Words of Wisdom: A Seller’s Checklist

Preparing your home for sale not only increases your chances of a quick sale, but also increases the possibility of getting top dollar as well. Here are some tips to keep in mind when you are ready to place your home onto the market:

  • FIRST IMPRESSIONS ARE LASTING. The front door greats the prospective buyer. Make sure it is fresh, clean and scrubbed looking. Keep lawn trimmed and edged, and the yard free of refuse.
  • DECORATE. Faded walls and worn woodwork reduce appeal. A great investment for a higher rate of return would be to do something as simple as applying a fresh coat of paint to help brighten up the interior.
  • LET THE SUN SHINE IN. Open draperies, curtains, blinds and let buyers see how cheerful your home can be.
  • FIX THAT FAUCET! Dripping water can cause discoloration in sinks and could suggest faulty plumbing.
  • REPAIRS CAN MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE. Loose knobs, sticking and squeaking doors and windows, warped cabinet drawers, and other minor flaws can detract from a homes value – have them fixed. Some buyer’s believe there could be another ten problems for every one they have seen.
  • FROM TOP TO BOTTOM. Display the full value of any and all utilities spaces you may have by removing all unnecessary articles.
  • SAFETY FIRST. Keep stairways clear. Avoid cluttered appearances and possible injuries.2
  • MAKE CLOSETS LOOK BIGGER. Neat and well organized closets assist in showing of ample space within a closet.
  • BATHROOMS CAN HELP SELL HOMES. Check and repair caulking in bathtubs and showers. Make the bathroom sparkle!
  • NEATLY ARRANGE BEDROOMS. Remove and excess furniture. Use attractive bedspreads and freshly laundered curtains if they are installed.
  • HARMONIZE ELEMENTS. Radio and stereo on softly and the TV off. All lights on, drapes open. If it’s hot out, cool the house and if it’s cold outside, warm it up.
  • YOU CAN SELL PRIDE OF OWNERSHIP FASTER AND FOR MORE MONEY.  Cleanliness appeals to buyers. Put sparkle into your home, with a lot of focus on the bathrooms and kitchen.
  • WHEN ANY AGENT SHOWS YOUR HOME, REMEBER “THREE’S A CROWD”. Avoid having too many people present during showings, preferably let them and their agent have the house to themselves. Buyers could feel like an intruder and could hurry through the house.
  • MUSIC IS MELLOW. Turn down the blaring radio and off the television. Let the salesperson and buyers be able to talk, free of any disturbances. Soft, background music is good.
  • PETS UNDERFOOT? Keep pets out of the way – preferably out of the house. There are some people who are uncomfortable around animals.
  • SILENCE IS GOLDEN.  If you do remain at the house, be courteous – but don’t force conversation with the buyer. They are there to view the house.
  • BE IT EVER SO HUMBLE. Never apologize for the appearance of your home – it has been lived in. Let the trained sales associate answer any objections, this is their job.
  • PLEASE DON’T STAY IN YOUR HOUSE WITH HOUSE HUNTERS. Let the agent handle it, and remove yourself if you are able to. Remember, that agent has worked many hours with these people, and knows what they are looking for, and how to work with them. Let them do their job without interference. You may feel that an agent isn’t showing the important features o your home to their clients, but the agent knows people aren’t sold by details until they’ve become emotionally involved with the big picture. The presence of any member of the seller’s family cannot help, could unnerve possible buyers, and could even prevent a sale.
  • WHY PLACE THE CART BEFORE THE HORSE? Trying to dispose of furniture and furnishings to a potential buyer before they have purchased the house could possibly end up in a lost sale.
  • A WORD TO THE WISE. Let your agent discuss price, terms, possession, and other factors with buyers.

Home Buying: Online Shopping

What’s great about the internet, is that you can do a lot of your shopping online. Did you know that almost 3 out of 4 home buyers actually do their home shopping online!?! What is great about these online searches is that a consumer is able to narrow their search by shopping for specifics, for example the number of bedrooms, number of baths, square footage, garage/parking, lot size, and so much more. They can even narrow down by price range. Homes can be located by ZIP code, price, special features, video tours, pictures. The neighborhoods can be explored via aerial maps, crime statistics, school ratings, and so on.

Shopping online is not as easy as it may sound. (1) There is no single online location with all the listings available in a certain area. (2) You are not always seeing the “freshest” data, it some times takes time for these listings to update to the most current/recent information.

The most and the most recent listings can be made available via a real estate professional. Even if you find a listing through your internet search, confirm with your agent that all of the information for that property is current and correct. With the agents ability to access the local Multiple Listing Service, they will be able to research the necessary information quickly.

