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.

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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

DIY Backyard Fire Pit: Build It in Just 7 Easy Steps

Turn your backyard into a cozy camp spot by making your own fire pit. This outdoor DIY project is easy to complete, and you’ll be making s’mores and cuddling up by the fire in no time.

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Get ready

Before you start building your backyard fire pit, you’ll need to gather some supplies: bricks for the fire pit wall, gravel, twine or string, a tape measure, a stake, a large shovel and a trowel, a tamp, and a level.

When purchasing bricks for the fire pit wall, go for something sturdy like retaining wall bricks or concrete pavers. Some home improvement stores even carry bricks specifically designed for fire pits. Use a layer of firebricks, which have a higher heat resistance, on the inner layer of the fire pit as an extra safety measure.

Also, before you begin building, be sure to consult your local fire code to find out whether fire pits are allowed in your city, and, if so, how far away the fire pit has to be from a structure.

Now that you have all your supplies and you’ve checked your local fire code, you’re ready to build!

1. Create a circle.

Pick out a spot in your yard for your fire pit (ensuring that it is located a safe distance from any structures, bushes, or trees), and insert a stake in the ground where the center of the pit will be.

Tie one end of the string or twine to the stake and measure how wide you want your circle to be. Typically, a fire pit has a diameter of about 4 to 5 feet. Cut the string, and tie the other end to the handle of a trowel. With the string or twine taut, drag the sharp end of the trowel around in a circle, creating a line in the grass.

2. Shovel out the grass.

Using a large shovel, dig out the grass inside the circle.

For safety purposes, the hole for a fire pit should be about 6 to 12 inches deep. Be sure to call 811 before you start digging to ensure there are no utility lines buried under the spot you’ve chosen.

3. Tamp down the dirt.

If you don’t have a tamp, you can just use the bottom of your shovel.

4. Make sure the circle is level.

Get down on the ground with your level to ensure that the surface is ready for the bricks to be laid. Keep making small adjustments until it’s completely level.

5. Add gravel.

Put a pretty thick layer of gravel in the fire pit (at least a couple of inches). Spread the gravel around evenly.

6. Arrange the bricks.

After you’ve spread the gravel around, arrange your bricks in a circle and stack them in layers until the fire pit wall is at least 12 inches tall.

For extra safety, you have the option to put an inner layer of firebricks. Though you don’t need to use mortar if the bricks are heavy enough to make a sturdy stack, you can use an outdoor, fire-resistant mortar between the bricks for extra stability.

7. Relax and enjoy!

Gather a couple of Adirondack chairs, some firewood, a few friends, and campfire treats to get full use out of your new fire pit.

See more fire pit design inspiration on Zillow Digs.

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DIY Backyard Fire Pit: Build It in Just 7 Easy Steps was originally published on Southern Classic Realtors – Nivla Calcinore – Bringing You Home

5 Steps to a More Organized Home for Back to School

As if summer isn’t crazy enough, the transition to school can make home life even busier and messier. Schedules are a mix of school activities and the last-hurrah-of-summer, and the house is strewn with important school papers and wet beach towels. Here are a few tips to help you organize the chaos this year before school starts.

Clean the fridge out (and off) and restockshutterstock_266450780

Clearing the front of the fridge of summer camp art projects and already-happened wedding invitations will signal a new season and leave room for important phone numbers and all those A+ papers your young scholars bring home.

Then, clean out the refrigerator, tossing all those picnic leftovers, and get it ready for quick breakfasts, packed lunches and after-school snacks. Anything grab-and-go is sure to be appreciated, especially during the first few weeks of school while your family is still getting used to the new schedule. A basket of fresh fruit by the door is also handy.

Take stock of closets and clothes

Courtesy of California Closets.

Courtesy of California Closets.

A new first-day-of-school outfit is a childhood ritual. But before you add to your child’s wardrobe, take stock of what they’ve outgrown during the summer months. And don’t forget the weather will probably be changing soon. See if your kids will be needing any new warmer clothes for the coming season.

A clean and organized closet and dresser will make getting out the door in the morning easier for everyone.

Similarly, catching up with laundry and creating a laundry system if you don’t already have one will keep your life running more smoothly.

