Real Estate is About Location Even More Than You Think

Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Having Hurricane Irene tear my neighborhood apart last weekend reminded me of the value of living in the right place. You could say I was in the wrong place at the wrong time to be visited by a category one hurricane, but that’s not the whole story.

I love my little town. When a serious storm approaches, the mayor robo-calls every one of our 3,000 citizens so we all know the dangers. We’re told of any special precautions the town is taking, and how we can best prepare our property and ourselves.

Our town, River Bend, North Carolina, has an Internet List-Serve as well, so before really bad weather hits, emails fly from town government, small businesses, and neighbors. 

We’re told where the nearest emergency shelters are and which ones take pets. 

Handymen post their cell phone numbers, and people exchange tips on how to prepare. Such as:
  • Have a “go-bag” ready in case you need to evacuate.
  • Be able to find the flashlight and candles in the dark.
  • Charge your cell phones and fill your cars' gas tanks.
  • Don’t forget to bring your rubber boots in the house.
  • Get up to date on laundry.
  • Fill the tub with water.
  • Watch out for snakes and fire ants after the storm.
  • Don’t drive through water.

Except for the part about the rubber boots I did all of that. I still can't find my boots. They must be buried under all the equipment that rearranged itself in my garden shed when it flooded.  

When Irene blew through our town, she took down trees and power lines. She moved the river and the rains around to flood buildings and streets. She sent debris flying through the air and floating on muddy, moving water. 

You can just catch a glimpse of my blue chair, the one I photographed when 
I wrote about the color periwinkle last week. Eventually, it was totally submerged. 

This was a common scene around town last Sunday. 
In North Carolina alone, four people died as a result of the hurricane

Afterwards, on that beautifully sunny day that follows a hurricane, neighbors were outside, sharing wheelbarrows, chain saws, jumper cables, wet/dry vacs, generators, and food.

Volunteers from our "pretty committee" cleared common areas around our parks, waterways and public buildings, knowing that the town's maintenance crew had their hands full.

Mr. Lucky spent most of the morning helping a neighbor tow his boat back to its pier after it broke loose and lodged itself in a nearby mash land.

The town manager and others with white collar jobs at town hall were in the ditches -- literally -- clearing debris so roads could be cleared and services restored. We were without power for only two days.

This sign is another example of how my town's government went to bat for residents 
so opportunists couldn't take advantage of a bad situation. 

Many people were not as fortunate as we were. Friends on the Outer Banks had to leave their homes and hope for the best. One neighbor had to relocate when a tree fell on the roof above her bedroom. Roofs blew off, cars filled with water, and windows shattered. We're having to replace a furnace, duct work, and a vehicle, but we're grateful our losses are replaceable.  

Usually, when Realtors talk about location, they mean schools, the view, and how close the property is to shopping or transportation.

But location also means the spirit of the town, and its ability to weather storms of any kind. If your house is on the market, and you live in a town that is friendly, well-managed, and has fire, EMS, police and other services nearby, be sure your Realtor knows this and that buyers learn they get more than property when they buy your home. They buy the specifics and the spirit of the locale.

Curb Appeal: How's That Welcome Mat Workin' For Ya?

Monday, August 29, 2011

A Realtor pulls her SUV into your driveway, the doors open, her clients step onto your driveway, and they all approach your door.

One of the first sights they encounter, the item that holds their attention as they wait for their Realtor to fumble with the lock box, is your welcome mat.

How will they rate it? How do you rate it?

Times have changed. I could not help but notice the display of welcome mats at Lowe's the other day.  I mean, "Hello? What took you so long to arrive, you pretty little underfoot mats that greet me on arrival?"

Have you seen these?

Forget the plain, black mats that look pathetic and depressing on your front step. Forget the natural cocoa fiber mats that shed all over your porch. And definitely forget the ones made of old tires that look like something your grandma gave you!

