8 Genius Ways to Organize Your Kitchen

Clear out the clutter and tidy up your kitchen with tips from our friends at HomeAdvisor

The following is a guest post from Andrea Davis of HomeAdvisor

The kitchen is one of the most difficult places in the home to keep clean and organized. Between your dishes, utensils and cooking appliances, you have lots of oddly shaped and bulky items to store. If you find yourself overwhelmed by all the stuff in your kitchen, or maybe just need a more efficient way of storing and organizing, consider these genius ways to tidy up your kitchen.

#1 Group Similar Items Together

Grouping items together according to their use is a sensible way to organize your kitchen. Categorizing similar items makes it easier for you and your guests to find things quickly.

#2 Use Baskets to Store Commonly Used Items

Searching for commonly used kitchen items is frustrating. Rather than storing them in random cabinets, use a simple wicker basket to corral and hold popular items. It looks nicer than just stacking utensils on the counter and it’s more organized than stashing them in available cabinets.

#3 Install Slide-Out Pantry Drawers

There’s nothing worse than having to pull everything out of a drawer or cabinet to reach something you’re looking for. Rather than shuffling with all of that mess, install slide-out pantry drawers or cabinets. Now, when you need a spice or are looking for specific dry goods, you can slide the entire cabinet out.

#4 Use Open Shelving

There’s nothing wrong with showing off some of the items you own, like your formal dinnerware or antique teapots. The only challenge you’ll face is keeping it all straight and tidy on your shelves. Installing an open shelving solution will help you organize everyday kitchen items and bring an open, airy energy to your kitchen. As an added benefit, you won’t have to open drawers and doors to find the items you’re looking for.

#5 Explore Alternative Storage

Traditional kitchen storage is great, but sometimes alternatives are just as functional. Consider storing extra kitchen items in wooden crates, baskets and other containers. Do you have a movable kitchen island with space underneath? Use woven baskets to hold your plates and bowls below.

#6 Don’t Waste Space

If you’re struggling to find space to organize all of your cutlery, plates and other utensils, consider high-shelf storage. Remember to only store rarely used items, like your fine china or fondue pot, on high shelves.

#7 Cut Down When Necessary

The kitchen is one of the most popular places in the home to display knick-knacks. If your assortment of collectibles has outgrown your space, the easiest way to organize is to eliminate what you can’t put out on display. This cuts down on clutter and opens up the visuals of your kitchen.

Conclusion

These are just a few simple ways to improve the organization of your kitchen. Now you can enjoy less frustrating meal preparation and less overwhelming visuals.

rwelcomed another Joe into her life as she became a mom in June 20

 

Leslie Sells Houses

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10 Home Decor Accessories Worth Buying for Fall and Beyond

These 10 versatile pieces make great building blocks for a cozy and festive seasonal look.

Tweaking your decor each season can be a great way to keep your home feeling current and satisfy your urge to nest, without blowing your budget on big-ticket items. The problem? Each year retailers roll out tons of new seasonally inspired decor that begs to be brought home — and loading up on too much season-specific stuff is a sure way to blow your budget and overstuff your storage.

To strike the right balance, aim to build up an arsenal of go-to pieces that feel special yet can work in several different ways throughout the year, then use free and found natural objects, and inexpensive seasonal produce, to round out the different looks. The following 10 versatile pieces make great building blocks for a cozy and festive seasonal look.

1. Shiny gold stools. They can be used as seats or side tables; they are small, portable and easily stashed; and they fancy up any room. Gold looks especially festive, feels rich in fall and winter and has a sunshiny quality that makes it work in summer to boot — what more could you ask for?

South Charlotte House Family Room

2. Amber glass vessels. Vintage or new glass bottles with an amber hue look beautiful in a sunny window, lined up on a mantel or perched on a console. Clear apothecary jars are useful to have on hand too, but the great thing about colored glass containers is that they look beautiful even when empty. Of course, they look splendid filled with fall leaves or flowers, too.

Laura Zindel

3. A faux-fur throw. It’s warm and cozy, and makes any seat or bed you toss it on look incredibly luxurious. Spend enough to get a faux fur that feels really plush and has a natural-looking color; cheaper versions will fall apart over time, but a good one will hold up for many years.

Mill Valley, CA

4. Colorful accent dishes. Build a stable of solid-hued workhorse dishes in white, plus some in one or two accent colors so you can change things up. A good rule of thumb is to stick with white dinner plates but bring in fun colors and patterns with the serving pieces, bowls and salad and dessert plates.

Orange is a good hue for all of fall, from Halloween to Thanksgiving, while mint green and yellow work from spring through summer. Metallics work year-round but look especially festive around the holidays.

