At Home with Christiana: Quick Style Fixes

While this is the Home Renovation and DIY section of our blog, there are many reasons and different stages in our lives where we may not have the ability to take on major home renovation projects. Be it time or budget constraints, or simply living in a rental where making permanent changes isn’t an option, sometimes the dirty work just has to wait.  This post is a nod to some of my favorite, time-tested quick style fixes for the home in times or situations like these. Big style, little effort. No sledgehammers, no permits, no construction loans required. Promise.

brown wooden center table

These simple tricks of the trade are great tools to make a temporary house feel like home, stage a home for sale, tap into design trends without commitment, or bring style into your home without investing a lot of time and money. 

Make a Gallery Wall

For those big, empty walls in your home, a gallery wall can make a big impact and really personalize your space without making any permanent changes or dropping any serious dinero.  Use your own photos, or print some cool stock images that speak to you. You can download some beautiful botanical prints for free from Botanicus.org.

art black and white decoration design

I love the clean, simple look of black and white photos in matching frames. Or for a more colorful look, I love coordinating images to create a theme for a space, as below.

apartment bed bedroom chair

Improve Aesthetics with Lighting

Shed some light on your situation. Literally. I mean “wow this room is so great and dark” said no one, ever. Dark rooms feel smaller. Period.

bed bedroom comfort contemporary

Adding lamps to a space can not only brighten it, but add an instant element of style to it as well. Rental properties, in particular, often lack quality lighting (think harsh, fluorescent lights) and softer light from accent lamps can provide a nice alternative.

Rule of thumb for table lamps: Always, always, buy a PAIR. Even if you only need one lamp at the time of purchase, someday you will, without fail, need two and you will hate yourself for not buying the pair while you could. Trust me.

Play with Pillows

Let me start by saying that I have a definite love/hate relationship with throw pillows. In the sense that I hate how much I love them.

brown and grey leather sofa with throw pillows

Like, I recognize how completely frivolous and unnecessary they are. I do. Remember that pillow scene in Along Came Polly?

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I want to embrace that minimalist “who-needs-throw-pillows” mentality in theory. But in reality… pretty, soft throw pillows got me like…

Because really, comfort is a thing. Fluff has never, that I am aware of, ever made anything less comfortable. And from a design perspective, throw pillows can totally change the look of a piece of furniture and/or update accent colors in a room for a fraction of the time and money required to replace large furniture pieces or paint walls.

ashtray book cushion decoration

You can easily change them when you’re tired of them, or even swap them out seasonally if you’re so inclined. Major pointer for pillows: Unless you are buying for staging purposes only, spend the money for pillows with removable, washable covers.

Bring the Green in

Indoor plants are another quick and simple way to warm and bring style to a space. (And I’m talking REAL plants here folks, none of your granny’s faux flower arrangements) With the added benefits of purifying your air, plants are a design multi-tasker for making your home both prettier and cleaner. A few personal favorites are the fiddleleaf fig, palms, succulents, and orchids. The fiddleleaf fig (shown below) is having a major style moment as of late, but is also a notoriously slow and finicky grower.

green indoor plant in a room

Orchids are a design classic often written off as pricey or difficult to maintain but at around $15 for a medium sized plant, which should last you a few months at minimum (even if you kill it) I would argue they are more cost-effective than buying cut bouquets. I’ve had a few re-bloom for 3-5 years, which is like $5 a year. Definitely less than most fancy design items, and I swear that maintaining them is as easy as just watering less than usual houseplants. (You can find straightforward orchid tips from the pros here.)

candles contemporary decoration furniture

For the non-plant people out there, succulents are the lowest maintenance way to bring the green in. (Bonus points if you coordinate your plants and your pillows.)

photo of plants on the table

Temporary Wallpaper

Temporary wallpaper is a great non-permanent alternative to traditional wallcoverings and is a quick way for renters and commitment-phobes alike to tap into the current wallpaper trend. Put it on an accent wall, on stair treads, in a closet, on a door, in cabinets or on shelves, and make a statement with it.

wallpaper uo
Expressive Palm Removable Wallpaper, Urban Outfitters

Available in a variety of price points and design styles from mainstream retailers like Amazon, Wayfair, and Target. (Fixer Upper fans check out the shiplap print from Home Depot!)

