News: This Blog Wins a Spot on the Top 100 List

Monday, May 28, 2012

Home Decorating and Staging, a site for DIY fanatics, writes about
easy ways to declutter, so you can end up with a look like this,
from Better Homes and Gardens.
Don’t you love receiving an email that starts out, “We are pleased to inform you …”

I mean one that’s not from Nigeria.

I won an award. An organization that’s a clearinghouse of information for people in the construction management field, named this blog one of the “Top 100 DIY Sites for Home Improvement Fanatics.”

Fanatics? Whatever!

It's always a perk to be given some recognition, and in this case, especially so. 

I’m very flattered, because it’s obvious that the association Construction Management Degree did exhaustive research for the benefit of their readers. 

Not only does the published list name the best sites, but it also gives a brief profile of the 100 prize-winners. Some sites will be familiar, but many will be eye-opening ones new to you! You’ll find listed the specialty of each, the author, how to connect through social media, and links to two notable posts. Sweet! Someone did all your homework for you!

The list is in no particular order, but there are six categories: general remodeling; interior decorating; kitchens and baths; office and workspaces; landscaping and exterior (where I ended up for some reason); and basements, storage and closets.  

What this means to you is that by visiting Construction Management you can jump to all kinds of really instructive and inspiring sites for DIY projects.  You’ll find nuts-and-bolts-type advice and money-saving tips.   

The site is designed to guide people towards the best schools offering degrees in construction management. The database includes both campus colleges and online schools. The site also steers folks in the direction of forums, message boards, organizations, websites, and blogs packed with helpful info for anyone in the construction business. I know you’ll find something special that hits the proverbial nail on the proverbial head!

I love a website that is loaded with links to fascinating sources, but is still easy to read and navigate. This one does just that. Whether you are a DIYer, a decorator, a renovator or remodeler, a builder or a homeseller, you're bound to found numerous links to bookmark.

Here is a typical blog post about decluttering from a site called Home Decorating and Staging. You'll discover a wealth of posts bound to educate you on Alex Hinst's site. 

Another site that stood out for me, about d├ęcor and remodeling, is this one about a bath makeover. Plenty of inspiration and ideas on this site.

You can easily jump to a video of Danny Lipford showing how to remove mold from a home's exterior. Or learn how to turn affordable IKEA furniture into genuine home improvements that look custom.

I'm a big fan of Family Handyman, the magazine, and I'm not surprised that the website made the list. It's a goldmine of well-illustrated step-by-steps that walk you through projects like how to remodel a bath on a shoestring, and the right way to add a wall sconce.

You can fill up on eye candy at Mix and Chic, learn what to plant where at Fine Gardening, and research a host of DIY tutorials for stylish decor projects at The House of Smiths.  See, I've done even more of your homework for you!

You don't have to be a fanatic to have as much fun as I did learning about some new places to bring you up to speed on what’s new and clever in the world of DIY home improvement.

And you don't have to be a fanatic to download your copy of my $4.99 eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar. Just someone who wants to make a home more marketable.  

Handy Formulas That Make DIY Home Staging Easy

Monday, May 21, 2012
Wondering if your living room coffee table is too tall?

Curious about how many chairs will fit around your dining table?

Don’t know how high to hang that framed print?

Now you can grab your tape measure to double check whether your intuition was right about what goes where.

Here are my favorite guidelines for furniture arrangement. They're sure to make easy work of your home staging.

Go by the Numbers

Passage. Anywhere you expect people to walk needs to measure at least 18 inches wide. You want home buyers to be able to move about the room.

Traffic. The main traffic pattern through a room needs to be at least 24 inches wide. You want home buyers to see clearly which way they should go next. 

Breathing room. Furniture placed against a wall should be 2 inches away from the wall. Any room feels less cramped when furnishings have space around them.   

Different chairs. The height of assorted seating around a room should not vary by more than 5 inches. This will make the room look cozy and more intentional.

Arm's length. The space between a coffee table and a couch should measure at least 14 inches but no more than 18 inches. In other words, you should be able to reach it.

How high? A coffee table between 16 and 18 inches tall looks best and functions best. 

Backup room. When dining chairs are pulled up to the table, there should be at least 36 inches between any chair and the wall behind it.

There's room for making the bed and moving around.
The side table is the perfect height. BHG photo.
Elbow room. There should be at least 4 inches between dining room chairs. 

Reachable. End tables should be no more than 2 ½ inches above or below the arms of the chairs or couches they sit next to. Not only is the look more seamless, but the tables are more functional.

