4 Benefits of Smart Lighting

When it comes to your mobile phone or your tablet, you adjust the display lighting for the setting you’re in, for a bright sunlight or a dark room, for example, and perhaps to save battery power. In your home, you may have dimmer switches in certain rooms for different moods or tasks, and maybe even timers on certain lights.


Smart Lighting


1. Custom Lighting

What if you could adjust the lighting in your home and even turn them on and off remotely, with a few taps on your smartphone or tablet? You can schedule lights to come on shortly before members of your family come home, or create custom “blends” of lighting. You need different lighting for reading or doing homework than for watching a movie on the couch, and you may want different lights on in different rooms when you’re away and you want passersby to think someone’s home.

2. Save Energy

Smart bulb apps empower you to save lighting settings for one room or many, so it’s easy to replicate lighting settings. You can also use a connected switch to control a series of bulbs.

3. Save Money

You can save money on your utility bill this way, and in turn, reduce your carbon footprint, plus an added bonus: you might be able to boost your productivity, leaving more time for R&R.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that in 2014, residential lighting use was about 14% of total electricity consumption in the home, and is the second biggest home utility expense after heating.

Smart bulbs, according to one manufacturer, require 80% less energy, and the bulbs can last for 15,000 hours, which is 2 years if you left them on constantly. They are a bit of an upfront investment, but you can save approximately $ 35 per year per bulb.

4. Easy Installation

You no longer need to have a huge electrical overhaul or even an electrician to install automated lights, sensor-based dimming. The technology has evolved to become so user-friendly that most of it are DIY. Many smart bulbs fit standard light sockets, and are connected through Wi-Fi or the aforementioned apps.

When it comes to purchasing and installing smart lighting, think about the following:

  • Who spends time in this room? How much?
  • What do people do in this room?
  • Can you see this room from the outside?

You may want to start with a starter kit and a few bulbs in locations where you want to customize the lighting experience, or to save money because you know family members leave lights on in particular rooms even when they’re not occupying it.

You can even add color bulbs, so when your favorite team scores the lighting can change to team colors, or schedule lights in your bedroom to come on gradually to wake you.

Thomas Edison would marvel at the possibilities.


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4 Benefits of Smart Lighting was originally published on Southern Classic Realtors – Nivla Calcinore – Bringing You Home


10 Ways to Add a Pop of Color to Your Kitchen

Does your kitchen have a case of the drabs? Truly the central gathering spot of many homes, it may need a jolt to liven it, like a shot of espresso in the morning. Take a shot at playing with color. Well placed use of color in your kitchen can give it the feeling of more energy.

You don’t have to overload your kitchen with color to make a bright statement. The following ideas will help to add a little or a lot of color to breathe new life into your home’s hub.

1. Accent Wall

Paint or tile one wall with a colorful splash to instantly change the mood and look of your kitchen.

Accent Wall Kitchen

2. Cabinets

Paint your cabinets a favorite color, perhaps drawing from a favorite vintage linen or tablecloth, or even dishes. If you’re feeling bold, paint cabinets one color and the walls a contrasting but complementary color.

If you want to test out a smaller area, play with painting small areas around the cabinets a contrasting color. The walls under your cupboards, a small area above the backsplash or above the cabinets all give you a chance to try out different colors.

Pale Blue Kitchen Cabinets

3. Appliances and Accessories

Experiment with different colors for accessories like dishes, dishtowels, spatulas, small appliances like toasters and blenders, or larger ones such as the refrigerator or stove.

Teal Refrigerator

4. Paint or Wallpaper Inside Shelves

If you’re afraid of committing to color, try painting or wallpapering the inside back wall of open shelving, or paint the inside of cabinets for a cheery surprise when you open the cabinet doors.

Blue Interior Kitchen Cabinet

5. Flooring

A colorful rug is easy to switch out with the season or your mood, or go a bit more permanent with colored accent tiles on your flooring.

Red Kitchen Rug

6. Kitchen Island

Make your island stand out by painting the outside of a kitchen island a color that contrasts with the counter top and the rest of the cabinets.

