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MAKE OVER YOUR HOUSE: AGE-FRIENDLY UPGRADES Room-by-room ideas to identify accessible features you could add, Page 4

YOUR t r a sm HOME e g n cha


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Whether buying, selling or looking to make improvements, get the latest tips and trends from the experts.



Warning signs: Don’t let the small stuff sabotage your sale, Page 10 Stage it well: 11 solutions to spruce up your house, Page 11

Do’s and don’ts for family room upgrades, Page 2

10 common renovation mistakes to avoid, Page 9

Trendy ways to give your upholstery new life, Page 22







The do’s and don’ts of affordable


upgrades CATHY HOBBS

Tribune News Service

Whether in basements, filled with light or spaces that pose spatial challenges, family rooms are often the most popular room in a home. So why not make a family room as appealing and cozy as possible? Creating a family-friendly family room doesn’t have to break the bank. Often, creative planning and even “shopping your home” can help refresh a family space easily and affordably. Here are some affordable design tips. After


AFTER: A large area rug helps anchor and define the space. BEFORE: This family room feels disconnected.




 Create a furniture configuration around a focal point in the room. Often this is a television or fireplace.  Add cozy elements such as toss pillows and throws. The goal is to create a space your family will feel as comfortable in as possible.  Try to use commercial or hospitality grade fabric on upholstery pieces. This is a common tip used by interior designers. Commercial and hospitality grade fabrics are designed to undergo heavy use and stand the test of time and often come in


This family room feels empty and underused, but after an upgrade, the room is made functional and appealing.

the same fun colors as those intended for normal residential use.  Incorporate color through the use of art and accessories.  Anchor a space with a large area rug. Ideally the rug should be large enough to accommodate the entire furniture configuration for the space.


 Fill a family room with too many special or breakable pieces. A family room should be kid-friendly.  Just select dark and drab fabric colors. While colors like brown and black can hide stains better than light colors, consider darker shades of brighter colors such as blue, red or green.  Forget lighting. Often family rooms are poorly lit. When possible incorporate recessed lighting placed on dimmers.  Use your family room as a discarded space or storage area. Family rooms should be a relaxation space and family oasis.  Forget to create a multipurpose space. The goal is to create a space for the whole family. It can be divided into various zones for lounging, gaming and study.


Pops of color through accents and accessories help add a lift to this family room.


Should you replace your dishwasher? GENE AND KATIE HAMILTON

Tribune Content Agency

The dishwasher is a workhorse in most kitchens, cleaning, scrubbing and sanitizing everything you load into it. When it stops operating and a repair doesn’t solve the problem, it’s not a difficult decision to choose between doing without or replacing it. We found one of the nicest benefits of replacing an old dishwasher with a newer unit is that it’s so much quieter, not to mention easier to use. To complete the swap most easily, find a unit of the same size and with the same electrical and plumbing connections as the old one so new work isn’t required. To remove an old unit and replace it with a good quality new

smarte chang


one, a plumber charges $877, which includes labor and material. If you’re handy and have plumbing experience, you can make the swap for $580, and save 34 percent by doing it yourself. You will need basic tools such as adjustable wrenches, screwdrivers, pliers, a level and a tape measure. Keep a bucket, rag and large sponge nearby to catch water as you disconnect the old unit, and lay an old rug in front of the unit to protect the floor. Before you begin, empty the sink base cabinet and be prepared to work in a tight space often in an uncomfortable position. You might want to remove the doors of the cabinet so you can more easily make the drain connections. Be-

John M. Humenik, Vice President/News and CCO, Lee Enterprises

fore you start, turn off the water at the shutoff valve and turn off the power to the old unit at the main electrical panel or unplug it under the sink. You might run into difficulty if new flooring has been  Pro cost: $877 added, rais DIY cost: $580 ing the level  Pro time: 4.4 hours of the floor  DIY time: 6.5 hours in front of the  DIY savings: $297 dishwasher.  Percent saved: That will require 35% carpentry work to adjust the unit to fit. To find more DIY and contractor project costs and to post To complete the swap most easily, find a unit of the same size and with comments and questions, visit the same electrical and plumbing connections as the old one so new work isn’t required.

Ben Cunningham, Director of News Presentation, Lee Enterprises


Jason Adrians, National Editor & News Executive, Lee Enterprises


Mary Garrison, National Lifestyles Editor, Lee Enterprises

Terry Lipshetz, Senior Manager of Custom Content, Lee Enterprises

Emily Shullaw, Custom Content Designer, Lee Enterprises




Give your unimaginative fireplace a new lease on life by adding colorful tiles and a bright mantel, just like you see in these examples.

Update and refresh your


Tribune Content Agency

When you have a fireplace, it should always be the focal point in the room, commanding attention when you enter. Too often, though, builder fireplaces seem small and soulless, or you may have a fireplace that is too overbearing (like a small fireplace in a giant wall of red brick). It could need a refresh. Give your unimaginative fireplace a new lease on life in a few simple steps. In addition to putting it in its rightful place of attention, a fireplace makeover is often a good resale investment.

Flat and diminutive

When a fireplace is too small and the surround is overly large, it cries out for help. A quick way to help bring it back into proportion is to outline the fireplace with a mantel and create more volume around the opening. The next step is to take some of the attention away from the oversized surround. An easy way to do this is to paint

the surround so that it blends in with the rest of the walls. To further enhance the fireplace, try covering the wall of brick or stone with another type of texture. Look for other types of stone or wood, like shiplap. It will help distinguish the material around the fireplace opening and call more attention to it. This is especially helpful for flat wall fireplaces that lack a mantel.

with a white, gray or even beige shade, then wipe the paint off. You may need more than one layer to get the desired color. Be sure to do a test brick or area first. Maybe it’s not the brick that’s the problem, but the wall that makes the fireplace fade into the background. Try painting your fireplace a contrasting color to make it grab everyone’s attention.

Color rescue

For a more formal look, cover up an old tile or brick surround with a piece of marble, granite or soapstone from your local stone store. Many times, the store will have odd and inexpensive pieces that will work perfectly for updating your surround. Textural changes can also make a big difference in the way your fireplace looks. Textured wall panels can be applied easily and add instant and modern appeal. Tile is another option for creating a standout spot on your fireplace surround wall. Look for new geometric or colorful tiles to update your fireplace.

Another method is to re-stain your brick a different color, such as from red to gray, for a more contemporary look. This can be achieved with stains used for brick or concrete. There are several steps to follow when changing the color of your brick, but if you choose to do so, try to find a spare brick to test first. Then talk with your paint store expert to walk you through the steps, or hire a painter with brick staining experience. For something even easier than staining, try whitewashing your brick with paint. Working in a small section, paint

Stone and texture

Decorative dividers add interest, privacy KATHRYN WEBER

Tribune Content Agency

Homes were once comprised of a series of boxes. Each box, or room, served a purpose but often felt cut off from the rest of the house. Today’s homes are open and enable more togetherness and a feeling of spaciousness. However, there are times when you might want a cozier feel but still crave the sense of open space. The decorative answer? A room divider or partition. Today, dividers have come a long way from old three-panel, Japanese paper-style folding screens. Dividers come in a variety of styles and options that give you more decorative possibilities and function. Their unique textures also are a big design plus. Of course, the standard three panel divider is always a good option for portable privacy. But dividers don’t have to be the solid, hinged panels of yesteryear.

Outside the box

For something a bit out of the divider box, consider an open-style panel divider. A pair on either side of a living room opening says something intriguing awaits. One such divider is the Charlayne 3 Panel Room Divider (www. With its updated look, the divider can also be used to create a reading nook or a private conversation area that doesn’t feel cut off.

Today’s dividers come in a variety of styles, seen here, that give you more decorative possibilities.

Added drama

To create sections or areas of a room and preserve views and light, a grouping of Posner Stixx Room Divider panels (www.allmodern. com) can be made as large or small as you like and create a unique space delineating option. Each comes as a set of four; with their metal hooks, they provide a dramatic design statement that makes the divider appear to float in the air and retain an airy open look.

Distinct design

To give your room real panache, look for unique materials such as glass, tile, wood or metal. A chainmail curtain (www. would be at home in an industrial loft or a contemporary design. Give your dining room panache and privacy with a single cable wine rack ( These cables hold wine bottles that appear as though they’re floating in place. Place five single lines in the center of the dining room to create a wall effect, or hang one or two lines on either side of the opening. For something with more body, there are floor to ceiling metal wine racks where bottles act as the divider (www.


Create a rustic look with slatted wood partitions. They’re budget friendly and a great DIY project. Slats can be made any size you like and placed vertically or horizontally to help provide room. If you’re extra skilled, slats can be made to swivel open or closed for complete privacy.






Some safety upgrades for the bathroom include a curbless shower (above), grab bars and comfort-height toilets.

Age-friendly home upgrades Room-by-room ideas for adding accessibility features around the house PAT MERTZ ESSWEIN | Kiplinger’s Personal Finance


our kids are successfully launched and, suddenly, you seem to have more disposable income. This could be a good time to tackle the remodeling projects you’ve been putting off. And while you’re updating your house for style, consider adapting it so you can age in place comfortably. Studies show that most homeowners age 50 and older say they want to remain in their house as they age, but most U.S. homes weren’t built to accommodate older people’s special needs. For example, only one-third have basic accessibility features, such as a no-step entry and a bedroom and full bath on the entry level, according to a report by the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University. We’ll walk you through a house to identify features you could add, as well as identifying what they typically cost and how to pay for them:

IN THE KITCHEN  Maintenance-free materials: Quartz countertops re-

LAUNDRY AND STORAGE AREAS  Wall switches: Replace toggle-style wall switches

 

with easier-to-use rocker-style ones ($420 to $1,000, installed). Doorway: Replace a narrow interior doorway with one that’s 36 inches wide ($1,800 to $2,000). Washer and dryer: Switch from top-loading to front-loading models installed on pedestals to lessen back strain Look for doors that swing to the side, not down ($2,000 to $2,800 apiece, or $2,000 for combination unit). Non-slip flooring: Replace deep-pile carpet and a thick pad with low-pile carpet and a firm pad, or install non-slip flooring ($4 to $18 per square foot, installed). Custom closet organizer: Outfit closets with multilevel shelving and hanging units that are accessible whether you’re sitting or standing ($1,000 for a reach-in closet to $6,500 for a walk-in closet).

    

IN THE BATHROOM  Accessible shower: Install a curbless shower with grab

bars. Expect to pay $10,000 to $15,000.

 Layout: Remodel a bathroom to create a 5-foot turning

radius to accommodate a wheelchair.

 Sink vanity: Choose one with room to accommodate a

chair or wheelchair ($560 to $1,500).

 Comfort-height toilet: Add a toilet whose seat is higher off

the floor than standard models ($360 to $1,400 installed).

OUTSIDE THE HOME  Covered entranceway or portico: A 5-foot-square “land-

  

ing pad” gives a wheelchair room to maneuver (about $2,500 to $4,500 for portico). Bench: Place one near the front door to rest yourself or your packages ($75 to $1,800). Front door: Install a door that is 36 inches wide ($2,000 to $6,500, installed). Lighting: Add lights to the front of your home and along the sidewalk for safe passage at night (about $140 to $230 per light and $170 to $300 per exterior light, installed). Concrete ramp: Replace the sidewalk and steps leading to the front door (about $1,000 to $3,000).

sist scratches and stains, and they never need sealing, unlike natural stone. Luxury vinyl plank (LVP) flooring  is waterproof, durable, comfortable underfoot and never needs refinishing. User-friendly appliances: Select More on costs easy-access models: A side-by-sideWhere For estimated project costs, the annual door refrigerator ($900 to $3,800), Cost Vs. Value Report from Remodeling to get help a stove with controls near the front magazine is a good resource. In 2019, the For help designing and con($470 to $3,500), a raised dishnational average cost for a minor kitchen structing larger projects, look washer ($680 to $1,300) and a miremodel is $22,507, $66,196 for a mafor a Certified Aging-in-Place Specrowave at countertop level ($180 jor remodel and $131,510 for an upscale cialist who has completed a proto $1,600). project. The average cost for a bathroom gram developed by the National Pull-down shelving units: Retroremodel is $33,374 for a midrange project Association of Home Builders fit upper cabinets to avoid lifting that includes design features to fit any with AARP (go to heavy items (starting at $525 per age; it’s $64,743 for an upscale remodel. and search for “CAPS unit). If you want to add a first-floor master bedDirectory”). LED lighting: Add lighting overhead room, the national average cost is $130,986 ($220 to $300 per recessed fixture, infor a midrange job and $271,470 for an upscale stalled) and under cabinets ($360 to $460 one. per strip, installed). If you want to widen a bathroom door put in grab bars and add a curbless shower, that would typically cost about Sink faucet: Install lever-handled model that’s easier $11,800 to $14,000. to grasp, or go with a touchless version ($350 to $570, installed). How will you pay for it? Non-slip flooring: Install flooring to prevent falls ($4 to $18 per square foot, installed). For more costly projects, you could take out a home-eqRoll-out shelves: Reface fixed shelves to avoid benduity line of credit, from which you could borrow money as ing ($25 to $100 apiece). you need it. Or, if you or your spouse is at least age 62 and you have considerable equity built up in your home, you D-shaped pulls: Add cabinet handles that are easier could take out a reverse mortgage with an up-front lumpto grasp than knobs (from $1.40 apiece). sum payout or a line of credit. For more in formation on reWorkspaces: Vary the height of workspaces, or create verse mortgages, visit the websites of the Consumer Finanspace to work while seated (custom cost). cial Protection Bureau and search for “reverse mortgage” Lever-style handsets: Replace all household doorand the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association. knobs ($8 to $130 apiece).


