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6 Kitchen Design Dilemmas and How to Solve Them

November 23rd, 2015

(BPT)—Kitchen design is an art form, one where function and beauty harmoniously co-exist. Achieving that balance, however, isn't always easy. When renovating a kitchen, homeowners can find themselves facing challenging design dilemmas. And they are not alone.

"When redesigning or refreshing a kitchen, the goal is to create a space that is hard-working, yet beautiful," says Nate Berkus, renowned designer and artistic advisor to LG Studio. "Look for items that really represent who you are and your design personality, and you'll create an area you and your family will love both now and 10 years from now."

Berkus points to six common kitchen design dilemmas and offers suggestions on how homeowners can remedy those issues:

1. Space Challenges – When you don't have enough room for the large table your family needs, get creative. Consider building an L-shaped bench around a farm table and adding extra chairs. It's a clever use of space and will create a cozy nook where your family can gather for meals or kids can do homework. Plus, the bench can double as storage space.

2. Last Year's (or Last Decade's) Cabinets – Cabinets are one of the first things you notice in any kitchen, and they're also one of the most important in terms of functionality. If your cabinets provide ample space but look dated, Berkus suggests giving them a facelift with varying materials and finishes, like a wood or paint color that's different from the rest of the kitchen.

"I always appreciate a simple, clean style, but with cabinets, I tell my clients they shouldn't be afraid to mix it up," Berkus says. “I recommend sticking with a neutral palette for cabinets, whether you're installing brand new ones or painting your existing cabinets. White, charcoal and gray will always be elegant, and you can't go wrong with black - it's absolutely one of my favorites. It makes a dramatic statement and looks fantastic paired with stainless steel appliances."

3. Small Budgets, Big Taste – When you long for that sleek, built-in look but don't want to break the bank, counter-depth appliances are a great design choice. They seamlessly integrate with cabinetry no matter what the material, supporting that clean look you ultimately want your kitchen to reflect.

4. Unattractive, Inefficient Lighting – Lighting is one of the most important design elements in any room, and it's the one thing people often overlook when re-designing their kitchens. "Lighting can instantly change the whole feel of a space," Berkus says. "I believe it is one of the most important decisions you can make in any room, especially the kitchen, which, let's be honest, is usually the hardest working room in your home."

To create lighting that is both useful and beautiful, remember to light the room in layers - from above, under cabinets to illuminate work areas and all-around accent lighting to create ambiance.

5. Counter Space Confusion – Figuring out how much counter space you'll need is always tricky. Start by considering all the ways you'll be using your counters. You'll need food prep areas, of course, but will you also want a breakfast bar where your family can sit for meals and snacks? Will you need extra room for countertop appliances?

"My rule of thumb is, to always double the amount of counter space you think you'll need," Berkus says. "You can never have too much, especially if you like to cook and entertain."

6. A Too-Clean Slate – A large, open-concept kitchen can seem appealing, but it can also be daunting to design and decorate.

"Don't be afraid to do something unexpected in the kitchen to break up the space," Berkus says. "I love the idea of creating an unexpected seating area in your kitchen. Shop your weekend flea markets or online stores for a vintage sofa, coffee table and rug to set up an area for your family to relax in."

Ultimately, Berkus says, keep in mind that the kitchen truly is the heart of the home. "Kitchen design is about creating a space in your home that brings the whole family together, and is the best place to reflect your sense of personal style."

Century 21 AA Realty Long Island

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2015. All rights reserved.

Fall Maintenance: 10 Safety Tips for Ladders, Rakes

October 8th, 2015

Here’s a statistic: In the last year alone, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reported more than half a million fall home maintenance-related injuries – and 40,000-plus of those incidents were caused by raking!

“Never underestimate the task at hand while cleaning,” says Dr. Patrick Osborn, spokesperson for the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons’ (AAOS). “Even the most mundane or simple chores can cause strain, injury, or even a fall if not done correctly. For instance, when using a ladder, never stand on the top rung.”

Dr. Osborn and the AAOS strongly advise homeowners to keep safety in mind when tackling fall clean-up this year. Here are some tips.

1. Use a comfortable rake. Select a rake that is suitable for your height and strength.

2. Service equipment. Have equipment such as leaf blowers serviced before using for the first time this season.

3. Inspect the ladder. Check the ladder for any loose screws, hinges or rungs and clean off any mud or liquids that might have accumulated on the ladder.

