4 Key Tips for Using Home Decor Stores Online

If you’re ready to decorate your NY apartment, home decor stores online can be a godsend. Online shopping has made it possible to simultaneously buy a toaster, bake a chocolate babka, and binge-watch Sherlock, all while dying your hair and dressed in yesterday’s jammies and your old bunny slippers. If you’re in the process of furnishing your home, online shopping can turn what was once an arduous and unbelievably booooring task into something fun, exciting, and relatively effortless.

On the flip side, if you’re not careful, online shopping can turn your furniture-buying experience into an extraordinarily expensive, headache-inducing exercise that drains and then empties your patience and your wallet.

1. Comparison Shop Before You Drop (Your Cash)

Just because you can buy it online doesn’t mean you should buy it online. Say you found the Chesterfield sofa of your dreams at an online store called Chesterfields-R-Us.com. You should still do a little more Googling to see if the sofa is being sold anywhere else for a cheaper price. You may discover that the Chesterfield in question is being sold at WeLoveBritishSofas.com for nearly a third less than the other site is charging. Factor in shipping costs, too. Chesterfields-R-Us.com may offer free shipping if you spend over a certain amount, while the other site may charge a hefty shipping fee that erases those 33 percent savings you were so gung ho about.

2. Always Measure Before Buying That Treasure

There probably isn’t a worse feeling in the world (at least when it comes to furniture shopping) than the one that descends upon you when you realize that that one-of-a-kind Chesterfield sofa you ordered won’t even fit into your apartment. Before you buy, pull out the measuring tape to make sure the item can make it through your door. Then measure the rooms that they’ll go into to ensure that they’ll fit inside the space. Make sure you take note of height, depth, and width. You need to know how far the item is going to jut out into the room. If you don’t, you might have to hire a furniture doctor to disassemble your new item, bring it into the house, and reassemble it — a process that will set you back a few hundred dollars.

3. Stay Logged into Social Media So You Stay Up to Speed …

You may be one of those people who avoid social media the way paleo dieters avoid donuts, but buying furniture is one time you should be prepared to cross your digital picket line. By monitoring business Facebook pages or signing up for alerts from top retailers, furniture stores, and flash sale sites like One Kings Lane, Chairish, and Gilt, you’ll be the first to know when things like top-of-the-line furniture, kitchen items, and home accessories go on sale. And we’re talking about brands like Frette, Mitchell Gold, Ralph Lauren, and Cuisinart that can go for as much as 50 to 70 percent off — and maybe even higher. It’s all about the timing.

4. Make Sure Things Can Be Returned So You Don’t End Up Burned!

Before using home decor stores online, always check the seller’s return policy. Certain furniture and accessories, especially sale items, are nonrefundable or exchange only. Oftentimes they’re final sale. This means that if there’s something wrong with your item, you could very well be stuck with it. Go over the return policies with a fine-toothed comb.

Image Source: Flickr/Dave Pinter

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Modernism Week: A 10th Anniversary Celebration of Midcentury Design

Modernism Week, the annual celebration of mid-century modern design, architecture, art, fashion and culture took place in Palm Springs, February 12–22, 2015. The February edition of Previews® Inside Out covered the event from all angles.

Read an interview with Lisa Vossler Smith, executive director of Modernism Week, exploring the highlights of the 10th Anniversary of the 11-day event. Discuss the modernism movement with John Bertram, founder of Bertram Architects, a firm best known for restoring homes from the midcentury period, and learn why he’s mad for midcentury. See how interior designer Amy Lau is making bold statements by adapting modernist design principles for 21st-century lifestyles. And lastly, take a tour of Evening Star, Rancho Mirage’s most captivating modernist estate to hit the market this year.

Moderism_sculpture

So, why the fascination with modernism? As John Bertram so eloquently states, “To those willing to devote time to careful study, midcentury modern architecture offers a multitude of practical lessons and interesting choices that are pertinent to life today.”

