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W E A L L H AV E TO L I V E S O M E W H E R E , a n d m a n y C h i p p ewa Va l l i a n s h ave d e c i d e d t h ey wa n t t o l i ve i n t h e c i t y. A s E a u C l a i re ’s d ow n t ow n c o n t i n u e s t o g row a n d m o re a n d m o re u p p e r l o f t s a re re n ova t e d , i t ’s n i c e t o k n ow t h a t a n e i g h b o r h o o d i s n ’ t j u s t a b i g ya rd a n d a p i c ke t f e n c e a n y m o re . With urban living though comes some challenges, In this s e c t i o n , we t a ke a l o o k a t w h a t yo u n e e d t o k n ow a b o u t m ov i n g , l i v i n g , a n d d e c o ra t i n g i n a n u r b a n e nv i ro n m e n t .

edits + words | Thom Fountain, Tom Giffey, Lindsey Quinnies • photos | Andrea Paulseth • design | Kaitlyn Bryan, Thom Fountain

Before you haul it up the stairs

picking furniture for a modern loft can be tough and Urban Galleria wants to help SUBMITTED PHOTOS

Let’s talk art. Not paintings on a canvas art or marble bust of George Washington art; I’m talking furniture in your living room art. Now, a lot of the run-of-the-mill sofas and dining room tables aren’t going to be particularly arty, but that’s where Eau Claire’s new furniture and decor shop Urban Galleria comes in. “A lot of the designs are elegant, streamlined designs,” Scott Rugotzke said. “They’re not overstuffed. They’re refined. And they cater to the urban crowd.” Scott and Robin Rugotzke opened Urban Galleria in November as a place to showcase unique, modern design in furniture and decor – something the Chippewa Valley hasn’t always had great access to. The pieces that flow through Urban Galleria are often oneof-a-kind to the Eau Claire area, if not the world. “We’re finding that – really in the Eau Claire area – we’re the first ones bringing retro-modern into the mix,”

“A lot of the designs are elegant, streamlined designs. they’re not overstuffed. they’re refined. And they cateR to The Urban Crowd.” -Scott Rugotzke, urban galleria Scott Rugotzke said. “Obviously it starts on the West Coast and East Coast and makes its way to Wisconsin, so we think Eau Claire is ready for modern, more European looks.” The modern furniture offered is punctuated by bold design, with bright colors, sharp edges and luscious curves, but also benefits from a superior quality. Rugotzke said he looks for pieces that offer 100 percent top-grade leathers, single-pieces of certified fine woods and small manufacturers that he can get to know. Urban Galleria has exclusive contracts with a number of small furniture makers from around the Midwest, guaranteeing unique

pieces of handmade furniture. Urban Galleria’s ever-changing collection is the perfect fit for modern, urban apartments. Rugotzke said the shop always has a collection of smaller pieces that work better in the sometimes small and awkward spaces that come with a downtown loft. Items such as pub tables and small sofas are perfect ways to expand the space in your home and make a small room seem more spacious. So what are the hot trends to keep up with? “We’re seeing young people really embracing color, away from your traditional brown sofa and having fun with color,” Rugotzke said. “It’s really fun with contrasts, accenting pillows and accenting cushions.” He said there’s also a push for organics, like reclaimed products and woods, which can be contrasted with bright colors

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and abstract patterns. The nice thing about Urban Galleria is the custom possibilities. Many of the pieces are customizable and made to order, allowing you to branch out and get something truly unique to you and your home’s style. It also lets you break the norm and have an interesting arrangement. “The days of buying a loveseat, sofa, and chair are gone,” Rugotzke said, explaining that – especially in an urban environment – functional pieces that can be moved and changed and reutilized are popular. Urban Galleria’s modern design sense certainly isn’t for everyone, but it fills a niche in the Chippewa Valley for people who want a functional, modern, European-style in their home. “When you step into our store it’s pretty obvious what we’re all about.” Rugotzke said. “Some folks come in and say, ‘Well, this is fun but it’s not really me.’ and that’s fine. We’re pretty edgy and people figure that out themselves after a couple seconds in the store.” Urban Galleria is located at 2839 Mall Drive and is open at 10am Tuesday-Saturday and at 12pm on Sundays. You can find more info at EauClaireFurniture.com.