If you think the ones I've photographed here are garish, well, you could be right, but they are also cheerful, fresh, and new. Those are all qualities you want associated with your home on the market.

So, take a step outside now, and rate your welcome mat on a scale from from one to ten. If it's not an eight, I'd say spend ten bucks to replace it with a mat that really says, "Welcome!" These mats won't last for years and years, but these babies might earn some praise, and help sell your house faster.

This mat gets the message across, and the price is a less than nine bucks!

How's this for a giving a colorful first impression of your house? From Lowe's as well.
You say you want something a little more classy? You'll spend a little more.
Depending on the other colors at your front door, this could be the ticket.
Here are my tips for what to avoid when you set out a brand new welcome mat for house hunters. 
  • Don't get something too institutional. It should look homey and friendly. 
  • Don't use your initial or name on the mat. Keep it impersonal.
  • Don't advertise your favorite sports team. People have loyalties of their own.
  • No jokes please, like mats that say, "Hi, I'm Mat." or "Not You Again!" or worst of all, "Nice Underwear." 
Even though a welcome mat may not be visible from the actual curb, what your Realtor and her clients see as they approach your front door is part of your curb appeal. So, get the message right. "Welcome! This could be your dream home!"

The Truth About Magic Erasers. Are They Spongeworthy?

Monday, August 22, 2011
Whenever I hear someone rave about Magic Erasers, she'll usually end her remarks with something like, "Of course, they are probably carcinogenic."

What's the Scoop? 

Americans are accustomed to thinking that every new "miraculous" product or cure-all is going to have a backlash, that anything really delightful (bacon, ice cream, margaritas, chocolate ...) is going to come with a steep payoff in health or good looks.

I am happy to report that such is not the case with Magic Erasers. These cleaning sponges are made from melamine foam. That's right, the same material that budget dinnerware is made from.

When melamine resin cures into foam, its microstructure becomes very hard -- almost as hard as glass -- and that makes this open cell structure act on stains like super-fine sandpaper. As soon as the melamine cell structure gets wet, it breaks down into a microscopic abrasive eraser. It grabs grit and grease, then holds the dirt in the sponge to be rinsed away. Nifty!

Rumors online indicated that these melamine foam erasers could cause serious health problems because they contained formaldehyde, and had the potential to cause chemical burns, but these turned out to be false.

Actually, the sponge is made using formaldehyde. The chemical in the sponge is formaldehyde-melamine-sodium bisulfite copolymer, a different compound. It means that there are very large polymer molecules which structurally resemble formaldehyde. Not to worry. You can still have a spotless home, ready for the real estate market.

Do you think it's time to replace my sponge? Hey, I'm frugal!

When To Use Magic Erasers

I'm a big fan of Magic Erasers because they do things that other cleaners don't.

They let you trap and remove oil based stains and marks without having to use a de-greaser. That's a huge advantage because it means no caustic chemicals to breath or pollute. Love that!

Perhaps the people who appreciate these sponges most are moms of children who get get inspired with crayons and markers. But here are some other uses home stagers can appreciate. 
  • Remove rust stains from PVC pipes under sinks, behind toilets, and on the floor of the vanity.
  • Get the interior of your dishwasher white again. 
  • Clean the oven to look like new.  
  • Clean stains from your smooth top stove. 
  • Get scuff marks and stains off vinyl flooring.
  • Remove the water mark from the sides of your pool. 
  • Make glass shower doors sparkle. 
  • Pull stains out of carpets and rugs. 
  • Refresh older laminate countertops like nobody's business.

When Not To Use These Sponges.

The eraser sponge can burnish flat paint or dull shiny paint if you scrub hard. But if you have to use it on painted walls, it will be easier than painting the entire wall when you aren't able to do paint touch-ups. You can minimize sheen differences if you proceed with caution, using the least pressure necessary.  

Do not use on wood paneling or varnished wood surfaces. Do not use on skin or animals. Do not use on delicate fabrics. Test leather in an inconspicuous spot before using.