Modernism is more than clean lines, smooth surfaces and architectural restraint. It is a lifestyle that reflects a simpler, humbler time period. No place is a better reflection of this home style than Palm Springs. See how Modernism Week comes to life in this month’s issue of Previews® Inside Out.

To search for a home that embodies modern design, visit coldwellbankerpreviews.com.

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10 Do It Yourself Projects You Can Do in a Weekend

You’re probably staying inside more now that it’s cold out. Why not spend some of that time improving your NYC apartment? Here are 10 easy do it yourself projects that you can finish this weekend!

Do It Yourself Projects: Paint

Image Source: MorgueFile

1. Create a Standout Accent Wall

You may not have time to paint a whole room, but why not paint a wall? A feature wall is a great way to add a little pop to your home. Choose a fun color that complements your existing decor. Are you feeling a little more brave? Instead of painting, hang up some wallpaper.

2. Hang a Rotating Gallery

Create a simple photo gallery in minutes. A couple hooks securely fastened to the wall and some string are all you need. Use clothespins to hang your favorite photos. Rotate the pictures frequently for an ever-changing gallery.

Do It Yourself Projects: Plants

Image Source: MorgueFile

3. Decorate with Plants

It’s dreary outside, so bring a little warmth inside with plants! Succulents and cactus plants are a great option and easy to care for. Show one off in a terracotta pot decorated with a little paint. You could also create your own terrarium. Have a black thumb? Add color to your apartment with fake flowers.

4. Show Off Memorabilia

Shadowboxes are a fun way to gather and show off keys, vintage camera, postcards, and more. Use an old frame for your shadowbox and fill it with some of your favorite memories! Check out Darcy Miller’s scrapboxes for inspiration.

Do It Yourself Projects: Chalkboard

Image Source: MorgueFile

5. Make Your Own Chalkboard

Another way to use a beautiful vintage frame is a do it yourself chalkboard. Cut a piece of heavy cardboard or wood to fit any frame of your choice. Coat the cardboard with a few coats of chalkboard paint, and project is complete! Use the chalkboard to share your weekly meal plan, a monthly calendar, or a simple inspirational quote.

6. Add Inexpensive Art

Even if you don’t have an artistic bone in your body, you can create a beautiful piece of artwork. All you have to do is frame scrapbook paper or fabric. Have fun changing the paper as the seasons change.

7. Create a Hidden Charging Station

Are your cords driving you crazy? Create a hidden charging station in a spare drawer. Drill a hold in the back of a drawer, and then add separators to keep the drawer organized. Then pull your cord through the hole. Now you can charge your phone right in the drawer.

8. Update Your Cabinets

You may not be able to redo your cabinets in a weekend, but you can definitely change the hardware. This is one of those do it yourself projects that ceates a huge impact with very little effort.

9. Dress Up Your Curtains

Keep your home warm this winter with curtains. Open them during the day to let in sun and heat, and close them at night to hold warmth inside. Dress up a boring pair of curtains with trim — and if you don’t have a sewing machine, you can just iron or glue the trim on.

Do It Yourself Projects: Mat

Image Source: Flickr/Kerry Morrison

10. Keep Floors Dry with a Beautiful Mat

Winter in NYC is messy. Keep your wet boots off the floor with a mat. You can make your own by stenciling a plain mat, or you can use stones to create a DIY riverstone mat.

This weekend, try one of these do it yourself projects! In less than 48 hours, you can have a beautiful new feature for your New York apartment.

Main Image Source: Flickr/Amy Gizienski

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Dog One of Twenty Thousand

 20,000 homes for 20,000 adoptable dogs in 2015

That is the goal of our Homes for Dogs project that was announced in conjunction with our Home’s Best Friend commercial which debuted during the Academy Awards.