Soften your Surroundings

Quality flooring is another element that is often lacking in rental properties and is generally difficult to install in homes without major expense and time. Area rugs provide a quick and easy way to add style to a space and cover less than desirable flooring.

white and tan english bulldog lying on black rug

Soften tile and vinyl floors wherever you can with rugs. Heck, I’ve even used area rugs over carpeted floors to define spaces and well, just to cover up ugly carpet. General rules for rugs: don’t float a rug in the middle of a room. Always buy a rug big enough that it reaches your furniture. If that’s not in your budget, I’m a big fan of layering smaller plush rugs over a more affordable natural fiber (jute) rug for a clean look with softness where it counts. Apartment Therapy breaks down how to layer rugs with style here.

Window coverings

Let’s be real. Curtains are about as fun to shop for as socks. They’re not exciting, but they’re style necessities. Vertical blinds never helped noooobody. The short and simple truth of window coverings: buy the best you can afford, and hang them as high as you can. You won’t regret it.

architecture chairs contemporary curtain

That’s it. A quick and dirty on the quickest style fixes in my book. What are your favorite ways to add style to your space? And what style problems do you need solved on the cheap and easy? Shout out!

Cheers to happy homes!

fullsizeoutput_658Christiana is a Navy wife and mother of 3, attorney and former realtor, world traveler, home renovator and decorator, yogi, fitness enthusiast, and recipe and fine wine explorer. (Photo credit: Tara Liebeck Photography)

At Home with Christiana: A No-Nonsense Guide to Listing and Showing Your Home

News flash from your resident real estate mommy blogger: the real estate market is off-the-chain this summer!! Many markets are experiencing a housing supply deficit and increasing demand, inducing many homeowners to consider placing their home on the market for sale or for rent.

newyork central park

As a former Realtor, I am often asked for advice on listing and showing a home in today’s market. As anyone who has worked in a service industry knows, there is a delicate balance between honest disclosure and a client’s feelings. This definitely rings true in the arena of real estate advice.

advertising blue blur business

However, since the basis of this blog is keeping it real, (right?!?) I have included without pretense, the following essential, no-nonsense, “if your agent was your best friend they’d tell you” advice for listing and showing your home.

red yellow and purple flower on window

First Impressions begin Outside

Now that we have all OD’ed on HGTV (thanks, Joanna Gaines) it’s pretty common knowledge that interested parties make a decision on a home based on their first impression and that curb appeal is important. Just how long do you get as a homeowner to make that first impression? Experts estimate about a whopping thirty seconds. And what many homeowners forget is that by the time prospective buyers or tenants get to your front door, their clocks have already been ticking.  Enter: The importance of curb appeal. 

The good news is you don’t have to go all Fixer Upper and make structural changes to give your home a major curb appeal facelift. Here are some quick and inexpensive ways to improve your home’s first impression and keep potential buyers and tenants rolling in.

architecture boating canal cottage

Tidy the yard and patio.

It seems like a no-brainer, but so many people don’t bother with this. Basic maintenance in this area really goes a long way. Mow and trim your grass. Put down a few bags of fresh mulch. Weed. Sweep. It matters!

How well a yard is cared for is often seen as a reflection of how well a home is cared for, and plenty of prospective buyers and tenants will drive right by based on their first impression. So, get out there and do it yourself for free, or pay a kid down the street. Nextdoor is a great website/app if you are looking for local, affordable help in your neighborhood.

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Power-wash, everything.

Pretty much any surface that can be power washed, would likely benefit from it. Fences, siding, brick, patios. You can rent one from the hardware store, pay a local handyman, or depending on the size of your project and willingness to DIY, purchase one yourself for a couple hundred bucks.

Clean the gutters!

I can’t count the number of properties I toured where plantlife was legitimately growing out of the gutters. And people always notice. It reflects a lack of care that buyers/renters worry carries to the inside of the home.

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Add some cheer.

If you have the time and budget, a nice little planter and some cheerful blooms can go a long way on an otherwise plain entry. Sprucing up garden beds, or simply placing potted plants or hanging baskets is a great way to up your home’s appeal.

Keep it Clean, but Personal is OK too

The notion that anything personal becomes instantly undesirable when placing a home on the market seems to have, at some point, permeated homeowners’ minds. A common question from prospective sellers preparing their home for sale is “do I have to take my family pictures down now?” My answer is no. Don’t sweat the small stuff. What I absolutely do suggest instead is focusing on major decluttering and cleaning.

apartment architecture book bookcase

Temporarily remove large toys or furniture pieces that make rooms seem smaller, clear small appliances and STUFF off of counters. Spend money on a cleaning service,  and put STUFF AWAY! (Hell, hide your unfolded laundry in the car! I’ve done it!)

art contemporary decoration design

Not all personal touches are bad after all, and can often lend warmth to a space. Very personalized spaces such as large murals or a room packed to the brim with memorabilia can usually be mitigated by a good decluttering (and maybe some temporary wallpaper in the case of the former). So keep it clean and personal. Picking up and organizing is always more important than removing your family photos from the hall, no matter how nerdy those photos may be.