Fall Decor

5. Gleaming accessories. Gold and silver objects are a natural choice (see the shiny gold stools above), but the shades in between are even more versatile — think shimmering platinum, bronze and rose gold.

These subtly shimmery hues fit right in with fall leaves and acorns, look glamorous around the holidays and echo the sheen of seashells in summer. Try them with a cluster of vases, candlesticks, bowls or trays.

Willow Glen Residence

6. Fresh artwork. Your home has a finite number of walls, but does that mean you must limit yourself to the same artwork year-round? No way!

Pick up fresh artwork as you find it, without worrying if you currently have a place to hang it. At the beginning of each new season, you can simply swap out art on a few walls for a completely different look.

Parkway Kitchen

7. A tall container for branches. Having a really tall cylinder vase on hand is essential for filling with colorful foliage in the fall and budding branches in the spring, You may want to pick up a few of these — a shorter version, like the one shown here, is perfect for a tabletop; a taller vessel can be placed on the floor.

Laight Street Loft

8. Fluffy towels. A set of fresh bath towels in a seasonal palette you love is a relatively inexpensive treat, and will make a huge difference in the way your bathroom looks and feels. Try mixing and matching a solid hue with a fun pattern, as shown here. Bonus: Rotating at least some of your bath and hand towels seasonally can help reduce wear, so they’ll stay fluffy longer.

Farm Fresh Interior

9. Pillow covers. Once you have built up a nice stash of pillow covers that fit the inserts for your sofa and bed, it’s easy to give your rooms a quick makeover. Keep an eye out for sales throughout the year to find the best deal. Here are a few ideas for not-strictly-seasonal pillow covers to consider adding to your stash:

  • Burlap feed sack: great for a rustic fall and winter look, but can be used year-round
  • Sparkly, metallic hues: perfect for a festive feel
  • Velvet in rich jewel tones: for cold fall and winter nights
  • Golden yellow: can be mixed with seasonal oranges and reds in the fall, but also feels fresh in spring and summer.
Basement Development

10. Small rugs. If you have basic natural-fiber rugs or neutral carpeting, one great way to create a new look in the fall is by layering your rugs. A small Oriental rug or Moroccan-style wool rug instantly makes any space feel warmer and cozier, and goes with practically anything. Keep a few rolled up in the closet and bring them out when your feet feel like they could use a little extra TLC.

Children

Tell us: What is your favorite way to update your home for the season?

Related Reads:

Mill Valley, CA

Leslie Sells Houses

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Header Photo Credit: Urrutia Design, original photo on Houzz

fall decorating ideas houzz

 

 

How to Make Your Move Less Stressful

Make your move less stressful by taking these steps to protect yourself and your belongings

Houzz Contributor, Laura Gaskill

From horror stories of lost, stolen and broken items to surprise charges tacked on to an already high bill, moving is not for the faint of heart. And after recently pitching in to help my mom through a downsizing and a big move, I’ve learned a few things about working with professional movers. If you have a move coming up, read on for eight tips to help your move go smoothly.

1. Take the time to research movers thoroughly. We’ve all heard horror stories about movers stealing, losing or recklessly damaging belongings, but with a bit of diligence on your part you can make sure you’re choosing a reputable, licensed company with ample experience. Check reviews, Better Business Bureau ratings and references before committing to hire. It’s also a good idea to purchase appropriate insurance for your belongings, just in case.

2. Don’t wait till the last minute to book your movers. Moving companies do book up, especially during the busy summer months, so don’t leave this decision until the last moment. Start looking for a company early and get on its schedule.

3. Honestly assess your belongings before getting a quote. If you end up bringing more items than discussed with your movers, the best-case scenario is that you get a higher bill — but the worst-case scenario is that there isn’t room on the truck for everything you plan to bring. The reverse can also be problematic: If you pare down your belongings a great deal between the time of your quote and moving day, you may find yourself paying more than you needed to.

If you do require flexibility in truck space for your move, be upfront about it. Some companies allow you to pay by the foot, which means you pay only for the space you end up using. Usually this involves sharing space with another customer, in which case your belongings will be divided with a locked partition inside the truck.

4. Don’t assume that professional packers are also pros at labeling. If you’re planning to hire professional packers, it’s smart to ask about their policy for labeling boxes. If they don’t label (surprisingly common), plan to be present while the packers work (a good idea anyway) and make it your job to label each box as it’s completed.

Packing tip: Label your boxes with your last name as well as the name of the room in your new home where you want the box to end up. When labeling rooms, use language that will make sense to the movers: Instead of “Katie’s room,” you could label a box “Upstairs small bedroom.”

