Category — Home Decor & Trends

Live It Up in a Smaller Space!

If the house or condominium that you can afford seems too small, maybe you’re not thinking about space the right way.

Buying the best location you can afford is what successful real estate ownership is all about. These are the properties that hold value even in down markets and that appreciate steadily and consistently in all markets. Great-location properties are financial stepping stones to your multimillion-dollar dream home.

Since buildings and units in a price range decrease in size in inverse proportion to improvements in location — either at street level or vertically — when you make a smart real estate investment, you may end up with something smaller than your ideal.

Have you analyzed exactly how much space you really need?

Ask families with big houses how many rooms are occupied at once and where the family regularly congregates, and usually they’ll admit to less than half the space really being essential to daily life.

Tiny homes, floating homes, and micro-urban condominiums prove that the less space you have the more cleverly you use it. On top of that, the premium location you’ve selected offers benefits you value — many

of which encourage you to spend more time out of the house — so you’ll love your lifestyle, build wealth, and, therefore, enjoy living in your cozy home.

Prepare to make the most of a small space by getting rid of over-sized furniture and purging rarely or never used items including shoes and clothes that no longer fit in spite of your hopes. Take quality, not quantity, to your new space.

How many of the following interior design and decor ideas for accentuating small spaces are you ready to put in action?

Winning Design Elements

High ceilings, lots of windows, multi-level lighting, light layered monochromatic decor schemes, and sparkling surfaces like crystal, glass, and mirrors add warmth and volume to create inviting living spaces.

Functional Layouts

If you love to cook, a large kitchen matters; if you’re a take-out fan, you may appreciate this extra space elsewhere in the home.

Visually Enticing Verticals

Let decor draw the eye up to visually expand rooms. Use vertical storage and shelving units to open up floor space and reduce clutter. Hang pictures above each other to raise the eye. Install curtain rods just under or on the ceiling to add height to walls. Use paint accents or moldings to visually raise ceilings.

Clever Useable Space

Add shelving, built-ins, and storage everywhere possible, especially in under-utilized areas: under stairs, around windows, across windows, high on walls, over doors, under beds, in corners, in walls, as islands…. Add

elevated platforms for sleep or storage where ceilings are very high. Steal slivers of space from other rooms to expand the closets that matter to your lifestyle.

Open Lines of Sight

Enlarge doorways, windows, hallways, or shelf depths to improve flow. Remove walls to combine small rooms into wide-open spaces. Open lines of sight by installing glass, french, or louvered doors or by removing doors and trim. Install bay or green-house windows to add an airy, practical touch.

Camouflaged Clutter

Conceal screens, electronics, and associated wires to reduce visual clutter. Use slipcovers to transform distracting mismatched chairs into harmonious seating. Decorative boxes collect hobby paraphernalia and other task tools out of sight, but at your fingertips.

Savored Furnishings

Select multi-purpose furniture with open design, mirrored surfaces, glass tops, and compact-scale to reduce clutter — visual and practical. Space-saving furniture, moved out from walls and artfully arranged in conversation groupings, further adds to flow through the home.

Color Magnifiers

Add colorful, well-chosen, eye-catching focal points — a vibrant accent wall, sophisticated art, unifying accessories, smart cushions… — as creative bold emphasis to monochromatic decor to help minimize the importance of room size. Each paint manufacturer and many decor media have their own “Official 2018 Colors” so check around to uncover tones and shades that work best for you.

On-Trend Accents

Dictate whether and how trends can be beneficial to your home. Not every fashionable idea makes sense in your special small space. Ball-shaped lighting fixtures, circle patterns, golden-brass fixtures, natural materials, and velvet sofas are a few hot 2018 trends, but they won’t automatically add functionality and visual value to your space. Test trends on one or two accessory items or pillows to see what works. Before jumping into a major make-over, seek out small-space professional design input.

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January 16, 2018   No Comments

8 Tips for Buying Home Decor Accessories

When we shared this survey and asked you guys about topics you would like to read on the DIY Playbook, we had a few themes pop up over and over again. One of those topics that many of you noted was a post about how we shop for home decor accessories.

When we sat down to chat about our list of “requests” we couldn’t help but note how thankful we were that you guys brought this to our attention because we probably would never think to break this “process” down. Our tips & tricks are not necessarily hard and fast rules, but we’re still happy to share what we know so that our fellow rookies trying to recreate a look they love (ya know… like that perfectly styled shelfie on Pinterest!!) can knock it out of the park with confidence. We promise shopping for home decor accessories is NOT as daunting (or as calculated) as it may seem. Here are the tips & tricks we keep in mind when looking for the perfect items to sprinkle around our shelves and spaces:

1. Know your size limits: The very FIRST thing we do when identifying what accessories to buy for a specific space is to measure the space’s limits. If it’s a shelf, we see how tall the accessory can be and identify an approximate width size too. We then usually write down these measurements on a little piece of paper (or keep it in the notes of our phone) and ALWAYS carry that sheet around with us when we’re out shopping (we usually have a tape measure in our purse too). That way, we don’t make the mistake of buying something too tall or too wide, something that can’t even fit onto the shelf <<– been there, done that.