I've found that rinsing is crucial to the success of Magic Erasers. They will leave a visible white residue on some surfaces, like shower doors.

I've also discovered that the generic knockoffs available at dollar stores and discount big box stores are just as good as the name brand. Sorry, Baldy. But you're still a spongeworthy guy.  

I give lots more advice and cleaning tips in my $4.99 eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar. If your home is on the market, or you are getting your home ready to sell, you need my book.

How to Hire a Real Estate Agent

Thursday, August 18, 2011
Other than deciding to stage your home for sale, finding a real estate agent to help you sell it is the most important real estate decision you'll make. There are numerous suggestions for choosing the best real estate agent for the job.

Here's what not to do.

Do Not Audition agents

Don't invite agents to your home to interview them.

What you want most from an agent – good communication, hard work, and an understanding of your market – may not be obvious at an interview.

Holding interviews to compete for your business is a little like hosting the Miss America pageant to find a wife. It’s easy to impress with a surface presentation.

In fact an interview puts an agent in a defensive position, and does not begin a relationship that should be built on mutual trust. I know Realtors – very good ones – who simply refuse to do interviews to get new business.

Avoid Open Houses

Don't go to open houses to chat up Realtors.

This approach is one I have seen recommended, but one that I can’t endorse. The truth is that most real estate agents host open houses more for the purpose of connecting with new clients than for merchandising the home.

A Realtor that you choose based on a referral will work harder for you than someone you hand-pick yourself based on initial reactions. The Realtor who comes personally recommended knows she has a reputation to uphold. She knows she has a former client she won’t want to disappoint. She knows that you might be the next client who can recommend her once she sells your house.

Don't choose a friend

Do not request a friend or relative who is a Realtor to represent you.

My personal opinion is that it’s asking for trouble to do business with a family member or a good friend. Keep them separate and everyone will be happy. Business decisions – and selling a home is like running a small business –  need to be based on objective facts, and friendships or family relations are riddled with subjectivity.

Don’t take a chance on ruining a friendship or causing ill-will in a family.

Do not ask neighbors

Seeking recommendations from a neighbor is never a good idea.

This suggestion is very popular, yet asking people who may have worked with only one or two agents doesn’t make sense. No matter how quickly a neighbor's home sold, or how pleased he was with the selling price, his experience is too limited to shape an informed opinion.

I’d rather see you ask someone who has extensive experience working with real estate agents. Ask your banker, lawyer, lender, financial planner, or CPA. These people connect with Realtors on an ongoing basis. They will give recommendations that are based on repeated dealings, not isolated incidents.
You can also research your state’s real estate commission to see if any local agents have black marks.

Stay local

Working with someone who lives and works in your area is perhaps the best advice I can give you. If real estate is all about location, then it makes sense to hire someone who knows everything possible about your location.

Ideally, you’ll find a smart, hard-working Realtor who grew up in the area where your home is located.

A Realtor should know what’s planned in the future for your city or neighborhood, as well as what’s gone on in the past. Has your area flooded? Is the county planning new roads? What’s the political history? How’s the job outlook? Is the HOA an effective one?

Good Realtors represent your home in the context of its location, they don’t just market it in a vacuum.

You can stay small

Don't assume you have to sign with a large company.
Some of my most profitable dealings with Realtors have been with brokers from agencies not affiliated with national chains.

Sure, the big guys can sweep you off your feet with impressive statistics, virtual tours, PowerPoint presentations, and other fashionable technology. But real estate is a people business, built on relationships and communication. Will an agent with 100 listings give you the same attention as an agent with 15 listings?
There are trade-offs, so don’t jump to conclusions.

Technology isn't everything

It's a mistake to judge an agent solely by her website and Twitter feed.

Yes, it’s important to deal with someone who understands the value of today's web-based business, and who has a website that gives accurate information in a professional way, and can communicate easily by cell phone, but that's not Everything.