5. Block out close parking in advance to avoid long-carry fees. If your movers can’t park the truck close to your home, you’ll probably get stuck with what’s known as a long-carry fee — and the farther the movers have to walk to bring each item, the longer it will take. To avoid this, do whatever you can to ensure there’s a close place to park the truck at both your old home and new. You may want to notify neighbors in advance, park your cars in the closest spaces to hold them, or put cones and signs in the space in front of your house on the day of the move.

6. Remember to measure openings at your new home. After one harrowing experience attempting to get a giant sofa through a narrow stairway (our movers eventually gave up), I now know the value of measuring doorways and stairwells in advance. If bulky furniture doesn’t fit, you may be forced to leave treasured pieces behind, or — if you simply can’t do without an item — you may need to ask for hoisting services, which aren’t cheap and may not be available right away.

7. Take the time to read the fine print. Before the movers leave at the end of the day, you’ll be asked to sign off on the inventory sheet and bill — and you’ll be exhausted when this happens. It’s easy to breeze through these last steps and just sign whatever papers they thrust in front of you, but it’s important that you take the time to actually read what you’re signing.

Double check that everything that went into the truck has actually arrived. Look over the bill carefully and be sure there are no extra charges. Especially if you were sharing space, belongings can get missed quite easily, so it’s a good idea to take a look inside the truck before it pulls away. And look close: Tiny (but necessary) items like drawer knobs and shelf brackets can easily get overlooked on the floor of a big truck.

8. Just get the big stuff into position; the rest can wait. Think rugs and major (read: heavy) furniture pieces — anything you can’t easily move on your own — are the things that should be put into position by the movers. Ideally, you’ll already be armed with a floor plan of the new space with furniture positions marked out. But if you didn’t get anything that elaborate organized, no worries. Just station yourself in the new place as early as possible before the movers arrive and make some decisions about where things will go.

Then locate the box with your bedding, because you’re going to be ready for a good night’s sleep!

Tell us: Have you moved recently? Share your tips in the Comments.

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Smart Upgrades That Will Help Sell Your House

Upgrading your home with smart devices no longer an option — it’s a must.

Guest post by Jon Snyder

It’s official: smart home upgrades are HOT. A 2016 survey cited in the Washington Post says that 65 percent of buyers, especially millennials, are willing to spend more on homes that are equipped with smart devices.

Moreover, today’s definition of a move-in ready home has shifted. It’s not just about fresh paint and refinished hardwood floors anymore. An increasing amount of buyers don’t consider a property “move-in ready” until it’s equipped with smart gadgets. Combine this with the fact that a Coldwell Banker survey found that 71 percent of buyers desire a move-in ready home, and you’ll understand why upgrading your home with smart devices no longer an option — it’s a must.

But which upgrades are worth your time and money? Here are some low-cost, high-ROI smart gadgets to install when you’re ready to list your home.

What Buyers Want

The most desirable upgrades have these features:

  • Temperature control
  • Security and safety
  • Convenience
  • Compatibility with mainstream voice control devices and smart speakers

In addition, buyers prefer upgrades that stay with the home when you sell it. They want permanent gadgets that can be integrated with any voice command unit they bring when they move in.

The Best Investments

You don’t have to spend a fortune to make your listing more appealing. In fact, you can find many of these “quick win” devices for under $300 each, with plenty hovering around $100.

Thermostats. One of the most popular features in a smart home is the Wi-Fi-connected thermostat. This device allows you to not only program the temperature changes throughout the day for energy savings, but also to control the temperature by voice or even through an app when you’re away from home.

Smoke, Gas, and CO Alarms. Common threats to your safety require prompt notification. Imagine being able to know if your house is on fire or experiencing a gas leak even when you’re away. With smart alarms, it’s possible. Connected alarm systems notify the owners of any safety issues within the home, wherever they are.

Security Systems. There are plenty of smart-home security systems on the market that can be controlled by phone or voice command. That means homeowners can arm and disarm the system without fiddling with a complicated keypad. They can also view video streams and notify police of an emergency from their phones. These systems can even include window sensors, motion detectors, and much more.

Lighting. Smart lighting allows homeowners to dim or turn lights on and off with a simple voice command. Plus, if they ever forget to turn off the lights, they can easily do so from their phones — even if they’re at work.

Connected lights can also act as a de facto security system. By simply setting the lights to a randomized pattern, it can create the appearance that the home is occupied, potentially scaring off any would-be intruders.

Garage Door Openers. Garages are a popular point of entry for homeowners, but they’re also a common security breach. That’s where smart garage door openers come in. These devices can notify homeowners when the garage opens and closes and allow 24/7 monitoring of the garage. The doors can also be opened and closed remotely through a smartphone.

