Chestnut Cottage Chapter II

My last post showed you the work we’ve completed over the last year converting our storage building to usable living space.  Today the story continues to the last several months of this year.  Before I get started I want to send a heartfelt thank you to New Dimension Solutions, LLC for sponsoring this Defined Design blog post and offering my readers a discount on their products!

Why the pig? (Isn’t he cute!)  Well, once again our buddy Craig came through for us.  3/4″ pine boards for .50 cents a square foot!  Deal of a lifetime! These will make the perfect floor.

The gentlemen selling the wood had a lovely farm.  All the critters followed us around everywhere we went.  I loved it!  I’ve always wanted goats, still working on convincing my hub luv.

With the help of my super hero hubby we installed the floors in under 6 hours.  He is my knight in shining armor!  Chivalry is not dead world!  Part of the fun of being married to Steve is that as much as I want to ‘do the work myself’ he refuses to stand by and watch.

Sanding the floor with a hand sander took me another 6 hours.  Confession time:  These boards were all 6′ long and they were intended for walls.  One step we avoided when installing the floor, was squaring the ends. With the floor sanded, I really wished we had taken the time to recut the ends, because of the gaps that were left.  At this point in the game all I could do was fill the gaps with wood putty and sand them.  I actually liked the end results, it made the seams stand out adding more character to the floor.

After a thorough vacuüm and wiping down with a damp cotton cloth, I began applying the white wash stain.  Working quickly I applied it three boards deep from left to right, across the width of the room.

 Once I finished applying I immediately went to the starting point and (using old white t-shirts) wiped up any whitewash that did not soak in.

The upper image is the floor sanded, the lower image is the floor whitewashed.  The whitewash lightened the grain and knots ever so slightly.  Over time unstained pine floors will yellow.  The whitewash water based stain will keep this floor looking light and bright for years to come!

My next dilemma: find a sealer that would not yellow and one that dries to a matte finish.  After searching several hours I ran across New Dimensions Solutions, LLC.  I made a phone call and pummeled them with questions. My concern was I needed a durable finish that kept the whitewash white without compromising the matte look.  They gladly answered all my questions and suggested I try their SKID SAFE™ Sealer and Finish. SKID SAFE™ is not only durable it is available in a matte finish, and has a five-year guarantee!

Love those words Satin/Matte Version!

First Step:  Pour entire contents of bottle in a large clean bucket.

Second Step:  Get a paint mixer and electric drill…

Step Three:  Mix for five minutes.

Step Four:  Apply mixed SKID SAFE™ with mop.  NOTE: Buy a mop that has a dry sponge – NOT a wet/moist plastic wrapped version.

Step Five:  Mop on SKID SAFE™

I applied this to three boards deep and the entire width of the room, moving from left to right and then right to left.  To coat the floor took about 8 minutes.  When I finished, I stood in the doorway and could not even tell I applied the first coat.  Looks like I found a product that would deliver on the matte finish!

Once step five is complete, wait an hour and repeat steps 2-5 until you get four coats of finish applied.
BIG NOTE: You only need to mix for two minutes when applying more coats.  If you wait longer than a day to apply the next coat you will need to mix for a full five minutes.

Here is the floor after four coats of SKID SAFE™.  I am beyond happy!  The final result is a whitewashed pine floor that has a tad bit of grip (slip resistance) to it with a true matte coat.


Benefits:  Water based means easy clean up!  Available in Satin/Matte or Gloss. High Spread Rate 400-4000 square feet per gallon (I used less than 1/4 of a gallon for four coats on 150 square feet). Does not yellow, peel, crack, flake or chip and it allows the substrate to “breathe”.  Stain Resistant to oil, gasoline, food spills and uric acid.  Maybe applied over previous installed coatings and paints in acceptable condition.  Use on masonry, stone, vinyl, metal, wood, paint and composite materials.

Price:  New Dimensions 25th Anniversary Sale Price  $59 Quart, $99 Gallon, $449 Pail (readers of this blog get a 10% discount-see below).

Warranty:  Guaranteed for Five Years!

Life of Product:  Let’s be realistic, floors take a ton of abuse.  I’ve been around a while and I know what it takes to keep a floor clean and pristine – vacuuming twice a week and mopping once a week (under normal use). Based on this I see know reason at this point in time why the finish won’t hold up for the five years.

Quality:  Superior!  I’ve used just about every water based sealer you can find in home improvement stores.  When it comes to sealing a floor this product is the best I’ve ever used!

Environmental Effects:  Any water based sealer is safer for the environment. May cause skin and eye irritation.

Company:  New Dimensions has been in business for 25 years.  They not only manufacture SKID SAFE™ they sell products to protect other areas of your home and business read their questions page to learn more.

Ease of Use:  Super easy to apply.  The hardest part for me was waiting for five minutes to mix it.  It went on easy, clean up was a breeze, it dried fast.

Test of Time:  The finish has been down for seven days, yesterday we brought all the furnishings back in.  We did take precautions with area rugs and took our shoes off.  We still managed to track in a good amount of dirt. After the furniture was in place a quick vacuüm to the floor and it looked beautiful.  Now we are walking on the floor with shoes, it is holding up very well.  I will report back over time and let you know of the long-term durability.