4. Properly set up the ladder.
Every ladder should be placed on a firm, level surface. Never place a ladder on ground that is uneven and watch for soft, muddy spots. The same is true for uneven flooring. Remember to always engage the ladder locks or braces before climbing. If working outside, make sure the ladder — when extended — will not hit electrical wires, tree limbs or any other obstructions.

5. Remember the one-to-four rule. The bottom of the ladder should be one foot away from the wall for every four feet that the ladder rises. For example, if the ladder touches the wall 16 feet above the ground, the base of the ladder should be four feet from the wall. If you are going to climb onto a roof, the ladder should extend at least three feet higher than the rooftop. And, the upper and lower sections of an extension ladder should overlap to provide stability.

6. Avoid using ladders in adverse weather conditions. It’s unsafe to use ladders outside if there is rain, wind, snow, ice or some other factor that can increase the risk of slipping and falling.

7. Select the right ladder for the job.
If you’re washing windows inside the home, choose a step stool or utility ladder, which are often used when working at low or medium heights. Extension ladders are ideal for use outdoors to reach high places, like when cleaning the gutters on the rooftop. The weight the ladder is supporting also should never exceed its maximum load capacity.

8. Move materials with caution when on the ladder. While cleaning the garage or closet, be careful when pushing or pulling items from shelves. It is easy to be thrown off-balance and fall.

9. Always position the ladder closer to the work. Over-reaching or leaning too far to one side can make you lose your balance and fall. Your belly button should not go beyond the sides of the ladder!

10. Wear proper footwear.
Make sure your shoelaces are tied and the soles of your shoes are free of any debris or greasy, oily or wet substances. Do not wear leather-soled shoes, as they are slippery. Pant legs shouldn’t be too wide or too long.

Most importantly, be safe and ask someone to hold the ladder while you climb. Stay in the center of the ladder as you ascend, and always hold the side rails with both hands.

Source: AAOS

Century 21 AA Realty Long Island

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2015. All rights reserved.

Great Tips for Easing into Back-to-School Mode

August 5th, 2015

By Barbara Pronin

One minute you’re thinking it’s time to shop for school clothes, and the next minute they’re off to the bus stop – and while nobody wants to rush those last lazy days of summer, now is the time to prepare your kids for the school year ahead.

Teachers and child care experts offer thoughtful tips for easing the family into fall:

  • Talk it up – Offer your kids positive vibes about the upcoming school year. Is this the first time they will ride their bikes? Play in the school band?  Join swim club? Paint word pictures that will ignite their excitement about going back to school.
  • Get organized – Set aside time for them to try on last year’s clothing, shop for replacements, and take advantage of school supply sales.
  • Have a discussion to set school rules - What will be your teen’s school night curfew? What’s the after-school schedule? What are school night and bedtime routines? When and where is homework to be done?
  • Plan the first week’s routine - Know what the kids are going to wear that first week and what will be packed in school lunches. Planning ahead can save time and tears later.
  • Plan a fun back-to-school breakfast – Get the year off to a happy start with a favorite family breakfast on the first day of school.
  • Reset their inner time clocks – At least a week before school starts, begin to wean your child away from staying up late and sleeping-in in the morning.
  • Have a dress rehearsal – Will your child be walking to a new school? A different bus stop? An after-school center? Do a run-through before the first day, and reinforce stranger-danger rules.
  • Prepare for their first evening home – Kids may come home on that first day with a school calendar, a stack of papers to fill out, or a list of needed supplies. Keep your calendar clear so you have the time to attend to whatever is necessary.
  • When you ask how the day went, mean it – Ask questions if your child is not forthcoming, and really listen to what they say. Knowing you are interested will help keep them talking as the school year progresses.

Century 21 AA Realty Long Island

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2015. All rights reserved.

4 Ways to Erase the Most Common Household Messes

July 20th, 2015

(BPT) – No matter how neat you keep your home, odors and stains will occur. These can be especially challenging to remove in areas prone to spills and smells. According to the KILZ paint and primer experts, here’s how you can freshen up even the most stubborn spots in your household.

1. Eliminate Refrigerator Odors - Refrigerators are subject to a variety of spills and odors. To clean your fridge, begin by emptying its contents and throwing out, recycling or composting any food that is expired or beginning to smell.

Next, pull out any removable drawers or shelving and place them in the sink. Using a damp, soft cloth or non-abrasive sponge, wipe down these pieces, the interior of your fridge and the door with a multi-purpose cleaner. Or, mix two tablespoons of baking soda with one quart of hot water for a natural soap alternative. Don’t forget the seams of the shelves and rubber door seal.