Video Doorbells. Your home’s new owners won’t even need to get off the couch to find out who’s at the door with this smart upgrade. Video doorbells are equipped with motion detectors and 24/7 surveillance, which will notify occupants that someone’s at the door, even if no one rings the doorbell.

A Smart Home Sells

If you’re ready to put your house on the market, you’ll need to make sure your property stands out from the competition. Investing in a few low-cost smart home devices can help you do just that, and it could pay dividends when your home sells.

Jon Snyder is a Product Manager at Esurance. He oversees countrywide design of property insurance products. Jon has over 25 years of industry experience in product management, design and management roles, as well as claims roles at Esurance and other major industry carriers. You can find out more about how smart home products can help you save on home insurance by visiting Esurance.com.

Leslie Sells Houses

 

10 Easy Fixes for That Nearly Perfect House You Want to Buy

From price and location to the physical structure itself, the list of things to keep in mind when shopping for a house can seem endless. But some problems you encounter don’t need to affect your final decision.

Houzz Contributor, Laura Gaskill

From price and location to the physical structure itself, the list of things to keep in mind when shopping for a house can seem endless. But some problems you encounter don’t need to affect your final decision. Although easy is a relative term, accomplishing the 10 fixes that follow is generally pretty straightforward. We also point out some big-ticket fixes to watch out for. Happy house hunting!

Coastal Views Custom Home

1. Easy fix: Repaint or reface existing cabinetry. If the interior structure of the cabinetry is still sound, refinishing, repainting or refacing (replacing the cabinet fronts) can be a more cost-effective way to refresh a dated kitchen than completely replacing the cabinetry. If the cabinet doors are in poor condition or you want to change the style, consider refacing.

How to Reface Your Old Kitchen Cabinets

Sonoma new construction

2. Easy fix: New appliances. Swapping out old appliances for shiny new models is one of the biggest-impact ways to make over your kitchen without getting bogged down in a full remodel. And because the cost of appliances and installation is pretty straightforward, it’s easier to plan and budget for this upgrade than projects that might expand beyond your original scope.

Not-so-easy fix: New kitchen layout. Replacing what’s already in your kitchen is one thing, but when you start to move the plumbing and electrical around, costs can rise quickly. If possible, go for a house with a kitchen that has a layout you’re happy with — you can always tweak the details.

Stash It All: Know the Three Zones of Kitchen Storage

Fair Haven

3. Easy fix: Fresh carpeting. Stained, worn-out carpeting is a real bummer, and it can be hard to see past it when viewing a potential home. But ripping out old carpeting and putting in something new — especially something as fresh and fun as the colorful carpet tiles shown here — can make a huge difference in how a space looks and feels.

Fair Haven

4. Easy fix: New paint color. It’s amazing the effect color can have on us — remind yourself of this fact the next time you tour an open house with some (ahem) unusual color choices. You can easily (and cheaply) replace any wall color with a beautiful hue, like the lovely silvery blue shown here.

12 Tried and True Paint Colors for Your Walls

Knoll House

5. Easy fix: Replace light fixtures. Swapping out dated light fixtures with new ones you love is a quick and easy fix an electrician or DIY-savvy homeowner can accomplish in relatively little time. From modern pendants (like the saucer version shown here) to Edison-bulb chandeliers, there’s a light for every style and taste.

Not-so-easy fix: Extensive electrical work. Exchanging one light fixture for another in the same spot is simple; updating old or unsafe systems is another matter entirely. Electrical work should definitely be left to the pros, and electrical repairs in an older home can cost a pretty penny, so be sure to get a thorough inspection and review it in detail.

Pacific Heights Home

6. Easy fix: Repurpose a room. Just because a room is shown as a messy kids’ room or workout space doesn’t mean that’s what will make the most sense for you. As you tour potential new homes, think creatively about the spaces you see and try to imagine your own furniture in them. One person’s overstuffed home office could be your perfect sun room.

Not-so-easy fix: Adding on. Remodeling costs get a whole lot bigger whenever you talk about changing the footprint of a home, so try not to be seduced by talk of how “easy” it would be to tack a room on to the back of the house. Although there are always exceptions, your best bet is usually to find a house with a footprint you can work with.

How to Build a Renovation Plan to Match Your Budget

Turn of the Century Craftsman in Los Angeles

7. Easy fix: Remove or cover up popcorn ceilings. Not much dates a house like the lumpy, bumpy texture of a popcorn ceiling. Thankfully, fixing it isn’t too complicated, and you’ll soon have a nice, smooth ceiling. The most common method is simply scraping it off, but if there’s any chance that lead and-or asbestos might be present in the paint or the popcorn material itself, you’ll need to cover it up with drywall instead.

