Taking Center Stage

“So, what did you learn in school today?” When my children were young, the typical response to that question was “nothing”. Now that I am back in school-for the third, and hopefully last time-everything I am learning is essential. Staging and Re-Design, my current class, is so helpful when learning how to make a home saleable in today’s volatile real estate market. The take-away from this class? Take away!! Remove the junk, reduce the clutter, neutralize the colors. Obviously, since you are selling your home, you don’t want to spend a lot of money to update it, but with a few simple tips, your home can look like a show house at any price point. You want prospective buyers to walk in and imagine their families and their belongings in your space. Remember that buyers come from anywhere and everywhere, so you want your rooms to be appealing to all. In poring over the MLS listings, we came across many rooms that were in dire need of some serious cleaning and editing. It simply amazes me that sellers can’t grasp why they need to clean off their kitchen counters, or de-officize their bedroom! However, what amazes me even more is the horrible photography on so many real estate websites! I mean, seriously? Would you even venture over to look at this scary place!!?! Is there not a mandatory photshop class for real estate brokers?!? If not, maybe that’s a niche market someone needs to explore.

When coach and I bought our house back in the 80’s, prices were at the 50K mark and rising, and interest rates were at 17%! At the mercy of our local realtors, we had no information regarding the houses we were being shown other than the asking price and the taxes. Nowadays, thanks to the likes of Realtor.com, Redfin and Trulia, there is a wealth of information regarding the properties you are looking to buy. Helpful, yes, but oftentimes the accompanying photographs are so dismal it could easily turn a buyer away before they even arrive on your doorstep! Digital cameras, folks! Iphones are great, but not for the purpose of creating a stunning portfolio! So here are a couple of spaces with some staging suggestions that will have potential buyers saying “ooohh!” instead of “eeek!!”

The Red Tablecloth Room. Do I need to even say it? Take it down. Too much furniture in a small space. Remove one of the matching pieces. Paint out the trim white. Not sure what that string of things is hanging from the ceiling, get rid of it.

Too small of a space with too much stuff. Paint out all that old knotty pine paneling to match the wall color. Neutralize that dark beam and trim by painting it white. Remove all the little pictures and knick knacks on the shelf and replace with one large mirror and a couple of candles. Old TV’s date a room, especially on an old little stand. Remove and if you need to have a TV for viewing, get a small 19″ that you can mount on the wall.

Way too much going on in this kitchen. Obviously very nice tile-work, not going to change that. The overall effect makes me nervous- too many patterns, too much color (and you know I am all about color!). Remove the valance over the sink and replace with a light bamboo roller shade. Why do you have a stove top covered with pans?!? Makes the prospective buyer think that there is not enough storage. Clean off the countertops. Put it all away!! Clean out those glass front cabinets and replace with simple white or cream dishware. Remove the ceiling fan and that little sconce over the sink if possible, with something more contemporary.

I mean seriously, what realtor walks into this space and at the very least doesn’t remove the dog crate!?! And then to post a crooked photo on the website? There is so much crap in this room, it’s silly to even post it. And believe me, this pic was one of the better ones. To me this screams, I’ll take your listing, but I don’t care if it sells or not.

The rock room! I have no idea if those are all real stones or not, but when you are trying to sell this home, a buyer is going to walk in there and think one of two things: wow, “that’s awesome”! or “no way I am tackling that project- how do I get rid of all that stone!?!” At the very least, take away the bold graphic rug and show off the hardwood floors. Maybe soften the look of the stone by painting the walls a pale gray. Neutralize that wooden door with a coat of matching paint.

This bedroom needs a stripping from ceiling to floor. That fan looks like it could cut someone’s head off if they sat up too quickly. Lose the striped wallpaper, open up the windows and take down those swags! Lose the gold rug, re-dress the bed in plain white “hotel” style sheets and comforter.

Too much of everything: paneling, furniture, lace. Take down the curtains, remove the tattered blue velvet sofa and the plaid one as well, paint the paneling a neutral color. Knotty pine was out in the 70’s!!! This room needs a focal point.

