Home Organization

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.

The Benefits of Adding Solar Power to Your Home

In our development in Florence, MA, just 2.5 miles from downtown Northampton, MA, it seems that solar panels are going up on yet another neighbor's home on a weekly basis. We started the process of interviewing local solar providers last year, but had to put the project on hold for a variety of reasons. Now we are ready to open this can of worms once again. Luckily, our neighbors have done a lot of research, which they are happy to share. The following article from Apartment Therapy does a nice job of explaining the costs and benefits associated with installing solar panels on ones' home. The good news is that buyers do seem to be willing to pay more for solar power - so you needn't stay in your home long enough to see a direct return on investment. 

Can Solar Power Pay Off? One Homeowner Crunches Real Numbers

By Julie Sprankles 

Aside from the obvious benefit of helping the planet, solar power can be pretty enticing to homeowners who are tired of paying an arm and a leg for their electric bill every month. Given that outfitting a home with solar panels comes with considerable costs upfront, though, is doing so practical from a financial standpoint? Can solar power in fact pay off?

For starters, it's worth noting that the benefits—as well as costs—of installing solar (also called photovoltaic) power systems will vary from house to house. This makes sense, right? Your house might be much larger than my house. My house may be in an area where solar power is more readily available and therefore more affordable. The variables go on and on.

In general, however, there are a few universal benefits of installing solar power: it lowers your electric bill, minimizes your carbon footprint and, depending on where you live, it can even bump up your home value.

On the flip side, you'll need to drop a pretty penny upfront in order to buy the equipment and pay for the installation. The big question, of course, is whether the potential savings will outweigh those upfront expenditures—or, more pointedly, whether you'll actually be able to save money (or make money, if the value of your house goes up considerably) should you invest in solar power.

How much does solar power cost to install?

Let's talk numbers, shall we? A solar power system for an average-sized house in the U.S. can run anywhere from $15,000 to $40,000. If those figures give you a serious case of sticker shock, don't fret just yet—many companies allow you to "lease" the equipment, which dramatically reduces your upfront costs. But should you decide to purchase outright, you may qualify for government incentives that cut the cost of the system. In all 50 states, installing a solar power system qualifies the homeowner for the Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit. This tax incentive allows you to claim a credit of 30 percent of qualified expenditures for your system and, most importantly, helps to shave down the time it would take for your savings to equal out or exceed your initial investment.

If you're the type that likes online calculators, you'll be particularly happy to learn that Google has come up with a handy little number-cruncher to give you an approximation of the costs and savings you can expect with solar in your own home. Called Project Sunroof, the tool relies on high-resolution aerial mapping to calculate your specific roof's solar energy potential. According to Google engineer Carl Elkin, the site "figures out how much sunlight hits your rooftop through the year, taking into account factors like roof orientation, shade from trees and nearby buildings, and local weather patterns."

Technology... crazy, huh?

When I plug my home's address into Project Sunroof, it spits out an aerial thermal image of my street that is, if we're being honest, pretty damn impressive in its detail. The fact that my roof is glowing bright yellow clues me into the fact that sunlight is aplenty, but the site spells it out for me, too.

By their estimate, my roof receives 1,606 hours of usable sunlight per year. Based on 3D modeling of my roof and nearby trees, the site figures I have 564 square feet of roof available to be outfitted with solar panels—and they recommend an 8-kilowatt system, which would cover 40 percent of our household electricity usage.

What does all of this mean for my bottom line and, theoretically, yours? That, yes, a solar power system can pay off.

With the system covering around 40 percent of my household electricity usage, my 20-year benefits of utilizing the system would total $37,000. If the upfront cost of a system after tax incentives amounts to $17,000 and we deduct that from the benefits, the 20-year savings comes out to $20,000. In other words, it would take nine years to pay back that initial investment.

You may be thinking, "Yeah, but this only pays off if I actually stay in the home for nine years." In which case you may be relieved to learn that research conducted by the Department of Energy in 2015 showed that buyers are happy to pay more for homes with solar power systems.