Cape Cod Coastal

8. Easy fix: Add architectural interest. If you love the look of older homes with lots of original architectural details but haven’t been able to find the right one at the right price, it’s still possible to get some of the detail you crave, even in a newer build. Crown molding, baseboards, picture rails and even built-in features like bookcases and bench seating can be added by a carpenter to give a boxy new build added character. It’s an extra cost, but it’s not especially difficult, and it can make a big difference in how you experience a home.

Contemporary Renovation

9. Easy fix: Refinish floors. If you’re lucky enough to spot a house with real wood floors, don’t let a dull finish turn you off. While engineered hardwood can usually be refinished only a few times during its life (the number depends on how thick the veneer is) solid hardwoods can take a lot more, so you can have gorgeous, glossy floors (or artfully beat-up floors if you desire) for years to come.

What to Know Before Refinishing Your Floors

Modern Prarie

10. Easy fix: Add landscaping. Yard looking a little bare? Adding landscaping, whether a simple DIY job or a landscaping pro’s design and installation, is something that can make a huge impact on curb appeal and, more important, how you feel when you come home each day.

Here’s what landscape architects do

Leslie Sells Houses

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How to Captivate Home Buyers by Capturing a Hotel Vibe

White bedroom with pale neutral accents

To get that hotel vibe, focus on these areas of your home.

When it comes time to sell your home, you need to keep one thing in mind: buyers don’t want to see or feel you in the house. What we mean is that buyers are looking for a blank slate that they can envision making their very own. They don’t want your family pictures, unique style, or lived-in look. Instead, they want a house that represents endless opportunities.

How do you make this happen? How do you get YOU out of the house when staging a home for sale?

Think about giving your home a hotel vibe. It’s one of the most successful open house ideas because it’s all about making your home into anyone’s house.

Staging your home so that it feels like a hotel will help you sell it faster and for more money. But what does this look like? Your real estate agent will be able to give you expert advice on how to achieve this.

To ensure you have that hotel vibe, you’ll need to go through your home room-by-room and focus on a few key areas.

Make a Glamorous Entrance

The entrance of your home is your one and only chance to make a great first impression, so you’ll want to make your entrance look and feel like a hotel lobby. If you have room, consider adding an elegant table with artfully arranged flowers. You’ll also want to keep it clear of clutter to ensure that it creates a welcoming feeling.

Create Plush and Lush Bedrooms

Bedrooms are typically the most personal rooms in a home, and so, for an open house, they should be depersonalized as much as possible. Remove all personal items from dressers and nightstands. It’s even a good idea to half empty your closet so that it looks neat, clean, and larger than normal.

In addition to cleaning up, you’ll also want to transform your bedroom with plush bedding that’s reminiscent of a hotel room. Think white linens with throw pillows and crisp lines. It should feel like a hotel room from the moment they walk in the door.

Clean Up the Bathrooms

Just as with the bedrooms, the bathrooms should sparkle and shine. You don’t want potential buyers to walk into your bathroom and think anything other than, “This looks wonderful.”

When staging your home for sale, your bathrooms should look brand new. This means emptying out cabinets and drawers of any toiletries and miscellaneous items. You should also allow a small budget for repainting, changing out old fixtures, and resurfacing countertops.

As for the towels and décor, only use brand new items that are perfectly spotless and would look appropriate in a hotel. Every bathroom should feel like an oasis.

Focus on the Kitchen

All successful open house ideas start in the kitchen. That’s because a kitchen, if done beautifully, can get you more than your asking price while an ignored kitchen can kill a sale just as quickly.

The good news is that updating your kitchen doesn’t require a complete remodel. Small changes can make a big difference. To get started:

  • Remove clutter from countertops until they’re completely clear.
  • Clean all appliances and replace old, worn out equipment.
  • Clear all dishes and keep them neatly stacked out of sight.
  • Organize every single drawer, removing extra items.
  • Empty out the pantry and fridge until only a few food staples remain in neat rows.

Clean and de-clutter your kitchen until it wouldn’t look out of place on a food show. Only then are you ready for an open house.

Tips and Tricks for Overall Décor

What about the rest of your house? There are quite a few things you can do to create that hotel vibe everywhere.

Bring in Light: Maximize the light throughout your home by removing drapes, cleaning windows, changing lampshades, and increasing bulb wattage.

Choose the Right Colors: Don’t slather your walls and furniture with bright, bold colors. Instead, follow the examples of upscale hotels with neutral palettes of warm gray, taupe, brown, and even black.

Create More Space: Add large mirrors and use appropriately proportioned furniture to create the illusion of more space in tight quarters.

Don’t Forget the Exterior: Don’t forget the outside of your home. Transform your back deck into a cozy outdoor living area, and make sure your front yard leaves a good first impression with a spruced-up yard, fresh exterior paint, and pops of color.