Installing a grab bar in the bathroom

tion is to use anchors designed as a blind fastening system, to be installed on sturdy One of the best ways to assure safe foot- walls made of tile over plaster and lath or ing in a bathroom is adding a grab bar tiled walls with at least½-inch thick cement board or drywall wall to the shower or bathtub walls to lower the number of accidents behind them. There is also an that occur getting in or out anchoring system designed of the slippery wet surto install a grab bar to an ex Pro cost: $200 face. It’s easy to do when isting shower and tub with  DIY cost: $50 the bathroom is being refiberglass walls. While a  Pro time: 1.9 hours modeled and the walls are carpenter will charge $200  DIY time: 3.5 hours open, so you can build in to make the installation,  DIY savings: $150 which includes the labor a wall cleat or blocking to  Percent saved: and material, you can buy provide a firm foundation 75% the components and install for the bar between the two them for $50, assuming you wall studs where the bar will be installed. The challenge is installhave basic carpentry skills and ing a grab bar as an add-on to walls that tools, and save 75%. are finished. To find more DIY and contractor project If you’re not ripping out the wall and ex- costs and to post comments and questions, posing the wall studs, your next best op- visit GENE AND KATIE HAMILTON

Tribune Content Agency

Grab bars





A small room can make a big closet. If your bonus room is near the master bedroom, it might be the perfect space for a major upgrade to your clothing storage.


FLEX ROOM Here are some ways to make the most of your extra space KATHRYN WEBER

Tribune News Service


hether it’s due to design configurations or remodeling, many homes have an extra space that’s not necessarily a bedroom but still added square footage. Realtors typically call these bonus spaces a flex room or bonus room. These tucked-away spaces often turn into the default storage room, becoming cluttered and unusable. If you have a flex room, try turning it into a usable space that adds value to your home’s square footage, and enjoyment for you.

Fun flex room

Getting the most out of your home’s usable space is always a good idea, and flex rooms can help you create a specialty space you might not otherwise have. A terrific use for growing families is to turn your flex room into a play room. Adding bookshelves and a tent, you can create a reading nook to encourage young ones to take off on wild adventures between the covers of a book. This is also a great play space for adults or teens. If there’s enough room, a flex space makes a terrific game room. Add a table for playing cards or a billiards table. Or, turn it into a man cave decorated with your team’s colors and memorabilia. Give a corner of the room over to a bar for adult enjoyment, or to pump up the fun, add a foosball table that will draw your teen’s friends to your house and keep them occupied.

Multi-use space

Give your bonus room even more flexibility by turning it into a multi-use room. If your flex room is a study, consider adding a pull-out sofa, futon or day bed that doubles as seating and a bed for overnight guests. Or, turn it into a bedroom for siblings who don’t want to share anymore. A trundle bed comes in handy for extra sleeping space for sleepovers and saves space, too.

Furnish a flex room with a foosball table or other games to make it an all-ages play space.

Creative usage

There are so many ways to use a flex room. Here are some creative ways to turn the bonus area into a useful space: „ Because cribs are small, a flex room makes a terrific spot to convert to a nursery. „ For budding writers or entrepreneurs, a flex room can become the new headquarters to a startup or a place to escape to for quiet contemplation. „ If you’ve always dreamed of a library, create your own home library or study with some rich wall colors, plenty of bookshelves, a comfy reading chair and a lamp. „ If your flex room is near your bedroom, why not turn it into a closet masterpiece? Just remember, a small space can make a big closet. „ Hobbies and crafts are another wonderful use for a flex room. Outfit the space with a table and shelving (to store supplies), and you’ll have a spot to work on your favorite hobbies. Wall space can be used to show off your creations. „ If heading to the gym is a chore, turn your flex room into a mini-gym for getting in your workouts right at home.

A flex room can make an ideal nursery space.


How to get professional results when washing windows


Tim, what do you know about washing windows? Do you rely on the blue liquid in the spray bottles and then rub the glass with newspaper? I want really clean glass. Help me, Tim! — Victor B., Corbin, Kentucky A: I started washing windows as a child. It’s one of the chores my mom made me do. I have vivid memories of her pouring the wretched TIM ammonia into a bucket of CARTER water and me having to use rags to apply that smelly solution onto the metal casement windows of my childhood home. To this day I despise the odor of ammonia. One of my many jobs as a teenager and young adult was working on the steam table of a local chili parlor making thousands of cheese coneys. As you might imagine, it had giant plate-glass windows. The outside surfaces would get covered with the city dirt and grime, and the inside got coated with a fine aerosol of grease from the food preparation process. I marveled at how the windows were cleaned by professionals each week using a magic squeegee instead of the


Use a brass squeegee to wipe windows dry and prevent streaking. rags I used. I tried the blue liquid for years and was never satisfied with the results. There always seemed to be streaks. One day I decided to investigate the real secret to

clean glass. So I played my syndicated columnist card and spoke with the presidents of two of the largest glass cleaning companies in the USA. I’m talking about companies that clean glass on skyscrap-

ers. I was shocked to discover how simple it is to get professional results. Both men told me their skilled and talented employees just use water with a little bit of liquid dish soap, or similar cleaning agent. The magic of cleaning glass lies in using this solution to remove all the dirt and grease from the windows. Pros often use lambs-wool applicators to apply the soapy solution. As they wipe the applicator across the glass, it removes all the dirt. I used to think the rubber squeegee is what did the cleaning. I was wrong. The squeegee is used to just get rid of the excess cleaning solution. The glass is already clean before the pro gets out his squeegee. It’s important to realize you need to use a brass squeegee, not one with a steel frame. Brass will not scratch glass. If you want to really see how fast and easy it is to clean glass, go online and watch a few videos of professionals cleaning glass. Pay attention to their technique when using the tools. You’ll be amazed that you didn’t try this method years ago.




Refresh a child’s room with new bedding and artwork. TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE PHOTOS



ant to bring new life and energy to bland, boring spaces? Even the most well put-together home can use a refresher. The good news is you don’t necessarily have to break the bank to achieve a reinvigorated or reimagined space. Here are five ideas you can take on quickly, easily and affordably:

1 Create function from

4 Upgrade a small bathroom

an unused space

Whether it’s a windowless room or an odd niche, find a way to give purpose and function to an unused area of your home.

a child’s room 2 Brighten From bright bedding to adding an accent wall,

colorful toss pillows and artwork, a children’s room can easily be uplifted with splashes of color.

Bring the spa to your bathroom

3 You can easily add serenity and calm to a bathroom through the use of elements such as bath salts, candles and other spa-like accessories and accents.

Bathroom fixtures are typically high-ticket items, but there are ways to refresh a bathroom quickly and affordable. Consider refreshers such as swapping in a pedestal sink, mirror or small items such as changing a light fixture, towel bar or faucet.

Organize your closet 5 So often, closets are bottomless pits of items

that have yet to be put away or organized. It is difficult to properly organize if you don’t know what you have. Organization can be enhanced through the use of creating distinct zones for certain items and closet organization helpers such as huggable/ slim hangers and organization boxes.

An unused space can be turned into a home office.

ABOVE: Slim hangers and creating distinct his and hers areas can help organize your closet. BELOW: A bathroom made like a spa with the addition of basic elements such as candles, bath salts and teak bath caddy.

Simple upgrades to your bathroom include adding spa-like toiletries and accessories or switching out your faucets and towel bars. Installing a pedestal sink can be a larger project.


Power-washing your siding GENE AND KATIE HAMILTON

Tribune Content Agency

By keeping exterior siding clean, dry and free of dirt, you’ll prolong its life and reduce the need to paint it; so when dirt, mildew and tree sap accumulate on the surface, it’s time to give your house a good washing. You can hire a house cleaning service to do the job or rent a power washer for the day (or two, depending on the size of your house), and do the job yourself. You’ll find house cleaning services online or at contractor referral services, or you may receive a mailer from local companies offering their services, which usually include cleaning

siding and decks with a pressure washer. A service will typically charge $396 to clean the exterior of a 1200-square-foot house. You can rent a power washer for $175 a day and do the job and save 56 percent. A popular size power washer is rated 1,200 psi, which means it delivers 1,200 pounds per square inch of water and detergent. The unit has a wand with an adjustable spray nozzle that attaches to a garden hose. I addition to the washer, you need a sturdy ladder long enough to reach the high point of your house, a garden hose, and drop cloths to protect the shrubbery. If you have a two-story house, you

will probably have to rent scaffolding to safely reach the second floor, an additional cost. Get specific operating directions from the rental center about the kind of cleaning solution and how much of it to use. For the best results, begin washing on  Pro cost: $396 the shady side of  DIY cost: $175 the house, fol Pro time: 11 hours lowing the sun, so  DIY time: 15 hours it doesn’t dry too  DIY savings: $221 quickly. And keep  Percent saved: the wand moving so 56% streaks of dirty water won’t stain the siding. For safety’s sake, consider wearing safety glasses with a cord control. Power-washing the siding helps it last longer and reduces the need to paint.





A highcontrast color palette of white and chocolate with hints of pale pink makes this young adult space feel more sophisticated.


ways to make your apartment feel more



Tribune News Service

erhaps you have just graduated from college, started your first job, rented your first apartment or purchased your first home. It’s an exciting rite of passage. Part of the excitement relates to the opportunity to make a space your own, infusing your own taste and design sensibility. But, good design doesn’t have to be expensive, and there are a number of easy and affordable ways to make your pad feel fun yet sophisticated.

ABOVE: Using mirrors especially in a series is an easy and affordable way to create instant wall decor that is sophisticated at the same time.

High contrast

Sometimes a single color palette can come across as unsophisticated. Try using high contrast techniques, such as black and white, light and dark, can come across as more luxurious.

LEFT: Decorating with books can be an easy and affordable design technique. A framed black and white image makes a strong and sophisticated statement.

to part with them, consider placing them in a decorative bin.

Add greenery

Plants, succulents, florals and trees are both good for your environment and a great way to infuse color and sophistication into your space at an affordable price.

Go for glass

Glass pieces of furniture are a fraction of the cost of wood pieces. Glass coffee or dining tables can help create an open, airy feel at an approachable price.

Purchase quality large pieces

If you can afford it, try to buy one or two high quality pieces you intend to own for years, if not decades to come. Some ideas of where to start include case goods such as armoires or dressers, beds and sofas.

Consider leather

If properly maintained, leather can be both long-lasting and add Pastel colors are back, an element of maturity. both youthful and sophisticated. Don’t be afraid to use Purchase inexpensive colors such as soft blue, pastel artwork pink or mint green. Artwork is like the icing on a cake and can really help make sure High vs. Low Designers do it on the runway, so a space feels complete. Framed art why not do it in your home? Mix- tends to look more expensive than ing more expensive pieces with flea pieces that are not. Some ideas market or thrift store finds can be for inexpensive art include frama fabulous way to create an overall ing pieces of fabric, posters, calendars, wrapping paper and even sophisticated look. postcards.

Pastel colors

Greenery such as plants, florals and succulents can make a space feel more appealing.

Decorate with books

Decorating with books is one of Frame photographs Whether they are from a vacathe most affordable ways to design, and a go-to designer trick. One way tion or your own collection, framed to display books is to turn them black and white photographs can be spine-in to create a consistent look. both interesting and mature.

No stuffed animals

Add mirrors

Especially in smaller spaces, mirStuffed animals are a no-no if you want your space to feel grown-up rors can really help open a space and and sophisticated. If you can’t bear can even help to act as windows.


Should you install an octagon window? GENE AND KATIE HAMILTON

Tribune Content Agency

The “stop sign” window that resembles the shape of the familiar traffic sign is a small, 8-sided octagon. In a home, it’s ideally suited in a tight spot where a ray of daylight will brighten a dark space - in an entry foyer, at the top of a staircase landing or in a small bathroom - where it can add architectural interest and daylight. When ventilation is needed, an opening unit is a good choice. Octagon windows are sold at window, lumber and home centers as fixed and opening units made of wood, aluminum and vinyl. A carpenter will

charge $654, which includes a 24-inch opening vinyl-clad unit with insulated glass window and its installation. A handy homeowner with carpentry tools and experience can buy the unit for $215 and install it, pocketing a nice 67 percent saving. Don’t tackle this job unless you are competent and have carpentry tools, because it requires cutting a hole in the siding of the house. Don’t even think about doing it yourself if the house is made of brick or stone, because it is a job for a seasoned pro who has the tools, skill and experience. For the easiest installation, position the unit between wall studs and you’ll

need an electronic stud finder to locate them. The job involves cutting a rough opening, positioning and adjusting the unit with wooden shims so that it’s level, and then fastening the unit to the studs with screws and  Pro cost: $654 caulking around  DIY cost: $215 the interior trim  Pro time: 1.4 hours and siding.  DIY time: 4 hours To find more  DIY savings: $439 DIY and contractor  Percent saved: project costs and to 67% post comments and questions, visit

Octagon Window

The “stop sign” window resembles the shape of the familiar traffic sign.




Simple details like frame molding on the walls can add elegance to a room. DREAMSTIME


MAJOR IMPACT ‘Wow factor’ projects that don’t require demolition HOMEADVISOR


uite often, our tolerance for outdated home interiors wears thin faster than our remodeling budgets expand. If you’re looking for an affordable, demolition-free solution to your design woes, try one of these five high-impact projects. They’ll make your guests wonder, “How’d they manage to remodel their home so effortlessly?”

1 Countertop cover-ups

You can make a drastic change to your countertops without the drastic effort and cost of replacement. Use one of many official countertop paint kits to get the look of granite, marble and other stones over surfaces made of Formica, laminate and solid surface. Or, apply a concrete overlay, which works over Formica, laminate, solid surface, ceramic tile and stones like granite and marble. You can also get custom-fabricated quartz overlays that fit over almost any material. Think twice: Self-adhesive paper is an option, but be wary of applying it in the bathroom or kitchen.


Zero-demo flooring

Removing old flooring can be difficult and time-consuming. If the old floor isn’t warped or uneven, you may be able to install new flooring right on top of it. You can either use floating or secured flooring. Floating flooring locks together over stable surfaces like concrete, tile and wood without an adhesive. Secured flooring requires an adhesive, such as glue or nails. Think twice: Be mindful of thickness if you use a hardwood for this project so that you don’t have problems with floor height around doors, cabinets and trim.

Refinishing kitchen cabinets and upgrading hardware with leather pulls are ways you can make your kitchen look new.

3 Fresh-faced tile

You can paint tile if you prepare it thoroughly and use the right paint. For preparation, you have to clean, sand, repair and prime the surface. Then, you finish it off with a specialized paint. Tile paints come in a range of colors and can even imitate stone. To complete the transformation, consider adding a fresh layer of grout. Think twice: For moist environments like bathrooms, use tub and tile paint. For high-activity applications like flooring, use acrylic tile paints.