The study, which was cited by The New York Times, revealed that buyers were willing to pay a premium of $15,000 for a home with a solar power system, compared to a similar home without one. The only caveat is that these findings apply to systems that are owned, not leased.

So although there's no hard-and-fast rule for whether or not solar power systems will pay off in every unique situation, they can certainly save you money immediately on your electrical bill whether you buy or lease. And if you have the capital to make the full investment upfront, you could be looking at paying off the system in less than a decade and enjoying sizable savings and a big ROI in the long-term.

Fall Purging Can be Fun!

I love finding a new home for the items that I no longer use. This morning, on my way to take the kids to school, I put my carefully culled boxes of outgrown (by kids) or rarely worn (by me) clothing on our curb to be picked up by the Hartsprings Foundation. This local organization (affiliated with Big Brothers/Big Sisters), circulates all over the Pioneer Valley on an ongoing basis picking up a wide array of household donations for families in need. Another great resource is the ReCenter Swap Shop at the Glendale Road transfer station on Saturdays. This is a great place to get rid of many kinds of unwanted household items that are in durable and working condition. In addition, here is a link to the Northampton MA DPW which provides information about where and when to recycling what. To follow is an interesting companion piece from Apartment Therapy about what to purge, and when.

 

25 Things to Get Rid of This Fall

Brittney Morgan, Sep 10, 2017

A "New England Meets West Coast" Style Home (Image credit: Emily Billings)

Summer's over and fall is here, and that can only mean one thing: it's time to do some major decluttering. (What, you thought that only happened in spring?). The change of seasons is the perfect time to reset by going through your home room-by-room to get rid of all the stuff you didn't use all season, not to mention all the stuff you know won't get much use by winter, either.

To help you get started, here's a list of things you can get rid of ASAP from your closet to your medicine cabinet and beyond.

Wardrobe

  • Swimsuits you didn't wear all season.
  • Summer clothes you didn't wear and the clothes you did wear, but didn't feel good about yourself in.
  • Fall and winter clothes and outerwear you don't feel your best in or don't plan to wear.
  • Sandals and other summer shoes you didn't wear all season.
  • Fall and winter shoes you don't like anymore or don't plan to wear.
  • Clothes, shoes and accessories (including sunglasses) that are damaged if you don't plan to fix them.
  • Socks that you don't have matches for.
  • Inexpensive jewelry you haven't worn in ages.

Beauty Products

  • Makeup that's expired or doesn't match your skin tone.
  • Sunscreen you've been holding onto since last summer.
  • Hair and skincare products that have expired (or that you just haven't used in who knows how long).
  • Old nail polish that's lost its original texture.
  • Your loofah (they definitely don't last as long as you think they do!)
  • Samples and travel-sized products you never use.

Sarah's Small & Stylish Brooklyn Apartment (Image credit: Lauren Kolyn)

Kitchen/Pantry

  • Spices you haven't replaced in a few years.
  • Foods you put in the freezer when summer started.
  • All those extra grocery bags you've set aside.
  • Food storage containers that could use a refresh or that are missing lids.
  • Appliances you haven't used since last fall.
  • Extra kitchen utensils you don't use or need.

Miscellaneous

  • Toys, clothes and shoes your kids will grow out of by next summer.
  • Worn-out beach towels.
  • Old magazines you've read through and through or never got around to all summer.
  • Over-the-counter meds or prescriptions that have expired (make sure you dispose of them properly!)
  • Old, worn-out sheets and bedding.

Feeling good? Let's get going!

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.
 
 

Are Smaller Kitchens The Wave of the Future?

I recently put together a comparative market analysis for homeowners in Northampton who are hoping to sell their home in the spring market. Their ranch-style house has 3 modest bedrooms (yet with a small en suite master bath) a relatively small eat in kitchen, some nice open common living spaces and a lovely back yard. I was struck by the functionality of their small, yet streamlined kitchen. I'm always impressed by friends and clients who have the vision to create beautiful and functional small spaces within their homes. We realtors are seeing a trend towards buyers (generally speaking) seeking homes that aren't overwhelmingly spacious. With more modest-sized homes comes smaller rooms, including the kitchen.

