Are You Inviting Trouble Into your Home?

Thursday, December 30, 2010
Your home on the market is a prime target for thieves, especially at this time of year.

Because when many people go on vacation, the thieves go to work.
    Because holiday time is when people are more likely to have more cash and valuable new items at home.
      Because even thieves get desperate for more money at Christmastime.
        Because homeowners are often too busy to bother with simple safety procedures.
          If you need one more reason why it makes sense to stage your home for sale, a staged home looks convincingly lived in and in itself is a deterrent to break-ins.

          Here are some other steps you can take to squelch trouble when you are away.

          1. Lock up tight. 

          My Daddy always said, "It doesn't cost anything to lock the door." Add windows to his advice.

          2. Create the illusion 

          Make sure your realtor knows when you are away. Give your keys to a good neighbor or willing friend, and ask that they check the condition of your interior and exterior for signs of vacancy like junk mail deposited on your step, snow piled up around the doors, or moldy fruit on the kitchen counter (another argument for faux fruit and flowers).

          3. Stop mail. 

          Maintain a lived-in look by having your mail held by the post office or picked up by a neighbor.

          4. Frost the windows, secure the garage. 

          Thieves check garages for empty ones. Make your garage windows opaque with this product and disconnect the automatic overhead opener (by just getting on a step ladder and unplugging it). Lock the door between the attached garage and house.

          5. Fool 'em. 

          Invest in a few inexpensive timers to turn lights on and off. I always leave a radio set to come on from midnight until 2 a.m.

          6. Duh. 

          Don't hide keys under flower pots or doormats, inside an unlocked mailbox, over the doorway, or in other obvious places.

          7. Be secretive. 

          Do not publicize your plans. Burglars will scan local newspapers and community list-serves for ads requesting pet sitters and house-sitters.

          Even if you are not going on vacation, a home on the market needs to be protected from troublemakers who might be actually touring your home with a realtor or by a member of your family if you are FSBO. Take these precautions:
          • Hide all prescriptions (especially ones with "street value") in a secure place.
          • Never stage your home with precious art, expensive rugs, family heirlooms, or easily pawn-able stuff. Large valuables that can't be pocketed can be stolen when you are away for the evening or at work during the day. Be sure your homeowner's insurance is current. Does your policy include that new giant flatscreen, for example?
          • Keep calendars out of sight because they may have information handy for thieves to know, like when you're away for the evening.
          • Don't keep cash on hand. Professional buglers know all the hiding places. Best places to hide cash: in books you have customized to hold a stack of bills, or in fake cans like these.
          • Lock away paperwork that would be of value to an identity thief.
          • Ask your realtor what steps she takes to minimize the risk of objects being stolen. She should be taking names and contact info from anyone she shows the house to -- before the house tour.  Ideally, two brokers would accompany any party of two or more "potential buyers." Unfortunately, there are dishonest people ready to take advantage of realtors and homeowners at open houses and tours, and they operate like professionals. 

          Making your home sage from trouble sounds like work, but once you have these simple suggestions in place, your peace of mind is the reward. Being prepared also means you can return to the proper state of mind for this time of year, namely, " Goodwill towards all."

          Do you want more tips to help you navigate the waters of home selling? Download my $4.99 eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and for Top Dollar. It mill make your New Year bright by giving you all the tricks, techniques and secrets to success home staging.

          12 Tips for Storing Stuff Off-Site

          Monday, December 27, 2010
          Have you ever rented a self-storage unit? I have. A few times. When we were selling a residence.

          It's kind of a hassle, but it sure helps your home look more like a model home.

          And I was always glad when it was time to actually start serious packing, because the job was already underway.   

          Getting the extra furniture, the overflow from your closets, the out-of-season belongings, and all those trinkets with too much personality into an off-site storage place is way-preferable to stacking them in the garage. Or clustering them in the guestroom.

          As with almost everything else, it helps to have a plan. Here's mine.

          LIST the items you plan to store.  Figure out how you'll pack them.
          • Boxes of uniform size are best for books, clothes, kitchen items, linens, toys.
          • Plastic storage tubs with lids can be stacked for fragile items or for long term storage of off-season things like seasonal decorations.
          • Awkwardly-sized items like furniture, bikes, garden tools, and sports gear won’t stack but still take room.
          PRIORITIZE boxed items you may have to access during storage, so they can be packed close to the front of the unit.