Usable. Got seating at the foot of your bed? Make it almost as wide as the bed, and almost as tall. If it's a desk or table, it needn't be that wide, but a short bench looks skimpy when you want home buyers to see a luxurious bedroom. 

No fumbling. Bedside tables should be approximately the height of the bed. Otherwise, they are awkward to use and look like an afterthought.

What Goes on Walls and Where

Hanging pictures. The space between two framed items on the wall should be no more than 3 inches.

Headroom. Keep 9 inches between the top of a chair, headboard, or couch and the bottom of any wall hanging (artwork, sculpture, curtains).

Best view. Find the center of a framed piece of art, and position the center 63 inches above the floor. This is average viewing height for most people.

Television. Best height for a flat screen television is at eye level when you’re seated. The screen should not be the focal point of the room.

Size matters. Keep artwork larger than 12 inches square, and usually, the bigger the better. You can make small prints look important by framing them with wide mats.

Blank space. If a wall space is less than 36 inches wide, leave it unadorned. Buyers need a place to rest their eyes and get a sense of open space. Resist the temptation to decorate every wall. When in doubt, a mirror could be the best space filler, especially if it reflects a selling feature of your home.    

Sizing When Accessorizing

These shades are just the right size for the lamps.
And the draperies hit the carpet gracefully. Photo: Decorpad. 
Nothing tiny. Make all decorator pillows 16 x 16 inches or larger. It's better to have one large pillow than a collection of small ones. 

No high water hemsDraperies should touch the floor, and if they break (like pants over your shoe), the break should be at least 1 ½ inches, or it looks like a mistake. Sometimes you can adjust the length of the drapery at the top by re-positioning the hooks or clips.

Lamp proportions. The shade on a table lamp looks best when it is 1/2 the height of the lamp base. It should cover the neck of the lamp, but not disguise the shape of the lamp.

For safety sake. Never use an accessory in a staged home that is so small someone could easily slip it in a pocket. Small items are distracting to the eye, and can easily be stolen.

I have found these formulas helpful when I’m shopping for furniture, hanging art, moving furnishings around a room, and in all kinds of other home staging decisions. They reduce guesswork and mistakes.

I hope these numbers and proportions will be useful to you when you’re just not sure if your eye is telling you the truth about what looks best when you’re staging your home for sale.

For more advice on how to make your home the one that buyers want, you'll want to download my $4.99 eBook, How to Arrange Furniture.  

Top photo: Apartment Therapy

My Two-Hour Patio Makeover

Monday, May 14, 2012
Calling it a Makeover is an exaggeration. But it was definitely a Spruce Up.

When a friend listed her home, the patio (that she never seemed to have time to enjoy) needed some attention.

Like most people getting ready to sell and move, she didn't want to sink money into things like patio furniture or potted plants.

So I loaned her what I had -- a couple of wire chairs and matching bench, some annuals in planters, and elbow grease.

Four  Steps

Step one was to get rid of empty flower pots, and leaves that had blown in.

Next, I needed to weed what could be considered a flower bed --a short strip of soil near the fence that was mulched with marble chips.

Step three was to scrub the concrete with a bleach solution.

Finally, I brought in the furniture and flowers. I stated at one o'clock and was finished at three o'clock.

Often a simple clean-up and dress-up is all that a room or a space needs to get it ready for a home tour.
This is what I started with -- a neglected area off the side of the home, full of potential. 
It was a simple job to whip this patio into shape.
I chose flowers that would stay in bloom and didn't need much attention. 
These spring flowers lasted two months -- until the new owner moved in! 
I'm glad that my friend is able to enjoy her patio until her house sold.

Do you have outdoor spaces that you've ignored or allow to become catch-all areas? It's easy to stage them to become places buyers can envision themselves relaxing and entertaining. 

My $4.99 eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar, gives you more advice to help sell your home by staging it yourself on a shoestring. You'll get all the tips and techniques you need to make cleaning, decluttering and staging easy and effective!

Mother Knows Best. I Know Because She Told Me So.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Mom at age 70. She lived to be 85.
In honor of Mothers’ Day, I’ve collected a sampling of photos of my mom, plus some of her oft-repeated phrases that shaped the person I am today.

"A little dirt never hurt anyone." 

My mom was an immaculate housekeeper, but she never made her family nervous about getting dirty. I am thankful she passed along a respect for nature and even chaos instead of a fear of disorder. These qualities have helped me live a more adventuresome and carefree life, to pursue absorbing hobbies and interests, and to not waste time and attention with things that don’t matter.

