Monday, December 31, 2012

Roundup of my Favorite 2012 Posts

A front door in Charleston, South Carolina, welcomes the new year. 

I chose to feature these posts based on how helpful they would be to you if you have a home for sale. Is that you?

Let's start with getting it organized. In January I wrote about the dozen rules that help organize your home.

In February, just in time for Valentine's Day, the blog featured a post on capturing the hearts of buyers -- how to win buyers, seduce them, appeal to their senses, and not let them forget you.

One of my March posts had to do with window treatments -- curtains and drapes that require no sewing, all designed especially for home staging. I wrote a $5 eBook of 15 tutorials for No-Sew Window Treatments. Why let your windows go bare when it's time to stage, and why give your valuable window coverings away to the buyer?

During the following month, April, I wrote about the most important things you can do to help sell your home. This story is packed with helpful statistics, experts' advice, and shortcuts. You're bound to get some new ideas for simple home improvements.

Since I get more questions about furniture arrangement than any other topic,  May's winning piece has to be Handy Formulas that Make DIY Home Staging Easy. You'll find measurements, ratios, formulas and other space and sizing tips to make rooms look and feel more comfortable. Bookmark it!

Painting furniture is another hot button topic around here. I collected my favorite tips in a post for one week in June, and I concentrated on the most common mistakes made when DIYers paint furniture. I'm a professional painter, so I gave you all the insider secrets to get the job done quickly but expertly. The DIY Adventurers Blog liked this post so much they featured it on their site.

Although it may not be an option for you, many people are considering the pros and cons of renting their homes until they can sell them. I researched and opined about this topic in July. There's lots to weigh before making a decision.

I could have called my August article, The Five Tricks Professional Stagers Use, something like All You Really Need to Do to Sell You Home. It's that succinct and helpful.

The white-on-white color scheme, done by Sarah Richardson. One blog post I didn't feature
here but that I suspect may help many DIY stagers decide on
paint colors, is my advice on an all-white color palette. 

In September, I attacked another common problem -- mantel staging, and I listed my smartest steps for staging a mantel that actually helps sell your home.

Does your home have some Wow Factors? That's the question I asked in an October post. Wondering what wow factors are and which ones might be do-able for your home, your market and your budget? See my advice and illustrations.

My favorite post from November is called Ten Tips to Improve Your Autumn Curb Appeal, but no matter what the season, you'll find pointers here to improve the way your home looks all year long.

This past month I concentrated on decorating and protecting your home for the holidays. I so enjoyed making the tabletop Christmas trees I wrote about, that I am going to call that one my favorite December post. In a home on the market that needs to look festive but not crowded, these adorable tabletop trees fill the bill.

Is selling your home and moving on to your next adventure part of your plans for 2013? Then take a moment to download my $4.99 eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and for Top Dollar. It's over 150 pdf pages of illustrated tips and techniques, checklists and formulas, to take the work out of staging your own home. Kick off the New Year with staging that works!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Are You Inviting Trouble Into Your Home?

At holiday time, it's good to review the issue of home safety, especially if you have a home on the market. I wrote about protecting your home from thieves during the winter holidays two years ago, and decided to revive that post because I think it's as important as ever.


Happy Holidays, from me to you and your family. Best wishes for a New Year when all your dreams come true.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

This Season's Darling: The Tabletop Christmas Tree


“How do I decorate my home during the holidays?” That's one of the most common questions home sellers ask at this time of year.

The simple answer is, “It depends.” It depends on whether you usually celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah in a traditional way.

It depends on whether children live in your home, and how nostalgic you are.

It depends on how uncluttered you want your home to look.

It depends on what your personal taste is, how much space is available in your home, how big your budget is, and what your schedule looks like.

One thing is for sure: there’s always room and some money for a tabletop tree. It’s seasonal, but ecumenical. It’s decorative, long-lasting, and fashionable. No matter what style your home reflects, you’re bound to be able to buy or DIY a small artificial tree for the holiday season.

I’m talking about the tabletop trees that measure less than 18 inches – cute little things that bring a touch of color and maybe even humor to the smallest space. Spaces like a bath vanity, a foyer table, a bookcase, mantel or nightstand.

I went a little crazy this year making tabletop trees for gifts, for clients, and for myself. Along the way I learned a few what not-to-dos, and discovered some quick and cheap ways to make them look special. 

The two conical trees pictured above are the same Epsom salt-covered ones I used in my tabletop display. I just popped a silver ornament on top of each, and set them on matched silver candlesticks for a different look. The felt flower topiary in the fake pewter pot is leftover from the tutorial I did last Christmas. It stored well. I just freshened it with some new spaghnum moss, and a bow in my favorite holiday color.

A dish towel with beads glued on, some pasta painted silver, and a burlap cone 
dressed in ribbons and pipe cleaners -- each one makes a different kind of miniature
 Christmas tree. A
nd not one of them was difficult to make. It fact, it was fast and fun! 

