some of these contaminants are allergens such as mold spores or dust mites. Others are toxic organic compounds off-gassing from furniture, building materials or carpets. 

Dr. Jonathon Bayuk, medical director of allergy services at Allergy and Immunology Associates of New England, says there are many things homeowners can do to clean indoor air. 

Getting rid of allergens 

Air purifiers can remove allergens and other air contaminants, including dust mites, smoke and mold particles. Bayuk advises buying one that is big enough for the area of the room and uses a HEPA filter to trap contaminant air particles. He cautions against products that utilize blades. This type of air purifier creates ozone by generating tiny electrical sparks when the blades strike a contaminating particle. While each spark generates a minimal amount of ozone, over the course of a day, the ozone can accumulate to toxic levels. 

Keeping the relative indoor humidity below 50 percent helps to discourage mold growth, according to Bayuk, but it’s important not to let humidity drop too low as dry skin can often become a problem when relative humidity drops below 35 or 40 percent. 

Mold growing on a hard surface, such as a tub, can be relatively easy to clean (Bayuk recommends a solution of one part bleach to 10 parts water). However, porous objects, such as a box of books in the basement, may need to be disposed of in order eliminate that source of mold spores in the home. 

Dust mites are another common indoor allergen that can cause year-round problems for people with a sensitivity to the enzymes they excrete.

Dust mites feed on the dead skin cells that humans and pets naturally shed, as well as dust, pollen and other organic material. They live in areas where they can find food, sufficient moisture and warmth. 

Carpets, couches, and mattresses are common areas where dust mites live and breed. As these surfaces are porous, they gather below the surface of the fabric, making it difficult to get rid of them. 

Bayuk says a mattress cover is a great place to start in curbing dust mites. The cover is made of a very tight fabric the mites cannot penetrate. Cleaning the cover on a weekly basis keeps them from piling up on these surfaces.

Reducing clutter and keeping a house clean can also reduce the number of dust mites. Bayuk recommends using a high-efficiency vacuum with a HEPA filter to remove mites and their food sources from carpets and sofas. 

Dust mites are fairly easily removed from hard surfaces as they stick to a damp cloth. Bayuk says using a feather duster is virtually useless, and simply moves the mites and the particles they feed on to another surface.

Chemical contaminants 

Organic compounds off-gassing from dry-cleaned clothes, and from newly applied paints, lacquers and varnishes, as well as from newer furniture, carpets and building materials are another source of indoor air pollution. 

In the late 1980s, NASA conducted a series of experiments to see if indoor plants could be used to purify the air of future space habitats. The agency’s final report on the experiments showed that some of the most common and easily cared-for houseplants were surprisingly effective at decreasing levels of the most common organic compounds found circulating indoors. 

Hadley Garden Center stocks many of the plants named in the study. Greenhouse manager Angela Karlovich is familiar with the NASA study, and can lead customers to a wide variety of air-cleaning plants that perform well in a wide variety of indoor settings. 

Karlovich says that many of the plants cited by NASA can thrive in low-light conditions, which makes them versatile and easy to care for indoors, including: 

Dracaena: Several varieties were tested by NASA and were found to be effective at removing trichloroethylene (TCE), benzene and formaldehyde.

Spider plants: effective at removing formaldehyde. Spider plants are also non-toxic to pets. 

English ivy: removes TCE, benzene and formaldehyde 

Chinese evergreen: removes formaldehyde and benzene 

Bamboo palm: removes TCE, benzene and formaldehyde. Bamboo palm is non-toxic to pets. 

Golden pothos: removes formaldehyde 

Philodendron: removes formaldehyde 

Peace lily: removes TCE, benzene and formaldehyde 

While sun-loving Gerbera daisies are usually planted outside, these plants removed the most TCE and benzene of all the plants tested at NASA. They are also non-toxic to pets. 

Bayuk says like all plants, those mentioned above also add to indoor air quality by converting carbon dioxide into oxygen.

 

Paint it Black!

As an admitted design junkie, those of you who have read my blog before know that I am a huge fan of the Apartment Therapy website and blog. A good friend of mine, who has an amazing eye for design, recently traveled to Amsterdam. When she came back, she told me she intended to paint all of the woodwork on her windows black, like many of the houses she saw during her travels. This is a woman who means business. When she has a vision, she makes it happen. I was curious about this trend, and whether it would appeal to me as well. I happened upon this story on Apartment Therapy which makes the use of black paint as an accent look extremely appealing! I think the key is to choose one element in a room, which will make the rest of the room "pop".

As realtors, we here at Maple + Main Realty see trends come and go with some frequency. Paint is a great way to update a space without commiting to a large, expensive renovation. In addition, paint can be painted over if you tire of the look! And a fun trend such as limited use of black paint can freshen up a space and make it look as if you have done more extensive work than you have. 