Like-new cabinets

You can make it look like you have an entirely new set of cabinets with a quick refinishing. For this project, the existing materials are sanded, cleaned and given a fresh coat of paint or stain. Whether you do it yourself

or hire a professional, it will cost much less than new cabinetry. While you’re at it, upgrade your hardware. Think twice: If the cabinet surfaces aren’t in good shape, consider refacing. Refacing costs more, but the cabinets get new doors and a matching veneer.


Trim and molding upgrades

Adding little details like trim and molding can really take your home’s interior to the next level. Install molding on cabinet door and drawer fronts, around windows, on walls in a frame style, or on your ceiling in an intricate design. Think twice: Typically, homeowners use either wood, medium-density fiberboard (MDF) or polystyrene molding and trim for these projects. Keep in mind that MDF doesn’t resist moisture well.

How to select the right sofa for your home For sofas that double as impromptu sleeping space for guests, check to see there’s room for sleeping comfortably and if the back cushions are removable. Some sofas have the back cushions sown to the sofa, making less sleeping area for overnight guests. Pitch should also be factored in. A sofa that leans too far back or whose back is very short might not be as enjoyable for you or may require additional pillows to help you sit more comfortably.


Tribune Content Agency

For a long time, advice on selecting a sofa was more about the sofa’s materials, such a kiln-dried wood frames. Despite that advice, homeowners usually selected their seating based on style, but there’s a lot of choice out there for buying a sofa. Because it’s not an inexpensive piece of furniture, it’s a good idea to weigh all the factors in before falling in love with a particular look or style, or buying solely on quality, and then finding your sofa doesn’t meet your family’s needs.


Function first

As tempting as it is to buy a pretty piece of upholstered furniture, give some thought to how you’ll use your sofa. Sometimes the sofa is for a living area and entertaining guests. If that’s what you need, then give thought to how your sofa will seat them. There are many sofas that are large and great for lounging, but their cushion depth, could have your guests sitting with their feet in the air. Look for a sofa that will make petite guests be able to sit more comfortably when at your home. However, if your sofa is for your home media room, you might want it to be large enough to seat everyone or to catch a nap during a movie marathon. Check, too, that

When buying a sofa, factor in style, function and quality before falling in love with a particular look or style. you can get on and off the sofa comfortably.

Lean in

Buying a sofa means testing out several different types. Too often we buy a sofa by sitting primly on the center cushion. Instead, sit on the sofa — or lie down on it

— the way you normally would. If you lean against one arm and curl your legs under, do that to see how the sofa feels in your standard position. Lie on it, if that’s what normally do, so you can get the feel of the cushions and the arms. Maybe you’d prefer two cushions instead of three.

When going for style, think about what you can live with for a long time. This can help you select the right upholstery and pattern. A white sofa that’s going to get a lot of use might not be the optimal color for a family with pets. Instead, select upholstery that is washable, won’t show as many stains, and will wear well. Sofas that are more neutral, with long wearing, washable fabric will serve you much longer than one in a trendy color or pattern. Quality is an important consideration when buying a sofa, because a wellmade sofa won’t have broken seats or cushions that slip, especially for a sofa you’ll use more often, perhaps in a family or television room; so choose wisely factoring in style, function and quality.




How to renovate an older home Tips for maintaining the charm of a vintage property JENNA SCHUSTER | HomeAdvisor

Become a historian

It’s important to figure out as much as you can about your home right off the bat. Knowing things like when it was built or how the crown molding was done can help when it comes time to renovate. Being aware of your home’s history can help you preserve the most important parts of the design, like transom windows, boot scrapers or Dutch doors. Not to mention, all of that historical knowledge will help you appreciate your space that much more.

Take your time when upgrading an older home.


here’s a lot of talk these days about the many ways to bring historic homes into the modern era. But if you’ve purchased an older home — or watched enough of the TV shows featuring renovations — you know that the original features can lend the most charm. Here are some things to consider as you work to maintain the integrity of a vintage home through updates, upgrades and renovations:

Know what you’re getting into

Historic homes are popular for a reason. They exude charisma and character, and they typically have a lot to offer homeowners looking to personalize a home. Of course, there also other things to consider. Be aware of common problems like lead paint and asbestos in older homes, both of which will need to be addressed before you can safely move in. Also be sure to check the structural integrity of the home’s foundation. Hiring an inspector experienced in older homes will help to ensure that you find and address any non-cosmetic problems at the outset.

Mix and match

Be patient and gentle

Don’t treat a vintage home like a new home — it was built differently; the materials are older and it requires more attention. A good rule of thumb is to be patient and gentle in all things when working on your older home. Take your time with upgrades or remodels — it’s always better to get the job done right than to throw something together in haste. And by using mild cleaners, protecting fragile design elements and touching up dings and scratches as they come, you’ll be giving your older home the care it needs and deserves.

Despite superior craftsmanship in older homes, there will always be wear and tear. Paint chips and fades, mortar crumbles and appliances go out of style. When one of the home’s original features starts to deteriorate, it can seem like the end of the world. But you do have a few options. One is to match colors and styles as closely as possible during upgrades. But if you truly cannot replicate part of your vintage home, it’s OK to mix it up with modern styles. Many contemporary fixtures work surprisingly well in older homes, and it’s easy to make an old tile pattern new again with some creativity.

Feeling overwhelmed?

There is a lot to consider when it comes to taking care of a historic home. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t be afraid to reach out to the experts at your local historical society. They’ll be more than happy to equip you with tools and information you need to make the transition a breeze. Plus, they should know of some local contractors who specialize in renovating and preserving older homes.

Being aware of your home’s history can help you preserve the most important parts of the design, such as architectural details of the exterior. DREAMSTIME

10 common renovation mistakes Before undertaking a major project, double check that you aren’t making these avoidable missteps 1 Not budgeting enough

Even if you have the costs down to the penny, make sure you build extra money into your budget. Many times you may find something lurking that impacts your costs.

design advice 2 Forgoing Before you install an expensive

backsplash, talk with your local designer about whether it will look good with your countertops. It’s good to hire a designer to go over your plans with you before undertaking the renovation.

3 Putting in new countertops, but keeping old cabinets

Many homeowners will do this when they want to put their home on the market. But it’s going to look like you did just that. Try refacing the cabinets. Or, put more money into cabinets and go with a less expensive countertop choice. Nothing looks as bad as new, beautiful granite next to tired, 40-year-old cabinets.


Choosing a design that’s too busy

Granite is beautiful, but it’s often highly patterned. If your countertops are patterned, adding a patterned backsplash could make the kitchen look too busy and less appealing. If your counters are plain, add pattern to your backsplash. If counters are busy, keep the backsplash plain.

Choosing a design 5 that’s too plain

So many houses are bathed in neutral tones and lack spirit and life that a pattern brings. Find one place in your home to add some wallpaper. It could be a guest bathroom that creates a surprise effect and that you can turn into a jewel box. Or, try it in a formal dining room or on the ceiling. Adding interest keeps your home interesting.

Not investing in good-quality 6 plumbing products

They feel better, wear better and will last longer. Think about replacing short toilets with those of a comfortable height. Also consider replacing your old double bowl kitchen sink with a one-bowl option. It will look updated and newer.

Replacing light fixtures can bring a whole new look to a room.

7 Not going the extra mile

Paint and new flooring look great, but go all the way and update trim work such as crown molding. It will make your renovation look finished.

Invest in good-quality plumbing products in bathrooms and in the kitchen.

8 Creating a bland kitchen

Kitchens don’t have to be white or a sea of wood. Give your kitchen some personality with color. Think about painted cabinets for a fresh look.

replacing light fixtures 9 Not A new fixture brings a whole new

look to a room. Adding new fixtures should be on the list of to-dos for any room renovation.

10 Not quieting noisy floors

When flooring is replaced, especially with floating floors or engineered wood, be sure you get a sound test. Some floors are very noisy, so take care to talk with your flooring company to find a floor or underlayment that will keep your floors quiet. — Kathryn Weber, Tribune News Service

Find a place in your home to add some wallpaper as an interesting design detail.




Home-staging experts recommend opening the drapes and pulling up the shades to let in as much natural light as possible.

What buyers

dislike most

Features to keep in mind as you prep for sale PAT MERTZ ESSWEIN | Kiplinger’s Personal Finance


s a home seller, you don’t want to let the small stuff sabotage your sale. According to industry studies and interviews with real estate agents and home-staging experts who deal with buyer preferences every day, the following represent the biggest buyer turnoffs. Most of them are easy to fix without spending a ton of money. Take a look:

Your personal paint palette Paint over colors that reflect your taste but may put off potential buyers. , such as a scarlet-red accent wall, a lemon-yellow child’s bedroom or a forest-green den. Fun colors are for living, but neutral colors are for selling. Choose a warm, neutral color — beige, ivory, taupe or light gray — that makes your rooms look inviting, larger and brighter. Redo painted trim in white. Cost to fix: A pro can prep and paint a 10-foot-by-15-foot room with a coat of latex paint and primer in one for anywhere from $400 to $850, according to

Popcorn ceilings Removal is usually a messy and laborious process. The material must be wetted down and scraped and the underlying wallboard wiped clean. Once the popcorn is gone, the ceiling often must be repaired with joint compound and repainted. Cost to fix: The cost for removal, repair and repainting will be about $2 to $4 per square foot, according to

Wall-to-wall carpeting Many buyers expect hardwood floors, even in starter homes. If carpet hides your home’s original hardwood floors, remove it, even if the wood isn’t in the best condition. Even if you don’t have hardwood, you may want to consider having it or a luxury vinyl planking, a close facsimile, installed in a first-floor living area. If you must keep the carpeting, make sure it looks and smells its best by having it professionally cleaned, especially in high-traffic areas or if you have pets. To find a cleaner certified by the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification, visit Talk with your agent about the best strategy — whether to replace carpet or give buyers the option to choose what they want. Cost to fix: A pro can clean 500 square feet of carpet with light stain removal for about $170 to $230, according to Homewyse. com. The cost to refinish 500 square feet of hardwood flooring runs about $2,000 to $2,400, including labor, while the cost to install new hardwood runs from about $3,900 to $5,700.

Many buyers expect hardwood floors, so consider removing wall-to-wall carpeting.

Brass fixtures

Bugs and other critters

From switch plates to chandeliers, builder-grade, shiny yellow brass has been unpopular for a while, but in some cities, it’s regaining popularity, especially in a non-glossy finish, among young home buyers. Check with a real estate agent to see what’s happening in your market and price range. If replacement is in order, choose nickel, chrome or stainless steel fixtures in your choice of finish. Cost to fix: You could buy two chandeliers and a few flushmounted lights for $200 to $400 at a big-box store such as Lowe’s or Home Depot. After that, it’s DIY.

Now’s the time to say bye-bye to ants and other pests. If doing it yourself isn’t doing it, you’ll need to hire a pro. Cost to fix: The typical one-time cost of pest control is about $300 to $500, according to If you have an ongoing problem, contract with an exterminator to visit periodically.

Your pets Buyers may be frightened, allergic or distracted by them, even if your animal is well-behaved. It’s best if you can remove your dog from your home during a showing. If your cats strictly live indoors, you could put them in their cat carriers or corral them in one room or in the garage. Cost to fix: To keep up with pet fur and dander and reduce the time you spend vacuuming floors, buy a robotic vacuum cleaner.

Faux crystal faucet handles Acrylic knobs in the bathroom look cheap and can be hard to use by young, aged or soapy hands. Replace them with a faucet and handle set that matches the existing fixture’s configuration and meets the standard of the Americans with Disabilities Act with flipper- or lever-style handles. Polished-chrome finish will cost you the least and still be durable. Cost to fix: Chrome faucets start at about $25 to $50. The national average cost to hire a plumber to replace a faucet is about $300, according to It could cost more if there’s corrosion or some other difficulty. You can replace a tub-and-shower faucet set for about the same amount.

Vanity strips Nothing says 1970s like a Hollywood-style strip of bare, round lights over your bathroom mirror. Replace it with a fixture that includes a shade for each bulb or a bath bar in a style and finish that complements your faucet set. Cost to fix: Many three-light fixtures with shades run $60 to $100 at You should be able to handle this job yourself.

Bathroom carpet Replace bathroom carpet with vinyl flooring that looks like tile. Cost to fix: Expect to pay about $240 to $540 for 50 square feet of sheet vinyl flooring (including removal and disposal of old flooring), according to Homewyse. com. For some added wow factor, opt for ceramic tile. A 12 x 12 inch glazed ceramic tile costs around $745 to $1,385 for 50 square feet.

Neutral colors are for selling. Paint over colors that reflect your personal taste, and opt for a warm, neutral color palette in paint and furnishings.

Unpleasant odors

Clutter and dirt

You may have grown nose-blind to the odors in your home, but buyers will notice them as soon as they step through the door. Pet odors and cigarette smoke are especially troublesome. At a minimum, until you move out you need to smoke outside and clean the litter pan, wash the dog and empty the trash more frequently. Forego cooking strong-smelling foods. Lastly, open the windows occasionally to let in some fresh air.If you have pets, use a blacklight flashlight (about $10 on to help you find urine residue that you otherwise can’t see on rugs, floors, walls or furniture. Spot-clean with a vinegar solution or enzymatic cleaners designed for that purpose. Wash walls and ceilings with a detergent (non-soapy) or a Tri-Sodium Phosphate (TSP) substitute, such as Savogran ($6 at Home Depot), that will remove grease and grime. Then apply a primer, such as Kilz (from $9 to $25 a gallon), that’s designed to seal in odor and stains, and repaint. Cost to fix: Have carpets steamcleaned and drapes dry-cleaned. Wash curtains and blinds. Have upholstered pieces professionally cleaned, which will run you from $133 to $179 for full cleaning with light stain removal of a chair and couch, according to

Donate, sell, recycle or trash whatever you don’t want or need in your next home. Pack up and store your tchotchkes. Tidy and organize drawers, cabinets or closets that buyers will be sure to check out. Thoroughly clean your house and be prepared to keep it that way until you move out. Cost to fix: Cleaning costs you little if you supply the elbow grease. You can expect to pay from $270 to $340 for a pro to clean a 2,000-square-foot house, according to

Wallpaper and wood paneling Although wallpaper may be making a bit of a comeback, buyers generally don’t love it and see only the work required to remove it. You can save money by doing it yourself. Removing a decorative border may be manageable, but stripping a roomful of wallpaper will be a major chore. Buyers aren’t enamored of brown, wood paneling, either. Cost to fix: If you hire a professional to strip wallpaper, you’ll pay from $611 to $1,230 for 350 square feet of wall, according to For wood paneling, It may be easier to just paint it at a cost of about $420 to $960 for 350 square feet.

