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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.I 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?
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.
Or maybe they just got a really good deal on 150″ long drapery. Every room had ridiculously long drapes pooling on the floor.
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?
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?
Don’t you just love the start of a new year? January 1st is the ultimate do over, the slate is wiped clean for a fresh start.
Exactly one year ago the new year truly was a fresh start for me because I had just finished up with 8 months of cancer treatments. I didn’t set any goals for 2016 other than to live life to the fullest and hold on to what I had learned from having cancer.
For the most part I did just that. I embraced every opportunity the universe put in front of me. I traveled to Las Vegas, Atlanta, Italy, High Point NC and London and I made some wonderful new friends through these trips. I was busy with design jobs and worked only with clients that I chose to work with. I took the time to reconnected with friends from the past and for the first time in my life I took time to recharge and not feel guilty about “doing nothing”.
January 2017 though feels different. Last year at this time I was simply happy to be alive. This year I feel like I need to jump off the high board. I want to do something big and challenging and step out of my comfort zone in a big way. I’m just not exactly sure what it looks like. I can “feel it” but I can’t “see it”.
I keep thinking about this quote from Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll and in all honesty I don’t know where I want to go. Do you ever feel this way?
Maybe I don’t know where I want to go because there are too many places to go and roads to choose from. The thing is, I want to go down ALL the roads. I want to continue growing my design business and blog. I want to spend more time on my photography. I want to write a book teaching designers how to take better photos using the iPhone. I want to travel as much as possible and I want to focus on my personal life and my relationship with my husband. I want to spend more time with friends and I want to take the time to prepare healthy food and exercise. I want the biggest life possible but I can’t find the one road that will take me there.
On the flip side, I want to to simplify my life as much as possible. I want to declutter even more. I am ready to let go of our big house and a life time of collecting “stuff”. I am ready to live with less yet have more.
I want to simplify and expand all at the same time.
So as I head into 2017 I feel both fear and excitement. I don’t know where I am going but I know it will be a year of change, challenges and stepping out of my comfort zone.
Happy New Year to you all and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for following along on my journey and for reading this blog.
As always, I would love to hear from you. Do you know where you are going in 2017?
I originally wrote this post two years ago. It’s about a woman named Gail Cronin and her cranberry squares and it’s my own personal Christmas story. Since I have many new readers I thought it was appropriate to share this post once again.
This story actually began over thirty years ago, when I was a newlywed. My husband and I for a reason I no longer remember decided to give up our convenient but very noisy apartment in Harvard Square and move to an idyllic little coastal town North of Boston called Ipswich.
On one of our very first weekends living there we stopped by a Church Christmas fair that was being held around the corner from our new apartment. While looking over the offerings at the bake table I bought some delicious looking cranberry squares. They were the best cranberry squares I had ever eaten (actually they were the first cranberry squares I had ever eaten). I asked the woman at the bake table if she knew who had made them and if it was possible to get the recipe. She took my number and said she would inquire. I really didn’t expect to ever hear anything back, but the very next day I received a call from a very sweet elderly lady named Gail Cronin. She not only said she would love to share the recipe but would like it even more if I would come for a visit and have some tea.
The following weekend I paid a visit to Gail. She was the sweetest and kindest woman. She was well into her eighties and what she told me I have never forgotten. She explained that she was an only child who never married. She had no family whatsoever and most of her friends had either passed on or were ill and in nursing homes. She told me she was an “unremarkable woman” who had lived an “unremarkable life”. Her final words struck me profoundly when she said, “when I die, it will be like I never even existed”.
I just couldn’t shake off how sad I felt for her and how very alone she was. I promised to pay her another visit right after the holidays. Well not surprisingly I got busy and the holidays came and went and I never did contact Gail. A couple months later, I saw her obituary in the Ipswich newspaper. I barely knew this woman but in some weird way I felt like I had failed her since I broke my promise to visit her after the holidays. Her final words of “when I die it will be like I never even existed” haunted me. I made a vow that I would never forget her and that I would keep her name and my memory of her alive. I can honestly say, I have done just that. For over thirty years I have been making Gail’s Cranberry Squares every Christmas. Originally my family thought it somewhat strange that I pay tribute to basically a stranger but they know it wouldn’t be Christmas without Gail’s Cronin’s cranberry squares.