Make Similar Shapes 

If you’re going to be making more than one tree, I suggest making all your trees somewhat similar. You have enough to do without starting from zero with each DIY project. I used a cone shape for most of my trees. You can buy Styrofoam cones, floral foam cones, or paper mache cones. You can also fashion light weight cones from cardboard or poster board.

Get Inspired 

Let your materials inspire you. As usual, I gathered up odds and ends and craft supplies from around my house that I wanted to use or recycle. Having a stash at your fingertips prompts creativity. Look for fabrics, jewelry, natural objects, ornaments, paint, or paper that speaks to you and fits with your décor.

Pedestals and bases make a big difference. Try different styles until you find the right one
for your tree. I liked the look of milk glass under my one candy and two ribbon trees. 

Create Contrast

You can mix it up so each tree is unique and interesting. Put a funky burlap tree in a shiny silver planter. Add a glitzy snowflake to the top of a humble Kraft paper tree. Place new with old, rough with smooth, glossy with dull, black with white.

Think Sturdy

If you want your trees to last over time, so you can bring them out again in years ahead, make them strong enough to be packed away. That means nothing flimsy, and nothing perishable that might invite mold or animals. My pasta tree and candy tree are “annuals,” rather than perennials.

Corrugated cardboard (one layer peeled away), felt, and tulle, are the makings for little trees.
Trees this size make easy work of decorating a mantel, even a narrow one, for the holidays.  

Economize

Look for ways to save money by substituting less pricey materials for what you’d purchase finished at craft stores. I found I could make a paper mache cone by wrapping a store-bought one with aluminum foil and adding layers of newsprint smeared well with school glue. Once it’s hardened, you can slip the $4 cone out, so you have an extra cone (or more if you want to repeat the process).

The driftwood tree is just sticks, glue and shells. The middle tree is sheet moss I
glued to a cardboard cone cut from half a sheet of poster board, set on a metal candlestick.
And the topiary is sea glass glued to a plastic salad spoon stuck in sand-filled hypertufa pot.   

Last year topiaries captured my heart. This year, I am infatuated with tabletop trees. And I’m not the only one. I’m seeing them in all the stores, in magazines, online, and on Pinterest. On my own Pinterest Tabletop Trees Board, I’ve already pinned over 45 of my favorites, and I know I’ll add more. Are you smitten with these little trees? Have you made one?

Let Me Help You Stage

Do you have a home on the market? Have you staged it? No matter where you live or what your home is like, it’s already staged, vacant or inhabited, clean or cluttered – it’s staged! You might as well stage it to sell! Download my $4.99 eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and for Top Dollar, so you can quickly and thriftily improve the marketability of your home for sale.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Design a Holiday Tablescape Perfect for Home Staging

When your home is on the market, the home staging you do during the holidays needs to be festive without being too kooky. Here’s an example of what works. I think my combination of wintry, woodland elements with clean, shiny colors hits just the right note.

I put together this centerpiece for a long table. I centered a strip of natural burlap the length of the table. I layered on the first element – two round mirrors that hinted of iced ponds. I surrounded the “ponds” with a couple of shiny bead garlands and then added black and brown rocks for some contrast.

I wanted some texture, so I pulled out my bag of fake mossy blobs. They look something like small shrubs. For larger shrubs and a different texture, I placed some natural pine cones at each end of the arrangement. 

My two focal points were the deer I purchased. They were gold, and I sprayed them with silver paint. They still glisten enough to make me happy.

To complete the tableau, I parked the cone-trees I made from purchased paper mache bases that I painted three different colors. The two smaller paper mache trees I covered with Epsom salts for some sparkle, and the third tree I left white.

What Makes a Winning Tabletop Display?

Here are the elements I keep in mind while assembling any tablescape for home staging:

Make the colors harmonious with the rest of the room. The color scheme of your home should flow from room to room, but Christmas is a time when some extra doses of color are welcome.

Avoid overly religious subjects, or political decor, or any art that might be considered too personal or controversial. People like to do business with -- as in, buy houses from -- people who are most like them. The less they know about you personally, the more businesslike and objective the negotiations.

If the rest of your home is minimally decorated, don't go overboard with tablescapes at holiday time. Your displays should maintain the character and "weight" of your home, and showcase its assets.

Don’t use anything that is too expensive or has sentimental value. Things disappear during home tours. 

Concentrate on shapes, textures, and colors for subtle variety. Nothing should be too distracting. You want buyers to notice the Wow Factors in your home.

Have your vignette tell a story. Ideally, the story helps sell your home by reminding buyers what’s special. It could be the size of the dining room, the romance of the bedroom, or the setting of the home itself.

Do you have a home on the market? Are you planning to sell your home soon? My $4.99 eBookDIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and for Top Dollar, will help you show your home in the best possible way, by staging it right. You can download the book instantly, and start your own home staging today.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Make a Unique Holiday Wreath for Pennies

A novelty wreath will welcome with whimsy
both home buyers and guests to your home. 

Last week I showed tips for creating a wreath of greenery. This week I made a wreath for our boat. The idea came to me when I spied an old life ring taking up space in the garage.

