A Southern-Style ReDo

DIning Room Inspiration

What I love most about helping people fall in love with their houses again is purely nothing less than instant gratification.  I love seeing change happen quickly.

Sometimes there are those projects who, for one reason or another, must age like fine wine. They happen over time, which makes them taste much sweeter.

It’s even more gratifying when you go on a wing, a prayer, a Pinterest page, and 3 pictures. Well, really two pictures.

Inspiration for the Living Room

I’ll explain.

The homeowners had moved from another state, sold most of their furniture, rented a house, then bought a new house that they really liked but didn’t feel like home. Except for two pictures, which she loved. And a Pinterest page with  ideas for their future dream home.

Tammy said, “My husband says I’m a brown and green girl, that all I ever pick out is brown and green. So I want to do something different than brown and green.”

“Oh, and I want two statement lighting pieces: one in the Dining Room, and one in the Master Bedroom.” She was very demanding. 😀

“I can work with this,” I said.

And so, one sunny afternoon, I brought my fan deck with all my paint colors and sat in their empty living room with those two pictures to get to know them a little better. (When you pick paint colors, it’s best too choose them in natural, bright daylight to see their full effect.)

Living Room Before

 This would be the empty living room.

The pictures and I hung out and stared at each other for a while. After a time, colors seemed to pop out. After all, when you have great art, you want the colors to POP. Otherwise, why would you have it anyway? But I digress.

Home should be a sanctuary; a place you come to at the end of the day where you can regenerate, recharge, refill your batteries, and prepare to be Your Best You the following day.

Here we had a busy executive and a stay-at-home dad with two small toddlers. What that said to me is the house needed to be warm and soothing yet also child friendly. Tammy wanted it to have a Southern flare, so they all felt at home. And it needed to be neutral and have appeal for resale, because they knew they wouldn’t be in Kirksville forever. And above all…it needed to be easy to clean.

Living Room

Since we knew they’d be moving and the likelihood of them finding a home JUST LIKE the one they were in were pretty much…well…zero…I tried to choose as many pieces as possible that would multitask. Meaning they could be universally used in other rooms in the house.

And did I mention it needed to be child friendly? With easy clean fabrics that would endure the many critical moments in a toddler’s life when they HAVE to leap with a single bound from that chair/step/insert whatever here or build that fort or race with the speed of light?

Believe it or not, they do make such things. 🙂

Living Room Statement Ceiling Mount

The only lighting in the living room room were meant to be floor lamps attached to plug ins. Soft lighting such as what comes from lamps is wonderful, and a very important part of the Cozy Factor in a home.

However, insufficient light is a common problem in larger rooms, so we added that beautiful crystal ceiling mounted light.  (It’s the kind of light that makes  you want to play with the crystals, so it’s probably a good thing I can’t reach it. I have simple needs.)

We centered the light between the fireplace and the bay window.  Can you visualize the street view with beautiful light fixtures in the living room and entry sparkling through the windows and door? Breathtaking!

Fireplace Focal Point

Fireplaces are typically focal points in a room, and with it’s location opposite the bay window, we arranged the furniture so guests can enjoy both. The ottoman can function as additional seating, and if Shane wants to have the guys over to watch a game, he can easily move the TV on top of the buffet and bring in extra chairs. Shazam!

We also added to the fireplace’s functionality as a Focal Point by accenting it with a fabulous mirror and mother-of-pearl lamps. The lamps can easily be moved over near the chairs or love seat for task lighting,  and the best part is these items will also go with Tammy and Shane when they move. Literally, these lamps could be used in any room!

When you have a room that is working in perfect harmony, it is like a piece of pie: until it’s whole – or complete – it feels like there’s a piece missing.

(Speaking of pie…if you’ve never had Southern cooking, you are missing OUT. I’m just saying.)

Dining Room Before

Here’s the dining room before.

And, here’s the after. When it all comes together, you have a WOW.

Dining Room

We swagged the light fixture to move it out of the center of the room and to allow for better traffic flow between the adjoining rooms. That fabulous buffet from Surroundings (yes, really!) provides lots of great storage but doesn’t overpower the room or interrupt traffic flow.

We chose this beautiful table from Pottery Barn paired with the durable and easy-clean slip covered chairs that are dressy enough to function as additional seating in the living room, and this room is ready to go.

High End Chandelier

Shoot, I’m not even Southern and I love this room. (But then I’m biased, of course.)

Those of you who are mathematically inclined (which would not be me) may have realized that I mentioned THREE pictures earlier in my post.

Well…the den was really basically finished before the third picture was purchased, which was the inspiration for the whole room. I had Shane add sconces on the back wall which match a wrought iron chandelier. We added a COOL trunk-style bar cabinet and desk from Pottery Barn.

"Wheatfield" by John McMurry

When Shane and I were talking about his vision for the den (his Man Room, as every man should have), and he mentioned an awesome picture he’d seen at our local Red Barn Arts and Crafts Fair.

I knew exactly which one he meant, because I drooled over the same one.

My friend John McMurry of McMurry Studios is a terrific photographer who specializes in landscape canvases. His Wheatfield print was perfect for a guy who’s a night owl with a rustic western style.

New Desk and Chairs

The key to having each of your rooms harmonize with each other is having paint colors from the same color family or that have some commonality and having one element in each room that ties them together.

Kitchen BeforeThe kitchen had been updated and, while very nice, was a little on the bland side for this homeowner. It lacked Wow Factor.

Beautiful Stone Kitchen Backsplash

New paint, a beautiful stone backsplash (which is not green as it looks in the picture) and a very neutral, textured laminate counter top gave it pizzazz.