Rustic Kitchen Island

7. Ceiling

The ceiling is often overlooked, but it’s a large, open canvas to play with color. A sunny yellow could mimic a sunny day or a cool blue can tone things down.

Blue Kitchen Ceiling

8. Seating

Instead of wood stained or metallic ones, try candy-colored chairs or stools.

Yellow Kitchen Stools

9. Soften Up

If bold colors are not your style, soft pastels can add a colorful warmth to the room.

Pastel Kitchen

10. Add Art

A colorful poster, piece of art or even vintage ads can add color in a size that fits your space, and can be changed out when the mood strikes.

Kitchen Wall Art


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10 Ways to Add a Pop of Color to Your Kitchen was originally published on Southern Classic Realtors – Nivla Calcinore – Bringing You Home

Spring Cleaning 101: Make It Fast, Easy and Effective

Spring is the perfect time to open up the windows in your house and clean every surface inch. But don’t waste precious hours of spring sunshine while you stay in and clean.

Use these 10 tips to quickly get your home spic and span.

Have a plan

When it comes to spring cleaning, the best approach is an organized approach. “I recommend having a plan, which includes an outline of the areas you plan to clean, a schedule with time slotted to do that work (for you and any family members), as well as a list of products, tools and even cleaning techniques or tips pertaining to those areas,” says Melissa Maker, blogger and host of the popular YouTube show “Clean My Space.”

Choose the right supplies

When you’re making your spring cleaning plan, take inventory of what supplies you need to gather to begin cleaning. Once you figure out what you need, be sure to choose the most effective and powerful cleaning supplies so that the product is doing most of the work – not you.

Clean room by room

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you are going from room to room to complete various tasks. Choose to target one room at a time so you can see the results of your productivity quickly and not get discouraged.

Work smarter, not harder

Don’t scrub any more than necessary. Simple steps like soaking pots and pans before you scrub them, waiting for cleaning products to sit before you wipe down surfaces, and using the self-cleaning setting on your oven can save you tons of time.


Clean your cleaning supplies

Did you know your cleaning supplies, such as sponges or microfiber cloths, are most likely the dirtiest items in your home? It goes without saying that you can’t effectively clean your home with dirty supplies. So be sure to disinfect sponges or other cleaning supplies in a mixture of one part bleach and nine parts water for 30 seconds.

Don’t forget the …

There are several items in our homes that we often forget to clean on a regular basis. Among forgotten items, Maker recommends cleaning behind the oven, bathroom exhaust fans, refrigerator coils, and window coverings.

Focus on the MIAs

Spring cleaning can be a huge undertaking (especially depending on the size of your home), so Maker suggests focusing on the MIAs, or the Most Important Areas. When deciding which area to choose, think about the most visible ones, like the living room or home office.

Get rid of the clutter

You can never truly have a clean and tidy home if you are buried in your own stuff. When cleaning out your things, remember the 80/20 rule: Only 20 percent of the items we own are truly important – so 80 percent of our belongings are just getting in the way.

Hire a professional for large jobs

While many of us would be happy to tackle tasks like power washing the exterior of the house or shampooing the carpets and rugs, most of us probably don’t have the tools or experience necessary to do a sufficient job. Get friends’ recommendations on local cleaning companies that can get larger tasks done while everyone is at work or school.

Figure out ways to be more efficient in the future

While you are cleaning and organizing your home, take note of all the clutter that you most often find. For example, if you are finding that most of your clutter is paper, figure out the best ways to go paperless throughout the year.


Originally published March 24, 2016.


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Spring Cleaning 101: Make It Fast, Easy and Effective was originally published on Southern Classic Realtors – Nivla Calcinore – Bringing You Home

Before & After: A Lighter, Brighter Southwestern Home

Territorial architecture and the Southwest go together like deserts and sunsets. But for one partially retired couple in Phantom Hills, AZ, the syle of their mountainside home felt more dated than charming.

The couple enlisted Ernesto Garcia, an award-winning interior designer based in Phoenix, to update the kitchen and bathroom, which hadn’t been touched since the mid- to late 1970s.