I love re-purposing what's on hand to create something no one else has! 

Wreaths can go a long way towards improving curb appeal. If your property is part of a condo complex that forbids front yard décor, a wreath usually falls within regulations. And it could be one of the things that distinguishes your unit from other units buyers look at that day. 

If you don’t have a wreath on (or near) your front door, and you want one that’s unique and cheap, look around for what you can re-purpose or upcycle. 

A wire coat hanger? A picture frame? A round mirror? Foam core? Plywood? Twigs? Vines? Driftwood? Any one of these are the start of a one-of-a-kind wreath. 

Or, get out your handy glue gun and create the base from what you can scavenge from thrift stores, nature, and around your home. Even something wild and crazy like ping pong balls, plastic plates, cookie cutters, or children’s blocks can make a cute base for a novelty wreath.

Since there was dust and mildew on the old, beat-up life ring, 
I wiped it with a cleaner that has mildew-cide.   

To put a faux finish on the wreath base, I started with one coat of an exterior satin 
house paint, but any craft paint would do as well. 

A good faux finish calls for a variety of colors. I sponged on four different
greens, letting each coat dry before adding the next. 

To replicate the (missing) webbing strips that hold the rope that encircles the 
life ring, I folded this 3-inch wide ribbon in half and stitched it across to make a loop.
The ribbon was long enough to go around the life ring, with a few inches to spare.

I knew the wreath would be viewed mostly from the front, but I didn't want to have an ugly
seam where the ribbon ends joined, so I used dressmaker straight pins to attach the ribbon. 

Once the rope goes on, it starts looking like a functioning life preserver. 
And it would still serve as one in an emergency. I connected the ends 
of the rope with duct tape, and tucked the joint into one of the loops.  


Once I added some silk holly sprigs and glued on some star fish I made from bakers clay, I hung
the wreath on the bow flagstaff. It makes people smile when they see it! I painted the clay stars and gave them a few coats of clear sealer, so we will see if that is sufficient weatherproofing.

Update: Seagulls seem to think the bakers clay embellishments are for snacking.  
I'm bringing the wreath home to replace what's left of the starfish with real shells.   


A "statement wreath" like this adds some personality to a property. And I made it from what I already had on hand. Do you have an idea for a DIY novelty wreath? 

Are you selling your home? Have you staged it? My $4.99 eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and for Top Dollar, gives you all the formulas, checklists, and techniques professional stagers use to sell homes. I guarantee you'll learn new tips. I will give you your money back if you are not completely satisfied with my home staging eBook.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Making a Greenery Wreath for Christmas


If your home is for sale, a holiday wreath is one terrific way to boost your curb appeal. In fact, a wreath on the front door is pretty much a necessity if you want to get buyers curious about what's behind "door number one." 

Make your own evergreen wreath, and you’ll save money, create one that’s unique, and have some fun.

What’s the secret to turning out a beautiful wreath that doesn't look homemade? Actually, there are three secrets.

One: Fullness Matters

A novice makes a skimpy wreath. A professional makes a lush one. A full base of greenery is more important than what decorates it. If you aren’t able to gather or purchase all the greenery, you can buy a plain evergreen wreath as a start.

Two: Embellishments Count

For a professional-looking wreath, choose striking ornaments. Choose ones with color or shine, ones that tell a story or make people smile, ones that might even be…how can I say this…gaudy. They need to be dramatic to stand out. No wallflowers if you want some noticeable curb appeal.

Three: The Focal Point's the Thing

A wreath isn’t finished until it has a singular statement piece. It’s usually the bow, but it can also be a super-sized ornament like a doll or other figurine like a feathery angel or a sparkly snowman. It could be an over-the-top silk flower arrangement, a printed banner, or a vintage toy. Without the focal point, the greenery wreath is nothing special.

When your home is for sale, your wreath can be part of your selling team. Have it emphasize what’s unique to your home. It might capitalize on what’s special about your town or your part of the country. It might reflect the carefully chosen color scheme you’ve decorated your exterior or interior with. It might mimic the style of your home, such as classy traditional, hip mid century modern, charming cottage, or edgy urban.

Start with the Base

Your wreath makings can be simple or an assortment. Just make sure there's enough to
pack it tight. If your wreath will be seen from both sides, you'll need enough to make it round.  

My favorite wreath form is the straw wreath. Besides being the most economical (Have you seen the prices of foam wreaths lately?), it’s easy to work with, versatile, and sturdy – a great start for creating the full look. I wrapped the entire wreath form in florist’s tape because I didn't want any straw showing.

Did you know that as you apply florists tape, you need to stretch it to about twice it length? Stretching activates the wax that makes it sticky. Just stretch as you go, and place where you want it.

Whether you have a collection of various greens or a stash of one variety, get it all together and discard or trim damaged foliage. If you plan to use your wreath indoors, you can prolong its life by soaking the foliage stems in water overnight after cutting them.