Within just three days of launching our campaign we got word that dog #1 of 20,000 had found his new forever home. Not only did this adorable pooch hit the doggy jackpot by finding such a loving family but his name just happened to be BLUE, the color of the Coldwell Banker brand. Can you say kismet?  Meet Blue and his new owners Gina and Emily and find out their incredible story.

Want to give an adoptable dog, like Blue, their chance at a loving forever home? Click here.

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The Yard Sign Goes Up…What Happens Next?

You’ve decided to sell your home. You’ve interviewed real estate agents, asking these 4 important questions. You’ve prepared your home for sale by making updates and repairs. You’ve even staged your home for optimal viewing. The yard sign is firmly planted in your yard. What happens next?

Ronnie Aiosa from the Boswell Aiosa Group at the Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage explains what to expect next in the home selling process. From using a lockbox for security, to the difference between a broker caravan and public open house, we cover all of the next steps after the yard sign goes up.

For more home seller resources, or to search for a real estate professional in your area, visit coldwellbanker.com today.

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Creating a Cozy House in NYC? Yes, Please!

A cozy house filled with the scent of baking cookies and gingerbread, Bing Crosby music wafting from the speakers, and a roaring fire going in the fireplace as the centerpiece of it all: This is what many of us think about when we think of cozying up at home in the wintertime. If you live in the winter postcard towns of Bangor, Maine, or Telluride, Colorado, it’s easy to create this tableau. But can those of us living in NYC achieve this vibe in our homes, especially if we don’t have fireplaces? Yes.

Get Cozy with Texture

Many people underestimate the power that textures and fabrics have on the psyche. Light fabrics like chiffon and silk bring to mind light-colored summer dresses on balmy evenings and soft breezes billowing through light drapes. Heavy fabrics and textures like fur, wool, flannel, and knits evoke feelings of warmth and coziness. Using them in your home can instantly make things cozier.

  • Throws: Dress your sofa with the warmest throw you can find, the kind that will make you want to bury into it as soon as you walk into the room. Faux fur is an example of an ultra-rich material that will envelope you with decadent coziness.
  • Drapes: Swap out your warm-weather curtains for winter-ready drapes. Thick, rich drapes not only block out the cold, sealing in the warmth, but they also soundproof rooms, making them hushed, cozy, and cocoon-like.

Put Your to Work Lighting

There’s only one thing to say: Put all of your lighting on dimmers. Instant coziness. Enough said!

Create the Right Ambience

When it comes to what makes a home cozy and welcoming, one of the biggest factors is how the home makes people feel when they walk in.

  • Use Music to Set the Mood: It doesn’t have to be a fancypants Infinite Wisdom Grande audio system hooked up to those $300k Goldmund Epilogue speakers that your hedge fund audiophile friend owns. Your iPod connected to one of those tiny iLuv Boom cubes is fine. Set the stage with Bach, Björk, or Beyonce. Keep upbeat, romantic, happy, or energetic background music looping all day long. Even if you have it on the lowest volume level, it gets into your mind and creates a cozy and positive soundtrack for your day.
  • Set Up a Media Center: If you have a TV in your common space, great. Position it so that it can viewed comfortably by your guests. If you don’t have a TV, still set up a viewing area where you can lug and prop up your laptop in case friends want to come over and catch up on Piper’s latest shenanigans on Orange Is the New Black on Netflix.

Still Want a Real Fire?

The future is now, and though we may not have hovercrafts (yet!), we do have the ability to a darn good job of creating near-perfect replicas of everything from flawless diamonds to fur to … fireplaces. You may not have a Stanford White–designed mansion with a gloriously detailed stone fireplace built for roasting chestnuts, but you can totally buy a perfectly good replica of a fireplace. We’re not talking about those tacky, fake-flame monstrositites: The electric fireplaces of today can look elegant and startlingly authentic, and gel-fuel fireplaces come in all sorts of modern and vintage designs and styles, allowing you to create the cozy house of your dreams.