Here’s a look at how Garcia transformed the home.

The kitchen

“[The homeowner] said she wanted to feel like Doris Day in her kitchen every morning,” Garcia recalls. “She wanted something happy.” Her husband, a gourmet cook, wanted ample space for preparing meals.

The couple’s other requests included a large bar to entertain friends, and a breakfast nook for informal dinners.

Remodeling the space to suit their needs posed an interesting challenge. Because most territorial homes tend to feature what Garcia calls a “fan floor plan,” the rooms end up being narrow and curved. Garcia says these homes give you access to vast views, but they require a certain skill set to use the space wisely.

Before: The old, dated kitchen lacked light, and offered no functional spaces for entertaining.
Before: Drab colors sucked light from the kitchen, and the square layout fought the home’s fan floor plan.

“My approach was to respect the curves,” he explains.

He added the clever ensemble of island, bar, and cocktail table to follow the flow of the home. “It makes the space’s circulation and its functions a lot more efficient,” Garcia says.

After: Garcia breathed new life into the space with colors and patterns inspired by the home’s desert surroundings.

After: A curved island and bright colors bring functionality and style to the kitchen.The designer also aimed to pay homage to the home’s Southwestern roots. Garcia says that the custom-built window seat not only highlights the striking view, but also features Navajo-woven fabric from the 1920s.

“The pillows pick up the various reds in the Navajo fabric, while the cabinets, made of knotty alder wood, create a harmonious dialogue between the existing architecture and the materials,” he notes.

After: The custom-built window seat highlights striking desert views.

Garcia, who worked on the project for nearly six months, says the clients wished to keep the fireplace and beams, which made sense, given the latter’s radial layout.

“Everything conveys movement,” he says. “I liken it to the waves of a tide.”

After: The new layout complements the home’s existing radial beams.

The bathroom

For the bathroom, the biggest priority was to bring in more light and make use of the narrow, curved space.

Out went the old Jacuzzi with its bulky brick base, and in went an oval-shaped tub with contemporary fixtures. A panel of frosted glass was placed in the wall behind it, allowing light from the vanity windows to stream in.

Before: Bathed in brown, the old bathroom felt dark and closed in.
After: A clean, neutral palette drenches the small bathroom in light and modernity.

In the small shower, Garcia placed subway tiles in an unconventional vertical pattern to get around the tight curves.

The vanity, meanwhile, got a facelift with new mirrors and face-level light fixtures.

After: Vertical subway tile and a modern bathtub open and brighten the space.

Garcia is particularly proud of the rift-oak vanities, which he chose for their smoky gray finish.

“Here in the desert, wood will often turn that beautiful color if it’s left out to dry in the sun,” he explains.

After: Garcia gives a nod to the home’s Southwestern roots in the bathroom cabinets’ finish.

Get the look at home

Inspired by Garcia’s Southwestern design? Here’s how to pull off the look in your own home.

  • Tell a story with color. For Garcia, that meant choosing bathroom linens with subtle variations of ivories, browns, and other tones that reminded him of Navajo rugs. In the kitchen, it meant choosing white counters encrusted with blue glass that played off the tones of the backsplash.
  • Obey the architecture. Rather than strip the home of the very aspects that made it unique, Garcia took pains to respect its curves, using a modest vocabulary that incorporated something of the Southwest. “The kitchen island, for instance, is an organic derivation of the architecture,” he says.
  • Keep what you can. “The island and cocktail table are the main features that define the character of the kitchen,” says Garcia. But many old parts remain. The traditional kitchen floor was refurbished, while the fireplace and ceiling beams were left untouched.

Photos courtesy of Ernesto Garcia Interior Design


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Before & After: A Lighter, Brighter Southwestern Home was originally published on Southern Classic Realtors – Nivla Calcinore – Bringing You Home

How to Make Your Small Space Work for You

By Erica Sooter

Do you have a small space in your home that you’re unsure what to do with? Or is your cramped apartment forcing you to be creative in your living arrangements? You’re not alone.

Make your small room or living area fit your needs with clever solutions that will streamline your life and maximize your space.

