Accessorizing For Outdoor Living

As spring gets well under way, homeowners’ thoughts turn towards summer and outdoor living. Depending on where you live, there are a variety of activities you can organize in your own backyard, if you just have the right furniture and accessories. But first, you’ll want to take into account your own unique environment.


Do Some Space Planning

Assess your landscape (Are there large amounts of lawn, is it slanted, how big is the patio?), the sun orientation (Do you have shade, what time of day will you be most active outside?), and possible views (What obstructions might there be?). Once you have done so, you can do a little planning and decide where you want your focal point to be and what kind of entertaining you intend on doing.


Try Mixing And Matching Your Furniture

One suggestion from design experts is that instead of having perfectly matching furniture, try collecting a more eclectic mix of lawn chairs, tables, and benches. Just be sure every piece of your outdoor furniture is made of “exterior-appropriate materials, such as woven resin, teak, stone, and metal to provide a more multi-layered result.”


Throw In A Rug Or Two

You might also consider throwing an outdoor rug into the mix, as rugs “provide a softness and visual relief from hardscape flooring materials such as concrete, brick, and flagstone.” Accessorize your outdoor space with planters, statues, decorative lanterns, a fire pit, or umbrellas. If you plan carefully, your outdoor setting can bring you and your family entertainment all year long.


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The Search For The Right Interior Decorator

Today there are a plethora of TV shows about interior decorators that swoop into normal American families’ homes, dash out several brilliant decorating ideas, and in a flash, have turned the house into a beautifully redecorated specimen ready for the pages of a design magazine. In the real world, it’s not quite as easy as that.


Make Sure Your Styles Match

First of all, finding a reliable decorator with the right credentials and a style to match your own can be tricky. Interior designer Phoebe Howard actually compares the relationship between a designer and a homeowner as a “marriage.”  Cathy Davin, president of Davin Interiors in Pittsburg said, “New clients are often referred to [me] by previous clients.” Online is another great resource because experienced designers will often include pictures of previous projects for prospective clients to browse through.


Designers vs. Decorators

A typical interior designer will have a bachelor’s degree in interior design, though some states require additional certification. Of course, designers will have different amounts of experience and their styles will vary depending on personal taste and where they received their education. However, Davin said every designer “should have a full understanding of color, proportion, and other elements of design.” One good resource for interior designers is the American Society of Interior Designers online database of certified members.

An interior decorator, on the other hand, “might be just someone who has a flair for decorating and wants to hang up a shingle,” according to Davin. However, they won’t have the same training as a designer and may not be as familiar with the intricacies of dealing with engineers, contractors, and architects for more extensive renovations.

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Time, Money, and Interior Design

Hiring an interior designer can be a great idea if you want to make your home’s interior look especially dazzling. However, their services don’t come free and they likely won’t come cheap either. Phoebe Howard, a designer based out of Florida, said, “A good designer should be able to tell you whether you can have what you’re envisioning for the money you’re able to spend.” It’s an unfortunate truth that sometimes our eyes can be bigger than our checkbooks, which is why having a trustworthy designer with an eye for detail is a must.


Fees Start At $4 Per Square Foot

According to Cathy Davin, president of Davin Interiors in Pittsburgh, interior design fees will vary from state to state, but “they tend to range between about $4 per square foot for limited services like choosing a room’s color palette and furniture layout to $10 or more per square foot for full project management.”


Get Estimates In Writing

When you ask your interior designer for an estimate, be sure to get it in writing with an itemized cost sheet if possible. If adjustments must be made as the project gets underway, get each additional change in writing as well.


Be Prepared For The Time It Takes

Every extra call or meeting with your designer will cost you money, so it will behoove you to move the process along as quickly as possible. Thus, it’s a good idea to come to an agreement on styles and design options with your spouse before consulting with your designer. Also, Davin said, “Design projects can move slowly . . . Redecorating a master bedroom or family room can take at least three months. Design and decorating work for a home that’s not yet built might take 18 months or more.”


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Redecorating Possible Even On A Budget

Candace Corlett, president of WSL Strategic Retail recently said, “There’s no excuse for an undecorated home on any budget.” That’s because in today’s society, there is an endless array of resources for homeowners to turn to when they want to spruce up their interiors.

Wal-Mart’s Options Are Expanding

For instance, Wal-mart’s Better Homes & Gardens brand expanded its selection this year. Consumers now have even more inexpensive window treatments, rugs, decorative pillows, accessories, and patio furniture to choose from when they surf the aisles of the world’s largest retailer. For instance, decorative pillows can be found at the low price of $11.97.