Form/Aesthetics:  The matte look of the floor is exactly what I expected, it keeps the whitewash pine in mind not the finish.  Perfectly happy with the end results!

Maintenance:  Clean with plain water or a neutral cleaner.

I recommend SKID SAFE™ to all my family, friends, colleagues and clients.  I found New Dimensions Solutions, LLC to offer great customer service.  Their product is easy to use and as of today I give it a 9 out 10. I will review again in one year to let you know the true test of time. New Dimensions is graciously offering everyone who reads this blog a 10% discount on all their products until Monday, August 1, 2011.  When you order use the discount code: LISA

New Dimensions is having a HUGE 25th YEAR ANNIVERSARY SALE!  If you need to protect surfaces in your home I highly recommend using their products. They offer a 100% Satisfaction Money Back Guarantee (including shipping costs) on Quartz or smaller sizes.

Until next time,


Chestnut Cottage Chapter I

Part of the charm that made me really like this diamond in the rough we now call home, was the house, garage, and storage shed all boast the same chalet style.  I must admit I was particularly fond of the little storage building.

Many years ago when I first got on the internet I came across an article about Henry David Thoreau’s 2 year, 2 month, 2 day life of simplicity in a small cabin.  That article stirred my childhood dreams of owning a small cabin.  After we moved in I spent several days trying to find that article. Unfortunately I could not locate it, however,  I did find this:

Photo Credit:

A web site that goes into great detail about Thoreau and his cabin.  I discovered our storage building is almost the exact size of  Thoreau’s cabin. I decided to listen to the small voice from my childhood and convert the storage shed into a useable living space.  My first thoughts were to finish it on the inside and install climate control so our ‘storage’ aka photos, papers, etc would not become ruined.

I’ll never forget the day we moved in.  The property manager had a 5 man crew meet us so they could remove all the owners contents from the garage and storage building.  They filled an entire truck with the contents of the storage building.  They said they would return to get the rest, but we never saw them again.  On our own, 10 construction trash bags later, we had it looking like this:

It looks so much better in the winter time, you don’t see the 30 years of wood growth all around it, though the leaves, leave plenty of evidence.

Steve found board remnants everywhere so he stacked and covered them to keep dry.

The two large trees in the front are Chestnut Oaks.  They are 4 inches away from the gable fascia.

We didn’t clean out all the stuff on the right side of the building or under it (right away) – years of who knows what just piled up.

Oh I wish I had taken a picture of the inside before we removed all the stuff!

I give huge kudos to Steve and Isaac for vacuuming out the years of critter stuff.  Sweeping just doesn’t cut it in my book.

Look how the stuff bent the shelves.

The plank floors.  To keep the critters out (not), someone cut strips of tar paper and nailed it at the seams.

The make shift shelving removed – we salvaged every piece, you never know when your going to need a scrap of wood.

Jump ahead to Spring 2010.  Look at how close to the ground the building is!  Steve and I were both amazed it had not rotted, after 30 years.

I found the slate buried throughout the yard. I made a path from the house to the shed.  It’s more comforting to step on slate verses leaves, especially after the neighbors told me there are snakes throughout these parts.

Look at the siding, poor little building is just begging for help!

Digging a deep trench for power with a rented ditch witch.  So thankful for that piece of equipment!  Ran power to the garage first.

Then took power to the storage shed, look at all those roots!  Amazingly, the trees survived the ditching.

Jump ahead 30 days.  Dug around the old footers and poured additional concrete to make them meet building code.  Raised the building (which also moved it back from the chestnut oak trees about three feet).  Installed 2″x10′x15′ boards on all four sides and one in the middle to reinforce the sagging floor.  Built a small stoop and stairs.  Pulled out the slate and rearranged it to fit the new steps.

Clean siding after scrubbing – this little building seems happy again!

This is the right side, notice all the stuff piled up is gone.

It was not fun climbing the ladder to clean the soffit, fascia and gable – very high up there, especially on the back side of the building.

The back.  See all the wood rescued from the shelves under the building.

I forgot to mention earlier that we bought two windows from our buddy Craig (list).  One of the original windows was missing and the other was only a single pane.  These were replacement windows that a homeowner replaced, we got them for $40!  Other than needing new screens they are super nice, they even open inside for cleaning!  Love that Craig guy!

This was my first time installing insulation.  Having to wear long sleeve shirt, pants, face mask and goggles in 95 degree weather made for a couple very hot sweaty days.

Breaker Box – Power Yay!

The old door was cut at the bottom and very rusted, so we invested in a new one.  Installed plywood over the old floor after removing the tar paper strips and nails.

For climate control we opted for a PTAC unit, like those found in hotels.

I took pictures of the drywall process, but I can’t find them for the life of me.  Drywall was the most difficult, mudding the joints was very painful, it took forever to smooth them out.  Drywall professionals are worth their weight in gold!

For a temporary floor, I opted to paint the subfloor with porch paint.  At this point in the construction, Fall was fast approaching and we had company coming.  So I put in a full size bed, a chair, window treatments, and lighting (so long storage idea).  Over the holidays family stayed with us.  Steve and I gave up our room at Chinkapin and we slept in Chestnut.  It’s like luxury camping – we love it!