Paint can work wonders

Choosing the right paint color for your small room can instantly give the impression of more space or emphasize it’s cozy feel. Traditional neutrals like whites, creams and light grays are a great choice because they provide a clean and streamlined look, while making the room feel brighter and more expansive.

Painting the ceiling white to draw the eye upward is an easy way to create visual openness overhead. You’ll have an airy and inviting space in no time.

paint it white

Courtesy of Orlando Soria.

Conversely, if you want to play up the small space vibe even more, go bold with dark colors. It’s a fun and unique design choice to emphasize the smallness of a room by making a cozy den-like atmosphere with colors like black, dark gray and navy.

paint it black

Courtesy of Allison Lind.

Whether you decide to go light or dark, adding paint to your small space will help you get the effect you are going for in a quick and budget-friendly way.

Savvy storage

With tight spaces, there isn’t always room for all the storage needed for belongings, clothing, office supplies and more. By incorporating creative and flexible storage solutions, you can easily keep clutter out of sight, while still keeping everything you need handy.

For example, the kitchen is a great place to implement clever storage. Roll-away islands and pantries create an adjustable cooking area to fit your needs.

kitchen storage

Courtesy of Sandra Bird.

Add storage by using the space beneath your cabinets for hanging spices or wine glasses, and attaching holders to the backs of cabinet doors to keep foil and cleaning supplies neatly out of sight.

hanging storage

Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

Don’t forget about uncommon spaces like ceilings for hanging items like bicycles out of the way, or adding shelving high up in closets for rarely used items.

Multi-tasking furniture

When you have limited floor space, it’s important to make your furniture work double duty. Choose pieces that have hidden storage and multiple functions, or can be compacted and stored when not in use.

folding bed

Courtesy of Caron Architecture.

If you can’t fit a dresser in your bedroom, try using drawers or crates under the bed for clothing and extra linens. A pouf or leather ottoman can easily transition from a seat to a footrest or side table.

Add function to your entryway by employing a bench with storage inside to hide extra shoes, gloves, and scarves. And if you have wall space to spare, hang a fold-down dining table.

folding table

Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

Using modular pieces that can serve different purposes or fold out of the way frees up room to make your space comfortable and livable for you and your guests.

Limited square footage doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice function and style. Small space living is a great way to lead a simplified and streamlined life. With creative thinking, you can go from a cluttered, cramped mess to an organized and inviting space with room for all.


Erica Sooter is the blogger behind Dwell Beautiful, an interior design and DIY/craft blog specializing in advice and tutorials for those on a budget. She and her husband are new homeowners living in the beautiful PNW and are making over their home one room at a time. Follow her on Pinterest and Instagram.

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How to Make Your Small Space Work for You was originally published on Southern Classic Realtors – Nivla Calcinore – Bringing You Home

3 Home Improvements Even a Beginner DIYer Can Tackle

New homeowners rapidly learn an expensive lesson: The handyman costs money – and that running list of home fix-its adds up quickly.

Fortunately for beginner do-it-yourselfers, you don’t have to invest in a trunk full of tools for basic upgrades and fixes; most require minimal investment in time and equipment.

Taking control and transforming your living space into a reflection of your own personal taste can be both simple and rewarding. Try it this weekend with any of these straightforward home projects that even beginning DIYers can master.

Create open storage with floating shelves

Sleek, open shelving is not only fashionable, but functional, too. Wall shelves are some of the trendiest additions in the homes of today’s DIY decorators, holding displays of cherished photos in the living room or bedroom and laden with dishes and bowls in the kitchen.


Courtesy of Fraley and Company.

The first step in installing this wall storage – or anything that hangs, for that matter- is to determine the composition of your walls. If the wall sounds hollow when you tap it with your fist, it’s likely drywall; if it sounds solid, it’s probably plaster.

For either, you’d ideally want to attach the shelf brackets securely to a wall stud, which can be located using a simple stud finder. If you can’t, affix it with anchors: hollow ones for plaster walls, butterfly or toggle varieties for drywall.

