Downsizing to a white box

In less than two days I fly out to High Point NC for Spring Market. Although I have no business leaving town right now because of the house sale, but High Point Market is one of the high lights of my year and there is no way I would miss it. I get to reconnect with designer friends from all over the country and see all the latest furniture, lighting, accessories and design trends. I also get to spend some quality time with my Boston area designer friends and we have lot’s of catching up to do!

The good news on the house is that we have accepted an offer. As long as the home inspection goes smoothly and the purchase and sales agreement is signed we are on our way to our downsizing life style. We visited the apartment complex again last week. I wanted to take some measurements to see what we can and can’t take with us. Bottom line, it’s small….very small. One half my brain is filled with excitement about our soon to be carefree life style but the other side of my brain is screaming, “are you freaking crazy”?

Here is our future home. It’s basically a white box. To give you an idea of size, that back wall is only 9′ wide and I am standing with my back pressed against the glass door on the other side of the room. To the left of the kitchen is a 10′ x 10′ room that will be my office. Upstairs are two small bedrooms. It is exactly the spaces we need it’s just that all the spaces are very small.

Here is the other side of the unit. The glass door is the only natural light in the living/dining area. Also, don’t let that railing outside the door fool you into thinking there is a balcony. It’s only a safety railing so the occupants don’t fall (or jump) out. 

Even though the apartment is small we chose it for the location. It is a six minute drive to my husband’s job (and that’s with traffic) and it’s within walking distance of stores, restaurants, and coffee shops. The biggest plus for me is that driving to down town Boston will take about 20 mins vs. the 60-90+ mins it takes from where we live now. 

I am thinking of ideas for decorating it. I seem to remember HGTV had a designer white box challenge so I will have to see if I can find any of the episodes online for inspiration. Unfortunately I am not allowed to paint the walls. On the plus side though, look at all that blank wall space for artwork! I promise to share everything I do to make this white box feel like home. 

So what do you think? Exciting or crazy? I’ve heard both opinions within the past week so I promise you won’t offend me.

 I will be at High Point next week so I will not post my usual Tuesday blog. To see all the cool new things from Market be sure to follow me on Instagram  where I will be posting daily.

Shockingly bad photos and why I had to look at them

Our house finally went on the market…YEAH!! We had our first Open House on Sunday and we have high hopes of getting it sold ASAP. I will go on record and say that downsizing is not for the faint of heart…in fact, it sucks! However, one storage unit and five truck loads of charity donations later we are done. The feeling is one of relief although as soon as we get settled in our new place we need to address the storage unit. I just couldn’t do all the purging at once without having a breakdown. 

As far as our next home, my husband and I have decided that we will sit out the housing market for a year or so. We have rented a small apartment that is a stones throw from his job and within walking distance to restaurants, coffee shops, and grocery stores. It will be such a huge life style change for us after living in the country for the past twelve years. However, before we decided that an apartment was the way to go, I spent hours upon hours searching for a smaller house closer to Boston. Talk about DEPRESSING!!  Boston is currently the third most expensive real estate market in the US,  just behind San Francisco and New York City. Prices in Boston proper average $1,000/sq. ft.

It’s not that much better five to ten miles outside the city either. What were once very affordable and even sketchy towns are now “hot” and prices have sky rocketed 50% or more just within the past few years. Buyers often end up in a feeding frenzy with well priced homes in halfway decent condition selling WAY over asking price with multiple offers. I heard of one house just outside the city selling for $70K over asking with 17 offers the first day it went on the market….and the house hadn’t been updated in over 30 years! 

What is even more shocking to me though than the prices are some of the listing photos! Between all the pretty images I see daily on Instagram and Pinterest my eyes are not accustomed to viewing such shockingly bad photos. I just don’t get it. What are people thinking when they are listing their biggest asset (presumably) yet they don’t take the time to get a decent photo?

Here is an sampling of some of my favorite shockingly bad real estate photos. Keep in mind these are actual photos I pulled directly from the MLS listings. I did not edit them in any way and all of these photos are from homes priced between $500,000 and $650,000 just outside Boston. 