Kitchen Cabinet Before

The glass front cabinetry offered lots of great display space, as you can see in the Before picture, above.

Background Panels with Fabric

Because this homeowner didn’t have a lot of colorful collectibles, we chose some colorful fabric which is wrapped around foam core (or a similar material) for an attractive background which really sets off the items she has. And…it’s easily interchangeable!

Shane also added counter top lighting, which really added to the space. (Fortunately, he’s an electrician by trade, which came in handy in this house!)

The large master bedroom offered a huge closet, negating the use of a dresser or chest of drawers. So we were able to focus on the Master as a real sanctuary. Pictured is the south wall of the bedroom before.

Master Bedroom Before

For those of you who can’t imagine a bedroom without a ceiling fan, you should know that the fan wasn’t positioned above the bed. That opened the door for the beautiful statement lighting piece, with matching sconces.  (The wall paint is a creamy white, and not yellow as it looks in this picture.)

Statement Chandelier and Sconces

A reading nook in which to relax or cuddle toddlers among favorite things is a perfect way to end, or begin, the day.  Of course busy parents need a place to relax in the evening, so Shane installed a TV on the center wall, which is actually the fireplace chimney. (They had it drywalled to cover the brick to make it child friendly.)

Elegant Master Bedroom

A soft, restful gray-blue color accent wall makes the headboard and bedding POP and helps unwind and soothe, which is a necessity for restful sleep.

Last, but not least, we updated the Guest Room.

Guest Room Before

It’s now a welcoming, spacious place for guests to stay. We were able to use several pieces Tammy and Shane already had, re-purposing them here and making the space cozy.

Bathroom 3


They planned to use the sun room as a playroom, so this space needed to be fun, child safe, and still coordinate with the rest of the house.


Sun Room Before


I think we succeeded. New drywall, paint, lighting, and easy-care carpet squares gave this room the new life and durability it needed. The light blue ceiling gave the space an airy feel.


Sunroom now Family Room


That’s the beauty of what I do: giving a space new life, helping you – and the room – live in harmony with each other again, where ever that is. 🙂

Cheers, my friends!

How to Buy A Home in A Seller’s Market

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Spring Market in Kirksville is in full swing, and it’s proving to be a bit of a different…uh…egg…than the last few years.

Do we know which came first: the chicken or the egg?

Perhaps this train of thought was brought on by my recent shopping experience for chickens at Tractor Supply. Or not. But I digress.

That’s the question that rattled around in my head as I debated which perspective to write this post from: sellers or buyers?

Our market is changing this year, and because it’s so early in the Spring Market 2016 season, we don’t know where it will take us. What I know for sure is that listing inventory is low, home prices will increase, and many sellers will have the opportunity to choose the strongest buyer. 

This is great news for sellers and a big difference from market conditions of much of the last decade.

What it means for buyers is that you’re going to have to take a different strategy if you want to be successful. And by successful, of course, I mean in getting a property under contract.

1. Think Like A Seller.

In a seller’s market, you need to assume that you WILL have competition for a property. You don’t even need to know anything about specific buyers or terms of an offer to do this, because all buyers will have certain characteristics that will define the strength of their purchasing ability.

Think about it. If you’re a seller, what do you want? You want a fair price, you want to sell it to a buyer who’s qualified to purchase it with as little hassle as possible.

So to get that done, you want to make sure you choose the strongest buyer: the buyer who has the best opportunity to close the deal, right?

Hands down, the strongest buyer is a cash buyer, especially one with a short closing time.

That doesn’t mean that the seller will automatically choose the cash buyer every time, because there are other factors involved and people are, of course, all different.

In today’s world, buying a home is the largest purchase most people will make. And most of us finance our properties, so it’s very common place.

Buyers with conventional loans, or those requiring a down payment of up to 20%, is typically perceived by sellers to be the most solid of the financed buyers.

And of course last but not least are the buyers who are getting government loans, such as the no-down payment loans that many first-time home buyers will get. Will a property need repairs? What will buyers ask for during the inspections? All these are huge unknowns for sellers.

2. So, Get Your Financing In Place.

Before you even start looking at properties, visit your lender to get a pre-approval or pre-qualification letter.

I HATE it when buyers start looking before they’ve been to the lender. Because that usually means they are going to end up being disappointed once they find out they were looking in the wrong price range.

Go to your lender like, yesterday. At the very minimum, get a Pre-Approval letter from them, which will tell you what price range you should be looking in. And make sure you know when that letter expires, because most of them do.

While most agents have been encouraging buyers in recent years to get pre-approved, in today’s market, it’s a necessity. It’s going to be the difference between having your offered considered…or not.

3. Be Willing To Compromise On Your Priorities

Keep an open mind. Fewer properties on the market means there might not be a property which means ALL your criteria. What do you HAVE to have? What can you live without?

Do you really need that 4th bedroom simply to use as an office, or can you set up an office elsewhere in the home? Do you HAVE to have a 2-car garage? Perhaps you sacrifice the 2-car garage for a second bathroom.  Can you sacrifice the stainless steel appliances in order to get a more spacious, affordable property that you can modify later?

It often pays off to make a short-term sacrifice in order to get ahead long term. Consider looking beyond the cosmetic improvements a property needs, and making your own improvements over time.

For instance, it appears this season that homes on a small acreage is the darling. If you’re a first-time home buyer, are you in a position to be competitive? Maybe your best option is to instead look for a good, solid home with great re-sale potential until the market adjusts to a more affordable level for what you want.

Everything goes in cycles.