The internet is a great place when conducting home research. You can gain information about neighborhoods, home features, and other pertinent factors. It can help in eliminating or adding certain homes and with that research in hand, you’ll be better equipped to make a decision when it comes time to purchase.

Home Buying: Wish List

We have been covering so much information over the past couple of days, that it can be a bit overwhelming. So, lets go ahead and move forward to the fun part – creating a property wish list.

You may find that your opinions may change over time the more you view and shop for a home, so here is a list to help in prioritizing and in making the shopping less time consuming:

  • How close do you need to be to the following: Public transportation, schools, airport, shopping, other
  • What neighborhoods do you prefer
  • What school systems do you want to be near
  • What architectural style(s) of home do you prefer
  • Do you want a one- or two-story house
  • How old of a home would you consider
  • How much repair or renovation are you willing to do
  • Do you have special facility needs that your home must have
  • Do you require a fenced yard or other amenities

Next you should create a priority list, with taking into consideration some of the following items (as either a must have or a would prefer):

  • Yard (size)
  • Garage (size)
  • Patio/deck
  • Pool
  • Bedrooms (number)
  • Bathrooms (number)
  • Family room
  • Formal living room
  • Formal dining room
  • Eat-in kitchen
  • Laundry room
  • Fireplace
  • Spa in bath
  • Air-conditioning
  • Wall-to-wall carpet
  • Hardwood floors
  • View
  • Light – windows
  • Shade

Storage Strategies

Storage space for the kitchen is often in short supply. By paying attention to the details and smallest spaces in your kitchen, you may be able to create a more efficient and fun space for everyone.

For example, would it be helpful to reorganize the kitchen layout? Can you open up the space by removing doors or a wall? Is there space between the refrigerator and the dining room door? There may be room to add a small desk or counter for extra space and assistance in filing recipes, paying bills, etc. Cubbies can be added to the bottom of wall cabinets as storage for mail and stationery.

An appliance garage can be installed anywhere in the space between a wall-mounted cabinet and the countertop. Store similar items together and tailor shelf heights to meet those needs. This will maximize your space and make things easier to find.

Kitchen Style

There are so many options available when thinking about designing a kitchen hat it can seem overwhelming. Determining your style and how you wish to define your space can be a helpful place to start.

Think of a room where you have felt the most comfortable. What was so inviting about that area? Did the room seem open and spacious or cozy and intimate? Apply this preference to your kitchen. If you prefer a more open-feeling space, maximize light and minimize structural detailing. Keep countertops clear of clutter. Carry a neutral color throughout the walls, ceilings, and connected areas. Spots of color should be applied sparingly with area rugs, pillows, or a few dark pieces of furniture. Choose accessories that will provide a punch of color without detracting from the spacious feel of the room.

If you prefer a cozier kitchen, use bolder paint tones and decorate with splashes of patterns and color. Consider adding crown molding and wainscoting. Use a balance of pattern, texture, and color to create depth. Reds and yellows are said to stimulate appetite and conversation. Using white trim with these colors will make them pop.

After the basics of the room have been established, further your style by adding accessories you enjoy. Practicality and good looks can be created by an artful mix of basic elements and details. Remember, you can combine styles and mix traditional with contemporary or retro with romantic to cook up a kitchen that is uniquely yours.

Ideal of Happiness

This house is in a great location, but it was dated and lacked heart or any personality. Full of generic features, it felt like a house constructed by a builder as a speculative venture. Windows were stacked on top of each other from the floor to the top of the 14-foot-ceilings, soffits hung in the middle of rooms that made no sense, and the floor plan was so open, it robbed the home of any sense of discovery or unfolding revelations. The owners, who traveled extensively and collected objects on their journeys, asked Judy Fox, of Judy Fox Interiors, in Scottsdale, Arizona, to work her magic to transform the shell of a house into a beautifully custom-designed home. And so the reworking of this problem house with huge potential began.

Written By: Catriona Tudor Erler

Fox started by moving and adding walls and doors, removing soffits, and closing up some of the superfluous, huger-up windows. The entire house was rewired for a Lutron system for home lighting control. From central keypads, the owners now can control the lights throughout the entire house. She also added recessed lighting with cognac-colored filters to bring out the warmth in the wood. This particular color also gives a warm glow to women’s complexions that is particularly flattering.

Visitors entering the front door first enjoy the sound of falling water from the tiered fountain in the front courtyard. The newly made door has an ancient look, large and heavy with bold hardware. Antique seeded glass fills the sidelights. They let in light but maintain privacy with a lightly blurred transparency that gives an impressionistic feel to the view through the glass.