Pros and Cons of Adding a Hot Tub

Hot tubs come in a wide variety of options and can be found to fit most budgets. Check out these pros and cons to adding a hot tub.

 

Guest post by Peter Goldberg

Purchasing a hot tub for your home is becoming more and more appealing to those looking to spark joy in their outdoor space. Even the top local landscaping designs incorporate a steamy floral energy with hot tubs and water features.

Hot tubs come in a wide variety of options and can be found to fit most budgets. However, there may be some downsides to consider before adding a hot tub to your home. Check out these pros and cons to adding a hot tub:

Pros

Relaxation

Having a hot tub just steps from your back door can add an element of relaxation to your home. You can come home from work and let the stress of the day melt away in a warm, bubbling soak outside. Hot tubs also have palpable healing properties, as the warm water can help alleviate stress and loosen tight muscles. They are a favorable choice to have for those family members with chronic diseases or injuries that would respond well to heat. Having a hot tub allows for a daily opportunity to relax and unwind.

Entertainment

Not only will your family love a hot tub but your friends and neighbors will too! Adding a hot tub that is large enough for a handful of people is a great way to entertain in your outdoor living space. You can grill out for a party and then invite everyone to change into their suits to soak underneath the stars. Kids love hot tubs and having one creates a fun opportunity to play with the grand kids without the major upkeep of an outdoor pool.

Year-Round Use

Unlike swimming pools that are usually not used during the winter months, a hot tub can be used all year long. There is nothing more relaxing than sitting in a hot tub under the crisp air of a recent snow. Hot tubs are also used in the summer despite the warm temperatures under the clear summer sky. Due to its smaller size, it is much easier to heat a hot tub in order to keep it available for use all year long.

Cons

Purchase Price and Upkeep Cost

The initial cost of a hot tub can leave some buyers in sticker shock. Brand new hot tubs can easily cost thousands of dollars depending on the size and features available. You can save money by buying used but run the risk of dealing with problems that aren’t covered in a warranty. Other costs to consider are the regular amounts of chemicals that will be needed to maintain the water as well as the electricity fee to keep the water at premium temperature. Owning a hot tub definitely has some costs that need to be considered before purchasing.

Attract Insects

Along with upkeep can come some pesky creatures that can make your outdoor space not so pleasant. Having any sort of water feature  can make for a seemly inviting atmosphere for backyard dwellers like mosquitoes. Similarly, rodents such as mice can find a new home within a hot tub installation that can be more an infestation to deal with. Whereas this may not be a deal breaker and prevented by using repelling plants in your surrounding landscaping and adding repellent gel and inserts in your installation–creating a relaxing space in any backyard usually means it’s rid of annoying insects or rodents.

Tricky Installation

If you purchase a new hot tub the installation may be included in the price but there may be some hidden fees as well. Consider where you will be putting your hot tub and how it will fit into the space. Hot tubs weigh a lot and heavy machinery will most likely be needed to install them correctly. You may need to take out a section of the fencing to get the hot tub into the backyard. If you want your hot tub on a deck, a crane will be needed to lift the hot tub up onto the deck which can be another added cost.

Plan for Weight

The actual hot tub can weigh a lot but also consider the weight of the water that will be added to the hot tub once installed. A hot tub dealer will most likely help you with these logistics but you will need to verify that you have an adequate spot for your hot tub, especially if you are buying used. Calculate the total weight of the hot tub, the water, and the combined weight of the maximum amount of people who will use it in order to get a good idea of how much weight will be added to the property. A firm foundation of concrete will be needed for those hot tubs being added to a backyard. Decks will need to most likely be reinforced with extra beams in order to hold the added amount of weight.

Hot tubs are a great addition to any home and can be a good selling point if you don’t plan on taking your hot tub with you when you move. Taking a dip in the hot tub is a valuable way to physically feel better as well as provide an entertainment space that you can use all year long. Make sure that you plan for the weight of the total hot tub as well as the costs to upkeep it. Prepare for these pros and cons before adding a hot tub to your outdoor living space.

Image result for pictures of hot tubs and backyard

Leslie Sells Houses

 

Most Important Summer Home Maintenance Projects

Before & After: A Seaside English Garden by Farlam & Chandler

Now a small breakfast terrace is at the rear of the house, and a floating deck allows the house “to breathe as it should,” Farlam says.

A garden in crisis greeted designers Harriet Farlam and Ben Chandler of Farlam & Chandlerin 2016. Dingy concrete paving slabs and a completely overgrown garden set a sad tone in the long, narrow space in the heart of the English harbor town of Whitstable, Kent.