If your fridge requires an extra-deep cleaning, unplug it while you work to avoid wasting energy. Before putting all of your food back into the fridge, wipe down the exterior of each jar or container with a damp cloth.

2. Conceal Wall Stains with Primer - Have your kids made artwork of your walls, or has a leaky roof caused a water-damaged mess? Tough wall stains like these can be hard to get rid of, but are easily sealed by applying a high-quality, stain-blocking primer.

Before covering the problem area with primer, clean the wall thoroughly with a grease-cutting solution and lightly sand the area to be painted.

3. Remove Dirty Grout Lines - Tile surfaces are prone to dirt and debris, especially in bathrooms or high-traffic areas. To keep tile looking fresh and new, grab an old toothbrush or electric toothbrush for a deeper scrub. Before you start, wash the surface with water then mix two parts baking soda with one part water. Scrub the resulting paste into the cracks and crevices, then douse with water again. If the grout lines are stained, spray a mixture of equal parts vinegar and warm water onto the area and brush. After a final rinse, the grime will be gone.

4. Fight Off Washing Machine Mold
- If you own a front-loading washing machine, you’ve probably noticed the unpleasant smell that can linger after completing a load of laundry. Despite being more energy-efficient, these machines have a tendency to hold odors and harbor mold. To clean and prevent grimy buildup, try this: instead of detergent, cycle two cups of vinegar and a quarter-cup of baking soda on a hot setting. When it’s done, use a clean sponge to scrub down the inside. Finally, rinse with a plain-water cycle, and you’ll see (and smell) the results

Century 21 AA Realty Long Island

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2015. All rights reserved.

Don’t Sweat It: A/C Maintenance Tips

June 16th, 2015

As the temperature rises outside, it is becoming more challenging for homeowners to keep energy costs low while keeping cool inside. According to the HVAC Inspection, Maintenance and Restoration Association (also known as NADCA), there is a way to decrease energy usage and still beat the heat.

“Air conveyance systems are the largest sources of energy within a home, so it’s important to clean the units whenever needed, in order to avoid increased costs and energy usage,” says NADCA President Bill Benito. “When the units are not in use, they collect a lot of dirt and dust; when they are turned on during the summer months, all of that dust and dirt gets blown back into the home.”

NADCA recommends hiring a certified contractor to inspect air-handling units and test for efficiency. Proper duct cleaning and sealing of the air handling unit will help maximize system efficiency and performance during the hottest months of the year, when the air conditioners run the most often.

“Dirty or contaminated filters and poorly maintained air handling systems can reduce air flow and efficiency. Dirty coils can cause a unit to work harder to pump out cool air, which will ultimately lead to increased energy costs,” adds Benito.

A complete and proper cleaning, according to industry standards, will remove built up particulate and contaminants, resulting in improved indoor air quality. The standard defines complete cleaning to include the inside of air ducts from where air enters the return duct, through the air handler (blower, coil and heat exchange), to the exit, where the air is released to condition the home.

Source: NADCA

Century 21 AA Realty Long Island

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2015. All rights reserved.

Perk Up Your Patio with These Plants

May 14th, 2015

Nothing brightens up an outdoor space quite like blooming flowers and thriving greenery. Whether you’d like to upgrade your deck, porch or patio, consider planting these florae, recommended by the experts at garden plant grower Monrovia.

  • Hydrangeas – Beloved for their large, colorful blooms, hydrangeas thrive in full sun to part shade and should be planted in moist, rich soil. If you live in a drier climate, water them two or more times each week. 
  • Gardenias – Known for their distinct fragrance, gardenias can be grafted onto hardy rootstock to make them easier to grow and less prone to disease.
  • Peonies – Available in an array of colors, peonies are a popular pick, especially itoh peonies, which are a hybrid of herbaceous and tree varieties. Itoh peonies have an extended bloom season and disease resistance, and are much less expensive than when they were first introduced.
  • Peruvian Lilies – Great for cut flower arrangements, Peruvian lilies will provide fresh flowers to adorn your home’s interior all summer long. To boost growth, start off with a bulb and give them ample space in a container or within a garden.
  • Roses – A welcome gift for many, groundcover roses are pest and disease resistant, and require minimal pruning and no dead-heading.
  • Edible Plants – Fruit-bearing plants like blueberry or raspberry shrubs make great long-lasting gifts. They flower in spring, fruit in summer and display colorful foliage in the fall.

Source: Monrovia

Century 21 AA Realty Long Island

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2015. All rights reserved.

How Does the Color of Your Home Affect Buyers?