The slightly distressed floor has a basket-weave pattern of wood with travertine insets. The edges of the wood are beveled to give the illusion that the strips are weaving over and under each other. The wall niche was built and sized to accommodate the chest and the beautiful landscape painting that hangs over it.

The entryway flows into the living room. Here Fox added a wall to separate the living room from the dining room. With large-scale crown and base molding and fluted trim between the bookcase sections, this wall gives the room a rich, warm feeling. The bookcase houses many of the pieces collected by the family. Old books also line the shelves. To counterbalance the dark wood, onyx surrounds the fireplace, which is set on an able to the room. At her client’s request, Fox used a color palette of purples and greens for the fabrics.

The living room drapes, which break on the floor, are luxurious but simple. They are made of silk with a striped edgeband that matches the striped chairs that face each other opposite an antique chess table set nearby. In the same color palette, couches are upholstered with tapestry chenille with silk throw pillows. Fox designed the large coffee table with the beautiful burl wood inset center.

The kitchen is an elegant work space, superbly equipped with stainless steel appliances that are softened by the granite countertops and beautiful stained wood cabinets with oil-rubbed bronze pulls. On top of the main wall cupboards is a row of smaller cabinets with glazed doors and inside lighting. These smaller units help reduce the heaviness of the stained wood and provide an opportunity to display special objects. To add variety to the composition, the island has a contrasting cabinet door style from the wall cabinets, and the wood is painted an elegant hunter green. The thick granite countertop has an especially routed edge detail and corners that wind out to break up the straight lines in the room.

Tumbled stones on the wall behind the stove are set in a rotated basket-weave pattern with bronze dots set in the stone as accents. A spreading tree, hand painted by a local artist, decorates the hood above the cooktop.

A glazed door in the kitchen leads to the thermostatically controlled wine cellar. Centered on the wall opposite the door to the cellar is a downlit stone bas-relief of Bacchus. Because the door is glass, this striking sculputral feature can be enjoyed from the kitchen.

Like the dining room, the family room had a lot of clerestory windows that were visually busy and robbed the room of any sense of cozy nesting possibilities. Fox removed the upper windows and instead designed tall built-in bookcases. Here the owners display their collection of steins, plates, and other crockery. As in the living room. the fireplace is angled in the corner, opening its radius of focus in the room. A multicolored marble called “Santiago on the fireplace surround echoes the colors in the landscape painting that hangs over the mantle. The large, comfortable sectional sofa is upholstered in an antique chenille with a beautiful, textured warp and woof and accented with velvet throw pillows that also echo the color palette found in the painting over the fireplace.

Providing a restful center to the rooms is the custom coffee table designed by Fox. The ebonized finish is sandblasted to give it texture, making the surface very forgiving in terms of use. The table is a visual island of calm in this room designed as a haven from the hectic roil of everyday life.

Through the collaboration of the homeowners and Judy Fox, this house has been transformed into a home with a good floor plan; exquisitely proportioned, decorated, and furnished rooms that meet the needs and lifestyle of the owners; and the latest in modern “smart home” management technology.

5 Stunning Spaces + Saving Kitchens – #5 A Study of Minimalism


Written By: Ashley Gartland

Ask professional chefs what makes a great kitchen and they’ll tell you that less is more. By this, they mean that the most workable kitchens exist in streamlined space with a minimalist, albeit high-functioning, design. Of course, the flaw of such simplistically designed kitchens is that they often put the room’s outward appearances on the back burner while favoring functionality.

Fortunately, for homeowners desiring a professional-grade kitchen, the right finishes can transform a minimalist design into a timeless, clean-lined space that serves the needs to modern home chefs and acts as an aesthetically pleasing gathering place in their homes. Case in point is this striking, galley-style kitchen in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, designed by CKS Kitchens & Design.

Known for their tasteful, restrained designs, CKS kitchens such as this one are studies in minimalist looks that harbor clean lines and a minimum number of elements. In contrast to this simplicity, the designers then boosted this particular kitchen’s appeal by sourcing a combination of texturally rich finished that perfect the room’s modern  bent.

To mimic the inherent texture of the white oak, the designers paired it with a dark wenge wood surrounded on the range wall. A third wood – zebra wood – was then used for the modular table that appears to sprout organically from the end of the island.

To expand upon the natural feel they were creating in the kitchen, the designers sourced an organic-looking tile from Walker Zanger with a linear grain pattern that complements the cabinetry. For for countertops, they selected a honed granite in a light gray hue flecked with earthy green accents. Then, they turned their attention to the backsplash.

