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


3 Steps to Creating an Organized Entryway (Even If You Don’t Have the Space)

Drop zones, mudrooms, utility rooms, entryways, “places to leave your stuff.” Whatever you choose to call them, these spaces are invaluable as a spot to kick off your shoes, drop your keys, and keep everything you’ll need for the next day right where you left it.

Sometimes these spaces can be hard to come by, especially if you live in an apartment or studio. Without organization, shoes usually end up piled in front of the door waiting to trip an unsuspecting victim, and an array of backpacks, mail, dog leashes and knickknacks can clutter your home to the point of embarrassment.

Photo from Zillow listing.

But having a dedicated, organized and stylish drop zone for all of your daily needs – and to welcome your guests – is absolutely achievable, no matter the size or design of your living space.

Try these tips to establish a functional entryway in a home of any size.

Make a little room

Since it’s generally not possible to remodel or add on to a rental apartment, you must work with what you have.

Try a narrow console table for tight hallways as a place to drop your keys or leave your outgoing mail.

If space is really tight and all you have is the wall behind your door, hang hooks for coats and bags so they stay off the floor.

Another small-space trick: Temporarily remove your coat closet’s door, and add a stool or small bench inside as a place to sit and take off your shoes – and still have room for coats.

If your apartment is inside a secure building, you may be able to leave out a basket or tray for shoes in the shared hallway.

Add functionality

A mirror can also go a long way in opening up and brightening tight areas by reflecting light and giving the illusion of more space.

Retailers like IKEA sell modern pieces that can be modified to fit narrow spaces or hung on the wall. Measure your desired entryway space, and find furniture that will make the most of the room you have.

Having dedicated spaces for accessories also will make your drop zone a functional center. A devoted bowl or hook to hang your keys, a folder to sort your mail, and a basket to keep your shoes in really makes a difference in the flow of your day.

Leave a message

Bump practicality up a notch by having a message center in your drop zone where you can pin important reminders or leave messages for family members. It’s a great way to keep everyone connected as they go in and out.

A docking station to charge all your electronics can also be useful here. Look for compact and small accessories that will fit your space, yet serve the purpose you need.

By customizing your drop zone with features you need that will fit your home, you’ll keep everything streamlined and easy to find when you need it.

See more entryway inspiration.


Originally published December 3, 2015.

Home Improvement – Zillow Porchlight

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3 Steps to Creating an Organized Entryway (Even If You Don’t Have the Space) was originally published on Southern Classic Realtors – Nivla Calcinore – Bringing You Home

How To “Live Small” (Even If You Don’t Have A Tiny House)

The tiny-home movement has become popular because it allows people to dream of a life of freedom — from expensive housing costs, clutter, and sometimes even neighbors. (After all, a noisy neighbor is much easier to deal with if your home is tiny and mobile so you can pick it up and tow it somewhere else.) But if you’re not ready to drastically downsize your square footage, you can still apply the ethos of a person who lives in a tiny house to make an impact in your own place, no matter its size. Case in point: Whether you rent a huge house in the suburbs or buy a three-level townhome, chances are you’ve been inspired to declutter and downsize your belongings, looking to tiny homes for inspiration — and a few tricks — on how to live that minimalist lifestyle. Here are several tips from renters and homeowners who have lived the tiny life firsthand that can be applied to any space, big or small.

Dont rush to buy organizing products

At least not right away, says Felice Cohen, a professional organizer who briefly achieved internet fame after a video of her 90-square-foot New York, NY, apartment went viral. (She’s since upgraded to a spacious, 490-square-foot one-bedroom apartment.) “One mistake people do when they want to organize their space is that they go to The Container Store and first buy a lot of supplies,” she says. “But why organize or store stuff you don’t need? Look for supplies only after you’ve culled everything down.”

Downsize your wardrobe

Cohen says that the lone small closet in her old apartment worked well because it forced her to narrow down her wardrobe to what she truly loved. “When clients have trouble letting go, I will ask why,” she says. “‘It was expensive, it was a gift, what if I lose the weight’ … there’s always a reason. Yet clothes you do not wear take up valuable real estate. Plus, if you did spend good money on them, wouldn’t you feel better if someone was wearing (them)?” Think of clothing donations as an opportunity to help others — not give something up. If you end up decluttering your closet in the meantime, and shedding what can feel like a daily reminder of a goal you haven’t yet achieved? All the better.

Curb clutter, pronto

Francis Camosse of Tiny Household lives in a custom-built, 155-square-foot home that allows him to live the dream of traveling with ease. He did find one surprise — a tiny house isn’t synonymous with “low-maintenance” as far as chores go. “The biggest adjustment that I had to make was the constant upkeep of tiny living,” he says. “Your house can look so good or so bad very quickly. Yes, it is very easy to clean up, but it is also very easy to create a disaster area in such a small space. I had to develop the habit of putting everything away immediately after using it. Sweeping and vacuuming very often (keep) the limited floor space you do have nice and clean.” Clutter can increase stress levels, and getting rid of excess belongings is one of the big draws of the tiny home life — but decluttering can be freeing and relaxing no matter what size your home is.

Take advantage of outdoor space

In tight quarters, an airy escape just outside your doors can do wonders — especially for entertaining. “Having a space to entertain is practical,” Camosse says. “There are no illusions of hosting Thanksgiving dinner at my house, but it does not mean I can’t have my friends and family over for a BBQ.” Study after study has proven that spending time in the great outdoors can help with better sleep, keeping stress levels down, and improves overall health. But there’s one more benefit, courtesy of those who live in tiny homes: the key to entertaining large parties is to take the party outside, says Camosse. Who doesn’t love a backyard cookout?

Have a kitchen storage strategy

Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell, blogger and author of Living Large in Our Little House: Thriving in 480 Square Feet With Six Dogs, a Husband and One Remote, made sure her small kitchen fit her lifestyle. It has recessed upper cabinets and a pantry for maximum storage. “Our plan included as much counter space and cabinets as we could fit in, with a Lazy Susan in the corner so there is no wasted space,” she says. “There is also a special cookie-sheet cabinet for tall cookie sheets and small appliances (such as mixers and choppers). Built-ins are the key to a good design in a tiny house. Also, we did not put in a dishwasher. Really, there are two of us. We can handle washing dishes by hand, and it gave me even more cabinet space.” Sure, if you rent, you might not be able (or want) to invest in a kitchen remodel or adding built-ins. But that doesn’t mean you can’t put Fivecoat-Campbell’s idea of a storage strategy to work: There are many temporary ways to add storage in a utility space like a kitchen or laundry room, from investing in baskets and containers to taking advantage of wall space and putting up shelves. Unsurprisingly, organization and planning is especially important in these kinds of spaces, large or small.

Think memories, not things

The challenge of parting with sentimental items was also a timely one for Fivecoat-Campbell, because her mother died five months before she moved to her current space. “I had thought all of my life that many of her precious antiques would be displayed in my home,” Fivecoat-Campbell says. “Instead, I kept only what I loved and what I could fit into the house. I’ve taken photos of the rest and have the memories of those things in my heart. It was really a transformation realizing that my mom and dad weren’t defined by the things they owned.” The lesson for the rest of us? If you want to live the tiny home lifestyle, keep what you truly love and let go of what you don’t. You’ll feel lighter, your home will feel more open, and, hopefully, you’ll be filled with a sense of appreciation when you look at your carefully curated belongings.

How do you gain inspiration from the tiny home or minimalist lifestyle? Share in the comments!

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How To “Live Small” (Even If You Don’t Have A Tiny House) was originally published on Southern Classic Realtors – Nivla Calcinore – Bringing You Home