Darkness Open the drapes and pull up the shades to let in natural light. If you can’t be home to turn on the lights, especially during shorter fall and winter days ahead, put some lights on timers or install some smart lights. Cost to fix: The Philips Hue White Starter Kit ($100 for a kit with four bulbs and a bridge that acts as a translator between the bulbs and your Wi-Fi network) will allow you to turn lights on and off using your voice or a smart device. Extra bulbs usually run $15 to $40 each.

Messy neighbors Buyers will scope out your neighbor’s property, and if their’s looks haunted, that could be a turn-off. Pay your neighbors a friendly visit to let them know you’re planning to sell, and ask if they can help you make the best impression and sell for top dollar — which will increase their home’s value, too — by “catching up” with their yard work or tidying. If your neighbors are unreceptive and you believe they’re breaking the rules of your homeowners association or laws of your town, you could report them. It won’t foster friendly relations, but it could force them to step up. Cost to fix: You could install a wood privacy fence. Installing 25 feet of fencing will cost $560 to $920, according to




Outdoor areas offer more living space without the cost of a large-scale home addition.

What buyers

want most

If it’s time to sell, consider making upgrades ANDREA BROWNE TAYLOR | Kiplinger’s Personal Finance


omeowners are sometimes hesitant to upgrade when it’s time to sell. After all, you won’t be living there much longer, and most home remodeling efforts increase home values by only 50%-80% of the average project’s costs, according to Remodeling magazine’s 2019 Cost vs. Value report. For example, the average cost of a mid-range bathroom remodel is $20,420. You’d recoup about $13,717 (67.2%) of that amount during a resale. While you may not want to spend the extra cash, the cost of inaction can be far greater. “Making small upgrades over time serves a seller immensely,” said Brian Lewis, a real estate broker with New York Citybased realty firm Compass. These don’t have to be break-the-bank alterations, either. To make the most of your remodeling budget, focus on features that most home buyers really want to see. Here are the home features most coveted by today’s buyers:

Laundry room

More than anything else, homeowners want a room other than the guest bedroom to stack all the clean laundry in until it finally gets put away. A separate laundry room tops the National Association of Home Builders’ (NAHB) list of most-wanted home features by buyers. If you don’t have an existing laundry room and want to add one, the basement is usually the easiest (and cheapest) place to put it. Adding a laundry room in the basement can cost as little as $1,000. Homeowners who prefer a laundry area closer to bedrooms can expect installation to cost around $5,000. Cost to install: $1,000 to $5,000 for a small-scale project.

Energy efficiencies Would-be buyers looking to limit utility bills will likely be drawn to properties with energy efficiencies, such as Energy Star-qualified windows and appliances.Energy-efficient windows can trim heating and cooling costs by 12%, while individual appliances, can save homeowners $45 a year or more on their utility bills. Replacing an existing clothes dryer with an energy-efficient version could save as much as $245 over the appliance’s lifetime. Cost to install: Varies by appliance.


Thanks in part to the popularity of backyard renovation TV shows, outdoor living spaces have become the most coveted outdoor home feature for homebuyers. It’s important for homeowners not to neglect the backyard area when prepping for resale, said Mike McGrew, former treasurer of the National Association of Realtors and CEO of McGrew Real Estate, a Lawrence, Kansas-based realty firm. “When most buyers see a house with a really nice backyard, they start to envision themselves sitting outdoors with friends having drinks,” McGrew said. Cost to install: $963 per 120 square feet for a concrete patio.

Enery-efficient ceiling fans can help lower cooling costs when used with air conditioning during warmer months.

Eat-in kitchen

Garage storage space

Carving out space in your garage to help keep clutter out of the main living area could help your bottom line. Unlike an attic or a backyard shed, the garage is accessible — generally, just a few steps away from the rest of the house — making it easier to transport items such as tools, patio chairs or boxes to and from other parts of the house. The installation cost includes adding cabinetry, shelving, peg-board walls for tool storage and lighting. Cost to install: $2,025—$2,363 for 380 square feet.

Exterior lighting

Illuminating a well-manicured lawn with exterior lighting can help grab potential buyers’ attention before they even set foot in the front door. In fact, exterior lighting is the second most-wanted outdoor feature (patio was first), according to the NAHB. Options include spotlights, walkway lights and pendant lights. Motion-sensor lights, for example, turn on automatically whenever there is movement outside your house, serving as an added safety feature for your home. Cost to install: $65 per fixture.

Ceiling fan In addition to improving a home’s aesthetic, energy-efficient ceiling fans (ranging in price from $69 to $1,300 at Lowe’s) can help lower cooling costs when used in conjunction with an air conditioner during the warmer months. Ceiling fans create a wind-chill effect that helps cool the people sitting in the room. Homeowners should be able to raise the thermostat level by four degrees without a reduction in comfort while the fan is in use, according to recommends that ceiling fans only be used in rooms with a ceiling height of at least eight feet. The fans work best at that height and when they’re hanging 10 to 12 inches below the ceiling. Cost to install: $466 per fixture with light kit and remote control.

A separate dining room is among the top 10 essentials for first- and second-time homebuyers in a recent survey.

Walk-in closet

Walk-in closets are quickly gaining in popularity among first- and second-time homebuyers, ranking among their top five features. If you live in an older dwelling with a reach-in closet, you may want to consider revamping it, said Maria Zamora, a realtor associate with Realty Consultants Network in Addison, Texas. Couples generally want a closet with more space, because they’ll be sharing it. Singles desire the flexibility of being able to store their personal belongings — from clothes and shoes to jewelry and other accessories — in one place, while keeping them organized. “Homes without a walk-incloset in the master bedroom are more of a challenge to sell and will attract less buyers,” Zamora said. If you live in an older home with less space, a full closet renovation in the master bedroom may not be practical. However, you still have options that will help make your property more appealing. Update an existing reach-in closet by installing an organization system complete with shelving units and hanging rods for clothes. Cost to install: Varies based on design.

Dining room

In recent years, formal dining rooms (and closed floor plans) have taken a backseat to open floor concepts in today’s home models. While open-floor concepts help maximize space when entertaining, there are still homebuyers who desire a separate dining area distinct from the kitchen. In fact, a separate dining room is among the top 10 essentials for first- and second-time homebuyers in the NAHB survey. If your home has an open floor plan, there are still ways to create a dining space that’s distinct and will attract buyers who desire such a feature. You can add an over-the-table lighting fixture or incorporate a tray ceiling to help define a particular area of the main living level— perhaps just off the kitchen. Another option: Install decorative columns instead of a solid wall. For those with older homes that have a closed floor plan, it may be time to reexamine your dining room. The cost of a small-scale remodel to a 190-square-foot space ranges in price from $5,832 to $6,804, according to This includes installing new flooring, doors, switchplates, decorative hardware and recessed lighting. Cost to install: $1,000—$6,000 to add ceiling fixtures or structural columns to open floor plan.

Eat-in kitchens are also a must-have among first- and second-time home buyers. They’re especially attractive to families with children. It’s a space where they can congregate in the morning for breakfast before the kids head off to school and parents to work, or in the evening for dinner so everyone can share highlights from their day. Removing a non-load-bearing wall to create space for a small table and chairs in your kitchen is relatively inexpensive (as little as $1,000), but that price can quickly escalate if your demolition reveals plumbing, duct work and electrical wiring that needs to be removed, Move or Improve’s Parsons says If you’re on a tight budget and can’t afford to knock out a wall to create more space for a table and chairs, consider adding a center island with room for bar stools. You can purchase prefabricated kitchen islands with space for seating at Home Depot (starting at $540) and Lowe’s (starting at $464). Cost to install: $1,000—$10,000.

Walk-in pantry Walk-in pantries are the mostwanted kitchen feature among buyers polled in the NAHB’s report. Unlike reach-in closet pantries with sliding doors that offer limited space, walk-in versions allow homeowners to store larger quantities of non-perishable food items and other kitchen essentials just steps away from the food prep area, said Neil Parsons, project designer for Move or Improve, a Matawan, New Jersey-based home design firm. This can be helpful for those who like to shop in bulk at warehouse clubs. Make sure the pantry is situated somewhere that is cool and dry. Cost to install: Varies based on design.

Hardwood floors Hardwood flooring offers a cleaner look, is easier to maintain and is more durable than carpet, which needs to be replaced every eight to 10 years. Sellers on a budget may want to buy engineered wood flooring. The cost to install 120 square feet of engineered wood flooring is $858 — nearly 15% cheaper than pure hardwood flooring. Cost to install: $999 per 120 square feet of red oak flooring.





Red pillows in a pattern bring life to a white room.


Red flowers give a vibrant pop. DESIGN RECIPES PHOTOS

is a powerful

accent color



Tribune News Service

rom ruby to rich burgundy, red is a powerful accent color when used purposefully in a space. One key design tip to remember is that it isn’t taboo to mix shades and tones of red. So where to begin? Here are some design recipes tips to help get you started.

DO:  Utilize a technique called “color mapping”. This involves repeating the same or similar color, in this instance red, throughout a space.  Mix different shades and tones of red in the same room.  Use red as an accent color.  Layer your color, by creating different “color opportunities” throughout a space.  Infuse color in a space through the use of accessories such as artwork, toss pillows, blooms, and books.

DON’T:  Overwhelm a space with too much color. Often, “less is more.” Mixing different shades of red, like the pillows and rug at left and the chair and couch in this room, is a great technique.

 Forget that red can be blended in a space with foundation colors such as black, white and taupe.  Overlook the opportunity to use bright shades of red in dark spaces, which often can serve to help “cheer up” a space.

In this bedroom, red accents add boldness.

 Miss small design opportunities to introduce a “pop of red” often small touches such as a single bloom or coffee-table book can make a powerful statement.  Use color as an afterthought. Successful color schemes are often achieved through thought and planning.

Bathroom materials: What to embrace and what to avoid JENNA SCHUSTER

as you avoid flat matte shades, which show every speck of water.



here’s more to consider with a bathroom remodel than with your average renovation. Bathrooms are susceptible to things like water damage, mold, mildew and slick surfaces. Here, we’ve compiled a list of the best and worst materials for your bathroom remodel, so you can be sure you’re making the right choices.

AVOID: The least favorable material for your bathroom walls is wallpaper because it may peel from the constant steam. A solid vinyl wall covering can add texture without moisture issues.


Luckily, when it comes to bathroom countertops, there’s a relatively small margin for error. Most countertop materials are waterproof, which gives you a wide range of options to choose from.

Flooring Choosing a flooring material is one of the most difficult parts of a bathroom remodel. You want a material that will stand up to water droplets and hot steam without getting slick. EMBRACE: A few go-to options include slip-resistant tile, rubber and linoleum flooring. If you choose linoleum, use sheet flooring instead of linoleum boards, which have more cracks and are susceptible to moisture seeping through. AVOID: Wood flooring isn’t a good choice for bathrooms because it warps under wet and steamy conditions. And slick

EMBRACE: Laminate, solid surface, glass, stone and quartz are all popular options that should be able to withstand moisture and normal wear and tear. When remodeling your bathroom, choose materials that will resist mold, mildew and water damage over time. substances like stone or porcelain can be dangerous when damp. But the worst choice for bathrooms is carpet. Carpet will mildew, mold and lead to water damage in the subfloor, and it’s downright unsanitary in bathrooms.

Walls Unlike floors, it doesn’t matter if your walls are slippery. So, you have a bit more flexibility when choosing wall materials. EMBRACE: Ceramic, porcelain and stone tile are great water-

proof options that add personality to your space. Try installing decorative tile around areas that are exposed to a lot of water, like above your shower and behind your sink. And for walls that are farther away from water sources, paint is a good choice – so long

AVOID: You may want to avoid installing tile countertops in the bathroom. Grout gets dirty much faster in these heavily used areas, and things like colored soap, makeup and lotion can stain it. If your heart is set on tile, consider going for a dark grout color to disguise grime. And stay away from copper countertops if you’re not up for the regular maintenance they require.






Home decor’s upbeat hue should be used right


KIM COOK | Associated press

f ever a color were to be associated with an emotion (OK, blue, we see you), it’s got to be yellow. Upbeat and welcoming, it’s a hue that’s easy to love. But it can be tricky to use when decorating.

Bold yellows are eye-catching, but color experts advise caution. Unless you’re prepared to live with bright yellow’s peppy assertiveness, softer, creamier versions might be more prudent choices. Will Taylor, founder of the color blog Bright.Bazaar and an interior design expert at Marshalls, loves yellow in all its iterations. “To me, it’s happiness personified,” he says. “As soon as I see it, I feel joy.” Better Homes & Gardens Style Director Jessica Thomas calls yellow “sunshine in a can.” And Dee Schlotter, senior color marketing manager for PPG Paints, says yellow is often seen as the signature hue for “happy.” “Bright, energizing yellows are known to enhance the mind and help creativity flow,” she says. “We saw ‘Gen Z yellow’ bubble to the surface last year, with colors like Crushed Pineapple reflecting the optimism and boldness of that generation.” Schlotter says yellow was a close runner-up for PPG’s 2019 Color of the Year. Night Watch, a moody green-gray, ultimately took the title, but Golden Field — a dramatic mustard yellow — was a strong second. A tip when you’re in the paint store: “We recommend first looking at the bottom color on the paint swatch to find the root of the yellow,” Schlotter says. “For example, if the bottom color is green, the yellow at the top of the card will have subtle hints of green infused into it.” Go two or three shades lighter than you think you want if you’re painting a room. And “warmer yellows tend to work better on walls,” Schlotter says. “Brighter variations are perfect on a front door, as an accent wall in a bedroom, or in a dining room to provide a rich, striking look.” Taylor’s got some favorite yellow paints, including Dayroom Yellow from Farrow & Ball, Bicycle Yellow from Behr, and Hawthorn Yellow from Benjamin Moore. “Yellow’s the queen of accent colors,” he says. “It goes with neutrals to blacks and blues. Think of adding pops of yellow across art, pillows, throws and flowers. It will instantly add visual interest, giving the eye a place to land, and it prevents a room from feeling flat.”