I’m delighted to tell you the next post, Chestnut Cottage Chapter II is brought to you by New Dimensions Solutions, LLC.  I’ll detail the new pine floor installation with DIY instructions.  Until next time.

Red, White and Blue Waverly Style

There is something about Red, White and Blue, these colors make me thankful for the American freedoms I enjoy everyday.  When I was a kid growing up in Andover, Maine my elementary school would pick two students every day to lower the flag and fold it in military fashion.  We were taught to respect our flag, our country and those who live and died to protect our freedoms.

Today I thought I would share 50 Waverly Fabrics donning all the hues of Red, White and Blue.

Waverly Country Life Garnet ~ Retails for $29.99

Waverly Language of the Garden Ballroom Plaid Porcelai ~ Retails $39.99

Waverly Getaway Stripe Azure ~ Retails for $44.99

Waverly Sequence Porcelain Fabric ~ Retails for $24.99

Waverly Everard Damask Ruby ~ Retails for $34.99

Waverly Tommy Bahama Jewel of the Sea Marine ~ Retails for $34.99

Waverly Blaikley Fern Porcelain ~ Retails for $49.99

Waverly Courtside Twill Paper White ~ Retails for $19.99

Waverly Rustic Retreat Federal ~ Retails for $34.99

Waverly Sun N Shade Outdoor Fabric-Sunburst Navy ~ Retails for $19.99

Waverly Tucker Resist Indigo ~ Retails for $34.99

Waverly Romantic Overtures Damask Duet Robin’s Egg ~ Retails for $39.99

Waverly Clubroom Paisley Crimson Fabric ~ Retails for $44.99

Waverly Sun N Shade Maldives Terra cotta ~ Retails for $29.99

Waverly Sun N Shade Endurance Sea Scallop Coral Reef ~ Retails for $49.99

Waverly Sun N Shade Outdoor Fabric-Paddock Shawl Indigo ~ Retails for $19.99

Waverly Harmonics Essence Sea ~ Retails for $29.99

Waverly Eastern Origins Imperial Dress Porcelain ~ Retails for $44.99

Waverly Belinda Clementine ~ Retails for $44.99

Wavery Sun N Shade Sun Tile Navy ~ Retails for $34.99

Waverly Mariko Henna ~ Retails for $59.99

Waverly The Age Of Exploration Shell Walks Porcelain ~ Retails for $34.99

Waverly Buzzing About Blue Sky ~ Retails for $48.99

Waverly Coral Cascade Petal ~ Retails for $26.99

Waverly Coral Cascade Bluebell Fabric ~ Retails for $29.99

Waverly Rustic Toile Navy ~ Retails for $19.99

Waverly Romantic Overtures Sherwood Twill Cranberry ~ Retails for $29.99

Waverly Sun N Shade Outdoor Fabric Sundial Nautical Fabric ~ Retails for $34.99

Waverly Parterre Porcelain ~ Retails for $34.99

Waverly Circa Indigo ~ Retails for $26.99

Waverly Down The Lane Federal Fabric ~ Retails for $34.99

Waverly Tavern Check Indigo Fabric ~ Retails for $34.99

Waverly Carino Azure ~ Retails for $44.99

Waverly Down The Lane Crimson ~ Retails for $34.99

Waverly Surry Stripe Porcelain ~ Retails for $34.99

Waverly DressUp Dungarees Blue Jean ~ Retails for $79.99

Waverly Belinda Blue Sky  ~ Retails for $49.99

Waverly Berkley Stripe Indigo Fabric ~ Retails for $34.99

Waverly Country Fair Crimson ~ Retails for $26.99

Waverly The Age Of Exploration Geddy House Damask Cinna ~ Retails for $39.99

Waverly Java Journey Henna ~ Retails for $39.99

Waverly Java Journey Indigo ~ Retails for $34.99

Waverly Ellis Flamingo ~ Retails for $29.99

Waverly Porch Swinger Dandelion ~ Retails for $34.99

Waverly Sun N Shade Endurance Tile Trellis Deep Sea ~ Retails for $49.99

Waverly La Petite Ferme Merlot-Azure ~ Retails for $34.99

Waverly Aziza Garnet Fabric ~ Retails for $34.99

Waverly Everard Damask Indigo Fabric ~ Retails for $34.99

Waverly Paloma Sapphire ~ Retails for $54.99

Waverly Elements V Pebble Chile ~ Retails for $39.99

10 Do It Yourself Home Staging Tips!

The Spring Real Estate market is underway, if your home is for sale make sure it’s staged to stand out from the competition and sell quickly.  Here are 10 simple must dos!

1.  Clean like you’ve never cleaned before.  Every corner, crack and crevice.  Clean your windows, frames and sills.  Clean the fridge, oven, microwave, and dishwasher – inside and out, top and bottom, sides and back.  Clean your home like those high dollar automobile detailing companies clean!  They do it right, the moment you sit in the car it evokes a feeling of newness.  If you don’t have time to clean it yourself, I highly recommend investing in your home and hiring someone who will.

2.  This tip is in direct correlation to tip #1.  When you’re cleaning:  toss, give, and pack anything you won’t need while selling your home. Move packed items to off-site storage.