Poorly lit photos seem to the number one problem with bad real estate photos. This room might not be appealing even with the lights on but it’s hard to tell by this photo.

Bad and poorly lit real estate photo.

Not sure what the seller had in mind when posting this one. It’s hard to know if this house has been on the market since Christmas or the owner just likes a fully lit Christmas tree in their dark living room year round.

Bad real estate photo

I don’t know what is going on with that shinny textured pink wall but that roll of paper towels sure looks inviting on the leather chair. Also, for some reason there is a lamp on a lamp. Maybe they should have turned them both on before they took the photo.

bad real estate photo dark room

Pets in real estate photos are always a big no no but many sellers don’t get the memo. I don’t know what kind of hump back animal that is scurrying across that sofa but it looks like some nocturnal creature from the Outback.

The photo below is even stranger. It appears to be some kind of tiny animal house but it looks too small for a cat. Whatever or whoever it’s for, it’s obviously important since the seller went to great pains to place it just so at the foot of the bed. There is even a larger one against the wall for when whatever it is grows up.

Besides pets, there are never ending photos of rooms filled with odd objects. If I had to guess, maybe a disassembled pipe organ? The exercise bike on the braided rug is a nice touch don’t you think?

The next photo is half way decent as far as lighting goes but the garden hoe leaning against the cabinet spoils it for me. On the plus side, I’m so busy wondering why there is a garden hoe in the kitchen that I am distracted from the too busy back splash fighting with the speckled granite.

Really??? The seller couldn’t take two seconds to close the lid before taking the photo? Although maybe they wanted to show that they cleaned the toilet for the first time ever!bad real estate photo

If you want to see some of the ugliest painted rooms look no further than the online real estate photos. Nothing says a restful bedroom more than neon red walls, or maybe they are orange, it’s hard to tell.

Bad angles of rooms are another problem. The way this photo was taken it appears as if those beams are 4 feet off the ground. Hopefully that’s not the case or the buyer pool will be severely limited.bad real estate photosI especially like the photo below. I can just imagine the mom saying to her teenage son, “now pick up all those jerseys before the photographer gets here”. Too bad the room has no closet and they have to be hung on the drapery rod…or maybe those are the drapes?

Bad real estate photo

This next photo is probably my favorite. The home looked beautiful online and was already under agreement after one day but it looks like the seller forgot to measure the windows before they went out and bought drapes for the photos.

Too long drapes

Or maybe they just got a really good deal on 150″ long drapery. Every room had ridiculously long drapes pooling on the floor.

too long drapes

Now that we have decided to rent I no longer have to subject myself to viewing these terrible images. Too bad they didn’t read any of my blog posts on how to take better cell phone photos since these all look to be taken with a phone camera.

I hope these photos have added a little comic relief to what has been a stressful news week. 

How about you? Have you seen some shockingly bad real estate photos lately?

How I updated a 32 year old kitchen without replacing the cabinets

It’s been a while since I have written a before and after post but today I have a good one for you. I recently completed a kitchen make over for a lovely couple who had a challenging request. They wanted a fresh looking updated kitchen but they did not want to replace the cabinets or the appliances. When I went to see their kitchen for the first time it was indeed dated. They had designed the kitchen themselves 32 years ago when they first purchased the home. 

The kitchen was quite large and nice and bright but the white laminated cabinets, white laminate counter tops and white 4″ x 4″ back splash tiles made it feel cold and somewhat hospital like. The only color in the room were the dated red metal blinds.

Before photo dated kitchen white laminate cabinets white tile

BEFORE

What my client’s loved about their kitchen was the layout. They are both passionate cooks and initially designed the kitchen around their cooking and entertaining needs which they said has not really changed. Although the cabinets were old they were solid wood and of high quality and in surprisingly good shape. Their insistence to keep the cabinets was somewhat related to budget but even more of a factor was that they did not want the dust and disruption of ripping out what they felt were perfectly good cabinets. The appliances were also staying because they were less than two years old (except for the cook top and trash compactor).