Through the floor

living downtown can often mean living above something; we talked to a handful of residents about their experiences being the upstairs neighbor

living above A BAR


“Me and one of my roommates got to know one of the bartenders at the bar because he would be outside smoking at the same times as us and he would hook us up with cheap drinks.” –Brandon -“When the front door was closed I couldn’t hear anything, but if I opened it up I could clearly hear if there was a band playing or if the bar was busy. It made the decision of whether or not to go out a lot easier.” –Daniel


“The noise from the bar got pretty bad, especially on weeknights when some of us had to get up early in the morning. Thursdays and Sundays were especially bad because there was karaoke night at the bar, and most people can’t sing for crap. ... There was a time when we were coming back after bar close with pizza and a bunch of the customers were out back hanging out after bar close. They saw our pizza and chased us into the apartment trying to get some. We had to have three people pull the door shut behind us.” –Brandon

living above


“Because the office closed at 5pm every day and was never open on weekends, we didn’t have to worry about noise much after those times. Being a musician, that made practices really easy.” –Carolyn


“There wasn’t anything cool or easy about it. Unlike a restaurant or coffee shop or something, it’s not like I could stop down quick and grab something ... from the lawyers.” –Carolyn

living above


“Easiest morning boost with no effort except to throw some slippers on and walk downstairs. Also, we could snag Internet when it wasn’t really busy.” –Tyler


“Really, the only downside is that I definitely spent too much money on coffee that year instead of just making it myself. That ease of access is dangerous.” –Tyler VolumeOne.org 31 Mar. 6, 2014

When to buy and when to sell

there’s no magic to the Chippewa Valley real estate market, but simple tips can help buyers and sellers wants to sell one at a time of year when it’s hard enough keeping slush off the carpet, let alone maintaining floors pristine enough for an open house? Well, it turns out that some people actually do want to buy and sell houses even when the snow is flying. In fact, if you’re looking for the best value in buying a home, the time to look is right after New Year’s Day, advises Krag Blomberg, president of the Realtors Association of Northwestern Wisconsin. Christmas causes chaos for many people, but once the holidays are over, it’s time to start house hunting, says Blomberg, a Realtor with Re/Max Affiliates in Eau Claire.

SEASONAL SHIFTS That’s not to say that home sales are

constant throughout the year, especially in an extreme climate like ours. According to Blomberg, a good rule of thumb around here is that 20 percent of annual home sales will be between January and March; 30 percent will be April-June; another 30 percent will be July-September; while the final 20 percent will sell OctoberDecember. “It’s definitely a curve there, but it’s not as extreme as some people would think,” Blomberg says of the seasonal sales pattern. This winter’s unusually cold weather has cut into home sales, Blomberg says, but that doesn’t mean you should despair if your domicile is on the market at the moment. There may not be a lot of buyers on the prowl, but there aren’t many houses for sale, either, meaning there’s still a relative balance between supply and demand. “If you put a house on the market right now and it’s priced right and presented well, it will sell,” Blomberg says. For a motivated seller, anytime is the right time to sell, he adds.

SELLERS’ MARKET The region’s real estate market has heated up in recent years after the postrecession slump. Blomberg says that a six-month supply of houses equates to a relatively balanced market. Today, in northwestern Wisconsin there’s less than a six-month inventory of homes priced up to about $250,000. For homes between $100,000 and $250,000 – a range that includes most houses in the region – there’s less than a three-month inventory. Translation: Despite the unappealing weather, sellers have the balance of power at the moment. Then again, not everyone wants to slog between open house and open house


Who wants to buy a house when the temperatures are below zero and the streets are swathed in ice? And who

during parka season, and even fewer relish the though of lugging their personal belongings through snowdrifts into a new home. “Obviously most people would like to look at houses when the sun is shining and the flowers are blooming,” Blomberg says. Likewise, the warmer weather is when people like to market their houses: “The best time to sell is whatever time the house presents itself the best, which in this market is spring through fall,” he adds.

HINTS FOR BUYERS If you’re considering buying, the good news is you should be able to find something in this market that fits your needs within six months. Blomberg recommends that house hunters get preapproved by a lender before they start: This will allow them to act quickly when they find their dream home, as well as to know what kind of price tag they can afford. Connecting with a Realtor early

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in the process can help as well, because a professional can assist potential homebuyers in narrowing their options easily, he says. (Online real-estate search services – such as Trulia and Zillow – can be helpful, but the information they contain isn’t always current.)