Now, measure and mark the spaces on the wall (on both ends) of where you want the shelf to go, and use a level to pencil a line across the wall where your shelf will sit.

Drill pilot holes into the wall for the anchors, and insert them following the manufacturer’s directions on the package. Then align your bracket with the anchor-filled pilot holes and mount using a regular screwdriver.

To finish, top your brackets with a simple shelf – glass, metal, or wood – and put your new storage spot to work.

Enhance energy efficiency and privacy with window film

While bright, sunny spaces can certainly be attractive, too much of a good thing can be bad. A flood of natural light fades rugs and upholstery over time, and causes air conditioning bills to skyrocket in the summer.

Fortunately, a compromise exists, and it’s stocked in the aisles at your home improvement store: window film. Applied directly to the glass, this thin polyester or vinyl layer can help shrink energy bills, enhance privacy, and even strengthen a window – all under the guise of a decorative touch.


Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

To adhere window film, spray both it and the inside surface of the window with a soapy solution. Stick the film to your window glass and then trim around the border, leaving about 1/16 inch between the film and the window frame. This will allow the window glass to expand and contract with changing temperatures.

Smooth out any bubbles in the film with a squeegee, and let it dry completely. After the few days it takes to cure, you can resume cleaning the tinted window once more – just stick to a soft cloth and non-abrasive cleanser to avoid scratching and prolong the film’s effectiveness.

Brighten with new light fixtures

Searching for a surefire way to dress up a room? Look up: Swapping out old, “builder’s special” light fixtures for something more stylish – a funky-modern chandelier or chic pendant lighting – can reinvent a space’s mood, all without the help of an electrician.

chandelier sm

Photo by Donna Dotan Photography, courtesy of Claire Paquin.

As with any electrical project, first flip off the lights and cut power to the room via the main breaker panel. Then, climb atop a sturdy ladder to detach the old fixture cover, remove wire connectors, and untwist the light’s wires from the main power wires. Finally, take down the remaining base or trim.

Next, new light fixture in hand, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for matching its wires to the main wires installed in your home. (Hint: Corresponding colors typically connect.)

Use a wire stripper to remove the protective coating from the ends of the light’s wires, then wrap each newly uncovered wire around the metal end of its match, and screw on the connectors. At the same time, attach the fixture’s grounding wire (often green) to the existing grounding screw.

Fold all wiring back into the electrical box, and use the new light’s included hardware to attach the fixture base or canopy over it.

Once you’ve screwed in the recommended bulbs, turn on the circuit at your electrical panel and flip the light switch to the fixture. When you’ve confirmed that it works properly, attach the trim and cover to your new ceiling light, and bask in the glow of your finished project.

See more home design inspiration for your next project.


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3 Home Improvements Even a Beginner DIYer Can Tackle was originally published on Southern Classic Realtors – Nivla Calcinore – Bringing You Home

Designer Lookbook: Wendy Berry’s Beach-Chic Condo

In the Naples, FL Kalea Bay high-rise, interior designer Wendy Berry of W Design Interiors outfitted a 3,600-square-foot condo in sandy and white hues, creating a sophisticated beach-chic vibe.

“We kept it clean, fresh, and not overly decorated,” says Berry. “We wanted it to feel expensive, but we also wanted it to be a home you could comfortably sit down in.”

Rich oak floors from Vincenzo by Legno Bastone warm up the light and airy 4-bedroom, 4-bathroom condo. Playing off the floor’s color, Berry used a monochromatic palette throughout.

“I always load things up with texture – using different shades of creams with different textiles and patterns,” she says of the colors used throughout the home. Berry furnished the home with her custom furniture line, W Home Collection.

The home features an open floor plan, so Berry used various architectural elements to delineate spaces. In the great room, for instance, a wooden herringbone ceiling defines the space, which is bordered by the bar, dinette, and kitchen.

A custom built-in wooden entertainment unit was centered under the ceiling treatment to further define the space, and a mirrored backsplash bounces light around, since there’s only one wall of windows.

When you get off the elevator and enter the condo, a large floor-to-ceiling mirror is framed in a stack of bleached walnut. “I took the mirror from the ceiling to the floor with no molding so it has the appearance of a doorway,” says Berry.