All MLS Realtors are connected to the same information. House hunters today are techno-savvy. They can collect their own data.

What’s crucial is finding a Realtor who will hustle for you, make suggestions (even demands!) to help you sell your property, take great photographs, and give you feedback at every step.

Sign with a Supporter

Please choose an agent who understands the value of home staging.

You want one who honors your wish to stage your property. That's your ally. Your dream agent is one who will make suggestions for staging your home based on her experience with sellers and trends. She’ll be current with what buyers expect in your locale and price range. She’ll understand the economics of your sale and possibly even know sources for staging furniture and accessories.

Don't Forget

Be sure to order your copy of my $4.99 eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar. You’ll get valuable tips on cleaning, organizing, and staging your home from start to finish.

Pick a Paint Color with Personality -- Periwinkle

Monday, August 15, 2011
Some people call it lavender blue, although it's not exactly either of these colors. It's clean, it's complicated, it's dreamy.

It's periwinkle, that luscious mix of pink and blue, warm and cool, boy and girl, intense and subtle, yin and yang.

My infatuation with this color started 10 years ago. A client wanted a room painted a color to match a -- get this -- chip of paint from a door in France. He carried it all the way back to North Carolina in his wallet.

I matched it, and it looked fabulous. Client loved it. I loved it. 

I tend to be promiscuous about paint colors. I can't think of any color that, given the right setting, I don't like.

But periwinkle especially captured my heart. Even the name is irresistible. A cute snail and a lovely flower are named the same.

I didn't see much of my new love, but then, a few years after my initial fling, another client wanted her shutters painted a certain color. She gave me the Glidden name -- Periwinkle Blue.

About that time, just after the turn of the new millennium, I noticed that people were wearing periwinkle blue tee-shirts. Then I saw periwinkle letterheads, bathing suits, fleece jackets, umbrellas, garden gloves, Crocs!

My favorite color had become a trend. Rats! Nothing like a fad to ruin a good thing. However, I'm glad to report that before the market was saturated with my beloved periwinkle, the trend subsided.

I recently learned that the color blue is the wold's most popular color. Of course there are a gazillion blues out there. Just watch the sky change colors or stand in front of the paint chip displays at your home improvement center.

Vinca minor, a low-growing perennial flower plant with glossy green leaves and almost star-like, sparkling blue flowers, is named after the color itself. 

Periwinkle can be pale, like the walls in the Better Homes and Gardens bedroom walls at the top of this post. That much periwinkle in one room is probably off-putting in a staged home. We can't assume that people want to be surrounded by this purple/blue. Or it can be more intense, like the fabric swatch left.

Each paint company has its own name for this delicious color, and there will be variations. Some have more pink, more grey, or more white.

Benjamin Moore calls it Brazilian Blue. Valspar says it's Ultra Blue, and Sherwin Williams names it Lobelia.

These color samples demonstrate the range of blues in what I will call the Periwinkle Family. 

If you want more advice on choosing colors for staging, download my $4.99 eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar. If your home is on the market, it just doesn't make sense to go it alone when I can hold your hand every step of the way, from curb appeal to organizing closets, and everything in between.

How to Arrange Furniture -- The Most Common Mistakes

Thursday, August 11, 2011
Good furniture arrangement is the secret to making a room look its best.

Yet, most people struggle with what goes where.

Who among us has not stood at the doorway to a bedroom, or the center of our living room, and wondered, “What’s wrong with this room?” We may sense that it is disjointed or awkward, but we’re not sure why.

Two different approaches

The good news is that every room has an ideal arrangement for home staging, and you can discover it by avoiding the most common mistakes.

The other good news is that trial and error, or what I like to call the Fooling Around Approach to furniture arrangement, is often the best way to discover that elusive, perfect furniture plan. Even experienced decorators shove things around until they get it right, so don’t think you need to work it out on graph paper. Get some sliders, and go to work. It’s fun.