"Never leave the house with dishes in the sink."

This was one of my mother’s strictest commandments, and I still adhere to it in my own home. Coming home is never disappointing or overwhelming. Just like FlyLady teaches, a clean sink builds a feeling of optimism and power.

"Money is the root of all evil."

Mom was fond of quoting scripture, and this was one of her favorites. I suspect she used it as a compass to make life decisions, as well as a reminder to herself when it appeared that other people had more money than she did.

"It’s just a phase." 

I have an older brother. As adults we're pals, but as children, he teased me. If I complained, my mother reminded me that he’d grow out of it. Her response wasn’t much of a consolation at the time, but the phrase subtly taught me that everything changes with time. 

In the early 1930's she took the ferry weekdays with friends to work in New York City. They were all   stenographers and bookkeepers. They all carried books to read. Mom is second from the right. 

'"When you’re young, anything looks good on you." 

I never believed this one when I was young, but now that I’m old, I do. Complaining about how you look when you are young wastes youth.

"An education is something that no one can take away from you." 

It was a given in my childhood household that my brother, sister, and I would go to college, even though my parents did not. Although I was raised in a comfortable, middle-class family, I realize now that my parents made sacrifices to educate us beyond high school. I wish I could tell them now how much I appreciate the education they paid for and the emphasis they placed on the value of learning.

"Never contradict your parents in public. No matter what."

The worst thing you could do to my mother was to act like a smart ass or loudmouth, especially in public and especially if you made her look wrong or bad. It was a simple lesson in being polite that I still try to live by. Everyone likes people who make them look better.

My parents on their honeymoon, in a motorized carriage on the boardwalk in
Atlantic City, New Jersey. She was almost 30 when she married.

My sister, me, and Mom. It was 1951. They had been married
only eight years before my parents bought their first house.  

In the early 1950's they flew to California for a vacation.
The palm behind my mom only looks like her hat, and
my dad looks like a character from Mad Men.  

Early in 1970 they bought a VW camper and toured the United States 
for a year. They were hip before it was cool to be a hippie. 
They just don't look that groovey!

My parents often traveled with my aunt and uncle. Here they are
on the beach in Waikiki, Hawaii, in the 1970's. They also traveled to 

Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, the Middle East, and Europe.  

 While visiting me in California, Grandma read to my son, then two years old. 
My mother loved reading and belonged to a book club 
when she was a young bride until she was 80-plus years old.   

During the same California trip, my mom, my younger son, and me.

Shelling peas from the garden on the back porch. I learned my love for cooking
from my mother. We grew lots of our own organic vegetables and
even raised some of our own meat and had chickens for fresh eggs. 

Mom had four brothers and this is the
youngest one with her at the beach in 1933.

"You’re smart. You’ll do fine." 

My parents were not overly demonstrative. They did not pump up my siblings and me with self-confidence. But neither did they make unreasonable demands or belittle us. The simple message we lived with was that intelligence was what mattered and that we had sufficient amounts. It would have been nice to believe I was talented, beautiful, and special as well, but lacking confidence in these areas made me work hard to earn the respect of people.

"You never know who you’ll meet." 

If I ever ventured out of the house looking a little rag-tag, Mom would remind me that people judge you by how you look and treat you accordingly. Even though standards have relaxed since the days when she wouldn’t go shopping downtown without wearing a hat and white gloves, her reminder haunts me. I have seen the truth of it repeatedly over the years. She’s the reason I dress business casual on an airline flight and change out of messy painting clothes just to walk the dog around the block. You never know.

"Everything works out for the best." 

Honestly, I don’t remember when or why Mom would say this, but I do know that it’s hardwired into my brain. Have you ever had someone pat you on the arm when things looked bad, and recited some version of this line? It’s all about having faith that Someone is looking after you, and that's a comfort during tough times. 

"I’m very proud of all my children." 

Everyone wants to be the favorite child, and I was no exception. But my parents let my siblings and me know that they valued each of us and no one was better than the others. My sister and I were so close that we did everything together and never once had an argument. My brother, well, boys will be boys, and that’s another Mom-quote!

"When you have your health, you have everything." 

I'm so glad that my parents understood the importance of taking good care of one's health. This common phrase of hers carried with it the understanding that when you don't have your health, you have nothing. I grew up in the best of times, when eating healthfully, staying active, and getting plenty of fresh air were common practice.

My mother would be 103 years old next month if she were still alive. We share the same birthday, so I feel especially close to her on that day, and on Mother’s Day as well. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.