          GET your boxes from the paint store. They're free and they are all the same size -- four-gallon. 

          PACK  things like dishes and framed photographs between layers of sheets and towels that you're packing as well.

          AVOID storing items in containers that don't stack, if possible. Examples would be laundry baskets of toys, shopping bags of toiletries, or bundles of blankets. Boxed items stack straight so you'll fit more things into your space.  Nest together odd-shaped things when packing the unit. 

          MARK all boxes clearly to indicate contents. Be specific. Write "Stuffed armadillo, ping pong paddles, high school yearbook, beer mugs, tennis trophies," not "family room stuff."

          If strangers will be doing the moving for you, do not label boxes with valuables. Too tempting. They may disappear. Instead, number them and keep a master list for contents.

          Write on the sides, not the tops of boxes. Mark what is fragile because they should be stacked up high when stored and also when packed for moving. 

          ESTIMATE the size of the unit you'll need. Here are rough guidelines. 
          •   5' x 5'  unit holds a chest of drawers, a mattress set, and stacks of plastic tubs or boxes. 
          •   5' x 10' unit will hold furnishings of a mid-size bedroom, including a queen-size bed, dresser, TV, and a few storage boxes. If you have no furniture, calculate that it will accommodate 100 medium boxes.
          •  10' x 10' unit will hold the equivalent of the contents of an entire family room or two full bedrooms.
          •  10' x 15' unit will hold the contents of up to three bedrooms. Good for large items such as couches, tables, and chairs.
          •  10' x 20' will hold the contents of a 5-bedroom house, including a refrigerator, washer/dryer, dining room table, chairs, and large boxes. Since you're probably not storing appliances, you'll have that much more room for boxes and furniture.

          PROTECT your belongings. Don't take a chance on storing clothing, electronics, upholstered items, artwork, musical instruments, or family heirlooms in a unit that is not climate controlled.

          CHOOSE a site that is convenient if you might be digging into your stored goods now and then. If you don't expect to need the stored items, you can probably save money by being able to choose from facilities less conveniently located.

          ASK management if your unit will be available 24 hours a day. Is it clean and brightly lighted? Do you feel secure when coming and going? Is it easy to load and unload from your car? 

          STACK strong items on the bottom -- things like tables, plastic totes, and chairs. Stack to the ceiling if possible to use all the space you're paying for. Leave a narrow pathway so you can easily find items later.

          CONSIDER off-site storage for things like an RV, a boat, or vehicle not being used. It will improve your curb appeal.

          Every time I've used a self-storage site, I was able to stage my home more effectively, and make our moving day go more smoothly. I hope these tips do the same for you.

          Be sure to download my helpful homestaging eBooks for other ways you can make staging a home easier, faster, and more profitable.

          I Hope Santa Likes Biscotti

          Friday, December 24, 2010
          Here's sending out my best holiday greetings to family, friends and blog followers. Thanks for visiting. I hope you enjoy your holiday season, and have all your wishes come true in 2011! 

          Staging Your Home Cheap-Chic Style

          Thursday, December 23, 2010

          If there are garage sales and thrift stores where you live, you can stage your home on the cheap. And be chic about it, too.

          To put my own opinions to the test, I challenged myself to see how many times I could stage one table in my own home, using second hand items I'd purchased over the years, along with some things from dollar stores.

          Keep in mind that I do not do professional staging for a living, so I do not have a warehouse or storage unit full of props to use. I am not a hoarder, but I don't throw many things away. I don't buy many things either. At least not at full retail prices.

          This habit means two of us are able to live in a 1700 square foot home, using all the rooms, and nothing looks cluttered. Even the garage. Honest.

          Don't ask about the closets.

          Here are the results of my challenge.

          I used a table I bought fifteen years ago for $10 at the Tobacco Barn in Asheville, North Carolina. I painted it white and lightly distressed it. Other than the table, every setup here is completely different.   

          1. COASTAL DECOR. The thrifted $2 frame holds a print that was gifted to me years ago from my Connecticut sister-in-law. The two glass hurricanes I bought recently for 99 cents each, and here they hold some dollar store polished rocks and dollar store greenery. All three plates are thrifted at 99 cents each. All the shells are either collected on the beach or thrifted. I added some dollar store votives to the clear 49-cent dishes on the bottom shelf. Total cost: about $25.