Maggie Built in Shelves plant decor2. Identify VERY loose guidelines: After identifying the sizes, we then note VERY loose guidelines on what we’re looking for. These notes usually include if we’re looking for a few tall items, maybe if we’re looking for (blank) number of short/wide/colorful/neutral items, maybe a few colors that we hope to include, etc. These loose guidelines make the hunt a little less overwhelming, but we do want to stress that we never make a list of EXACT items we’re looking for because that makes the hunt a lot more challenging and WAY more frustrating. Plus, if we know one exact item we want, we usually search online and buy it rather than searching for it at stores like Target, HomeGoods, etc.

maggie reveal coffee table flowers3. Don’t break the bank: We rarely ever splurge on an expensive home decor accessories because we’re usually confident we can find things we love that are affordable. We usually shop at affordable places like HomeGoods and Target but we have a lot of luck (and love the one-of-a-kind/old school options) at Goodwill or local thrift stores and garage sales.

08-pineapple-anthropologie-pens-desk4. Choose items that are meaningful or tell a story: We love a perfectly styled shelf but we REALLY love a perfectly styled shelf that tells a story about the homeowner. Try to incorporate items into your home decor that are important to your story, your travels, the important people in your life, etc. (Like Casey’s little turtle memento from her honeymoon!)

entryway diy gold shelf

5. Shop your home: Before you shop, look around your house and try to use items you already have. So many times we re-work items from around our house into new places in our home and instantly have a newfound love for these old pieces. Try to use what you have before buying new.

Maggie Built in Shelves 6. Alternate heights: This tip is more for after you buy your items and start styling, but we thought it may be helpful to know this info when you’re out shopping/searching for those new things. One of the most important styling tips we use is incorporating pieces with a variety of heights to add visual interest and depth. While you’re out shopping keep this in mind. Layering tall things with medium sized things with short things is important… so try to buy items of all sizes and shapes <– frames included! The more diverse in height/shape/texture/even color (to an extent) the better.

Built In boxes organization family room7. Add books: As far as we’re concerned, books are always an important component to a styled space. If you’re a big reader and have a library of books, shop your home and you’re already set! If you don’t collect books that often, check out Goodwill or even your local Library for affordable, hard-covered books. When you’re picking your books out, look for titles that may help “tell your story” or for spine colors that work with your room. <– some people think we’re crazy for buying books by color and not content, we’re not denying their allegations. 😉

Fall Home Tour Coffee Table8. Only buy what you LOVE: And last but VERY not least, only buy what you are absolutely OBSESSED with and don’t ever just buy to buy… especially when you’re feeling desperate to get the job done soon. Hold off and wait for things you absolutely love to ensure you’ll love them (and love your space) months or even years from now. Don’t put a deadline on getting these items for your new space, finding items that fit the bill is a process and will not happen overnight…. and that’s okay (and very normal)!!

In short, here’s our advice for buying YOUR perfect home decor accessories:

  • Measure
  • Jot down loose guidelines
  • Don’t overspend
  • Allow your space to tell your story
  • Shop your home… you may be surprised at what you find
  • Tall + Medium + Short = winning combo #Mix&Match
  • Books are always a good idea
  • Buy ONLY what you l-o-v-e …. no exceptions!

buying_home_decor_accessories_tipsAnd once you have those gorgeous new items of yours, be sure to reference our guide to styling the perfect shelf.


Written by: Bridgette & Casey


November 9, 2016   No Comments

7 Easy And Cheap Tips For Creating A Cozy Fall Space

Does this time of year make you crave a roaring fire bedecked by gorgeous accessories, which you gaze at while sitting on your couch propped up by fuzzy pillows and wrapped up in a warm, soft blanket?

Us, too.

There’s just something about fall that makes you want to get all cozy, but achieving a chic space in fall and winter can get expensive. Unless you know where to look. Interior decorators and style mavens regularly shop at stores like Target and HomeGoods or online at Wayfair and Overstock to create high-low spaces, weaving some lower-priced, seasonal items to their everyday decor. You can use some of their tricks to create a fall home your friends and family will swoon over.

Bring in the layers

The biggest trick to creating a cozy fall space is laying fabrics and textures. A couple of new pillows mixed and matched with what you already have can be all it takes to transform your space.

The Sherpa Pillow ($25.49), Marled Knit Pillow ($21.24), and the Faux Fur Oblong Pillow ($21.24) are all from Target.

Swap out your window coverings

The main issue with flimsy, sheer, or otherwise cold-weather-inappropriate window coverings is that they can allow that cold air to come in, making your house chilly and your heating system inefficient, and costing your money. The solution: “Use heavy fabrics or layered curtains over the windows to keep out drafts,” said Apartment Therapy. “Or, purchase insulated curtains with built-in thermal backing.”

Insulated curtains can be pricey, but this pair from Wayfair is only $40 and comes in 15 different colors.