Berry had a beautiful custom wood wine cabinet constructed, which also sits in the entryway. Wine is displayed on pegs and encased in glass.

In the bright and cheery kitchen, Shaker-style cabinets are painted a crisp white and paired with Victoria quartz countertops that have a marble appearance. The backsplash features hand-glazed Erin Adams Designs tile that has a pearly sea glass look to it.

Contemporary pendant lights over the bar complement the chandelier hanging above the dining room table.

In one of the guest rooms, Berry created a nautical vibe by covering the walls in a cost-effective faux shiplap. She applied 1-by-1-inch strips horizontally across the walls and painted them in White Dove OC-17 from Benjamin Moore.

In another guest room, Berry saved money by painting two-toned panels on the walls in lieu of using actual wood molding. Benjamin Moore’s White Dove OC-17 was used to create a 4-inch perimeter on the wall, with the center painted in Sherwin Williams 7029 Agreeable Gray.

Bathrooms throughout the condo were covered in bold printed wall coverings – nautical Bold Chains by Wallquest, black-and-white Treasure Collection in Feather from Zimmer + Rohde, and dragon fly-printed Demoiselle in Graphite/Almond from Harlequin. And in the laundry room, a subtle gray boat-printed wallpaper – Yacht Blueprint from Wallquest – adds character to the walls.

One of the bedrooms was transformed into a den, with two oversized chaise lounges that double as twin beds. Berry infused the room with Native American-inspired decor, like feather fabric, tribal artwork, and an Aztec-patterned rug. The ceiling was covered in a wood grain wallpaper – Chene from Nobilis.

“We always give our master [bedrooms] a very calm, soft feeling so people feel ready to sleep and relax,” says Berry of the tranquil space that’s decorated in blue and white.

To complement the relaxing master bedroom, Berry created a bathroom that resembles a spa-like sanctuary, with white cabinetry, quartz countertops, polished floors, an oversized shower, and a freestanding tub.

Take the full home tour:

Get the look at home

  • To achieve the shiplap look for less, apply 1-by-1-inch strips to walls horizontally, approximately 8 inches apart around the room, and then paint the wall white.
  • For the appearance of two-tone wall paneling, tape off a pattern of panel molding on the walls, then paint the inside panels in a darker shade and the perimeter area white.
  • “Brighten small bathrooms with daring and fun wallpaper for a big look in a small space,” Berry says.
  • “Accessories make the room design come to life,” says Berry. With shelving, she advises layering decorative pieces, like book stacks, decorative glass bowls, artifacts, and picture frames. “Then balance the the next shelf with something simple, like one larger bowl or sculpture.”

See more design inspiration on Zillow Digs.

Photos by Doug Thompson.


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Designer Lookbook: Wendy Berry’s Beach-Chic Condo was originally published on Southern Classic Realtors – Nivla Calcinore – Bringing You Home

6 Unusual Tips for Pool Care

If you have a pool, odds are, you know the usual maintenance tips — vacuuming, skimming, maintaining water and pH levels, changing filters — like the back of your hand. And you probably also know that keeping up with routine maintenance can be a real pain when all you want to do is enjoy your pool.

Here are six hacks you can use to keep your pool clean — and make your summer a bit more relaxing.

1. Supercharge that skimmer

Skimmer baskets already do a great job filtering out leaves and other debris from your pool, but they also leave a lot behind.

How to make that skimmer work harder? Take an old pair of pantyhose and wrap them around the baskets. Hair, sand, and fine dirt are no match for the teeny-tiny holes in the fabric. Remember to clean out the baskets once a week, and skim the surface for large debris every few days or as needed.

2. Natural bug banishers

Bugs are not only a nuisance to sunbathers and swimmers, but after they’ve buzzed their last buzz? A pest to clean up as well.

Whether they end up in your skimmer baskets or floating on the surface, keep them at bay by planting lemongrass nearby. The plant’s skin contains citronella, which helps ward off mosquitoes. If wasps and hornets are a problem, create a decoy wasps’ nest by filling a brown paper bag with plastic grocery bags. Generally, the stinging bugs won’t build a nest within 200 feet of an existing one (even if it’s a fake).