4. Bring Your Best Offer.

If you’re interested in a property which has multiple offers coming, it’s no time to make a low ball offer. You want your offer to stand out and be noticed! You want the seller to pick YOU to negotiate with. You need to get their attention.

You need to Bring. It.

If it is not a multiple offer situation, then make a thoughtful, well-justified offer. I never recommend low ball offers, as all they do is anger the seller. There are still many people out there who are still under the impression that they get a better deal. I can’t say that I’ve seen it, but to each his own.

5. Be A Buyer Who’s Great to Work With. 

Excitement, enthusiasm and sharing your love for the property will gain the support of the sellers, encouraging them to be in your corner. We all like happy endings, and sellers are no different.

Be gracious. Be thoughtful. Be respectful. You attract more bees with honey. 🙂

Disclaimer: This post is a cumulative expression of real estate experiences in my career, shared by colleagues, and knowledge gained through reading trade material through various sources. Any similarity to current or specific buyers is purely coincidental and unintended. 

How To Make a Small Living Room Larger

I’m baaaaaack! And it’s great to be back, dear readers. I have some great stuff planned, I hope you’ll stay tuned for inspiration, motivation and a laugh here and there. In the meantime, hope you have a terrific week. Happy fall!

Living Room Before

Pam, one of my colleagues at the real estate office stopped me one day. “Can you help me with my living room? It’s small, and I know I have too much stuff in it. I need help!”

The picture above is Pam’s living room before we started. As you can see, the entertainment center which was probably perfect in her last house completely overwhelmed the room. Your eye simply didn’t know where to go, which can be exhausting.


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Pam and her husband Jim are avid movie-watchers, as you can tell by the shelves with the movies. And, since Jim lives there too, it’s important that both of them like the room and feel comfortable with the changes.

The great thing about the kind of decorating and staging that I do is that it’s a process. One step at a time, we began to edit the room and make tweaks here and there. While Pam really wanted new end tables, I encouraged her to hold off and take it one step at a time.

Sometimes you know when you need to make big changes and major modifications and start from the beginning, but I hate to see someone spend money if they don’t have to.

And if you’re planning to sell your house, this is exactly the kind of things you need to be doing in order to make your house appealing to the majority of buyers, which gives you a better opportunity to get your property sold quicker.

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This is Pam’s entryway. She has some collections which are very meaningful, such as the thimble collection on this wall. Her furniture arrangement really suited the room, and many of her pictures were hung beautifully and in the right place. Her paint color was also perfectly neutral. And, while it’s hidden behind the sofa, her mother’s Duncan Fife dining table sits nicely in her entry way. Honestly, it’s perfect right there.

Her living room needed some editing and ‘tweaking’. So we tweaked. And we shopped. And Pam worked hard de-cluttering.

When you’re in a small space, you have to be very choosey what you put in there. I suggested that Pam edit her things, displaying only her favorites, and also sort through their movies, storing only the ones they watched regularly in the living room. The others could be stored elsewhere in a less accessible location.

For instance, are you storing things in your living room that you rarely ever use? Your living room is valuable real estate!

My Law of Storage is this: if you have a small space, keep only items in that space you use regularly. This Law applies to bathrooms, bedrooms, kitchens, counter tops, whatever. The less you use it, the farther away it can be stored.

For instance, the items stored under my sink are things I use weekly or every couple of weeks. If I use it less often, I store it in the basement. If you utilize this strategy and prioritize your storage, it really helps you keep from cluttering up your space.

Are you with me on this? 

One exception to this rule is my KitchenAid mixer which was a gift from my dear friend Peggy. It was her late mother’s, and none of her family had a need for it. I feel honored and blessed to have this. And while I don’t use it very often, it is heavy. So it has a prominent place of honor in a kitchen cabinet. Sometimes carrying things back and forth just isn’t practical, and you have to make an exception.

But for the most part, the Law of Storage is a great way to help you prioritize what you need to keep nearby.

So, back to Pam’s living room.

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The first thing we did was remove literally the largest ‘offender’, the entertainment center, and replaced it with a very nice marble-topped media center purchased at the local furniture store where Jim works.

The shading of the wood is both lighter and dark, and this complements the Duncan Fife table on the opposite side of the room very well. Together, both of these pieces have similar ‘visual weight’, balancing both sides of the room perfectly.

Jim and Pam decided it was the perfect time to upgrade their TV, so their new flat screen looks perfect. It was decided the stereo needed to stay, so we placed it in the corner. Pam had selected her favorite items to display, so we installed the shelves to the left of the TV, and moved her thimble collection from the other side of the room on the other side.

Pam has a beautiful eucalyptus wreath on the wall hanging above the Duncan Fife table. It deserves to be the focal point of that wall, which is why we moved the thimble collection to the other side. Now they’ve become a proud collection worth noticing on their own, and not fighting with anything else for attention. 🙂

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Ah, those shelves. They became the bane of our existence. But through blood, sweat and tears (okay, no blood or tears) Pam and I forever shall remain bonded over those shelves. Let’s just say, “It was a learning experience.” 😀

We went with black shelves to match Pam’s black lamps; just a few touches of black as accents add visual ‘texture’ and depth to the room. (Be careful when using black..a little  is perfect, too much is….well, too much.)

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Nothing jazzes up a room that’s a sea of neutrals like a little bit of color. This room didn’t need a lot of in-your-face color. It just needed something subtle.

I think this rug was meant for this living room. It was the last one at Home Depot, it was on clearance, and it’s perfect. It’s just the perfect touch of muted color to ‘anchor’ the room in the center, and it harmonizes with the green eucalyptus wreath.

And, you’ll notice Pam has a new table!