3. What is that Smell?!?

Incoming smells are first processed by the olfactory bulb, which has direct connections to two brain areas that are strongly implicated in emotion and memory, thus making smell a very important sense in establishing our idea of home. Yet, for some reason, that “smell of home” is something that many homeowners neglect in the marketing and home staging process.

candles tea lights

On the real: When prospective buyers/tenants view your home, they don’t want to smell your gym shoes, what you had for breakfast, what’s in your trash, or what kind of pets you have. PLEASE, PLEASE light candles, buy diffusers, or burn incense, or something.

Clean, light scents work best. Here are some of my favorite candles, by James and Maria Organic Co. The scents are long-lasting and lovely. They are made in the USA, and give 20% of their profits to help educate under privileged kids in third world countries by giving them uniforms, materials and means of transportation. Done and done.

No Pets Please

Speaking of smells…

No, seriously. I LOVE animals, and I LOVE having pets. (Like to the point that my husband is thankful for zoning requirements that keep me from having a yard full of them.) But pets don’t sell houses.

Before you go crazy, I am not in any way saying to get rid of your pets to sell or rent your house. What I am saying is please don’t leave your pets unattended in your house during prospective buyers’/tenants’ home tours. While it may seem like common sense, I can’t tell you how many properties I toured where I was quite literally greeted by an animal at the front door. (The most memorable being an uncaged a macaw with a seemingly endless wingspan. Forreal.)

If you have an agent or someone you trust showing your property and have the ability to leave, consider taking your pet on a walk, to the park, or for a car-ride during the showing. If you are showing the house yourself, check into local pet daycare options to allow prospective buyers/ tenants to view your home, pet-free. At a minimum if you have to be there with your pets, keeping them contained in fenced areas or crated (if they are comfortable in one, of course) can help home-viewers feel more at ease.

“Let me take a selfie!”

but really, don’t. 

How your home is presented online more times than not will determine whether you get prospective tenants/buyers through the door. If you’re selling with an agent, screen their listings and ensure that they are presented in a polished, professional way. If you are listing your home yourself, consider springing for professional photos. No matter how good you think your iPhone pictures look, the professionals will look that much better.

red and white bridge camera and green snake plant

Considering the money a quicker sale or lease will save you, the expense of a photographer is often a worthwhile investment. At a minimum, screen your listing photos carefully. No kids in the background, cats on the sofa, mirror reflections, or dirty plates allowed.  Include a photo of every room in your home and order them as you would see them walking through your front door. As in most things in life, and particularly in our internet age, presentation really matters.

Set the scene

If there is something you love about your home, feature it. If it’s seasonally appropriate, light that gas fireplace, or open the windows and let in that breeze off the water. If your home has strong selling points that you can’t necessarily put on display, consider creating a features list that includes them, such as distance to attractions/eateries or schools. A good agent will take care of that for you.

Don’t Creep

If you are using an agent and have the ability to leave your home during showings… get outta there. If you are listing your home yourself, you can have a trusted third party supervise a home tour, OR if you will be present during the home tours keep your interaction with prospective buyers or tenants as minimal and professional as possible. In other words, do answer questions, but don’t follow prospective buyers or tenants around and describe every room in detail. They’ll ask if they want to know. Trust me.

 

Do Your Research

Whether you are listing with an agent or on your own, be informed and be realistic about pricing your home for rent or for sale. An overpriced home will be on the market longer, and will often end up selling or renting for less after multiple price reductions, than a competitively priced property.

Industry professionals determine pricing based on a number of factors including the price per square foot of comparable sales or rentals and other factors such as location, inventory, and the features of your home. Don’t assume that because your neighbors house went for a certain price, that yours will too. While a professional’s experience and input can be invaluable, with homeowner internet resources readily available like Zillow, RedFin, and Trulia, you can research comps in your neighborhood yourself and be informed about realistic, competitive pricing.

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May the Force be With You

Selling or renting your home can be stressful, but I hope this no-nonsense starter guide is helpful (or in the least, entertaining as you imagine me running from a macaw in heels) as you pursue a successful home listing and showing experience. As always, shout out with any questions!  Cheers to happy homes!

fullsizeoutput_658Christiana is a Navy wife and mother of 3, attorney and former realtor, world traveler, home renovator and decorator, yogi, fitness enthusiast, and recipe and fine wine explorer.

 

 

 

Photo Credit: Tara Liebeck Photography