When it comes to furniture placement for home staging, these are the eight most common pitfalls to avoid.

Excess furniture

Select your best pieces. It’s better to have a few impressive pieces of furniture, than a roomful of some good and some not-so-good pieces. Keep the big pieces
(couches, upholstered chairs, beds, bookcases) unless they are in poor condition or very dated. No one expects you to be a trendsetter, but colors and styles from a few decades ago don’t make your home look fresh and exciting.

Remember that house hunters are looking at other homes and will compare your home to ones with new and stylish furniture that left them with a positive impression.

Not enough furniture  

Since most people own more furniture than they use, sparse furnishing is more common when a home is unoccupied. Often a FROG – an unfinished room over the garage -- turns out to be a UFROG -- an unfurnished room over the garage.

When selling a home, no room should be empty. House hunters see an unfurnished room as a problem room, one that raises questions. “Did the sellers run out of money? Maybe they’ll accept a low ball offer.”

“Does the roof leak in this room? I'll add a high cost of repair contingency to any purchase offer I might make.”

“Is this space too hot (or cold) to use? I'm paying for square footage I can't use? Maybe I should walk away now.”

Put some large pieces of furniture in that empty room. If it still looks a little barren, an area rug can unify the grouping that you do have. Add some shelving along the wall or as a room divider. Large DIY art on the wall will help, as well.

Poor traffic flow

Make sure house hunters can wander effortlessly through all your rooms. The traffic pattern should not pass through a conversation area or snake its way through the room. The walkway should be obvious, and it should look wide and unencumbered. From the entrance of the room, most of the room should be visible, and the door should open wide.

No purpose to the room

Each room needs to speak for itself. Will your Realtor have to say, “And this is the family room,” or will it be obvious because you’ve staged it with a game table, big comfy couch in front of the television, and a dry bar for entertaining?

There's no question that this corner of the kitchen is 
for informal meals. Photo: DecorPad

No focal point

Every room needs something big or otherwise commanding that the eye goes to, something that gives a message of comfort and quality. Make your focal point something that sells your home, even if it does not convey with the sale, such as a newly slipcovered sofa visible as soon as house hunters enter the front door.

A view is an excellent focal point, so arrange the furniture to showcase it. When the room has no existing focal point, you’ll need to create one. It could be a large bookcase beautifully staged, a gas fireplace, a beautiful headboard, or just a grouping of existing furniture to make a conversation area.

Often the reason for a room not having a focal point is that there is too much stuff in the room. It’s common to see homes with too many small or inconsequential furnishings floating in the room or on the walls. Try removing items that don’t contribute to the look you’re aiming for. Unify small items by placing them close together, by painting them similar colors, or by placing them on a tray.

Nothing small getting in the way here! Just luxury. 
Photo: SweetPeaandWillowCom.via DecorPad

Furniture is spread too far apart 

After you’ve decided what the function of the room is, group the large pieces accordingly – chair at the desk, table in front of a sofa, or nightstands at either side of the bed, for example. Then, add the smaller furnishings so they sit close to the larger ones. Don’t place a tiny pedestal table by itself in a corner, or plop a small bookcase all alone at the end of the room. Think pairs and trios. 

Candice Olson designed this corner office, 
keeping everything compact, yet uncluttered. 

Illogical placement

Ask yourself how the room works for you and your family. Use the room. If it is a guest room, spend the night in it to get a sense of how it functions. If it’s your side yard patio, plan a dinner there. Spend an evening with your favorite magazines in the living room to see if lamps are placed in the right places. Have a couple of friends over for conversation, and see if everyone can comfortably chat and have a place for a snack or drink at arm's reach.

You might as well enjoy your staged home to the fullest. Soon it will belong to someone else!

For more information on arranging furniture, including formulas and measurements that work for every floor plan, order my $4.99 ebook, How to Arrange Furniture -- A Guide to Improving Your Home Using What You Have. 