Create a scheduling center

This is Mission Control for the family, so it should be in a central place in your home, such as the kitchen or entryway. You’ll want to keep a calendar, filing system, address book, notepads for taking phone messages, and plenty of pens, since they always seem to go missing.

This is also where paperwork should go to be sorted and put away, or signed and sent back to school. Create a system for paperwork and scheduling the family so Dad isn’t slated to tee off with his co-workers at the same time he’s supposed to chaperone a field trip.

Make mealtime easy

Meal-planning will save you time and money — not to mention protect your sanity when you’re running home from work and PTA meetings.

To keep the grownups fueled, set up a coffee station in your kitchen where they can grab a to-go mug easily.

Create a menu, and make a master shopping list to prep for the week. That way, you’ll know exactly what to make when everyone’s hungry, and you won’t waste ingredients.

shutterstock_117974122

Keep a list on your fridge to remind you of the week’s menu. And when inquiring minds ask what’s for dinner, you can direct them to the menu.

Prepping a few extra meals to throw in the freezer now will ease the busy first few weeks of school, too.

Tackle the mudroom and entryway

School brings with it a lot of paraphernalia: backpacks, lunch bags, gym bags, artwork, and library books. The mudroom or entryway will be the drop-off point and can quickly become a disaster without a system.

Courtesy of California Closets.

Courtesy of California Closets.

Are shoes taken off here? If so, make sure everyone has a designated spot for their shoes. Same with coats and backpacks.

Lunch bags should go in a specific place, or back to the kitchen to be cleaned out for the next day.

Establishing these routines at the beginning of the school year will help them become engrained so by the time winter, with its extra layers, and spring, with its muddy boots, come along, you won’t be pulling your hair out.

While the transition will take some getting used to, having solid systems in place in your home can help you ease the stress, and focus on the enjoyment of an exciting new school year.

Get more home design ideas to keep you inspired.

Related:

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5 Steps to a More Organized Home for Back to School was originally published on Southern Classic Realtors – Nivla Calcinore – Bringing You Home

3 Steps to Prepare Your House for Sale

Editor’s note: Putting your home on the market is no small decision. And listing before you’re really ready can hurt your chances of selling your home for its full worth. This week we’re giving you a headstart on prime selling season with plenty of tips and advice for preparing your home to hit the market ready for a successful sale.

Planning to sell your house this year? Don’t be overwhelmed by all the details involved in preparing it to go on the market. Set aside a couple of weekends to do the work, and follow these three simple steps. Then, be ready to make a great impression on potential buyers and cinch the deal.

Step 1: Clean and declutter

It may sound obvious, but the importance of cleaning and decluttering cannot be overstated. Here are some ideas to make this process nearly painless.

  • Get rid of clutter before cleaning. This is the time to purge your house of unwanted and unnecessary items. In addition to donating items to charity, you might consider giving them away through Craigslist or neighborhood sharing groups. Recyclers are often willing to pick up and haul away large metal items for free. The goal is to make your house a clean slate before you get down to cleaning.
  • Deep clean your house. This step will probably involve the biggest time investment. Get the whole family involved if you can! Think of this as a pumped-up spring cleaning. Pay special attention to kitchens and bathrooms, and clean the inside and outside of your windows – this makes a striking improvement in the overall appearance of your house.
  • Organize closets, cabinets, and drawers. In this case, out of sight is not out of mind. Many potential buyers will open cabinets and closets, because they are thinking about storage space. If your storage areas are clean and organized, it will send a signal to buyers that you take care of the house.
Photo from Zillow listing.

Step 2: Make DIY repairs

Take care of these problems before you show the house for the first time. These are all fixes that you can do yourself.

  • Fix any leaking faucets and running toilets.
  • Replace caulking around tubs, showers, and sinks.
  • Freshen up or repair grout as needed.
  • Repair walls and repaint them in a neutral, generally pleasing color that complements your home.
  • Fix cracked or broken windows.
  • Replace or repair damaged window screens.
  • Replace burned-out light bulbs.

Step 3: Go for curb appeal

First impressions are a big deal. You want potential buyers to be charmed by the outside of your house so they look forward to coming inside. Extend your pumped-up spring cleaning to the outside of your house, too.