3.  Give yourself a new mindset – your home is no longer your home, it is a product you are selling.  It’s important to neutralize all overstated personal decor.  I had a friend who loved deep dark purple walls, they were stunning.  Many of her friends and house guests commented on how pretty they were but admitted they lacked the courage to embrace this color in their own home.  Most likely 90% of potential buyers will too.

4.  Give attention to every room in your home. When a potential buyer walks in, you must let the furnishings tell a story of what the room is.  Never leave a room vacant.  Empty rooms visually appear smaller and speak nothing to the house hunter.

5.  Curb appeal.  Make your home look inviting from the road. Skipping this detail will send potential buyers to the next home on their list.

6. The nose knows.  Don’t use scented plug-ins, incense, and candles to mask orders.  If your furry friends live inside the home I highly recommend finding a friend to take them in until your home sells.  If you are unable to do so – plan on bathing your pets once a week, vacuuming daily, cleaning their litter and cages twice a day.

7.  Take a good look at your upholstered furniture, is it sagging in the middle, are the seams moving like ocean waves, colors fading?  If you answered yes, you might consider investing in better looking goods or renting furniture.

8.  Spend money on rooms that yield a high return on your investment, namely; kitchens, baths, and master bedrooms.  Be very careful that every dollar you invest, brings you a dollar in return when the home sells.  Warning! Don’t get too personal making design selections that appeal to your taste, doing so could be devastating to your investment.  I’ve seen people invest in granite counter tops and watched their money go down the drain, paying two mortgages, while waiting eight months for their house to sell.

9.  Draw a floor plan with basic room sizes to give to every potential buyer walking through the door.  Some agents include this in their marketing plan, if not, take the time and make one – especially in this buyers market.

10.  Fix (don’t hide) all the little maintenance issues that accumulated over the years.  Buyers keen eyes notice deferred maintenance – it causes them to:  1. Think the home was not lovingly cared for, 2. Wonder what else is wrong, 3. Confidently make a low offer to compensate for repairs.

Once the work is done, keep everything tidy, lights on, and beds made – you never know when that house hunter is going to drop by.

If there are not enough hours in the day to stage your home or you don’t know where to start, consider hiring a professional. Defined Design home staging will help you find the best pricing on storage facilities and rental furniture, to picking perfect paint colors and more.  As a professional design consultant it’s my job to stay on top of current design trends, living environment marketing, spacial relationship planning, color perception, lighting, textiles, art, architecture, landscaping.  I will help you market your home with creative concepts and ideas that convert house hunters into home buyers!  A properly staged home will help you Sell Fast and Move On!


Watts Up? Lighting Breaks Loose!

Beginning in 2012 lighting manufacturers will stop making some inefficient incandescent bulbs (note, the fear mongering that all incandescents will be eliminated, is simply not true).  The phase out will take place over several years.  In the meantime, manufacturers are donning their creative caps and designing all types of energy-efficient bulbs including, new incandescent technologies.


Photo Credit Renjith Krishnan

What does this mean for you and me?  Spending more for a bulb but recouping the initial investment (and then some) over time by saving on our power bill.

Since Stevie and I moved in to our home, we purchased some compact fluorescent full spectrum bulbs and full spectrum incandescent bulbs.  My personal advice after testing:

  • Save your receipt and your packaging warranty.
  • When you install the bulb write on the packaging the date you began using the bulb.
  • All my energy-efficient incandescent bulbs lasted 11 to 13 months a package of four cost me over $8.00.
  • My CFLs brightened the bathroom but one of them failed within 10 months and this week the other three failed.  At $9.00 a piece I’m more than disappointed.

Halogen light has always been my favorite, the only other light that compares is natural sunlight.  Manufacturers now offer low voltage Halogen, making them more desirable for us energy-efficient types.  While this is still my go to light for interior design, the one thing I don’t like is the heat they produce.  Halogen bulbs are fantastic in a kitchen, but with ovens on, pots boiling and lights on, you’re likely to turn on a fan or the AC. Halogens pose a potential fire hazard, if not used properly.

CFL’s should last thousands of hours longer than halogen and incandescent bulbs.  My biggest complaint is they contain mercury. Manufacturers claim they are safe, but recommend young children and pregnant mothers stay away from them (?????).  They suggest you use them where there is no risk of breaking.  You must recycle them to prevent mercury from being released into the environment.  I’ve decided I will not buy these any more or recommend them to clients because:

  • The four I bought failed.
  • The time it takes to recycle.
  • They are not dimmable.
  • The potential of mercury poising.

LED – (Light Emitting Diode).  LED bulbs use diodes instead of gas or heated filaments to produce light.  LED’s put off little heat and use very little electricity, this makes them the most energy-efficient light bulb available.  Initially LED’s left consumers disappointed.  Bulbs would flicker causing eye strain, dim over time, their bluish hue gave interiors a cold feel, and the price was out of reach for most of us, $250 for one bulb – ouch!

The good news though, pricing is coming down, a warm white is now available – as well as spot and flood lights, and manufacturers added a heat sink to keep the bulbs stable.  Most LED’s are fully dimmable, offer 60% to 80% energy savings, are mercury free, lead free, and have no UV or IR radiation.