BEFORE photo of dated kitchen with white laminate cabinets and counter tops

BEFORE

They did request a smaller tv in the kitchen because they like to watch cooking shows while they cook but their old boxy tv ate up too much space and was an unsightly black hole.

Before photo of dated white kitchen with TV in cabinets

BEFORE

The one area that didn’t function for them was this desk tucked into a small wall at the back of the kitchen. The deep overhanging laminate counter top became a clutter gathering zone and the clients never used it as a desk. What they did need was a recycling center as you can see by the newspapers and bags collected on the stools. Also, the cabinets below were so shallow and it was such a hassle getting into them that they were essentially useless.

BEFORE photo of non functioning desk in dated kitchen

BEFORE

So, my clients asked me to come up with a plan that would allow them to keep the cabinets and appliances, find a spot for a smaller TV, and create a recycling center where the desk currently was. Also on the wish list was: new counter tops, new flooring, new back splash, hardware, sink, faucet, an induction cook top and a wine cooler to replace the trash compactor.

Here is the new updated kitchen.

Gray subway tile back splash white cabinets , open shelves in kitchen

AFTER Emily O’Brien Photography

To give the kitchen a little more visual interest and to break up three full walls of cabinets we removed the upper cabinets on the sink wall and used budget friendly subway tiles on the entire wall. Two sturdy open shelves hold their everyday dishes and new blue and tan roman shades pick up the colors in the adjoining sun room.

white cabinets, open shelving, subway tiles, cork floor white kitchen

AFTER-Emily O’Brien Photography

Now I know it’s hard to believe these are the same cabinets but they are. My contractor kept all the cabinet boxes but replaced the existing laminate doors and drawers with new shaker style wood doors and drawers. On the sides of the cabinets that were exposed he applied a thin sheet of plywood over the laminate and it was painted to match.

The floor decision actually ended up being the most challenging. The homeowners were on totally opposite pages about what they wanted. One wanted tile, the other wanted wood and neither wanted vinyl. After weeks of weighing multiple options we ended up choosing a solid warm gray colored cork. The floor has the appearance of a wood floor but is soft and there are no worries about water spills. It was easy to install as it came in planks that snapped together just like engineered wood floors. Both clients got what they wanted. 

The new induction cook top is Bosch .

gray subway tiles, open shelving, Beale pull down faucet, quartz counter tops

AFTER

The faucet is the new Beale pull down touchless faucet by American Standard.  We chose Top Knobs for the hardware and the new counter tops are Silestone Blanco Orion quartz.  Quartz was a great option because my clients loved the look of marble counters but wanted something that would wear like iron. We also eliminated the curved counters and corner cabinets and squared it off for a cleaner and more modern look.

Silestone Blanco Orion

This is what I came up with for the TV. We replaced that origional open box with a full length new door which added extra hidden storage and the TV is now mounted on the side cabinet and can be flipped out or pushed flat as desired.

white cabinets, roman shade, tv in kitchen, white refrigerator

To fix that non functioning desk area, we replaced the existing shallow cabinets with brand new deep cabinets that house smooth gliding, pull out recycling bins. These are the only cabinets that are new.

white kitchen cabinets quartz counter tops

AFTER

They now use that area as the coffee station with recycling below. We also replaced the flat trim with something more traditional and truer to the style of the house. 

Here is the before one more time

BEFORE

and the after

AFTER

Once again the before:

BEFORE

And the after:

AFTER

I want to go on record and say I would not recommend keeping thirty year old cabinets when doing a kitchen make over but in this particular case it worked and my client’s have absolutely no regrets. The final addition will be a new 15″ wine cooler just to the right of the sink where the trash compactor is now. They don’t plan to make the purchase until this Summer though and I didn’t want to wait that long to get photos.

Lastly, I know the limitations of my iPhone so a huge thanks to architectural photographer Emily O’Brien for the AFTER photos.

Please let me know in the comments below what you think.