So there you have it. Just a few of the hundreds of horrible real estate pics I looked at. If you have a room you want to re-stage or re-design, for selling or just for living, send pic to countrydesignhome@gmail.com and I will try to help! In the meantime, step in to one of your rooms and look at it with fresh eyes, and see it as a potential buyer might. You will be amazed what you find! Happy Staging! Susan

Have a Whale of a Fourth!!

Before heading into Boston today to view the Tall Ships via Hestia Cruises (an early birthday gift from our kids : ), I was excited to give Mr. Whale the coffee table a new look. As soon as I saw him at the yard sale this past weekend, I knew he just needed a fresh face to return him to his former maritime glory! Since our back porch is red, white and blue, it only seemed appropriate to make him the patriotic focal point. Mr. Whale before:

During the transformation process: the whale wash

Sanding off the old shiny varnish

Painting the base (Coach did this while I was at work- one less thing for me!)

Designing the pattern (best not to do this after a long work day and a couple of wine coolers-makes for many mis-measures)

Taping off the design

first coat of red stripes (remember 7red, 6white…7red, 6white) taping makes for perfectly straight rows and sharp, clean edges

Addition of the stars on the blue background these little stickers were perfect as a stencil- stick on, spray over, peel off when dry! Couldn’t fit 50 stars, so decided to go with a random, funky look instead. My apologies to Robert G. Heft, the schoolboy who designed our current 50 star American flag for a school project…for which he received a B-!!!

Unfortunately, today is a damp, rainy one. Not great for Tall Ships viewing, and certainly not great for painting and glazing whales out on our makeshift workshop on the porch. Sooooo, here is Mr. Whale- patiently awaiting his glaze finish. Moby Dick never looked this good : )

Left to do (once the air dries and the sun comes out):

1. Sand one last time for a truly rustic, aged appearance

2. Antique glazing to add a touch of shine and protect Mr. Whale from the elements

3. Enjoy our new coffee table!!!

Have a whale of a Fourth everyone!! Susan

That’s A Crock!

Once again, this weekend flew by, along with my best intentions to work on the Hall of Shame. I know, it’s getting to be old news by now. But it was just so darn hot, especially in the hall, where heat rises and turns the upstairs into an inferno. The alternative? Hit the road in the CRV with the AC and music cranked up, on yet another trash to treasures hunt. Had some major scores, including these pretty vintage fruit compotes ($1.00!), this amazing pressed glass punch bowl set ($5.00!) and

…my new favorite piece of porch furniture- meet Mr. Whale!!! I have been searching for quite some time for a whale coffee table to replace one that Coach and I had acquired for our first apartment- is it possible that was 30+ years ago!?! Not sure why we ever gave it away the first time, but I am so happy to give this little guy a new home. We had (shall I say it?) a whale wash today, and it will be sanded, primed and painted, hopefully in time to celebrate the 4th in patriotic fashion. After a few yard sales, we made the trip to Todd Farm in Rowley, still searching for a final piece for the porch- a couch. Although I think we have done a fine job of filling the porch with vintage wicker, Coach has complained loudly and often that he needs a couch for his afternoon siesta. After months of fruitlessly searching yard sales, antique shops and

craigslist, we came upon this vintage Benchcraft rattan sofa. Vintage is putting it nicely. It is smelly, dirty, has UGLY cushions and some unexpected guests-yuck! These creepy little things started crawling out of the sides when we were hiking it up on to the roof rack. Brought back memories of Rod Serling’s Night Gallery– remember the episode when the earwig laid eggs in the guy’s brain and they hatched?!?!?!? Not sure if I will ever be able to lay down on this couch, but the reno has begun in ernest. Washed, bleached, cushions tossed. Stay tuned for the final results.

Along with the couch, Coach picked up yet another crock for his growing collection, this one a George Washington Commemorative Crock! (Click the link if you would like one of your very own)

Him being a history teacher and all, anything presidential always peaks his interest. Me being married to a history teacher, I am all about learning important historical origins. So I wanted to find out where the phrase “that’s a crock of Sxxx!“came from. Let’s just say the Romans could have used a little indoor plumbing while waxing philosophical.

Walking along the dusty paths of Todd Farm, saw some really cute vintage yellow kitchenware I love it when the dealers actually bring some sense of order and style to their offerings like these stacks of vintage crates

Anyone got the time?