Ideally, you’ll have free or low cost sources for the base of the wreath, possibly trimmings from your yard or from a fresh Christmas tree you buy. Along with traditional coniferous greenery like juniper, pine, and false cypress (hemlock and spruce will shed), I like to mix in shrubbery and broadleaved evergreens like boxwood, mountain laurel, pittosporum, nandina, English ivy, holly, magnolia leaves, eucalyptus, or whatever else I can collect.

The first cluster gets wired on. I used 26 gauge wire. Alternate your
 clusters of greenery so that the entire form is covered, including the sides. 
Use medium gauge wire or heavy twine to attach greens to the wreath form. To start, wrap it once around the wreath and secure it. Then, cluster a handful of greens, lay it on the wreath with one hand, and wrap the wire over the stems and around the wreath two to three times with the other hand.

Continue all around the wreath form, staggering the clusters of green so that one cluster hides the stems of the previous cluster. I prefer using wire because it’s easier to keep it tight, and that’s important as you continue around the wreath form. When you’ve come full circle, twist the wire or tie the twine, and make a loop for hanging.

Make a wire or twine loop at the top of your wreath. If you are unsure of where you want
the top,  you can save this step for later, but it's easier to add it earlier than later. 
If the greens look crooked or untidy, you can trim stray greenery with scissors or pruners. A common mistake beginners make is to have a shaggy wreath, but I like a bit of that loose look.

Pick in Your Ornaments

Ornamentation is either wired on, picked in, or glued onto a wreath. When the wreath base is made of wire, you’ll need to wire the ornaments onto it. On a foam or straw base, you’ll either glue on or pick in the ornaments. Picking lets you put ornaments exactly where you want them so they will stay there until you take them off. Glued ornaments aren’t easily removable.

If you’re on a budget, use thrifted, recycled or natural items for ornaments. After-Christmas sales are an ideal time to score on some wreath-making ornaments for next December. If free, natural objects like nuts, shells, seed heads, twigs, and pinecones look too ordinary, give them a hit of silver or gold spray paint.  

Here’s how to make a pick, the way a floral designer showed me, the “load and lock” way.

This is how a pick should be fastened to make it wiggle-free,
with a wire that loops back between the stem and the pick. 

Picks come in different sizes. Lay the pick large enough to accommodate your cluster next to the stems.  Make one turn around the stems with the wire that’s attached to the pick. Then, make a figure eight of the wire between the stems and the pick. Keep the wire tight, and continue to wrap it around the stems and the pick. This figure eight locks the cluster so it stays in place instead of swiveling or going nutsy on you when you add it to the wreath.  

Add the Star of the Show

Craft stores and craft departments are full of items to put that all-important exclamation point on your wreath. If there is one place I’ll splurge a little, it’s on the one statement ornament. But you'd be surprised how some spray glitter or spray snow on a thrift store find can deliver glam results!  
Rather than a bow, I chose an ornament from
my stash to be the centerpiece of this wreath.
The pewter bells on a silk cord are designed
to announce visitors arriving! 

If a multiple-loop bow is your focal point, I have five tips for making it a winner: Use wired ribbon, don’t skimp the number of loops (10 on each side of the center is about right), use florists wire to tie the center, keep it tight in the center, and fluff it up!

If you want a more romantic bow, here is a tutorial from Diane at In My Own Style.

If you want a simple, tied bow that stays straight instead of going all crooked on you, Kristi at Addicted 2 Decorating can show you how.

Some of my tips for wreath making don’t apply to novelty wreaths. If you’re crafting a wreath of felt flowers or buttons or pine cones, you may not need a focal point.

If you’re building on a wire or foam wreath, you might tie ornaments on with lengths of florist wire or chenille ties instead of wooden picks. 

If you’re making a wreath of coffee filters or rags or feathers or driftwood, the wreath itself is the statement and whatever you add to it depends on personal style.

But if you’re turning out a wintry evergreen wreath, my tips will help you make it look polished and complete. 

Whether your Open House is to lure buyers for your home on the market, or to share holiday cookies with your neighbors, or host your annual New Years Day bash, a wreath on the front door welcomes in style whoever knocks on your door. If you make it yourself, you can make it special.

And to help you lure those buyers, download my $4.99 ebook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and for Top Dollar, for tips and tricks the pros use to stage homes that sell.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Seven Steps to a Gorgeous Fireplace Mantel


Christmas and fireplace mantels are a tight twosome. With or without the traditional hung stockings, you can make your mantel the nostalgic and charming focal point of the room.

Because nostalgia and charm resonate with home buyers.  

Here’s what I did to dress for the season a  driftwood mantel on a rugged stone fireplace that needs to be the focal point of this family room. 

Step 1.  Start with an Idea

Your idea might be a particular color scheme or a specific topic.

When it comes to colors and style, at holiday time you have an excuse to go glitzy or dramatic.

For example, metallics and saturated colors that you might normally avoid while staging your home, are perfect for holiday décor.

On the other hand, monotone color schemes and minimalistic styling can be smashingly elegant. It’s one way to simplify your life, because putting decorations up at the start of the season takes time, and then taking them down and storing them away takes time again in January. Keep it simple.