 

My lucky red Feng Shui closet

After I mentioned our red closet in last week’s post and explained how it has brought me so much luck after following Feng Shui recommendations, I received multiple requests asking to please show the closet.

In case you missed last weeks post, here is a quick recap. I hired a Feng Shui consultant to come and do a walk through of our house shortly after we purchased it (12 years ago). It turned out our “wealth area” on the Feng Shui bagua map was our master closet. At the time of purchase, the walls were never painted, just primed matte white and they were all scuffed up. The closet had cheap wire shelving along one wall and as soon as we moved in, it became an unorganized mess. I wish I had a before photo but I will tell you it was bad. 

Here is our closet today.

My side of the closet

Now, just to remind you, the closet is staged for putting the house on the market. It’s usually clean with very little clutter but not this clean nor this uncluttered. My shoes are stored in those hat boxes because they looked too messy on the shelves.

Hubby’s side of closet

The first change our Feng Shui consultant told us to make to increase the good vibes of our home’s wealth area was to paint the walls red. He then suggested cabinetry to keep it clean and organized. Finally, he advised us to keep symbols of wealth in plain view such as jewelry, a glass jar filled with coins, and vacation photos. We did every single thing he suggested and for the past twelve years I have won more contests and have had better luck than I ever had before. 

So there you have it. Our lucky red closet. 

Several of you also asked where the “wealth area” is located. I am not a Feng Shui expert by any means but from what I understand, the wealth area is the farthest left corner of the house (as you are facing the front door) and that is where our closet is located.

I’m going to miss several things about our current house but I think I will miss my closet the most.

 

 

Could a red envelope and what’s inside help sell our house?

It’s been quite a month. Between traveling to Spain with Tile of Spain and then immediately heading cross country to LA to attend the Design Bloggers Conference, I have been MIA these past two weeks and I apologize. Add in the huge stress I have been under as we finish up purging and cleaning to get our house ready to list and it’s amazing I am still standing. (Well Last week I wasn’t but I won’t get into that).

Today I have a great story for you. Twelve years ago when we first bought our house (the same one we are now selling) I met a guy who was a Feng Shui master. Since we bought our house from a family with a very sick child I asked him if he would come do a cleansing and give it some good mojo. I knew very little about Feng Shui at the time other than the basics. He did his thing and told me the house actually had great energy and made a few suggestions for what would improve it even more. The biggest change we made was to our walk in master closet.

It turned out that our “wealth center” on the Feng Shui bagua map was our cluttered, and messy master closet.  When he said our closet was stifling us financially, I told him I would do anything required to fix that! I did every thing he told me to do including major organization, painting the inside walls red, putting some jewelry on display and filling a jar with extra pocket change. I also put a large amethyst and some photos on the shelf that represented abundance. At the time I didn’t know what would happen but I figured I had nothing to loose so why not?

Well one week later almost to the day of finishing up with all the master closet changes I won a $1,000 gas card. Up until then, I had never won a single thing in my life! Two weeks after winning the free gas I won a $500 Amex gift card and shortly after that I won both a business raffle and a free dinner for two. It was flipping crazy but the honest to God truth. To this day I continue to be “lucky” and my family jokes that it’s all because the master closet. 

So, this brings me to the red envelope story. While at the Design Bloggers Conference I roomed with my friend Amanda Gates. Amanda specializes in Feng Shui so I asked her if she had any Feng Shui tips to help get the house sold. She told me to take something from the kitchen (a screw from a cabinet) and mail it to her in red envelope. Okay, I’m sure you think this is voodoo crazy but after my master closet experience I didn’t even question it. 

This past weekend we took a small screw out of the back of a cabinet. Amanda said I needed to mail it in a red envelope but I had no idea where I would find a single red envelope. Now this is where is gets freaky. I have an old shoe box filled with one of a kind notes and pretty cards that I pick up here and there. I don’t know why I didn’t put the box it into storage because I rarely write personal notes but for some reason I didn’t. I thought I would at least look inside but I highly doubted there was a red envelope in the box. When I took the lid off  the box this is what I saw.