Image Source: Flickr/Brian J. Matis

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6 New Homeowner Mistakes You Must Avoid

Guest Post by Home Advisor 

Congratulations! You’re embarking on an exciting, new adventure — owning your first home! As you get ready to sign the papers and start living in your new abode, it’s crucial that you don’t ignore some major missteps first-time homebuyers have made in the past. By taking prep steps ahead of time to avoid these common mistakes, you’ll be well on the way to settling into your new home for years to come.

#1 Ignore Over-the-Top Features

Sellers may have invested in some upgrades to make their home more appealing to potential buyers, including first-time homeowners. However, some major home upgrades might not be all that appealing after first glance. Swimming pools, for example, are high maintenance and expensive to repair, and they’re only functional for a few months out of the year, depending on where you live.  Landscaping with multiple bushes, trees and various flower beds that require a lot of maintenance and care are another you don’t want to invest time and money in. There’s also a wine cellar — this sounds amazing at first glance, but there’s a lot of care and work that goes into its maintenance. Look for the features you know you’ll want to use and maintain before you look to sign any papers.

#2 Don’t Waive a Home Inspection

Never waive a home inspection. It may seem like a good way to cut costs in the home buying process, but spending $310 to $380 to hire a home inspector could save you from spending thousands later on major issues in the home. Home inspectors can reveal issues like:

  • Roof leaks
  • Exposed electrical wires
  • Cracks in the foundation
  • Plumbing leaks and cracks
  • Problems in the heating and cooling system
  • Holes in the interior or exterior walls

If these problems are discovered before you purchase the home, you might be able to compromise with the seller on fixing them ahead of the sale. If not, you might have to look for a different house to buy.

#3 Handle the Small Fixes

If you decide to move forward with a home that has a few problems, don’t underestimate the small fixes. For example, a leaking or running toilet might seem like a small problem, but it can become a major one if you aren’t careful. Running toilets not only waste gallons upon gallons of water, but they can also lead to bathroom flooding. Call a plumber to fix it as soon as possible. Also budget for other small problems like flooring, HVAC and roofing maintenance. These expenses can run up to $1,000 or $2,000 if not more, depending on the extent of the problem in some cases. So be sure to cushion your bank account.

#4 Understand That Some Projects Aren’t DIY

There are some new homeowner projects that are right for do-it-yourselfers. Painting, decorating, fixing some small holes in the wall with caulking — those are all affordable, easy and quick (if you follow instructions). However, there are some projects you should never attempt to do on your own. Call in a pro anytime you have a project that falls into one of these categories:

  • Electrical
  • Plumbing
  • Structural
  • Insulation

Projects like these are dangerous, and they require specific materials and safety equipment. Doing them on your own could lead to injury, if not more expensive repairs down the road. Beyond these, other home improvement projects are up to your best judgment to pursue as DIY or professional help projects. If you’re uncertain about how to approach any home project, call a professional for their opinion and a quote.

#5 Energy-Efficient Improvements

If you’re moving into your new home around the spring or summer, consider having a home energy auditor come out to find areas in which your energy efficiency may be improved. There are a lot of ways to cut down energy costs and help the environment. Some smaller improvements, for example, include:

  • Weather-stripping your windows and doors
  • Caulking around your exterior siding and filling any holes in your interior
  • Replacing your windows with double- or triple-paned alternatives
  • Laying new, thicker insulation to block cold air
  • Replacing older appliances in the kitchen with energy-efficient alternatives

There are various additional home improvements that energy auditors may recommend after a thorough inspection. While this can be expensive, you can break it out over time so you can save money and budget.

#6 Attempting Remodeling Projects

Don’t attempt to remodel parts of the house less than a year after moving in. Settle in, get to know all the rooms in the house, and figure out which bothers you the most. This also gives you time to figure out your budget. A year is about the appropriate time to calculate your mortgage, utility bills and other costs that come with owning a home. If you attempt to spend money on a remodel within the first year, you could end up pulling more out of your bank account than you actually have at your disposal.