Local design writer, Debra Jo Immergut, recently wrote the following article for the Boston Globe, describing how to design a functional and great looking compact kitchen. As we move towards becoming a culture that is ever more mindful of waste, hyperconsumerism and keeping a check on our carbon footprint, the trend towards smaller kitchens may become more popular.

 

Great design ideas for small kitchens

Advice from the experts on creating a tasteful and organized kitchen when you're short on space.


The new 21st-century kitchen is less focused on square footage and more on a general sense of openness, flow, and functionality.

By Debra Jo Immergut GLOBE CORRESPONDENT FEBRUARY 19, 2016


For the last decade or two, the dream kitchen has been bulking up. Peruse popular home-centric websites, and you'll see marble-topped islands big enough to merit their own coordinates on Google Maps, ranges with sufficient burner capacity to launch small rockets, and cavernous fridges that could double as bunkers. Yes, some people have kitchens on steroids. And some -- urban dwellers, tiny-house revolutionaries, and countless homeowners who simply live less large -- don't. The good news: The small-kitchen crowd needn't feel deprived. When designed for maximum efficiency and style, a more modest kitchen might even be considered the next big thing.

"The kitchen is ever increasing in importance," said Treff LaFleche, principal of LDa Architecture & Interiors in Cambridge, "but the space being dedicated to it is changing dramatically." The new 21st-century kitchen is less focused on square footage and more on a general sense of openness, flow, and functionality, he said -- it's less about a huge footprint and more about "serving as the heart of the home."


A few years down the road, a compact kitchen area may even be an attractive selling point. "Boomers are the ones with the money right now, but their millennial children are driving a move toward efficiency and sustainability," said Bill Darcy, CEO of the National Kitchen & Bath Association, a trade group of manufacturers and designers. Smaller spaces fit the lifestyle of a generation more encumbered with student debt and less enamored with sprawling dream homes, Darcy said.

To make a small kitchen work, owners should plan a savvy layout and opt for simple aesthetics, said New York designer Young Huh, who sat recently on a trend-spotting panel for the association. "You have to make the most of your choices," Huh noted. One upside to remaking a tiny space: You might be able to splurge here and there. "You can really go for it and choose a beautiful floor tile, because it's not so expensive to order a small amount," she noted.

So forget the vast culinary palaces of the Internet. Instead, make the cleverest possible use of the space you've got. But first, arm yourself with these strategies from kitchen-design geniuses.

Tailor it to fit

A slatted shelf unit hangs over the sink; it air-dries and stores dishes in the same spot.
MATT DELPHENICH ARCHITECTURAL PHOTOGRAPHY

A slatted shelf unit hangs over the sink; it air-dries and stores dishes in the same spot.

Even the tiniest space can be extremely functional if it's been fine-tuned to suit a family's daily routines. "Kitchens are very personal," said designer Emily Pinney, principal of Pinney Designs and owner of Cambridge boutique Syd + Sam. For example, "If your kids are always running in for drinks and snacks, maybe you need a refrigerator drawer that's really usable," Pinney said, noting that kitchen design should "be about what you really need in your life."

Creative solutions define the kitchen Charlestown's Bunker Workshop designed for an in-law apartment in Duxbury. The occupants wanted a dish-drying rack similar to ones they'd seen in Italy, so interior architect Chris Greenawalt devised a slatted shelf unit to hang over the sink; it air-dries and stores dishes in the same spot. A deep-green glass backsplash protects the wall from stray droplets and serves as a focal point for the all-white kitchen.


The couple made other requests for the space: They hoped for a kitchen island, a spot to sit and watch their grandkids play in the yard, and a full-size dining table. "We built a low, wheeled desk in front of the window where they could sit and have a glass of wine," Greenawalt said. The ingenious desk can then open into a table and double as an island work space.