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The oak tables no longer did the room justice, nor were they functional for the changing needs of the room. A smaller room commands furnishings that do double-duty, so we looked for pieces which could accommodate storage.

Off we went to Jim’s furniture store again. These tables coordinate perfectly with both the new media center and the Duncan Fife table. They didn’t come with the baskets, Pam and Jim picked those out separately. But they offer a perfect solution to storing their favorite movies which are easily accessible as well as other favorite collectibles.

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Another thing that made these tables perfect is that the end tables came in two different shapes: one was round, and the other is a smaller version of the leaf-shaped coffee table. This offered the opportunity to place the smaller of the three in a smaller area, such as between the two larger chairs in front of the window.

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Here’s another shot of the rug with the coffee table. The rug was just what the room needed.

Because I’m a half-wit, I forgot my camera for some of the pictures, and had to use my phone. Ooops. So if you notice a difference in the (lack of) skill, that’s why. Yeesh. At least I’m consistent!

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The room now is almost finished, and I’m hearing that both Pam and Jim love it. Their living room has now become a peaceful sanctuary for them, and one they simply love to be in. Pam tells me that, to her surprise, she’s enjoying the peaceful feel of the space so much that she’s on a mission to de-clutter the rest of her house.

You go, girl!

Pam has always wanted a fireplace, so that’s the last item on her list. So if you’re wondering why the blank wall to the right and why the wall hanging is so high…we’re waiting until her fireplace is installed before moving that piece, in order to put as few holes in the wall as possible.

Living Room After

Now, you notice the beauty of the room and the hardwood floors, and the room feels soothing and peaceful…exactly what a hardworking couple need when they come home at the end of the day.

And a bonus? It’s easier to clean! I’ve never heard anyone complain about that before.

I love instant gratification and making people happy! 🙂

As fall arrives and we spend more time indoors, evaluate your space. Do you need to do some editing to fall in love with your house again and to prepare it for more family time? Remember, it doesn’t have to be done overnight. It’s a process.

So take your time, and enjoy your family and the beautiful days of fall. 🙂

Every Room Needs “WOW Factor!”


Our bedroom has been undergoing a minor transition over the last few years.

About the time we got married, I had the most beautiful cream bedspread with a southwestern-style design in navy and gold.  It was gorgeous, and we loved it.

When we remodeled our bedroom, we positioned our bed in front of an accent wall painted a very dark, dark navy color called “Starry Night”. I probably have a picture of it somewhere, but that would require me to get up, go to the basement and do some digging. And I just ate lunch and am lazy. 😉

That was before all the dogs who found me just happened to be black.

So needless to say, the life span of that bedspread wasn’t as long as I would have liked, which necessitated a change. Because we liked the blue wall (we aren’t really ‘blue’ people, but it was a really pretty color), I looked for something that would go with the blue and the rustic feel of our house.

Enter the bedspread in the above picture. We enjoyed it, but then I began to get restless. Call it a career hazard.

“Starry Night” had run its course, and it was time for a change. So I painted the wall behind my bed “Garden Sage”. We loved the green wall, but the room lost it’s WOW Factor. Tired of the moose (meese?) bedspread, I wanted a plain one with no design. And so, the one in the picture above adjourned to our RV for the rest of its useful life.

Remember the term ‘focal point’? How you want  one object in the room to be the ‘focus’ of the room? That’s the item you want your eye to go to when you walk in.

Well, WOW Factor ramps it up just a bit. The Oxford Dictionary defines Wow Factor as “a quality or feature that is extremely impressive.”

It doesn’t have to be fabulously expensive. It just has to be fabulous!

Your Wow Factor can be anything.

Maybe it’s a really fabulous painting or photograph on canvas. It can be the colors or the size that give it its Wow.

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My friend John is a photographer who specializes in large canvas prints. If you visited Kirksville’s Red Barn Arts and Crafts Fair last fall, you may have seen his booth or met him and his charming wife Bonnie.

I ordered this canvas from him custom-sized just to fit my space. The crispness of the colors and the contrast take my breath away and make me feel like I’m standing in that field.

Our bedroom has its WOW back!

There are lots of things you can do to give your room WOW Factor.

A simple accent can do it. And paint is relatively cheap! This is a picture of my friend Beth’s living room from a previous post. Is that wall awesome or what? It’s Behr’s “Wine Tasting”.

The Living Room After

Or a fireplace. Here are a couple that I’m very familiar with. One was originally brick and has been recently refaced. (Ahem.)  😉

The Family Room After

And here is one made of cultured stone. Probably more cultured than the people who live here. 😉

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A large window with a spectacular view.

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Beautiful cabinetry or a piece of furniture accented with a paint color that makes it POP!

The Kitchen After

I  have it on good authority that a number of people thought my friend Beth also got all-new cabinetry, simply because they’d never noticed them before.

Perhaps it’s a really unusual mirror or some other wall decor.

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Did you see me waving in the mirror? 😀

There was no way I could contort myself out of the picture, so I decided to just flagrantly be in it.

WOW Factor makes your room look complete. And, the rest of your decor in that room become accents that harmonize with it.

It’s especially important if you’re thinking of selling your home. If there’s nothing in a room that stands out, buyers may view the room as being just sort of…blah. And thus, there isn’t really anything that stands out about the house.

You want buyers to remember your house and how they felt in it after they’ve looked at 12 different ones and they all start to run together. And to remember it in a good way.

The rooms should be decluttered,clean, balanced and neutral, and each room should have a WOW Factor. (Not all WOW Factors need to be over-the-top. Sometimes all you need is a really nice clock. Or a beautiful wall paint. Or maybe wainscoting.)