  • Trim bushes, shrubs, and trees. Make sure vegetation isn’t touching your roof or siding.
  • Repair broken downspouts and gutters.
  • If it’s appropriate for your yard, apply new mulch, river rock, and/or pea gravel. This can do wonders for your landscaping and provide immediate curb appeal.
  • Clean and repair concrete areas, such as driveways and walkways. Be sure to eliminate any oil or grease stains, and clean out any weeds coming up through the cracks.
  • Dress things up a little bit. If it’s seasonally appropriate, put out some pots of annuals, which will maintain their color for the season. Freshen up your doorstep with a new welcome mat. Make sure the house numbers are easy to see, and in a style that complements your home.

With just a moderate amount of effort, you can make your house beautiful and welcoming, both inside and out.

Ready to put your home on the market? Check out our Home Sellers Guide for more tips and resources.

Lead photo from Zillow listing

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3 Steps to Prepare Your House for Sale was originally published on Southern Classic Realtors – Nivla Calcinore – Bringing You Home

5 Steps to Better Basement, Attic and Garage Storage

When I think of attics and basements, I remember growing up in rural Wisconsin. We had an attic and a basement in our circa 1800s farmhouse, and I recall the antique furniture — and, yikes, bats! — in the attic, along with the mildew, dampness, and water seeping from the ground in the unfinished basement.

My parents stored sports equipment, the lawnmower, gardening tools, empty soda bottles and more in that basement. It never would have dawned on them to create an official storage space with shelving.

Things are different today, and we look to grab every inch of storage space. Here are five steps to get you on the right track to improving your garage, basement or attic storage experience.

Clear stairs and doors

Removing the frustration of getting down the basement stairs or through the garage and attic doors will make your organization project easier to accomplish — and, more importantly, ensure your safety.

Before you begin working in your storage area, set aside time to clear the stairs and doorways as the first step in this organizing project.

Increase your lighting

One of the reasons many people avoid organizing their garage, attic or basement is that the spaces don’t have sufficient light. We’re already generally uninspired to visit those spaces, and if we can’t see much when we’re in there, we give it up as “too difficult” — and the organizing project is over before it started.

To create a well-lit work environment, find or borrow a very long extension cord and place a bright lamp in the space. Take off the lampshade and roll up your sleeves. And as a bonus: Bugs (especially roaches) don’t like the light. They’ll run from the spotlight, and leave you alone to get down to business.

Assess your space

No matter what you need to store, look for the pitfalls before you begin your work and see which issues you can solve. You can evaluate your storage area by rating your space.

On a scale of 0-10, with 0 being no problem at all and 10 meaning it’s a major issue, assign your basement, attic or garage a rating for each of the following factors.

  • Flooding. Floods mean lost possessions.
  • Ventilation. Trapped air can cause stale odors.
  • Extreme temperatures. Too hot or too cold can deteriorate the integrity of items.
  • Rodents. Droppings can impact respiratory systems throughout the home.
  • Spiders. Spider bites can be dangerous.
  • Mildew. Foul smells and stains render belongings unusable.
  • Dampness. Wet conditions create extra work to clean, and can damage items.

The more high ratings your space has, the more work you can expect to get the area into shape. More low numbers means the job will be considerably easier.

This assessment helps you gauge whether you really have the time, money or interest needed to take on organizing your storage area. By rating your space, you can avoid wasting time and energy on a project you’ll abandon part way through.

Determine what you can store

If your space has high ratings in several categories, be cautious about what you store. Ask yourself, “If I lost this item due to mildew or a flood, could I easily live without it?”

Here are the types of items you might decide you can safely store in less-than-ideal conditions:

  • An additional fridge or freezer
  • Bulk food, canned goods and paper supplies
  • Seasonal decorations and supplies such as party platters, card tables, oversized coffee makers, and holiday lights
  • Picnic supplies like a grill, charcoal, picnic baskets and coolers
  • Craft and hobby items
  • Office and school supplies
  • Luggage, duffle bags and backpacks
  • Outdoor gear for camping, fishing and snow sports, as well as sporting goods like tennis racquets and horseshoes

If you gave your space low ratings in most categories, you can store more personal or delicate items there, including:

  • Clothing
  • Photos
  • Memorabilia
  • Paperwork
  • Home decor and accessories
  • Pillows and blankets

Make a place for everything

No matter the rating of your space, you can always increase your usable storage space by using these three organization tricks:

  1. Take the vertical challenge. The higher the shelving, the more space you have for storage.
  2. Roll with it. Storage racks and tables with wheels keep items off the floor and make it super easy to access your belongings. You can tuck a rolling rack under the stairs or into a back corner, then roll it out into a more well-lit area when you need access to it.
  3. Get hooked. From simple nails to stylish decorative hardware, hooks bring items up to eye level in an organized way. Use them for skates, brooms, dustpans, cords, bikes, helmets, and more.