Keep cabinetry streamlined

McMansion-dwellers may splash out on ornate cabinetry and crown molding, say designers, but in a small kitchen, it's best to keep it simple. "Go for a really good rhythm -- a line of cabinetry that's as clean and unbroken as possible," Huh said. If flat-panel styles are too contemporary, she said, Shaker is an ideal traditional alternative.

Consider covering appliances with panels to match your cabinetry: "It makes the refrigerator door disappear," said Huh, "and makes the kitchen look larger." Hardware, too, should be as simple as possible, designers say -- or go without it, opting instead for touch-latch doors. Portsmouth, N.H.-based designer Patty Kennedy found the paneling principle at work in a New York City kitchen she helped style for a photo shoot; the walls, refrigerator, and cabinets were covered with anigre, an African hardwood, lending a seamless finish to a potentially awkward nook.

Let there be light

In tight quarters, generously sized windows and pass-throughs can make a huge difference, as can white or neutral color schemes. "I'm a big believer in bigger windows that sit right down to the countertop, opening up to daylight and the outside," said Pinney, who loves their effect in a white-on-white Back Bay apartment she designed. Even a tiny over-the-sink window can be enlarged to make a confined space appear more spacious, she noted.

Sticking to the same materials and a neutral color works best in a diminutive space, "so your eye can focus and it's not all over the map," Pinney said. In the Back Bay kitchen, she used white Calcutta marble on the counters and white marble mosaic on the adjoining backsplashes, adding just enough visual interest while maintaining a restrained, unified scheme.

Choose small appliances



In this Cambridge kitchen, the fridge was placed below the counter.
GREG PREMRU PHOTOGRAPHY

In this Cambridge kitchen, the fridge was placed below the counter.

As alluring as those blazingly powerful six- or eight-burner ranges may be, they're often not a great fit for many households. "I'm trying to get clients to consider using smaller appliances," Greenawalt said. "The way most people shop is changing, and the way we cook is changing as well." For smaller spaces, he prefers a separate wall oven and stovetop to avoid breaking up the counter lines.

LDa's LaFleche does see more homeowners moving away from "that whole trend of the giant Sub-Zero refrigerators" and shifting toward "right-sizing their cooking and buying fresh." To that end, he often recommends small refrigerator drawers dedicated to produce or dairy that are closer to prep and cooking areas. In a small but inviting Cambridge galley kitchen, LaFleche specified an under-the-counter fridge, plus a smooth glass-topped stove and separate wall ovens.

Go vertical

MATT DELPHENICH ARCHITECTURAL PHOTOGRAPHY

Outfitted with pegboard accessories from the local hardware store, the aligator board in this kitchen serves as custom storage for kitchen utensils and other small gadgets.

Before moving her operations to Portsmouth, Kennedy worked for years designing interiors for the cramped confines of New York City apartments, where she learned that "every space needed to serve a double or triple function." She advises owners of compact kitchens to squeeze maximum utility out of vertical spaces. She works with high-end materials, but in her own New Hampshire kitchen, she devoted a narrow wall to her pot collection, hanging them from inexpensive IKEA racks. ("I'm a big IKEA fan -- they just get it.")

Greenawalt used a similar strategy in a loft apartment in Boston's Leather District. In lieu of a traditional backsplash, he installed panels of bright red perforated metal ("It's called AlligatorBoard, and people usually use it to hang tools in their garages," he said). Outfitted with pegboard accessories from the local hardware store, it serves as custom storage for kitchen utensils and other small gadgets.

Most important, LaFleche said, is to think hard about what you actually need to store. "We're seeing the reverse trend from the '80s, '90s, and early 2000s, when the goal was to put everything in the kitchen." He advises clients to divide gear into categories and keep items that might be used only every few weeks or months elsewhere: "They might move out to the closet or the hallway." Besides, if you're truly into cooking, he suggested, "the only thing you might really want is a set of knives."

And, on a related note, if you're truly just into eating, the only thing you might really want is a set of takeout menus -- and happily, those take almost no space to store.


Debra Jo Immergut is a Massachusetts-based design writer. Connect with her on Twitter @debraimmergut or send comments to Address@globe.com.