Lemon motifs and prints are a fresh, fun way to bring the color home. “Lemon print wallpaper in a bathroom or closet is a cheerful way to add yellow,” Taylor says. “Every time you step in it will make you smile.” Check out Spoonflower, Etsy and Walls Need Love for lemon-y wallpapers that range in style from realistic to retro. Williams-Sonoma has porcelain plates decorated with Meyer lemons and framed with a vintage-look botanical border. Ballard Designs offers Sunbrella fabric by the yard with a pretty lemon-and-leaf print that would be great on patio pillows or cushions; there are faux lemon branches here as well, to tuck in a vase or basket. Kitchenaid’s buttercup yellow mixer is a softer version of the hue, while Chantal’s sunny yellow Anniversary tea kettle is a waker-upper. If you’d really like to commit, consider a piece of yellow furniture, or even an appliance. All Modern has well-priced upholstered seating, with clean-lined silhouettes that let the color take center stage. West Elm’s got a set of velvet curtains and a distressed rug in a hue called wasabi that has a golden tone. Bertazzoni and SMEG stock equipment like stoves, fridges and range hoods in fresh yellows. Ready for more? Scandinavian manufacturer Vola has marked its 50th anniversary by releasing Arne Jacobsen’s original 1968 designed bath faucet in a rainbow of colors, and a kicky yellow is one of them. Or put the wild on the walls, with glass subway, mosaic or free-form ceramic tiles from Modwalls. Even the names are as fun as this color: Daffodil; Sunflower; Limoncello.

A tapestry, like this one available from Marshalls, could be a subtle way to introduce the color in a home.

Shown above is one of the range hoods from SMEG USA. If you’re keen to take a bigger leap into yellow beyond just paint or accessories, consider appliances. SMEG has a suite of stoves, range hoods and fridges in the hue; paired with neutral colors, stone and wood, the look is upbeat and uber cool.

A smaller range option from SMEG USA than shown below.

SMEG USA features yellow fridges as well.


Should you install a metal backsplash in your kitchen? GENE AND KATIE HAMILTON

Tribune Content Agency

For a quick makeover to a kitchen, a metal backsplash might be all that’s needed to add personality and functionality to the hardworking countertop and cabinets. A backsplash  Pro cost: $305 made of stainless steel tiles  DIY cost: $75 will protect against water,  Pro time: Three hours grease and food stains, and  DIY time: Four hours it will be an easy-to-clean  DIY savings: $230 surface for years to come.  Percent saved: We found a good selection 75% of peel-and-stick stainless steel tiles at Lowes and online


A metal backsplash might be all that’s needed to add personality and functionality to a kitchen.

at, where you’ll find installation instructions and design ideas for laying out the tiles in different patterns. A tile contractor will install 20 square feet of 3-by 6-inch stainless steel tiles as a kitchen backsplash for $305, which includes labor and material. You can do the job for $75, the cost of the tiles and wall primer, saving 75 percent. Measure the space to determine the number of tiles needed and then place them on a flat surface to create the layout design you want. The surface must be a sound

substrate that’s clean, flat, smooth and dry, such as wallboard. Use an oil-based primer, such as KILZ, to prepare the surface. You’ll need a chalk line to create a vertical and horizontal reference line to guide the tile placement, along with a measuring tape, a straightedge and a level. If the tiles require cutting, you’ll need a chop saw and a miter box. To find more DIY and contract or project costs and to post comments and questions go to




Adding gray on the walls will update and refresh a bright kitchen, and it can make your white kitchen feel timeless.

TOUCH OF GRAY Invigorate a white kitchen with a trending accent color KATHRYN WEBER | Tribune News Service


t’s timeless, fits in almost any era and looks current. It’s the white kitchen. It was all the rage in the 1990s, but it ran out of steam once the millennium changed. Wood made a strong comeback, and then the white kitchen had a brief renaissance, but its energy has begun to flag once more. The color that’s on trend now? Gray.

Gray groove

It’s a color that reads as a neutral. Whether you call it grey or gray, it’s all the same, from pale oyster to deep charcoal. Gray is a color that’s also timeless and can blend well with many homes, fitting perfectly into contemporary to traditional styles. Think gray can’t be traditional? Nothing says classic and timeless like a gray wool suit or gray tweed jacket. Gray may be the color that can help you cool off a white kitchen from all its blinding whiteness.

Gray choices

One of the best qualities of a white kitchen is its lightness, but sometimes the unity of the color can seem one-dimensional. Adding gray to an island or to the bottom cabinets can be all you need to add some depth to your white kitchen. Gray also warms up a white kitchen, making it feel more personal and welcoming. Look at adding dimension, too, with gray colors. Try a range of colors for your cabinets, such as mixing pale and light grays together. For instance, try a medium gray on the exterior cabinets and a paler shade inside. For white kitchens with glass fronts, add a coat of deep gray inside the cabinets to make dishware stand out.

Why you should go gray

If your white kitchen has grown dull in its light and airy look, tone it down and neutralize that white with a gray tone. Gray can help update and refresh a bright white kitchen that needs some depth, warmth, and a calm stillness. Adding gray on the cabinets or walls will make your white kitchen feel both new and timeless.

Shades of gray

There are so many options when it comes to gray. There are grays that are sometimes called “greige,” and look like a combination of gray and beige. There are also grays that are pale, and grays that are dark. Dark grays can run from almost black to almost blue. Blue grays and almost-black grays are a great way to pick up and accent veining in marble counter tops. Think about using gray on the walls of your kitchen if you have wood cabinets you don’t want to paint, such as pricey cherry or alder wood. The gray background can help perk up the heaviness of wood cabinets without covering up their natural beauty. Create depth and dimension by combining gray colors together. To pair colors, make it easy by selecting gray shades on a paint chip strip. Select colors from a light shade and a darker shade. Make sure there is enough contrast.

ABOVE: Try using multiple gray tones, such as a dark gray island with light gray seating. LEFT: A medium gray on the cabinets can help cool off a white kitchen from its blinding whiteness.


Installing drywall requires skill and muscle


I’m pondering installing new drywall in a room addition while I’m on vacation. I’ve watched cable TV shows and numerous online videos, and I’ve read a few articles. It doesn’t TIM appear to be that hard. I’ve got CARTER a few helpers, so I’m convinced we can install the material and finish it. Is drywall work harder than it looks? — Mike M., Tyler, Texas A: It’s easy to get overconfident after watching home improvement shows and such. But too often the producers tend to gloss over the hard stuff. And that’s intentional: If the impression you took away from DIY TV shows is that the work is too hard to do, you’d probably stop watching. Lots of books have been written about

the craft of drywall installation and finishing. One of the best is “The Gypsum Construction Handbook” published by USG Corp., one of the top manufacturers of the drywall and finishing compounds. One thing that might surprise you about working with drywall is the weight of the material. You can now buy drywall or sheetrock that weighs less than its predecessors, but even the lightweight material’s weight might stun you. Lifting and holding a 4 x 12 sheet of ½-inch drywall over your head while trying to monkey around with the screws and screw gun might extract all the strength and skill you have. Installing drywall can be nasty, dusty work. Razor knives are used to score, snap and cut the large sheets. Profes-

sionals use small hand-held routers with special bits to make the cutouts for electrical boxes and other fixtures. Do not use a circular saw to cut drywall like you might plywood or OSB. Be sure you use the correct length screw and recess it just enough so it doesn’t tear the paper facing. On ceilings, place the screws on 12-inch centers. On walls, the screws can be 16 inches on center. Finishing drywall is an art. You need to mix the finishing compound so it’s the correct consistency. I prefer to have mine like moist mashed potatoes or warm cake icing. I recommend that you build a test wall and practice finishing it before you ruin your new room addition. You’ll be stunned how hard it is to get professional finishing results if you’ve never done it before.


Large sheets of drywall are very heavy. You can rent machines that hold the sheets up against the ceiling.




Gold artwork, gold-toned lamps and a faux-fur throw make a glam statement in the bedroom.

A SPRITZ OF GLITZ Mix silver and gold accents for a luxe look CATHY HOBBS | Tribune News Service


hen looking for ways to dress up your space, why not glam up your home the same way you would add a bit of glitz to your wardrobe? Just as in fashion, metallics such as silver, gold, bronze and even copper can be used as jewel tones for the home. Looking for ways to blend more than one metallic finish in a single space? Here are some tips for ways to go bold with both silver and gold: Consider blending different finishes through various lighting selections. For example, try a chandelier in one finish and table lamps or a floor lamp in a different finish.


ABOVE: Gold and bronze accessories help make a bold vignette. RIGHT: A mix of silver and bronze adds elegance and sophistication A to this dining space. TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE PHOTOS

Gold shelving items paired with gold accents in the main artwork make a statement in this bedroom.


Add portable design elements such as a mix of silver and gold toss pillows or throws.


Blend silver and gold through your fixtures such as handles or faucets.

Mix silver and gold accessories in a single space such as blending vases or accent pieces of different finishes.


Experiment with paint. Whether an accent wall or in the form of artwork, look for ways to blend silver and gold in an artistic statement.


Don’t be afraid to mix and match finishes, such as pairing a polished finish with a more muted or matte one.


Look for ways to build a palette from a signature or inspiration piece. These types of statement pieces can help be the springboard for your design or color story.


Use your metallic finishes as colors. It’s OK to blend gold with yellow and yellow-based tones and silver with gray or gray-based tones.


Create vignettes using a blend of various metallic elements. Design vignettes work well on surfaces such as consoles, dressers and nightstands.


Include metallic elements in any room 10 where you want to add a touch of glam or

glitz. From bedrooms to living rooms and dining areas, nearly any room of the home can be an opportunity to bring in glam elements.

Need a bedroom upgrade? KATHRYN WEBER

Tribune Content Agency

There’s nothing quite as inviting as a well-made bed. As the focal point in any bedroom, the bed commands attention. But what if you don’t have a headboard on your bed? Somehow the bed, and the room, doesn’t quite feel finished. Even feng shui experts say that all beds need a headboard to produce a feeling of support while sleeping. If you’ve been lacking a headboard, there are options for creating one that will ensure your bed gets all the attention it deserves.

Wall support

One of the easiest ways to create a headboard effect without actually having a headboard is to focus attention on the wall behind the bed. Adding a section of wallpaper behind the bed put the attentions squarely on the bed. Whether you add wallpaper

Simple headboard stand-ins can complete your room’s decor One and done

on the whole wall, or add two or three rows of paper to create a mock headboard effect, both will help anchor the bed to the wall. With the new peel-and-stick wallpaper, you can visually add a headboard in minutes. Peeland-stick isn’t just for wallpaper, though. Try a peel-and-stick tiles that look like stone or wood panels. These can be added to a wall to give it a textural feel and makes a nice stand-in for a headboard. Tin ceiling tiles are another quick peel and stick option that can be fashioned to any size you’d like.


Cloth and woven articles can easily be fashioned into a headboard that you can change for the season or with your taste. A fast replacement is a rug mounted behind the bed on a rod. If you’re handy, you can make something more substantial, by building a wooden frame the width of your bed and wrap the frame with a

There are many ways to add a headboard to the back of your bed. carpet or textile of your choice and mount it to the wall. Look for a woven rug with a high contrast design for an upscale look. Of course, curtains are another easy and soft option for creating

a headboard. Hang curtains up high and let drape down behind the bed. For more romance, add a second rod to use as a canopy to suspend from the ceiling over your bed.

For uber-simple headboard possibilities, outline a headboard on the wall behind your bed in washi tape that contrasts with your wall color paint to visually suggest a headboard. Leave it as a simple outline for something super quick or add a stencil in the center for more panache. Another speedy option is to place a room divider or decorative wall panel behind the bed. Be sure to anchor to the wall or bed frame. Another unique alternative is to hang a large print or artwork. If artwork is lacking, throw away the picture and just add an oversized frame. It’s a custom look that’s also attention-grabbing. Murals are another way to give your bedroom pizazz and break away from the standard headboard. Look for large wall-size peel and stick murals online. You’ll find them in array of subjects from maps to comic book characters or florals.




Simplify your



Herb stripper Your fingers will do just fine.


how to organize it in any way — and adIf you are mit it: You wouldn’t cry if this box fell unsure if a gadget off the truck, either. A chef’s knife is inarguably the is useful, ask yourself most important and versatile tool these essential questions: in a kitchen. There are other tools,  Do I use it enough for it to take up space gadgets, and utensils, however, in my kitchen? that are the exact opposite: unnec If it disappeared or broke, how much essary, redundant, and useless. By would I care? definition, “tool” denotes some Can the job be done with a more thing useful, and we don’t think traditional tool… like a knife? some gadgets have even earned the If the anwer is no, consider right to call themselves that. simplifying your life and donating them.

f you have ever moved from one house or apartment to another, you know and understand the pain of packing up the kitchen: Delicate bowls and glassware are packaged tenderly; you organize all of your prized pans and baking molds into one box, and then spices are lovingly packed to avoid spillage, too. But there is always, inevitably, a section or drawer in your kitchen filled with cool kitchen gadgets designed to make your life “easier.” You can dump all of this stuff into a box — because you obviously don’t know

Here’s a list of potential gadgets you can dispense with: Anything With a descriptor Like “Automatic,” orworse: “O-Matic” Guaranteed you don’t use it regularly and it is hiding somewhere gathering dust.

Oil mister Make vinaigrette and toss your salad like a normal person.

Apple corer Use a knife, will ya?

Avocado knife There’s this cool trick where you cup an avocado half in your non-knife-wielding hand and with your knife, you firmly tap the pit with the sharp edge. Your knife will dig into the pit just enough and give you leverage to pop the core out of the avocado with just a little twist of your hand. Then, using a spoon, enter the avocado at the bottom edge of the fruit and separate the skin from the green flesh. No special tool needed.