I KID YOU NOT! I had chills all over my body and couldn’t text Amanda fast enough. I have absolutely no memory of this red envelope and it was even stranger because there was no accompanying card, just a single red envelope sitting right on top of the pile. I know there is absolutely no explaining this or even making sense out of it. Amanda though, took it all in stride and texted back, “On one hand extraordinary on the other hand, welcome to my world of magic”.

So this morning I mailed my red envelope with a kitchen cabinet screw inside. I sent it with love and intention and soon it will be in Amanda’s hands. Our house goes on the market in less than two weeks so we are grateful for whatever help Amanda can give us. I will be sure to keep you updated as to what happens with the sale. If it sells quickly, Amanda might have a side line business to incorporate into her practice!

Speaking of Amanda, she has a book coming out soon called “Detoxing Clutter with Feng Shui”. If you’re interested in getting on the list for copy just click HERE.  Amanda told me she has a chapter on dealing with family heirlooms that need to be honored and not simply tossed or randomly donated. I have a storage locker filled with that kind of stuff so I can’t wait!

How about you? Do you practice Feng Shui or have a story to share?

More 2017 Tile trends that blew me away!

Get ready for some more serious tile eye candy because today is part two of the six tile trends I spotted at the Spanish tile show Cevisama. If you missed my first three trends you can catch up here.

Today’s post is mostly photos so grab a cup of coffee, sit back and enjoy.

4.Textile inspired tiles: Textiles and porcelain have teamed up to create some beautiful new options for tiles. Some of tiles looked so much like fabric that I had to to touch them to believe they were porcelain. Plaids, prints, even herringbone tiles were on display at the show.

textile inspired tiles:Linda Holt Photo

textile inspired tiles:Linda Holt Photo

Shagreen (shark or ray skin) which is so popular right now for case goods is now also an option for a tile. You can’t tell in the photo but they feel exactly like real shagreen.

Shagreen tiles: Linda Holt Photo

Shagreen tiles: Linda Holt Photo

Plaid which is also trending for interiors was spotted on tiles. Wouldn’t this Burberry inspired plaid be fun for a powder room floor?

Plaid Tile: Linda Holt Photo

Plaid Tile: Linda Holt Photo

These new textile inspired tiles are possible because of new advances in both 3-D and ink jet printing technology. It’s amazing what they can do now that even a few years ago was not possible.

textile inspired tiles:Linda Holt Photo

textile inspired tiles:Linda Holt Photo

These white textile inspired tiles are right on trend yet have a longer “shelf life” than some of the bolder statement tiles above.

Linda Holt Photo

Linda Holt Photo

One of my favorites was this white lace tile. The tile is on top and the fabric inspiration is shown below it.

Linda Holt Photo

Linda Holt Photo

5. Metallic tiles: Some of the metallic tiles I saw were my favorite of the show.

Metallic Tiles: Linda Holt Photo

Metallic Tiles: Linda Holt Photo

Tiles that resemble hammered or oxidized metal were especially popular. I see these being used more in a commercial space but they were absolutely gorgeous. The sizes and shapes varies from planks to large squares. These metallic tiles behind a vintage leather sofa reminded me of vintage gym lockers or the grill on a radiator cover.

Metallic tiles: Linda Holt Photo

Metallic tiles: Linda Holt Photo

These 3-D metallic tiles were another one of my show favorites.

3-D metallic tiles:Linda Holt Photo

3-D metallic tiles:Linda Holt Photo

These copper looking wall tiles would make a beautiful statement black splash in a kitchen.

Metallic tiles:Linda Holt Photo

Metallic tiles:Linda Holt Photo

Linda Holt Photo

Linda Holt Photo

6. Geometric tiles: are hot hot hot! Not only for shape but in lay out as well.

Linda Holt Photos

Linda Holt Photos

Hexagon shaped tiles had a large presence at the show as did triangular and rhombus shaped designs.