          2. ECLECTIC GROUPING. There's no theme here, just a collection of pretty things. Anchoring the setting is a $15 framed Asian print I was ecstatic to find at Goodwill this year. Ordinarily, I would hang it higher, but I hesitated adding another hole to my wall. Most second hand stores sell hardcover books for $1, even when they are coffee-table size, like these. The plaster obelisk still has its $3.99 price marked on its underside. The orchid was $2.00 at a garage sale, complete with flower pot. Milk glass is plentiful at second hand stores, and the little compote become mine for $1. I've used it to hold a garage sale $1 candle. I love the shiny metal box with a metal bow, especially since it cost $1, same as all the ornaments in the large plastic dollar store bowl. The basket and the tray were each about $3, Salvation Army finds. Total cost: $34.

          3. CONTEMPORARY LOOK. The dollar store frame holds a thrifted black and white print. The lamp is a $2 garage sale purchase. The second hand shade cost me $1.50.  A dollar store charger holds Goodwill wine glasses at 59 cents a glass, and a Salvation Army vase holds dollar store lemons.  The flowers are from the dollar store and the "silver" vase is from Goodwill. An aluminum $3 thrift store platter holds goblets from the same place, plus a gifted bottle of wine. ( I'd fill the bottle with water for staging.) The $4 ice bucket is thrifted, too. Estimated total: $20.

          4. TROPICAL COLOR. In this example, I gathered props that reflected the global look I wrote about here. Would you believe that the wall art is actually a wrap-around, cotton, batik print skirt, spray-starched and taped to a thrift store, unframed, painted canvas?  The painting was $4, and I am not going to count the cost of the skirt, because I've owned it for decades, and it was not "harmed during this filming." The Japanese-style, rice bowls were each 99 cents at Habitat for Humanity, and they hold four, $1 candles, stacked to look like two pillars. Love their color because it matches this (inconspicuously chipped) 50-cent garage sale vase I have filled with dollar store orchids. I can never resist wicker baskets like this square, $3 one. The wooden box is a garage sale $2 find. The round basket was $3, and the flowers and plant came from the dollar store totaling a hefty $4.  My cost: $21.50

          5. FLORAL INSPIRATION.  The artwork cost me just $4.99 at Goodwill because the colors in the print were faded. I performed surgery on the print, refreshing the colors with inexpensive watercolors and marking pens, then putting it back under glass. Linens like this $1 pink table runner are common and cheap at second hand stores. The wooden candle holders cost me $2 for the pair at a church thrift store. The peonies are a dollar store purchase, and I put them in a $2 clay pot I painted white, on a $1 pink and white plate. The hotel plate serving platter set me back about $5, and the shells together were about $10.  Total: $26.

          I hope my challenge and the results give you ideas for staging your own home. Don't turn up your nose at thrift stores. They are treasure houses for the DIY home stager, letting you easily decorate cheap-chic style.  Experiment with whatever objects you've found in your own closets and at garage sales and thrift stores to stage your home beautifully and economically.  

          Download my eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and for Top Dollar, and you'll learn other ways to save money when you stage your home.

          Furniture that Makes Rooms Look Larger

          Monday, December 20, 2010
          Home buyers want space for their money. Sure, they look at the numbers -- square footage, number of rooms, dimensions of rooms -- but they are also influenced by how large the rooms feel.

          How do your rooms feel? Big or small? Here are four kinds of furniture that make spaces seem bigger.

          Curved pieces expand a room because they force the eye to keep moving. When you are deciding what furniture to store and what to keep for staging, send the square stuff to the storage unit.

          Leggy pieces of furniture keep the room feeling light and airy. They show more floor and that always makes the space seem larger. If you have furniture with covered legs, can you show them off.,Lose the tablecloth. Shorten the slipcover. Remove the bed skirt. What a difference!.

          In this tight bedroom, a spider leg table in the corner lets more floor show and works so much better than a solid nightstand. Photo: Decorpad

          Monotone colors make for a seamless look. When a room is furnished with some painted pieces, color coordinate them so no one piece stands out. They needn't be all the same color, but making them all the same value (on the scale from light to dark) will enlarge the room. If you have mismatched upholstered pieces, dressing them in matching slipcovers will have the same effect.