Pork shredder claws Forks and/or gloved hands work supremely well, too; and you’ll look infinitely less ridiculous.

Flat whisks Flat whisks make it easier to whisk things in a pot like a roux where it needs to get close to the surface and reach into the rounded corners. But really, could the job be done with a normal whisk? The answer: Yes, yes it could.

Pasta remover Tongs will work fabulously in this situation; so will a fork.

Chopping pocket The Chopping Pocket makes it possible for you to chop and prep in a snap with a durable plastic cutting board that folds into a pocket for you to store your prepped food in. To this we say: Huh? Use a bowl.

Make a standalone tub the centerpiece of your bathroom KATHRYN WEBER

Tribune Content Agency

Looking for a place to melt away your cares and relax? Look no further than a freestanding tub. While once looked upon as old-fashioned, the freestanding tub has been updated and is no longer relegated to the sidelines. With sleek and contemporary lines, freestanding bathtubs have made a resurgence and offer a chic and updated look to your bathroom.

No more wallflower

After decades of being built-in to the bathroom and integrated into the walls, tubs have cut their ties and are holding their own. A freestanding tub is a wonderful choice if you’re considering a remodel or you want to add more emphasis to the bathroom. These tubs come in a variety of shapes, sizes and materials, and they take center stage, making a natural focal point in your bathroom.

Material interest

Tubs in the past have generally come in two materials: cast-iron or fiberglass. However, new freestanding tubs can run the gamut in materials. They can still be found in cast-iron and fiberglass, but they can also be found in metals, like stainless steel, copper and brass, or wood, acrylic, resin or stone. Tubs made of stone and resin can be especially heavy, so if one of these captures your heart, take into account whether the flooring can support the weight of the tub. Tubs made of fiberglass, acrylic or metal will have a lighter weight.

Shape and style

There is a range of shapes to choose from in freestanding tubs. One of the most common and quintessential-looking tubs is the old claw-footed variety. These tubs helped define tub shape and style since the beginning of their appearance in the 1800s. There is the most common, single end. This has a long oval at one end that allows the bather to lean against the back of the tub comfortably. This is followed by a single slipper, with the lounging end sloped slightly, the double slipper, with two ends sloped allowing two bathers to comfortably relax in the tub, and a double ended tub, where both sides are shaped similarly. But there’s still more choice in shape. Tubs today can be oval, square or round.

One freestanding tub that is especially nice is a Japanese-style soaking tub. These tubs take up less square footage, but they’re deeper and enable the bather to soak up to their shoulders. It’s a unique shape and style, but it’s perfect for small bathrooms or for a deeper soaking experience.

Details, details, details

Getting your freestanding tub into place will also require you to consider the drain

hole a n d where it is located in relationship to the tub placement. Plumbing should also be taken into account, as it will either need to be freestanding or mounted on a wall to fill the tub. When determining where to place your freestanding tub, think about it as a focal point. It can be placed next to a window, such as a bay window, or where there is a natural spot in your bathroom where your eye falls as you enter. This is a great way to take advantage of and play up the shape of your tub, and turn your bathroom into a bathing destination.







Associated Press

For those in small homes, entertaining can feel daunting, or even impossible. But with a little planning, that needn’t be the case. “I don’t think anyone who enjoys hosting should stop themselves from entertaining just because of space constraints,” says Sarah Carey, editorial director of food and entertaining for Martha Stewart Living magazine. There is an art to small-space entertaining, and a few things to keep in mind to help things go smoothly. “In a small space, it’s important to keep it simple. Make it easy on yourself by having everything prepared and in place before guests arrive, so that you can enjoy yourself with them. If you’re having fun, your guests will likely have fun, too,” Carey says, adding that, particularly in close confines, a stressed-out host risks ruining the party. The most common mistake, she says, is thinking that more is more. Less is definitely more. “Just be realistic about what you can do and provide. You can be a very generous host without going overboard,” she says.

Clear the decks and set the mood Preparing your space ahead of time is especially important when entertaining in a small home, says Stephanie Sisco, home editor at Real Simple magazine. “Focus on the powder room, entryway and kitchen, making sure the clutter is cleared off countertops and personal items have been removed from the bathroom,” she says. She suggests putting an essence-oil infuser near the front door to set the mood, and having a fan going, since small spaces tend to warm up quickly. And it’s nice to have a playlist at the ready.

Cook ahead of time

“Make-ahead food is great because you aren’t cooking in the kitchen at the last minute, and you can utilize that space for entertaining,” says Carey. “Putting a few last-minute touches on things as people are arriving is OK, but you don’t want to be in full production mode.” Think crudite and aioli, or hummus, or maybe spiced olives as a cold appetizer. Also, “casseroles are back in fashion and are always crowd-pleasers,” says Sisco.

Make a statement

“A large centerpiece adds focus to a party. A ham, Gravlax or smoked salmon platter . are all great make-ahead ideas,” says Carey. “Make one or two and place them in a few different spots — maybe one on the kitchen counter, one on the dining table or sideboard — to spread out the ‘revelers’.”

Signature drinks

Instead of a full bar, set out a couple of punches, one with and one without alcohol, and a couple kinds of wine. “A full bar is not something you can do in a small space, so keep it simple and people will know what to do,” says Carey.

Send them home with a treat “Make a cookie or two — no need to go crazy — but make them super special,” suggests Carey. “Box them up as a reminder of a sweet evening spent with friends.”


Shown above is a bar cart available at Crate & Barrel. With a little planning, even the smallest homes can be just right for holiday entertaining. An item like this modular serving set, available at Crate & Barrel, can be helpful when entertaining in a small space.

This photo provided by Crate When laying & Barrel shows things out ahead of a stacking drink your event, consider dispenser with a where people will be silver stand. congregating so that the drinks are separate from the food area, if possible, and people aren’t blocking the entryway, Sisco suggests.

Spread out


Radiant heat system is your ticket to toasty-warm floors


It’s time to build our retirement home. The house will be in a four-season climate, and I insist on it being as comfortable as possible when it’s cold outdoors. I’ve heard about radiant floor heat but always have had forced-air heat. What can you tell me about radiant floor heat? Is it really that good, or is what I’m hearing all hype? Should I decide to do it, TIM what are some of the tips CARTER and tricks to achieve maximum comfort? — Elizabeth M., Mt. Desert, Maine A: Radiant floor and wall heating is by no means hype. In fact, it’s not hyped enough. It dates back to more than 5,000 years ago when Chinese and Korean builders incorporated it into buildings. The Greeks and Romans also employed heated floors and walls. I’ve been blessed to heat my own home for the past 10 years with radiant heat. I have a combination of radiant floor heating in my walk-out basement, and the rest of the house is heated with hot water that travels through baseboard radiators. Prior to that, I had stayed warm for 55 years like you with forced-air heat. It is luxurious heat — so much so I often lay on the basement floor. Radiant heat takes advantage of the simple physics principle that heat travels to cold. The average human body just doing light or medium activity gets rid of about 400 BTU/hour. If you put yourself next to a cold surface or stand on a cold tile floor, the cold starts to suck the heat out of you at a faster rate, and you feel the sensation of being cold. This is why radiant heat is so magical: It tends to make floors and walls closer to the same temperature as your body. Eliminating moving air, as you have with

These high-quality aluminum plates transfer heat to the floors in your home. You’ll be snug as a bug in a rug. forced-air systems, is also a benefit as the circulating air actually promotes evaporation of perspiration, which makes you feel colder. The topic of residential radiant floor heat is extremely complex. What you need to know are the basics so you have a system designed that’s going to spoil you with comfort. Let’s get started. The first thing that needs to be done is an accurate heat-loss calculation on a room-by-room basis for your new home. There are all sorts of software products that will do this, and it’s just a matter of adding measurements and data into a form. The heat loss calculation allows the installer to design the system so you get the correct amount of heat into each

room. I happen to be installing a topof-the-line radiant heat system in my daughter’s new frame home, so all of this is quite topical right now. The beauty of a radiant heating system is that you can divide your new home into heating zones with ease. Each zone has its own thermostat and in-floor temperature sensor. This allows you to keep different zones at different temperatures during the day and night to save energy. My daughter’s home will have seven separate zones. I’m using PEX plastic tubing that snaps into solid aluminum heat transfer plates that are screwed to the underside of the wood subfloor. The plates are spaced at 8 inches on center for the most part. It’s important to realize you must

use a special PEX pipe that limits oxygen diffusion into the closed hydronic liquid part of the heating system. I’ve had the best luck with the Uponor brand of PEX piping; they make a hePEX product. There are other PEX tubings that minimize oxygen diffusion into the system, but do your research and make sure you have the correct tubing installed at your home. Many installers use 1/2-inch diameter PEX tubing, but 3/8-inch works just as well. It’s easier to install the smaller-diameter tubing. The tubing is installed in a loop fashion under the flooring or in an insulated concrete slab. The lengths of each loop should not exceed 300 total feet -- the sweet spot, if you can achieve it, is about 200 feet. A heating zone may require three, four or more, loops. The ends of the PEX tubing feeding each loop are connected to manifolds. A secret tip to provide the best efficiency is to put the manifolds as close to each zone as possible. Many installers, unfortunately, put the manifolds down in the boiler room. You can hide these small manifolds behind access panels in closets near the zones. Be sure to get the state-of-the-art recirculating pumps that use about 5 watts of power. Popular pumps used by many installers gobble up 70 watts of power. These low-wattage pumps are super smart and will save you lots on your electric bill. Be sure to purchase a modulating combi boiler that only creates enough heat to fill the demand at that moment in time. Old boilers would be either on full blast or off. I have a new modulating boiler in my home and my propane usage dropped significantly this winter.





THE RIGHT BAR STOOL There’s no doubt how the eat-in kitchen has changed. Once large enough to accommodate a full table, kitchens now are outfitted with islands, countertop eating or dining bars. These new uses are great for space saving, but they need the right seating, which means selecting the right bar stool that fits your needs and style.

top of the counter. Standard counters are 36 inches high. This is often the height of a kitchen island. This will require a 24to 26-inch stool. If this is for occasional use, choose one that doesn’t have a back and you may be able to store it under the counter. For a tall dining bar that’s about 42 inches high, a traditional tall barstool that’s 30 inches tall will fit the bill.

Height first



Tribune Content Agency

When selecting a bar stool, finding the correct height is critical. Too high, and your legs will hit the counter. Too low, and you’ll find yourself eating with your arms raised. You’ll be both uncomfortable and your bar stool won’t look right. Start by measuring from the floor to the

You’ll have a variety of choices. Start first with how you’ll use the chair. If you’ll only be using it at the counter and not to interact with others in the room, then a stationary bar stool will do. For kitchens that are part of a larger living space, you may want a bar stool that swivels. These might be a bit

more costly, but they enable you to turn and view the TV or for guests to interact with those in the living room. Think about who will be using the stools as well. For young children or older guests, take weight into consideration. If the chair is too heavy, they could topple and hurt a child or may be too heavy for younger or older family members to move easily. Some also come with pneumatic height adjustment, something that’s nice for family members of varying heights. Another consideration is whether you want your stool to be backless. These are usually slim and streamlined, but they can become uncomfortable after sitting for prolonged periods of time; though they often store easily. Arms are another choice in bar stools. These are wonderful for those sitting for longer periods of time. However, having arms

on your bar stools will take up more space, so measure the width of your counters stools, and allow for space between the stools. It may be better to have one less stool than have them too crowded.


There is a wide range of styles in bar stools. You’ll find stools in wood, metal and rattan, as well as stool seats covered in fabric. Acrylic is another chic and trendy choice that looks fresh and updated. Look for these in backless, armless and armed styles, and with gold or silver accents.


Don’t build or buy an A-frame house until you’ve tried living in it


I’d like your honest opinion, Tim. A-frame houses have always appealed to me, and I think I want to build one. I’ve done scads of research on these unusual homes, and I’m convinced TIM it’s the right CARTER decision. I want you to be the devil’s advocate and try to expose any flaws in my thinking before I make this large financial commitment. Feel free to share any pros as well as cons. -Leslie S., Silver Spring, M. A: It’s fairly easy to let emotion rule the day when it comes

to large purchases. It’s usually a great idea to get lots of input from friends as well as professionals. In this case, you should be talking to the top real estate agent in the area where you plan to build this A-frame home. You may discover that an A-frame has a very limited appeal, which would directly affect the home’s resale value. The first thought that came to my mind when I read the question is, “Have you ever stayed a week in an A-frame home?” A month would be even better, but that could be problematic for a person that doesn’t have lots of vacation time stored up. The Internet makes it so easy to find any number of A-frame houses you can rent. I’d probably stay in two or three different ones to see how they really work on a day-today basis. I feel a home needs to be functional before you consider its form. That’s a struggle in architecture where form and function tend to tug at one another. As a builder, I can take just about any floor plan and make the outside look contemporary, Victorian, Tuscan villa, etc. From a construction perspective, A-frame homes are simple triangles. Triangles are perhaps the strongest of all things you can build as long as all the connections between the three sides are engi-

neered. Huge bridges employ triangles. Tension cables or steel beams create triangles in large open steel buildings so they don’t collapse in a windstorm. If you choose a durable roofing material like steel or virgin polymer roofing shingle, you can end up with minimal exterior maintenance, as two of the four walls are also the roof. That’s a big plus in my book. Many A-frame homes sport an open floor plan. I’d be very sure this concept works for you. What about visiting guests? Will the A-frame provide enough privacy so the social fabric doesn’t start to fray in a matter of hours or days? As silly as this sounds, you even have to consider artwork and other wall-hung things you might take for granted. Yes, you can hang pictures and art on slanted walls, but be sure you’re okay with how they might look. My last piece of advice is to base the final decision on cold hard facts. Don’t hope an A-frame is going to work out. You hope for things you can’t control. You can test-live in an A-frame to see if you really like the day-to-day encounters with the high-angle sloped walls. Subscribe to Tim’s free newsletter and listen to his new podcasts. Go to




DESIGN RECIPES A small artificial arrangement serves as a highlight on a family room coffee table.


A bulky organic material such as wood chips, although low in nutrients, will over time decompose to boost soil fertility.