Make sure you buy bulbs based on lumens not based on watts.  I’ve seen bulbs advertised as replacements for table lamps and recessed light fixtures but when I investigated their lumen output it was equal to that of a 40 watt bulb, not suitable for task lighting, but works great for ambient light.

I look forward to the day when lighting manufacturers offer affordable LED lighting for every aspect of the home.  As a consumer and a designer here is a quick wish list to LED manufacturers:

  • Keep it Simple – Make it easy to compare watts for watts and lumens for lumens.
  • Make them as affordable as CFLs.
  • Offer Retrofit LED bulbs for existing recessed, bathroom, and halogen track lighting fixtures.
  • Durability – They should last as long as the manufacturer claims, if not full replacement for no cost or money back.

Oh I can hear them squawking at my last request!  I wish I could recommend an LED bulb manufacturer to you, but at this time I haven’t found a manufacturer that meets my wish list. When I do you’ll be the first to know!  If you have any recommendations or a bulb experience to share please comment!

Meeting Mike Holmes

Last November.  I stood in line with a couple hundred other folks to meet Mike Holmes from HGTV’s Holmes on Homes.  My husband Steve and I left our house at 8:30 a.m. to drive to the Books-A-Million in Colonial Heights, VA.

We arrived around 11:00 a.m. and got in line.  It was great chatting with the people in front and behind us.  Mike has a lot of fans!  As 12 noon chimed in we could hear a commotion towards the front of the store, people started cheering. He arrives in those classic overalls he is well-known for wearing on every show.  Huge applause and cheers broke out as Mike approached our section of the line.  In a humble boyish grin and he raised his arms half way in their air and said ‘Hey folks, I’m just a contractor.’

The Holmes crew was organized, prior to Mike’s arrival they went through the line and asked for your first name and wrote it on a sticky note and then placed it on page 9 in the magazine.  One by one Mike shook everyone’s hand and hugged those who asked for a hug – even some of the guy builders in line (made me smile that he’s not afraid to hug men – reminds me of my Dad).  Mike was all smiles.

As the line dwindle before us, I started to get excited – I was going to meet THE Mike Holmes – how cool is this!  As we approached, one of his team members grabbed my magazine, another grabbed my camera and I heard Mike say ‘Hi Lisa!’ I turned around and he stood there with his hand stretched out.  I reached out my hand and he said ‘it is so nice to meet you’!  I was mush!  All I could do was smile, he greeted Steve by his first name and shook his hand.  Such a gentlemen.

I stood next to Steve and Mike jumped in between us to take a picture he said ‘I’ll be the monkey in the middle’ (too funny).

Mike took the time to sign our Holmes Magazine.  He also signed a poster for our son Isaac – he wrote:  ”To Isaac, the next Pro!”

The fella taking the picture caught Steve turning to see what Mike was writing.  I’ve got my business card in my hand to give to him.

This pictures makes me laugh, both Mike and I talk with the hands!

Steve and I were both impressed.  He’s not a HGTV star, he’s a contractor and he really cares about giving every waking moment his best.  I could tell he was tired, he had traveled all over the place doing these meet and greets, but he put himself aside and took time for all of us in line.

The overall sentiment from everyone there was ‘Man I wished you lived near me!’  Steve and I both echoed that sentiment.  This past week I’ve spent time catching up on my HGTV shows via my DVR.  I had not watched any of the Holmes Inspection series.  How can you help but not love this man and all the people who work with him.  What an incredible team.  It does my heart good to watch TV where people are actively educating and helping those who don’t know or those who need a helping hand.  I learn so much and it gives me the courage to go and do these things myself.

I hope one day he will open a Holmes Contracting Trade School and offer training and certification.  It is the best way for him to teach others his code of construction honor and work ethics.  It is the only way he can stretch himself out across this great land of ours and live in every neighborhood too.

Outside the store I had to snap a photo of the Ford truck emblem on Mike’s truck.  One day Stevie, I promise, you’ll have one too!

Small but just as passionate about design as he is about construction!

Me with MY hero and love of my life!

Watts Up? Lighting, Labels and LEDs

We’ve come along way since Thomas Edison invented his first light bulb. Light bulbs are making big changes and knowing which ones to buy is confusing.

Most of us buy light bulbs based on their watts.  A 40-60 watt bulb is good for table lamps.  25 watt bulbs for night lights, 100 watt bulbs for the kitchen, bath and laundry.  However, watts has nothing do with how much the bulb will brighten a room, it is a measure of how much electricity it takes to power the bulb and it directly affects your monthly power bill.  The technical term for how much light a bulb puts out is Lumens (latin for Light).

In June 2010 the FTC wrote new rules for lighting packaging, hoping to end consumer confusion on which bulbs to buy.  By mid 2011 light bulb packaging will show more than just watts.  This is really good news.  I find standing in the bulb section at any retail store confusing.  I want to change all my bulbs to LED.  Yet trying to figure out which ones will brighten my rooms like my incandescents is really hard to figure out.  Here is the new label you should start seeing in July.

While this label is self-explanatory, I need to point out that LED bulbs, CFL’s (fluorescent), and incandescent bulbs all differ in their energy consumption (watts) and their lighting output (lumens).  Without knowing the lumen output of standard incandescent bulbs, it’s difficult to know if the LED or CFL bulbs will put out the same amount of light as the standard incandescent bulbs we are so used to.  To help figure this out I created this chart to carry with me in my wallet.