I am kicking myself for not buying this beautiful set of Virgina Glassware- Tangerine Tango!!

But I am not kicking myself for not buying this clock. Vintage and pretty, but not sure if it worked (if there is a worm stuck on the second hand, does that slow the time?) and just saw it listed on Ebay for $10 less than the dealer wanted. Phew!

So that’s a wrap (gotta find out where that saying came from). Time to start sanding Mr. Whale. For those of you who have the whole week of the 4th off, have a great vacation! For the rest of you, does anyone have a red,white and blue punch recipe? If you do, send it to me at countrydesignhome@gmail.com and I will post it! Susan

Here Comes the Sun(flowers)

Dreary gray sky today, hot and humid-temps in the 90’s-severe thunderstorms,  per  the weatherman. Having my morning coffee on the back porch, looking at the exploding garden that all of a sudden needs some serious pruning and weeding. We have rose bushes, daisies, tiger lilies, phlox in several shades of purples and pinks (thanks to the cross-pollination from the bees : ). One forbidden flower in our garden? The Sunflower, aptly named because of their ability to follow the sun with their giant heads. Now, Coach loves sunflowers, perhaps because they are so big that they give a little extra bang for your buck? Me, not so much. They remind me of that giant man-eating Venus Fly Trap in “The Little Shop of Horrors”. (for those of you unfamiliar with this vintage cult film, click here. When I imagine those ginormous flowers hovering around my back porch, the phrase “what’s eating you” always comes to mind. Do you think there is such a thing as SAD (Sunflower Affected Disorder)? If so, I believe I may be afflicted with that particular malady. ..That being said, I do appreciate that sunflowers, with their bright yellow petals and chocolate brown anther (that’s the middle) can make a colorful impact in a small space. Because of the various shades of yellows and browns and golds, they are comfortable in any color scheme.

Most often used in what I consider to be rustic country decor (with chickens too!)sunflowers in today’s modern eclectic esthetic can add a touch of whimsy

a pop of color in an otherwise black and white and red scheme-LOVE THIS!)They can be bright and cheery or

add a bold contrast (yikes! this shower would slay me-literally!)

Sunflowers can bring a touch of country to a city dwelling

Or create a cozy colorful outdoor nook for reading and relaxing (where they are safely ensconced in that large glass cylinder : )

You might like to know that the color Yellow shines with optimism, enlightenment, happiness and energy and carries the promise of a positive future. Impressionist Vincent Van Gogh thought so, as they were a favorite subject, but most likely that was before he cut off his ear in the throes of depression…

Here’s hoping that this blog about Sunflowers will brighten your day!  Susan

Addendum: Dried Sunflower seeds are also a fun, nutritious treat that can be used in many recipes to add some crunch and flavor. This cold broccoli salad with raisins, bacon and sunflower seeds is a family favorite at any BBQ. DO NOT USE UNSHELLED SEEDS in this recipe! Lesson learned the hard way-literally. Have a sunny Friday!

 

L’Italia Con La Familia

“Italy With My Family” in Wanderlust Wednesdays

The first time I saw the movie “Under The Tuscan Sun“, I immediately added a stay in Tuscany to my bucket list. Longing became a reality the summer of 2010, when we rented suites in a rustic villa  Il Castello di Fulignano located on the hilly outskirts of the medieval town of San Giminano.

The living room…

The pool at sunset…The view from our villa…a gathering storm over San GiminanoThe streets of San Giminano were lined with shops and cafes, a feast for the eyes and the palate…this is me and coach having dinner in an outdoor cafe… 

We ventured out to see the tuscan countryside, with trips to Lucca

and Pisa…who could go there and not assume some crazy pose with the Leaning Tower??!

We enjoyed fabulous wine tastings (not quite as enjoyable at one villa, as we were shown the door by the somelier, whom we apparently insulted.) However, this wine came from a  farmhouse winery, Fattorio Poggio Alloro, where we enjoyed a delicious local lunch : )

We made day trips to Siena, home of the spectacular Duomo Di Siena (Cathedral of Siena) a Gothic marble treasure dating back to the 13th and 14th centuries and  Il Palio, an annual horse race through the city square harking back to medieval times.