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This is our guest room just off the Black Dog Saloon (AKA our basement.) The wainscoting in here is rusty tin which came from an old barn where my parents’ house was on the farm. And amazingly enough, I found a rusty metal clock to go with it. WOW. I’m still not completely happy with this room, but that’s another post for another day.

And just in case you were wondering, your eyes aren’t deceiving you. That bed really is low. It’s an air mattress, as we don’t yet have a guest room bed. I told you my house wasn’t perfect! 😀

Staging is taking what you have and making it look nice in the space! 

If you have a room that feels like it’s missing something, try to take a look at it as objectively as possible. Or have a friend look at it for you. After all, it is really hard  to see things when it’s your own house.

Trust me, I know. When you walk by something often enough, it’s easy to simply not see it any more.

Maybe all your room needs some WOW! 🙂

5 Quick & Easy Ideas to Perk Up Your Patio

2014-05-18 18.54.47Suddenly, the weather has turned nice, spring…and Memorial Day weekend…is finally here.

How did that happen?!

Maybe you’re hosting a graduation party this weekend, planning a barbecue, or simply just spending some time at home. Or maybe your space is small, or your deck needs staining, or a host of other little projects need completion and you’re thinking that there’s no point in ‘prettying it up’ until you get those things done.

Whatever the reason, this post is for you.

If you’re planning to entertain, you’ll love these quick ideas for brightening up your space. Lightning fast and easy to do, they’ll spruce it up and give you a lift.

And if you’re thinking simply there’s no point in doing it because [insert reason here], I disagree.

YOU are reason enough to brighten up your deck or patio and make it look nice. Think how much pleasure it will bring you to simply look outside and see a nice space! It makes whatever you’re doing outside more enjoyable. You may find you’re using your outside space even more!

1. If you have an umbrella, open it! 

Every weekend there’s nice weather and we’re going to be home, one of the first things I do on Friday night or Saturday morning is open my umbrellas. Even if we aren’t going to be outside. Your space looks nicer, and they add a little pop of color.

Look at the difference between the picture above. Such a little thing changes the whole look. (Obviously, if a storm’s coming, you’ll want to lower your it…but otherwise, leave it open in it’s full glory!)

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2. Pick up a new mat for your front door.

2014-05-18 18.59.32A new mat works wonders. I can’t tell you how many times I walked through the front door yesterday and smiled inside when I looked at this mat.

This mat was on the higher end price wise, but I still only spent $20.

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Hmmm, apparently I had supervision.

That’s her “If I really look sad, maybe you’ll let me out so I can be with you” look. Of course, it also means “when you aren’t looking I’m going to take off searching for Mr. Groundhog and deer poop to eat” so I didn’t fall for it.

3. Add some plants.

There are several options for adding plants. Color is always nice; you can add some pre-made color bowls or hanging pots.

I picked up a couple yesterday, because I am lazy. 😉

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But it’s not hard to add some plants to a pot you already have. Be creative if you need a pot, and look in your garage. What could you turn into a planter? I have an old ice cream maker bucket that is someday going to be a pot.

2014-05-18 19.00.58If you don’t have the time or your budget is limited, move your houseplants outside. As I mentioned around this time last year, it’s a great way to spruce up an outside space. (Just be careful they don’t get beat with too much sun.) Up against the house is usually a good spot because the sun isn’t so harsh there.

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One of my plants and a color bowl are coexisting peacefully outside my back door.

Or, plant some vegetables. This is my little ‘container garden.’

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We have too many deer around to have a serious garden, so this year I decided to do it a little differently.

We have herbs, lettuce, onions…

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and tomatoes.

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And they are all on our back deck where we can enjoy them every day.

4. Add some lighting.

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These are lanterns I bought several years ago. This year, I moved them outside from my bedroom because I was tired of them there. But if you don’t have lanterns, get creative.

String some lights around your deck, or weave them in  your plants.

No outside receptacles? Place candles in Mason jars. (Please be sure to blow them out before you go to bed!) I’m a half-wit and I know this, so my outdoor candles are flameless.

Or use some small galvanized buckets or clay flower pots to add a soft glow. Bet creative!

5. Contain your crap.

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This my current favorite container. It’s simply a galvanized bucket with a lid. I picked this up for $18 at Tractor Supply. It holds a 30-pound bag of dog food, so I always know how much I have. It’s mouse-proof and rain-proof.

We bought a new barbecue grill yesterday, and if you grill much, you know that grills always require accessories. Jimmy also has a smoker, so we invariably have little bags of wood chips laying around.

I’m going to get another one of these to put all the grill stuff in to keep it dry and easily accessible. If galvanized isn’t your style, be creative. What could you repurpose to hold all your outdoor gear in? A fishing tackle box perhaps? Just containing the clutter will go a long way in making your space look neat and tidy.



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Some of you may notice that my front deck has more muted colors this year.

There’s a reason for that.

We are going to attempt to install a stone flower bed this weekend directly in front of the deck. (This has the added bonus of preventing groundhogs, skunks and other such animals from getting under that deck.)

I plan to fill it with a riot of colorful petunias, which is why I went with more muted colors on the deck.

Speaking of decks…

Don’t let the fact that your decks (or patio) may need staining or repair keep you from beautifying your space. Assuming the deck is safe for you to use, dressing it up a little bit accentuates the positive and makes the negatives less noticeable.

Yes, I am a professional stager. But I’m married to a contractor who has no desire to work at home. And while we may also be partners in a building construction business, my own projects have to wait until there’s time available.

My decks need stained.

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All of them. You can see this one is partially done.

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Home projects, like everything else, are a process.