 

Mudroom Gratitude in Western Massachusetts

This time of year I feel grateful for my mudroom. I'm grateful for the cubbies we had built, so that each of our family members has somewhere to store their winter layers, their boots, their backpacks, etc. I'm grateful for the rubber floors which we chose, which are colorful and easy to clean. I'm grateful for the coat closet in the mudroom, where we can hide away our warmer weather outerwear. I'm grateful to the resource of Pinterest, where I found great mudroom design ideas. And, perhaps, I am mostly grateful for the door between the mudroom and the rest of our living space - so that we might keep that clutter from spilling over into our living room.

As a realtor in the Northampton area, I am reminded this time of year, to point out to my buyer clients the benefits of purchasing a home which has an entryway or mudroom. A home with an entryway -- even if it is just a small transitional area (as an alternative to a full mudroom) -- allows the homeowner a place to leave off the baggage that winter necessitates. It is so nice to be free from the bulky clothes, the mud, snow, dirt, etc before entering one's home. 

Looks as if the Daily Hampshire Gazette shares my opinion. Here is a recent article about the benefits of the mudroom from our local newspaper.

 

A mudroom is more than a place to store stuff



JERREY ROBERTS The mud room at the home of Suna Turgay and Ben Woods in Florence.

By ERIC GOLDSCHEIDER
For the Gazette
Thursday, February 11, 2016

A great mudroom has its own heat source, gets natural light, is easy to clean and is well organized. With those four fundamentals it’s hard to go wrong and easy to find ways to let creativity flourish.

Mike Buehler and Anne Vaillant of Southampton did theirs as part of a more extensive renovation in 2014. The mudroom is not only a highly functional space but it also is the way visitors are greeted and introduced to their household. It bespeaks order and charm in its functionality.

“The single best thing that we did was to put in a very large storage area, including closed cabinetry, a bench with space underneath for shoes, and then lots of hooks for hanging jackets and backpacks,” said Buehler, a self-described “neat freak” in a “family that doesn’t always share that priority.”

A mudroom performs several tangible and psychological functions. It serves as a barrier between the hearth and the rest of the world. It’s a place where you transition from your outside self to your inside self. You get to leave the dirt on your shoes behind and unburden yourself of some of the paraphernalia, like keys, backpacks, umbrellas, coats and hats that aren’t necessarily of much use in the house. You can even leave your cellphone behind in a charging station of you want to be beyond its reach when you get home. It will be revved up and ready to go in the morning.

A mudroom can also be a place where pet supplies, like a brush, feeding and water bowls, and food can be kept, especially for animals that spend time both indoors and out.


Suna Turgay compares the feeling of having a mudroom to watching Mr. Rogers on television. “He comes in and takes off his coat and then puts on his sweater, takes his shoes off and puts his slippers on,” she said. Having a mudroom “definitely mimics that.” She keeps some guest slippers for visitors.

Turgay, who lives in a 2,000-square-foot house in Florence with her husband, Ben Wood, and their two children, a 13-year-old daughter and an 8-year-old son, said their mudroom is “almost like an airlock. You come in, whether it’s raining, or really hot, or snowing, or muddy, you close the door behind you and you dump all your stuff.” She values the organization it lends to her life. It also makes it a lot easier to keep the rest of the house clean. Another big advantage, because there is the outside door and the inside door, is “that all that precious heat in the home isn’t escaping” every time you go outside. The savings in heat, in fact, makes the initial investment that much more worthwhile, she said.

She has a small heater in the mudroom, which is on a zone unto itself. It doubles as a drying station for wet mittens. Heating is crucial if you really want your mudroom to be fully functional in all four seasons. Without it, said Turgay, it becomes a place to store things. You would end up bringing your shoes into the house to dry out and to be reasonably warm when you go to put them on.

Hers has a heating panel mounted on a wall. It is connected to the house’s central heating system but has a knob that goes from one to six. “We keep it around one,” said Turgay. It’s like “an old-fashioned radiator,” only smaller, sleeker and more modern looking.