 We toured Florence, the capital of the Tuscan region of Italy, and home of Michelangelo’s David (sorry, no picture-taking allowed)

and the Ponte Vecchio bridge, lovely at sunset.

Lovely vacation, spectacular scenery, amazing food and wine, beautiful people…next stop…Venice!!!  But that’s a blog for another day. Ciao! Susan

Vintage Flair on the Farm

Weekends around here are typically saved for yard work, house cleaning, reno projects and getting together with family and friends. Weekends are also earmarked for yard and estate sale-ing, trash to treasure hunting and attending an occasional country fair or arts festival. This past Saturday and Sunday, The Vintage Bazaar hosted ‘The Summer Bazaar and Music Festival” at Pettengill Farm in Salisbury, MA. Featuring local live musicians, food and over 125 vendors from 11 states, this fair was billed as “an inspiring experience for all the senses”, and it delivered on all points. Although we did not partake of the amazing variety of foods, the music was folksy and fun, but the star of the show was the variety of vintage vendors. Wandering through the gardens with rows of tents filled with antiques, collectibles, and loads of salvaged and upcycled furniture and household items, it was clear that everything old is absolutely new again.

Searching for unique and unusual, here are a few of my personal favorites:

Jwrobel, where we discovered these pillows created from old, threadbare wool carpets. To that end, the artist “sources her materials to be organic, fair trade, recycled, vintage, and/or re-purposed”. Where most would have seen junk, Jess, the studio artisan, saw art and stitched these timeless pillows, the perfect complement to any country home decor.

From Garden Guardians came these whimsical characters, born of concrete, created by Valerie McCaffrey of Ballard Street Studios in Portland Maine. These mysterious stone faces are fashioned to add grace and charm to your natural landscape.

“If I Only Had a Heart” sang the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz. He would have found his in this amazing shop, “Tin Hearts”, where metal artist Carol Mataruso creates these fanciful dolls from “anything and everything”. “Reborn, with lost objects and a new heart”.  Extraordinary.  

There were loads of booths with all sorts of salvaged, re-purposed, re-painted furniture. The best of the bunch, in my humble opinion, were at the “Vintage Chic Boutique”. Painstakingly hand-painted, distressed and waxed by Kimberley Wilson and Sheila Bussone, using Annie Sloan Chalk Products, these recycled pieces were eye-catchingly colorful and sooo “country pretty”.

Reminiscent of a 30’s flapper dress, this “A Dress Book” was created by artisan Susan Perrine with “fringe” made from hundreds of pieces of childrens books stitched on to silk! I haven’t quite figured out the logistics of wearing this outfit and actually sitting down, but it sure would turn some heads-as it did mine while I was attempting to read the mini pages!

These epic pieces of rusted iron sculpture would be at home guardingany fortress or castle. Larger than life, striking in appearance, handcrafted by Gordon Frost of Rusty Iron Art.

A few vintage vignettes at Eccentrique…

And finally…be still my heart…This perfect little vintage turquoise VW Beetle, re-purposed and morphed into a bug with a rump, this inventive traveling design studio by Holly Gagne Interior Design caught my eye.

Stuffed with pillows that created a vintage vibe, with a sheepskin driver’s seat, and a little pop-up window to sell your wares.

Recycling and re-purposing at its best….and so perfectly country cute!!!

So next time you see a sign pointing the way to an arts fair or bazaar, make it a “Hobbit” to check it out. You never know what you might find!  Susan

PS: Does anyone know where I can find an old VW Beetle, circa 1968?

Airing It Out(side)

It’s Friday here in the Boston area, and finally a relief from the blistering heat that has blanketed the state for the past few days. Today’s forecast is for temps in the 80’s with some thundershowers to cool things off. Every year, it seems as if we get one brief preview of the upcoming summer heat, and it is always then that Coach states “we need to get the air conditioners in the windows TODAY.” Now let me point out that I have attempted to persuade him, on more than one occasion, that perhaps central air conditioning might be a wise investment, saving us from the annual “haul them out of the closets and install them in the windows” dance that we do with the portable AC units. He is of the belief, however, that if James Buchanan (the US President when our house was built in 1857) could live in the White House without air conditioning, then we should be of hardy enough stock to do the same. Can I point out that I am almost 100% certain that the White House is now centrally air-conditioned in 2012!?!