We are really enjoying our outdoor spaces right now, and eventually we’ll get them stained. Then, we’ll enjoy them a little more. 🙂

Don’t put off living until you get everything done. Life is in the details!

“Enjoy the little things for someday you will realize they were the BIG things.”  (I have no idea who said this, but it’s on a sign in my office at home.)

Have a wonderful summer enjoying YOUR outdoor spaces! 🙂

5 Easy Tips to Organizing Your Closet


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Welcome to my closet.

While I have been blessed with many things, a large walk-in closet is not one of them. It is extra deep, so I love that part about it. It just doesn’t afford me a ton of space.

Really, I’m good with that. After all, it is human nature to want to fill up a space. I’d just end up with more crap that I really don’t need.

See, limitations CAN be good for us. 😉

So anyway, I have a routine I do twice a year to get ready for the upcoming  winter/summer season.

This routine serves several purposes: It gives me an opportunity to clean my closet and organize things where I can find them easily. (If you’ve ever head a Closet Crisis when getting ready for work which has brought you on the verge of a Morning Meltdown…you know what I’m talking about.)

Personal time, free time, is at a premium for all of us these days. Whatever the reason, so many hours of our days/weeks/months are obligated to others. It becomes increasingly difficult to find time just for YOU.

My friend Tim said it best: “I bust my [bum] to be lazy.”

Besides giving me a feeling of inner peace, the satisfaction of seeing my space organized and neat just makes me feel good. I know where everything is; I feel pleasure opening the door to all my favorite things!

This is so much better than opening the closet door and the first thing every morning that catches your eye is the outfit you bought two sizes ago with the prize tags still on it. Or that you bought for a special event 20 years ago and never wore again? Or an outfit that you bought which has bad memories associated with it.

For instance, this year I weeded out the suit that I wore to both my parents funerals. It had the added bonus of being too big, but really, do you think I’ll ever wear it again without thinking about where I wore it last? My point exactly.

And if you happen to be considering selling your house, this project has the added bonus of making your closet seem spacious to buyers. Nothing screams “This house doesn’t have enough storage space” louder than one with closets stuffed to the gills.

I’m actually proud of my closet. For a half-wit like me, who knows it and has to plan accordingly, it’s almost idiot-proof. 😉

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If you follow these tips, your closet CAN become a friend and filled with all your favorite things.

Don’t feel like you need to do all this in one sitting. I’ve done this so long that I have it down to almost a science. It’s become a ritual that I almost look forward to, closing the book on one season and welcoming the next. I can do it in a couple of hours.

But if you’ve never done it, I don’t recommend that. 

Start small. Do a little bit at a time, and eventually you’ll get it done. If you pull everything out at once, you run the risk of getting burned out or running out of time and ending up with a bigger mess than you started with. I don’t want that on my conscience! 😀

1. Examine your closet. Remove anything that doesn’t make you feel happy or feel good about yourself wearing it. (I’m serious!) Let.it.go. If you have a large closet or you haven’t sorted through your things in years, attack this task a few minutes at a time. (You can get a ton done in ten minutes! You’d be surprised.)

While I’ve read you should get rid of something you haven’t worn in a year, I admit I don’t follow that advice. I have things I love that I haven’t worn for a couple of years or more, but I still love them and they still fit.

So I prefer the “I love it/it makes me feel fabulous” strategy. If it doesn’t meet either of those criteria, get rid of it. And if you currently don’t like anything in your closet, I’m sorry. I would suggest trying it another day. Sometimes my attitude makes all the difference!

Anyway, place the things you’re purging in a bag or box. If they are in good shape, donate them so someone else can feel good in them. If they are stained or have holes, toss them. (Yes, really. No one else wants these items either!)

It’s at this point I end up with 3 piles: the “trash” pile, the “needs mending or washed” pile, and the “what the samhill was I thinking” pile. 😀

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2. Remove the seasonal items that you know you like and will wear the next season.

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Like this sweatshirt I have, for instance. I love it. But so far the only memory I have of wearing it is the day I spurted BBQ sauce all over myself. But that’s another story for another day. 😀

If you’re spacing out this project, work on this a few minutes at a time, pulling out things you love but know you won’t wear again this year.

At the actual time I did this project, there was still some chilly weather ahead. I removed all the heavy winter items, but left my long-sleeved cool weather items to wear through the transition to summer.

I already feel better, just having done this. Honestly, as much as I love some of my clothes, I just get tired of looking at them all the time! I need to be away from them to fall in love again.

3. Swap out shoes. Because my closet is extra deep, (it used to be an alcove off a hallway until a prior remodel) I installed shelves all the way up the back for my shoes. Then a couple of years ago I realized I was getting tired of dusting all my shoes off before I wore them. That was annoying.

I bought clear plastic shoe boxes, and labeled them so I could find the shoes easily. (It saves time and is less stressful.)

My scarves are folded on the upper shelves, and a box with holiday/sentimental/keepsake jewelry that I don’t wear all the time.

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Hey, Inner Peace takes work I tell ya. 😉

Because my clothes hang in front of the top shelves, I move my winter shoes up on the higher shelves, and move the summer shoes down on the lower shelves.

We don’t have a traditional dresser, so shelves along the bottom hold folded shirts and shoes I wear daily. (It’s just to the left, mostly out of sight.)

A dear friend of mine lives with several animals, and bad things periodically happen to her shoes. If you have that same problem, this would fix it and certainly lower your aggravation level. AND the cost of purchasing new shoes over and over.

Oh, and check out the super cute shoes I got recently at my favorite retail therapy spot in our downtown. I could hardly wait until it got warm enough to wear them! They are so bright they just scream SPRING!