Beyond finding the ideal finishes, the designers aimed to create a kitchen as functional as it is flawlessly designed to meet the homeowners’ needs.

Simmons added a center island and framed it with ample workspace to accommodate the homeowners on both sides.

To keep these workspaces clear of clutter, the designers outfitted the room with large, deep storage drawers to make efficient use of the space; adjustable dish pegs inside the drawers can accommodate storing plates and dishes of various styles and sizes. Elsewhere, a butcher-block pullout located beneath the espresso machine provides an impromptu coffee-serving station, while the raised Sub-Zero wine cooler creates space for an extra storage drawer to fit beneath it.

For further storage, the designers also created a larger, streamlined organizational zone in the kitchen’s most surprising feature: the hidden pantry. To the left of the Sub-Zero refrigerator, what looks to be two cabinet doors is actually one large door that opens to reveal a large walk-in pantry.

Such intricate, well-planned design details showcase an end result that is achieved when the designers focus on a few main elements first, and then play up those elements with stunning finishes and functional features. In doing so, CKS designers created the very minimalist, high-functioning design favored by professional chefs and additionally made it an appealing gather space within the home.

5 Stunning Spaces + Saving Kitchens – #4 Master Mixologist


Written By: Ashley Gartland

Some kitchens are designed for cooking elaborate meals, while others are purposed as cozy, tucked-away retreats within the home, perfect for snatching a moment of solitude. And then there are those that through an inviting, open design become a gathering place created specifically for spending time with friends and family, be it through socializing or sitting down to eat a meal hot from the stove.

Such was the focus when Atlanta’s Pineapple House Interior Design collaborated with Design Galleria to create this elegant kitchen in Atlanta. Centrally located among a family room, a student lounge, a home office, and a loggia, this open kitchen acts as the home’s hub.

The room’s most unusual feature – the cooking alcove – greatly furthered the kitchen’s appeal as a gathering place by creating more open space. By tucking the cooking zone away but not out of sight, the designers opened up the already airy kitchen while also creating a striking focal point. To avoid creating a hot spot within the room and to keep the space well ventilated, the designers decided upon a generously wide entry; to beautify the space, they employed a commercial-grade gas range with a gorgeous custom hood made of stainless steel and copper. Additionally, this move made possible the option to turn one side of the island into a space for casual dining.

The same copper material found in the alcove reappears in a deep, sunken farmhouse sink surrounded by creamy, two-inch-thick marble perimeter counters. Beyond the sink, the designers integrated a hidden paneled refrigerator into a wall of cabinets that creates warmth through rich mahogany-posed material paired with oil-rubbed bronze hardware. However, the warmth of the cabinet material exudes is just at an act as the cabinets are actually composed of eco-friendly Lyptus wood by Design Galleria.

This varied combination of materials also showcases the designers’ second accomplishment within this space. While making it a hub for the home, they created a transitional look that combines classic design and natural elements while also being unique, clean, and comfortable. Achieving the marriage between the two looks was a tall but welcome challenge.

Classical elements are found in the aforementioned marble countertops and in the limestone subway pattern tile climbing up the kitchen’s walls. Additionally, the tile creates another striking focal point by introducing texture into the space.

Above the tile, the designer placed two decorative wall sconces that give a nod to the classical theme. And though they utilized an excess of recessed lighting – a necessity for any kitchen – the most noticeable light fixture here is also of the classical sort. In addition to the wall sconces, the designers hung an antique-style ironware chandelier that perfectly juxtaposes the kitchen’s natural features.

SKMBT_C35131230170001_0001One of the most noticeable natural features is the honed browned limestone counter that the designers set atop the robin’s egg blueisland.

Further playing up the natural and classical combination are the floors that ground the space. The flooring combines travertine with wood in a crisscross tiled floor pattern.

High above the flooring, a ceiling crafted from heavy beams and tongue-and-groove boards furthers the rhythmic feel of the design and creates an added air of intimacy.

To pull the space completely together, the designers added decorative elements but made certain they weren’t fussy so as not to detract from the kitchen’s striking architectural elements. Rich fabrics – such as the creme shagreen leather with charcoal accents covering the vintage chairs in the seating area – play up the space’s elegance; the custom kitchen table with hammered iron table base and sleek mocha glass top gleams invitingly to friends and family.

This table – and its key placement made possible by the designer’s ingenious design and an open kitchen layout – speak perhaps best of all to the kitchen’s main purpose. It is here that families and friends join together for meals and all manner of socializing, for this kitchen is the place to be.