For this mantel I decided to concentrate on traditional reds and greens for my color theme. My topic theme was nature, because this house sits on a densely wooded lot. In fact, all the greenery came from the property. 

Some examples of specific topics would be themes like antique toys, Mercury glass, shabby chic angel ornaments, ceramic animals, or the classic nativity crèche. If your home is for sale, you might want to choose a theme that accentuates what's special about the house or the room.   

Step 2.  Go Collecting

This garland has plenty of texture, but
the colors keep it simple. 
If you are undecided about an idea to tie your mantel decorations together, begin with step two. Shop your home and see what elements you have available. Use your imagination to repurpose items. An inverted vase can become a pedestal. A necklace can become a swag.  Books can become wrapped gifts.    

Don’t ignore what’s growing in your vicinity (pinecones, greenery, logs, seed pods, bare branches…) as well as what you’ve tucked away in closets and other storage areas like the garage, garden shed or storage building.

Remember that paint will transform almost anything into what your color scheme calls for. That old plastic flower pot can look like granite, and those thrift store vases can look like silver or gold  once they are spray painted.

Step 3. Go Shopping

This step isn’t always necessary. You may have all the things you need on hand. And if you are like many crafters or budget decorators, you’ve already scooped up Christmas decorations at summer garage sales and last year’s post-holiday sales.

Your materials should include some items with different textures, sizes, and materials. For example, don’t make everything transparent or everything solid. Instead, include some of both. Include dull surfaces and glossy surfaces, large forms and smaller shapes, some round objects and some hard edge objects.

Step 4. Set up Your Backdrop

It’s best to begin with a clean slate. So, remove whatever is on the mantel and give yourself room to work in front of the fireplace. Spread out the possible objects you’ve collected.

Large magnolia leaves and sprigs of
variegated holly brought some weight
to one end of the mantel
Next, place one large object as the background for the mantel grouping. You will be surprised what a difference this makes. It gets you off to a great start. 

I hung a round wreath of artificial red berries on the chimney breast to get my arrangement going. You could use a mirror, an empty frame, a painting like I did for the autumn mantel I blogged about, or something vintage like shutters or a door.   
     
Step 5. Balance the Weight

I often begin by hanging or draping something the length of the mantel. This is another way of unifying and balancing the grouping that’s to come. 

On the driftwood mantel, I strung the garland that I purchased at Michaels. I fell for it the moment I saw it. I adore the warm colors and woodsy feel to it.

I placed one item – the red berry tree – on one end of the mantel and some oversized  greenery at the opposite end. Now I had some balance and I could fill in with smaller items.

6. Repeat the Colors

Plenty of greenery softened the look of the stone and unified my arrangement.
I added a string of glistening red berries to the center of the mantel and some more springs of greenery that included real red berries. I wasn’t about to complicate things with too many colors since I was going for tradition and natural simplicity.

Step 7. Add some details

To tie the brown garland into the green arrangements above it, I wove some evergreen sprigs into the chain. That’s all it took to finish the entire mantel. 

Evergreen sprigs tucked into the swag and more red berries were part of the finishing touches. 
In the staged home, too many details will draw attention to the mantel itself, instead of the mantel calling attention to your selling point – the fireplace. Keeping decorations simple saves time, money and stress. When your home is on the market, you need easy and quick ways to add festive touches.   
I write about mantel décor -- as well as what else you need to know about home staging -- in my $4.99 eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar. You can download the book now and start learning how to attract buyers to your property.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Staging the Dining Room Table: DIY Napkin Rings


While men typically focus on where the television will go in a home they are shopping for, women tend to picture their family or friends around the dining table as a litmus test for how well they like any particular home.

How is your dining table looking for real estate showings?

With Thanksgiving on the near horizon for Americans, it's the perfect time to give some attention to your dining room. If your home is for sale, you might want to reevaluate how your dining table looks when buyers AND guests come for the holidays ahead.

Tabletops need pizazz 

Wherever you have meals, make that area a place that charms buyers. Make it a spot where they want to celebrate Thanksgiving and other occasions. It needn't be fancy. Most of us don't live that way. The secret is in having just enough details on the table to make it inviting and interesting, without it taking over the entire room visually. I've already blogged here about what place settings should look like in the staged home.

If your dining table is the default spot for craft supplies, bills, or homework projects, there's no better time than pre-holidays for staging the area.

Since complicated table settings would only be a bother -- especially if you use the table for daily dining  -- simple settings are the answer. Placemats, plates, glassware, and napkins might be all you need. And napkin rings give the finishing touch!

I like to DIY napkin rings from common materials like ribbon, cheap bracelets, curtain rings, beads, wire, buttons, or cardboard. Making your own is the frugal way to go, and who isn't on a budget when it's time to sell a home? Here's a gallery of ideas for inspiration.

These rings, were handmade by Ashley at Little Miss Momma. She credits KoJo Designs for teaching her how. I like that even though each one is a little bit different -- which happens when you use upcycled materials like buttons and brooches --  the twine wrap makes them all similar enough.