Linda Holt Photo

Linda Holt Photo

Linda Holt Photo

Linda Holt Photo

Linda Holt Photo

Linda Holt Photo

Linda Holt Photo

Linda Holt Photo

So that wraps it up! I hope you enjoyed my tile trend pictorial. I want to give a huge thank you to Tile of Spain for opening my eyes to all the many choices in tiles today from Spain. My head is spinning with ideas and I can’t wait for my next project where I can specify tiles.

I’d love to hear from you. Which tile trend is your favorite?

2017 tile show: Not your mama’s tiles

Last week I had the incredible good fortune of spending a week with Tile of Spain attending the Spanish tile show called Cevisama. It’s almost impossible to put into words just how amazing the show was but I took lot’s of photos so that I could share what is happening in the world of tiles.

The popularity of tiles is growing and according to ASCER (The Spanish Ceramic Tile Manufactures Association) the quantity of tiles imported into the USA grew by 22.6% from 2015 to 2016. Due to advances in technology like 3-D printing and new inkjet printers, tiles are taking on innovative new shapes, patterns and colors.

After going through all my hundreds of images I spotted six trends to share with you in photos. Today I will share trends 1-3. Next week I will wrap it up with part two and share trends 4-6.

  1. Wood look tile: Tiles that resemble wood was by far the biggest trend I saw at the show. Even though wood look tiles have been around for awhile they haven’t been all that convincing. New technologies however have made it almost impossible to tell the difference between porcelain and real wood. Even the touch feels just like wood. The vendors I spoke with said wood tiles are currently their number one export.
Porcelain wood tiles: Linda Holt Photo

Porcelain wood tiles: Linda Holt Photo

Porcelain wood tiles come in a variety of plank sizes and mostly neutral colors. The grain is clearly visible and the hottest trend is distressed looking wood. Look at the image on the bottom right on my composite photo above. Do you know what that is? It is “water stained wood”. Yes, I had to have that clarified but they actually make tiles that are an exact replica of water damaged wood. This is one trend I personally would steer clear of but in the right space it could be wonderful.

Porcelain wood tiles: Linda Holt Photo

Porcelain wood tiles: Linda Holt Photo

Tile planks laid in a chevron or interlocking pattern were also popular at the show. The distressed blue, gray and brown tiles on the bottom right below won a “best of show” award. How about these tiles below? Looks just like aged wood but it’s porcelain. I think it would make a great accent wall.

Porcelain wood tiles: Linda Holt Photo

Porcelain wood tiles: Linda Holt Photo

The technology to achieve this look is very new and you can bet you will be seeing even more of this.

2. 3-D tiles. The latest technology with 3-D printers has revolutionized the tile industry and has created some of what I think are the most exciting options today for wall tiles.

3-D tiles: Linda Holt Photo

3-D tiles: Linda Holt Photo

The variety at the show was amazing and for those who want something a little more interesting than plain subway tiles, these 3-D tiles could be the answer.

3-D porcelain tiles: Linda Holt Photo

3-D porcelain tiles: Linda Holt Photo

3. Porcelain Encaustic tiles: Old world encaustic tiles were traditionally made from cement. Today with new inkjet printers porcelain tiles can be an exact replica of the traditional encaustic tiles but the advantage of porcelain is that it weighs less (less shipping costs) and is much more durable than cement.

porcelain encaustic tiles: Linda Holt Photo

porcelain encaustic tiles: Linda Holt Photo

I would love to find a client who would go for these, maybe for a powder room or a sun room floor?

Porcelain encaustic tiles: Linda Holt Photo

Porcelain encaustic tiles: Linda Holt Photo

As far as colors, I was told that grays continue to be the most popular colors for North America with whites, creams, and other light neutrals not far behind. One manufacture told me he sees the color taupe on the rise so it will be interesting to see if taupe overtakes the popularity of grays in the coming year.

I hope you enjoyed my tile pictorial and be sure to check out next Tuesday’s post with the final three trends.

Which of these first three trends is your favorite?

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