With this chart now all I need to do is match lumens for lumens and my LED bulb should brighten my room as well as my old incandescent, while consuming less electricity.  I should note that when doing my research I came up with differing calculations on lumen output for standard incandescent bulbs.  I choose to go with the info found at Wikipedia.

This post is my attempt to keep it simple.  I hope this chart will help you buy adequate environmentally friendly lighting for your home.  Next week I will blog about the difference between LED and CFL bulbs and why I prefer LED.

Here is a PDF file for you to download of the above chart if you’d like to carry it with you in your wallet.

Clean Home For Sale?

Today I thought I’d blog about the misnomer of a clean home selling fast.

For Sale over 88 days, here are the details from the Listing Agents Brochure: $229,900 | Single Family Home | 3 Beds | 3 Baths | 2,631 Sq Ft | 0.28 Acres

Property Features:  Approximately 0.28 acre(s), Family room, Kitchen, Basement level is 1310 sq. ft., View, 3 car garage(s), Attached parking, AC, Close to Schools, Basement, Dining room, Master Bedroom, Living Room, Heat-Gas Forced Air, Masonite siding, Asphalt roof, Shingle roof.
Interior Features:  Carpet in bedroom(s), Bedroom(s) in main level, Nook in kitchen, Oak furniture in kitchen, Vinyl flooring in kitchen, Chandelier in dining room, Combo in dining room, Patio door in dining room, Window treatments, 75% finished basement, Full basement, Carpet in family room, 220 outlet(s) in utility room, Vinyl flooring in utility room, Carpet in living room, Vaulted ceiling in living room, Bath room in master bedroom, Carpet in master bedroom, Patio door in master bedroom, Dining room on the main floor, Basement family room, Kitchen on the main floor, Living room on the main floor, Master bedroom on the main floor, Utility room on the main floor, 1 bathroom in basement, 2 bathrooms on the main floor, 1 bedroom in basement, 2 bedrooms on the main floor, Oven and range, Dishwasher, Refrigerator, Microwave oven.
Exterior Features:  Deck, Landscaping, Garage opener, Storage/out-building(s), Underground sprinkler system, Public water supply, Shed, Public sewer.

If I were a house hunter, I would find the wording on this listing overdone and confusing.  I’d also be thankful they have 20 photos to give me better insight. (note: I’ve placed the photos in the order shown in the listing).

Unfortunately, lifeless listings like this are plentiful.  Sadly, the homeowner will have to endure several months of living in and maintaining a home for sale, very stressful.

Why point this out?  By investing 1% of the selling price in professional home staging, this home could sell within days of listing.

First things first.  Re-write the listing.  The current listing is too wordy and confusing.  There is really no need to boast of carpet and vinyl floors, they are a given if nothing more elaborate is mentioned. Mention the homes highlights and let your photos tell the rest.  Upon further investigation I discovered that this home is a two minute walk from a 50 acre reservoir and state park!

Second, the window treatments are very taste specific to the homeowner. When it comes to personal design taste, anything goes, enjoy your style. However, when it comes to selling your home, make no assumptions that buyers will fall in love with your design style.  If there is no budget for new window treatments, simply remove the existing ones.  Then make sure the windows are super clean and open and close easily.  Doing this alone would make this house show 50% better!

Third, the listing gives the impression that the third bedroom is actually in the basement family room.  In reality, this room is either a family room or a bedroom, it should not be listed as both. Determine what the needs are for the target market and make the room meet the needs.  In this case, the room needs to be extra living space.  Removing the bed and rearranging the furniture will tell your buyer “this is a terrific space set aside for family and friends to relax”.

Fourth, the order of the photos in this listing is like reading a book and jumping from the first chapter to the fifth, then to the last chapter and back to the second.  Listing photos should always walk a potential buyer through the normal progression of your home as if they were on site.  Kitchens do sell homes, but that is no reason to post the kitchen photo first.  After viewing these photos, I wondered what the third bathroom, laundry and garage looked like?  Make sure you have photos of ALL your rooms.

Last but not least.  The house is clean, but the photos have zero WOW factor.  Buyers want to picture themselves living in the house.  They are not interested in pictures that showcase the shaving gel and deodorant you use.  Investing in professional home staging will take this home from drab to fab, showcasing not only a clean home, but one that is Simply Irresistible.  Once the staging is complete, take photos that tell your homes story.

This is a great home with some very nice features, it’s sad it continues to sit on the market with no offers.  The home is priced $5,000.00 above the average asking price for homes in its neighborhood. I see a price reduction in the future.

What are your thoughts?

Forget Me Not with Evernote!

Happy New Year!  Hope your first work Monday of 2011 is going better than mine.  Logged into my MacBook, only to discover the death of my Firefox browser yesterday also deleted my Mac Mail.  Can you say CRISIS?  Not the best foot to start the New Year with.

Thankfully, I moved 90% of my most used Firefox passwords into my 1Password program over the last month!  Also, thankful, I only lost one year of bookmarks, sadly most of them were needed for our 2011 remodeling projects.  My third reason to give thanks – three and half years ago I learned to use IMAP instead of POP for my email.  This saved my life, this morning.  When I created a new account and entered my IMAP settings, all my mail reappeared!