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SQUIRREL! 😀 Sorry.

3. Clean the floor and dust the baseboards of the closet, if you can reach them.

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Well that was scary. I can promise you my dogs weren’t in this closet.

And speaking of dogs….

“There was nobody in the room when I started.”

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I have lots of help.

And look! Titan was still here, so it’s been a couple of weeks since I did this.

As you can see, he was in a supervisory position and sleeping on the job.

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4. Fold everything you are removing from the closet neatly and place it in clear totes.

I store mine in my basement. A climate-controlled storage place is best, as excessive heat may dry out elastic, but it’s not necessarily critical as long as you are careful where you store them. Just make sure everything you store is CLEAN.

This fall, when you get them out again, it will be almost like Christmas! Or welcoming old friends home again. 🙂

As happy as I was to see my spring and summer stuff (especially this year) I know I’ll be ready to see them go again when the time comes.

Within the last year I’ve begun the practice of removing and donating something from my closet I love less anytime I buy something new. Not only does it help me keep from building up an excess of clutter, it makes the purging process easier.

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5. Arrange your clothes on nice hangers.

If you are using wire hangers, purge those from your closet. Like, yesterday.

Even if you have to purchase a few at a time, invest in hangers nicer than wire. Wire hangers (like the ones that come from the dry cleaner) are not meant to leave your clothes on. They will create “hanger nipples” in your tops, will stretch out sweaters, and will leave wrinkles in your pants.

Plastic tube hangers will work, these are very inexpensive at big box stores, or the hangers that look like dress store hangers. They will keep your close nicer…and if you’re investing in clothes, you want to keep them nice for as long as possible.

I hang my clothes in groupings by color. You’ll notice I have mostly black, cream, and white, with just a few colored items. Besides being my color preference, it makes packing for a trip almost idiot proof: everything matches! And I always have shoes. 😀

If you hang your clothes sorted by color and item, it really makes getting dressed in the morning so much simpler. Simpler translates to happier. And you’ll love your closet, and your clothes again. 🙂

You’ll take on the day feeling good about yourself! And isn’t that the best way to do it? 🙂

I Had A Message From God Today

3.14.14This was not the post I intended to write today. And this picture really doesn’t have anything to do with the post. And yet, it has everything to do with it. I’ll explain.

I had a life-altering experience earlier this morning, and it wasn’t yet 9:00 a.m.! It affected me so profoundly, so deeply, that I immediately had to come home and write about it.

I had a 9:00 a.m. conference call with a state committee of which I am a member. I had missed the last few, so I felt it was really important for me to participate today.

Sure, I had meant to get around earlier and get to the gym, but things got in the way. An early morning lack of prioritizing left me rushed. (As much as I’d like to blame someone else here, like my dogs, or my husband who wasn’t even home at the time – it was no one’s fault but my own.)

“If I hurry, I can squeeze in my workout and still make it home in time,” I told myself.

It was on the way home that life-altering moment happened.

I had my phone with me, and I was looking through emails and alternately watching the road. (Guess where this is going?)  While this sounds perfectly ridiculous as I write this, in my mind I was saving time.

“I’ll pull up that email with the call-in information, and then when I get home, I can just run in and dial the number and I won’t be late!“, is what I was thinking to myself. (Am I the only one who’s had such an idiotic thought? Or just the only one who’s brave enough to out myself?)  😉

I was on a fairly straight section of road, glancing up and down quickly between my phone and the road. The last time I looked up at the road, I had ventured too close to the right side. Ooops! I corrected, and kept my eyes on the road ahead as it was starting to get hilly.

Less than two seconds later, I popped over a small hill.

On the shoulderless right side of the road, pedaling along and minding his own business, was a bicyclist. He was blissfully unaware that a  quarter of a mile and 5 seconds earlier and I would have splatted him up over the front of my car.

My heart stopped. I laid my phone down in my lap, stunned. Thanks be to God, who’d allowed me to dodge a bullet.

I’m usually pretty careful. When I’m in town, I’m cautious not to be looking at my phone on a busy street, or to even look at it when I’m on unfamiliar roads or in traffic. But this was my road. It was familiar. I know this road, I’ve driven it a million times.

Yes, our road is curvy,  parts of it are hilly, it has no shoulder, and isn’t really suitable for biking. And people do it all the time!

But that doesn’t negate my responsibility to watch out for them, or anything else that may be in the road.

I believe the Universe gives us signs all the time. I believe that our purpose here is to learn, and that life gives us lessons to help us grow. If we ignore those lessons (or signs) they keep getting bigger and bigger or louder and louder. If you still refuse to learn, life simply forces you to. That’s when bad things happen.

How did it get this way, that being connected to technology became so much more important than life itself? It makes us hurry. It makes us frazzled. And because we have so little time to connect in a personal way, that we settle for simply connecting via technology.

Technology has put me in touch with friends that I’d not seen in years, wouldn’t have seen otherwise, and I love that. I can easily stay in touch with friends who live far away, to see what’s happening in their lives and with their kids; I see my friends having fun on vacation and admire their beautiful pictures. I love all that too.

Technology has simplified our lives, and certainly made life in the business world easier. But it’s also complicated our lives, made our schedules faster, and given us more stress.

As a REALTOR®, my phone is my lifeline. With my phone, I can do business anywhere. Rarely will you see a REALTOR® anywhere without their phone. It’s a choice we make to do our jobs.

I love my job. I love what I do. And I love people, most of the time.