April 2nd, 2015

By Suzanne De Vita

It’s no secret that color is crucial when marketing a product. In fact, consumers come to a subconscious conclusion about a product within 90 seconds of viewing, and much of that judgment (62-90 percent) is based solely on color, according to the Institute for Color Research. Retailers apply these findings every day (think red sale signs) to encourage consumers to purchase their products. Can the same be said in real estate?

Consider this: If color influences product marketing strategies, the color of a home can be a decisive factor when selling.

“Your home’s exterior color is literally the first thing a buyer will see and comment on,” says Suzanne Otto, home stager and owner of Six Twenty Designs in Montgomery County, Pa. When preparing a home for the market, Otto recommends shades within the white, tan or gray color families. These colors resonate beyond pure aesthetics – according to e-commerce giant eBay, white indicates safety. For a homebuyer, a home with a white exterior can translate to concepts like “shelter” or “safe haven.”

Related: Staging Curb Appeal for Web Appeal

Similarly, understated browns (including the aforementioned tan) signal security. Homes painted in sandy or mushroom hues read comfort and warmth. Colors like taupe, which falls somewhere between brown and gray, call to mind traditional values, homeownership included. Earthy tones like laurel green or artichoke can not only highlight a verdant landscape, but also evoke a sense of tranquility.

Per eBay’s assessment, blue is ideal to move product because it transcends culture. Homes outfitted with a dusty blue or blue-gray exterior may not bridge the gap between your everyday seller and an international homebuyer, but a universally regarded color can help widen the net for buyers on the home front.

If red signs boost retail sales, it seems likely a red home would be ideal for a speedy sale. Not necessarily – red in small doses, such as sale stickers or tags, encourages action. Red on a grander scale can cause adverse reactions. An alizarin crimson door, for instance, might be well-received by buyers, but a house in the same shade could potentially limit offers.

Homes in other colors can sell successfully – our retinas tend to register yellow before any other color, so a buttery yellow exterior could be an attractive option for buyers – but non-traditional colors, like oranges and purples, appeal to very specific personalities and can significantly shrink the pool of interested buyers.

It’s important for sellers to consider the home in relation to the neighborhood before swapping out the exterior color or refreshing an existing paint job. Do nearby homes share a distinct color scheme? Is each home uniquely colored? Evaluating the home’s surroundings can help sellers determine what’s most popular in their market.

View this original blog post at RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. Check the blog daily for real estate news and trends for you and your clients.

Century 21 AA Realty Long Island

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2015. All rights reserved.

2015 Home Design Trend Predictions

February 16th, 2015

This blog was contributed by Vicki Clary, marketing director of Curtis Homes.

It’s a new year and that means new opportunities, particularly in the realm of home design trends. What will be the hot choices in 2015? What can we expect to see popping up in design magazines and blogs over the next 12 months? While only time will tell, here’s a look at some of the top predictions for 2015 home trends.

Deeper, Darker Colors: Several experts are saying this year will be out with the light and bright and in with the dark and deep. “Almost every new textile collection and furniture debut seems to be awash in a much more saturated hue than we saw in the early 2010s,” says designer Scot Meacham Wood, in a Q&A at House Beautiful. Nancy Mitchell at Apartment Therapy agrees: “For a long time we’ve been seeing mostly bright, white interiors (white walls, white floors, white ceiling), but I’m feeling a shift towards darker, moodier hues.”

Comfortable, Cozy Sectionals
: As society continues to shift away from formality toward more casual living, it only makes sense that big, comfortable sectional sofas would become a popular trend. According to Houzz.com Editor Sheila Schmitz, “It is back in a big way. As living rooms have become more relaxed places for lounging, we have less need for formal sofas and more love for a versatile padded zone that lets us sprawl out however we like.”

Cowhide
: Using cowhides as rugs in living areas is expected to keep growing in popularity this year. Alexa Fiander at Zillow calls it the “ideal accent texture for 2015’s modern, yet approachable design aesthetic.” Expect cowhide to move beyond rugs, too — to pillows, throw blankets and even art.

Open Floor Plans: An open layout is not a new trend, but it will likely remain a popular one this year. According to Barbara Ballinger at REALTOR Magazine, “It’s becoming a wish beyond the young hipster demographic, so you’ll increasingly see this layout in traditional condo buildings and single-family suburban homes.” Ballinger attributes this to the fact that after the kitchen became the hub of homes, the easy next step was to expand it into open-living areas for greater togetherness.