Think centerpieces

Even if you’re not hosting a big holiday meal this year, a festive centerpiece can make your home feel warm and inviting. You don’t need to go spend a lot of money on something pre-made. Take an existing vase or large bowl and fill it with these glittery foam acorns, just $2.50 from Hobby Lobby. If you’re not a fan of acorns, this birch wood filler from Target is another great option.

Hobby Lobby
Fill a crate

This weathered wooden crate is only $7.98 at Walmart. Fill it with gourds and place it on your front porch or position a fuzzy blanket inside and place on your fireplace hearth – now you’ve mastered inexpensive, fall-flavored décor.

Quench your thirst

There’s nothing like a warm, fragrant drink in fall. This Slow Cooker Cranberry Apple Cider costs almost nothing to make, is super easy, and is a great solution if you’re having guests over. Plus, it’ll make your house smell amazing.

The Recipe Rebel
Jazz up your mantel

You don’t have to raid your favorite home décor store to make your mantel sing this season, and you don’t have to go super traditional with your choices either. “Pots of moss bring a touch of green indoors and work well with both autumn and winter holiday mantel arrangements,” said Midwest Living. “We scattered pinecones around the pots for a fall feel. A clothesline along the mantel can hold leaves in early fall; as winter approaches, change out the look by adding mittens or snowflakes.”

You can buy preserved moss in a craft store or online; this bag from World Market is $5.99. Terra cotta pots are under $1, and if you want them antiqued, you can DIY them in a few minutes.

Midwest Living
Grab a blanket

Chilly days and nights call for the ability to cuddle up. A ruddy throw will give your living room couch a fall lift and also help keep you and your guests comfortable when the temperatures drop.

This Eddie Bauer Edgewood Plaid Flannel Sherpa Throw from Overstock will look as great draped over your couch as it will keeping you warm, and it’s just $17.99. Plaids are always a good choice for fall, and they’re especially trendy this year.

Written by Jaymi Naciri on Sunday, 06 November 2016


November 8, 2016   No Comments

9 Tips For Creating A Family Friendly Home That Marry Form And Function

Having a kid and trying to make sure you don’t lose your sense of style as the home gets overrun by bouncy chairs and toys? Maybe you’ve been in kidland for several years and are looking to reclaim some of your style. It can be challenging.

“As tricky as it may be to live comfortably in a small one-bedroom or studio, decorating a big family home has its hurdles, too,” said MY DOMAINE. “There are so many questions to ask: What fabrics are kid- and pet-friendly? Which coffee tables won’t take my toddler’s eye out? How can I give myself a little privacy? Once you figure out what works best for your brood, the next big thing to consider is how to do it all in style.”

Here are some tips to help you navigate the space between form and function.

Fight against dirty walls

“There’s no getting around it: Walls take a beating with young ones around,” said HGTV. “Cleats are casually tossed against white baseboards. Bedroom doors become backboards for basketball practice. A fresh expanse of drywall morphs into a blank canvas for that new set of crayons. Sticky fingers trail along hallway walls.”

But that doesn’t mean you can’t have beautiful color. Just make sure you choose paint that is washable and wipeable. Some family-friendly favorites can be found here.

Watch those corners

Sharp corners are the bane of a new parent’s existence. You can mitigate them by using pool noodles or edge guards, but they’re not so stylish. A round coffee table instead of one that’s squared off can be a great addition to your living room, both from a functional and style perspective.

Rustica Hardware
Bring in a little fun

Adding in fun touches keeps your home lively. This chalkboard barn door does the trick, and it comes in a variety of different finishes and textures to match your unique style.

You can have the white couch

We always chuckle when we see home design shows that give a growing family a big white couch. That’s not happening in our house, where materials are chosen expressly for their ability to resist spills and dog hair, and colors chosen to best disguise dirty fingers and puppy stains. But, white can be done. You just need some washable slipcovers, a little diligence, and a good washing machine.

You don’t need a glider chair

It’s one of the first things new parents-to-be think about when preparing for their first child. And a glider chair is a great place to hold, rock, and nurse a baby. But, unless you’re planning on having several children in a row or see the chair melding into your décor beyond the baby stage (especially if you’re intending to put it in the middle of your living room), you might be able to do without – especially if you’re on a budget.

There’s a lot of back and forth about how much of a necessity (or not) a glider is, but if you’re on the fence, don’t want to spend the money, or would rather focus on something that better matches your style and long-term décor needs, you’re justified.

You don’t need duckies and bunnies or baseballs and mitts in the baby’s room

Nor do you need a gender-specific color. Check out the chic HGTV star Jillian Harris created for new baby, Leo.

Jillian Harris
Don’t go with a cheap rug

You might be worried about wear and tear and stains with kids, but a quality rug may be a better option than something cheap. “Invest in a wool rug,” said The Chriselle Factor. “Wool rugs generally come at a higher price point, but for the family-friendly home, they’re worth every penny. They’re soft underfoot, help break the tumbles and falls of the newly-walking, and they’re much more durable against foot traffic – so more often than not, you’ll be saving in the long run.”