Top Photo: Better Homes and Gardens   

Make a Pennant Garland for Your Open House

Monday, August 08, 2011
Open houses are all about attracting attention. That's exactly what this simple string of colorful pennants will do.

If your Realtor has scheduled an open house, your job is to have your home sparkling clean and staged to please.

You might also want to do whatever you can to let passersby and neighbors know that something special is going on. The more people learn that your home is on the market and is open for visitors, the better. Word spreads.

Show off! 

Realtors and home buyers out looking for your special event will be sure to spot you easily.

Yes, you'll get looky-loos, but you never know when one person will be the link to a potential buyer.

So, fly your flags. Show off your home. This banner was made from two $1 vinyl tablecloths, some recycled string, and a little glue.

You can tack the end of it to a corner board on your home, or tie it to a gutter, and run it down to a stake on the ground or a flower pot. 

This attention grabber is also what you can hang out the day of your garage sale, the day you turn the results of your de-cluttering into cash. You did de-clutter, didn't you?

Save your string of flags. Once your home is sold, you can have a party, and decorate the back yard. Or use them indoors at your next birthday party.

Here's the How-to

I wanted to make my flags bi-color. The 54" x 108" tablecloths I bought were big enough that using less than half of each made a banner over 30 feet long. (That left me with enough tablecloth for a picnic or two.)

I chose to put my rotary cutter to work to speed the cutting process and get straight, even lines. If you don't have a cutter like this, or you want your children to make these banners, you could draw the outlines with a pencil, and then cut the pennants out with scissors.

These pennants look cool even if your kids cut them all crooked and funky!

  • File folder or cardboard for pattern
  • Metal ruler
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Plastic table cloths in your choice of colors
  • Rotary cutter
  • Self-healing mat
  • Fabric adhesive
  • Sting or cord that will not stretch

Open the file folder, and fold it to determine the lengthwise center. Use the ruler and pencil to draw lines from the corners to the center point, to form a triangle. Cut the pattern out with scissors. 

Fold the tablecloth to make eight to twelve layers. Lay the pattern to maximize the surface area. Cut, using the rotary cutter and metal ruler.

Discard the small pieces. This is what your pennants will look like. The first photo showed blue flags, and this photo shows white ones. Don't let me confuse you. 

If you used the fold of the plastic tablecloth for one of the edges on your triangle, you'll have to trim away a smidgen to make separate flags. This is what I am doing here. You can cut through all layers in one cut.

I used my ironing board for a work surface. That meant I could glue only four flags at a time, then let the glue dry for an hour and move along to the next four flags. If you have a larger work surface, or can use the floor (my dog would be all over those flags!), the gluing will go faster.

Lay a few pennants down, and lay the cord on top as shown.

Run a line of fabric adhesive above and below where the string will be. I tried regular school glue, but it did not adhere well to the vinyl. This Liquid Stitch, original version, stuck well, and is waterproof, so even if it rains on your open house day, your pennants won't fall apart.

Of course, I tried a hot glue gun first, and of course that melted the vinyl in about 1/1000 of a second!

Fold the top over to seal the cord in the pennant. You'll be able to slide the string so the pennants snug up to each other, or you can put space between them if you like that style.

Do it the day ahead

The Liquid Stitch label says to let the glue dry for 24 hours, but I found that it was tacky enough to move on to another section of the garland after about an hour.

I love the way these pennants flutter in the breeze. If it is very windy in your area, they might just stay horizontal, or even wrap around the string, because they are quite lightweight.

I hope you can make and use my DIY Open House Flags. Your home should fly flags for attention when it's Open House Day.

To be sure your home doesn't wave any "red flags" for people touring homes to buy, you need to stage hour home wisely. 

That's where my eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar, can help!  I'll show you the difference between good and bad staging, and I'll teach you the easy and economical tricks and techniques I've learned staging homes for sale.