Easy clean

Turgay’s mudroom has organizing features built in from ceiling to floor. It is long and thin and has hooks, shelves and baskets. “We also have little cubbies, though the little people have gotten much bigger and they are probably not that necessary anymore,” she said. “Now there are places to hang backpacks and bags and things like that.”

In the summer the mudroom is a way station between house and garden. “I am a grower of food, which makes the mudroom that much more important,” she said. Besides growing most of what the family eats on a fenced-in third of an acre, she also keeps chickens and bees. The grit that collects on her shoes and outer clothes gets trapped in the mudroom.

Tile or stone is the ideal flooring surface for a mudroom because it is easily cleaned. Dirt tends to collect quickly in a mudroom and that’s a good thing, because that is all dirt that is not making it into the house. An easily swept and occasionally mopped floor makes it relatively simple to expel that dirt at a rate that keeps up with the traffic.

That is something that Buehler seconds. As part of a family with girls aged 15 and 11, skis and snowboards are often left to let the drippings of melting ice and snow puddle up in the mudroom. “And my younger daughter has a horse, so she leaves her barn clothes and riding boots there,” he adds. “It’s a good solution for an active family.”

Their mudroom is where there used to be a direct opening into the kitchen. “It’s nice not having a blast of arctic air coming into the kitchen every time you open the door in the winter,” he said. “It’s fantastic.”


The cabinetry and shelves are cherry. “We like the warmth of it and we liked the idea of a wood that ages and evolves over time,” said Buehler. “Cherry darkens nicely and gets these rosy tones if you’re lucky.”

The mudroom reflects the style of his kitchen, which he had renovated at the same time. “We were looking for a warm country look, not a sleek, granite stainless kind of job.”

Size counts

Dan Bradbury, who manages projects for Valley Home Improvement Inc. in Northampton, said his firm does about four to six mudrooms a year, some as part of a larger renovation and some as stand-alone projects. They can range anywhere between $8,000 and $40,000 depending on the size and materials one chooses. “The main driving force of cost is the footprint,” Bradbury said. “That becomes an exponential number that includes framing, drywall, electrical installations and finishing. Size really counts.”

Then comes the quality of the wood and other materials one chooses. “Even the tiles have a huge range in price,” Bradbury said. The company has its own cabinetry shop and the workers are skilled in helping customers design the storage scheme. “The most important thing is that it is well organized,” he said.

A heat source is crucial for it to be a four-season room but the cost of heating need not be exorbitant, according to Bradbury. There are a number of options, including radiant heat from the floor.

Another consideration is light, especially if you are adding a mudroom to an existing part of the house. “You don’t want to steal light from your kitchen or living room,” he said. “That’s very important, especially in the dark months around here in the wintertime.”

That means taking angles of the sun into account when situating the room. It might also mean adding a window to a wall in the room giving onto the mudroom.

Monet Singh of Florence, who describes her household as “a very active family” with three children, is in the planning stages of a mudroom she hopes to build in the spring.

“My kids are all over the place and their stuff is all over the place and this is the first time we are doing work on our house to make it a more livable and comfortable space,” she said. “We just had the kitchen done, so the next big thing that needs to be done is the mudroom so we can feel a little more comfortable and organized and have place to put all our stuff.”

Eric Goldscheider can be reached at eric.goldscheider@gmail.com

 

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 )

 

Clever Storage Ideas for Everyone!

Those of you who have read my blog posts in the past, know that I am a big fan of the Apartment Therapy blog. Although the overall slant of the blog is about how to use limited space in a clever, tasteful and design-lover-worthy way (such as in apartment living) - I find there are many posts which are relevant to life in single family home as well. Many of us Northampton dwellers are design-driven. You don't have to live in a tiny apartment in a large city like NYC to appreciate clever and well-designed storage ideas! As realtors, we are often faced with the challenge of helping seller clients remove the clutter in their homes. This article highlights some great ideas for creating storage solutions in your home... which can help both with decluttering for resale, or just day to day clutter-free living! It also provides great ideas for people who are either building or renovating their homes. Enjoy!