Get creative with storage

Whether your kids are brand-new or heading into their teens, you always need more places to put stuff, and you want them to be as nice to look at as they are useful. If you’re in the market for a new kitchen table, consider a banquet with a lift-top bench or slide-out drawers. They make great places to store kitchen or dining items, bibs and towels, and kids’ art supplies.

Coffee tables with drawers or ottomans you can slide under desks or taller tables are key for families and also make great options for extra seating in a pinch. But when it comes to toy storage, they can start to overrun your house.

One of the keys to a good design scheme is mixing it up with interesting shapes, colors, and textures, so consider this tip from Huffington Post: “Think outside of the box with your storage! Who says toys need to be stored in ugly plastic bins? There are so many gorgeous baskets (or even an unexpected roomy tote) at a range of price points. Storage that doubles as décor also makes cleanup a cinch.”

Huffington Post
Keep the big picture in mind

There are several great tips in this chic living room: Ottomans keep it cushy and can be moved out of the way for floor play. Bookcases stuffed with games and toys put everything your little one wants at arm’s reach and are easy to put back for a tidy space. The concrete table is “perfect for kids’ crafts,” said MY DOMAINE. And bright pops of color and a ship chandelier keep it all interesting.


Written by Jaymi Naciri on Sunday, 30 October 2016

November 1, 2016   No Comments

How to Make Your Home Halloween-Friendly For Kids

Most kids will tell you that Halloween is one of their favorite holidays. Of course, the truth is that many adults love decorating and getting their homes into the spirit as well. With the following tips, you can make your home a Halloween-friendly setting that brims with seasonal charm.

Pumpkins and Gourds

You don’t have to be a crafty do-it-yourselfer to ramp up the Halloween charm of your home’s exterior. Add pumpkins and gourds of various shapes and sizes to your front steps in order to improve your house’s seasonal curb appeal. If you don’t enjoy carving pumpkins, you can simply paint your pumpkins to reflect spooky faces. Use glow-in-the-dark paint to create eerie eyes and add other simple accents to your pumpkins with odds and ends from around your home.

Front Door Wreath

A seasonal wreath is a simple accent, but it’s one that brims with warmth and festive charm. A wreath will greet trick-or-treaters as they come to your door, but it will also make for an inviting focal point for potential buyers if you’re planning to list your home on the market this autumn. If you really want to wow the kids, replace your fall wreath with a spooky witch or ghost as it gets closer to Halloween.

Spooky Trees

To rev up the visual appeal of your outdoor setting for Halloween, consider bringing your trees into your design plan. With a bit of fishing line and outdoor-friendly fabric, you can create a troop of ghosts that hang from the low branches of trees on your property. You can also hang other decorations like spider webs, bats and flying witches.

Front Lawn Focal Point

If you’re planning to sell your home in the fall, try to avoid installing decor that might take away from the beauty of your setting. But you can still create a Halloween focal point that blends well with your home and landscape. For instance, if you have a birdbath, you might consider replacing it with a cauldron encircled by the silhouettes of witches. The key is to create a sophisticated display that is attractive to both children and potential house buyers.

Eerie Living Room

You can create a haunted living room scene that can also tie the look of this room together. Rather than investing in expensive slipcovers or new furnishings, simply deck your furniture out with clean white sheets to create an eerie setting. Add some flickering, battery-operated candles and cobwebs to create an inviting Halloween setting that will work for you even if you’re selling your house.

Garage Door

Don’t ignore the blank slate of your garage door when decorating your exterior setting for Halloween. Vinyl clings can help you create a wonderful seasonal display. Consider a bevy of bats or a row of eye-catching jack-o-lanterns to adorn your garage door. Even if you intend to sell your home in the fall, a decorated garage can help you improve your home’s curb appeal.

Decorated Windows

Decorating your windows with Halloween decorations can enhance your décor both inside and out. You can add spooky silhouettes to the windows along with some black crepe to create an eye-catching arrangement. If you do have electrical décor, make sure to keep a fire extinguisher close by, just incase.

Halloween Props

Finally, don’t forget to add some fun Halloween props to your interior to get into the spirit of the Halloween season. Add some spooky potion bottles to your mantel or shelf, black candles to your candleholders, black flowers to vases and hang fake spiders or ghosts from lighting fixtures. You can also replace your wall hangings with Halloween-inspired pictures that bring a touch of eerie charm to your setting.


Whether you choose to purchase your Halloween decorations or make them yourself, you can enhance the look of your home when you decorate for Halloween. The kids in your neighborhood are sure to appreciate your outdoor décor just as much as your neighbors and potential buyers.


Written by Andrea Davis on Tuesday, 25 October 2016



October 28, 2016   No Comments

5 Steps to Find Perfect Furniture for Your New Home

Congratulations on your new home! This is an opportunity to think holistically about the interior design and decoration of your home. Have you ever been in a house where nothing seems to go with anything else? A house with stylistic clashes in its furniture and decor can feel like a conversation in which no one is listening to anyone else. Follow these steps for a smooth decorating transition to your new home.