Fertilizing 101: It’s not as complicated as you think

The do’s and don’ts of



Tribune News Service

From peonies to orchids, roses, succulents and lilies, all these flowers and more can help brighten and add color and interest to a home. Gone are the days of dusty, dingy artificial flowers. These days, artificial flowers can be a welcomed alternative, especially for those who are looking for long-lasting color, low maintenance and longevity. When considering using artificial flowers, here are some tips to keep in mind to make the most of your selections.


Artificial white orchids can be placed in nearly any room of a home.

Pink Hydrangea with Eucalyptus leaves

 Consider using artificial flowers in a residence that is not full time. Artificial flowers are an ideal choice for weekend or vacation homes.  Look for quality. Higher quality artificial florals will likely lead to a more realistic look.  Consider using smaller artificial arrangements in areas such as bedroom nightstands and coffee tables.  Consider infusing color using artificial flowers. Colors such as red, pink and green can add a pop of color to a space.  Be careful with pets. Animals may be attracted to artificial leaves and blooms, posing a potential danger.


 Place artificial flowers near heat such as heaters or candles as they will likely melt.  Dismiss using white flowers. White flowers are a staple of many interior designers looking to add flowers as part of creating a neutral palette.  Ignore the opportunity to add greenery through the use of artificial trees.  Overdo it. While there may be a temptation to use artificial flowers in multiple ways in the same room, they can be most powerful in some instances when used/mixed in a space with the presence of real trees and floral arrangements.  Only consider florals and blooms in your artificial arrangements. Succulents can serve as the fo u n d a t i o n for a modern, classic look.


Associated Press

Every garden needs periodic fertilization. “Designer” fertilizers are available for some kinds of plants, and so are fertilizers that you’re directed to apply at specified times throughout the season. So roses get their rose food, tomatoes get their tomato food, and so on, on schedule. All this effort might make you feel good, but isn’t really necessary for your plants. Feeding plants can be very simple. For example, forget about all the machinations of getting fertilizer deep into the soil to feed the roots, as is sometimes recommended. Plants’ feeder roots are mostly in the top few inches of soil, so just sprinkle fertilizer on the surface or, at most, scratch it into the surface. Rain, time and earthworms will put the nutrients where they belong. If rainfall is insufficient — and that means a good soaking, enough to fill a straightsided container an inch or more deep with water — then turn on the sprinkler for a while.

General kinds of fertilizers

Fertilizer recommendations often call for fertilizing two or more times each growing season. In fact, most “chemical” (or “synthetic”) fertilizers must be applied in small doses throughout the season. These chemicals dissolve quickly in the soil, so can wash away or burn plant roots if a season’s worth is applied all at once. You can get by with a single application of chemical fertilizer if you use a type specially formulated to release its nutrients into the soil at a slow rate. Such fertilizers usually are called “slow release” or “controlled release” fertilizers. Most “organic” fertilizers, which are derived from natural minerals, plants, or animals, are either slowly soluble in water or release their nutrients as they are “gobbled up” by soil microorganisms. In either case, nutrients are bled slowly into the ground, the practical effect of which is that you only need to apply the fertilizer once per season. Bagged or homemade compost is a special slow-release fertilizer. It’s relatively low in nutrients (so low that it can’t be legally called a “fertilizer”). But besides offering plants food, it also improves the soil for aeration and moisture retention, and supports a wide variety of pest-fighting and otherwise beneficial microorganisms. A layer of an inch or two laid down annually will provide a feast for your plants. In fact, any bulky organic material — wood chips, straw or wood shavings, for example — laid on the ground as mulch will, as it decomposes, enrich the soil with nutrients (and provide some of the same benefits as compost). But the benefits will accrue at a much slower rate. Your plants might be hungrier for a more immediate feeding. For an organic fertilizer with less bulk, use some type of seed meal such as cottonseed or soybean meal, available at garden centers and feed stores. For ease of handling, pelleted organic fertilizers are also available.

More ways to apply fertilizers

Another easy way to fertilize is by injecting fertilizer right into the water line while you are watering. Fertilizer injectors attach near the hose spigot, and bleed fertilizer at the correct rate into the hose line either from solid tablets or from a concentrated fertilizer solution you mix up. A fertilizer injector could be combined with a drip irrigation system. Install a backflow preventer, sometimes called an anti-siphon device, at the spigot whenever you use a fertilizer injector to avoid siphoning fertilizer into your water system should your water pressure drop. Fertilizer injectors can only be used with readily soluble fertilizers.

Moderation is needed

CLOCKWISE FROM ABOVE: A bouquet of roses, a succulent, or pink rose buds all make great artificial flower options.

As much as fertilizer is needed in a garden, too much can be as damaging as not enough, rendering plants susceptible to pests and burnt roots, even killing plants. Follow application directions. Also, we’ll soon be approaching that midsummer time when plant growth should start to slow down in preparation for winter, and should not be stimulated by fertilizers. Finally, remember that plant health also reflects weather conditions, the plant variety chosen, and pests. Fertilizer is just one component of plant health. An old saying has it that “the best fertilizer is the shadow of the gardener”; pay frequent attention to your plants.



5 porch


upgrades for a welcome-worthy



Porches come in all shapes and sizes. Yours might comprise a few steps and a walkway, wrap-around decking, a roof or even a screen to keep the summer bugs out. But regardless of type, the porch is often the last place to get a design treatment or cosmetic repair. This summer, take your porch to another level with one or several of these high-impact upgrades.

the details 1 Update No matter the size of your porch,

you can likely update a minor detail or two. It might be replacing wobbly railings, painting faded columns and trim, or changing out old light fixtures for more modern ones. You could even try a new railing style or paint color to add a fresh design take. These small up-

grades will make your porch look cleaner, more stylish and more appealing.

a new door 2 Get Your front door is an opportunity

to make a statement, but it presents many other potential benefits as well. A new door can improve your home’s energy efficiency, secure it against potential intruders and strengthen it against storm damage. Consider an EnergyStar-certified door style in an attractive, exciting color or pattern that complements your siding. If you’re happy with your door’s composition and security, you can paint it to get the same statement effect.

large surfaces 3 Reface Large surfaces usually demand

regular maintenance in order to keep

up appearances. These surfaces might include a small set of concrete steps and pathway from the driveway, an expansive deck or the siding on your home. They might also include a roof or screens. This summer, boost your curb appeal by cleaning, repairing or replacing the surfaces with the greatest visual territory. Pressure-wash concrete steps and paths, stain or paint your decking, and clean or replace your siding or screens.

Add more nature 4 Even though your porch

is already outdoors, a little extra nature and plant life can give it a significant boost. Add colorful and diverse hanging or potted plants to either side of your door or along the edge of the porch itself. Adorn railings with vibrant plants that spill over and liven up

your exteriors. And line your walkway with lush greenery and flowers _ with added landscape lighting to highlight those plants and increase safety.

Build a front lounge 5 Welcoming furniture will invite

visitors to sit and enjoy the weather or a pleasant conversation. The smallest porches can often accommodate a chair or two, and large porches tend to look empty without seating and tables. Create a front gathering area that fits your taste, whether that be a classic bench swing, rocking chairs, colorful Adirondack chairs or even trendy hanging basket chairs. And don’t forget tables for cold summer beverages.


Should I hire a chimney sweep before winter? PAUL F. P. POGUE,

Angie’s List

If you own a fireplace and use it regularly, fall is the time to give serious thought to hiring a chimney sweep _ before you light your first fire. Chimney sweeping is an intricate and sometimes high-tech job that is critical to the safety of your home. The National Fire Protection Agency says unclean chimneys are a major cause of house fires. And for that reason, the NFPA recommends a yearly inspection. A clear chimney improves safety, creates a more comfortable experience, and allows smoke and gases to vent away from your living area. You won’t always need a full cleaning, but the inspection will help identify any problems. In addition to ensuring your safety, an inspection may also identify structural problems that can be solved for less that it would cost after years of buildup. Signs that you need a chimney

inspection include a visibly thick buildup of soot and creosote, smoke entering into your living space, a weak fire and a tar smell emanating from the fireplace.

What are the elements of a chimney inspection? A professional chimney sweep will closely inspect your chimney from top to bottom, including the firebox, interior flue, smoke chamber, exterior masonry and flashing. They’ll look for both creosote buildup and structural damage. In many cases, house fires caused by the fireplace take place because a structural issue or cracked wall allows the fire to escape. They’ll also keep an eye out for animals, bird nests and branches. In many cases, a sweep will inspect your chimney free of charge. On average, a full chimney cleaning will cost between $125 and

$325. In extreme cases with large amounts of buildup, the cost may be higher. If you have significant structural damage, the cost may be as high as a few thousand dollars. A professional chimney sweep will use a wire brush attached to a flexible rod that extends deeply into the flue. In some cases this is an old-school brush that hasn’t changed much since the days of “Mary Poppins;” others use electrically driven brushes to break up the soot and creosote.

What is creosote? Creosote is the thick, oily residue deposited into a chimney by burning wood. Creo-

sote deposits increase fire risks, and if left unattended, harden into a solid glaze that can be difficult to remove. Chimney sweeps make a particular point of getting creosote off the surface.

You may have seen creosote-sweeping logs on the shelves at your local big box store. While they’re not fully effective in preventing creosote, using them throughout the season can dry up the creosote and make it easier to flake away. It’s not a substitute for chimney sweeping, but when used properly it can improve your fireplace experience. As always, when hiring a professional, make sure they hold the proper license, bonding and insurance to work in your area. Ask if they hold certification from a professional organization such as the Chimney Safety Institute of America.



How to hire a


Before looking for a landscape designer, it helps to have an idea of what you’d like your yard to look like.

landscape designer KATHRYN WEBER


Tribune News Service

our yard and garden are much more than just a strip of grass and plants. They create the backdrop for your home. The curb appeal of a beautiful landscape can really set your home apart. But how do you find and work with a landscape designer?

Design first When looking for a landscape designer it helps to have a basic idea of what you’d like your yard to look like. Drive around your neighborhood and snap photos of houses that have the type of landscaping that appeals to you. Flip through decorating magazines or websites and create an idea board. If there are plants you’d like to have in your design, be sure to make note of them. It’s equally important to keep a list of plants you don’t want. By having an idea of the kind of landscape and plants you prefer — and can show that to your potential designer — your designer will be able to help you create your new landscape look more easily and help make your vision come alive.

Locate a designer Landscape designers can range in skill from a licensed landscape architect to a landscaper with a flair for design. Start by visiting your local garden center. A well-stocked garden center often works with designers, architects and landscapers. Some garden centers will even help you with a design if you buy their plants. Ask around your neighborhood. If you have a neighbor with a beautiful landscape, ask

if they used a designer, or check your local neighborhood apps for recommendations of designers in your area. Once you’ve found a designer or two, ask to see their work. Some may even give you addresses where you can see the landscape for yourself. This is especially helpful, because when you see the landscape and the house together, you’ll be able to see how their designs hold up — if the plantings suggested are working well, or if the designer’s work is simply a rubber stamp, using the same planting designs and plants at every house.

Understand your designer The last step in the process is to understand how your designer works. Is it simply design and you do the planting yourself? Or, maybe the designer creates a landscape plan, installs it, and handles all of the details. Make sure you understand how you would like your designer to work and what you want them to do, and clarify all of the financial details. Some landscapers will charge an hourly rate or will double the cost of the plants to install them. Other designers, like garden centers, may help you DIY your design. Landscape designers or landscape architects are usually more costly but their skill level means they can create an architecturally sound landscape. Complex designs that incorporate large plantings and hardscaping, such as walls and paths, may require a licensed landscape architect or designer.

A landscape designer can help bring your vision to life, like one of the many gardens pictured here.


What kind of maintenance does my hardscape require? PAUL F. P. POGUE

Angie’s List

It’s easy to think of stone hardscaping as needing little or no maintenance. Patio stones, pavers, retaining walls and sidewalks are made of stout material that seems indestructible compared to wood, dirt and plants. But, the elements still take their toll on your hardscape, and this stonework will deteriorate without proper care. The good news is hardscaping maintenance isn’t difficult. Follow these steps to ensure many years of enjoyment from your outdoor stone.

Regularly clean stone

Keep loose debris off your hardscape. A broom can sweep away most of it on an everyday basis. Regularly spray down stone with a garden hose. Winter and spring debris, such as fallen leaves, mud and dead grass, can leave stains on your


With proper maintenance, hardscaping can last many years. stones _ particularly when left for several weeks. In most cases, you can remove these stains by scrubbing with a basic water/detergent solution. Pressure washing may be required if you have mold or standing moss.

For oil stains, obtain an oil remover from an automotive or hardware store. When you’re doing all this cleaning, look for damaged stones or pavers. Chips and cracks will quickly get bigger. In most cases,

you can replace individual damaged stones without having to deal with the rest of the space. You can also apply paver sealer once every year or two. A good sealant prevents dirt and stains from penetrating and provides a pleasing shine. Sealed pavers are also easier to clean. You can purchase the sealant at a hardware store. Be sure to apply it only to clean, dry pavers. Pavers that are exposed to heavy rain, sun or foot traffic will need to have new sealer applied more often. In most cases, when you reseal a paver, the new layer can be directly applied on top of the original application. If your patio pavers are uneven, you may have more serious structural problems that could mean your patio needs to be regraded or replaced.

Pay attention to drainage

Water is your hardscape’s biggest enemy. When your stones

are installed, they need a water management process. This can be as simple as slight elevation and channels that direct water off the stone and into a depression or drainage area. A well-designed drainage plan can also help provide water to nearby greenery. If water pools on your stones after rain, something has gone wrong. At that point, you probably need to contact a pro for their opinion. Pooled water can quickly damage stone and get worse. Also, keep an eye on the sand filler placed between pavers to hold them in place. You can buy a bag of refined sand and pour it into the cracks if weather has worn it away. Many hardscaping companies offer ongoing maintenance contracts. You can hire one to handle most of this ongoing work if you don’t have the time to do it yourself.




CLOCKWISE FROM ABOVE: 1. Add a pop of color to your space with a great pattern. This green upholstered chair adds freshness.