Mid-Century Modern Elements
: From furniture to lighting, mid-century modern should stay big in 2015. “Many are attracted to the simplicity and clean lines of mid-century modern furniture, accessories and décor,” says Karen Highland at the Frederick Real Estate Blog. “A few iconic pieces can work well in any room.” Whether found on Craigslist or West Elm, these slick pieces will remain popular this year.

Gold Accents: 2015 will likely see an uptick in gold accents, from light fixtures to mirrors. Lauren McPhillips at Style at Home says “Gold and warm metallics have graced the homes of Canadians and the runways of the world for the past several seasons and they’re not going anywhere in 2015.“ What’s more, varying shades of gold and brass will be mixed together to create unique looks.

Wallpaper: Wallpaper is making a comeback. “Wallpaper provides an easy way to add visual impact, even in small amounts,” designer Lee Hardcastle told Houzz. “Wallpaper gives you the control of complementing the architectural elements throughout the kitchen or adding a beautiful contrast to an otherwise simple color palette.”

Whether you’re ready to redecorate or the new trends are getting you inspired, consider working some of the hot 2015 decorating choices into the way you design. If the predictions are right, this is what we can expect to see a lot of in the coming year.

Vicki Clary is the Marketing Director of Curtis Homes, a semi-custom home builder. For over 50 years, Curtis Homes has provided premium homes and townhomes in the Southern Maryland Communities.

View this original post on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall.

Century 21 AA Realty Long Island

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2015. All rights reserved.

3 Reasons Housing is Looking Up in 2015

January 12th, 2015

By Zoe Eisenberg

As 2015 rolls forward, there are several economic indicators that the housing market may have a break-out year. Let's review the top three.

The job market is stronger

With the recession behind us, more and more companies are adding new employees to the payroll. The unemployment rate has dropped 5.8 percent and 321,000 jobs were opened up in November, with all of this added work equating to improved consumer optimism. The Conference Board's latest Consumer Confidence Index highlighted confidence weighing in at 19.5 percent higher than a year ago. As jobs continue to stabilize and moods lift, more potential homebuyers will enter the market as they become more eligible for a mortgage, and more capable of taking on those pesky mortgage payments.

Home prices are stabilizing

Home prices between January and October, 2014 rose 4.5 percent nationally, which—while still an uptick—is much mellower than the same period of time during 2013, when prices jumped 11 percent. Additionally, mortgages have settled below 4 percent for 30-year fixed rates, and the combination of stable prices and low mortgage rates creates a cocktail of affordability that will shine a bright light on housing in 2015.

Rents are high

There's nothing like a sky high rental market to send on-the-fence buyers scurrying into homeownership. As more Americans took to renting when the housing market took a tumble, rents began to increase, and are currently at a seven-year high.

And while, sure, renting offers flexibility and low-stakes living for millennials, a recent survey by Fannie Mae showed 9 in 10 would prefer to own, if it were possible. In December, both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac announced programs that would allow first-time buyers to secure homes with low down payments (3 percent instead of the previously stated 5 percent) which will open up the doors for young people with high debt and low savings.

"With rents now rising at a seven-year high, historically low [interest] rates and moderating [home] price growth are likely to entice more buyers to enter the market in upcoming months," Lawrence Yun, the National Association of Realtors' chief economist, says in recent a release.

However, it's not all peaches and cream for housing in 2015. Economists are predicting that, as prices stabilize, mortgage rates may begin to drift upward, settling near 5 percent by the year's end. While this number is still low, historically, it's higher than those low, cushy numbers we've been seeing of late.

Source: NPR.org

Century 21 AA Realty Long Island

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2015. All rights reserved.

Q: How Do You Clear Up Bad Credit?

October 24th, 2014

A: It is not easy but certainly doable with both commitment and time.  

By law, any unfavorable information in your credit file can stay there from 7 to 10 years. Today, however, a creditor must remove credit blemishes in a timely fashion if you challenge them and they turn out to be false.

The first step in any recovery plan is to get copies of your credit records.  You are entitled to free copies if you have recently been turned down for credit. Otherwise, request copies for a fee from the three major credit-reporting agencies: Experian, (800) 311-4769; Equifax, (800) 685-1111; and Trans Union, (800) 916-8800.

If you see any incorrect information, let the credit reporting agencies know.  Also contact the companies that reported the negative claims against you.

If the credit report is correct, move immediately to take care of any outstanding delinquencies, tackling a little at a time until you get back on the right track. In fact, make an effort, if at all possible, to repay your debt in full and on time for six months to a year to prove you are working hard to repair any damage.

 

Century 21 AA Realty Long Island

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2014. All rights reserved.


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