Who would know that these colorful napkin rings began life as toilet paper rolls? Karin at her Swedish blog, Pysselbolaget, shows you how. These are the handiwork of her 8-year old daughter, and I think they are definitely stage-worthy.

Have some fabric scraps you love too much to discard? Here's another design that began with a cardboard tube, this time the core from a role of Saran. The tutorial at Merriment Design shows you exactly how to.

On the left is a sample of Michelle's work, from Sweet Something Designs. She used dollar store napkin rings and covered them with fabric and a button, for a handsome "buttoned-up" look that I love.

Napkin rings in the staged home shouldn't be so precious that anyone is tempted to walk  off with them.

I would keep the vintage jewelry and anything else with either sentimental or monetary worth hidden away.

You also don't want napkin rings to stand out so much that buyers are distracted from what makes your home valuable -- the size of the rooms, the view, the condition of the floors and walls -- or whatever your home's selling points are.

Over at Fidgety Fingers DIY (cute name!) you can learn how to make napkin rings this striking-looking by weaving strips of magazine pages. What could be more economical?

Selling a coastal home? How about wooden drapery rings as a start for napkin rings that imitate little life preservers? Cathe, at her blog, Just Something I Made, will show you how. Just follow the link!

Another beachy rendition comes from The BB Craft Sisters, featured on Design Sponge, where you'll find the tutorial. Using rope and collected shells, the look is crisp and clean, and ... well...coastal!

The quickest way to add some height and style to a plain napkin is to wrap it in a second napkin. I liked the combination of this gingham napkin with an embroidered linen one. You can go cute and country with this method, or edgey and urban, depending on the fabrics you choose.

I made this napkin ring from bracelet memory wire you can buy in the jewelry-making section of any craft store. It's a sturdy wire that has a natural curve to it. You need to use heavy duty wire cutters (n0t your usual jewelry wire snippers) to cut it, and needle nose pliers to curl one end. Then just string on some beads, and curl the other end.  

Do you recognize the material I used to make this bow napkin ring? It's the latex waffle pad that keeps rugs in place on the floor, and protects dishes on the shelves. It has the appeal of a natural fiber, but the clean lines of something more contemporary. Great texture, but your only color choice is white.  

Finally, this unfussy treatment uses wired ribbon to tie up folded napkins for a touch of drama on your table. It's economical and easy. I used sheer ribbon, but any wired ribbon works well, with the exception of glittery ribbon, which I find makes a mess on the table if you're repeatedly removing and replacing your place settings.

Are You Getting Ideas? 

The finishing touches are what will make your home look interesting and polished. So, don't ignore the razzle-dazzle detail that things like napkin rings bring to the table.

Need more tips to get your home market-ready? Just download my $4.99 eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and for Top Dollar, and you'll be on your way to making your home the one that impresses buyers.

Top photo: Better Homes and Gardens. DIY instructions here.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Ten Tips to Improve Your Autumn Curb Appeal

A home on the market needs to look good all year long.
This home looks friendly, despite bare branches and dormant grass. 
Curb appeal. The way your home looks from the street is the king pin of home staging. It's usually your MLS profile shot and how buyers judge your home when they spy it for the first time.

When summer's over the real estate market might slow down in some parts of the country, but autumn is still a season to have your home looking as attractive from the outside no matter where you live. Here’s how:

Tidy Up the Grounds

If you do nothing else, and before you do anything else, remove summer's debris from around your home. Get rid of what’s accumulated from previous seasons. There might be things like plants past their summer prime, tree limbs left from summer storms, and leaves that have blown into the yard.  

Already, you’ve made a huge difference!

Salvage What You Want

If you’re a gardener, selling a home and moving gets complicated, because you’ll want to take some plants with you to your next home. Fall is a good time to divide those perennials like hostas, ferns, irises, and daylilies, to pot them up or store them in peat moss to make the move with you. You can also collect seeds from plants you love, and dig up tender bulbs and tubers from cannas, gladiolas, lilies, dahlias, caladiums, and elephant ears.

Put Away Signs of Summer

Give your yard an up-to-the-minute look by putting into storage empty flower pots, fountains, summer sports equipment, cushions, hoses, pool toys, and umbrellas. I like to leave out some outdoor furniture so buyers are reminded of outdoor features like a patio, porch, or deck.

If you have a bare spot in the lawn where a kiddie pool was all summer, can you convert it to a fire pit? If your flower boxes are empty, can you fill them with evergreen boughs?   

If you live where winters are severe, you’ll winterize your pool. But if you live where winters are warm, it's a different story. Jordan Walsh of Douglas Elliman Real Estate says, "When it comes to our warm weather properties in Florida, a pool is a big selling point that we try to showcase all year long."

So, leave your pool uncovered if the home you are staging is where winters are warm. It will provide an outdoor focal point that’s a selling feature to most buyers, but only if you are willing to maintain it through the winter.

Most pools are situated behind a house, but sometimes they are still visible from the street. 
This home in Florida is located on the Intracoastal Waterway, 
so the pool is part of a different kind of curb appeal, or "canal appeal." 