“Unnecessary low brick walls enclosed borders planted with two tall bay trees, which were still in their plastic pots, their roots bursting out,” Farlam says. “The bay trees were growing up through two mature fig trees, and everything was smothered in Virginia creeper.”

The plan: “We lived with the garden as it was for a year, through all of the seasons, without touching it too much at all, apart from the immediate removal of the cherry tree,” she says. “This enabled us to really understand the light and how we would use and utilize the small space.”

The result: The courtyard was sited about a quarter mile away from the sea and was relatively protected from sea salt and wind. “Once we had an understanding of how the garden should function, we were able to create a plan for the garden, with the actual layout and bones of the garden very simplistic,” she says.

Photography courtesy of Farlam & Chandler.

Now a small breakfast terrace is at the rear of the house, and a floating deck allows the house “to breathe as it should,” Farlam says.
Above: Now a small breakfast terrace is at the rear of the house, and a floating deck allows the house “to breathe as it should,” Farlam says.

A sunken boardwalk made of English oak leads out from the breakfast terrace, journeying through “intense planted long borders” beneath the fig trees. “The path was inspired by a public footpath along the beach in Whitstable. Instead of traditionally floating a boardwalk above planting, we decided to sink our oak path, to create interest in the garden by changing levels but also to provide an increased sense of privacy. We made the path fairly narrow (just wide enough for a wheelbarrow), to encourage you to stop and pause to look and interact with the plants on route to the dining terrace,” Farlam says.

 Allium varieties include A. nigrum, ‘Mount Everest’, and A. atropurpureum.
Above: Allium varieties include A. nigrum, ‘Mount Everest’, and A. atropurpureum.

“The true character of the garden is formed with the layering of plants, which were selected to define the individual character of each area, but still be harmonious when journeying through the garden, the ‘journey’ being a very important aspect of the space,” Farlam says.

Foxgloves against a backdrop of Briza grasses.
Above: Foxgloves against a backdrop of Briza grasses.

Although the courtyard is buffered from sea salt and wind, a lot of the plants Farlam and Chandler chose (including lavender, rosemary, thyme, alliums, geraniums, angelica, iris, asters, fennel, and Erigeron) are salt tolerant. The fig trees provided the inspiration to use a lot of edible and medicinal plants, such as crabapple trees, valerian, angelica, and herbs.

Geranium pratense ‘Cloud Nine’.
Above: Geranium pratense ‘Cloud Nine’.

Before

“Despite how unloved the garden had first appeared, it still had a sense of magic and areas of privacy, which we wanted to retain as much as possible in the new layout of the garden,” says Farlam.
Above: “Despite how unloved the garden had first appeared, it still had a sense of magic and areas of privacy, which we wanted to retain as much as possible in the new layout of the garden,” says Farlam.

“The boundaries were completely overgrown with variegated ivy, making the garden feel very narrow and oppressive,” she says.

Concrete pavers held moisture, making the adjacent house feel damp and dingy.
Above: Concrete pavers held moisture, making the adjacent house feel damp and dingy.

After

 Two “characterful” fig trees frame the view of the simple dining terrace, which is reached via the sunken oak boardwalk through long borders either side,” Farlam says.
Above: Two “characterful” fig trees frame the view of the simple dining terrace, which is reached via the sunken oak boardwalk through long borders either side,” Farlam says.

Visible on either side of the dining terrace are the trunks of pleached crabapple trees, planted in the crushed shell surface. (The surface is a bespoke mix of crushed cockle shells with limestone chips and dust.) The crabapple trees provide both privacy and vertical interest.

“It was astonishing how many birds we had in the garden, we also didn’t want our new design to impact or discourage any wildlife. The existing fig trees were integral to this concept and we carefully cleared the shrubbery and trees around them to reveal them and allow them to act as focal points in the space,” Farlam says. “We stripped the boundaries of the ivy and painted the fences black, inspired by the fisherman huts on the beach, which immediately made the garden feel much bigger and the colors of the new planting pop against the dark backdrop.”

 Lavenders create loose sculptural balls in the gravel.
Above: Lavenders create loose sculptural balls in the gravel.

“The intensity of planting disperses as you pass beneath the two sculptural fig trees into a calm, refined palette of plants in the dining terrace, a simple rectangular space with centrally positioned table and chairs,” says Farlam.