1. Planning

The first step is to survey the territory. Start by listing any furniture or decorative element (a rug or framed art) you are keeping from your prior home. Also consider design aspects such as wall color, textures and lighting. Some of these you can choose and others you will need to take into consideration as you plan.

Do you have a family heirloom piece of furniture that is coming with you to the new house? Your subsequent purchases will need to work well with the heirloom. Always take a moment and ask yourself why you are keeping a piece. If you don’t love it, there’s no shame in letting it go to a home where it will be loved.

2. Preparing

The perfect time to paint is before the furniture goes in. Don’t make your paint purchases without thinking about the rest of the interior. For example, have you always wanted a bright red sofa? If you are going to pick a bold color for a major item of furniture, think neutral for the walls.

Another common preparation is refinishing wood floors. Take into consideration the color of the floors and moldings and how they will interact visually with the rest of your interior.

3. Prioritizing

You may be able to acquire all of your furniture before you move in. But that isn’t always possible. Prioritize your furniture purchases around your family’s needs. Especially if you have children, your first wish may be a dining or kitchen table and chairs. The table is a gathering place for the whole family, and being able to eat together will make the house feel like home quickly. Make sure the kids have a say in what their rooms will look like — seeking their input can help ease their moving blues.

If you are a couple without children, you might find it an adventure to picnic on the floor for the first few weeks, and the bedroom might be the first room you want to furnish.

4. Purchasing

Consider buying all the major pieces in each room from one furniture line. These pieces are designed to go together, and once you find a piece you really love, see what else is available from that designer.

Celebrity brand lines of furniture are not mere gimmicks to capitalize on the star’s name recognition. Rather, such brands are designed to evoke the mood and emotion most associated with that celebrity. A lot of work goes into the line to create a cohesive and evocative style. Check the designer lines from Cindy Crawford and Sofia Vergara at Rooms To Go.

5. Getting Help

You don’t need to hire an interior decorator. However, if you need some help, you can find many online tutorials on interior decorating and design, some of which are free.

Written by Realty Times Staff on Thursday, 02 June 2016


July 6, 2016   No Comments

Crowded House for the Holidays? Here’s How to Make Any Room a Guest Room

by Jamie Wiebe

Happy holidays to you and you … and you and … hey, just how many people are expecting to stay at your home this winter, anyway?

All kidding aside, hosting guests can be one of the highlights of the holiday season. But it can also be a monumental hassle. Like, where do you put them all?

Don’t let the lack of an official guest room turn you into a Grinch. All you need is a bit of creativity and some planning to keep the (freeloading) hordes happy and well-rested and to keep you reasonably sane during the process. Let us help!

Pick your ‘guest room’ carefully

Owners of small homes may not have much choice about where their guests sleep (living room or bust!). But if you’ve got a few options, think strategically about which rooms or areas provide privacy without sacrificing comfort.

“Try and choose the ones that are the least public,” says New York City designer Heather Higgins of Higgins Design Studio. “If you can choose a study over a living room, do that.”

It’s easy to figure out the rooms that are no-go zones—no human guest wants to sleep in the kitchen or laundry room—but a home office or dining room might suffice quite nicely as a temporary guest bedroom.

Want to be a good host? Consider proximity to the bathroom, any possible street noise, and whether your guests can close a door between them and the overcrowded holiday household.

Consider a Murphy bed

If your Magic 8 Ball indicates year after year of holiday visitors in your future—and you don’t have a bedroom to spare—you might consider installing a permanent solution. Higgins’ suggestion? A Murphy bed, which comes in vertical and horizontal arrangements that can be situated to fit nearly any room.

Higgins herself sleeps in a Murphy bed every night. “I’m a real fan,” she says. “A lot of people think my L-shaped studio is a living room when they walk in.”

Going this route can free up space in rooms you might not normally consider worthy as a bedroom. You can even go full Victorian.

“I see people doing interesting things with beds built behind bookcases and cabinets, where they slide open and the bed comes down,” Higgins says.

Just make sure you educate your guests about how they work, lest they end up like this poor chap.


Buy multipurpose furniture

The trusty sofa bed is the Grand Imperial Poobah of guest furniture: Just unfold it and sleep. It rules! Too bad some of these pieces can be bulky or unattractive, especially if you’re a fan of the sleek, minimalist look.

You’ve got options, which you can mix and match depending on the room: A daybed works great in a small den (or a sunroom, if you’re in a warm climate). And while Higgins doesn’t think of futons “as a real comfortable bed or comfortable seating”—they’ll do in a pinch, and fit nicely in a game room, office, or media room.

Create privacy

Don’t feel bad if you don’t have space to put your guests in a separate room. But that doesn’t mean you should force your visitors to spend their vacation in the spotlight, either. Instead, find a privacy screen to give them some security.

You can use a folding screen to divide the room in half, or you can scan Pinterest for some interesting things you can do with drapery or curtains.