Get inspired and make the most of your attic, basement or garage storage areas.

Related:

Zillow Blog – Real Estate Market Stats, Celebrity Real Estate, and Zillow News » Home Improvement

5 Steps to Better Basement, Attic and Garage Storage was originally published on Southern Classic Realtors – Nivla Calcinore – Bringing You Home

3 Steps to Buying a Vacation Home With Friends

Given the current strength of the dollar abroad and the fast-moving real estate market at home, you may be thinking about buying a second home at your family’s tried-and-true vacation spot, on a sunny beach, or near your favorite ski destination. But what can your budget realistically get you?

If what your vacation-home fund allows is more fixer-upper than dream home, going in on a purchase with friends or family could be a great way to get much more home for your money. If you’re considering going this route, here’s how to get started.

1. Decide if it’s right for you

“The number-one reason to consider buying a house with friends is that it lowers your investment amount,” advises Bryant McClain, an international real estate expert specializing in luxury vacation properties in the Caribbean. “Unlike timeshares or fractional ownership opportunities, when people go in together and buy a property at market price, they enjoy the equity gains of the traditional real estate market.”

McClain also points out that the best candidates for shared property are those who want to use the home a few weeks a year, then rent out the home the rest of the time. (Just be sure you’re correctly set up to do so.)

Owners also have to be comfortable sharing ongoing expenses, like property management fees, utilities, insurance, and repairs.

2. Lay the legal groundwork

To protect all owners when the unexpected happens, and to avoid hurt feelings and strained friendships, McClain recommends hiring an attorney to set up an LLC, then purchasing the home through that company.

Owning a property with friends or family is all fun and exciting on the front end, but what happens three years later when somebody wants out?” says Bryant.

Your attorney can draft an operating agreement that clears up expectations on everything from how utilities are shared to how a buyout would work if one owner wanted to sell and the others didn’t.

3. Start searching

Keep in mind that the vacation-home market moves quickly, and with multiple stakeholders needing to agree that a property is the one, it’s best to decide on your shared criteria before you start looking.

This is especially important if you’re searching from afar or if one person will be doing most of the home touring on behalf of the group. That way, when you find the right home, you can put an offer together quickly.

“Treat the whole transaction like a business,” suggests Bryant. “Make a spreadsheet with potential homes, list pros and cons, and ask everyone to vote – that’s where having an odd number of owners comes in handy.”

You should also enlist a local real estate professional with expertise in the destination where you’d like to buy. That person is best qualified to help you identify homes that are a good value, that will perform well in the local vacation rental market, and that are in locations likely to appreciate.

There’s plenty of legwork between “Hey, maybe we should buy a home together” and signing on the dotted line, but if you find the right people to partner with, approach it like a business transaction, and act quickly when you find the perfect home, you’ll be sitting back and enjoying your dream home before you know it.

Top photo from Zillow listing

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3 Steps to Buying a Vacation Home With Friends was originally published on Southern Classic Realtors – Nivla Calcinore – Bringing You Home

3 Steps to Styling a Nursery That Grows With Your Child

Image 1Preparing for your child’s arrival is one of the joys of pregnancy, and a large part of the process is putting together a nursery. A common problem among nursery designs is they focus solely on the baby years, which means your child will likely outgrow it — and during a time when you’re too busy to even think about redecorating.

Here are three simple steps for designing a room your little one will not only love, but also enjoy for years to come.

1. Pick an inspiration piece

Give your nursery planning some direction by choosing one main item that will influence the rest of the design. Make sure this is an item that is timeless and doesn’t appeal to a certain theme.

In this nursery, the inspiration item is the floral curtains. They’re perfect for a little girl’s room, but they’re an item that girls of any age would love.