As it turned out, we lived in Ipswich less than eight months then moved back to Boston. Now I am not a religious person but I am somewhat spiritual. In looking back, I know something, or someone guided me to Gail Cronin. I spent less than an hour with her over 30 years ago yet she has been a part of our Christmas ever since.
Here is the recipe for Gail Cronin’s Cranberry Squares.
I want to wish you all a very Happy Holiday and Happy New Year and if you have any inclination, please raise a toast to the memory of “an unremarkable woman” who had an “unremarkable life” named Gail Cronin. I have never forgotten her, and I never will.
Also, be sure to check back for Tuesday’s blog where I share five tips for taking better holiday photos with your iPhone.
I have had quite a remarkable past 12 months. It’s coming up on one year since I heard the words, “you have invasive breast Cancer…and it’s an aggressive form”. Since then, I have gone through seven months of treatments, lost my hair and then much to my surprise found out everyone thinks I look better without hair anyway!(or very little hair).
Once my treatments finished things started to look up. In January of this year I was invited (thanks to the most awesome Veronika Miller) to participate in BlogTourVegas with Modenus. It was a transformative trip for me and one I still keep close to my heart. Then in March I attended my first ever Design Blogger’s Conference which changed everything about how I approach blogging. Then to top it all off, I was chosen to be an official High Point Design Blogger.
In between all these wonderful happy events, my husband was told he was being relocated to North Carolina for work, then three weeks later, that he was not being relocated, he was being laid off. (He has since started a new job but the stress during that time was intense).
As I look back over the past 12 months I have experienced some of my lowest lows and my highest highs. Tonight however will be a high as I will be pulling up by water taxi to this Marriott Hotel in Venice Italy and that in itself is another crazy, unplanned and unexpected life happening.
You see while I was at the Design Bloggers Conference there was an auction for a trip to Italy to benefit the charity Dwell With Dignity. Before the bidding opened Adam Japko of Esteem Media (the organizer of the trip) showed a video of a homeless family moving into their new home. I was in tears by the end of the video and so moved that I was compelled to place an opening bid simply to “get the bidding started”. I quickly was outbid and honestly never gave it another thought….then something “cosmic” happened.
The morning Adam was to announce the winner, my roommate Amanda Gates told me it was a lunar eclipse and that something life changing could happen to me. I couldn’t imagine anything life changing happening while seated in a function room all day listening to speakers. Well low and behold the lunar eclipse must have played a role because something life changing did happen (all arranged by the wizard himself, aka Adam Japko). All three bidders for the trip to Italy ended up “winning” the auction. I was completely stunned and speechless. I had never been to Italy and now a first class Design and Wine trip to Italy that wasn’t even a thought in my head 48 hours earlier was now going to be happening in my near future.
So, off I go today for a trip of a life time with the knowledge that life can change in an instant. My newly gained wisdom from the past year is to enjoy the highs, ride out the lows and just be grateful for every single day.
So Arrivederci!!! (for a week). I will do my best not to flood my social media with touristy photos but no promises!
I have always loved the start of the New Year. The thought of a clean slate, a new year to achieve ambitious goals and the belief that this is the year I really will loose those 20 lbs. Since my treatments for breast Cancer concluded near the end of 2015, this New Year takes on even more significance as it really is a fresh start for me, a redo of 2015 so to speak.
I had originally planned to publish this post last week and in all honesty, I have written it, and rewritten it at least a dozen times. I wanted to write a final post about my year fighting cancer. I wanted and needed closure and since so many of you have followed me on my journey I wanted to neatly wrap everything up. I find myself though with so many mixed emotions that I have been struggling to put my thoughts it into words.
At first I thought I would write about the importance of pursuing big goals. Many of the designers and business coaches I look up to and admire have been posting about “reaching for the stars” and “stepping out of your comfort zone” in 2016.