          Low profile furniture lets a buyer take in more of the room at a glance. Don't make buyers' eyes take a roller coaster ride around the room. Not only does low profile furniture make a room look bigger, it makes it feel less formal and more comfortable.

          A low profile buffet seems to increase space in this foyer. The wainscoting, and the choice of lamp style and bowl style accentuate the low lines. And the mirror opens up the space even more. 
          Photo: Eric Roth Photography via House of Turquoise.

          See Through

          Transparent, translucent, and reflective furniture makes a room feel bigger than it is. There's no surprise here, because you can see right through the glass and Lucite, and reflective surfaces like mirrors and polished metals bounce light around a room to confuse the eye about where a room's perimeters really are.

          These classic Lucite chairs almost disappear, making for an more accommodating dining room.
          Photo: Decorpad 

          Mirrored furniture is the most glamorous space expander available. A fancy chest like this one will set you back $719, but Target sells mirrored side tables for $90  Photo:

          Get the look. get the book. 

          I offer lots more tips on how to select and arrange furniture in two of my eBooks, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar and my book on Furniture Arranging. Think big, and create rooms that make buyers think your home is big.

          Top PhotoPhoto: Encore Home Staging, Jacksonville, Florida.

          Crafts, Felt Flowers and Fooling Around

          Thursday, December 16, 2010

          I wanted to make some handmade Christmas gifts for female family and friends this year. When I saw this tutorial  by Emily at Jones Design Company, I knew I'd found my gift idea. The tutorial was linked by Kristi at Pink and Polka Dot.

          But, problem is, I'm not all that crafty. I don't like doing the same thing over and over. I loved the look of these felt flower pins, though, so I pushed myself to do repetitive tasks.

          Guess what. I got better with each flower. Duh.

          Those of you with Etsy shops know this already.  By the time I had made twenty pins, I had put my own spin on the original tutorial, time flew by, and they started looking so good I hated to say goodbye to them.

          Oh, I kept a few good ones for my own coats.

          The lesson here for home stagers is that, even if you think home staging DIY projects like making a no-sew pillow, or painting a hutch, or rearranging furniture is not something you do well, just fooling around with it will get you good enough!

          So, dig in. Don't think that you have to be experienced, talented, crafty, or artistic to stage your own home.  Take it step by step, fooling around as you go until it looks right to you.  When I globbed too much glue into the center of the flower, I threw some red seed beads into it, disguising my oops. When four petals didn't seem full enough, I started adding another, and then filling in with even more, smaller petals.

          Who knew following directions meant you didn't have to follow directions.

          My eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar, gives you simple ideas for dressing up your home, from lamps and pillows, to flowers and paint colors, from light fixtures to faucet handles, and door knobs to bookcases. Try it. You'll like it!

          Painting for Staging? Here's Touch-up Tips

          Monday, December 13, 2010
          I did some interior painting this week for a woman who wants her house on the market as quickly as possible.

          She wanted to spend her money and time where they would do the most good.

          I think my client's situation is a common one, and I think the approach she and I decided on is a good one. I'm calling it the "You Had Me At Hello" approach.

          The idea is to make the first few rooms the prospective buyer sees so enticing that he falls head over heels.

          For my client, I worked on making the foyer, living room, dining room and kitchen --  the rooms that a Realtor would naturally be showing first --  as attractive and fresh-looking as possible.

          I painted the walls in these three rooms. The rest of the house was clean, decluttered and attractively staged.  The budget and time for painting bedrooms, bathrooms, and halls just wasn't there. The Realtor agreed that the decision made sense.

          The bathroom walls in this house, as in most houses, had been painted semi-gloss, so they were easily washable. Hallway walls cleaned up with a Magic Eraser.

          Good Question

          Why didn't I just touch up walls that had smudges? Well, we tried that, and the paint Ms. Homeowner had stored didn't work for touch-ups. I tested it in an out-of-the-way corner (behind a door that opens in), and I could tell when it dried that touch-ups would give walls a case of the measles. The paint was leftover from a three-year-old total repaint, but wall paint color can change even over that short a time.