3. Use baking soda

Baking soda is a powerhouse outside the kitchen — for cleaning, freshening clothes, and even cleaning your pool.

Check your pool’s pH levels once or twice a week and after a heavy rain. A pound of baking soda is equal to a pound of any alkalinity product and is a fraction of the cost.

Bonus: Make a paste of baking soda and water to clean the tile and grout in your pool. Do this about once a week to prevent algae from growing.

4. Toss in tennis balls

From sunscreen and makeup to hair products and body oil, grime is bound to build up in your pool. Place a few new tennis balls in the water, or stick them in the skimmers so they’re out of sight. They’ll help absorb the oil, leaving you with crystal-clear water.

5. Make bathing suits a requirement

A friend forgot a bathing suit, so he jumps in with his khaki shorts on. A pool party gets a little rowdy and soon everybody’s fully clothed in the pool. Your cousin has a sun allergy, so he swims in a T-shirt.

In small doses, clothing will do no harm. But fibers fray and dyes can bleed when in contact with chlorine, which can make your pool cloudy over time. Make it a rule that only bathing suits are allowed. (And maybe skinny-dipping.)

6. Go au naturel

If you really want to cut back on your pool maintenance, opt for a “natural” pool. Most are made of two zones: one for swimming, which is lined with rubber or concrete, and a zone with aquatic vegetation that acts as a biological filter. A simple pump will keep the water flowing through either a gravel filter or the natural plant filter.

It may seem like a lot of work, with all those plants in your pool, but because it’s a natural ecosystem, it takes care of itself. You won’t have to monitor pH or chlorine — just skimming the surface and occasional vacuuming to remove any debris from the bottom should do the trick.

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6 Unusual Tips for Pool Care was originally published on Southern Classic Realtors – Nivla Calcinore – Bringing You Home

Don’t Be Afraid of Design: Overcoming Home Decor Phobias

We’ve all paid mind to those pesky design rules: Don’t use large furniture in small spaces, stay away from bold colors, all four legs need to be on the area rug. Fortunately, rules were meant to be broken.

Here’s a look at common home design phobias you can overcome to get creative in your space.

Don’t be afraid of: Wallpaper

Call it retro, but wallpaper has made a comeback. Thanks to modern-day design, you’re able to change your wallpaper choice as often as your hair color.

Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

Stick-and-peel options allow you to try a new design every couple of weeks until you find the perfect match. When you do, outfit the space in your favorite decor to bring the wallpaper to life, or let it stand alone and shine.

Don’t be afraid of: White decor

While a mixture of bold colors can strike fear in a few, the absence of color altogether makes most homeowners tremble. White is often synonymous with what they call a commercial look because it can become perceived as sterile.

Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

Try dipping a toe in the water by picking a strong statement piece, like a white sofa or dining table. Once you’ve chosen one unique piece of furniture, complement it with lighting, linens, and decor in shades of white.

The idea is to slowly transition into a bright white haven, and before long you’ll forget your phobia all together.

Don’t be afraid of: Layering area rugs

One of our favorite new trends is the idea of layering decor. You can instantly brighten and boost any room’s design factor in a matter of minutes by adding another area rug.

Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

If you have a large woven rug in your living room, consider adding a cowhide on top for a chic update. The same can be done for several small rugs. Choose variations in color, textures, or patterns to keep the look fresh and interesting.

Don’t be afraid of: Big furniture in a small space

This is an understandable phobia. When you make a move into a smaller space with a king-size mattress, a 12-seater dining table, and an ottoman the size of your bathtub, it may seem overwhelming at first.

Try choosing one large piece to keep, and make it a focal point. Your large ottoman can also serve as a coffee table in the center of your living room, or additional seating during a housewarming party. Your king-size bed may only require one nightstand to create a cozy corner in the bedroom.

big furniture

Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

And remember: With a key piece of furniture, it’s important to keep the rest of the room light and airy. Too much decor can get stuffy.