Andrea Davis is the editor at HomeAdvisor, which connects homeowners with home improvement professionals in their area for free. Connect with Andrea on Google+

 

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Who’s Living in the In-Law Suite? Boomerang Kids and Aging Parents

In recent years, real estate agents and home builders have noted an increase in requests for multigenerational housing. According to a PulteGroup Home Index survey, 15 percent of respondents currently had parents living with them, but over twice that amount — or 32 percent of respondents — expected to share a home with their parents in the future. New home designs have adjusted to capitalize on this trend, but if you anticipate adding an in-law suite to your existing home, chances are you’re considering expensive renovations. Before you upgrade your space, anticipate who will be using it and any special features needed to create the most comfortable home for your entire family.

Who Lives in Today’s In-Law Suite?

Traditionally, the in-law suite was a place for older generations to live close to relatives, but within the confines of a separate living space. With many grandparents serving as caretakers for their grandchildren, an in-law suite or segregated living space known as an accessory dwelling unit appeals to dual-career home buyers.

Besides grandparents, young adults referred to as “boomerang kids” move back with their parents while saving for a home of their own. This phenomenon has also become a consideration of many home buyers searching for residences with extra space to accommodate both returning children and aging parents.

How to Build and Design an In-Law Suite

As expected with any major change to an existing home, zoning and building permit regulations come into play when adding to existing living spaces. Reconfiguring unused areas of your home by knocking down a wall and combining two rooms into one larger suite is one option for creating an in-law suite. Finishing attic space or the area over a garage is another way to accommodate expanding families. If you choose to convert a garage or other outbuilding into a new living space, you’ll need to thoroughly investigate local ordinances and ask what is permissible for a property zoned as a single-family residence.

Traditional Layouts and Features

Privacy is a major factor in the design of in-law suites. Separate entrances should be considered when feasible. Traditionally, in-law suites provide a separate bed, bath, and living area. More elaborate layouts include kitchen and dining space as well.

If your parents are older, health and safety issues may also play a part of the design. First-floor access may be necessary for those who have difficulty climbing stairs. In a recent report on flexible housing, the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging discusses the concept of “visitable” homes designed for people of all ages and those with disabilities. Visitable homes include a first-floor entry, a half-bath on the first floor, and door openings wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs.

Those looking for a home to accommodate larger families will find many existing options in Philadelphia. If you’re considering multigenerational living arrangements, keep in mind that sometimes it’s easier and less expensive to purchase a new home in lieu of extensively renovating your existing property.

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Government-Backed Loans: What Buyers and Sellers Need to Know About FHA, VA, or RD Financing

The Grand Rapids realty market is on fire. There are a ton of young buyers in this market — we’ve even claimed a spot in the top 10 cities for millennial home buyers. With this title, we run into a lot of Grand Rapids buyers with government-backed financing.

So first of all, why are so many buyers going with government-backed loans? Going FHA (Federal Housing Administration), VA (Veterans Affairs), or RD (Rural Development) is a very attractive financing method for several reasons.

  1. You can get into a home with minimal to no down payment (3.5% down for FHA, and 0% down for VA and RD), which is one of the largest hurdles a home buyer needs to jump.
  2. FHA-backed loans’ debt-to-income ratio is much more lenient than that of conventional financing.
  3. For many buyers in this timeframe (six years after the recession), FHA might be the only option, as conventional lenders won’t lend to buyers who’ve had a foreclosure or bankruptcy in the recent past. So for a large portion of active buyers in this great market, government-backed loans are the only choice for financing.

Well, this is great, right? More people can afford to buy, which makes the market so much better, but like everything in life, there are some drawbacks to be aware of. There are several stipulations that can hold up a seemingly slam-dunk transaction and, in some cases, make a deal fall through. For this reason, today we’ll touch on the requirements of government-backed loans. This will give buyers an idea of what red flags to look for when choosing a home to write on, and sellers a good idea of what hoops your home will need to jump through in order to close with this specialized financing.