          So what if the walls in the kids' bedrooms have some smudges and pencil marks, and the master bedroom walls have a few nail holes? Big deal.

          By the time the Realtor winds the tour through the bedrooms, house hunters will have already decided if this is their true love, based on the space, floor plan and other features.

          Get the Look Get the Book

          My $4.99 eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and for Top Dollar, gives other ways to stretch your painting budget, plus much more. Get the facts, download it now, and start staging today! 

          Thrifty Holiday Decorating

          Monday, December 06, 2010

          The song says it 

          There's no place like home for the holidays.

          You're selling your home, so why not capitalize on the nostalgia of the season by making it as warm and inviting as possible to visiting house hunters?

          Tricia over at A Rosy Note knows how to use soft colors and beautiful textures to make a house a home. Her dining room pictured here is decorated for the holidays with pink, red, silver, and greenery.

          At holiday time, adding greens like this rosemary plant and poinsettias are a natural. Imitate this look and you have all that's called for in a staged, seasonally appropriate room.

          The Staged Home

          When your home is on the market may not be best time to splurge on over-the-top holiday decor. Going all out with lights, ornaments, garlands, collections, wreaths and bows has a few disadvantages.

          One difficulty is that seasonal decorations could take money from your staging budget, a budget that will buy you props that will look good now and still look good in January.

          Another problem with going overboard with holiday decor is it can distract from the natural good looks of your home. Some buyers may even think the theatrics are hiding problems.

          And then there's the time factor. Between the usual celebrations and keeping a home show-ready, you have enough to do. 

          The solution 

          What's best for home staging is to place some big and inexpensive seasonal decorations in the right places.

          A simple grouping of thrift store glassware could go anywhere -- a mantel, a dresser, a kitchen counter, or top of a bookcase. Forget the fresh flowers and fill them with silk or paper flowers. You say your silk chrysanthemums are yellow and your silk carnations are pink? Spray paint them red, white, or pale green.

          An outside entranceway, whether a front door, back door, or even a side door, begs for a seasonal touch. The budget-happy approach is to use what you have and use what nature provides. Yes, I had to purchase a couple of $5 kale plants, and some pansies.

          I sprayed bare branches with silver paint, collected pinecones, and put them in ceramic crocks I own. The bow is made from a $2 vinyl tablecloth.

          Even those of us who love to decorate don't enjoy the part about taking it all down. One easy decor item to put up and take down is a wreath. Wreaths are usually large, one-piece affairs, unlike intricately decorated Christmas trees, or collections of teddy bears and Santas. You can hang or prop a wreath in all kinds of places, and you're home free.

          Foolproof formula

          When in doubt, go with something bright. Now's your chance to bring out serving pieces that live most of the year in the back of a cabinet or closet. Even if you have already decluttered, shop your home for silver, brass, and glass. Then add some shiny strings of beads and some silver or gold ornaments, but nothing so precious it might grow legs at an open house or home tour.

          Kitchens are so important to buyers that the more homey and at the same time luxurious you can make yours, the better. I love a simple but glitzy circle of faux gold berries or plastic ornments, which would be fast and frugal to imitate using craft store and dollar store finds.

          Readers of my eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and for Top Dollar know that I'm big on greenery as a prop for staging. In fact, I like to see some kind of living or pretend greenery in each room. The book includes a list of what every room needs to appeal to buyers.

          Happy holidays! 

          I hope the holidays you celebrate next year are in your new home, decorated exactly to your heart's content, as elaborate or as simple as you want it to be.

          DIY No-Sew Cafe Curtains

          Sunday, December 05, 2010
          Every home stager wants to get as much natural light into rooms as she can.

          That means no heavy draperies or sun-blocking shades. There are plenty of possibilities – from lightweight curtains and sheer drapes to pull-backs and Roman shades.

          Problem view?

          But what's a stager to do when there’s a view from the window that doesn’t exactly help sell the property? Neighbors with ugly yards, a factory, the back of an apartment building, a busy road, or a construction site are all common problems.

          No one can make these things disappear, but a clever stager can minimize the impact by helping buyers forget the problem. Enter curtains that let in light but hide the view.

          Easy solution

          Here is my spin café curtains that are DIY-friendly, even to someone with no sewing skills. The lower portion can be kept closed to conceal some outdoor unsightliness, and the top can be kept open, hopefully revealing blue skies, mature trees, or a distant view.