Use the item you choose to inspire the color scheme and the rest of the decor. By making this versatile item a focal point in the room, you’re already well on your way to designing a room for your child at any age.

2. Choose sophisticated, versatile furniture

For your furniture pieces and larger items, ask yourself the question, “Would I use this anywhere else in my house?” If the answer is no, don’t buy it. This is a great test that will steer you away from overly juvenile furniture that your child will outgrow.

For example, choose a glider and end tables that you wouldn’t mind using in your living room later.
Image 3Next, select a dresser that could go in any room, and use it for the changing table. Once your child outgrows the need for the changing pad on top, it converts to storage space that will work at any age.

Image 5 sm

3. Bring in baby-specific items in small doses

Complement your inspiration piece and stylish furniture choices with accessories that reflect the room’s purpose. Low-cost accent pieces, textiles and artwork are the perfect way to add charm and make the room feel ready for your baby.

In this little girl’s nursery, a vintage baby dress and copper baby shoe hang on the wall. In several years, those items can be easily changed for more age-appropriate artwork.

Image 6

Another great way to make the room feel personal is by setting out some of your child’s accessories as decor, like this pair of baby shoes.
Image 8Corral their hair bows or bow-ties in a bowl for easy access and display.

Image 9Bring in a basket to hold stuffed animals, and display some toys in a vintage doll’s highchair.
Image 10Now, you have a room that is sweet and special for your new little addition, but can also be easily tweaked as your child grows.

See more nursery design inspiration.

Photos by The White Buffalo Styling Co.

Related:

Zillow Blog – Real Estate Market Stats, Celebrity Real Estate, and Zillow News » Home Improvement

3 Steps to Styling a Nursery That Grows With Your Child was originally published on Southern Classic Realtors – Nivla Calcinore – Bringing You Home

Take Steps Toward Financial Independence This 4th of July

As you celebrate freedom this 4th of July, why not spend some time thinking about one day becoming more financially free?

Here are a few things you should consider doing now.

Save money automatically

Research shows that the less effort it takes to save, the more likely you are to contribute to savings. Make it easy on yourself and automate your finances.

Having money taken straight from your paycheck and deposited directly into your savings or retirement account is a critical — yet easy — money habit that boosts wealth. Plus, when you pay yourself first, you don’t see the money, so you’re not going miss it. You’ll avoid the mistake so many of us make when we pay ourselves last (after we’ve paid for everything from housing to utilities to groceries): there’s often nothing left over.

Round up your mortgage payments

If you’ve already refinanced or don’t qualify for a refinance, you may be wondering what else you can do to save on your mortgage payment, which is likely your biggest household expense. Have you considered rounding up your payments? Every little bit helps.

For example, say you have a monthly mortgage payment of $ 954.83. If you round up your payments to $ 1,000 by putting in an extra $ 45.17, you’ll pay off your debt two years and five months early. For further inspiration, run your own numbers using a mortgage calculator.

Budget, budget, budget

If you consistently spend more than you earn, the reality is that you’re going to accumulate more and more debt. Don’t live on the edge like this. You’ll be in deep — in no time.

Establish a budgeting system that works for you, whether that’s pen and paper, a computer program, a website, or an app like Mint.

Personalize your accounts

Some banks let you set up sub-accounts and designate them by name, such as “new laptop,” “wedding dress,” or “summer home.”

Consider doing this. Research shows that those who label their savings accounts put away 31 percent more money than those who don’t, in part because the name reminds you what you’re saving for. It makes it real.

Focus on the future

Many Americans think only about the here and now. For example, if they’re paying their bills and there’s food on the table and gas in the car, they feel they’re doing okay.

But you’ve got to think ahead, and connect your future aspirations with your present self. Why? Because research shows that when you do this, you’re more inclined to save money. Seeing an image of yourself in old age can make you better at saving (try an app like AgingBooth). So can leaving out photos of your goal – whether it’s a picture of your dream home or a hammock on the beach for your ultimate retirement spot. Visuals serve as reminders that the future is coming, and you’d better start planning for it — now.

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Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

Zillow Blog – Real Estate Market Stats, Celebrity Real Estate, and Zillow News » Tips & Advice

Take Steps Toward Financial Independence This 4th of July was originally published on Southern Classic Realtors – Nivla Calcinore – Bringing You Home