Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Arranging Artwork

Artwork should relate to the surrounding furniture in weight, scale, and line. Is it the right size and shape? Do the colors create harmony with the furnishings? Is it too prominent or does it look lost? Does it fit the style and use of the room? Once these critical evaluations are made, you are ready to position the artwork.

Place the center of the artwork or grouping at eye level. Remember that eye level changes depending on the activity in the room, whether people will be primarily seated as in a dining room or standing as in a hallway. Artwork should relate to the surrounding furniture in weight, scale, and line. Is it the right size and shape? Do the colors create harmony with the furnishings? Is it too prominent or does it look lost?

If you are hanging a group of objects together, lay the actual objects out on the floor in the proposed arrangement. Step back and look at the arrangement from a distance. Is there a common theme tying these pieces together? Is there vertical and horizontal order to the arrangement? Does your eye travel smoothly from one object to the next? Or does one area jump out at you or look lopsided? Rearrange the objects in the grouping until it is visually pleasing.

Once you get it right, make paper templates of each picture, plate, or whatever object before hanging. Use masking tape to place the templates to the wall where you want the arrangement to go. Stare at it. See if it works. It’s much easier to move paper than repair nail holes. Use the templates to mark where the hanging hardware needs to go, instead of marking up your walls. Anchor the hardware to the wall through the paper templates, then just tear them away.
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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Choosing the Right Accessories

In Steel Magnolias, Dolly Parton put it well when she said,
“The only difference between us and the animals is our ability to ACCESSORIZE!”

Choosing the perfect accessories is an area of design that really stumps people, because there are very few, if any, rules. Accessories are the least functional design elements. They are more personal and simply an expression of individuality, taste, and interest. I tell my clients just to pick what they really, really love, and let their personality come through.

The only real mistake I see is buying too many little tiny things, instead of good quality, larger scale items. This usually means the client hasn’t built up enough confidence in their own taste and is easy to overcome. The same guidelines of size, shape, weight, balance can be considered so that a particular piece fits its environment, but most accessories should be chosen for their beauty alone. While accessories can perform a function, their main role is to be looked at and enjoyed.

The real problem with accessories is, most people don’t have enough. Once again, I don’t mean little chotchkes, I mean enough nice accessories that have presence and give definition to their location in the room. Some designers say that at least 25% of your furnishing budget needs to go to accessories. Most people don’t even come close to that. After they are finished purchasing their large furniture pieces, they usually spend very little to finish the room. What they buy looks wrong just because it is so alone. Next time you are admiring a photo in a magazine or coveting a designer showhouse and lamenting your lack of design ability, count the number or floral or greenery arrangements in those rooms. Then count the decorative objects. Compare those numbers to what you see in your home. I think you’ll see that in this case more is more. And, in the more spare contemporary settings, less is just bigger and bolder.

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Ways To Make Better Use of Home Office Space

If you have a cramped, inefficient home office, you can transform it into a roomy, functional work space. The right furniture combined with a little creativity (and the strength to remove any furniture that is not serving a specific purpose) can help you make the most of your home office space.

1. Make your office flexible by using modular furniture. As your needs change, simply move your office furniture around. Consider function over aesthetics. But don’t buy cheap furniture that will fall apart after two moves. Check out furniture dealers and office furniture stores (not just the office supply superstores) to find quality home office furniture.

2. Use sturdy shelves or tall bookcases to store books, reference materials and supplies nearby. Don’t overload the shelves. The heavier books should be on the bottom shelf. (I know that’s common sense but people forget that.) Store similar items together and place these items strategically. Keep books you refer to often within reach while supplies and other materials you use less frequently should be placed on higher or lower shelves instead of middle shelves.

3. Make one piece of furniture serve more than one purpose. For example, the top of a lateral file cabinet can double as an extra surface for a paper cutter, fax machine, copier, etc. An antique dresser (something I used in a former home office) looks nice and can be functional.

4. Be creative and use two file cabinets with a board across them for an extra surface. I used to recommend that to clients long before a certain retailer offered this option in their catalogs. This trick used to be reserved for starving college students but I've seen expensive home offices furnished this way using high-quality file cabinets and durable surfaces.
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Monday, November 24, 2008

The Perfect Arrangement

Finding the perfect office arrangement is as easy as A-B-C or in the case of home offices, U,L,P and V. The beauty of having a home office is that you can set it up any way you like. Your only constraints are budget and available square footage. Choose one of these four arrangements to make your home office more functional, productive and inviting. (After all, if you don't like your home office, you won't use it.)