Check out the article from Apartment Therapy here:

 

7 Things to Paint Black Today

 

There's a reason black is a classic: it's dark, it's beautiful, it matches with almost everything. And it's a great way to add a little contrast, drama and depth to an interior that needs a little extra pizazz. Here are seven weekend painting projects that will add a little bit of black -- and a whole lot of style -- to your home.

 

Your stairs.

Paint just the railing, or just the stairs, or both for a little extra impact.

 

 

Doors.
Add instant class to any space, without the trouble of painting a whole room.



 

 

The bathtub.
If you have an old cast iron tub, painting the outside is a great way to refresh your bathroom without remodeling. Ohmega Salvage has a great guide to this.



 

 

Kitchen cabinets.
Try just the upper cabinets, just the lower cabinets (the two-tone look is in) or go for broke and paint them all.



 

The fireplace.
Give the focal point of the room a little extra oomph.


 

The ceiling.

Painting your ceiling black is a bold choice that can make a large room seem cozier, and will make any room much more dramatic.





 

Bookcases.
If you love your bookcases, painting them black is a great way to set them off -- and draw attention to all those lovely volumes.





(Image credits: Design Sponge; SF Girl by Bay; Martha Stewart; My Domaine; Design Sponge; Apartment Therapy; Birgitta Drejer via Trendenser)

 

Keeping Your Home Uncluttered

Having moved into our new home just over a year ago, we are finally getting close to feeling "moved in" to our new space. We downsized by 30% from our previous house in, and we sold, or gave away a large amount of our belongings before moving into this new home. Our goal is to live in an uncluttered space from here on out. It turns out this is much easier said than done. It's not only the accumulation of stuff that can lead to clutter, but how you live in your space from day to day. More to the point, it's about getting into the habit of putting things in their proper place as you move through your day, each day.

I spent time this past week sifting through the remains of our packed boxes, and getting rid of clothes and toys that the kids have outgrown. I usually donate these items to the Hartsprings Foundation in Springfield, MA, who will come pick up gently used clothes, games, toys, linens, furniture, etc. I sorted through the piles on our coffee table and other surfaces, and spent some time rearranging our living room. I find this room to be a challenge because it's a large open space, connected to the kitchen and entryway. I want it to feel cozy, not cavernous (or cluttered and messy). Once I had the furniture arranged to my liking, and had gotten rid of the accumulated clutter - I felt much better! A friend of mine, who works as a professional organizer, once told me that the key to organization is not just that everything has it's place, but that you have to go through your drawers, cabinets, toiletries, closets and file cabinets (etc) a few times a year to keep things organized! I was reminded of this during my cleaning/organizing frenzy.

I came across this blog post on the Apartment Therapy website, which gives tips about how to keep a small living space uncluttered. The truth is, I think it applies to homes of all sizes. I also think that in setting expectations for your family members, that they should follow the same rules of putting things in their proper place as they go, everyone in the household feels more comfortable, and knows where to look for things at any moment! Read on for these simple words of wisdom.

 

10 Everyday Habits to Make Any Small Space Dweller Happier at Home

 

Alana's Brooklyn Railroad

 

There are plenty of habits everyone should adopt to keep a home reasonably clean and tidy. Here are ten worth practicing in any size home, but especially vital for people living in small spaces when even a small amount of clutter can make your home look and feel messy.

1. Make your bed each morning. In a small room, the bed may take up half the space or more so if it's not made it will look unkempt even if everything else is in order.

2. Take care of your dishes as soon as you're done with them. If you have a dishwasher, put them in it. If you don't, try to wash them right away or, at the very least put them in the sink. Keeping counters clear in a small kitchen is key.

3. Process your paper mail each day. Small space living is a constant fight against "piles". Try to deal with your mail soon after you bring it in—recycle, file, shred, etc.—so you don't end up with even a small pile (which is always a slippery slope).

4. Digitize as much as you can. If you have a piece of paper that *might* be important, but you're not sure—take a photo of it and then recycle it.

5. Straighten as you go. Get in the habit of straightening and returning things to their homes as you walk around your home. Gabbing on the phone? This is an ideal time to do some straightening.


Christina's Sunny South Austin Digs

6. Put your coat and bag away as soon as you get home. Don't drape them on a chair or leave them on a table. As my husband likes to say "don't put it down, put it away."

7. Deal with in-store or online returns as soon as you can. Don't let boxes or packages or items clutter up your space and don't take the risk that you will lose receipts and other documentation.

8. Break down unwanted cardboard boxes immediately and take them outside to recycle as soon as you can.

9. Cook from your pantry. How many half boxes of pasta are in your cabinet? Or cans of beans you bought for a recipe and never used? Be vigilant about using stuff up before your cabinets are a complete jumble.

10. Put your clothes away each night before bed. Don't let them accumulate at the end of your bed, on a chair or, the worst, on the floor.

Do you have any useful habits in your small home to defend against clutter and mess?

(Image credits: Sherrie and Oliver ; Kate Bowie Carruth )

 

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."

 

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.