All this leads me to today’s post about Evernote.  Over Christmas in Twitterville one of the tweeps I follow mentioned how he LOVED Evernote.  Curiosity found me searching Google to learn more, but life’s distractions kept me from thoroughly checking it out.  Alas, a few days later, my favorite podcaster Don McAllister emailed me a tutorial on Evernote.  I love it when things happen in pairs!  I watched the podcast yesterday, and downloaded Evernote to my Mac, and my Evo and discovered this is the single most important download of my life!

I’ve been using Evernote all day!  I absolutely love it.  From this day forward I will use it to save my research instead of browser bookmarks – goodbye crash worries!  It’s super easy to make notes on my Mac or Evo.  Hit the sync button and I can access my notes via web, Macbook, or Evo.  I can share notes with my hubby and kids.  The best part it’s FREE! Evernote is great if the designer in you enjoys color coding and font formating – I’m seriously in like with Evernote!  They have a premium version, but until I decide I can’t live without the premium features I will use the free one.

Check out the ScreenCastONLINE Evernote tutorial below – you will love Don’s accent.  By the way if you have a Mac and need to learn how to use it, I highly recommend Don’s SCO membership.  I was ready to toss my MacBookPro in the trash when I stumbled across his website.  He is brilliant and simply shows you everything you need to know about Mac and all the cool software that can make your life easy.  I’ll never buy another PC.  Enjoy.

PS – Techie or not I think everyone should have the above pictured screen printed magnetic notice board from Green & Co.  It’s a perfect cottage art accent with functionality!  Dimensions: 19.7″ x 19.7″ x 7/8″.

Our Chalet in the Rough

In October 2009 my husband Steve and I were hunting for a home.  We had a list of what we were looking for: a fixer-upper but not older than the 70′s, some what private, at least an acre, located on a safe street, it needed to have the potential for a studio apartment, a garage (for Steve), and it had to be close to everything – oh yeah, and we needed two full baths and two bedrooms and within our budget.

We found a handful of the classic one story, unfinished basement brick ramblers with potential.  The one we liked the best received an offer while we were scouting it out – talk about disappointing.  After a couple days of no luck Steve returned home and I resumed the house hunt on my own.

I discovered a home a few days later that I had missed previously, while perusing the local MLS.  The moment I saw the picture my heart swelled.  The home was a chalet style, very very similar to the house my parents built in Andover, Maine, when I was a kid.  The price however, took the wind out of my sails – way over our budget.

The listing only had one photo.  I put it in my head there was no way we could afford it, so I shut my mac, did laundry and went grocery shopping.  On the way to the grocery store I made a detour – it was harmless to drive by, right?  I could not contain my excitement when I realized the house was 4 minutes from my sons school!  There was a Volkswagen in the drive way (it had to be a sign).  Memories from my childhood home in Maine flooded my mind.  It was secluded, in fact it was hard to see the house because the yard looked like the enchanted forest from Disney’s Sleeping Beauty – nothing we couldn’t fix though.  I drove up and down the road 4 or 5 times really slow trying to get a glimpse through the trees.

I ended up heading to the grocery store because I was too chicken to take a closer look – the overgrown yard was a little intimidating.  Later that day when my daughter got off of work I asked her if she wanted to go for a drive – I took her to the house she went and knocked on the door – no one answered.  She motioned for me to get out of my Volkswagen and walk around with her.  My daughter said, “This is it, you’ve got to show this to Dad!”

Long story short on my birthday we made an offer and the home owner accepted.  This is the second home we’ve purchased and I must confess I feel like my Realtor didn’t listen to me about making a lower offer.  Maybe many people feel this way after they purchase a home – I don’t know.  If he had taken the time to look at the home and see its condition first hand and still encouraged us to make the offer we did, I might feel differently.  Bottom line – I’ve learned my lesson.

The house was and is a fixer upper – there is so much work to do.  The structure is sound, beyond that everything needs to be improved.  Over the next several years we will spend a lot of blood, sweat and time polishing this diamond in the rough.  I hope we will encourage you to tackle your renovations that seem impossible, daunting and overwhelming – right now ours is.

Here are pictures of the house from our initial scout, at the time it was rented by three college students.

What a piece of work the heating system is.  The homeowner originally built this house with solar heat panels, but they never worked.  Six years before we purchased she hired her friend’s son to put this system in.  Apparently he bought the unit from the company he was working for at cost and installed it himself – some of the worst work I’ve ever seen.  He ended up losing his job because he was  moonlighting and under cutting his employer.

To the right of the heating system is this window that still has the original shipping brace – notice the lack of insulation around the window?

A nice Englander Wood Stove – see the tubing in the sand to the right of stove.  Steve says there is a circulating pump near the hot water heater in the laundry room that moves the water through this copper pipe.  When the water runs through the pipe and the stove is hot it heats the water.  A clever money saving idea, but we won’t be able to keep it, because to the right of the wood stove is a functioning fireplace in this ‘furnace room’ – yeah, we know it makes no sense.