SO… the dance begins. We go searching in the closets for three units, one for each upstairs window. Since our home is a cape cod style house, we are essentially living in the attic upstairs- hotter than blazes during a heat wave. Then I remember that the unit we had in our bedroom previously had finally kicked the bucket last summer and was tossed. I also recalled that the one previous to that had an unfortunate and abrupt ending to its “shelf-life”. The story goes something like this:

Coach: “Come help me get this AC unit in the window. (as he hoists it up on to the inside windowsill). Can you hold this for a minute?”

Me: “OK” (as I place ONE FINGER against the unit to stabilize it-you know where this is going, right?)

Coach: “OK, I just need to adjust the tilt angle” (as he whips the window open!)

Me: “Oh, x#$#!!!!” (yeah, that fingertip balance thing not happening- air conditioner falls out of the window and smashes to the ground two stories below)

Coach (angrily): “Why the hell did you let it go!?!?!?!?” (as he stomps down the stairs to go retrieve the unit. Actually, he had to dig it out of the muddy ground…he was not amused) This is not the actual pic, although it would be nice to live next door to a wine bar…

Me: Immediately pick up the phone and call my mom- who else do you call when you need a friend, a shoulder to cry on or to share something so ridiculously funny!? She can’t understand what I am saying because I am doubled-over, laughing hysterically…until I hear Coach coming back up the stairs, broken air conditioner in his arms, covered in dirt with sprays of grass sticking out of the bent and broken corners (this was before cell phones with cameras- so unfortunately, no pics)

Needless to say, that AC unit never made it back into the window, the EPA frowns on leaking Freon into the ozone layer- apparently that hole is big enough already.

Two units down, one to go. The installation of AC #3-the last unit standing-was pretty uneventful despite the fact that it was Wednesday night at 8 PM, and we were both hot and tired. This unit is very old-it’s not even DIGITAL!! Therefore, the two “wingy” things- you know, the little accordians that you pull over to the side to block out the bugs and birds and stuff? Well that was broken…on both sides. Duct tape to the rescue. Desperate times call for desperate measures. At least the gray matches my night stand. And, I discovered another use for duct tape- cup holders for margaritas!!!

Hope you have a cool day…Susan

Shipping Up to Portland

No need to cross the pond this week! In New England, we have so many lovely coastal cities and towns on the Atlantic, so we decided to head Down Maine, as the saying goes (yes, it doesn’t make sense, since we were heading north, but click the link for the history). This past Saturday, husband (we call him Coach around here) and I drove to Portland, primarily to visit some shops we had seen at Brimfield a couple of months back. Just an hour+ ride away, Portland has loads to offer for a fun day-trip from Boston: a lovely seaport district, antique shops and restaurants, The Portland SeaDogs AA Baseball Team and of course, lobstah. First stop-My Sister’s Garage, an antique farmhouse on the side of Rte 302, filled with stunning displays, all sorts of antiques, textiles and

vintage, re-purposed furniture, restored and re-designed on the premises. How “country pretty” is this white lacy bedroom and dining room?!! Dreamy!!  Vintage vignettes throughout the shop… kitchy kitchen and wondrous wedding dress. 

Made my first purchase of the day, this cute throw pillow created from vintage tea towels, which now sits proudly on the porch.

Headed back down 302, stopping at The Ruby Slipper, an antiques co-op. Spotted this charming painted china hutch filled with pretty pink china.

After that came a yard sale or two, then on to Pendexters. Funky little building…no website…loving this sign…furniture and bric-a-brac stacked to the ceiling.

Next stop, Portland Architectural Salvage Company. Anything you could possibly need or want to refurbish an old home is stuffed into this 4 story warehouse.

Whether you’re searching for doors or windows, bathroom fixtures or just miscellaneous junk, you will find it here. Hmmm, this sign might be perfect for me…

Around the corner we stumbled upon an indoor flea market, where we purchased this giant pottery crock. Coach seems to think it will be a fine fire-wood holder for the long winter months.

On to Portland’s Seaport District, once a major commercial and shipping port, that is now home to dozens of shops and boutiques lining the cobblestone streets. 