For Buyers
So you got a pre-approval for a home loan by going FHA, VA, or RD. That’s great! But buyer beware: With some homes, this approval is less than ideal, and in a multiple-offer situation, your pre-approval might cause the seller to go with a conventional offer, even if your offer price is slightly higher. This is because with a government-backed loan comes a laundry list of requirements the house must meet in order for the government to feel comfortable lending the money. When it comes time for the appraisal, an FHA-licensed appraiser will come out to the house and note any safety, structural, and longevity issues that need to be repaired before the deal closes. These issues, outlined here, can range from needing to install 35-cent electrical face plates to $15,000 roof replacements. The most common repairs we find in Grand Rapids are exterior dry rot, peeling paint, roofing issues, and interior electrical issues such as exposed bare wires and missing plate covers.

For Sellers
Now you, the FHA seller, need to really think about this before going whole hog into a purchase agreement with a government-backed buyer. If you know that there may be some holdups due to the condition of your home, you’ll want to address this in your counter-offer back to the buyer by stating that you will offer to pay up to a specific amount toward necessary repairs. This way, there will be no surprise $10,000 repair bills needed to close on your house.

We’re fortunate to live in a country that values home ownership enough to offer assistance, but both sides need to be aware of these stipulations so no surprise speed bumps appear along the way.

Image Source: Flickr

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Brighten Up Your Home with Inexpensive Decorative Lights

Lighting is an important element in home design that’s often overlooked. A string of lights can be an inexpensive way to brighten up your New York apartment. Try out these tricks for spicing up your home with inexpensive decorative lights.

Keep String Lights Out Year Round

Don’t pack away those string lights when you take down your holiday tree! String or Christmas lights are a fun way to add a unique touch to your home year round. These lights are especially at home in the bedroom, where they work to create a romantic feel. Try some of these ideas:

  • String lights across your headboard or hanging them over your bed for a canopy effect.
  • Do you have a gorgeous vintage ladder? Wrap it with string lights to show off its beautiful shape.
  • Create a custom marquee sign using cardboard letters and string lights with oversize bulbs. Interior design blog Teal & Lime offers an easy tutorial.
  • Surround a floor-length mirror with lights. It’ll look pretty, and you’ll sparkle every time you catch your reflection!
  • If you have high ceilings, draw the eye up by draping string lights across it.

Decorative Lights: DIY Marquee

Image Source: Flickr/Emily May

Brighten Dark Corners with Lamps

Lamps are another way to add interest to your home. Avoid expensive fixtures and keep an eye out for petite lamps with character. Thrift stores and discount retailers are great sources.

  • Do you have a dark kitchen? Brighten it up with a fun lamp.
  • Place a small lamp next to a couch or chair for a cozy reading nook.
  • Brighten up a dreary corner by placing a beautiful lamp on a tall stand.
  • Keep a lamp on an entry table. It will create a welcoming feeling.

Decorative Lights: Small Lamp

Image Source: Flickr/Joel Montes de Oca

Highlight Features with LED Ropes

LED rope lights are another great option for bringing a new look your home. They can be used similarly to string lights, but the continuous shape lends itself well to other ideas, too.

  • These lights are wonderful in the kitchen. Place LED rope lights under your upper cabinets for extra light or place them above cabinets or under the toe kick to draw the eye up or down.
  • These decorative lights are beautiful framing windows and other architectural features.
  • Highlight a row of books by attaching LED ropes along the shelf edge. You’ll appreciate the extra light when browsing your collection.
  • For something quirky, spell out a giant word on your wall. It’s guaranteed to catch any visitor’s attention right away!

Decorative Lights: LED Rope Lights

Image Source: Flickr

Don’t overlook lighting when decorating your New York apartment. Decorative lights are a fun and inexpensive way to add vibrancy to your space.

Main Image Source: Flickr

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