Behind the

SEAMS Give your upholstery a long life KATIE LAUGHRIDGE


Tribune News Service

lot of thought, care and creativity goes into picking out and designing your upholstered pieces. It is a labor of love. Once the piece is in your home, you want to be able to enjoy it for many years to come. While disaster can sometimes strike (in my case, I’m referring to my almost-3-year-old with a warm chocolate chip cookie in hand), there are steps to take to extend the life of your beloved furniture.

It starts with the fabric

While this one might seem a bit obvious, you must pick a fabric that fits your lifestyle and needs. However, knowing something and knowing how to do something are two different things. We are big fans of performance fabrics. These are fabrics created for pieces that get a lot of use. Crafted for easy care and lasting beauty, they are perfect for family use (yes, even toddlers and fur babies). But how do they look? Don’t worry, durability doesn’t take away from style. Performance fabrics come in a wide array of patterns, colors and textures. Whether you are after a light, airy cotton blend or a luxe, velvety

feel, you can find a long-lasting fabric that fits the bill. When in doubt, ask the experts. Communicate your needs and preferences to your designer and they will help you narrow down your options. Designer tip: Once you decide on your fabric, ask for some sample swatches to take home. That way, if a stain does happen, you can test recommended removal products on your swatch before risking your piece.

Know your cushion type

All manufacturers use different terms and products do vary, but overall there are three cushion types. Each sits differently. An all-foam cushion is going to be the firmest option. It requires the least amount of maintenance when it comes to fluffing and adjusting. The second option is often referred to as a spring down cushion. Made of a mixture of materials with a core of coiled springs and comprised of a mostly down and polyester blend, it is the second-softest cushion option and helps give the user an extra spring when getting up from the seat. This cushion along with the third option both require more fluffing, but make up for it in comfort. The third option is the luxurious down plush, comprised of thin foam and down _ it feels and acts as a pillow. I love the

way down feels and think it is worth the maintenance of fluffing regularly. Many manufacturers offer cushion options that combine one or more of the elements above to achieve different results. Regardless of cushion type, I always encourage customers to ask for eight-way hand-tied springs in their furniture. It helps make sure your furniture is soft, supportive, flexible and comfortable. Communicate the look and feel you are going for and your designer will help point you in the right direction. Designer tip: Our designers recommend picking a monthly bill and fluffing/turning every time you pay it. This way you don’t forget, and it becomes part of your routine.

Pilling and pet prevention

Sometimes all the preparation in the world doesn’t prevent problems. We get a lot of questions from pet owners on how to animal-proof their furniture. In short, you can’t completely (if only there were a pet hair-resistant fabric!). But to add longevity to your upholstery, we recommend getting a coordinating throw blanket to drape over your pet’s favorite spot. That way, oil and hair stay on an easily washable surface and not the sofa. Designer tip: If you have a pet that sheds, try using a shower squeegee to

2. Mix and match patterns. Keeping the same color family for upholstery and playing with different patterns brings texture and depth to your living space. 3, Carry your favorite pillows over to different upholstery pieces in your room. By using the same throw pillows, you can lead the eye around the room easily. 4. Don’t be afraid of light colors for your upholstery. With the right high-performance fabric and maintenance your furniture last and look great for many years to come. HANDOUT/TNS

get their hair off your furniture. It works better than vacuuming! Another issue clients sometimes have is fabric pilling (those tiny balls of fiber you sometimes get on sweaters and other textiles). A common misconception is it means you have a bad or low-quality fabric, but that’s not the case. Most fabrics pill due to the natural loosening of fibers and tangling of threads. Since upholstery fabric is so tightly woven, shaving the pills off once should do the job for the remainder of your piece’s life. Designer tip: Use a sweater shaver for a quick way to de-pill a large upholstery piece without sending it to an expert.

Renew and refresh

You’ve taken the required steps to ensure a long lifetime for your chair or sofa, and now you are tired of the pattern or color. Furniture fatigue is a real thing. Luckily there is an easy and cost-efficient solution, and it’s all about accessories. Instead of reupholstering or getting a bulky cover or entirely new piece, try incorporating fresh throw pillows to spruce up your furniture. You might be surprised what a big difference a small accessory change can make. Designer tip: Try changing your throw pillows and accessories seasonally. That way you always have a fresh look throughout the year.

10 frequently overlooked places that need cleaning and vacuum the entire headboard and the floor behind it to remove excess dust.


Tribune Content Agency

As much as we try to keep up with basic dusting, vacuuming and cleaning, we’re simply going to miss some areas. There are some places in your home you may not have even thought to clean. Attention to these often-neglected areas can make your home feel cleaner, and you might even breathe easier afterwards.

Ice dispenser

Dripping water or ice can create mold or other growth that you don’t want in your cold drink. Using a mild soap or vinegar cleaning solution, wipe out the ice shoot and clean out the ice container if it’s removable. Gaskets Refrigerators, stoves and freezers all have them; and they all need to be cleaned. Use a mild vinegar cleaner to wipe down gaskets and remove mold or dust.


From lighting in the kitchen that collects dirt and grease that turns into a sticky goo to living room lampshades that are furry with dust, all lighting needs cleaning. Wash glass shades in hot soapy water and let dry. Vacuum lamp shades with a soft brush attachment.


Air vents and returns

Registers on the ceiling and the floor need a good vacuum. Remove vents then vacuum and wipe down thoroughly. Be sure to wipe the inside of the vents before reinstalling. Don’t forget air returns. These are often notoriously dusty and benefit from a good, hard spray of a hose to remove dust in crevices.

Garbage cans

Yes, it’s where you put your refuse but regular cleaning will help your house smell fresher and make a trip to deposit trash less odious. Wash indoor and outdoor cans with soap and water. Let soak to remove caked-on grime.

Registers on the ceiling and the floor are just some of the forgotten places in the home that need a good cleaning.

Cabinet interiors

You may have put down shelf liner years ago, but have you cleaned the inside of your cabinets lately? Remove dishes and vacuum out cabinets to remove crumbs, dust and debris. Some non-adhesive vinyl shelf liner can go in the washer. Consider replacing shelf liner with a washable variety so when maple syrup spills, the liner can be tossed in the wash.

Window and door tops

We rarely come in contact with these areas, but they can become notoriously dusty. When dusting, make a quick run over door and window tops.


Your headboard could be harboring dust that makes your nose stuff or congested when you go to sleep at night. Dust

Tablets, keyboards and remotes really need cleaning because of frequent touching. Unplug computer keyboard and tap lightly to dislodge crumbs and particles. Use compressed air to dislodge dust, then wipe with a soft cloth moistened with a mild vinegar cleaner. Take batteries out of remotes and wipe thoroughly, using a cotton swab to go between buttons. Wipe down tablets with a lightly moistened microfiber cloth.

Appliance filters

You may not know that your appliances have filters, but many newer ones do. Check the dishwasher, the clothes washer, ice makers, refrigerators and hot water dispensers. All may have filters that need cleaning to work efficiently.







Before you embark on your next deep-cleaning adventure, check out these 10 gadgets that could make your tasks easier to complete


Made for those tiny crevices between your keys where all of your lunch crumbs hide. OXO Good Grips Electronics Cleaning Brush: $5.99 at

There once was a time when your bathroom grout was white. Turn back the clock with this handy pen. Grout Pen: $8.99 on

You wear your ring every day, but when was the last time you saw it really sparkle? Restore your bling’s glow with this easy-to-use stick.


Diamond Dazzle Stik: $9.99 at CONTAINER STORE/TNS

Sometimes sheer scrubbing muscle doesn’t do the trick. This magic wand will shine up your bathroom (including cracks and crevices) in no time.

Get those old pizza sauce splatters off your microwave walls with this cute gadget. Angry Momma Microwave Cleaner: $9.99 at CONTAINER STORE/TNS

Clorox Scrubtastic Multi-Purpose Surface Power Scrubber: $39.99 at TARGET/TNS

Get to those spots in the shower that you never reach during your regular cleaning. OXO Good Grips Extendable Tub and Tile Scrubber: $12.99 at BED BATH AND BEYOND/TNS

Cleaning the blinds takes forever, hence dust and grime tends to pile up over the years. This handy tool makes cleaning them easy and painless.

Cleaning windows is a pain. Get twice the reward for your effort with this contraption -- giant magnets help guide a cloth on the inside and outside of the window at the same time.

If your white carpet looks more like grey, you may have a pet fur problem. Get the fibers unstuck with this rubber broom. Pet Hair Removal Broom: $14.43 on AMAZON/TNS

The Glider Magnetic Window Cleaner: $82.99 on AMAZON/TNS

Blinds Duster: $7.99 on AMAZON/TNS

Think of it as spring organizing. Keep wires untangled with these colorful Velcro ties. Hook & Loop Cable Ties: $4.99 at CONTAINER STORE/ TNS





Consider renting out your home to travelers in search of a place to stay in your area.





Kiplinger’s Personal Finance


f you’re a homeowner looking to rake in some extra money, don’t dismiss using your house as a way to generate income. We’re not talking about the typical workfrom-home business opportunities that were common years ago. Our roundup of money-generating opportunities for homeowners range from the off the beaten path to the tried and true. Check out all of them and decide for yourself which ideas are right for you.

RENT OUT YOUR HOME Renting out your home through sites such as, and is a relatively easy and reliable way to earn money. For each site, you’ll need to register to create a free listing that travelers in search of a place to stay in your area can view. You set the rental amount and dates of availability, as well as establish a refund policy in the event a renter decides to cancel the reservation. Airbnb and FlipKey charge a 3% service fee based on the rental amount for confirmed bookings. HomeAway charges 5%. The rental income you collect is tax-free as long as you don’t rent out your house for more than 14 days per year.

TOP: Dog-loving homeowners may consider pet-sitting as a way to make some extra cash. BOTTOM LEFT: If you live in an area where parking is at a premium, your driveway might be an income source. BOTTOM RIGHT: Homeowners may be able to cash in by connecting with location scouts for TV and film productions.

GET A ROOMMATE Unlike short-term rentals, renting out a spare room in your house on a long-term basis can create a predictable monthly income stream that can be used to pay off your mortgage faster. You’ll need to pay taxes on the rent you collect, but you may be able to write off some of the rental expenses such as insurance premiums and utilities. Seek out roommates through word of mouth or place an ad on a site such as Looking at Craigslist and other classified listings for your area will also help you figure out how much to charge in rent.

RENT OUT YOUR DRIVEWAY In areas where parking is limited, your driveway or privately owned parking space can turn into an income source. When you’re not using it, you can rent out the space to those in need of hassle-free parking options through sites such as and Both allow you to create free listings to rent out your parking spot at an hourly, daily or monthly rate. It’s important to note that those with parking that’s close to public transportation or major attractions (stadiums, performance venues, trendy neighborhoods and such) will likely experience the highest demand. JustPark charges a 3% fee on all shortterm bookings. For long-term bookings (more than two consecutive months), the charge is 20% for the first month and 3% thereafter. CurbFlip charges 16% of your listed parking rental price for completed transactions, while PayPal (required to use CurbFlip) deducts an additional 3% from your rental payment.

TAP INTO YOUR HOME’S EQUITY If you’ve been steadily paying off your mortgage for years while the value of your home has been on the rise, then you probably have a fair amount of equity built up. Under the right circumstances, it can be smart to borrow against this built-up value when you need cash. There are two common ways to tap into your home equity: a home equity loan or a home equity line of credit. A home equity loan offers a lump sum that you usually pay back monthly at a fixed interest rate. A HELOC is a line of credit that you access only when you need the cash. A third option is a cash-out refi, in which you receive cash back when you refinance your primary mortgage. A cash-out refi tends to have higher closing costs.


Reverse mortgages allow older homeowners who are house-rich but cash-poor to borrow against the equity that’s built up in their primary residence. To qualify you must be at least 62 years old, live in the home and have already paid off most or all of your mortgage. The only reverse mortgage insured by the federal government is a Home Equity Conversion Mortgage, or HECM. After meeting with a HECM counselor, you apply for a reverse mortgage through an FHA-approved lender. Be aware that a reverse mortgage isn’t free money; it’s a loan that must be repaid when the homeowner dies, sells the home or moves out. Meantime, property taxes and insurance premiums must be kept current.

If you think your place has the stuff that screen magic is made of, you may be able to cash in by connecting with location scouts for television and film productions. How do you get started? “Collect a few good pictures of your property and send them with your contact information to location scouts and film commissions in your area,” said Jim Baldwin, owner of Baldwin Production Services, a San Francisco-based location scouting company that specializes in commercial media. Baldwin suggests searching online and contacting your state’s film office. “Fees can range from hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars per day, depending on what and where the location is, how long (the home is) used and what the shoot entails,” Baldwin said. Make sure you’re really prepared to open up your personal space to this type of experience before committing to it in writing, advises Patti Brashears, owner of Featured in Films, a location scouting company based in the New York area. The experience can be overwhelming for some owners, even though the home will be restored to its original state once the production ends.


Instead of throwing out unwanted items the next time you declutter, consider selling them online at sites such as Tradesy. com and for clothing and accessories items, or for mobile devices and computers. There’s also the LetGo mobile app for household goods. Here’s how it works: For Tradesy, Poshmark and LetGo, you’ll need to create an account before posting a free listing to attract buyers. Gazelle doesn’t require listings because you’re selling your unwanted electronics directly to the site rather than to an individual buyer. On Tradesy and Poshmark, the transaction process is done completely online with the seller shipping the sold items to the buyer. LetGo urges sellers and buyers to meet in person in a public place to complete the transaction and to pay with cash. Tradesy deducts a flat fee of $7.50 on all sales under $50 and takes 14.9% of the purchase price on items sold over $50. Poshmark charges a flat fee of $2.95 for sales under $15 and takes 20% of the purchase price for those over $15. LetGo doesn’t charge users a fee; rather, it makes money off ads on the app.


Love animals? Apply to be a pet sitter through an online-based service such as, which claims to have more than 60,000 sitters who provide in-home boarding for dogs only, its most popular service. Certification isn’t required, though you will need to undergo a background check. Sitters set their own schedules and prices (of which the site charges a 20% fee per booking). Rover sitters are considered independent contractors.

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Smart Change | Your Home  

Smart Change | Your Home