Ranging from the funky t-shirt genre of Cool as a Moose to high end pottery and jewelry from

Edgecomb Potters, and stunning interiors from Simply Home and

Nicolas Homes, by Nicola Manganello, there is literally something for everyone, including a piece of the Berlin Wall! Of course, after all that driving and shopping, we needed a treat, so off we went to find Two Fat Cats Bakery, serving up scrumptious “made-from-scratch” sweets.

Had to try a chocolate/raspberry whoopie pie, and this Bourbon Pecan Pie was so beautiful, we couldn’t leave it on the shelf- and at $22.00- it was worth every sticky, crunchy, yummy bite!

So if you happen to live in the Boston area, and are looking for a fun way to spend a warm spring day, take a ride on Rte 1 North down to Portland.

Hope your Wednesday is full of wander…Susan

Cookin’ Up Country Kitchens

I love a beautiful, sleek, contemporary kitchen with sparkling Italian cabinets and state of the art appliances as much as the next cook. But having a “Country Pretty” point of view, nothing sets my heart aflutter and my taste buds dancing more than an eclectic, rustic, country kitchen. While searching for design concepts and ideas for my own kitchen reno, my eye was always drawn to pretty pastel colors, hand-hewn finishes and just a touch of bling. A few of my favorites…

this one is from Apartment Therapy… simple yet sophisticated

I love the overall feel of this kitchen from another era, especially the use of the mahogany buffet as an island!

A perfect style for a cottage down by the shore

kitchen from Elle Decor…that table!!!

stainless steel and hand hewn beams makes a perfect island

Country Living…charming and colorful

One perfect appliance for a country kitchen- the Aga Cooker

My kitchen reno…when we moved in 30+ years ago, there were pink formica countertops, utensil and soy sauce wallpaper (no, not splashed on it, actually printed on it!), knotty pine cottage cabinets. Many years of painting, re-painting, changing the formica and the stick-down linoleum taught me one thing: you can only put lipstick on a pig so many times before you finally give in and go for the full-on gut and remodel.

My kitchen after many attempts to “spruce it up”…

my kitchen gutted to the rafters… we discovered the roof was being supported by hand-hewn 2 x 4’s!!

My kitchen today…LOVE. Every day when I walk in my back door and turn the corner, it makes me smile. It truly is the life of our home. Modern functioning Kitchenaid appliances, my fabulous chandelier from Lt. Willard Moses, accessories primarily from HomeGoods (where else?). My favorite area is the alcove over the stove. Tucked behind the beams, it is the perfect spot for seasonal decorating : ) I found a little cupboard at Todd Farm in Rowley that is perfect for displaying our collection of pewter and silver. And of course, no country kitchen would be complete without a rustic sign…All you new kitchen wanna-be’s be forwarned!!!. It is always best to read the owner’s manual prior to using your new-fangled appliances. Apparently the people who designed my “warmer drawer”, did not do so with the intent of my storing vintage towels and aprons…suffice to say that the Wakefield’s finest had a bit of a chuckle once they discovered the source of the smoke billowing from the oven…hubby not so amused when he discovered the three things I grabbed on the way out the door…Daisy the dog, my Ipad and my Iphone. What else does a girl need?!?

Hope you’re cookin’ up a great Tuesday!

Susan

“My Father Always Promised Us…

that we would live in France.” With a haunting melody and lyrics describing a life of longing, Judy Collins composed this song in 1969, as a loving tribute to her father, who taught her to dream. He died shortly thereafter, never having heard her perform it. I hope you enjoy this musical montage (click here for the music) and Happy Father’s Day!

                

               “My father always promised us, that we would live in France

We’d go boating on the Seine

And I would learn to dance.

                            We lived in Ohio then, he worked in the mines

                    On his dreams like boats, We knew we would sail in time

                                    All my sisters soon were gone

                                         To Denver and Cheyenne

                               Marrying their grownup dreams

                                            The lilacs and the man

       I stayed behind the youngest still,  Only danced alone,  The colors of my father’s dreams, Faded without a sound

And I live in Paris now My children dance and dream

             Hearing the ways of a miner’s life, In words they’ve never seen…

                    I sail my memories of home, Like boats across the Seine

            And watch the Paris sun,  As it sets in my father’s eyes again…”

Have a lovely father’s day… Susan

 

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