          What I like about these cafe curtains is that they are reminiscent of a natural sisal rug bound in black, or a traditional woven reed tatami mat used for flooring in Japan. The way I see it, anything classic in a staged home is a bonus.

          The mats I chose to work with can be purchased dirt cheap in summer by the beach. Amazon sells them all year long for about $6 each. They are called beach mats, picnic mats or yoga mats, and they measure about 3 feet by 6 feet. 

          What you need

          2 straw beach mats
          Grosgrain ribbon to edge the mats, 7/8 inch wide, about 6 yards for each mat used
          Grosgrain ribbon to make loops, 3/8 inch wide, about 2 yards for each mat used
          Hot glue gun and glue sticks
          Dressmakers straight pins or masking tape
          Dressmakers marking pencil or chalk

          Having a table large enough to accommodate the length of the curtain helps. It doesn’t need to be big enough to lay out the whole mat, because the mat folds over easily. Protect your work surface from hot glue drips if necessary.

          Install hardware

          If you do not have curtain rods installed, do that first. I used spring tension rods that sit inside the window frame. I chose black because I liked the way it looked with the black ribbon loops. The curtain rods, top and bottom should match.

          Measure for the curtain

          Measure the distance from the top of the curtain rod to where you want the curtain to end. The lower curtain should end at the window sill. The upper curtain should end just below the lower curtain rod. That figure minus one inch is your curtain length. If your window has an upper and lower sash, both curtains will probably be the same length because the rod will fall in the middle.

          Cut the mat

          First you'll divide the mat in two. Heat up your glue gun because you’ll need it as soon as you cut the mat in half. If there are cloth ties on the end to tie the mat as a roll, cut them off. Fold the mat in half crosswise. With scissors, cut on the fold. The mat will want to unravel, so run a bead of glue down the edge to seal the stitches that have come loose. Don't worry if you lose a long reed or two. You may have to scrunch some of the reeds back in place and stick them down with glue. The ribbon will cover your glue repair.

          Glue the edge to prevent unraveling.
          If your upper and lower curtains are different lengths, decide if you are making the upper or lower first. With a pencil, measure and then mark the length on one of your grass mat panels. Draw a line across the width of the panel to the correct length, and with scissors cut on this line. Going in this direction, across the reeds, the mat does not unravel.

          Measure the right curtain length and draw a line.
          Cut on the line to shorten the curtain.

          Attach  ribbon

          Lay the mat right side up (both sides are probably the same, but one side may look better) on your work table. Lay a length of 7/8-inch ribbon along the edge that will be the length of the curtain. Cut the ribbon the length of the curtain, plus an inch on each end. You might as well cut the ribbon for the other edge at the same time. My curtain panels were 25 ½ inches long. So I cut two lengths of ribbon 27 1/2 inches long.

          Cut ribbon longer than the curtain.

          Glue ribbon onto edges

          Secure one end of ribbon by placing a dab of glue in the outermost corner of mat. Both sides of grosgrain ribbon are the same, so there's no right or wrong side. Align your ribbon by placing the center of it directly over the glue dab, so that the ribbon is centered over the edge of the mat, allowing the extra inch to overhang the end. Press on top of the ribbon so it sticks well to the glue.

          Add a dab of glue to the corner of the mat.

          .Press end of ribbon into glue, leaving 1-inch overhang
          Add an 8- to 10-inch line of glue along the edge of the mat. Pull the ribbon straight, lay it down on the hot glue, and press it flat with your fingers. You can feel where the edge of the mat is, so you can line up the middle of the ribbon with the edge of the mat as you go. The ribbon should look like a perfectly straight line.

          Lay a line of glue 8 to 10 inches long.
          Lay ribbon in glue, feeling the edge of the mat underneath it.
          Pull back the ribbon after each 8- to 10-inch run, so that you begin the next line of glue where the last line of glue stopped. This will prevent any gaps where the ribbon is not affixed. You should have a 1-inch overhang of ribbon at the end. Trim the ribbon to a ½- inch overhang.