What design phobia will you conquer next? See home design inspiration to get started.


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Don’t Be Afraid of Design: Overcoming Home Decor Phobias was originally published on Southern Classic Realtors – Nivla Calcinore – Bringing You Home

Designer Lookbook: Board & Vellum’s Second Story Add-on

Bigger isn’t always better. In the case of this West Seattle remodel, the owners were set against a large, looming addition that they feared would overwhelm surrounding homes. They turned to Seattle design firm Board & Vellum, where they found the solution to their need for extra space.

In a surprisingly compact 740 square feet, their new addition incorporates space-saving techniques and unique design elements without overshadowing the neighbors.

The existing single-story home featured a finished basement, a small living room, two small bedrooms on the main level, an awkward entry, and few distinguishing features. “It just didn’t live large enough,” says Jeff Pelletier, principal at Board & Vellum. “There was no real breathing room at all.”

Understandably, the owners wanted more space, but they weren’t interested in sacrificing curb appeal to get it. Pelletier, who says he loves optimizing small spaces, was the perfect architect to take on the challenge.

A second story made the most sense to get the square footage the family needed, and Pelletier used a combination of bold structural choices and whimsical details to achieve the goal.

Moving up

A second-story addition naturally requires a new stairway to reach it. The typical approach of stacking the new staircase atop the basement set of stairs initially made a lot of sense, Pelletier says, but it “created a challenging second floor that didn’t really work.”

Instead, Pelletier and his team turned a former front bedroom into an entry hall, and placed the new stairway just inside the front door. Then, they added a large archway and glass cabinets between the entry hall and the adjoining living room.

A generous pass-through helps the room spill out into an adjoining space without adding any square footage, while double-sided glass cabinets increase the visual size of the room and help it feel larger. “It’s a great trick for small spaces, where you need storage and a more open feel,” Pelletier says.

Another of the home’s space-optimizing design elements is a 3-foot overhang of the second story at the rear of the house. Placing the bulk at the back of the house easily hides the added space, and also creates a welcome cover over the back deck and grill.

It’s the little things

While the bulk of the family’s new space came with the construction of the second story, a number of smaller design elements helped the family further realize their addition’s potential.

The two kids’ rooms in the new upstairs space offered the most potential for creative design. “The rooms didn’t have to be big, but they had to be interesting,” says Pelletier.

In the daughter’s room, he created a reading nook in a window seat, with built-in bookshelves and storage underneath. In the boy’s room, he opened up the attic to create a loft accessed by a wall-mounted ladder, and closet doors slide side to side instead of swinging open into the room.

Instead of adding doors to upstairs linen closets, Pelletier designed a series of drawers so the closet looks like a built-in cabinet. And in the kids’ bathroom, Pelletier held out for a bathtub that was just slightly smaller than a conventional tub (4 1/2 feet long versus 5 feet long) but fit just right in the available space.

“That extra 6 inches made all the difference,” says Pelletier. “Sometimes you have to look for solutions that are a little more custom but allow the home to feel larger.”

Make the most of your remodel

Sometimes small design changes are all it takes to let a small home breathe. Pelletier offers a few tips to homeowners looking to add space to their existing homes.

  • Turn an attic into loft space. Removing a ceiling to open up an attic can make small bedrooms feel larger. It also allows for the option of a sleeping loft – something kids especially love.
  • Maximize space with built-ins. Adding built-in nooks – such as the glass cabinet in the entryway of this West Seattle home – offers space to store linens and collectibles, while also creating a sight line between two rooms.
  • Blend two small rooms. Adding French doors between a small office and a small living area gives homeowners the option of combining the two. Swing the doors open to create a combined space, and close the doors when there’s work to be done.
  • Consider a finished basement. Remodeling an unfinished basement is a sure way to gain more space, and it’s usually less expensive than adding on vertically.

See more home design inspiration on Zillow Digs.

Photos by John G. Wilbanks Photography


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Designer Lookbook: Board & Vellum’s Second Story Add-on was originally published on Southern Classic Realtors – Nivla Calcinore – Bringing You Home