• The U-shaped work area, the ideal of all four, allows you to keep everything within reach on three surfaces. If you tend to save too much however, limit the amount of open surfaces in your office. I know, you’ll just put things on the floor, but get in the habit of putting things away or at least storing them somewhere other than the floor
• The L-shaped work area offers the important advantage of getting equipment off your desk and onto a secondary surface, without taking up as much room as the U.

• With the parallel work area (the P shape), you place one surface in front of the other and still have two places to work. Your desk could be in front of a credenza or a sideboard.
• The fourth and least used is the V or corner arrangement. If home office space is tight, make use of often unused corners. You'll have a surface in front of you (ideal for your monitor) and surfaces angled to the left and right.

Whichever arrangement you choose depends primarily on the size of your office, the type of furniture you have and how much work surface you need. Keep in mind that if someone else is sharing your office, you may be limited to the type of arrangement you can use. Also, consider facing your desk to the door. I like knowing if someone has walked into the room. With two boys, that’s usually not a problem, but you never know.
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Whether you need to sell your home or want to take advantage of the market and flip a house for profit, being informed and choosing the right approach can make all the difference, especially in the current real estate market. Take a hard look at your neighborhood, the surrounding areas, your property and its place in the market before you set a price, set a goal, or set an expectation. How much do you want to get for it? How much do you need to get for it? Will you have to spend money to get that price? Are other home sellers in your area getting that much? Really?

This is not the time for wishful thinking. Don't overlook the costs you'll incur once the house is on the market, particularly if the house is unoccupied. It will be necessary to carry homeowners insurance, pay for the utilities, keep the house clean, and maintain the yard. To protect new appliances and other interior improvements, a security system might be required.
Now, take a hard look at your resources. How much time do you have available to put into the project? How much cash are you willing to front until the house sells? How much talent and ability do you have? Do you have the temperament for coping with a remodeling project? Are you sure? Now you can determine which category your house falls into and the best plan of action.


If you have found a real steal on a home or have been living in a home that has been paid off for years, and you lack the HGTV gene, you may not feel inclined to go for top dollar. It is tempting to clean the house, set a lower price, and promote it as a "fixer-upper". However, this can backfire. Most potential buyers cannot see past disrepair or deterioration and are unwilling to take it on. The house can sit on the market longer than expected, despite being a "bargain".
A better plan is to do three crucial improvements. First, make any needed repairs before they show up on an inspection report. Second, stage the home. If it is occupied, this will remove excess furnishings and distracting window treatments, giving it an updated look. If it is unoccupied, a few accessories, potted plants, fresh flowers, even lamps, strategically placed, can call attention to positive features and make the house look less bleak. Finally, finish with a fresh coat of paint in a neutral color throughout the house. These improvements put the house into move-in condition with broadens your market, and they pay for themselves at closing.

The current market conditions have caught many in the situation where there is little room in the sales price for any improvements, but the house still needs to get sold. Time becomes a major factor because monthly payments keep on rolling, reducing potential equity by hundreds to thousands of dollars every month that the house sits on the market. It could be necessary to do some strategic updating to prevent a loss.
The best approach with this scenario is to start with the improvements for the "Fixer Upper" -- repairs, new paint, and staging. Real estate numbers have proven that staged homes sell faster and for more money than un-staged homes. If the budget allows, take the improvements one step further by adding a few low cost high return design elements like distinctive cabinet hardware, framed bathroom mirrors, or upgraded light fixtures to give an updated, high-end quality to the home, and make it stand out.

Some of the older neighborhoods have had substantial appreciation, and the value of the surrounding in-fill houses can justify investing in a major redo on your home to sell it for top dollar. But, doing this requires money, time, and knowledge with no guarantee of profit. Being competitive with the new homes in your area might require updating mechanicals to bring them up to code, replacing windows, roofs, floors, etc.
Make the kitchen outstanding with new appliances, countertops, backsplash, and probably, new cabinetry. Give the master bath a facelift that includes new fixtures and tile. The floor plan might also need reconfiguration to open rooms up or create more storage. Focus on "high-impact" elements that will create an emotional connection with potential buyers and make your house memorable. Finish off with staging to guarantee maximum effect.
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