“At least make sure they have visual privacy to get undressed,” Higgins says.

Add hotel-like touches

If they wanted a hotel room, well, sure, they would have rented a hotel room. But through the goodness of your big heart, there’s no reason you can’t make them feel like they’re getting a deluxe concierge experience.

Higgins has a few suggestions to make your visitors feel like they’re truly on vacation.

First, bring in bedside lighting. You want something your guests can use to read and that can be turned on or off from bed. You want to be really accommodating? Leave your out-of-towners some local magazines or guidebooks that they can use to plan their trip.

Then make sure there’s a place to put their suitcases or clothing. If you’re putting them up in the living room, consider using a trunk or bookshelf that they can offload their clothes into, and let them hang suits and dresses in a hallway closet (or even your own).

And last, consider basic amenities: Fresh towels and bedding, a wastebasket, and a place to charge their phones, laptops, and tablets.

Keep it pet-free

Make sure all of your pet’s fur or dander is cleaned from the furniture, and figure out another part of the house where Benji can hang out while your guests are in town.

If your guests are animal lovers, this might not apply. But you never know who’s suffering from pet allergies, or who’s simply not a fan of being smacked in the face by a cat paw in the middle of the night.

Make it personal

Hospitality isn’t just about the basics—it’s about the little things that make your visitors smile. What do they love and appreciate? Personalize the room to their tastes.

Higgins recommends flowers or coffee table books on their favorite topics—or even just a new toothbrush.

“Do anything you can to make it personal,” she says. “It says, ‘I’m really glad you’re here. I went out of my way to make you feel welcome.’”


November 30, 2015   No Comments

Porcelain Ceramic Tile is Making a Comeback, and it’s Big

November 12 at 7:00 AM

For a homeowner, the holy grail of materials is one that looks really good and requires no maintenance.

Such a material is now available but virtually unknown to most builders and homeowners in the United States.

It’s not a miracle of nanotechnology or even new. It’s that old workhorse, porcelain ceramic tile, updated with modern equipment and manufacturing processes to such a degree that it may change the look of suburbia as well as our notions of what constitutes a tile.

Manufacturers can now produce porcelain tiles that are huge (5-feet-by-11-feet), really thin ( 1 /8 – to ¼-inch thick) and absorb almost no water. This latter detail means that these big tiles will not crack in freezing temperatures and can be used indoors, outdoors in temperate climates such as the Washington area’s, and for an astonishingly broad range of applications. The tiles are also made in smaller sizes, though much larger than the 4-by-4-inch ones that are standard in so many bathrooms, and they can be nearly ¾-inch thick, depending on the intended use.

The tiles are marketed in the United States by Tennessee-based Crossville, which calls its tiles Lamanam, and four Spanish manufacturers. Cosentino calls its product Dekton, Grespania’s version is Coverlam, Inalco’s is Itopker and TheSize Surfaces’s is Neolith.

Because this type of porcelain tile is so new, the industry has not yet settled on a generic name. Two terms used by the National Tile Contractors Association are “thin porcelain panels” and “thin porcelain tile.”

In keeping with designers’ preference for a “soft” palette, the offerings of these firms favor grays, “greige” (a combination of beige and gray), light and dark brown, charcoal, cream and pure white. Some of the tiles are a solid color, but others mimic wood, concrete, textile patterns, metals and natural stone. The marble lookalikes resemble the real thing so closely that even experts can be fooled.

When you see these supersize tiles in someone’s house for the first time, “great looking tile” is not likely to be your initial reaction . In fact, you probably won’t even realize that you’re looking at tile until someone tips you off. Unlike small, traditional tiles with grout lines running everywhere, big tiles have hardly any grout lines, and the few that are there are nearly invisible.

The big tiles with solid colors present a tasteful, unusual finish; the natural stone lookalikes, especially the marble ones, are stunning. Though marble has a long history in American interiors, the individual tiles have been small. To see an entire counter made of what appears to be a single slab of high-quality Calacatta marble is eye-popping.

Once you know what to look for, where might you use the supersize tiles?

They can be used to finish walls as well as for flooring, countertops in the kitchen and bathrooms, kitchen sinks and fireplace surrounds. If you want to go really crazy, the thinnest tiles can be used to finish doors, tables, desks and stairs. Capitalizing on the unusually high heat resistance of the supersize tiles, the Spanish firm Inalco is experimenting with installing burners directly into the counter, which would eliminate the need for a separate cooktop. The tiles are extremely scratch and stain resistant. Spills do not have to be cleaned up right away, an appealing feature if you’re one to leave the kitchen cleanup until the next morning after your last dinner guest leaves at midnight.

Another plus with the large tiles in the kitchen is crack resistance. Traditionally manufactured tiles can crack when heavy objects are dropped on them. The porcelain tiles, however, are manufactured with a different process that makes them extremely crack resistant. As Jacobo Pardo of Grespania explained, as long as the tile is installed properly, “you can drop a large cast iron frying pan on the counter, no problem. If you drop a big cast iron pan on the floor, it won’t crack.”