MARKET MOVERS As noted earlier, according to Wisconsin Realtors Association data, the slowest month for home sales in western Wisconsin is January. (In January 2013, only 355 homes changed hands in the 12-county area that includes Eau Claire, Chippewa, and Dunn counties). February is slow, too, but by March things begin to pick up, reaching a crest in June, July (790 houses sold!), and August, then beginning to taper off again as fall and winter arrive. Prices follow a roughly similar pattern: In 2013, the median sale price in January was $127,500, while the median price peaked in June at $154,000.

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Will you be my good neighbor?

living downtown often means sharing a floor with the business below, for better or worse In some residential neighborhoods, the word “renter” is a dirty word. When some homeowners and property owners mutter the term it’s accompanied with a scowl and is unfurled off the tongue with a very specific intonation that screams pessimism. They see all renters in their community as the same. Regardless of how good you might be, to some you are another in a never-ending breed of residential cockroaches. (OK, so maybe it’s not that bad. But it’s bad. And you should care.) Now, granted, part of the problem is that some homeowners paint everyone with the same brush. But that stereotype does come from someplace, so being a renter who understands their mindset can just as easily reverse it. “Education is a big part of it,” said Sharyn Moss, onetime president of the Historic Randall Park Neighborhood in Eau Claire, an area with lots of renters. Renters, by definition, are people who pay another for the use of their property. While this could be permanent, the likely scenario is that this arrangement is temporary. So the deduction based on those two tidbits is that renters don’t care about their property or neighborhood nearly as much, and their resulting behavior makes property

values go down and their area appear trashy. So the bad news is that, before you ever even meet your neighbors, some are already loathing your presence. But the good news is that it’s easy to win them over and reverse their thinking. At least until the next renter moves in … Many of the complaints that come through Moss’s association (or she hears through her husband’s rental company, General Property Management) are simple things that a renter needs to be prepared for. “In general, just have a sense of respect for (your) house and neighborhood … and a sense of responsibility and self-sufficiency.” The neighborhood associations and city have specifically outlined guidelines to follow (listed in the box next to this), but those merely list legal responsibilities. Being a good renter and neighborhood resident is about doing more than just avoiding tickets. Take a degree of pride in your new home. Try to take the time to interact with your neighbors. That doesn’t mean going doorto-door with fruit baskets. Just say a simple “hello” or respectfully chit-chat every so often. And if you’re really ambitious, get involved in your neighborhood association or help with various neighborhood betterment efforts.

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TIPS FROM EC’s NEIGHBORHOOD BROCHURE All buildings must be maintained in a state of good repair (painted at regular intervals, clean and sanitary, etc.). Weeds and grass may not exceed 7 inches in height. Sidewalks need to be free of obstructions and snow cleared within 24 hours of a snowfall Don’t leave parked cars in the same spot on a street or alley for more than a day Dispose of garbage in a sanitary manner Dispose of yard waste and return cans within 24 hours of pickup Don’t be unreasonably loud or disorderly Keep animals leached when off premises Have no more than three cats and two dogs Promptly remove animal droppings To report a violation, call the appropriate city department: Health (8394718), Police (839-4972), Fire (839-5012), Streets (839-4963), Community Development (839-4914), or Building Inspection & Zoning (839-4947).

Living downtown

every year you can take an opportunity to peruse some of Eau Claire’s best downtown homes With new buildings popping up on North Barstow and more downtown lofts being renovated every year, there’s always new things to see. Luckily, whether you live downtown, want to live downtown, or are just curious about the spaces, Eau Claire’s Urban Living Committee hosts an Urban Living Tour annually during which you can pop into some of the many apartments downtown. Every June the committee organiz-

es a tour of a handful of loft and apartment-style homes, fully decorated and liveable. The apartments range from new construction on North Barstow to renovated, historic lofts above South Barstow businesses in downtown Eau Claire. You can find more info on the Urban Living Tour and living downtown in general atDowntownEauClaire.com or by following DECI on Facebook. – Thom Fountain

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