The outdoor dining table and chair are by Danish design house Hay. For more, see Outdoor Furniture: Metal Lawn Chairs Made Modern.
Above: The outdoor dining table and chair are by Danish design house Hay. For more, see Outdoor Furniture: Metal Lawn Chairs Made Modern.
Cleft chestnut posts screen the rear area of the garden and the back gate from view from the dining terrace. Simple cold frames made from old sash windows create a utility area behind the screening. A potting bench and log store, with simple cold frames made from old sash windows, create a utility area behind the screening. A simple metal bench (also by Hay) is positioned to catch the last of the evening sun at the end of the garden.
Above: Cleft chestnut posts screen the rear area of the garden and the back gate from view from the dining terrace. Simple cold frames made from old sash windows create a utility area behind the screening. A potting bench and log store, with simple cold frames made from old sash windows, create a utility area behind the screening. A simple metal bench (also by Hay) is positioned to catch the last of the evening sun at the end of the garden.

The border in front of this screening is planted with less restraint than closer to the house, says Farlam: Thalictrum, purple fennel, eryngium, crambe, and poppies create “a riot of color and texture, loosely reflecting the plant palette found on the beach.”

Leslie Sells Houses

If you’re looking for more inspiration to design a small or narrow garden, start with our curated guides to Garden Design 101 for suggestions for Decks & PatiosPavers, and Perennials and Annuals. See more of our favorite Before & After projects:

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Most Important Summer Home Maintenance Projects

Being proactive when it comes to your home’s maintenance can save you time and money! Focus on maintaining these 5 areas

With the bright sunlight and warm temperatures that accompany summer, you may be spending more time outside — and you may be noticing areas of your home’s exterior that need repair. But there’s more reason to tackle your home maintenance projects this summer than simply cosmetic appearance. Maintaining your home will prevent major leaks and damage that may eventually require professional help, usually when its most expensive and inconvenient for you.

Being proactive when it comes to your home’s maintenance can save you time and money, and it makes sense to do it when you’re more likely to be outdoors in the comfortable summer months. Here are five areas of your house that are most important to keep updated.

  1. Windows

    Start by cleaning the exterior of your windows with hot soapy water and a sponge or squeegee. If you’ll need a ladder, make sure to review safety guidelines.

    While you’re washing, inspect each window pane for cracks. Double or triple glazed windows with damaged seals or cracks may need to be replaced. Think back: Have your windows had excessive condensation inside through the winter and spring? That’s another sign that the seal might have been compromised and that your window might need to be replaced.

    You’ll also want to inspect caulking and weatherstripping around your windows. Recaulk any spots where the caulk is loose or chipping away, or consider applying new caulk for a tight seal. Summer is a perfect time to do this because the warm temperatures and low humidity will help the caulk set perfectly.

    Finally, wash window screens and replace any screens that have rips or holes.

    1. Roof

 

Visually inspect your roof every summer for missing or broken shingles, shakes and panels. Again, if you’ll be using a ladder and climbing up to your roof, make sure you follow safety guidelines. If you have any concerns about using a ladder or moving around on your roof, or if you’re unsteady on your feet, call your roofing company. Most roofers will make inspections and do basic maintenance for you.

While you’re up on your roof, you’ll also want to check flashing and seals around vents, chimneys and skylights. Apply caulk around any areas that haven’t been re-sealed in the past year.

Algae and moss can plague even new and well-maintained roofs. Apply a moss killer designed for roofs or install zinc strips that can help keep algae and moss from taking hold.

Your gutters should be cleaned and checked for holes or other damage. Look for water stains around your gutters and downspouts that indicate a problem.

  1. Exterior

 

Check high and low over your exterior and look for holes, gaps and cracks in your siding. It’s less expensive to replace siding that is just starting to deteriorate than to wait until it’s broken down completely and impacted your home’s structure, insulation and inside walls.

While you’re walking around your home, look for any signs of pests. Termites and carpenter ants can be devastating to your home’s structure, while ants and wasps can be a nuisance and cause minor damage to your home’s exterior. Check vents and crawl-space access doors to make sure rodents and other wildlife can’t get in.

  1. Foundation

    Check your foundation for any cracks and signs that there has been a leak, such as water stains. Any small cracks can be repaired, but larger cracks should be inspected by a pro. Once you repair small cracks, re-seal the foundation with a good waterproof masonry sealer.

     

    Pull out any larger plants growing close to your home that might impact the foundation. Besides the risks of roots growing into your foundation, watering plants close to your home can cause water to pool around the foundation and lead to damage.

    5.Heating and CoolingYou’re going to want to make sure your air conditioning is ready for the heat ahead, so replace filters and remove and clean your unit’s fan and condenser. Make sure you turn off power to the unit before you tackle any work.

    At the same time, your furnace should be checked and readied for use again at summer’s end. Vacuum out the burner and blower cavities, and vacuum and brush the blower blades. Change the filter so the furnace is all ready to go when it’s time to turn it on again.

    Your home is a big investment, and it’s important to keep it in good “health.” Spend some of your summer days inspecting and making minor repairs and you’ll reduce your chances of needing a big repair later.

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