 

10 Clever Hidden Storage Solutions You'll Wish You Had at Home


Run–don't walk–to your nearest contractor, cabinet maker or handy family member and ask–nay, beg–to have one of these seriously smart solutions built into the storage around your home.

Some of these ideas might even be worthwhile for long-term renters; if you're settled into your "almost-forever" apartment, give your existing cabinet specs to a builder and see if they can't craft a new drawer or slide-in piece with one of these brilliant solutions built right in:

Above: A drawer for all your endless utensils.
From Hearthstone Design.


This slide-out bathroom styling station.
From Sicora Design Build.



This pull-out sideways medicine cabinet.
From College City Design Build, via Houzz


These slim drawers built in the bathtub casing.
Designed by Wanda Ely, spotted in this tour on Houzz.



This convenient spot for dry ingredients.
From a 2009 issue of Maison & Demeure.



These stairs-turned-drawers.
As seen on Houzz, from Henarise Pty. Ltd.


This cleaning supply cabinet with a built-in caddy.
From Wood Mode Custom Cabinets.



This hideaway pet dish and food storage combo.
Another one from Wood Mode Custom Cabinets.



This slide-out knife block.
Designed by Signature Design & Cabinetry and featured on The Kitchn.



And this drawer, which is actually a ninja stepstool.
From The Kitchen Source, via Houzz.

(Image credits: Jeff Freeman; Sicora Design Build; College City Design Build; Andrew Snow; Maison & Demeure; Henarise Pty. Ltd.; Wood Mode; Signature Design and Cabinetry; The Kitchen Source)

 

Spring Cleaning Time!

I am amazed how the undeniable instinct to clean and declutter accompanies the warmer weather year after year.  It's like clockwork.  After being cooped up inside all winter long, I find myself looking at both the interior and exterior of my house with new eyes.  Clothes that don't fit the kids (or that I no longer wear) go to Goodwill, piles of who-knows-what that pepper every surface of the house get dismantled and dealt with, the garage gets swept and organized, artwork gets framed and hung, the lawn gets mowed, flowers and trees get watered and planted... I turn to my husband/recycling guru to check in about various local recycling events happening here in Northampton (electronics, expired meds, toxic waste, paint cans, furniture, etc).  It feels good to be productive in this way.  Yet it is interesting that, despite these efforts, the projects never seem to end!  

I was perusing my favorite go-to blog/website Apartment Therapy today and came across this very relevant post about keeping your living space looking great!

 

 

 

Get Rid of These 5 Things That are Keeping Your Home from Looking Its Best


If the look of your home isn't quite where you want it to be, it could be because you're holding on to things that are dragging your decor down. Does anything on this list sound familiar? If so, consider whether passing it along would give you the freedom you need to take your space to the next level.

Things that used to fit your style, but don't anymore.
Maybe when you were in college you went through a phase where you really loved shabby chic, or Chinese-inspired stuff, or whatever, and you bought a bunch of things and they were great, but now they don't quite fit your style but you can't get rid of them because you used to really love them. It is ok to get rid of these things. Sometimes tastes change. You're not the same person you used to be. Let your home, and your life, be what it wants to be now, and find those old things a new home where they'll be truly appreciated.

Stuff that you have just to fill holes.
Most people have a lot more furniture than they actually need. I can't explain it -- maybe it's our consumerist culture -- but I think that in decorating we feel a lot of pressure to fill up spaces. Like, if you have a blank wall you feel there needs to be some piece of furniture there, even if it's something you never use and don't even like. Do you have a piece that has never felt quite right, but that you've kept because it's the thing that goes in that particular corner? Consider letting go of it. Your home doesn't need to be full to feel full.

Bulky items that don't really have anywhere to go.
You loved that armoire when you saw it at the flea market, but it's been floating around your house awkwardly ever since then, as you tried without success to squeeze it into a corner where it just wouldn't quite go. Sometimes things you like are out of scale for your home, or the way you live, and it's better to just admit it and move on.