This is the top of the basement fireplace – I could not get a picture of the actual fireplace because there was too much stuff in the room.  On the outside of the house against the fireplace wall is the AC unit.  Genius moonlighting heat man cut through the brick on the fireplace to run the copper line for the unit – geesh.

To the right of the fireplace is the lovely closet – it was full of spider webs – ick!

Let’s make our way to the laundry room.  Oh look there on the left it is the box of rocks!  Used to heat the house or wait not heat the house (according to the homeowner).  It was 8′ wide x 4′ deep x 5′ high.  Isn’t that duct work attractive?

Three breaker boxes?  After a few minutes of examination we decided we could not figure out why – what was the purpose of three breaker boxes?

The old water filtration system still works – but it’s expensive to operate.

These are the stairs to the main level.  Underneath the stairs is the access the ‘student apartment’.

Open the door at the top of the stairs to the main level and the first thing you see is this fireplace.  When I saw it, I thought it was white quarts (a rock that is plentiful in Maine).  In spite of the 30 years of dirt – I fell in love with its rustic, white, glittery elements.  I was so distracted by the stone that I didn’t notice the Missing Mantle.

Here is the very tiny dining area.  I guess this is the point I should mention I lean more to shades of green than I do blue and hard floor surfaces than wall to wall carpeting.  This funny thing about this carpet is I would bet money it is the same stuff I sold my husband when we met 19 years ago!  When he walked in he said “hey look honey it’s the carpet you sold me when we first met.”  Getting a little sentimental, sorry – it was sort of a another sign – okay your right I’m taking positive thinking to a new level!

These are the stairs to the loft bedroom.  Not built to code by any means.  There is 9″ of space between each baluster.  The entire railing is very rickety.  Dig the paneling – at least it is real pine and not the paper printed stuff.  Check out the faux beams they are 2×4′s – snicker.

This is the living room.  Nice big single pane window.  Someone volunteered to caulk the outside of the window to the grilles with a white latex caulk – this is to prevent the glass from falling out.  I guess I should be thankful they didn’t caulk the inside, too (come to think of it, if they had I would of noticed it and insisted on a lower offer).  Do you see the jungle out there?

This is the cat walk that gives one access to the front outside balcony.  We never did find the missing pieces of paneling, that’s okay because we plan to rip it all out including the cat walk.

Other side of the cat walk.  Any one need a Spanish vintage 70′s light fixture?  You can’t see it in the photo but there is an outlet in the ceiling and this light plugs in.  Amazing ingenuity I know! (sarcasm intended).


This bathroom is going to be a total gut job.  The only redeeming quality is the white carrara marble vanity top – We plan to recycle and reuse it in the new bathroom.

Loft bedroom, the only place to stand up is in the five foot center section.

Here is the other ‘full’ – well maybe not so full bath.  Did I hear you ask where is the sink?  Good question, wish I would of thought of it while I was there.  I didn’t realize there was no sink until after I returned home.  Not to worry I found it after we moved in, behind the door, in the bedroom.  Thoughts? Cheap Hotel.

Here’s the kitchen while we were unpacking.  We got rid of the pea green dishwasher immediately – I won’t go into detail what we found underneath it.

Yes, ladies and gentleman – this is a real outdoor lamp post attached to the end of the cabinet, it was wired too, just pull the chain and you have light!  At first look all I could do was laugh.  Then when I saw the view out the window (especially with all the snow last winter) – I thought I’ll put it out in the backyard in the woods, maybe it will give a hint of Narnia (my favorite fictional books).

I have to end here.  We could not take pictures of the basement apartment because it was filled to the brim with stuff.  Once we moved in we filled it with our stuff.  We seriously down sized in square footage from our previous home.

Here is a list of what we’ve accomplished in the last year:

  • Cleaned, repaired and re-grouted the shower and tub (temporary fix).
  • Installed a stainless steel, deep, double basin kitchen sink and a new faucet.
  • Installed a new dishwasher.
  • Scrubbed the entire house from floor to ceiling – yuck.
  • Removed the lamp post in the kitchen.
  • Installed new light fixtures in the dining room and main bathroom.
  • Removed the doors off the vanity in the main bathroom.  Ripped out the swollen particle board underneath the marble vanity top and replaced it with a piece of wood.  Removed the fake drawer fronts, Steve used them and built functioning drawers. Painted the entire vanity white and placed natural wicker baskets underneath.
  • Steve and Isaac removed the box of rocks and fixed some of the messy duct work.
  • Steve and I remodeled the 10′ x 15′ storage building.
  • Cut down over 80 trees (more to go in the future).
  • Continue our on going battle with wisteria vine – it literally took over the yard.  You can’t just mow the stuff because it will spread underground and shoot up in other places.  Right now we cut each stem to the ground and put a couple drops of Tordon on it.  Seems to work well – but it is going to take years to get it all.
  • My son Isaac and I gathered up a ton of slate strewn through out the yard (left over from when the home owner made a slate walkway) and stacked a nice wall near the kitchen entrance.
  • The old blue commode cracked (woo hoo!) so we purchased a new one and installed it.  Much nicer and the white is so much easier on the eyes!
  • Designed an addition and new basement living area that will utilize the fireplace in the now existing ‘furnace room’.

Creatively yours,


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