5 Stunning Spaces + Saving Kitchens – #3 Modern Loft Challenge


Written By: Nicole Borgenicht

The transformation of a raw commercial space into this beautiful cooking and eat-in kitchen evolved from the sorcery of Kam Kamran, senior designer at Environetics. In working with a representative of the developer MJW for an artsy buyer seeking a functional living environment, some of the challenges incorporated exposed pipes, a limited budget, and tight space.

Kamran’s vast experience is composed of residential projects and enormous endeavors such as the Getty Center and Disney Productions. His ability to utilize architectural structures and fantastical colors with creative design signifies a mastery of any space. He used his magic wand of intuition, education, and experience to orchestrate a functional kitchen comprising all the required appliances along with an ambiance spirited for mealtime pleasure. Resembling the musical conductor, his air-drawn baton sketched every note of color; rhythmic pattern; and high-low, warm, and cool vibration.

Bright accessories generate a lighthearted mindset such as the red Rise and Shine sign over the kitchen cabinets. Within the confines of a limited space, he utilized reflective polished chrome appliances to broaden the look of the room. Mirror-like objects have an artistic feel that plays off his bright colors, adding depth and a cheerfully harmonious glow to the kitchen. He used natural light coming in from the large loft windows for the wide area and hung practical lights designating the long dining island.

Instead of hiding pipes and beams, they became part of the design by mimicking the dark shades of pipes with a gray stone counter and newly painted slate gray steel grid window frames, An outstretched multicolored carpet further lengthens and enlivens the mien of the kitchen. Kamran unified the color scheme by integrating a gamut of reds, slate grays, mustard, and a splash of lime.

The loft project falls in perfect synthesis with the Environtics mission, a company dedicated to modern designs with a positive envelope to the limit, yet within a reasonable schedule and budget, and ultimately to the client’s satisfaction. The client had an eclectic look in mind; one where old and new can mingle to create a modern yet inviting environment.

To most of us, fear would be forefront in facing lots of pipes in a confined space. Yet they are no problem to the ingenuity of modern design thinkers who immediately set up their plan for success.

Inverting the unknown to make it work for him, Kamran flipped the challenge of a limited budget into a more effective and dramatic design approach. Each conflict transpired into an aesthetic network of theme, purpose, and solution.

The final design is a whimsical interplay of objects, colors, and light – giving the kitchen an appearance of a lively, spacious work/eat atmosphere.

5 Stunning Spaces + Saving Kitchens – #2 From Cramped Galley to Spacious Gourmet


Written By: Robyn Roehm Cannon

These days, kitchens serve many purposes in family life that far exceed our need to cook dinner. In fact, they are frequently the most-used rooms in houses for relaxing, entertaining, and focusing on family and friends. But especially in older homes, kitchens are often cramped and poorly laid out for how we’d really like to use them.

Although Bruce Donnally is well known for large commercial projects like symphony halls and art galleries, Donnally’s real love is helping residential clients realize the spatial opportunities that exist within their homes by creating design solutions to improve the flow of the rooms.

Such was the case with one retired professional couple, owners of a 1940s-era home magnificently situated on a cliff overlooking Puget Sound. Both love to cook but felt trapped in a small galley-style kitchen in the back of the house, with no view of the water or connection to the dining and family room where they spend most of their time.

Before beginning the design process, Donnally engages his clients in dialogue first, making special note of their preferences and priorities.

By removing some interior walls, Donnally was able to reconfigure this client’s kitchen, dining, and family areas into an open and connected area that centers on the unobstructed view of the west. Today, the space is colorful and vibrant, thanks to the architect’s understanding of how to maximize natural light.

Donnally also worked with pendants and other low-volt-age sources to bounce light in the room.

Cabinets made of honey-colored English sycamore with lively fiddleback figuring, soft honed soapstone counters, and cork floors give the room a relaxed and quietly elegant look and feel.

Corner cabinets with hidden wire bins and a step stool that recesses into the toe kick of the base cabinet are features that maximize space and provide easy access to dishes and the pantry. Donnally laid out casework and appliances to accomodate his clients’ daily habits of food preparation, cooking, serving, and after-meal cleanup, so there’s no wasted foot traffic in the kitchen – just streamlined efficiency from station to station.

The back wall of the couple’s once dark and narrow galley kitchen invites the outdoors in. A glass wall of French doors opens to an ivy-covered courtyard set with a small trickling fountain, which serves as a cool green backdrop to the center island and the warmer tones within.