Envision Your Dream Home

Before you do any purchasing, however, it’s a good idea to know what you want your “finished product” of a home to look like. Visit decorating blogs, flip through magazines, walk through Home Depot, or take a tour of a friend’s home. Then decide which rooms you’ll be spending the most time in. Spend a little more on those rooms to be sure you’ll be comfortable with being around the décor 24/7.

Pallavi Naidu, vice president of merchandising and product development at Ballard Designs explained, “It’s like investing in good shoes or a handbag. . . . Spending more on items that get lots of use means they will last longer and give you more satisfaction.”

Try Repainting

Then, if all else fails, you can always repaint. After all, as Corlett said, “Painting is one of the affordable ways to change the décor.”

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Editor of This Old House Opens Up

Scott Omelianuk is an unlikely character to play the part of Editor in Chief of This Old House. This is the popular home improvement magazine that The New York Times says has “turned home improvement into an art form, its knowledgeable contractors guiding homeowners through seemingly flawless renovations for the last 34 years.”


The 14 Year Renovation

Omelianuk, on the other hand, has lived in the same three-story house for 14 years and has yet to complete his own remodel. He has run into all the same problems the average homeowner encounters: everything from negligent contractors to the birth of a child. He became editor of This Old House in 2004 and since then has brought his own spin on home improvement to the magazine, colored by his life experiences.


A Home Under Construction

Perhaps out of frustration with his own home improvement efforts, his editorials are full of scathing comments about the shows on television that show homes go from drab to perfectly remodeled in just a few short days. Visitors to the Omelianuk home will find that despite the 14 years of renovation it has undergone, the building is still a construction zone. The front sidewalk is dug up, replaced “temporarily” with plywood boards, abandoned doors are stacked in the mudroom, and the master bathroom has yet to be updated.


A True Perfectionist

Omelianuk himself has been a source of delay for the home remodel. He admitted to repainting his living room “a half-dozen times before finding exactly the right shade of purple.” He also worked with his contractor when building the kitchen cabinets so that the wood grain would wrap continuously around the room. How’s that for perfection?


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Paint Colors Make Big Impact On Home Buyers

When they enter the real estate market, homeowners are understandably anxious to be sure their house is portrayed in the most attractive light possible. One aspect of the home that ought not to be overlooked is the color of the walls. The wrong color might break a house while the right colors could make it.

White Is Not The Only Neutral Color

Lisa Vaamonde, one of the vice presidents of Brown Harris Stevens, a Manhattan real estate agency, said, “As clean and neutral a palette as possible is ideal.” That’s because it makes it easier for possible home buyers to picture themselves there. But this doesn’t necessarily mean every wall must be plain white. Even within the color “white” there are a vast variety of hues, from ivory to cream. Vaamonde explained, “Benjamin Moore has a whole series of gentle whites” which even include pale shades of blue, pink, and yellow.

Try Highlighting “Feature” Walls

Shades of white aren’t the only options. A new trend is the painting of “feature” walls. Christopher Coleman, a Brooklyn-based interior designer said that feature walls make “a home more memorable without going overboard on color.” He also suggested adding color in places people wouldn’t expect, for instance the walls of the master closet. “Walk-in closets don’t have to be white, especially if you have so much cabinetry that there’s very little wall,” according to Coleman. “Put a happy color there.”

If you are still determined to use brighter colors in your home, be sure to use warm, natural colors such as blue-gray or gray-green. These colors can still be considered neutral and Vaamonde said, “People respond to [these colors] better.”

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Installing New Door May Earn You Tax Credit

Making an energy efficient upgrade to your home won’t just save you money on utilities, it could also earn you a tax credit. The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, approved on January 1st of this year, says that homeowners who made some type of energy efficient upgrade in 2012 or who plan to do so in 2013 can receive a federal tax credit for up to 10 percent of the cost of the upgrade.


Energy Star Doors Qualify For Tax Credit

If you didn’t make some type of upgrade in 2012, plan now to make one in 2013. One upgrade you might consider would be switching out your old front door for a new Energy Star qualified fiberglass door. The tax credit for a qualified door can be up to $500. Derek Fielding, senior product manager for Therma-Tru Corp, a manufacturer of fiberglass doors, said, “Fiberglass doors are some of the most energy efficient doors available in the marketplace today.

Compared to a solid wood door, a fiberglass door has four times more energy efficient value.”


Front Doors Impact Curb Appeal

And the benefits of a new door don’t stop there. Front doors can add or detract significantly from a home’s curb appeal, thus making a sizeable impact on the overall value of the home. Fielding explained that the front door isn’t the only one that could qualify you for a tax credit, however.

Actually, “the really good news about this tax credit is that it qualifies for both replacement doors on a principle residence and for the installation of a new door in the home where there previously wasn’t an opening.” This means that if you’re planning an addition to your home, getting an Energy Star door for the new section would qualify you for tax credit.


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