Things that you like but that don't fit into your lifestyle.
Maybe you have a sofa that is beautiful but too uncomfortable to sit on, or a lovely serving dish that you never have occasion to use, or a rug that you really like but avoid stepping on because it stains so easily. It's worth thinking about how the things you own affect the way your home feels, as well as the way it looks. Your home should be a place that makes you feel comfortable, and things that you like but never use can be obstacles that get in the way of you living your life.

Projects you are never ever going to finish.
This is a hard one. Oh gosh, is it hard. Especially if you're like me, and you love to plan projects, and buy things to make them happen, and then you are not so good at actually following through on them. At some point, maybe after years and years, you just need to admit that you are never going to paint that sideboard, or re-cane that chair. Find a new home for those things, and clear the clutter and the guilt out of your life.

(Image credits: Alysha Findley)

 

Moving On After a Breakup

It seems that the statistics are on target, and many of us has either chosen to part ways with our significant other, or knows a number of people who have chosen to do so. As a person who has tried to be a support to the people in my life who have decided to make this life shift, and as a realtor (since often the reason for the sale and or purchase of a new home has to do with the dissolution of a long term relationship) - I found this piece on Apartment Therapy to be so relevant. We all want our homes to be a place of comfort and refuge. When we are licking our wounds from a recent split, it's so important to do our best to redefine the space we inhabit (and especially when it was shared with said ex) so that it can remain that place of comfort and refuge. If selling the home you shared with an ex isn't an option (as it often isn't for many people) - here are some great suggestions for things you can do to reclaim your home.

 

5 Redecorating Steps for the Recently Consciously Uncoupled

Eva's Sense of Clarity

Breakups are hard. It doesn't matter if you were the dumper or the dumpee, if you hyperventilate at the thought of your ex, or if you are firmly resigned. Either way, if you once lived as a couple, you now need to dismantle the evidence of the home you worked to create together. At times the process might be soul-crushing. Other times there are practical considerations. And ultimately, there's a new glorious opportunity. Here are five steps to regroup at home:

1. Yes, Perform Triage: Hide some of the prominent reminders of your ex, or obvious emotional triggers -- like photos of you kissing on the beach in Tulum last winter - or stuff that obviously belonged to the other person. Rip off the bandaid and get them out of sight - either send it packing, head to Goodwill, or tuck it deep in a storage bin. This is no time to wallow amongst the remnants of your immediate past.

-> Things Fall Apart: Living Alone in a Space After a Breakup

2. But Don't Overcompensate: Resist the urge to go all Left Eye Lopes on everything your ex touched. Your history as a couple is also inextricably tied to your own personal history as well. So pack up that stuff, but hold off on throwing it all out the window. There's always time to do it later, but for now, give yourself some time to get some perspective. Think of it as a time capsule to be dug up at a later date, to be examined under a more archeological eye that comes with time and distance. You might decide you still really like that Norwegian wool blanket you used to canoodle under, despite the fact that it was a gift from the ex.

3. Then Replenish Necessities: There's a practical side to all of this. If your ex owned the dining room table, and there's now a gaping hole where you used to eat your meals, you need to replace certain necessities that get used every day. It might be a microwave, or a vacuum cleaner, but you'll need it before long.

-> Breakup Shower: Would You Throw One? Would You Want One?

4. Let Yourself Indulge a Little: I'm not suggesting you hire Kelly Wearstler to gut and redecorate your apartment. But do things for yourself that weren't necessarily possible before, or weren't a priority. Hang up your favorite Michael Jackson poster, or hire someone to come and deep clean your home if you can afford it -- whatever little acts of kindness you can grant yourself during this transitional -- and perhaps unhappy -- time.

5. Finally Reclaim Your Taste: Turn your decorating "we" into a decorating "me." If your own style has been buried under an ugly wagon wheel coffee table, or you've forgotten how much you love black bedrooms, this is the moment to remember your individual needs and taste. Grab onto that knowledge with both hands, and don't let go. Figure out what you like and take the steps to make your home reflect that.

via 5 Redecorating Steps for the Recently Consciously Uncoupled | Apartment Therapy.