Sometimes people don’t respect us or what we do. I worked with someone once who had decided to buy a house. I’d shown her a couple, and we’d spoken several times. She got ready to make an offer, and she called me. I wasn’t available at the time, so without leaving a message, she disconnected and immediately called another agent to write the offer.

In our fast, fast connected world, the early bird gets the worm. Having my phone at my hip is a hard, hard habit to break.

But today was a wake-up call for me.

Life is precious, and it is not measured by conference calls or contracts.

So if you call and I don’t answer, perhaps it’s because I’m choosing to put safety first; not only mine, but the lives of others.

Thank you God, for letting me squeak by today, and for showing me this lesson. I needed that. 🙂

And my conference call? It was canceled for lack of a quorum. 😀

Things Not to Do When Selling Your House

Morty the Moose

Morty the Moose


I’m in a good mood today.

It’s a gorgeous fall day, and we’re headed to Kansas this week for NASCAR. Life is good.

This week we’re going to take a humorous look at some things you really shouldn’t do if you’re selling your house. I can’t promise there won’t be a funny story or two here or there. I’m just sayin’.

But first, a disclaimer: All these pictures are taken on my own personal properties. These pictures do NOT refer to any specific listing that I (or any other agent I know) have or may have had. These are just general tips from a professional stager. Who happens to be me. 🙂

This here is Morty the Moose. Morty, short for Mortimer, has resided at the Stanton residence since October, 2006. He’s here to start the week off and introduce the first tip.

Remove dead animals from your walls.

I promise no animal died just so I could write this post.

Morty was already dead when we got him. In fact, he was taken in 1989 in British Columbia by a doctor from St. Louis. Or so we were told when we got him.  Morty is quite large, but he happens to look really good in my living room.

I love Morty. But then, I am not selling my house.

If you are selling your house, you should remove and stow away any dead animals. This also goes so far as to include urns with the cremains of beloved family members or pets (with much respect and sympathy for your loss.)

“The way you live in your home, and the way you market your home are two different things.” Barb Schwarz, the inventor of Home Staging.

If your home is for sale, you want it to appeal to the largest pool of buyers possible. Anything you do to ‘customize’ it more to your own taste shrinks your pool of buyers.

Suppose you really love the tropics, so you decide to paint your living room or your kitchen Flamingo Pink. Great! For YOU. But that is only going to appeal to a small niche of buyers who happen to really love the tropics.

Having mounted trophies and memories of YOUR loved ones, and not the buyers or even anyone they know can sometimes creep people out. That means the showing won’t go well. Which means they won’t buy your house.

I know some of you may be saying, “We live in the deer hunting capital of the world; everyone expects to see mounted deer heads on the wall. That’s a whole LOT better than a moose!”

Yes, that argument may be logical; but then you’re going to shrink your buyer pool to people who are not bothered by seeing a deer hanging on the wall. And that may not be the nice people from California who are cash buyers who have been lifetime members of the Sierra Club. No matter where you live, it’s just a good idea to put away anything that could be considered creepy by buyers.

Back to Morty.

Moose in pickup

This is Morty when he arrived at our house. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture of Jimmy pulling in the driveway, with the long line of cars backed up behind him because he had to drive really slow. It was like a funeral procession.

Do you suppose people wondered what in the world he was doing with a Moose?

One antler comes off to make it handy-dandy to haul him around.

Maggie Sniffing

Maggie was freaked.

Maggie and the Moose

She knew he was an animal, but she couldn’t figure out what. She kept trying to stick her nose in his ears to try and get a bead on what he was.

She was very confused.

Convinced that Morty was stalking her, she kept an eye on him for weeks just to make sure he was still in the same spot.

Jimmy and the Moose

Here’s Jimmy getting him settled into his spot.

“Can we raise him 3 inches, please?” I was kidding. HA

My poor, long-suffering husband. He was not terribly enthused about this moose project, but he humored me.

His life has certainly been a lot more colorful since we met. 😀


The Best Projects to Add Value to Your Home

House with decks

House with decks

Spring is a time when most of us start to think about home improvement projects and sprucing things up a little after a dreary winter. Completing those projects is always a GREAT pick-me-up!

Not all home projects are equal though. Especially if you’re planning to sell your house at some point in the future, some projects are going to help you out, and increase the value of your home, more than others.

Even if you aren’t currently planning to sell your home, it’s still a good idea to keep these things in mind. Circumstances change, jobs change, relationships change; heck, priorities even change! The bulk of my very informal research seems to agree that the average American owns a home for 5-7 years. (That’s average, I am well aware there are some of us who blow that statistic out of the water.)

The reality is you might be selling your home in the future even if you don’t know it yet!

The latest Cost VS. Value report from Remodeling Magazine for the West North Central part of the country (which includes all of Missouri and the states immediately west) lists the approximate addition to the value of your home per dollars spent. (You can find this, and lots of other great homeownership information, at www.houselogic.com.)

The top 5 remodel projects to return the most value to your home are:

1. Steel Replacement Entry Door – 85.6%

2. Wooden Deck Addition – 77.3%

3. Garage Door Replacement – 75.7%

4. Minor Kitchen Remodel – 75.4%

5. Window Replacement, wood – 73.3%

The worst return on your money is a home office remodel, which has a return of only 43.6%.

The bottom line is that most any kind of improvement will add value to your home, unless it’s an extremely customized improvement. Say, carving two Jedi’s out of the posts at your front door. Or having light sabers for light posts. Yeah, I wouldn’t necessarily say that would increase the value, unless you happen to find another big Star Wars fan.

And if you are selling your home, some of your improvements may not necessarily increase the amount you can ask for it, but they may well help your home sell faster. But that is another story for another time. 🙂