My easily downloadable pdf gives you a healthy share of tips to make the curb appeal of your home go off the charts. That's smart staging! I'll show you how.

Tables with Glass Tops -- A Home Stager's Best Friend.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

The bistro table we put in this staged condo is high enough to allow a view of 
the water outside. The acid-etch, pale teal glass table top actually tied 
the waterview to the feel of the room. I staged the condo to have a beachy look, 
and used sea glass colors elsewhere in the unit as well.  
Today I'm going to sing the praises of tables topped with glass, the kind of table you can see through!

What home stager wouldn't love a piece of furniture that seems to float in the room, that adds shine and sophistication, but takes up almost no visual real estate?

Benefits of glass

Glass top tables also look clean and contemporary. House hunters usually respond well to that look, even in older homes. They are easy to decorate around because they are versatile and, because they are transparent, color is not a problem.

You needn't run out and buy tables with glass tops. Instead, you can create your own. For example, bridge two matched small tables with glass on top to make one large table. Or find other interesting bases. I have seen birdbaths, barrels, saw horses, MDF pedestals, driftwood, ceramic planters or sculptures, fabric-covered cinder blocks, and found objects dragged home from curbside.

There's a glass table suitable for home staging almost every home, from very formal to funky global style  to the Scandinavian look to mid century modern decor to shabby chic style.

Here are some facts to help you  take advantage of the shine and glamour that a glass table adds to a room.

What's it cost? 

If you don't own a glass top table or desk for staging your home, consider assembling one from a base you may already have, and newly purchased glass. Prices vary widely for custom ordered glass, depending on where you live. A local glass dealer will quote you prices. The cost will depend on the dimensions, the thickness, the edging, and any special requirements.

For a  glass top that will rest on a pedestal or a frame, such as the ones illustrated here, the thickness needs to 3/8 inch to 1/2 inch.

How about the edges? 

The edge of a tempered glass table top is always finished to make it both safe and attractive.

The simplest edge is called a seamed edge. The edges are sanded enough to make them dull enough to handle.

A flat polish edge takes the edging a step further, and is very common. The glass cutter will polish it so it is smooth and shiny.

When the glass top is round rather than rectangular or squared, it's more common to see a pencil edge, where the edge is rounded for a tapered, softer look.

Today's look for glass table tops is clear glass, or else acid-etched, which yields a frosted look. The bronze and grey tinted glass of decades past are dated now, and not as effective for home staging.

Learn more about staging your home from my $4.99 ebooks that will make your home the one buyers want.

Salvation Army Chic: My Two "New" Table Lamps

Monday, August 01, 2011
These lamps are now
handsome staging props.
As soon as I saw them I wanted them.

They were on a top shelf, too high for a 5'3" person to notice their marble bases. But even without going on tip-toes, I could read their fluorescent price stickers: $2.89 each.

Then, when I hefted one, I was sold.

I mean, two matching lamps, with classic profiles, no missing parts, that weighed in at about five pounds apiece? I'd be crazy to not give them a home.

Today they are even more beautiful. Don't you love a Cinderella story?

Here's my step-by-step.

Clean it 

I usually disinfect anything I buy second hand. I have a friend who loves to buy vintage clothing, and she zip-bags and freezes for a week whatever she brings home.

I do a bleach wipe-down or dip, but since these lamps are getting spray-painted, I just cleaned them with my favorite Mrs. Meyers countertop spray -- lemon verbena --to get any residual dirt off. If you suspect grease or wax, clean with a degreaser or other solvent.

Now is the time to do any repairs to your project. I made sure the lamp parts were attached tightly by taking a screwdriver to the screw at the base. Some people will totally re-wire a second-hand lamp, and that's a good idea if the cords look like the lamp has had some abuse.

Sand it 

Going over any surface with sandpaper before painting is a good habit to cultivate, whether it's painted drywall, plastic flower pots, old dressers, or metal doors. My preference is a sanding sponge that fits into my hand, and easily gets into curves and crannies.