Sell Your Home. And Then, Move Your Plants When You Move!

Monday, May 07, 2012

When you’re a gardener, it’s difficult to relocate, even if you are happy with the sale of your home and the adventures that lie ahead.

I’ve moved often. I’ve moved five times in the past 25 years. And since I love my plants, I have found ways to bring my favorites along with me to my next home.

These are some of my favorite plants, all ones that I have moved from previous homes.  

Sometimes, I’ve uprooted the entire plant. 

Sometimes, I’ve divided the plant and taken only part. 

And sometimes, I’ve snipped a few stems and rooted them to begin a new life with me elsewhere. 

You can use any of these methods to carry off parts of your present landscaping. But it's important that you not swoop in at the last moment, like the day before closing on the sale of your home, and cannibalize your landscape. Having plants in pots and assorted other containers is one way to let your buyers know that they do not convey with the property.

The 5-foot tall hydrangea in the center of the photo above is about five years old. It hasn't burst into bloom yet this year, but soon it will be covered with fluffy, pink pom poms, the rock star of my Pink Garden. I rooted it from a stem taken from its parent shrub.

I grew the 3 x 3-foot spirea on the left in that picture from a division taken from my former home, and I grew the rose bush on the right from a cutting taken from its parent that I left behind. 

You can find instructions for propagating different kinds of plants at this site. My advice is to start with six or more, to be sure that at least one survives and thrives.

Besides these plants pictured, I've transplanted others -- Hostas, Begonias, Siberian Iris, Clematis, Canna Lilies, Artemesia, Viburnum, Vinca, Liriope, Pacysandra, Asiatic Lilies, herbs, and others. It's fun, and you can do it, too!

This is another plant that is a baby of a shrub rose 
from a previous home. The parent of that one, 
called a Carefree Rose, lived at my daughter's home,
and it was easy to propagate. 

Just a few years ago it was a 4-inch stick!

Mondara is also called Bee Balm because the bees love it.
You can take divisions of any Mondara you are growing.

They will be very forgiving of being 
transplanted at your new home. 
Ivy and other groundcovers are among the easiest plants to multiply
because it is in their nature to produce runners.
My Variegated Ivy is really a houseplant that I've taken cuttings of, and then
curled them around in cups of soil, and babied them until they develop roots.    
This lovely plant is part of my herb garden. It's Sorrel, a sour-flavored herb
that makes an interesting soup.
But mostly, I grow it for the look of its leaves.
I divide the plant in half every time I move.

Chives form the border of my herb bed.
It's easy to bring small clumps with you when you move,
and they root quickly. You'll always have a fresh green garnish ready!

Thyme spreads like crazy.
I like it as a groundcover in my herb garden.
Your home's new owners will never miss some divisions. 
Sedum is another plant that is so vigorous it's almost invasive.
So, I keep it in pots or plant it only where it won't push out preferred plants.
This Stonecrop Sedum sends up stems of yellow flowers in early summer. 

The stems root in water embarrassingly easily 
Another of my favorite "passalong plants" is Spiderwort.
Its pretty blue-violet flowers open only in the morning or on rainy days.
I wouldn't think of leaving all of her behind when I relocate. 

Crocosmia grow from corms that don't mind being relocated. 
To me, they look like a cross between small Gladiolas and Orchids. 
I'm a fan of plants that are easy to grow, s
all plants here will perform for beginner gardeners. 
My Paperwhites bloom outdoors in January, just when you need a 
hit of fragrance outside! Digging up Paperwhite bulbs 
can break their dormancy, thus forcing them 
to bloom too early or too late the first year,
 but after that, they are reliably on schedule. 
Even though some of them are common varieties, I am devoted 
to all my orange Daylilies.
Daylilies almost beg to be 

divided every few years, so you'll be doing
your home buyers a favor by thinning a 

bed of Daylilies and taking some with you.
I bought the granddaddy of this Autumn Fern about 20 years ago,
and I cannot count the number of times I have divided it.
Ferns add a certain elegance to any landscape,
and bronzey Autumn Ferns stay pretty all year.  
Propagating plants by division and cuttings is a handy skill any homeowner should learn. Not only will you be able to hold onto plants that have sentimental value, you'll also economize when it's time to improve the landscape at your next home.

For more tips on making your home's landscape look its best, download my eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar. You'll find the kind of advice that makes staging your own home --  inside and out -- easy and profitable.  

This is what it looked like behind my garage as I was preparing
to move from my last house to my present home five years ago.
It was messy, but it let home buyers know that these plants weren't staying.

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