The thing is, I did that at the start of 2015. I wrote down big lofty goals for both my business and my personal life. A few weeks ago though when I looked over my “reach for the stars” goals for 2015, nowhere did I see “get Breast Cancer”on the list. Nope, loose half a breast, have chemo and endure painful, unconventional radiation treatments wasn’t on there either. Sometimes, just getting through a single day became my goal for much of 2015.
Then I thought I would write about how life is short and how important it is to cease the day and all that. Don’t postpone doing things on your bucket list until tomorrow because tomorrow might never come. This too, seemed good in theory or while I was sitting in the chemo chair looking at Instagram photos of someone I follow who was trekking across the Far East. The reality is, it takes money, planning, support at home and time to do something big like this. It is certainly possible but as the saying goes, “easier said than done”.
So, what I do want to share is something much simpler and it the gifts of Cancer.
The first time I met with my Oncologist she told me that after recovery, most of her Cancer patients tell her that Cancer was the best gift they ever received. At that moment, sitting in her office crying, I couldn’t imagine how missing almost a year of my life, enduring torturous treatments and worrying my family and friends as I did could ever be thought of as a “gift”.
Now that it is all behind me though I “get it”. If you open yourself up to the lessons of Cancer it really does come with gifts.
Here are my three biggest gifts from Cancer and my single goal for 2016 is to hold on to each and every one of them.
The gift of Joy: I felt more joy during my Cancer year than I could ever have imagined. The offer of a warm blanket during chemo or an unexpected card, text or visit from a friend sparked more joy than if I had landed the biggest client of my life. Believing that I would be cured and knowing that a mammogram that I had originally planned on cancelling saved my life gave me a new appreciation for the life I currently had. Things that once bothered me, like a long line at Starbucks, seemed so silly now. In fact, I actually felt joy waiting in line because I took in my surroundings and the people in line with renewed interest. I studied the colors on the walls and took note of the smells and sounds and watched the baristas work. I became 100% present in my daily life more so than I think I ever have before. Cancer caused me to truly stop and “smell the roses”. I was alive standing in that line and that in itself brought me pure joy.
The gift of Focus: When I was first told I had a very aggressive form of Cancer what truly mattered in my life came into sharp focus. Things that I spent so much energy thinking about before my diagnosis became insignificant. Sitting there in the chemo chair or while laying face down on the radiation table, I never once thought about my marketing strategy, my blog stats or our out dated kitchen. What I did think about was my family, my friends, my love of nature, my passion for photography and art and my love of travel. These are the things I plan to focus on in 2016. They may not be big lofty goals but these are the things that bring me joy and that in the end these are the things I want to look back on.
The gift of Self Confidence: When I was finished with all my treatments and declared Cancer free, I felt like Superwoman for what I had gone through. My tolerance for self doubt and my perceived short comings such as my appearance, my age, my design schooling (or lack of) is close to zero. Things that used to frighten me like public speaking or truly putting myself out there now seem like a piece of cake.
Since childhood I have strongly disliked attention of any kind. Posting images of my photography or my decorating work was scary and extremely uncomfortable for me and I had to force myself to do it. Surviving Cancer has put things in a new perspective and banished a lot of this fear. It gave me the courage to participate in and actually enjoy doing the One Room Challenge. Not only did I expose myself with my decorating but it was my own home which for me was even more intimidating.
Today I am Cancer free. 2016 is fresh start and my possibilities are limitless. The one thing I don’t want is to allow Cancer to define me. Like it or not, I will always be referred to as a “survivor” and every survivor is impacted in a different way. Some end up dedicating their lives to Cancer awareness and “the cause” and that is admirable for them. I on the other hand choose not to dwell on the past. Worries about whether it will come back or what might have caused my Cancer will always be in the back of mind but I have accepted it happened, it’s over and now I want to move on and put it all behind me.
I do not want to be known as the decorator/blogger who had cancer. Instead, what I strive for going forward is to be the decorator/blogger who is filled with Joy, Focus, and Self Confidence.
Happy New Year my friends and may 2016 be our best year yet! I know without a doubt I am going to make it so. Who’s with me?