          Next you want to glue the ends of the ribbon to the back of the curtain. Let glue cool for a minute. Turn mat over. Lay a thin line of glue along the cut end of the ribbon. Quickly wrap the ribbon around the edge of the mat and press it down onto the back of the mat. It’s neater if you put the glue on the ribbon because you know it will be hidden behind ribbon.

          Lay a thin line of glue along the cut end of ribbon.
          Press the glued ribbon down on the back of the mat.

          Repeat on other edges

          Glue the ribbon along the edge of the opposite end, first making sure you have right side up. Measure and cut ribbon for top and bottom edges as before, adding two extra inches. Glue ribbon to top and bottom edges. Wrap the ends around to the back of the mat just as you did to the first two edges. You should have all 4 edges trimmed in ribbon.

          Turn mat over and glue end of ribbon to corner of mat.

          Glue ribbon to top and bottom edges.

          This what the back of the curtain looks like at one corner. 

          Cut the ribbon loops 

          Calculate how long the loops should be by wrapping a piece of ribbon around your curtain or drapery rod. Add an extra inch. I wanted a 1 ½ inch long loop to show, so I needed 3 inches for each loop, plus another inch for gluing and slack. I cut my ribbon into 4-inch lengths. Cut your ribbon into the lengths you need, for example, longer than 4 inches for a fatter curtain rod.

          Calculate how long to make loops by wrapping ribbon around the rod.
          To figure how many loops you need, fold mat in half, right sides together. Using a dressmakers straight pin or a piece of tape, mark where the fold is on the back side of the mat. Open the mat, and working on the back side, mark where ribbon loops will go.

          My curtain width was 34 inches. I placed a pin on the fold, in the center, 17 inches in from each edge. Using a yardstick I measured and marked with pins points at 8 ½ inches in, and then at every 4 ¼ inches. In other words, divide, then divide in half again to determine points that are equally spaced. Or eyeball the placement, and mark with pins, figuring one loop at each end, one in the middle and the rest spaced equidistantly.
          Use pins or tape to mark where the loops will go.

          Attach ribbon  loops

          Dab two small dots of glue on one end of each cut ribbon, then fold and press to make a loop. So that all the tabs will be the same length once they are glued on, mark with a dressmakers pencil a line 1/2 inch in from the cut end of each ribbon.

          Mark 1/2 inch in from cut end of the ribbon loops.
          With your little mark facing up, align each ribbon loop with a pin or piece of tape, whichever you used to mark where loops should go.
          Align each loop with a pin, and with the edge of the mat.
          Be sure your mat is wrong side up. Align the little mark on the ribbon with the edge of the straw mat, and with the pin or tape you used to mark where loops should go. Place a dab on glue on the curtain, and press ribbon loop onto glue. Glue down all the loops, keeping them perfectly aligned, equally spaced, and at right angles to the top edge of the curtain.

          Hang your curtains

          When the glue has cooled thoroughly, remove one end cap or filial from each of the curtain rods. Thread the loops through the rods, and replace the end caps. Hang the upper and lower rods, each with two curtain panels.

          The grass mat filters the sunlight and adds texture to a room.
          Space the loops along the rod, and adjust the folds of the curtains so they hang evenly. It's true that some of the original cotton fabric trim will show on the reverse side. Unless you hang your curtain in a window that faces a porch where people sit close to the house, no one will notice.

          My cafe curtains for a 31- by 54-inch window cost me about $21.00 including the two tension rods at $2.60 a piece, and two mats at $2.50 each. If I had to buy mats from Amazon, my cost would have increased by only $7.
          Typical price for a beach mat, in season.
          I paid $10.05 for all my ribbon, but you could pay less if you shop online. Purchased online, you can buy 20 yards of 3/8 inch solid color ribbon for only $2.65, or the same amount of 7/8 inch ribbon for $3.90.

          My straw mat curtain lets in light but gives me privacy. I love it.

          Get the look, get the book

          My eBook DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and for Top Dollar, and my eBook No-Sew Curtains and Draperies to Stage Your Home give you loads of thrifty decorating ideas for making your home attractive to buyers, including how to arrange furniture you already own, how to choose paint colors that work for you, what to buy second hand, how to make window treatments without sewing, and how to use mismatched or out-of-date furniture.

          How to Make a Greenery Wreath

          Thursday, December 02, 2010
          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.

          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.  

          Start with the Base

          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.

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