In addition to their size, another difference between these tiles and traditional ones is their surface finish, which can vary from a soft matte to a highly reflective glossy (Cosentino’s Lorenzo Marquez said his firm’s “X-Glossy” finish is so polished “you can almost see your face [reflected in] a black or white Dekton surface.”) The tiles range from a smooth surface to a “gentle relief” that feels slightly irregular, “bush hammered” with a uniform nubby surface, and “hand tooled” with deeper gauges that appear to be hand made.

The place in the house where these larger tiles may initially make their mark is bathroom remodeling because of the ease and speed of installing the really thin tiles over existing tile. There’s no demolition, so it’s far less messy. And because you have fewer tiles, the work goes quickly. For example, you can re-tile the walls of an average-size bathroom with 20-by-40-inch tiles in about four hours, said Crossville’s Vittorio Pomante. “You can leave in the morning for work and return at the end of the day to a new bath/shower surround and retiled walls,” he said.

Outside, the tiles can be used as siding for the house as well as for driveways, sidewalks, terraces, swimming pool surrounds and counters for outdoor cooking areas. A plus with all the exterior applications: The colors will not fade, even after years of exposure to sunlight.

On the exterior of a house, you would either grout between tiles, which would periodically need to be re-done, or not, in which case the siding would truly be maintenance free.

What would a house clad in these huge tiles look like? When a house is designed to have a portion of its facade finished in large flat panels of some material, the big tiles do not have the dramatic impact that you might expect. The only house in the United States where they have been used is in Boca Raton, Fla.; it is partially clad with Neolith’s Black Basalt. The house has a spare, contemporary look, and the tiles are a perfect fit, so much so that observers are unlikely to notice anything unusual.

Even a traditional looking brick townhouse with flat panels of fiber cement on its facade will not look that different when the fiber cement panels are switched out for the large tiles, as I learned when I had an image of a Washington-area townhouse community altered with Photoshop. It might appear that the builder had simply started using a different color, not a different material.

When the same row of townhouses was entirely clad in a neutral-color tile in a computer rendering, however, it looked very different, taking on a sleek modern cast that some might find arresting and intriguing, while others might characterize as “really out there.”

To get a better idea of what a tile-clad house could look like, Cosentino has a feature on its Web site ( ) that illustrates different Dekton slabs on a house with spare, modern styling.

On Neolith’s Web site, the “visualizer” tool ( ) lets you experiment with a kitchen, bathroom and living room looks, as well as a facade.

For many people, the most noticeable exterior application of the new tiles would be a driveway. Instead of a large area covered in concrete or asphalt, you could have two tracks of 24-by-24-inch tiles separated by several inches of grass or gravel widening into a larger tiled area in front of the garage. Thicker tiles are required to support the weight of a car, but Pardo said that is not a problem. A single, 3/4-inch thick Coverlam Dock tile can support as much as 5,500 pounds, he said, much more than the weight of an average car. A Coverlam driveway requires minimal site preparation and equipment. Once the soil is compacted and leveled, the tiles can be set in place. “The weight of the tile is so big, it won’t move,” Pardo said. “Even better, unlike concrete of asphalt, no maintenance is ever required.”

Big tiles that won’t crack in freezing weather allow homeowners in the Washington area to achieve the same look that homeowners in Florida or the Southwest enjoy. Using the same tile indoors and out on an adjacent patio makes both spaces feel bigger.

Besides the stunning visuals and tactile sensations, some people may perceive other differences with the large tiles. For me, the experience of being in a bathroom with large, white Calacatta marble lookalikes covering the entire floor and walls was transcendent. Encased in luxury, I was somewhere between decadence and levitation.


November 12, 2015   No Comments

10 Inexpensive Ways to Create a Spa Bath

Written by Jaymi Naciri on Sunday, 01 November 2015 10:00 am

The sumptuous spa bath – the kind that makes you forget you have a sink full of dishes, two baskets full of laundry to fold, and two sleeping kids with runny noses on the other side of that door – has been a top trend in new homes and renovations for awhile, and it’s not going anywhere.

If anything, the desire to luxuriate in a decked-out bathroom is only growing.

But if your budget doesn’t include an $8,000 (on sale from $11,000!) Hansgrohe Axor Starck Shower Heaven Showerhead or a Joseph Licciardi-designed, $34,000 Le Cob Glass Bathtub, there are still ways to get your luxe space without going broke.

Here are 10 things that will help get you there.

1. A towel warmer

For under $200, you can add a bit of hotel-style elegance – and warmth – to your bathroom with a towel warmer you attach to the wall. What’s more luxurious than just-warmed towels that are ready for you when you get out of the shower?

2. Bubbles in the bath

You don’t have to spring for a $2,000 Jacuzzi tub to have the Jacuzzi experience. Drop the Conair Dual Jet Bath Spa into your existing bath and bubble away!