Prune and Prune Some More

While there’s still some foliage on shrubbery and trees is a good time to prune. You’ll be able to spot any dead or diseased branches, making sensible pruning easier. Don't prune shrubs that flower in early spring, including azaleas and hydrangeas, because you'll remove the flower buds that set over the summer.  

Keep shrubs from crowding walkways. Keep them from blocking views from inside the house. Prune them back hard if they are getting leggy. Prune them so they’re wider at the bottom than at the top, so that sunlight can reach lower branches. 

These small, colorful winter crocus will bloom through snow-covered ground. 
  
Plug in Some Bulbs

Autumn’s the time to purchase and plant bulbs that will bloom in the spring. You can buy them locally at nurseries, garden centers and big box stores, but I like to get mine from a long-established company like Terra Ceia or Brecks where I know I’ll get my money’s worth in large and healthy bulbs.

Plan right, and there will be something blooming every month, possibly beginning even as early as February with plants such as snowdrops and narcissi. And squirrels don't like either of these bulbs. You will thank me for this advice, and you are welcome!   


Top Dress Your Beds

Mulch is to your landscape what paint is to your home’s interior – the quickest and cheapest way to make everything else look better!

Whatever you use for mulch -- wood chips or bark, compost, or pine straw -- get out there and refresh it. If your mulch is stone, gravel, or rocks, make sure it’s free of weeds and other junk. I don’t recommend cocoa hulls because they are toxic to pets, and I don’t recommend cypress because harvesting it can deplete cypress swamps.  

Stone works well as a mulch when there are enough plantings to keep the yard interesting. 

Plant and Transplant Shrubs

Any plant requires frequent watering when it’s just settling in. That’s why planting shrubs in the fall makes more sense than in springtime, when the warmer weather makes more demands on a plant.

Planting now gives any new small trees or shrubs a chance to establish their root systems before the ground cools during the winter. And you might get better deals on prices in the fall than in the spring.


Test Your Soil

I know it sounds geeky, but a soil test will let you know how to fertilize your lawn and ornamental areas, and what plants will thrive where you live.

Did you know that we homeowners typically over-use chemicals on our yards and gardens? Save money and save the environment by using only what your soil needs. Start by testing your soil.

Most US states offers this service for a small fee, as a function of your local county extension service. Here’s more information on soil testing:

Aerate Your Lawn

One thing the serious turf aficionados talk about is aeration. What it amounts to is putting lots of holes in the lawn -- holes that are not easily visible but allow the lawn to perk better. Aerating a lawn lets water, fertilizers, and air to move into the soil to encourage healthier grass. The opposite of an aerated lawn is a compacted lawn and we all know how that looks – bare! If you have compacted areas due to foot traffic, create a path of stepping stones to protect the lawn.

If your lawn is a warm season grass, aeration should be done in the spring. Cool season grass? Do it now. Here is more information on aeration.

Taking care of business now, in the fall, will pay off in the spring
with an enviable, lush lawn that buyers are bound to notice.

Fertilize the Soil

This one is a little trickier than the others, because when you fertilize depends on where you live, what kind of grass you have, and what else you are growing.

Best bet: check with dependable sources of information for your area, not people with vested interests such as chemical salesmen and lawn services. State universities and colleges, especially agricultural colleges, will give you impartial and current advice, so go to the websites for the these institutions in your state.

The Wrap

Now that your front yard is uncluttered and clean (just like your home’s interior) you can bring out a little winter decor. Maybe a solar-heated birdbath would enliven the front yard. If you live where winters aren't severe, you may be able to introduce winter color with annuals like pansies and flowering kale. And for the ultimate touch of front yard glamour, don’t forget to give a nod to the season with a front door winter wreath, maybe one you've made yourself from rags, or pine cones

This autumn grapevine wreath can quickly re-invent itself as a Christmas wreath once I 
replace the orange berry garland with some seasonal picks, greenery, or a big red bow. 


My $4.99 eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar, includes one entire chapter on exterior home staging. If you have a home on the market, you can't afford to be without it. I guarantee it will help you sell your home!


Monday, October 29, 2012

How Selling Your Home is Like Playing Baseball, Major League Style!


In the movie, Moneyball, Brad Pitt's chcharacter learns that
to win at baseball, he has to pay attention to the numbers. 
I love baseball. It’s the only sport I watch on television.

Baseball is leisurely, unlike basketball. It’s gentlemanly, unlike football. It’s quiet, unlike NASCAR. It’s complicated, unlike tennis. What’s not to love?

Watching the World Series games,  pondering my fascination with the game, and thinking – as always – of home selling, I spotted some similarities.  

Teamwork is Essential

Although this blog concentrates on DIY home staging, there are times when you need to have someone else do it,  times when you need to call in pros to get a specific job done. 

Say you want to paint your tall stairwell, but you don’t even own a ladder. 

Maybe you need to replace the plumbing behind the shower stall, but you wouldn’t know where to begin. 