Dust it 

After sanding, you'll want to get rid of all the loose stuff that's left behind. Otherwise, it ends up in your pretty painted surface. The best tool is a tack cloth, but a microfiber cloth works well, too. Notice that I suggest you dust an item before you place it on your actual work surface.

What they looked like
when I brought them home.

Prep the area 

You want a dust-free drop cloth or some other clean, level surface where you can safely place your item.

Consider your surroundings. If you are outside and it's windy, you might want to wait for another day. Not only will a breeze blow away more paint, but it could also send junk into your wet paint.

If it's too hot, like above 90 degrees, choose another time. Your paint begins drying even before it lands, and you end up with a powdery surface and poor adhesion.

You want a dry day, not a humid one which interferes with drying time and can give you a mottled, cloudy finish. Ideal conditions are between 50 and 80 degrees and less than 50% humidity.

It's best to check your label to be sure, and if your garden windsock is horizontal and your curly hair is all kinked up, don't spray.

If you put down paper or a drop cloth, weight the corners so they won't blow up and ruin your work.

Tape off 

Use masking tape to snugly wrap the areas you don't want painted. I removed finials to paint them separately, so I covered the screws that will hold them in place. I also removed the knobs to turn the lamps on and off, and taped up the screws that will hold those knobs. I taped over the marble bases, and stuffed plastic into the bulb socket.

Prepping for painting is the time-consuming part of any paint project. But this tedious stuff is what makes a difference in the quality of your finished project.  

Prep yourself 

Wear old clothes, especially the shoes if you are painting on a low surface like the floor or ground. Wear a respirator if you are indoors. Wear a respirator if you are pregnant. I'm not talking about a paper face mask for particulates in the air. You need a face respirator if you can't work in a well-ventilated area .

I also like to wear gloves because spray paint doesn't easily come out from under my trigger fingernail.

A toothbrush cleans
in the grooves.

Spray away! 

Shake very well. Use slowly sweeping motions, not a rapid back and forth. Two or three light coats are better than one heavy coat. Avoid getting too close and creating drips and runs in the paint.

Although this should be listed as step one, use good spray paints. Shun the cheap brands, which contain less paint per can, and spray unevenly. The tip on a good spray paint can will spray without splattering and not clog as easily.

You can also tell a good spray tip from a poor one by the shape of the spray pattern it throws out. Cheap tips spray a circle of paint, which doesn't help put down an even pattern of paint. Better tips spray in a fan shape, giving you better control of the paint, and minimizing goofs, thin spots, and runs.  

Double-check your item from all vantage points before you finish spraying. Turn the can upside down for the final pass, to clear the tip.

If your project piece has areas that are difficult to reach, such as inside the legs of a chair or the edges of a frame, or what sculptors call "undercuts," start your spraying by doing these areas first. Usually, I turn these kinds of things upside down to begin the spray job. Then, I flip the piece over to finish spraying. Placing pushpins or other elevating devices on the bottoms of legs keeps them from sticking to your drop cloth.

When you are finished, store your spray paints where they won't freeze.

The fan-shape spray pattern (yellow) gives
better results than the circular pattern (purple).

Paint sticks better to a sanded surface.
It's best to cover electric connections before you paint.
I like to wrap the electric cords in plastic bags
 rather than cover them with tape. 

I put the finials on skewers to elevate them while spraying. 

The lamps after painting. I sanded the high spots
on the left one, and the right one is next.
To further "antique" the lamp, I brushed on
a thin wash of brown craft paint.
Before the brown wash dried, I rubbed most of it off. 
Then I removed the tape, and gave them
light bulbs and new shades.
I love the look of my new vintage-style table lamps.
I am going to pretend that my upcycled lamps 
are worth $289 now, instead of the $2.89 I paid.

Get the look, get the book

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