3. A spa shower

You could spend thousands of dollars on a tricked-out spa shower. Or, you can spend $169 for this three-jet panel spa shower system. Your choice.

4. Painted walls

It’s one of the easiest ways to transform any space, and in the smaller space of the bathroom, painting can have big impact for no cost. Leave the bold and bright for other rooms and swath your bathroom in something serene and relaxed, like light blues and grays. Red will bring too much energy to the space and yellow may change the light in the room, making skin look sallow.

5. Painted cabinets

Old, worn, dingy, or broken cabinets do not give off a spa feel. You need it light and airy, which means it’s time to hit the paint store for a can of white. A coat of paint on those cabinets can make the rest of the room look bigger and help create the soothing feel you’re going for.

6. New bathroom cabinets

If painting your cabinets isn’t an option or isn’t worth it because your vanity top is worn, chipped, ugly, or all of the above, replace it! You can get a new one inexpensively. This vanity from Lowe’s has a stone top and modern lines and costs only $449. If you have decent DIY skills, you can also remove your existing vanity and install the new one pretty easily.

Home Depot
7. A sit-down vanity

If you don’t already have a sit-down vanity in your bathroom, trust us…it will change your life. If you can easily remove an existing cabinet under a low cabinet, you can fashion your own. You can also build one in for a luxurious look, or add a freestanding vanity to an open wall.

décor pad
8. The right lighting

“As the bathroom increasingly becomes a place to relax and recharge…the lighting requires extra thought,” said This Old House. “And when it’s done right, the payoff is great. A good lighting plan is a series of layers—placing ample light where it is needed for showers, shaving, or putting on makeup, for instance, while other light sources enhance the overall mood of the room.”

When it comes to the design, choose something sleek, shiny, or romantic to amp up the spa feel.

9. A silver tray

Nothing kills a relaxing dip like looking at cluttered countertops. A silver tray, whether it’s brand new or antique, brings in an elegant look and also helps to eliminate clutter by combining items in one space.

10. Heated floors

Radiant heating in and of itself is not expensive – materials will cost a few hundred dollars plus installation. But ripping up your existing floors and laying new ones will obviously cost more. If you’re already planning to put new tile floors in your bathroom, it’s the perfect time to add coils. Toasty warmth underfoot won’t just make you happy when you’re getting ready for some alone time in the bath, but every time you don’t have to search for shoes just to use the loo.



November 3, 2015   No Comments

4 Inspiring Entryway Design Ideas for Fall Home Showings

Written by Andrea Davis on Tuesday, 20 October 2015 12:58 pm

Photo courtesy of Legacy Builders in McHenry, IL

Your entryway sets the tone for the rest of your home — and when you’ve got potential buyers visiting, you want them to feel welcome and cozy from the moment they lay eyes on your house. Here are some ways to warm up your entryway for the fall season:

#1 Declutter!

The first step to creating a welcoming entryway is an immaculate entrance. If your entry area is cluttered with stuff — bags, decor, shoes, coats, etc. — it makes it hard for buyers to picture themselves in your home. Get rid of everything but the essentials — and, if possible, store those in a closet or other room. If you want to add a touch of fall to the entryway without adding clutter, think about placing one tasteful vase or centerpiece on a table near the door. If you’re unsure how to stage your entryway, a home stager can help you balance between clutter and just the right amount of staging pieces. Staging usually helps a house sell quicker, as evidenced by studies from places like Bankrate.

Photo courtesy of Buffalo Glass Works in Tonawanda, NY

#2 Update the door.

Buyers have to walk up to your front door before they walk into the foyer. If they see a dingy front door, it can set the wrong tone for the rest of the house. If this sounds like your front door, consider some improvements:

  • Replace the hardware (doorknob, pulls, lock)
  • Restain or paint the door
  • Repaint the trim around the door
  • Clean the windows in the door

If your door has lived past its prime, you might need to invest the necessary money to replace it. This way, the first thing buyers see will be shiny and new. To add that extra bit of fall, you can put pumpkins on display and install a fall wreath on the door.

#3 Have plenty of storage.

Useful entryway storage is enticing to buyers, especially in the form of built-in benches, cubbies and artfully placed shelves. If you don’t have that kind of storage to offer, adding something as simple as knobs or hooks for coats can help a lot. For that extra bit of fall fashion, you may want to add a candle or two atop the shelf — but don’t go too far. It’s important to keep the clutter down at all costs.

Photo courtesy of Home Facets, LLC in Beaverton, OR

#4 Light it up!

Buyers can’t appreciate all of the work you’ve put into your entryway if they can’t see it. Proper entryway lighting is important, whether it’s a well-placed lamp or a hanging pendant or both. If you have a hanging fixture, make sure the bulb is bright enough for nighttime showings. To add a fall touch, think about carefully placed candles or leaf-plated fixtures.


These are some of the top improvements to address when staging your entryway for potential buyers. Whether or not you decide to add some fall flavor into the mix, make sure your entryway feels appealing and welcoming — and that it sets the right tone for the rest of the walkthrough.



October 21, 2015   No Comments