Or the garage needs to be rewired to meet electrical code, and only an electrician has the right license. 

Or you need a new roof, but you’re not going up there!

Each member of a baseball team specializes in whatever his position calls for. Each one is an expert. Even though there’s less apparent teamwork in baseball than sports like hockey or football, don’t be fooled. Each team member is a specialist, but one who also supports and cooperates with his teammates.

When you're staging your own home, it's important to know when to call in an expert if that’s what it takes to get your home in shape.  
  
Devil's in the Details

Yogi Berra, famous Yankee catcher, is known for his
crazy logic. He explains, "Baseball is ninety percent physical.
The other half is mental." 
Both baseball and staging look simple when done right. But look more closely and you’ll see they both depend on subtleties that guarantee success.

One good pitcher can determine the outcome of a game, just as curb appeal can determine whether buyers want to view your home’s interior. 

One fumbled catch can lead to a home run for the other team, just the way pet odors can be a deal-breaker for a home on the market.   

Think like a Major League player. Take your staging seriously. Don’t be like the neighbor a friend of mine described to me last week, who said “Why should I paint for the next owner?” Step  up to the plate, and tend to the details, so your home is the one that stands above the competition.  

Preparation Makes All the Difference

Teams that get to the World Series don’t get there by chance. They work all year to become the best athletes they can.

Selling a home shouldn’t be a last minute decision. It should be part of a plan.

Although some will disagree with me, I think any homeowner needs to be aware that some day she’ll want to sell her home. Or her heirs will.

A common phrase is, “I’ll never move,” but statistically, Americans stay in their homes an average of just seven years. Lifestyle preferences change, families grow bigger or smaller, jobs relocate, finances force people to shift priorities. 

In other words, whatever you do to your home while you are living there is going to affect your selling price eventually. Never remodel a home in such a way that its market value will be reduced.

Don't postpone routine maintenance until the effects snowball into major repairs. 

Leo Durocher, the legendary Baseball Hall of Famer, said, 
"There are only five things you can do in baseball – 
run, throw, catch, hit, and hit with power."
It's All About the Numbers

No sport relies more on statistics than baseball. 

Wins and losses, batting averages, on-base-percentages, runs-batted-in, slugging percentage – that’s just the beginning. 

Team managers, owners, coaches, fans, sportswriters and gamblers all rely on complex math to predict probabilities and make decisions.

Similarly, when you’re selling your home, it helps to have good grasp of the numbers.

Have you priced it competitively? 

Do you know what your monthly carrying costs are (mortgage, insurance, taxes, utilities, maintenance)?  

If you are negotiating with a prospective buyer, do you know in advance how flexible can you be with financing options to shape a win/win agreement? 

Patience Is Your Friend

Baseball is a test of nerves and strategy. When your home is for sale, waiting for a buyer to show up can be difficult.

Although we’ve all heard stories of people who’ve sold their homes the day they came on the market, I sometimes ask myself, “Did they price it too low?”

Even when you are impatient, a prospective buyer shouldn’t know this. That’s why I tell people not to pile moving boxes in the garage or spare bedroom. It looks like you’re in a hurry to get out of there, rather than living in a home you love. Strategy.

One baseball cliche is "Hurry to lose, slow down to win."  And that’s good advice for a home seller.

Chance Plays A Major Role

Once you’ve staged your home, using the skills and resources you have, you have to accept the fact that fate takes over. You can’t call all the shots.

Sometimes, sheer coincidence steps in. A friend tells a friend who tells a friend about your home. It’s just what she’s looking for!

Or a couple out driving neighborhoods looking for real estate signs, turns onto your street, and Bingo!

Albert Pujols, a two-time World Series champ, and three-time Most Valuable Player winner, said, “This game is really crazy. Nobody can understand it, and there are a lot of things that happen that you can’t control.”  

The same thought was echoed by Wes Westrum, New York Giants catcher and manager, when he said, "Baseball is like church: Many attend, but few understand."

Remember that there is a buyer out there for your home. Do your best to attract him, and that’s all you can do. Your best.

The Game Ain’t Over Until It’s Over

Of course, this is one of Yogi Berra’s most famous lines, and I find myself saying it near the end of almost every baseball game. And at other times as well. It’s a Life Lesson!

In real estate transactions, snafus and surprises are common on the road between a showing and a closing. That’s the reason I never remove staging until the last possible moment.

As a seller, you can’t take your buyer for granted. Inspections, financing, contingencies, all can be bugaboos. Being a seller takes flexibility and a positive attitude.   

I’m Not the Only One

Plenty of people see more to America’s favorite pastime than men hitting, running and chasing balls. Saul Steinberg, the cartoonist, wrote, “Baseball is an allegorical play about America, a poetic, complex, and subtle play of courage, fear, good luck, mistakes, patience about fate, and sober self-esteem."

Sounds like home-selling to me!

My best advice: Listen to the coach, and play by the rules of the home staging game. The rule book I recommend is my $4.99 eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar. It teaches you all the steps to build a winning team.  

I am rooting for you!

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